Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

General Assembly Day 4: Universalism, Compassion, Spiritual Practice and Salvation

My experience of the fourth day of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, was framed around two lectures… the Murray Street Address by the Rev. Bill Sinkford… and the Ware Lecture by Karen Armstrong.  For me, these two lectures swam in my personal pond through waters that have been in me for some time…

That our faith is one of Salvation.  That our liberal, breathing faith in one of personal salvation, communal salvation, and the Salvation of the world.

Rev. Sinkford presented a lecture that among other things brought forth how the spirit of universal salvation is moving in the world… among evangelical Christians in particular.  And yet, these new Universalists (whether they call themselves that or not) are not coming to join us.  Perhaps we have some work to do as a liberal religious movement to join them where they are, and allow their conversion to the Universalist faith to transform us, as we partner with them.

In Karen Armstrong’s Ware Lecture I heard an even more powerful argument that we are called to make a spiritual practice of compassion, for ourselves, for our congregations, for our community, and for our world.  We must do this work not in a six week program and be done, but make it a practice that becomes the basis for our lives as religious human beings.

In each, I heard the echo of a word that is sometimes difficult for us… Salvation.  I believe that we are a Salvific faith.  I say that not just as a minister, not just as a preacher and a teacher… but as someone who was saved by this faith we call Unitarian Universalism.  I say it as someone who would not only be a radically different person today were it not for Unitarian Universalism, but as a person who might not be here at all were it not for Unitarian Universalism.  If it were not for finding a vision of a world made whole, I might have stayed locked in the pain and fear that I embodied when I came home from Bosnia… the kind of pain and fear that I believe much of the world is locked in today.

The reaction of the delegates to the General Assembly to Karen Armstrong’s Ware Lecture, based upon her book “12 Steps to a Compassionate Life” was one in which I can only say I felt the spirit move.  Perhaps it is because I am so close, and perhaps I am seeing what I want to see… but it seemed to me to mark a transformation that has occurred in our movement…

I’ve long said that what Unitarian Universalism most needs is a Unifying Spiritual Practice… not one that dictates a certain faith or creed, but a spiritual practice rooted in our deepest values and beliefs as Unitarian Universalists.  A spiritual practice that connects to that which is saving about Unitarian Universalism… saving for individuals, saving for congregations, saving for communities, and saving for the world.  We need a way to live Unitarian Universalism as a vibrant, living force in our lives…

And, it is possible, that Karen Armstrong has pointed us toward what that Spiritual Practice may be…

Is it possible to save a salvific faith?

Yours in faith,

Rev. David

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