New address: 24 Farnsworth Street, Boston, MA 02210-1409.
Spirit in Practice
Try to get to worship
services with the least amount of stress possible. If you’re always rushing
out the door, fighting with family members and cursing the traffic as you try to
get there “on time,” you might arrive in time, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote in his journal, “I prefer the silence before the
service begins to any preaching.” It’s nice to catch up with friends, but that
can be done outside the sanctuary or, better still, during coffee hour. Use the
time in the sanctuary before the first words are spoken to center yourself, to
let go of whatever you don’t need for the next hour, and to prepare yourself to
truly participate in a celebration of life.
overanalyze. This can be hard for us
Unitarian Universalists. Have you heard the joke that we’re such poor hymn
singers because we’re always reading ahead to see if we agree with the words?
Instead of analyzing and critiquing, open yourself up to simply experiencing the service.
Appreciate your fellow
congregants. Take at least one moment
each week to look around and remember that you’re all in this together. Each and
every person in that sanctuary with you has his/her own joys and sorrows,
celebrations and concerns, and is as wounded—and as wonderful—as you are. As
Francis David said, “We need not think alike to love
The traditional language talks about the collection of “tithes and offerings,” which suggests that the
collection plate is for more than your pledge envelope. Experiment with being
even more generous, if you can afford to. Put in a dollar or two (or five!) not
because you have to—because you’ve pledged—but simply because you want to, out
of the largeness of your heart.
When something turns you
off, say a silent “thank you.” Wouldn’t it be boring to
simply hear your own views and see your own preferences week after week? It’s
often in our encounters with the unexpected that the “magic” really happens. Ask
yourself, “What can I learn from this? How can this help me to expand?” Then
really listen for answers.
Use the “coffee
not just for congregational business. We have the telephone, the Internet, and
committee meetings for conducting business. Coffee hour is for engaging with
other people. If the worship service included a sharing of joys and sorrows, at
coffee hour talk with someone whose sharing touched you. Seek out someone you
haven’t seen in a while or haven’t yet met. Talk about the service with
people—ask them what they think and how it affected them.
Come back to the service
between services. If you journal, make a
practice of reflecting back on the service midweek. If you don’t journal, set
aside some time to think about what you heard—and what you felt—and whether it’s
had any impact on you in the days since.
Attend services as
regularly as your circumstances allow. In Unitarian
Universalism there is no threat of hell for people who miss worship, but there
is the very real danger of disconnection. Regular weekly attendance at religious
services has been shown to lower blood pressure, among a number of other health
benefits. Perhaps more important, it has been shown to increase a person’s sense
of connection to other individuals and to the congregation as a whole. And for
any spiritual practice to provide the most benefit, it must be frequent,
regular, and disciplined.
For more information contact web @ uua.org.
This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations.
Please consider making a donation today.
Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.
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