It was an August night at Ferry Beach, a UU camp in Maine, and many had already gone to bed. Those of us on the youth crew lingered on the beach enjoying the rhythmic sound of the ocean, the feel of the sand, and the gentle night breeze. Something was happening in the night sky, a light that spread and streaked and became more and more spectacular. “Northern lights,” someone whispered. Northern lights.
It seemed imperative to wake everyone up, to call everyone to come and wonder with us. And soon, there we were on the beach. All of us. Youth, children, young adults, elders, parents. Wide-awake, asleep, and somewhere in between, sharing a moment of wonder and awe.
In that moment my faith formation as a Unitarian Universalist began. It was the kind of moment religious educator Sophia Lyon Fahs had in mind when she said,
We need not labor to reach up into another realm to feel the touch of Infinity. Although it is far off, yet it is also nearer than hands or feet. We can never know anything, even the most microscopic bit of matter or protoplasm, without facing what eludes our understanding and even our imagination. As Rufus Jones once said, 'There is a more yet in our very being.' There is a 'more yet' in every being, in every thing. It is really not strange that what [hu]mankind has believed is in a "supernatural" realm can already be here in the natural.
At Ferry Beach that night we experienced the transcendent, the “more yet,” in a community of the whole. We all felt the profoundly religious nature of the moment. And I, who was not yet a Unitarian Universalist, became drawn in to a faith that connected me to the realm of infinity.
At its very best, UU religious education helps people of all ages and life stages to recognize their own experiences with the natural world, which is, after all, one of the "texts” of our religious tradition. We seek to create faith communities that hold and magnify those transcendent moments of wonder and awe. Curriculum, resources, and programs can help set the stage, but it is only in our lived experience that those spiritual moments become real, become part of one’s faith.
For me, it began on a beach in the presence of the Northern Lights. Where did it begin for you?
Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978) is one of the Unitarian Universalist theologians whose work is explored in the Tapestry of Faith program, What Moves Us: Unitarian Universalist Theology by Rev. Dr. Thandeka.