General Assembly: GA Presentations: Presenter views and opinions do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the UUA.

Building Right Relationships: Spirituality, Money and UUs

General Assembly 2000 Event 249
Presenters: Don Southworth, Pacific Central District; Rev. Nancee Campbell, minister, First Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church of Stockton, CA

"We have more economic wealth than ever before but we feel more unsatisfied, lonely, and scared. We confuse self worth with net worth. Addictive consumption threatens our communities and our planet. In this workshop we explore what it takes to reclaim our lives, relationships, communities, and the planet.

"The care and vitality with which we care for others will determine how we are remembered, not how much money we had."

Often money is a deep dark secret. It's even harder to talk about than sex or religion for many people. Especially in churches with their emphasis on spirituality, the discussion of money practices seems especially taboo. But it shouldn't be. Don Southworth, Pacific Central District; and Rev. Nancee Campbell, minister, First UU Church of Stockton, CA, discussed how money and spirituality intersect in the Unitarian Universalist (UU) world.

What is happiness? In a survey several years ago, people listed the elements of a good life: autonomy and control, good self-esteem, warm family relationships, relaxing leisure time, romance and love, and close and meaningful relationships. These social values easily outranked material values in peoples' choices.

Also interesting is the relationship between level of income and happiness. People who reported themselves as initially as "happy" reported that even though their level of wealth may have increased, their level of happiness did not increase. Advertisers know this well. Commercials no longer extol the virtue of a product but what it will do for your social life.

We should try to see our relationship with money through the lens of the Buddhist "right relationship": Trust/honesty, truth-telling/courage, dependability/integrity, patience/love, and devotion.

Observance of the UU first principle offers best chance for compassion and self-worth: Every person is worthy or respect, regardless of their net worth. The second principle (justice, equity, and compassion) must also be taught intentionally: Rev. Campbell mentioned a family in her congregation whose kids donated to the local food bank instead of receiving lots of presents; when the 4-year-old daughter was asked what she got for Christmas, she replied proudly, "I got a very nice thank-you note from the food bank!"

Southworth concluded by listing five practices to help deepen your spiritual relationship with money:

  1. Speak about money with intentionality and honesty.
  2. Celebrate your abundance. It can be as simple as lighting a candle in gratitude or keeping a "gratitude journal"
  3. Tithe. Give away 10% of your income (it's much easier to do the math if you do ten percent!). Tithing is an act of faith, especially if you calculate the 10% pre-tax (off the top). Spend 80% of what you earn, save 10%, and give away 10%. Teach your kids that.
  4. Simplify your life. Sell houses, and get clear on what you really need. Every day for at least thirty days write down everything you pay for. It will completely change the way you look for money; will change your awareness and consciousness of money.
  5. Commit to answering your call. Joseph Campbell calls it "following your bliss" and Frederick Buechner calls it finding "the intersection between our own deep gladness and the world's deep hunger." If it means jumping off the corporate bandwagon, then do it.

Don Southworth is a former member of the corporate world who combined an interest in financial management with his status as a seminary student at Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley. He has given workshops in financial management to various classes of seminary students around the United States, and will soon graduate from Starr King. Rev. Nancee Campbell is minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Stockton, CA.

Reported by Allan Stern.