from Jane Everham
“Wisdom from the world religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life.”
Mark Sappenfield, the editor of the Christian Science Monitor, reported, “Someone once told me that the Monitor’s reputation for unbiased journalism was all wrong, because the Monitor clearly did take sides: for justice, compassion, dignity, or responsibility, just to name a few” (i.e. the Monitor has a bias for progress).
Progress is the root of progressive and as a member of the progressive UU faith at Foothills Unitarian Church, I connected with Sappenfield’s words. As a progressive church, Foothills intends to move forward, evolve, grow. How many Sundays have we heard the words compassion, “justice,” “dignity,” and “responsibility” from our own pulpit?
I’ve subscribed to The Christian Science Monitor for 21 years because it is a fair and balanced source of news. I am ill-informed of Christian Science as a faith, however, I can say that over the years this periodical has communicated compassion, fairness, and its own brand of courageous love. I’ve never felt animosity toward Christian Science, but I have ignored the religion. Now I see that faith as a partner on the road we UUs travel.
The religion of my childhood was very sketchy Congregationalist and Episcopalian, participating in religion was not a family priority. My three best, childhood friends were Catholics, so I accompanied them to a fair number of Catholic Masses, and over time I developed an animosity for religion. Generally, it all seemed like a finger pointing, holier-than-thou sham, and as a young adult in the late 60s and 70s, I rebelled against any system trying to tell me how to be. I built barriers against religion. Then in the 80s, life events steered me toward a search for a religious community, and the Unitarian Universalist faith was a natural with its rejection of religious dogma and embrace of “an individual search for truth and meaning.” I shifted from “no religion” to “my faith’s okay, but yours is not so hot” stance which ultimately didn’t feel very UU.
I began further exploration of Buddhism and Native American spirituality, and our son attended Har Shalom Pre-school which provided a year of learning for our family. More recently, Krista Tippett’s podcast On Being, further acquainted me with Buddhists, Jews, Catholics, Protestants, Muslims – not necessarily clergy, but people of faith who have helped transform my attitude. Today, my church’s call to unleash courageous love and my experience in Wellspring Sources, our UU, ten-month course in spiritual deepening, have resulted in my breaking down more walls I’d built between faiths. As my religious knowledge and attitudes grow and shift I experience greater curiosity and desire more learning.
For example, the Jesuits and Franciscans priests can be so down-to-earth, imaginative, and witty. I became curious about the Jesuit founder, St. Ignatius, and believe me, being curious about a saint is a major shift for me. Now, I am reading The Jesuit Guide to (almost) Everything: a spiritual practice for real life by Reverend James Martin. Not everything I’m reading resonates. Like a UU hymn singer, I change some of the words in my head as I read, yet much of what I read feels familiar and comfortable. I see how my own spiritual practice can be enhanced by some of the everyday spiritual practices that St. Ignatius recommended . . . in 1534. Father Martin doesn’t say in his book, “Our worship time is over; may our service begin,” but the most basic tenets of the Jesuit faith emphasize a call to clergy and followers to serve their communities.
I’m not changing faiths – ever. It just feels good to shed hostile feelings and to broaden my circle of religious inclusion. Being always irritated or “anti” is a physical and spiritual drain. Acknowledging a shared bias with other faiths for compassion, dignity, responsibility and justice is recognizing a bigger blanket of love for this world we inhabit. As I pursue my spiritual path, it is nice to know that there is a diverse caravan traveling with me.