As usual, to me, principle 3 relates not only to life in our congregations, but how we as UU’s live in the world around us day to day.
A very important principle for us to live our commitment to respect and dignity of all souls, there’s a dimension to encouraging spiritual growth that is deeply personal.
Lets talk about the spiritual growth first. “Encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations” Our principle doesn’t uphold our usually rockin parties, social gatherings and the joy found in our friendships, it upholds “spiritual growth.”
Viktor E. Frankl in his well respected and well renown book Mans Search for Meaning said something that seemed applicable here. He spoke about how as human beings, our purpose is not to find happiness, not to find satisfaction, but to find meaning.
I think spiritual growth is related to meaning, related to the experience of depth in life. That’s not about happiness or even satisfaction, its about challenge. A hard concept for us to welcome in this modern life of instant gratification.
To find spiritual growth, we have to stretch emotionally and spiritually, and keep stretching. Which brings me to my next thought; acceptance is a great word, but I want more…
I live, work and worship in a welcoming congregation in Salt Lake City, Utah. We have a huge rainbow flag hanging over our door. