It is not a body of belief, a set of principles, or an impressive structure of stone, wood, and glass.
A church is people. It is not a body of belief, a set of principles, or an impressive structure of stone, wood, and glass. A church has roots in the past no matter how recently the congregation was organized. A church represents a long procession of people willing to work with others toward shared goals, worship with others of similar belief, and hold in honor the wise and courageous people who have gone before them.
The people who constitute a church come with their needs as well as their gifts. To the extent that they can share their concerns and vulnerabilities and become sensitive to those of others, they will be part of a beloved community.
A church consists of people who are not too sure they are right, who are willing to be somewhat uncomfortable in order to correct what they see as wrong. It is made up of people who order their priorities and choose their way with a generous spirit (and often considerable rhetoric).
In a church there are those who are practical about institutional needs as well as the needs of the human family. There are people who understand our interdependent web of existence, those who can share the poetry they find in the stars, and those who can circulate a petition to save the wetlands.
There are those who can speak out against nuclear madness and those who can remember that the roof needs mending. Churches need people who can help feed the hungry of the world and people who can help feed the hunger deep within the souls of those gathered.
A church is composed of people who continue in the long procession knowing that others will follow—others for whom they must make a better world, to whom they owe a heritage of carefully examined discoveries and challenging possibilities. A church is made up of people eager to be part of that procession yet fiercely aware of their individual identities within it and alert to the fragility of the relationship.
A church is a granite base and a silken web, a crystal ball and a cup of fire.
Reprinted from the pamphlet "Unitarian Universalist Views of Church," © 1990, Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.
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The Rev. Janet H. Bowering is minister emerita of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Haverhill, Massachusetts.
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