Monday, August 23, 2010

Go Be a Christian?

My thanks to UUnderstand, whose recent comment led to a lot of thought and this post. The question UU Christians often face is: "Why not go down the street to the ________ (fill in any Christian denomination) church? Wouldn't you be happier there?"

It's a question that we get from UUs, and it's a question we often pose to ourselves.

The first answer is--sometimes we do go down the street. In my own Christian fellowship, over time members have discovered, or rediscovered, Christianity and either have left the UU congregation for a Christian one or are exploring the Christian experience in other churches as part of their search. For years, I attended two churches--Episcopalian and UU. This is actually a fairly common practice and a good fit for progressive Christians.

When my Christian Fellowship began to take "field trips" to local Christian churches, someone asked, "What do you expect to do? Leave the UU Church?" And we decided our answer was ,"No." Because we have the second set of answers to why we don't go down the street.

  • Theology. Even in more liberal Christian denominations, some tenets remain stable. Jesus is divine; Jesus died for our sins; salvation may not be universal; our reward is in Heaven. These tenets may not be overt, but discussions in the church will revolve around the religion about Jesus vs. the religion that Jesus taught. For many of us, who follow the religion Jesus taught, this conversation is not where we are in our journey.

  • Orientation. This is probably more compelling, not just for Christians, but also for Buddhists, Jews, and others coming into UUism from another denomination or religion. The UCC would probably argue with some vigor at the comment that the UCC has "Christianity added". The point of Christian churches is to put Christ in the center. The point of the UU churches is to put a covenant of Principles in the center. We are UUs; we are drawn to the covenantal approach of living together.

  • Religious Pluralism. Again, we UU Christians are UUs. We affirm and promote spiritual seeking and we cherish the faith diversity in UU congregations.

For illustration. A Methodist seminarian intern working at the UUA and joining the UUCF Revival last year commented that he couldn't imagine a service in which the Bible was not read. For us UU Christians, we could imagine it, we experience it, and we revel in it.

As UU Christians, we get a kick out of the spiritual conversations we have with our fellow UUs who see the One Light through a different window. We like being challenged by the UU principles and diverse spiritual paths as well as by other progressive Christians. I think we're a bit greedy--we want to have our cake, eat it, and then lick the frosting from the plate.

Some of us may choose to "go down the street", but many of us will stay right in our UU congregations, while continuing to broaden our experiences and feed our inner spirits, using every tool available to us.

May all our spiritual journeys be diverse, rich and fulfilling. Blessings!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Praying on the Beads

I was looking at the thoughts I posted last October when I felt down and sluggish. At that time and since, I've tried several ways to maintain a regular spiritual discipline. I do know that as ministers suggest, when you intentionally seek to experience God's presence, over time you "bank" the habit, the feeling, the practices that get you to the Thin Place. When life throws rocks, you can use what you "banked" to find your Thin Place again.

Since I was a very young Catholic, one of the practices that most helped to bring me close to God was reciting the Rosary. Nothing quite like repetitive prayer, aloud or silent, with smooth beads flowing through your fingers. The Rosary went everywhere with me. I could say it while I was walking to college classes, falling asleep in bed, sitting in the woods. As my spiritual journey took me away from the Marian Rosary and its emphasis on Mary and many of the "Jesus Miracles", I tucked my beads away in a small carved box. Several years ago, as an active member of an Episcopal Church, I learned of the Anglican (St. Francis) Rosary.

Like the Marian Rosary, the Anglican Rosary holds deep symbolism in its very structure, but unlike the Marian Rosary, the Anglican Rosary has no one set of prayers associated with it. The basic approach is to pray an opening prayer of faith on the cross and another prayer to settle into the Spirit on the Invitatory. Choose one prayer to repeat at the Cruciform beads and one prayer (or seven phrases) to say at each Week bead. Recently, my busy life and monkey mind have drawn me back to the Anglican Rosary for contemplative meditation. I'm using the following prayer sequence based on the Psalms:

CROSS: I believe in God as eternal and all-conquering love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority of truth, known or to be known, and in the power of persons of goodwill and sacrificial spirit to overcome all evil and progressively establish the kingdom of God. Amen.

INVITATORY: Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in them the fire of your love. Send forth your spirit and we shall be re-created and you shall renew the face of the earth. Amen.

CRUCIFORM BEADS: The Lord's Prayer

1 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
2 Cast me not from your sacred presence, but keep me in the ways of your wisdom and truth.
3 Restore in me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me in the steadfast faith of Jesus.
4 Have mercy on me, O God, in my shortcomings; comfort me in the arms of your everlasting loving-kindness.
5 Open my lips, O Lord, and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.
6 God of the poets, God of the Prophets, God of the poor and the rich, God of Creation and of Change,
7 Make my hands just. Make my feet firm. Make my body a temple fit for your service. Grant us all your peace that passes human understanding. Amen.

Glory be to God, Mother and Father, Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer, and Sanctifier, as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.

Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name. Thank the Lord, for all good things around us are sent from Heaven above. Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I say, Rejoice! Amen.

There are many suggestions for Rosary prayers out on the Web as well as several on-line site where you can purchase an Anglican Rosary. Create your own prayers. Create your own beads. If this practice helps you to focus, go for it. It certainly has done wonders for me and my monkey mind.