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Martin Luther declared here I stand rejecting papal authority and standing on the authority of scripture. On one side was the Pope, the direct link one pope after another back to Christ, as it was argued and to that authority all must submit.
In response, the Protestant principle became sola scriptora, scriptora sola, only scripture. In Protestant Christianity, responsible searching for the truth involved dealing first of all with the Bible and for some Protestants only with the Bible where every other potential authority was ruled out.
Gradually over the last couple of centuries pressure has been building against that authoritative position of scripture. Some of the origin of that pressure has been from within the church and some has been from outside.
Thus, I was trained to analyze the Bible like any other piece of literature and I have never interpreted it literally. And then the scientific method arose and particularly the work of Charles Darwin and evolution. But other factors developed. The ending of slavery within the British Empire and the American Civil War were huge attacks on the centrality of scripture because the Bible accepts slavery and there are accounts of preachers going around the southern States declaring that the Confederacy may have lost the war but the principle of slavery was still right because of its biblical support.
World War I became a huge dividing line where chaplains on each side of the war carried identical bibles, represented the same God, prayed for victory such as is described possible in the Bible but truthfully it was nothing but European colonial powers in a brawl who threw their young men into a holocaust of destruction.
The rise of women has been a major attack against some of the basic social principles espoused in the Bible. And at the moment the present fight in various Christian churches over homosexuality has to do with by what authority shall we make a decision when the Bible condemns homosexuality even if the condemnation is very marginal.
Now, I suspect that a number of you were raised in a Christian church and if you were raised in a Protestant church I would hazard that at some point you rejected the church because of its position on science, women or some other factor and that factor would be rooted in a particular understanding of the Bible. And if you were raised in a Roman Catholic Church I would hazard that at some point you rejected the church because of its hierarchy rooted in the Pope or because of one of the positions taken by that hierarchy.
So that is the rummage sale going on in the church right now: Everything is out there on the street and there is this bidding war going on as to what authority will be used to decide on truth, meaning and so on.
My question is, by what authority will Unitarians, will this congregation, decide what is truth. What deserves your loyalty in terms of meaning, value and significance? How do you decide? For instance, you have a very fine hymnary with some quite traditional Christian hymns that here and there have been changed in wording.
Besides being responsible and free, what values did those folk who prepared this hymnary use in their decision making? I am not suggesting that you adopt this but in my United Church tradition we have what is called the Wesleyan quadrilateral, a kind of four legged stool to sit on.
It suggests that in sorting out truth and meaning there are four sources that have to be used to test out the worthiness or value of a truth: When it is the Bible only, you get fundamentalism. When it is personal experience only, it is the tyranny of narcissistic individualism. When it is tradition only, nothing changes. When it is reason only, it is intellectual game playing. The four sources need to be in dialogue and in tension with each other.
So, can I call you my Unitarian friends? What content do you put into those words and would you lay claim to other values that would go into this process of seeking out truth and meaning? Maybe there is nothing else you would name but my invitation today is for you to contemplate whether, in naming truth and meaning for you, there are sources of authority that you rely on but which are not specifically named in these principles.
In , at an archaeological dig in downtown Toronto a remarkable find was made. Beneath the old Sackville Street School playground were traces of a house, a shed, and a mysterious cellar. Between June and October , the site received more publicity than any dig in Canadian history. Journalists from all over the world interviewed staff, produced television and radio programs, and published articles that appeared in newspapers from Kuwait to Japan.
Respected scholars traveled to Toronto to discuss the findings. More than three thousand schoolchildren and members of the public participated in the summerlong dig. Thousands of fascinated visitors came to watch, intrigued by the painstakingly slow process of piecing together the story of two human lives, written there in the soil in fragments of pottery and bits of broken glass. An abolitionist newspaper dating to showed Mr. Blackburn as leaders in the campaign to end slavery in the United States and to help its refugees make new homes once they reached freedom.
