Quotes

All_Souls_Church_DC_Highsmith#1

The late Reverend A. Powell Davies, minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington D.C. delivered an important historical sermon during the Cold War titled, The Struggle for the Mind of America.   Davies described democracy as “not just a system of government-a kind of machinery of elections-but a level of civilization and culture; the highest yet attempted and the hardest to maintain … No matter how difficult democracy is to achieve and maintain, it is now the only level of civilization upon which humankind can find security.  For it is the only level upon which governments and people, abjuring secrecy and acting openly, substituting free inquiry for political dogma, can subdue the new dangers with which the modern world confronts us.”

Rev. Davies then described our freethinking Unitarian tradition as “the religious voice of democracy, a faith in the principles and purposes of democracy, exalting freedom, not dogma, a faith religiously undergirding the spirit of liberty itself … To believe intensely in democracy requires that you also believe in that religion that exalts democracy.  Without a religion that exalts democracy, democracy would have no inner nurture.”  In this affirmation is found our purpose as a gathered religious community in the Unitarian Universalist tradition, believers in America’s real religion.

#2

“A favored metaphor for life is that of a journey,” writes Rev. Forrester Church, “a challenging and sometimes dangerous passage from birth to death, a passage that each of us, beyond choosing is fated to make …  But, the passage from birth to death is invested with meaning each and every moment that we search for meaning in it.  … Any religion that proposes to make a difficult journey easy by encouraging us to cut corners, to avoid facing death, to avoid, in fact, facing life in all its depth of possibility is a false religion.”

A long time Unitarian minister, Wallace Robbins, puts it this way:  “Down in the darkened mansions of the self there are many wonders far greater than the heraldic beasts, work-dolls, symbolic pictures and hieroglyphics of an Egyptian tomb.  Do you ever walk along there with a torch of memory on the walls in some places while other places were still in ominous shadows?  Or do you keep all above ground where it is safe?

“If you never get down into your own wonders and fears, religion will not exist for you, because religion is not a superficial matter.  True religion does not ask how you are dressed, or demand that you act in a prescribed manner, true religion does not question your sincerity or respect your candor. . . . True religion cares for you in your depth, demands that you live in that depth and that you respect all others in their depth.”

#3

“Ours is a free faith.  We do and must have different beliefs, different convictions,” writes Forrester Church, “yet we share and act upon our confidence that we have within ourselves the power to grow in mind and in love and in service, and to live a life befitting to our promise. Our faith is not in freedom, but qualified by freedom.  That is to say, what we do with our freedom determines what we make of our faith.

“If taken seriously, this approach to religion has much to commend it.  As Peter Marin writes in a recent article on Cults,

‘The only real alternative to hierarchy, submission, and unquestioning obedience is a passion for freedom and a belief in the true community of equals, one in which every member is acknowledged as a possible source for truth or meaning, and in which truth and meaning are forever being formed, never fully given – always opening up, ahead, in the future, never fully attained. And yet how many people in America, (he goes on to ask) – not just among cults, but among us all – feel as if this is the real nature of experience, or that the truth that binds their moral lives is fully human, coexistent with the living members of their community?  How many children are to the fierce independence or the generous receptivity such a way of being requires, and how many adults seem to feel, at the heart of their lives, the significance of being that confers upon them the immense responsibility of moral life, and opens their eyes and hearts to others like themselves.’”

#4

  1. H. Lawrence, the famous British novelist, once described in a letter to his family pastor his approach to religion. Although Lawrence was not a Unitarian his deeply personal approach to religious belief resonates with our approach to religion.

“I believe,” he wrote, “that one is converted to one’s true religious faith when first one hears the low, vast murmur of life, of human life, troubling one’s hitherto unconscious self.  I believe one is born first unto oneself – for the happy developing of oneself, while the world is a nursery, and the pretty things are to be snatched for, and the pleasant things tasted; some people seem to exist as such right to the end.  But most are born again on entering maturity; then they are born to humanity, to consciousness of all the laughing, and never ceasing murmur of pain and sorrow that comes from the terrible multitude of brothers and sisters.  Then, it appears to me, one gradually formulates one’s religion, be it what may.  A person has no religion who has not slowly and painfully gathered one together, adding to it, shaping it; and one’s religion is never a complete and final, it seems, but must always be undergoing modification.”

#5

“When you join a Unitarian Universalist Church you commit yourself to a moral and spiritual purpose: to be faithful to the inherent responsibilities of religious freedom. You commit yourself henceforth to discard whatever beliefs you discover to be false and accept whatever you are convinced are true.  What this means, in part, is that we understand that as people grow and change their beliefs will grow and change, that is, if they are encouraged to permit such growth and change.

“Though each of us may believe different things, we share a common faith, a confidence if you will, that by working at it diligently, with one another’s help we can become better, wiser and more loving human beings.  We may not accept the answers other religions offer, but the questions remain the same.  They are life and death questions.  Whether or not we set aside time to address them can make a profound difference in our lives, and in the lives of those around us.  Uncertain enough to be tolerant and open enough to be free in our search for meaning, our faith tells us that by giving ourselves to this essential task, we shall find a deeper meaning to sustain us through life’s trials and a sense of purpose to guide us through our days.  (Forrester Church)

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