Ponderings of the Spiritual Life Director – October 23, 2019

I’m thinking about our values of love, connection, and transformation this week ahead of our missioning workshop. How do we connect these values to our theologies? How will we align our theologies, values, and mission statement?

Let me offer you two theological perspectives that I’ve been pondering recently.

First, we create God (the holy, the divine, the Spirit of Life, whatever your words are). When my teaching mentor asked me about my theology, I stated this and she pointed me to a book called “God is the Good We Do: Theology of Theopraxy”. It was written by Michael Benedikt, who is actually an architect , and I can’t find a whole lot of other information about it using this terminology, to be honest, unless I research the Christian perspective of Theopraxis. Either way, the underlying premise is that we create the holy through our actions. As UUs, we often state “deeds not creeds”, so it seems that maybe this is something we can get behind.

Benedikt states: “We can experience god, and think of god, not as something or someone remote, nor as the creator of the universe, nor as the spirit or principle behind everything, but as something, as someone we bring to life when and as we do good.”

He extends this thought by proclaiming, “god comes out of life- and turns to life- to act in it, and on it, through you and me, preserving, honoring, and promoting almost all of life’s forms and instances, which is the very definition of goodness.”

The other theological perspective I’ve been examining takes a communitarian perspective of God. I found some inspiring information on a website by the Episcopal Diocese of Northern Michigan (you just never know where you might find inspiration, so it’s a great thing to stay open and curious!). I offer you a couple excerpts:

Science describes a creation in which all creatures are related and interconnected in a web of life – each whole is a part nesting within a larger whole.

It is only within our whole relationships that we live, move, and have being. No creature is ever simply singular.”

God is community and so are we. A theology of mutual ministry (more commonly referred to in UUism as “shared ministry) asks us not to begin with a singular one, but with a oneness birthed through the union of mutual love.”

If we are to affirm and promote the interdependent web of all existence, as our 7th principle asks of us, then certainly we can recognize that our relationships to each other, every other creature, and the planet are essential to affirmation and promotion- and within those relationships we find the holy. And, a union of mutual love? As UUs, we side with love, always. It’s the foundation of our religion.

So, taken together, can we say that god is community and we create god in our community? We can restate that using different terminology, if you like- the Spirit of Life can be found in community and we create the Spirit of Life in community. Love can be found in community and we create more love in community, through connection, and thus, our lives are transformed.

Don’t both of these theological perspectives uplift our values of love, connection, and transformation? Do they not provide a path to reflection on our 7 UU Principles and how to deepen our understanding of how to live them? Perhaps you have a different theological perspective to offer, or more insights into creating community and the holy through our actions. But, no matter your perspective, is it not our responsibility to discern how our UUCL community can best put our theologies and shared values into action by having a mission and working towards it?

UUCL, like any congregation, is a unique community. This is because, as individuals, we are all unique, coming together and creating a dynamic and unique living “organism”, full of love, one divine part of the whole. That’s why this missioning process is so important. We don’t want to pick out any generic mission statement. We want to create and engage in something meaningful to us. What are we, as Lakeland UUs, uniquely positioned to do? How can we, our unique group, create the divine together? Our mission statement will inform everything that we do as a church. I look forward to being in community with all of you on Sunday as we discern our mission together, stepping into the future as one, creating god together, and transforming the world.