But the most intriguing information came from Michigan. These were the first racial riots in the city of Detroit. In fact, it was the Blackburn case that formally established Canada as the main terminus of the Underground Railroad.
Yet until archaeologists discovered the site of their Toronto home, the Blackburns had been forgotten. They had no children. They never learned to read or write, and to this day not a single photo of the couple has come to light. Thornton and Lucie Blackburn were all but lost to history.
All trails led back to Kentucky. Thornton was sold as a slave at age three and grew to be a young man of character and determination. He met and married another slave while they were both in captivity. But they were discovered by slave catchers in Michigan and slated to return to Kentucky in chains, until the black community rallied to their cause.
The Blackburn Riot of was the first racial uprising in Detroit history. The couple was spirited across the river to Canada, but their safety proved illusory. The Blackburn case was the first serious legal dispute between Canada and the United States regarding the Underground Railroad.
But they never forgot the millions who still suffered in slavery. The Blackburns died in the s, and their fascinating tale was lost to history.
Lost, that is, until a chance archaeological discovery in a downtown Toronto school yard brought the story of Thornton and Lucie Blackburn again to light. The collective experience of the Blackburns therefore encompassed some years of history, and on both sides of the long border the United States shares with Canada. The Blackburn saga is framed within the history of Africans in America and their ongoing resistance to the inferior and exploited status colonialism thrust upon them.
This rejection of their enslavement by the turn of the nineteenth century had culminated in the establishment of well-worn paths leading out of the slave states. These clandestine routes and the courageous individuals who assisted those who traveled came to be known as the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad occupies a very special place in the North American saga. Tales of hidden tunnels and false-bottomed wagons, perilous escapes by night and brazen daylight rescues all paint an enthralling picture.
Yet the stories we learn are filtered through much embroidered late-nineteenth-century accounts by white authors. In the place of the daring freedom-seekers who made the perilous journey north, the heroes have become whites who helped them on their way. Yet surviving slave narratives show that most people escaped alone and unaided. The North Star was, in many instances, the only friend that the weary and footsore fugitive found on his pilgrimage to his new home among strangers.
Jackson told the same story: They knew no other resource than to depend upon their own chance in running away and secreting themselves. The Blackburns traveled the routes of the Underground Railroad as it was, rather than as myth and legend would have it be. No one will ever know how many African Americans fled slavery in the tumultuous years before the Civil War.
Black people in the United States had been escaping those who claimed their service almost since the first Dutch slave ship landed her human cargo at Jamestown in Some runaways formed maroon communities beyond the outposts of white settlement.
Estimates of those who came to Canada range between 20, and , Reliable contemporary observers place the number at somewhere between 30, and 35, over the entire antebellum period. African Americans waged a daily, unrelenting battle against their enslaved condition. Charismatic leaders arose to foment revolts always limited in scale and quickly contained, but these struck terror into the hearts of whites across the South. Such collective resistance was relatively rare, for the entire system of the slaveocracy militated against bondspeople being able to organize or arm themselves.
Instead, when the beatings, hunger, and the destruction of family occasioned by sale and sexual interference became too much to bear, African Americans made the single most overtly antislavery statement possible, short of suicide or murder: In so doing, they deprived their owners not only of their productivity and of their own market value but also that of their children and all ensuing generations. White America found ways of separating itself from blacks as fellow human beings.
People of color were required to carry with them papers attesting to their free status, lest they be taken up as fugitive slaves under harsh federal laws that enabled slaveholders to seek out their absconding property anywhere in the United States. Slavery in America was inextricably intertwined with the concept of race. Senate on February 6, The exodus of black men, women, and children from the slave states was a vast, collective rejection of their circumstances and of the racially biased rationalizations that supported slavery.
Whippings, mutilation, rape, and varied forms of physical and mental torture were ways in which the slaveholding class maintained its hegemony over its unwilling workers, and thousands of unacknowledged slaves provided much of the work in pioneer wagon trains heading to the U.
