Dear Ones- Welcome to March! The Principle we’re highlighting this month is our 3rd: “Acceptance of One Another and Encouragement to Spiritual Growth”.
Have you noticed that, of our Seven Principles, this is the only one that uses the word “spiritual”? The rest speak of justice, equity, compassion, peace, liberty, and so much more. But this is the only overt reference to spirituality. I find this a bit odd in a document for a religious body, don’t you?
All the others might just as easily belong to any number of different organizations- a human rights organization, perhaps- which do not aspire to be “religious”(which, to my mind, gives ammunition to those who question whether we are really a religion. But that’s a whole other conversation!). But this one…this one is overtly spiritual. It is a religious statement.
A case could be made, of course, that each of our Principles, whether expressed in religious terms or not, are ultimately spiritual. Everything covered by our Principles reflects my understanding of the Social Gospel, of our commitment to “loving our neighbor as ourselves”. If we are to live an “undivided life”, as theologian Parker Palmer puts it, what each of our Principles call us to must be considered a part of our whole life- including the “spiritual” side.
But having this overtly spiritual statement there, in the middle of our Principles, focuses all the others back into a religious framework(which, of course, is as it should be).
There is another difference, too- an important one. It is the only one focused primarily on the personal, the individual. The other six seem like “big picture” items…World Community, the Interconnected web of all existence, Human Relations.
This one, though, is deeply personal. It calls us to “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth”-not as an organization, not as a group. It’s personal and individual. It means that we meet one another wherever we are spiritually, accepting that each of us is on a unique and very personal journey through life. It is a covenant between individuals- not masses of people. It’s between you and me. And it describes how we should treat one another.
To be clear, this isn’t about “tolerance”- with it’s clenched teeth and narrowed eyes. It’s not about casual commitment and superficial relationships. Obviously, we can’t know another’s heart, mind or soul in their entirety. But this asks us to accept one another for who we are, to pay attention, to truly see one another.
And we should not stop there- we are called to “affirm and promote” our own and each other’s spiritual growth. It asks us to challenge one another in a loving way, to listen deeply, to cultivate an open mind in ourselves and in one another. It asks us to be spiritual “life-long learners”, and to encourage that in others.
UU Minister Kenneth W Collier writes: “The church must encourage us to spiritual growth, for where else will we discover a community, a context, and a model for the ability to invest n others so that our own selves become enriched, fulfilled and new? Where else can we find the support and the understanding that makes it possible for us to change, to grow our selves?” Indeed, where else? On a good day, we can find it at UUFS.
This is a sacred task for our congregation, enshrined in our 3rd Principle, and as individual Unitarian Universalists. May we always find ways to carry it out, this sacred task- for ourselves and for one another.
Wishing you peace and blessings,