I left Unitarian Universalism when I was 18. Having gone through the survey of world religions that was the emphasis of my late 80’s RE experience, I identified more as a Buddhist than I did as UU. College brought a myriad of intellectual awakenings, but my soul lay dormant.
Through the twenty some odd years that followed, I knew something was missing in my life, but I couldn’t put my finger on it. I went through periods of listlessness and disconnection. There existed in me no resonant call to a religious home.
Frankly, it is by mere accident and mischance that I stumbled back on Unitarian Universalism in my thirties through justice work with youth.
I pray daily that our young folk don’t have to endure decades of melancholy and isolation with merely the offhand turn of fortune bringing them back to this healing and affirming faith.
And yes, I do pray, but we’ll return to that later.
It is my firm belief that Unitarian Universalism is finally evolving from our theological, insular adolescence. At long last, we are breaking free from our religious self-doubt and insecurity. No longer must we rely upon the theological underpinnings of other very worthwhile faiths. Now, through a continued commitment to spiritual practice and the beliefs that ground us, we can boldly claim our identity as a movement and become the bastion of peace, love, inclusivity, and justice that we have aspired all the while to be.
Practice can take many forms. It can be internal, as when one prays or meditates. Spiritual practice can be interpersonal, through acts of pastoral care, through somber reflection on service, or by simply asking a beloved for forgiveness. It can be communal: groups of thoughtful souls coming together to worship and celebrate the divine in all its forms.
My daily practices involve deep breathing and prayer. Deep breathing calms my spirit and brings tranquility to my body. Our family uses prayer in many forms. Nightly, my wife and I commune with the larger Universe and set intentions for our lives and for the ones we love. Occasionally, we pray over a lit chalice with our children at dinner to celebrate the day with gratitude. And still other moments, we pray to listen deeply to our purest selves, to attune our mind, body, and spirit such that we can live into our greatest potential as human beings and as servants to the wider good. Prayer works. We cherish it.
Returning to the wayward me, when I think about what could have saved me those years of suffering, I come, again and again, to the idea of practice. If only someone had instilled in me these useful tools for celebration, for mourning, and for entreaty, I might have had a sense of spiritual home – a beacon in the darkest hours, a community within which to learn, grow, and serve.
Now, I’m back and not wasting one second. I am committed to this idea of Unitarian Universalist spiritual practice and to our movement’s engagement of it. If you are a religious educator or volunteer, make every effort to ensure that each gathering of your young ones taps into the spirit. That by the time these limitless spirits bridge from your program, they have many tools from which to draw inspiration, and calm, and most of all, a sense of home.
May it always be…
If you’d like to contribute to our movement’s running archive of spiritual practices, or simply explore ones for yourself, your family, or your community, check out this Spiritual Practices and Centering Activities:Google Drive Folder.
Eric Bliss is a native of Knoxville, TN, where he grew up attending both Westside Unitarian Universalist and Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Churches. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology and Teacher’s Certification in the States of Tennessee and Utah.
As a career educator, Eric has taught classes from Ecology - to Chemistry - to English as a Second Language. Eric has been active in UU leadership over the course of 35 years, beginning as a YRUU group leader, eventually becoming a youth mentor, coordinator, and adviser at such places as The Mountain, Ferry Beach, NCCJ’s Anytown, and at GA Youth Caucus. He was the Director of Religious Exploration at First Unitarian Society of Denver for six years and served as the Youth Chaplain, the Quuest Youth Camp Director, the Fahs Collaborative Guiding Team, and the LREDA Chair for the Mountain Desert District. Currently, Eric is the Youth Ministry Specialist for the Pacific Western Region of the UUA and is a member of the UUA's Youth Ministry Roundtable.
In his private life, Eric is a devoted husband and the loving father of two beautiful sons, named Hollis and Oz, is an avid soccer fan and coach, adores skateboarding, playing guitar, and exploring the outdoors.