Sunday, December 17, 2017

A few words about the meaning of religion

This morning Stew and I attended a service of the Unitarian Fellowship in San Miguel. We don't attend Unitarian services regularly but were attracted by a program of beautiful Christmas music performed by four very talented local artists. 
Sandwiched in between the music we read the following reflection about the meaning of religion that seemed particularly relevant in this year of civic acrimony and discord even over the greeting "Merry Christmas!". 
The author of this reflection is Vincent B. Silliman (1894-1979), a Unitarian minister, poet and hymn writer. 

Let religion be to us life and joy.
Let it be a voice of renewing challenge to the best we have and may be; let it be a call to generous action. 
Let religion be to us a dissatisfaction with things that are,
which bids us serve more eagerly the true and the right. 
 
Let it be the sorrow that opens for us the way of sympathy, 
understanding, and service to suffering humanity.

Let religion be to us the wonder and lure of that which is only partly known and understood.

An eye that glories in nature's majesty and beauty, and a heart that rejoices in deeds
of kindness and of courage.

Let religion be to us security and serenity because of its truth and beauty, and because of the enduring worth and power of the loyalties which is engenders;

Let it be to us hope and purpose, and a discovering of opportunities to express our best through daily tasks:

Religion, uniting us with all that is
admirable in human beings everywhere;
Holding before our eyes a prospect of the better life for humankind,
which each may help to make actual.
Vincent B. Silliman

8 comments:

  1. Both my first and second marriages were sealed by Unitarian ministers. The marriages failed. The third was sealed by a Mexican judge, and it's worked out great. What does that tell you? God knows.

    I have long had a theory about Unitarians, that they are people who don't believe in God anymore but can't break the habit of going to church on Sunday morning.

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    1. Stew and I do not consider ourselves Unitarians and only attend their services when they have an interesting speaker or music. The people at the services are always very welcoming and we find that comforting.

      We think there is value in connecting with other people, particularly those less fortunate than us. That doesn't seem to be your cup of tea. The Unitarians here do that very well, including raising tons of money to help kids get through college and supporting kitchens in the rural areas to feed children a healthy lunch. I think there is value in that and I respect the Unitarians for it.

      What does it tell me that your first two marriages by a Unitarian minister failed? Absolutely nothing. Stew and I were married at a Unitarian church in Stow, Mass. and it's worked out great. In fact, we were grateful that while other "mainline" denominations wouldn't even look at us, the Unitarians accepted us.

      Al

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  2. Truth and beauty. Hope and purpose. And above all, love. I go to church each week, after decades of lapse, because I appreciate and need to be reminded of life's higher path. Thank you for posting Stillman's inspiring words. Holiday joy to your and yours.

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    1. Dear J. Duffy: Thank you for your kind words. I agree that we need to connect with other people and try to find a common purpose. Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays to you too.

      Al

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  3. As a non-religious person who believes in God, but none of the human definitions of It, I respond mainly to inspiration, love, and compassion from those who promote that. We’re all here in the same boat and what’s important is living right, not being right. I hardly ever find myself in church, but when I do, I like to hear inclusive words such those you quote.
    David Wilde

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  4. An interesting take -- and wirthy of discussion. If the three of us are ever in the same place at the same time once again. I hope you will have avery happy Christmas.

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    1. Steve: Yeah, unmoored as we are from any specific denominations, Stew and I spend quite of bit of time thinking about faith, transcendence and other imponderables which we'll be glad to discuss with you. Have a Merry Christmas too.

      al

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