One Youth's Spiritual Awakening
Spiritual Life and Connection to Everything(We present excerpts of Anna Zimmer's piece originally on the Huffington Post. -ed.) By contributing writer Anna Zimmer for KidSpirit's issue, Climate Change: Tending Our Planet.
I was not raised in a family where religion played a big role. I have always known that both my parents were Christians at one point in their lives, but they drifted away and by the time I was born, they were both atheists, happy to have their Sunday mornings free of commitments. When I was in elementary school, my mom started going to a church in my town.
I didn't find out what kind of church it was until middle school, when my mom told me that she wanted me to attend youth group there every week. I went begrudgingly, thinking how much I would rather be sleeping or watching television in my PJs than discussing faith with a group of near strangers. My skepticism increased when I learned that it was a "Unitarian Universalist" church, something I'd never heard of before. I wondered if the name was chosen purely for the alliteration. They call themselves "UUs."
It's all right if you've never of Unitarian Universalism; most people haven't. Since Google doesn't provide a very helpful definition of what it means to be UU, I'll do my best to explain -- but I do not think anyone has ever successfully written a clear explanation of my faith. Unitarian Universalism originated as a branch of Christianity, but it has since separated from the Christian religion. Every UU church does things differently, but one unifying factor is that all UU churches are accepting of everyone, no matter their beliefs.
Unitarian Universalism has seven core principles, one of which is "respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." Caring for the world, the environment specifically, is a huge part of being a UU. We believe that Mother Nature, however you define that -- whether as a spiritual being, the earth's life force, or as the living world that surrounds you -- is beautiful and valuable. Our responsibility as members of our global community is to protect the environment because our own well-being is deeply connected to the health of our world.
As a certified Green Sanctuary, we have committed ourselves to bettering our community in terms of caring for the environment. The Green Sanctuary Project (administered by the Unitarian Universalist Association - ed.) has four different categories that each congregation has to focus on: environmental justice, worship and celebration, religious education, and sustainable living. Once a congregation has become certified, it is important to continue making improvements. The church is encouraged to apply for re-certification even after obtaining Green Sanctuary status. Re-certification is important because it reminds a community that the fight to build a happier, healthier world is never over.