But slave narratives show that a majority of runaways fled for a more specific reason: When selling off slaves, they paid lip service to keeping couples or at least mothers and children together. These so-called Border States became a slave-producing resource for the larger, more prosperous plantation economy of the Lower South.
Wives and mothers, fathers, and even tiny babies were taken from their loved ones and sold far away. At the same time, the rift between North and South was widening into an irreparable chasm.
Increasing Northern and foreign criticism of the American slave system and resistance to the expansion of slavery into the newly added frontier districts resulted in a hardening of pro-slavery positions. A series of slave revolts terrified slaveholding whites and intensified efforts to control supposedly contented local black populations. In addition to the escalating threat of being sold away from their families, enslaved African Americans in the first decades of the nineteenth century suffered from enhanced surveillance, ever more limited mobility, and a host of other indignities and restrictions.
Slave flight to the Northern states and to destinations outside the borders of the United States turned from a trickle to a flood as conditions deteriorated in the South. Proslavery advocates blamed the progressively more vocal abolitionist movement for slave discontent and minimized the numbers of runaways officially reported, but the fact that mounting numbers of black Americans were taking terrible personal risks to flee bondage was difficult to counter.
It was to preserve their own marriage that Thornton Blackburn and his bride would make their own break for freedom in the summer of ; the year was significant, for was the watershed for abolitionism in the northern United States. Originally, the antislavery movement, a factor in both the South and the North in the Revolutionary era, had proposed that slaveholders support the gradual emancipation of African American slaves.
Some hoped slavery as an institution would die a natural death. But by the s, with increasing pressure to extend cotton-growing and the slavery that made it so profitable into the American West, it had become evident to antislavery advocates, both black and white, that the practice was not going to end anytime soon.
The first black antislavery convention had been held in Philadelphia in September , as African Americans of the urban North worked to create mechanisms to both combat Southern slavery and ameliorate the conditions of their own lives, for even as free people they were subjected to unrelenting racial discrimination. Then, in concert with black abolitionist leaders, a white printer from Newburyport, Massachusetts, named William Lloyd Garrison published the first issue of the antislavery paper The Liberator on January 1, As the antebellum years progressed, there was a measurable increase in both popular and political opposition to maintaining a system of human bondage in a nation founded on ideals of democracy and freedom.
Nearly three decades later this elemental conflict would culminate in the bloody Civil War. But before that time, a great many brave individuals, out of conviction or simple humanity, laid their livelihoods and even their lives on the line to support black refugees who chose to take the freedom road.
For fugitives like Lucie Blackburn and her husband, the odds against making a successful escape were staggering. Federal law facilitated the efforts of owners and the brutal slave catchers they employed to retrieve runaways throughout the United States and its territories. Local and state ordinances nearly everywhere prohibited black people from defending themselves against their white captors in courts of law.
That so many of the enslaved were able to liberate themselves is astonishing. That uncounted numbers were captured and carried back to places where white men ruled with the lash is unutterably tragic. Once unearthing the history of the Blackburns had begun, it became apparent why most literature about slavery and the Underground Railroad deals with the general rather than the particular.
Rescuing slaves was illegal under the federal Fugitive Slave Law and the much more punitive legislation passed in , so records of Underground Railroad routes and stations are scarce. Only since the middle decades of the twentieth century have most archives and libraries, historical societies and museums begun to preserve evidence pertaining to the heritage of peoples of the African Diaspora on this continent.
So much has been discarded, still more destroyed, carelessly and sometimes intentionally. Only a handful of authenticated fugitive slave stories survive, mainly in autobiographies and in narratives recorded by abolitionists.
Theirs was a heritage of oppression, with the vast majority of its documentation produced by slaveholders rather than slaves, most of the latter of whom were illiterate. The problem lies with names. Although soon after Africans landed in America, they adopted European-style surnames, these were rarely recognized within the slaveholding culture that governed their lives.
