Meeting New Friends at the Universalist-Unitarian Church

God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. – I John 4

The vital part, the heart and soul of Christian Science, is Love. – Mary Baker Eddy

***

Last week one of my Facebook friends asked me to list 20 albums that were meaningful to me in some way. It took me a few days to think about this. I listed the usual stuff from my generation – Grateful Dead’s Truckin‘, stuff by the Traveling Wilburys, Chicago, Simon and Garfunkle. Then I realized there were a couple albums that were meaningful to me because of the cozy memories they brought back from my childhood – albums my mom and dad used to play on their big reel-to-reel audiotape machine: Scheherazade, Marty Robbins’ 50 Guitars Go South of the Border, the Lawrence of Arabia theme song. I hadn’t heard any of that music for more than 30 years, but just thinking about those albums brought back sentimental feelings… I especially tried to remember what Scheherazade sounded like…

***

A couple of years ago I ran into the parent of one of my former students at a musical song-singing get-together – I no longer remember how I ended up there or who invited me – but I do remember how happy I was to see Sally again. One thing led to another and a couple days later I sent her a copy of my book, Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist. After she read it, she asked me if I’d ever be interested in sharing my way of life as a Christian Scientist with her Universalist-Unitarian congregation, and I said sure – I could do that. 🙂

Time went by, and I sort of forgot all about it.

Then a few weeks ago Sally emailed me and asked me if I could speak today, and I said yes.

Okay, I have to admit I was nervous about this new adventure. I’d never been to a U-U church before and really didn’t know anything about it. But whenever I’d take that Belief-o-matic quiz ( http://www.beliefnet.com/Entertainment/Quizzes/BeliefOMatic.aspx ), I’d always test 100% Universalist-Unitarian, so – seeing as how I tested as a Universalist-Unitarian myself – I was really curious about U-U beliefs.

Last week, as a sort of preparation for my talk today, I attended the U-U service. Everyone was very welcoming, and I felt right at home. Several of the congregants mentioned that they were looking forward to seeing me again today, and hearing what I had to say about Christian Science.

***

Although as a teacher I’m used to speaking in front of teenagers – I’ve never given a talk to a group of grown-ups before, and certainly not about my way of life. How could I share my understanding of Christian Science in 45 minutes, without either boring everyone or looking like a complete nut? Yikes, right?!

And then it came to me – Love! Love is where I needed to start. Love is where I needed to end, too. Love is, for me, the essence of Christian Science – the essence, really, of anything and everything that matters. Now I had my topic. Sally asked me to share what a typical service might be like in a Christian Science church, and that gave me a format.

I decided to offer a sort of abbreviated amalgamation of a Wednesday night testimony meeting and a Sunday church service – and picked readings from the The Bible and the Christian Science textbook, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, that went with the topic of Love.

***

The offering came before I went up to the podium to speak, and as I was sitting there, listening to Sally play the offeratory, it hit me all of a sudden that I recognized that music! Was it…? Could it be…?!!! I looked over at the program my husband was holding to see what was listed as the offeratory – and saw that Sally was, indeed, playing Scheherazade!!! Whoaaaaah, right?!!! How cool is THAT?! (Later, Sally told me that she’d never heard that song until a few months before when she’d picked it up at a music store. I love when stuff like that happens!)

And then it was my turn to speak.

I explained that I was not an official spokesperson for the Christian Science church, and was in no way representative of all Christian Scientists – that I could only share my own experience with this way of life, and my own understanding of Christian Science. I talked for a moment, too, about the Christian Science concept of “God” as Love – not an anthropomorphic being zapping his children to hell with lightning bolts. I shared the synonyms the discoverer of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, gives for God: Principle, Mind, Soul, Spirit, Life, Truth, and Love. I asked the congregation to substitute the word “Love” or the word “Truth” for God whenever I read the word “God” from the Scriptures or the Christian Science textbook. And I asked the congregation to join with me in using the service to send out thoughts of peace and love into the world consciousness. I told them we were going to heal the world today. My new friends smiled. Universalist-Unitarians are good sports. 🙂

