What UU's Believe

Presentations by Barbara Fairfield and Jan Ormes
(Alice Tyler also participated in the service.)

August 4, 2002 — Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church

From Barbara Fairfield:

I was attracted to Barbara Wells and Jaco ten Hove’s enrichment hour offering "Articulating (Y)our Faith" because I find it a challenge to explain the UU religion to others. How to respond to "It’s not a REAL church", "Unitarians don’t believe in anything", "It sounds like a cold religion"? But I didn’t just learn in that class how to respond /explain Unitarian Universalism to others, I learned how to understand my own journey better.

One of the ideas Barbara Wells explained to us was that as UU’s we are free to believe what we must. I grew up steeped in Catholicism: Mass every Sunday, 12 years of Catholic schools. My mother used to get upset with me because she said I spent more time with the "good sisters" at the convent than I did at home. What I learned in my religious upbringing as a child was what Catholics believe and therefore, what I had to believe. Faith was a blind belief in what you were told by religious authority to believe. Religious education was like pouring liquid into an empty container.

In 1959 I graduated from high school and a month later entered the religious life – the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. My training came at the same time as Vatican II and Pope John. That time in Catholicism was described as the pope "opening a window". In the sister formation college I was attending, learned men and women were "opening the windows" and instead of being told more of what to believe, I was exposed to the possibility of exploring and developing my own beliefs. I remember requesting and receiving permission to read Teilhard De Chardin’s "The Phenomenon of Man" and realizing this was certainly not my grandmother’s religion.

It wasn’t easy for me to make the shift from relying on religious authority explaining religion to me to requiring myself to figure out what I must believe. That kind of freedom which seems so vital and even necessary to me today was scary and unsettling as I began to experience it while still in the confines of a convent. It’s paradoxical to me that I should explore freedom of belief while locked away from the world. I gradually came to realize that I couldn’t be and develop whom I truly was in that environment. So the moment of truth, the moment of integrity about this freedom to believe, came – I still remember the night in the convent here in Washington, DC where I had been sent to graduate school – I looked down at my feet in bed and said to myself – "There are no chains on your feet". At that moment, I got up and wrote my letter of resignation from the religious community.

What I have learned in my journey, this ongoing journey of faith and religion is that Belief is a matter of personal integrity. I have learned that I can afford neither to believe blindly what someone else says I should believe nor to believe anything because I want to believe it. On a kind of lighter note, the earliest belief I remember as a child was that of the existence of a personal guardian angel. I still really want to believe in a being like that who will be there to protect me always. But instead, I must believe in my own responsibility to take care of myself as best I can. Some of you know that a year ago I fell in a very large hole in Africa and fractured my leg—clearly neither I nor any guardian angel was on duty that night!

Freedom is not as scary to me as it once was. I do not see it as some free-wheeling, out of control, oppositional stance, but as a "free and responsible search for truth"—a search for what I must believe.

The hymn we just sang (#113) has some questions we all are challenged by life to answer: "Where is Our Holy Church?" Where is our holy writ? Where is our holy one? Where is our holy land? Where is our paradise? And the hymn we sing next (#345: "We Laugh, We Cry") reminds us that "even to question truly is an answer."

From Jan Ormes:

I think that my basic belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person was what tore me away from the religion I was born into – a Lutheran denomination. When I was a child I went to church every Sunday and heard about what terrible sinners we all were and how our only hope was to believe in the power of Jesus Christ to save us from our sins. Meanwhile, my experience told me that there was good in many people in the world, including, at times, myself. The one positive thing I saw in this oppressive religious view were the stories about how Jesus cared for those rejected and downtrodden by society and how he challenged authority when it was corrupt. Other stories, such as the Good Samaritan, reinforced the idea that we should value those who are not seen by others as worthy. However, this one aspect seemed in conflict with the rest of the religious teachings I received.

My release from this dilemma came when I was 17 and heard someone say for the first time that he did not believe in God. The paradigm shift I experienced upon hearing this was monumental. It was like breaking through a glass barrier and suddenly being given permission to be real in the world. This experience freed me to define my own religious views. For a while I thought I didn’t have any religious views at all. It was a few more years before I discovered Unitarianism. (This was before the merger with Universalism.)

Our fourth principle defines UUism for me – the Free and Responsible Search for Truth and Meaning. This religious view actually validated my own desire to define truth and meaning for myself. I had found a religious home.

While I don’t believe in a personal God, I am attracted by the idea of a collective consciousness -- that there is some force or flow that preserves the thoughts and experiences of all human beings, but which we experience very rarely. Something like a river which we enter at birth and leave at death, leaving all our thoughts and memories behind. To me this is spirituality – a sense of the connectedness of all humanity.

My Belief

By Alice Tyler

I believe-
That we don’t have to change friends
If we understand that friends change.

I believe-
That no matter how good a friend is,
They’re going to hurt you every
Once in a while and you must forgive
Them for that.

I believe-
That true friendship continues to grow,
Even over the longest distance.
Same goes for true love.

I believe-
That you can do something in an instant
That will give you heartache for life.

I believe-
That it’s taking me a long time
To become the person I want to be.

I believe-
That you should always leave loved ones
With loving words. It may be the last
Time you see them.

I believe-
That you can keep going
Long after you can’t.

I believe-
That we are responsible for what we do,
No matter how we feel.

I believe-
That either you control your attitude
Or it controls you.

I believe-
That regardless of how hot and
Steamy a relationship is at first,
The passion fades and there had
Better be something else to take
Its place.

I believe-
That heroes are the people
Who do what has to be done
When it needs to be done,
Regardless of the consequences.

I believe-
That money is a lousy way of keeping score.

I believe-
That my best friend and I can do anything
Or nothing and have the best time.

I believe-
That sometimes the people you expect
To kick you when you’re down,
Will be the ones to help you get back up.

I believe-
That sometimes when I’m angry
I have the right to be angry,
But that doesn’t give me
The right to be cruel.

I believe-
That just because someone doesn’t love
You the way you want them to doesn’t
Mean they don’t love you with all they have.

I believe-
That maturity has more to do with
What types of experiences you’ve had
And what you’ve learned from them
And less to do with how many
Birthdays you’ve celebrated.

I believe-
That it isn’t always enough to be
Forgiven by others. Sometimes you
Have to learn to forgive yourself.

I believe-
That no matter how bad your heart is broken
The world doesn’t stop for your grief.

I believe-
That our background and circumstances
May have influenced who we are,
But we are responsible for who we become.

I believe-
That just because two people argue,
It doesn’t mean they don’t love each other
And just because they don’t argue, it doesn’t mean they do.

I believe-
That you shouldn’t be so eager to find out a
Secret. It could change your life forever.

I believe-
That two people can look at the exact
Same thing and see something totally different.

I believe-
That your life can be changed in a matter of
Hours by people who don’t even know you.

I believe-
That even when you think you have no more
To give, when a friend cries out to you
You will find the strength to help.

I believe-
That credentials on the wall
Do not make you a decent human being.

I believe-
That the people you care about most in life
Are taken from you too soon.

Send this to all the people


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