Our religious ancestors recognized each day as a chance to form their spiritual character.
I don’t believe the future has to be rock bands in worship, or ministers who dress down or use pop culture references. It’s not the future for all of us. I believe in my congregation’s worship practices, but that’s not the only way to the future of our faith. Instead, I want to talk about something older. If there is good news for our UU future, I believe we can find a great portion of it in our somewhat distant past. In this quest, we won’t end up sounding exactly like our ancestors. But we can be inspired by them.
Woven throughout so much of the theology and belief of our nineteenth century forebears is the understanding that each day is a chance to grow, shape, and form our spiritual character. This development of religious character occurs fundamentally through consciously chosen spiritual practice.
At WellSprings Congregation, we pray not just as a staff together, but also in our teams and our small groups. We don’t all share a common understanding or experience of God, but what comes from praying aloud with and for each other is the unearthing of what we do hold in common: our aspirations for our community, our individual and collective losses, sorrows, hopes, and gratitude.
Congregations that practice together stay together and grow together. Common spiritual practices expand our experiential unity as a people of faith. We discover a piece of ultimate reality that is bigger than our individual words for it.
Regular spiritual practice is a form of stewardship by which, as William Ellery Channing wrote, we extend and brighten the innate God-likeness of our lives. This kind of stewardship is a daily commitment to making good on the gifts that this mysterious and grace-full universe has somehow chosen to invest in us. It is a this-world, everyday kind of Universalism that effects change, healing, and wholeness.
Adapted from “The Faith of the Future Is Formational,” a presentation at the 2011 Minns Lectures by Ken Beldon. see below for links related to this story, including other selections from the Minns Lectures.
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The Rev. Ken Beldon is minister of WellSprings Congregation in Chester Springs, Pennsylvania, and editor of Wrestling with Adulthood: Unitarian Universalist Men Talk About Growing Up (Skinner House, 2008).
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