Most whites, if they acknowledged a surname for their servants at all, assumed that the slaves took the name of their owner. This was indeed often the case in the first generation out of Africa, but slaves were sold, inherited by married daughters, given away, or even raffled off as lottery prizes, and so, within a generation or two, a great many bore names that had no relation at all to the people who now claimed their service. The fact that white culture did not use slave surnames freed black Americans to choose ones they desired, pass them down through the female line as well as the male, and take names that pleased them rather than ones that carried any connection whatsoever to a hated master or difficult mistress.
Names of towns and cities were popular, as were the names of people who had been kind to them, important events or battles, and even European heroes or figures from the Revolutionary War era. To make people even more difficult to trace through history, records kept by white slave owners and overseers only very rarely mentioned slave surnames at all. It was part of the culture of domination they maintained to address even venerable black bondspeople by only their first names, as one might with children or pets.
Personal papers might reveal a chance comment about this or that bondsperson. Family relationships can sometimes be inferred from sale documents, wills, or inventories. Hiring agreements help trace the movements of this or that slave over time. The vast population movements after the American Revolution further complicate the process of fugitive slave research.
As slaveholders pushed out into the American interior in the successive waves known as the Westward Movement, they carried with them their slaves. Archaeology is unique in that it gives voice to the inarticulate and the illiterate of any age, including, in this case, the relatively modern.
Each archaeological site is a window to the past; it exposes information about people who lived and worked and died in a specific place, at a fixed time. They left behind, in the very earth, a kind of picture puzzle of their lives.
There are always many pieces missing. But by placing the material culture of their everyday lives in historical context, one can discover an enormous amount about how the key events and larger social, economic, political, and cultural trends acted upon the people who lived through them.
And sometimes, as was the case with the Blackburns, one can discover what role they took for themselves as actors in that great play. All rights reserved to the author and kindly granted to the Unitarian Congregation of Guelph where the author gave an overview of her book and its spiritual connections. In September, at a discussion after a service I had done, Jim Wilton asked me if I would do a sermon about death.
He commented that Unitarian Universalists had a tendency to avoid the subject of death -- in fact, he thought we avoided the dark side of life in our determination to be hopeful and optimistic.
There is truth in Jim's perception and as I enjoy being challenged, I agreed to do some thinking about death for the next time I spoke.
I had actually been thinking a lot about death at that time as I had just started to work as a chaplain in a busy hospital in Hamilton. Much of my work involves patients and their family come to terms with medical diagnoses, amputations, or their impending death. It was not uncommon for me to deal with two or three deaths of patients on a night when it was my turn to be on call.
Each of us knows that life is terminal. However, there are different levels of that knowing. We use clich's when we refer to death to help us skim over the surface of our knowing. You can't take it with you, we say of material goods; or we won't live for ever. If we want to be indulgent, we might say, "Gather ye rose buds while ye may old time is soon a-passing.
Both time and experience remove those layers. I was 36 years old when my mother died suddenly and at that time I felt as though layers of my own mortality were suddenly stripped away. So much of my identity, my sense of self had been shaped by her that I felt like and aphid exposed to a world I no longer felt sure I fitted into. With time, and loving support, I survived and found strength and meaning which has helped me to better understand others.
Being present at the death of many strangers had a different effect on me. I find it very moving when I am requested to be present at the most vulnerable time for both the patient and their family. Grief is usually an expression of love and at times, the depth of feeling and connection I have experienced has deeply moved me. Let me tell you about Leon. If you use the Scotiabank at St George's Square, there is a poster beside the bank machine full of children's smiles.
Included is a picture of Leon, a man who was ill all of his life. I met him when I did a Remembrance Day service on his ward last year.
Leon was 47 years old, very frail and tiny as a result of his illness which had also necessitated the amputation of an arm and a leg. His family came from Holland and he told me with pride about the heroic behaviour of his relatives during the last war.
I did not have many more conversations with Leon, but I became very aware of his influence on other patience on my unit. So often, a patient adjusting to the loss of a limb, or in pain following surgery would say "I felt so sorry for myself -- until I talked to Leon. He gave me a different way to look at things. Some months ago, Leon had a second arm partially amputated in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life.
