I’ve always been drawn to the reading in our hymnal from Mother Teresa: “Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service…. It is not how much we do, but how much love we put into the doing.” For me, these words sum up the ways in which members and friends of this congregation express love for one another and love for the wider world. Our acts of service, large and small, are examples of love put into action.
In Unitarian Universalism, we emphasize the freedom of each person to engage in a responsible search for truth and meaning in their life. As a life-long Unitarian Universalist, I am grateful for this freedom, as it has enabled me to explore my own evolving religious beliefs within the supportive container of this faith tradition. As a child I grew up in a humanist-oriented UU fellowship that our family attended, where there was very little discussion of God that I can remember. I soon came to articulate my identity as an agnostic, at a young age. As a young adult, I found myself looking for something more in my spiritual life. I was seeking a sense of connection to something holy and sacred in the world. When I acknowledged this yearning within myself, opportunities to feel a connection to the holy started to appear in different ways. I started to feel a connection to divine spirit in the most ordinary of experiences.
The first time I taught religious education was as a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society of San Francisco, with the fourth and fifth grade class. I remember feeling excited and nervous about teaching. At times I felt overwhelmed by the energy of the kids in the class. Luckily, my co-teacher worked as a public school teacher, so I was able to learn from her skill and wisdom along the way. Over the year, it was a joy to connect with these amazing children. There were times when I would ask a question about the story we read together, and one of the children would relate the message to their own life experience. I would think to myself, “Wow, they are really understanding this!” It was those moments that sustained me through the year, and helped me get through those more challenging times as well. The experience of teaching religious education is truly a spiritual journey, with highs and lows, and all kinds of learning along the way.
On Martin Luther King, Jr. Sunday, the children and youth of UUCB marched on the lawn outside the church building, holding signs with slogans that proclaimed their vision of beloved community. The sun was shining and the day was glorious. We sang “This Little Light of Mine” together, remembering children who had also marched for justice, in Birmingham, Alabama, 50 years ago during the Civil Rights Movement. The signs had slogans like “Everyone Deserves More Opportunities,” “We Need a Solution to Stopping Pollution,” and “We Want Peace without Violence.” On the following Monday, families came to the Women’s Daytime Drop-In Center to weed, prune and plant beautiful flowers together. The Center provides resources for women and children who are moving from the streets into homes. Our work helped create a beautiful space for them to gather and get the resources and help they need.
Have you ever felt like social justice work was just one more item on your long to-do list? I’ll be honest; I have felt this way at times! We know how important these efforts are, and yet it can sometimes seem stressful and overwhelming to fit them into our busy schedules.
As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm the importance of promoting justice, equity and compassion in human relations. So how do we find the strength, the energy and the enthusiasm to help heal our communities and our world? I believe one answer is that we do this work in spiritual community together. By coming together as a community of loving hearts, we can transform this work into an activity that brings more joy and meaning into our own lives.
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