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Spiritual Preparation, Workshop 4: William Ellery Channing

In "What Moves Us," a Tapestry of Faith program

Read and reflect on the story, "William Ellery Channing's Struggle with His Unwanted Emotions," using some or all of the following to guide you:

  • Compare how Channing handled his unwanted physical emotions with the way you personally handle your own unwanted physical and emotional distress. How are they similar? How do they differ?
  • Respond to Channing's image and metaphor of a "crucifixion" of unwanted emotions.
  • What cultural notions regarding masculinity and sexuality are reflected in the ongoing emotional struggles Channing describes in his journal? How are the cultural notions the same in our own time, and how do they differ?
  • Is emotional struggle always stifling? Can it be transformative in ways that affirm both the head and the heart? Draw on personal experiences to answer these questions. When you are in the midst of emotional turmoil, what do or could you draw on to remember that your faith affirms the inherent worth and dignity of your head and your heart? How do you know you have inherent worth and dignity? What does the worth and dignity feel like? How does it show up in your life and in the lives of others?
  • How is Channing's idea of making progress toward moral perfection reflected and also qualified in this story? How is moral progress reflected in your own Unitarian Universalist faith? Use personal stories to answer these questions.
  • Do you think Channing despises a part of himself? If so, what part? Do you despise parts of yourself? Are they similar or different from the feelings Channing disdains in himself?
  • How can a Unitarian Universalist theology help us make sense of our own struggles with what we deem to be our worst feelings? Do this investigatory work as a Unitarian Universalist faith development and spiritual practice.

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Last updated on Wednesday, February 20, 2013.

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