Love Is...

By Wren Bellavance-Grace

A row of tea lights are lit against a dark background, only the one in the foreground is in focus. The flames morph into hearts as they descend backwards.

Love is the doctrine of this church….
Love is the spirit of this place….
Side with Love…

If you’ve been in a UU congregation for any length of time, chances are good that you’ve heard one of these phrases. A fair number of our congregations regularly recite some version of “Love is the doctrine of this church…” during Sunday services. It is good to be reminded, to remember, that we come from Love, and to Love we will return. It is healing to affirm that ours is a community rooted in Love. It is gratifying to assert that Love is the spirit of our faith, of our communities of faith, and yet - it can be a challenge to live and think and act from Love in the in-between days.

On Sunday morning in your church, Love is present in the liturgy, in the care with which your worship leaders have crafted and curated an experience that uplifts, challenges, and reminds us that we are not alone. It is reflected in the eyes of children listening closely to stories for all ages. It is in the embrace of old friends at coffee hour. It is in the smiling eyes above N-95 masks many continue to wear to protect their beloveds. It is in the trust with which we offer our deepest sorrows to the care of our community, knowing they will be well held.

But what does Love is the Doctrine of this Church look like Monday through Saturday?

Love is in the Thursday night choir rehearsal, a small group ministry of its own. Love is in the la-La-La-LA-La-La-la warm-ups that extends care to the singers’ vocal cords. And in their strands of harmony. And in the musical gifts gladly offered, and graciously received.

Love is in the meeting room downstairs that hosts the lunchtime 12-step meeting, and in its closing refrain, keep coming back.

Love is in the church office, where the monthly newsletter carries news and hope through cyberspace to waiting email boxes, while the administrator patiently folds seven copies that will be mailed to members who will never have an email account.

Love is in the Board of Trustees’ agenda, even in their discernment about how to close the budget gap and whether the accessible elevator project can proceed this year.

Love is in the decision to build the elevator, and trust that we will find a way.

Love is in the little envelope in the minister’s desk drawer, from which bills are drawn and given - for groceries, for electric bills, for gas money, in line with the old wisdom, give alms to all who ask.

Love is present when tragedy strikes and meal trains materialize.

Love is present in the hard conversations;
what did you mean by that…
i felt unwelcome…
i’m sorry…

Love is in our disagreements, even in our conflicts - often - when they are rooted in our love and faithfulness and commitment to do the right thing, in the best way, because it really matters.

Love is in the kitchen on winter Tuesdays when it’s our turn to cook up supper and friendship to unhoused neighbors.

Love is in our arguments when we put egos aside, remember our call to collective care, and dive deeper than our disagreements.

Love is in the faithful risks we take to move ourselves just one inch closer to Beloved Community.

Love is with us as we reckon with the centuries of UU history in New England, naming each portrait on our church walls, claiming both our prophetic heritage and our failures to enact Justice.

Love is in our Covenants, both our promises and our practices. Love is there in the threads of Covenant that bind us to one another in community, to our ancestors in faith, to future inheritors of Unitarian Universalism, and to the divine, transcendent spirit of Love itself.

Love is within us - each of us - and wherever two or more of us gather, always present, if (and when!) we remember to reach for it~

~and follow its lead.

About the Author

Wren Bellavance-Grace

Wren works with the New England Region team to support congregations across New England with particular experience in Safer Congregations, faith formation, and spiritual leadership.

For more information contact .