November 2014 Minister’s Column

Dear Ones:

Our ministry theme for November is faith. For years I have been referring to Unitarian Universalists as “people of faith,” and I continue to stand by my use of the term. However, I am aware that many UUs also continue to be somewhat squeamish about using the term. This makes sense. We UUs generally don’t identify as having a faith in the traditional sense. We tend to identify ourselves theologically as agnostics and atheists; and those of us who believe in God often (not always) have difficulty finding the right words to articulate how we understand God. The net result is that we UUs don’t speak about our faith in the way we typically hear Christians, Jews, and Muslims speak about faith. And some of us prefer not to use the word at all. I alluded to this in my September 28th sermon, ‘Taking Your Faith to Work,’ which you can find on the UUS:E website.

By the way, I’m conducting a test. Just to see who’s reading this column, I will buy lunch for the tenth person to contact me (by phone, email, Google Plus, Twitter, Facebook or – my favorite – face-to-face).

Even though we don’t think of ourselves as “people of faith” in a traditional sense, I still experience us as profoundly faithful people. Why? Well, because we do have faith. We have faith in humanity, in creativity, in compassion, in nature, and in love. We have faith in science, in democracy, in community, in fairness, and in humility. We have faith in the inevitability of change, in the mystery at the edges of our knowing, in tomorrow, in each other, and in gratitude. We have faith in ourselves, in our children, in education, in diversity, and in the earth. We have faith in the seasons, in the tides, in the warmth of the sun and the darkness of night. We have faith in our neighbors, in our UU principles, in our interfaith friends and partners, and in the words and deeds of prophetic people of all eras. We have faith in modern medicine, in the ancient healing arts, in the comforting assurance of friends, and in the kindness of strangers. We have faith in our UU tradition, in reason, in the power of speaking the truth, and in honesty. Some of us have faith in God – and it is a deep and sustaining faith. And, oh yeah, did I mention love? We put our faith in love.

I’m not interested in reclaiming the word faith from more traditional religions. Some words we may have to reclaim (redemption and salvation come to mind), but not faith. This word belongs to us as much as it does to any other religion. And I hope that those of you who don’t feel comfortable with the word can give it a second chance. Ask yourself: What is it that you find most reliable in the universe? What is it that feeds your soul? What are the values that most clearly guide your living? I contend that if you have answers to such questions, then surely you are a “person of faith.” So, please, ask yourself these questions during this month. And feel free to share your answers with me. I’d love to hear more about your faith

Reverend Joshua Mason Pawelek, Parish Minister, Unitarian Universalist Society: EastWith love, Rev. Josh