Nurturing Your Spiritual Life
In the now classic book Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life, the Rev. Scott Alexander makes this seemingly simple statement:
In our faith every individual is expected, with the help of clergy and community, to nurture and tend the garden of his or her own religious life each and every day.
There's a lot in those thirty-one words—ideas of expectation, the involvement of others, and daily discipline, for example—that might surprise some Unitarian Universalists (UUs) and yet which others have greeted with gratitude. Certainly there is nothing there that is not recognized by the other great religious traditions we humans have developed to respond to, as Forrest Church put it, the challenges of being alive and having to die. The "spiritual life" takes work, and we cannot do it alone.
Meditations and Prayers
- Meditation of the Day: Skinner House Books, the imprint of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), publishes a daily meditation through its Facebook page.
- WorshipWeb: the UUA's database for all things related to worship, this link will bring you directly to the searchable database of worship elements. Here you will find prayers, meditations, opening and closing words, readings, even entire sermons, all categorized by themes and keywords.
But just what is "the spiritual life?" What is "spirituality?" The Rev. Barbara Merritt once wrote, "Whether or not you believe in God, you need to realize that you yourself are not God." For some it takes a lifetime to achieve that realization; for others it's a daily discipline to remember it. This may be one way to understand what is meant by the term, "spirituality"— the task of discovering, and then remembering, that we are not god.
Sermons for Reflection
- UUPlanet: This website is a treasure trove of Unitarian Universalist videos (including a large number of sermons).
- UU podcasts: This wiki is a directory of congregational and other sources of sermon podcasts and other content.
When Henry David Thoreau began his famous experiment at Walden Pond he said that he'd gone to "live deliberately" so as not to live "what is not life" and "when the time comes to die discover [he] had not lived." We can take this to mean that he wanted to live something that was life, and perhaps this is what spirituality is all about too.
General Resources for Spiritual Nurture
- Are My Beliefs Welcome? Answers to some common questions from newcomers about Unitarian Universalism regarding everything from spiritual practices to the concept of a higher power, ideas about life and death, sources of inspiration and guidance, and the use of sacred texts.
- The Unitarian Universalist Spiritual Director's Network (UUSDN): Many people have found that working with a spiritual director, or guide, can be tremendously beneficial. If you're looking for a Unitarian Universalist spiritual director, the UUSDN can help.
All the religions we humans have ever developed to respond to this business of being alive and having to die seem to agree that most of the time most of us live life "that is not life." We're too distracted by worries, or fears, or regrets, or the ups and downs of pop culture, or whatever it is that keeps us from being really present. Sometimes it's said that we're asleep, or dead, or deluded, or caught in the web of sin, or alienated, or unaware, or distracted, or detached, but in essence all of these are really saying that we're busy living what is not life instead of what is life. When all of the cultural particularities, the loaded language and images are stripped away, that's what spirituality is all about—living life that is life.
The Study of Spirituality
- Spirit of Life: a Tapestry of Faith curriculum by the Reverend Barbara Hamilton-Holway, helps adults explore different aspects of the spiritual life.
- Spirit in Practice: a Tapestry of Faith curriculum by the Reverend Erik Walker Wikstrom, helps adults explore a variety of spiritual practices.
That's essentially what Scott Alexander suggests in Everyday Spiritual Practice. He says that the purpose of the spiritual life is to, "examine, shape, and care for your life—and the life around you—to achieve more wholeness, satisfaction, depth, and meaning.”
Your Spirituality in Community
- The Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship (UUBF): In recent years, Unitarian Universalists have increasingly been drawn to explore Buddhist religious practices, especially seated meditation, in order to ground the "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" that is one of the guiding principles of the UU tradition. Meditation invites a direct and immediate experience of reality and provides a balance to purely intellectual inquiry.
- The Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship (UUCF): are non-creedal followers of Jesus rooted in the history and tradition of Unitarian Universalism. The UUCF especially ministers to those who feel they are too UU to be Christian and too Christian to be UU.
- Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness (UUJA): is an organization committed to addressing the Jewish dimension of Unitarian Universalism’s multicultural challenge.We work to help people deepen their understanding of Judaism and the ways it has impacted, and can continue to develop, our Unitarian Universalist faith.
- Huumanists: Our stated purpose is to enhance, promote, practice and enjoy humanism in liberal religion, and to provide a continental organization for those who consider themselves humanists within the UUA.
- Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans (CUUPS): gives Pagan-identified UUs the unique and delightful experience of being able to pursue their individual journeys of, to name just a sampling, Wicca, Shamanism, earth-centered spirituality, Witchcraft, Druidism, Asatru, Native American spirituality, Rasta, Stregheria, Toteg Tribe spirituality, and myriad other singular paths of Pagan belief and thought, without having to deny themselves the benefits and resources of church affiliation.
- Church of the Younger Fellowship (CYF): The CYF is a specialized ministry effort of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, designed to meet the needs of spiritual young adults ages 18-35.
- Diverse & Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM): is a welcoming spiritual and cultural home for People of Color. DRUUMM was organized in 1998 by religious professionals of color (Ministers, Directors of Religious Education, UUA Staff), and has grown to be inclusive of all People of Color who share in the vision of DRUUMM and seek to build a meaningful anti-racist, anti-oppressive, multicultural community.
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