I was on call when his parents requested the Sacrament of the Sick, what used to be called The Last Rights. Leon was a devout Roman Catholic and as the priest anointed him with oil, he attempted to cross himself with the stump of his remaining arm. Both of his parents were deeply loving people, who had suffered alongside and who deeply admired their son. They very much wanted to give him permission to stop fighting, to go to sleep, to die. It gave them some comfort to hear how influential their son had been and I liked his father's comment, "If Leon is not in heaven, I don't think there is a heaven, nor would I want to be there.
What moved me deeply about this man was not just the very big spirit in the small, frail body. Nor was it the devout faith which had helped him right until the end. Leon was not a saint, he had been angry, depressed, questioning of life, but he also remained caring and connected to others, until the moment he died. It was his unflinching engagement in living with both its pain and its happiness which moved me deeply.
A week after I started thinking about this talk, I was alone at night in the hospital when I got the results of tests that confirmed that I had a malignant tumour in the tube connecting my kidney and bladder.
My thinking about life and death became very personal in the time before, during and after surgery. I learned a number of valuable lessons in this part of my journey. Firstly I found other people?
My first reaction was to tell only those very close to me who needed to know. Cancer can become a dirty little secret and it was a wise patient in the hospital who challenged my secrecy. She asked me how I would feel if the people I cared about wanted to withhold such information from me to protect me. She challenged me to make a list of people I cared about and to talk openly with each person on the list.
I am so glad I did, as the love and support I received from family, friends, colleagues and this congregation wove a magic carpet which floated me through the most difficult days. The experience has been life altering in positive ways. I have become more comfortable in my own skin. More in tune with my own needs and more balanced in regard to what I give to life and what I get from life. My own career direction has changed too.
I no longer plan to be an ordained minister; instead I intend to continue to be one of the many who minister in this congregation. Fear of death can dominate and direct how we live our lives. Joseph Addison says "The fear of death often proves mortal, and sets people on methods to save their lives which infallibly destroy them.
I always loved the movie "Moonstruck" The mother in the film acted by Olivia Dukakis is a very pragmatic woman who knows that her husband of many years loves her, but she is trying to work out why he also needs to have a young mistress. Eventually she understands -- it's because he is afraid to die. Sometimes it is our work, our prestige, which provides our buffer against death and as each of these gets removed, we come face to face with ourselves and our mortality.
Facing death means facing the purpose and meaning of life. The children's story I chose today and Tom Harpur's essay present a view of life after death which appeals to me. My two years at seminary studying church scripture and history helped me understand that hell- however well Dante described it -- hell was used by the church as a means of controlling people with the threat of perdition.
The truth is that we don't know what happens when we die. It makes as much sense to think that we might come back and have another life as it does to conceive of heaven and hell.
Personally, I like the image of death liberating our souls so that they can be freed to move off like the dragonfly. When I was young, Dylan Thomas' poem made sense to me: However, as I get older and closer to my own death, I find I admire a different kind of courage.
It is the behaviour best described in the last stanza of a poem called courage by Anne Sexton: When you face old age and its natural conclusion Your courage will still be shown in the little ways, Each spring will be a sword you'll sharpen Those you love will live in a fever of love, And you'll bargain with the calendar And at the last moment When death opens the back door You'll put on your carpet slippers and stride out.
Last week I had the privilege of meeting a woman with this kind of courage. She used to be a member of this congregation over 30 years ago. She's been told that she has only a few months of living still to do. She is planning her memorial service and the details of her cremation so that her sons and her husband will not have to guess at her wishes. This is someone who loves life, her family, her plants, her garden and some beautiful objects which she cherishes.
I found her ability to gaze steadily at death was reflected in her engagement of life. When death opens the back door, she will put on her carpet slippers and stride out. I'd like to think I would have the courage to do the same. The folk song, Bobby McGee, has a line which has always haunted me. Freedom meant not being accountable to anyone or for anything. When Martin Luther King made his famous "I have a dream" speech, he gave a vivid picture of a world without racial prejudice where people of colour could truly be free from oppression "Free at last, free at last, thank God I am free at last.
