September 2016

Dear friends,

On a recent Sunday I preached a sermon, "If Our Church Had a Superpower..." using your responses to an online survey that asked (1) what are the top 3 characteristics of Unitarian Universalists, in your experience, and (2) what superpower you wish for our Congregation.

As I shared in the sermon, your answers were pragmatic, insightful and honest.
Here are some of your most honest observations about the characteristics of UUs:

  • our actions could more often match our words
  • we can be a bit wish-washy 
  • we need to be more honest about how difficult it is to live our First Principle, respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person

And here is a cumulative reflection of the most-named positive characteristics of UUs:

  • we are curious and freethinking people who value reason, evidence, and logic
  • we are kind, thoughtful, and accepting people who care about one another, and are dedicated both to the inherent worth and dignity of every person (First Principle) and the interdependent web of existence (Seventh Principle)
  • we are liberal religious people committed to diversity in thought, community, theology and belief

As to the superpowers you wished for us, these were your most imaginative:

  • a glow-in-the-dark ray that responds to despair in an individual or community, sending out a beacon that says, "here is a warm and safe place for you!"
  • a peace potion we could share with others, to remove fear, hate and distrust
  • the power of transmutation, to turn water into wine or lead into gold (as I shared in the sermon, that must have come from the Fellowship and/or Stewardship committees!)

Once again, here is a cumulative reflection of the superpowers you wished for us, by many names:

1) radical kindness
2) mutual respect
3) visibility

and this elegant one, too:

4) the ability to evolve gracefully as we are stretched by new ideas and new attitudes.

The first two, radical kindness and mutual respect, are self-explanatory. I wonder if the third, visibility, is about articulating what it means to be UU and GNUUC in positive and direct ways as we reach out to our surrounding communities to let them know we're here, a safe and welcoming religious community of free-thinking people who practice radical kindness and mutual respect.

The fourth superpower, the ability to evolve gracefully as we are stretched by new ideas and new attitudes, challenges the "radical kindness" and "mutual respect" superpowers we've named, because it identifies where we lose our way. The truth is that change and progress sound great in the abstract, but become more difficult when concrete shifts begin to rub against our conveniences, our comforts, and all the things we take for granted about the ways things "should be." 

Change is an inevitable part of life; to paraphrase what the great Morgan Freeman character, "Red" says in "The Shawshank Redemption", "we have to get busy living [with change], or get busy dying [with change]." The challenge is to get busy living gracefully with change. This is really hard. And because it is so hard I am glad to be in the company of wise, funny, determined, liked-minded and like-hearted people who aspire to radical kindness and mutual respect as we engage in this really hard work together.

The great news (in this edition of The Great News) is that ALL of these superpowers are well within our reach as we live our Principles, our Covenant, and our Mission with integrity. 

In our faith,

Rev. Carmen Emerson