Some of you have been fortunate to have taken the course “Building Your Own Theology” either with me or with our Minister Emeritus, Frank Hall. It’s a great course that helps each participant fashion a theology for themselves. It asks us to consider our history (religious and otherwise), our views on human nature, the place of suffering and evil, and our understanding of God, among other topics.
Part of my central mission as your Senior Minister has been to help us look at theology in a broader context. Knowing what we each believe is fine as far as it goes, but what really interests me is what we believe together as a congregation.
In order to help us move towards a shared theology as a congregation, I am dedicating my minister’s columns from now until June to share with you some of my thinking on theology as a preamble to inviting us into a deliberate process of collective theology creation in the future.
What is theology? The word comes from the root Theo meaning God and logy meaning study or meaning of. As UUs we can substitute any number of ideas for God such as human spirit, Spirit of Life, Creator Presence, and so on. The name doesn’t matter as much as the idea that we are trying to find a source for that which gives us the greatest meaning in our lives.
The question to ask yourself is: What matters most? When you answer that you are on your way to creating a theology. I ask myself this question quite often. What matters most to me are the loving relationships I keep; relationships wherein trust and service reside. These include all of you, my family, and the earth upon which we reside.
I once described myself as “an enchanted agnostic with mystical tendencies.” This is largely still true. But equally important to me is the natural world in which we live. I call myself a religious naturalist these days finding, as I do, strength and meaning in the world in which we live. Walking along the beach is for me a holy practice. Finding a balance between the competing forces in our lives is for me a guiding ethic. That balance might be in terms of how much we consume. What is true in finances is true of our planet. As an old friend once told me, “When your outgo exceeds your income, then your upkeep will be your downfall.”
That balance also extends to the relationships I keep. If all our time is spent in pursuit of an ideal (consumption, beauty, justice, wealth, health, etc.) we will find ourselves out of balance with those who love us. I am honored to be your minister, and I must keep time to be in relationships with the ones I love. I honor my Sabbath. I take time off to restore balance and to remain in love.
This theology of balance informs our life as a congregation as well. I have found that when a congregation is struggling with issues, it is best to return to our core practice: providing a place for spiritual sustenance and a practice of pastoral and loving care. I practice this re-balancing religiously, and I invite you to do so as well.
What matters most to you? How are you managing in these difficult times? What do you need to hear from the pulpit to sustain you in the coming weeks? Send me an email or reply to this message.
Yours Always, Rev. John