Bush talks about freeing Iraqi people in the name of democracy, I have a feeling of dissonance. What he calls "freedom" seems more like exploitation for his own energy-focused purpose. As Unitarian Universalists we refer to ourselves as a liberal religion. We covenant together for a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. From outside our denomination some people think that that means we are so open-minded that we accept everyone and every idea so like Bobby McGee we have "nothing left to lose.
Ours is a creedless faith. The mystery is always greater than the name. We do not require our members to subscribe to a particular theology in order to join our congregations. Instead we encourage individuals to garner insights from all the world's faiths, from science, from feminism, poetry and experience and each one of us shapes our own personal faiths.
However, although the individual is the ultimate source of religious authority, it is not the only source. If it were the only source, we could easily fall prey to the condition which afflicted Otto Von Bismark, the German Chancellor, of whom it was said, that he believed firmly and deeply in a God who had the remarkable faculty of always agreeing with him. Our individual views are tempered by history and need always to be tested within the crucible of our religious community.
Both our Unitarian and our Universalist tradition rejected the notion that higher authorities be they rabbis, theologians, or bishops could impose their views on the laity and this is the origin of our freedom of belief. But our traditions also supply us with a rich legacy of positive affirmation from Universalism's faith in a benevolent god to Unitarianism's assurance that human beings have within themselves the capacity to shape their future.
Freedom of belief exists in dynamic tension with the insights of our history and the wisdom of our community. It is true that we welcome the devout atheist and the ardent Christian, but one could never advocate racism or genocide and still in a meaningful sense call oneself a Unitarian Universalist. Our religious search requires that we are both free and responsible. The word "freedom" comes from an ancient Norse root verb that means to become loving.
Freedom is not a state of being, but is more accurately a choice for becoming. So our religious freedom is about becoming never about just being. As freethinkers we need to keep expanding to stay evergreen and avoid psycho-sclerosis -- the hardening of mind and spirit. Our responsibility is to deal with the diversity which our freedom produces not to shy away from it. Avoiding or ignoring our differences may make for more comfort, but the avoidance will not encourage us to move along in our search for truth and meaning.
Giving voice to deeply held beliefs can be a transformative experience. When you make the effort to put your thoughts into words, you not only feel more free, but you also become aware and more conscious of what you really think!
Some Unitarian Universalist churches make a time in the services sometimes as part of chalice-lighting, where individuals make short faith statements. Articulating our beliefs helps us, helps others and makes it easier for us to speak openly about our beliefs to others outside our church when we have practiced in the context of our community. Our personal search for truth and meaning carries the responsibility that we do not hold our beliefs rigidly. We need to be able to blur our boundaries to allow humanism to discipline our affinity for mystical experience; to discover the Buddhist or Christian truths which enrich our rational thought and acknowledge the earth-centred nature of existence which can be forgotten in high-minded philosophy.
The beauty of our religion is that as we each tell our stories and as we listen to each others wisdom we can learn from it all. A good example of this was in a recent Hamilton Unitarian Universalist chuch newsletter where Allison, the Minister, stated: The humanists know that the theists need to hear the word "God" every now and again, and the Christians know that it means a lot to the pagans to hear "Earth Mother" and "Goddess" from time to time.
The agnostics and atheists come to worship even though they are not sure what if anything they are worshipping and the Buddhists bow their heads in prayer although they may be meditating, we can't really tell! We recognize that we come from different traditions but there is a unity and a universality that shines through all that distinguishes us.
That spirit is what we truly celebrate in our services. For many of us, becoming Unitarian Universalist was a liberating experience. We were freed from rigid creeds, doctrines and authorities which restricted our spiritual growth.
Freedom also includes the responsibility to articulate our beliefs, to understand and include the beliefs of others and to put our beliefs into action through our behaviour.
