Love at the Center

By Nancy Combs-Morgan

I was rereading some of James Luther Adams (JLA) work over our Winter break and was inspired, and thankfully reminded, of his emphasis on the role of freely choosing community. Then in reading our Regional Lead, Natalie Briscoe’s blog post from January, What if I’m Not Ready, it further led me to a reflection on the role of love and faithful relationships in our lives.

Let’s begin with JLA for this reflection…"All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." We freely choose to enter into relationship with one another. (James Luther Adams Five Smooth Stones of Religious Liberalism.)

What a precious gift to feel deeply connected to others with a sense of agency, mutuality, and consent. There is so much in our lives, and especially in the last few years, where our sense of control and agency has been taken from us.

Yet, as we reemerge from the horror of COVID19, and all of the other challenges in our greater world, we can discover, and even practice with one another, a sense of promise and anticipation, of the difference it makes to have loving relationships at the center of our lives.

With an intent to recenter ourselves in the going forward, and, yes, we are called to go towards a greater tomorrow as Unitarian Universalists, to feel in the here and now that there is a community, which does put love, covenant, and Unitarian Universalist values, at the center, can be a source of tremendous comfort and even strength.

By gently leaning into community and fostering deepened and faithful relationships, with people of all ages, there is a potential to encounter what James Luther Adams described as a convicted awareness that “… the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism." I.e., Hope.

Now, let’s go a bit further into our current context which calls us to have love at our center. We are in a time of thoughtful review of our Unitarian Universalist principles and values. The Article II Study Commission, which has the charge to “… review Article II of the UUA Bylaws, and propose any revisions that will enable our UUA, our member congregations, and our covenanted communities to be a relevant and powerful force for spiritual and moral growth, healing, and justice. Proposed changes should articulate core UU theological values.” This Charge to the Article II Study Commission is providing us with an opportunity to explore who we are and what we can be if love is at our center. In a recent reflection, What Brings Us Together: Love as a Common Theological Core, leaders from the Commission expressed, “We assert that our deepest common theological grounding and value is this: Love.” And in closing this reflection, the Commission states “We respond to the call of love because it is our common theological core. It is what can and does motivate us and illuminates our deepest commitments to each other.”

My hope for those of you seeking greater connection in your community, is that you take the time to reflect on the wisdom from James Luther Adams and the emerging work coming from the Article II Study Commission. We have before us a time of great opportunity and purpose in Unitarian Universalism, which depends on each of us to put love, with deepened and renewed relationships, at the center of our lives.

About the Author

Nancy Combs-Morgan

Nancy Combs-Morgan has been immersed in Unitarian Universalist faith development for 26+ years, including 6 as a Director of Religious Education, and 20 years on UUA district and regional staff.

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