Unitarian Universalists of Fallston
"Diversity of Beliefs" by the Rev. Cynthia Snavely (2004 Newsletter Article by our Minister at the time)
Dear Unitarian Universalists of Fallston:
In 1993 a new Unitarian Universalist hymnbook was published, Singing the Living Tradition, the hymnbook we use each Sunday. Within the hymn texts special care was taken to eliminate and change sexist language. Male words for God, such as king and lord, were eliminated as was the use of men as a word for all people. For the most part Unitarian Universalists wanted this, UNTIL we got to Christmas carols. Somehow UUs cannot seem to get used to singing "Joy to the world the Word has come. Let earth praises reign." instead of "Joy to the world the Lord is come. Let earth receive her king." Or "Joy to the earth. Now gladness reigns. Let hearts their songs employ." Instead of “Joy to the earth. The savior reigns. Let men their songs employ."
You may notice that these changes, as well as taking out sexist language, also eliminate references to Jesus as God Incarnate or as Savior. Many Unitarian Universalists do not believe in the Christian doctrines. In the UU Kids' Book the question, "Do UUs believe in Jesus?” is answered with, "We believe he was a great religious teacher. We try to live his teachings about how we should treat each other." And the follow up question, "I mean do UUs believe Jesus was God's only son?" is answered "Most of us believe he was a human being who felt close to God."
But, just what Unitarian Universalists believe about Jesus has been varied throughout most of or denominational history, and today it may be more varied than at any other point in our history. In our beginnings we were definitely Christian, Unitarian Christians or Universalist Christians but Christians. Today we are a religious community that includes a variety of faiths. Today we are not all Christians and those of us who are Christian may be theological Christians; Christians who believe that Jesus has a unique role as messiah or incarnation of God, or ethical Christians Christians who follow the teachings of Jesus but do not think he was messiah or incarnate God. Among the theological Christians there are Unitarians and, yes, even some Trinitarians.
I tell people that there is only one orthodox Christian belief that cannot be accepted by Unitarian Universalists. It is incompatible with our values. That belief is a belief that every person must believe in Jesus as the Christ in order to be saved. That belief goes against all that we stand for as a diverse religious community. As Unitarian Universalist religious educator, Sophia Lyon Fahs, wrote, "Some beliefs are like walled gardens. They encourage exclusiveness, and the feeling of being especially privileged. Other beliefs are expansive and lead the way into wider and deeper sympathies . . . .Some beliefs are divisive, separating the saved from the unsaved, friends from enemies. Other beliefs are bonds in a world community, where sincere differences beautify the pattern."
Some of us who are part of the UU congregation in Fallston may know Jesus as an incarnation of God. Others of us may know him as Messiah or in Greek, Christ, someone anointed by God for a special mission to humanity. Some of us may know him as a prophet. Others may know him as a teacher. And, some may know him as a mystic. However we may disagree in how we know this person I believe that we can all agree that the world would be a better place if we all agreed to follow his teaching of love.
In that spirit I share the Lord's Prayer or the Our Father as adapted by Unitarian Universalist, Jacob Trapp.
O Thou whose kingdom is within,
May all thy names be hallowed.
May no one of them be turned against the others
to divide those who address thee.
May thy presence be made known to us
In mercy, beauty, love and justice.
May thy kingdom come to be in the life of all humankind.
May it come with peace, with sharing, and in a near time.
Give us this day our daily bread
Free from all envy and alienation,
Broken and blessed in the sharing.
Keep us from trespassing against others,
And from the feeling that others are trespassing against us.
Forgive us more than we have forgiven.
Deliver us from being tempted by lesser things
To be heedless of the one great thing.
The gift of thyself in us. Amen