As I follow the news in Glasgow, I remain hopeful for our future despite the empty promises which have been made before. As one commentator put it, “at least these industrialized countries are willing to put their past shortcoming up to the world’s spot light” and promise again to help save our world. I am reminded of Rumi’s lines, “Even though we have broken our vows a thousand times before, come yet again, come”.
We have broken our vows a thousand times before, individually and collectively. We come at our struggles again and again because we are a forward-looking people. We can find a way to overcome our failures when we admit we can’t do it alone. All of us need others to help us realize our hopes and aspirations.
As I listened to those expressing their feelings at our town hall meeting about a potential name change for our congregation, I found myself wanting to remind all of us that we are not here for our own selfish ends. We are part of a religious community that joins with over one thousand Unitarian Universalist congregations around the world to uphold the principles of worth, dignity, and our place in the interconnection of all life. We are a member congregation of the UUA, an association of congregations that has had a place in climate justice work for many decades. The UUA was in Paris in 2016 and we are in Glasgow in 2021. We are part of an ageless human communion that believes that voices joined together are stronger than voices alone… or even congregations alone.
Our Universalist heritage reminds us that all are worthy of life, liberty and purpose. The chalice in our flaming chalice symbol comes from our Universalist roots as a reminder that we are all held in love.
Today and tomorrow is the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the night of broken glass, when in 1938 the Nazis destroyed Jewish homes and businesses, killing many Jews along the way. Throughout the war it was the Unitarians (and later the Universalists) who ferried Jewish families out of Nazi Europe using the symbol of a flaming chalice (the chalice as a symbol of our Universalist ethic of care, and the flame as a symbol of our Unitarian faith in hope) as a calling card to those they helped to safety.
I am certain that our name must reflect the new world coming into being all around us. As spiritually-progressive people, we will need to embrace the multidimensionality of spirituality and an understanding of our place in this community as something new and exciting. However our campus evolves (which may reach beyond what we consider religious today), our name must reflect that emerging identity. There are ultimately no sides to our faith, and it is harmful to think of us as divided. We are Unitarian Universalists, part of history and a future bold and dynamic. We are part of something much greater than ourselves.
Yours always, Rev. John