The song "Spirit of Life" by Carolyn McDade could be considered a Unitarian Universalist anthem of sorts. Its page in the Singing the Living Tradition hymnbook (Hymn 123) is probably the most frequently accessed page of any in many congregations' collections. Some congregations don't sing Hymn 123. Perhaps they have other "greatest hits" their members prefer, or they found they were singing it too much and had to take a break. But its popularity is uncontested. Many Unitarian Universalists find the song deeply meaningful. Its imagery is beautiful. Its words are inclusive of Unitarian Universalists all along our theological spectrum. Its tune grows on its singers and listeners, and many use the song to help themselves grow.
Barbara Hamilton-Holway's Spirit of Life program seeks to be like the song from which it derives its name and bring meaning, beauty, inclusivity, and growth to Unitarian Universalist adults as they deepen their spiritual awareness and connections. The Spirit of Life program taps into one of the central functions of religion, eloquently described by minister Kendyl Gibbons: "... how we—each of us, in our uniquely constituted beings—recognize and understand and make sense of that unbidden, overwhelming awe at the wonder, magnificence, danger, demand, and delight of being alive."
The Spirit of Life program is part of the Tapestry of Faith program series for adults. As a whole and in each of its individual programs, the Tapestry of Faith series weaves Unitarian Universalist values, principles, and sources together with four strands of religious growth: faith development, spiritual development, ethical development, and Unitarian Universalist identity. Each of the strands is described below:
Faith Development. When we develop in faith, we develop as meaning-makers. Faith is not about accepting impossible ideas. Rather, faith is about embracing life's possibilities and growing in our sense of being "at home in the universe." Faith is practiced in relationship with others. It has personal dimensions, but it is best supported by a community with shared symbols, stories, values, and meaning.
Spiritual Development. In the book Everyday Spiritual Practice, Scott Alexander defines spirituality as our relationship with the Spirit of Life, whatever we understand the Spirit of Life to be. Our spirituality is our deep, reflective, and expressed response to the awe, wonder, joy, pain, and grief of being alive.
Ethical Development. When we develop our ethics, we develop our moral values—our sense of right and wrong. We also enhance our ability to act on those values, overcoming oppressions and despair.
Unitarian Universalist Identity. A person's participation in a Unitarian Universalist congregation does not automatically create his/her Unitarian Universalist identity. Personal identification with Unitarian Universalism begins when people start to call themselves Unitarian Universalist, and feel part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation or community. Identity is strengthened as individuals discover and find resonance with the stories, symbols, and practices of Unitarian Universalism. As individuals find and give acceptance in a Unitarian Universalist community; as they cherish the community's people, values, messages, and activities; and as they find sustenance for their holy hungers, they grow into Unitarian Universalists.
The workshops in Spirit of Life address all of these strands, yet the program focuses primarily on Unitarian Universalists' spiritual development. May these workshops be for your congregations like roots, holding us close, and like wings, setting us free. Spirit of Life, come to us, come to us.
—Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, M.Div., Developmental Editor