I read a quote by Nando Parrado from the book Miracle in the Andes: 72 Days on the Mountain and My Long Trek Home, which I think expresses really well my own thoughts about God: “I did not feel God as most people see Him. I did feel something larger than myself, something in the mountains and the glaciers and the glowing sky that, in rare moments, reassured me, and made me feel that the world was orderly and loving and good… It was simply a silence, a wholeness, an awe-inspiring simplicity. It seemed to reach me through my own feelings of love, and I have often thought that when we feel what we call love, we are really feeling our connection to this awesome presence… It wasn’t cleverness or courage or any kind of competence or savvy that saved us, it was nothing more than love, our love for each other, for our families, for the lives we wanted so desperately to live.”

Then I read the passages I’d picked out from the Bible and Science and Health; read the words to Mary Baker Eddy’s poem, Love; played In His Eyes by Mindy Jostyn  on the CD-player; and, at the end, invited the congregation to join me in a rousing rendition of “We Shall Overcome.”  And they did!!!

There was power in that room. A flood of hope, joy, love,and  courage was sent out into the universal consciousness by my new friends at the U-U church.

Did you feel it? 🙂

***

Love

Brood o’er us with Thy sheltering wing,
’Neath which our spirits blend
Like brother birds, that soar and sing,
And on the same branch bend.
The arrow that doth wound the dove
Darts not from those who watch and love.

If thou the bending reed would break
By thought or word unkind,
Pray that His Spirit you partake,
Who loved and healed mankind:
Seek holy thoughts and heavenly strain,
That make men one in love remain.

Learn, too, that wisdom’s rod is given
For faith to kiss, and know;
That greetings glorious from high heaven,
Whence joys supernal flow,
Come from that Love, divinely near,
Which chastens pride and earthborn fear.

Through God, who gave that word of might
Which swelled creation’s lay:
“Let there be light, and there was light.”
What chased the clouds away?
’Twas Love whose finger traced aloud
A bow of promise on the cloud.

Thou to whose power our hope we give,
Free us from human strife.
Fed by Thy love divine we live,
For Love alone is life;
And life most sweet, as heart to heart
Speaks kindly when we meet and part.

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7 thoughts on “Meeting New Friends at the Universalist-Unitarian Church

  1. It sounds like you handled this just right! It’s important that none of us attempt to represent the church, but explain what the teachings mean to us.
    When I have attended a U/U service (a few times) I was impressed with their service to others, to their members, and to the community. What I found lacking, though, is a concept of God as you have described here–good works, but no higher power.

  2. I got Secular Humanist… my husband is amused b/c apparently I “don’t like humans” all that much. 😉 I find the UUs to be interesting, the ones I’ve known haven’t really expanded upon their views, and we’ve mostly talked about everything but religion, except for the son of the UU minister who is an ardent atheist who himself is studying to become a UU minister… I miss him, he was fun to talk to — he moved to Chicago.

    • Hah! I love that you’re a Secular Humanist, Kat! I can totally see it. 🙂

      The U-U people were really kind and welcoming to me. No eye-rolling, Sang with me and celebrated Love with me. I liked ’em very much.

  3. We have wonderful friends that are U-Us. They may not talk (or even believe in) about God. But their group every Saturday rain or shine, gets up at 4:30 am to prepare a beautiful breakfast buffet for 300+ folks that live on the streets here in Santa Rosa CA. They may not profess to believe in a “God”, but it sounds like they’re doing the “Lord’s” work to me 🙂

  4. I also had a great experience speaking to a U-U group. They were meeting at the CS church that we were trying to sell. The pews were full and I was standing at the front of the auditorium talking about CS healing! Then we sang a hymn familiar to Christian Scientists, Dear Lord and Father of us all, (#49) It was a lovely occasion. I enjoy your posts, Karen.

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