I’ve been inspired by regular conversations with The Rev. David Hicks MacPherson, whose name may be familiar to you, since he is the author of numerous compelling books, including his most recent, Reclaiming Universal Salvation (2011). The recipient of the Clarence R. Skinner Award in 1961, he has been one of our faith’s prophetic voices for more than half a century. This post is an excerpt from his insightful essay, “Belonging to Religious Community.” In the face of accelerating sociological and technological change, the challenge of creating meaningful religious community is a pressing concern for Unitarian Universalists. David’s words are timely, so we want to share them with you here. The following is the first installment of this minister’s wise words.
We must reach out as missioners of our faith in Universal Salvation. We must use whatever means are available to preach, teach, and witness for the good news. How many people, in the communities where we know exist, even know of our presence? What happens when our youth move to another community? Are we creating missions not only among the middle and upper classes but among the oppressed in our communities? The word and deed is the same – missions!
To become real missioners we will have to set up new programs to train both laity and ministers. These programs must include good doses of theology, language, and culture including the stories that have created our diverse cultures both here and around the globe. The actual missions must be carried out in our local congregations, on the web, and by door-to-door canvassing. I walked across the streets, knocking on doors, and found that there is no better way to keep evolving my own personal faith than explaining our religion to others. We need to make a practice of identifying ourselves as Unitarian Universalists as we act a work, in the community, and on issues of social justice. All this will give us a good start on missions!
Henry Nelson Weiman once said that religion is the “Ultimate Commitment.” Just ask yourself, what is my Ultimate Commitment, and how do I live it day by day? Then ask what the Ultimate Commitment is of those whose acts have brought us closer to the day of peace, liberty and justice for the whole human family. And what is the real commitment of those who act for greed, personal glory, and let the devil take the hindmost? They did not achieve their ends solely acting alone. They had to organize. They had to have a team. We UUs must learn that lesson, and put it to work for the realm of heaven to come as the beginning of humanity’s great adventure.
Yes, joining a UU congregation is much more than a personal opportunity. It is an irreplaceable necessity if our mission to transform the world is to become the accepted reality of this human adeventure.
In the ceremony for New Member Welcoming, which I have written, are these words, “Joining ourselves to and with the members of this congregation should call forth deep motives and commitment. For this group of people is the visible sign of the ideal community of love and life in which, and toward which, the whole body of humanity is ever bound. With our doubts, fears, pettiness, and laziness as well as our courage, insights, patience, and determination we are the existing proof that humanity can achieve a world growing toward peace, though it be composed of separate and often differing personalities.”
Amen. Das es ist!
In this season of light, love and miracles, may we each reconnect to our Ultimate Commitment and recommit to co-creating heaven on earth, toward peace, liberty, and justice for all. May we be reminded that we are bound to the whole body of humanity.
The Rev. David Hicks MacPherson lives in Ashland, VA and is the Minister Emeritus of The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, VA. He is a fifth-generation “Unitarian” Universalist and a first-generation Unitarian Universalist. He graduated from Tufts College and from Crane Theological School at Tufts. He helped start and build up congregations and meeting houses in Maryland, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming. He received the Clarence Russell Skinner sermon award, a Universalist Biennial sermon award, as well as the Quillen Hamilton Shinn Award.