WorshipWeb: Braver/Wiser: A Weekly Message of Courage and Compassion

Choosing to Connect

By Priscilla Shumway

“When we acknowledge that all life is sacred and that each act is an act of choice and therefore sacred, then life is a sacred dance lived consciously each moment. When we live at this level, we participate in the creation of a better world.”
–Scout Cloud Lee

Every Saturday morning, my husband and I rise early and head off to volunteer at our local food bank. The food bank is supported by people from twenty-eight different congregations, including our Unitarian Church. After we set up, volunteers gather as our Director reads a Bible passage and a prayer.

Cropped shot of a group of businesspeople standing together and holding hands in a modern office

As a UU and atheist, these prayers initially caused me discomfort. As I stood listening, all I heard were the things that I did NOT agree with. But by focusing on the things I disagreed with I created a sense of separation, of judgment, between me and the others.

Over two years, as my relationship with the other volunteers and the mission of the outreach has deepened, there has been a change in my relationship to these prayers. Now during the prayer, I hear the sentiments I agree with, rather than those I disagree with. I agree that we all give of our time, talent, and treasure to do this work; that the work we do is important in the lives of our clients; that we who volunteer feel called to do this work.

But who or what is calling us? This is where the prayers and I diverge. The prayers suggest we are called to do this work because God directs our life and calls us to it. But as an atheist, I feel called to do this work because of my belief that with every act and choice I make, I can create a better world. While I may have little control over the larger world, I can help create a better world in my own neighborhood, one client, one connection at a time.

Now as I pray with my friends, I feel a deep sense of connection to them and the sacredness of this work we all feel called to do. I realize it is my actions and choices that determine my connection to others. Now it no longer matters to me who or what is calling each of us, only that we show up in love and faith to do the work of creating a better world.


May we continue to become more mindful of that which connects us rather than that which separates us. May we always remember that the acts and choices we make are sacred as we work to create a better world.

About the Author

Priscilla Shumway

Priscilla Shumway (she/her) is a member of the Unitarian Church in Charleston, SC. She has served as Vestry Board Chair, Worship Services Committee Chair, and recently headed up a 5-year strategic plan for the church. Priscilla considers herself and “awe-ist” and is filled with daily gratitude...


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