The seven principles. The six sources. Those are important lists for Unitarian Universalists. Here are some other lists important for a growing and deepening Unitarian Universalism.
The Four Functions of Faith Community
- Worship and Celebration. The Sunday service centers congregational life.
- Religious Education. Learning and growing together -- for both children and adults.
- Caring for Each Other. The church has a pastoral function.
- Social Justice. Acting together as a people of faith to promote peace and justice in the world.
The Four P's: Expectations of Membership
Membership in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, comes with certain expectations.
- Presence. Membership calls for a commitment to show up, if at all possible, for weekly Sunday worship, and for your monthly Primary Small Group. Without a commitment to attendance at these two, membership isn't very meaningful.
- Participation. Take part in the running of the church. Various items come before the membership for a vote: participate in the discussion, engage the issues, and cast your vote. "Participation" also includes taking part in the programs of the church, helping with various tasks, servng on committees, taking a turn teaching kids' R.E. from time to time.
- Pledge. The church requires your financial support to sustain itself, of course. More importantly -- since we are a faith organization for nurturing your spirit -- generosity and gratitude are the most basic practices for cultivating spiritual growth.
- Practice. Practice Unitarian Universalist values and spirituality throughout your life. If you were accused of being a Unitarian Universalist -- and if the evidence of your presence, participation, and pledge were inadmissable -- would there still be enough evidence for a conviction? "Practice" also involves taking up the intentional discipline of a spiritual practice, of which there are many forms.
What Religion is About: Three Things
- Religion is about the way you live: the ethics and values that guide your life.
- Religion is about community: the people with whom you choose to join in faith community, and the rituals, songs, and stories that affirm and strengthen community connection.
- Religion is about experience: the moments of transcendence, awe, mystery, wonder, beauty, interconnection and oneness.
The Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism
What, then, makes religion liberal? James Luther Adams (1901-1996) identified these "five smooth stones.”
- Growth. "Religious liberalism depends first on the principle that revelation is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism." Our religious tradition is a living tradition because we are always learning.
- Freedom. "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." We freely choose to enter into relationship with one another.
- Justice. We are morally obligated to direct our "effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."
- Social Incarnation. Religious liberals "deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation." Developing just institutions involves the messiness of claiming our power amid conflicting perspectives and needs, rather than the purity of ahistorical, decontextualized ideals.
- Hope. "The resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."
The "Four Noble Truths" of Unitarian Universalism
- It's a blessing you were born.
- It matters what you do.
- Your experience of the divine is true.
- You don't have to go it alone.
The Three Constituents of Spirituality
The "Temperament and Character Inventory" (TCI) measures "self-transcendence" (a.k.a. spirituality) as the sum of three submeasures:
- Self-forgetfulness. The proclivity for becoming so immersed in an activity that the boundary between self and other seems to fall away.
- Transpersonal identification. Recognizing oneself in others -- and others in oneself.
- Acceptance. The ability to accept and affirm reality just as it is, even the hard parts, even the painful and tragic parts.
The Five Foundational Spiritual Practices
- Study. Daily. Choose writings that seem to you to offer spiritual wisdom and insight. Spend some time studying them every day for at least 15 minutes.
- Journal. Daily. Journal about your reflections on spiritual subjects, your experiences of the last day and what they meant to you, and what you're grateful for. Journal every day for at least 15 minutes.
- Silence. Daily. Sit still and quiet. Bring your attention to the sensations of your breath coming in and going out. When thoughts arise, make a note of what sort of thought it was, and then return to awareness of the sensations of breathing. Set aside some time -- at least 15 minutes -- every day to experience stillness and silence.
- Group meeting. Monthly, at least; fortnightly or weekly, if do-able. Meeting regularly with a group that shares your spiritual practice provides additional insights and helps maintain the motivation for practice. We need to have friends along the path.
- Resolve for mindfulness. Continuously. Throughout the day, keep bringing yourself back to the present moment.