Marion Ham summed up these ideas in the words of one of our hymns which see each of us as a stream. Before I begin, I need to make a disclaimer about some shameless plagiarism. A few weeks ago the Elora Chant Group delighted me and many others in this congregation.
I had been percolating ideas about this sermon and the words of their chants have somehow inserted themselves into my talk this morning. All around us things are growing: Leaves are breaking out on trees; crocuses, snow drops and scillas give a wonderful jolt of unfamiliar colour in gardens as the symphony of spring begins again. For some of us, this process lifts our spirits and brings us new energy.
We'll start our thinking of spiritual growth here in our gardens. Seeds are buried deep in the earth and now they are beginning to stir. As they feel the warmth of the sun, they start to stretch after their long sleep, they break their outer shell as the moisture from the rain soaks in and the earth gives them nourishment through their roots.
The seed feels the warmth through the layers of soil. Over my head I hear singing in the air: There must be a God somewhere. Perhaps for you it is a goddess, perhaps a spirit, a higher power or a sense of wonder. No matter the name, the beginning warmth that stirs the seed of the spirit, the warmth that creates the wonder, the yearning, the connection with the eternal comes from beyond us, connects us, warms us, and starts the questing of our inner soul.
When I use the word soul, I am not focusing on the Christian idea of soul as the part of the human which lives eternally. I am focusing on the soul as the seat of human personality, the soul as the fundamental part of our nature and the essence of who we are. We need to return again. The religious way is the deep way -- the way that dips into the heart of things, that sees what physical eyes alone fail to see, the intangibles at the heart of every phenomenon.
Sometimes we need to visit the shadow of our soul. Each of us has a pattern and shape to our lives which is made on choices we made and situations and events which occurred to give our life its unique shape.
Beyond this is the shadow of who we are not, the other life, the other person, the other place, the other ways of looking at life. Spiritual growth and the care of our soul requires us to open our hearts wider than they have been before, softening the moralism that may have characterized our attitudes and behaviour for years. Moralism is one of the most effective shields against the soul protecting us from its intimacy.
As we deal with the complexity of the soul, morality can deepen and drop its simplicity becoming more demanding and also more flexible. The family is the nest in which the soul is born. The family is a microcosm reflecting the nature of the world which runs on both virtue and evil. No family is perfect and in reality most have serious problems contrary to the image of sanitized families depicted on television.
The prefix "dys" in dysfunctional is representative of the Roman name for the mythological underworld. Soul enters life from below, through the cracks, finding an opening into life at the points where smooth functioning breaks down. We need to recover our soul by reflecting deeply on the events that have taken place in the crucible of the family. The sentimental image of family can be a defense against the pain of proclaiming the family in what it really is, a sometimes comforting and sometimes devastating house of memory and life.
The Christian image of God as our father in heaven looks different for each person depending on their experience and view of fathers. Yet there is a sense that part of our spiritual journey is to find the deep father figure that provides a sense of authority and wisdom. Care of the soul's fathering requires that we sustain the experiences of absence, wondering, longing, melancholy, separation, chaos, and deep adventure. For some people, the kind of authority and wisdom we need comes from scriptures or prophetic writings.
Revisiting scripture in seminary as a Unitarian has for me been a deeply enriching experience. The historical metaphors and stories have stimulated my imagination and thinking especially when my life experience confirm the ring of truth in these stories that still has relevance today. You may have a different source for the authority and wisdom that feeds your soul.
Whatever it is recognize it consciously and visit that place. Like the rain for our seed in the earth, our spirits grow when we soak them in spiritual wisdom.
As Unitarian Universalists, we covenant to affirm and promote: My friend Ann Treadwell mused that she was curious why these two ideas were joined. Perhaps they were really two separate principles and we wanted to keep the number limited to seven, and so lumped them together. She correctly concluded there was a rationale why acceptance of others is tied to spiritual growth. Actively living in religious community is the earth that nourishes spiritual growth.
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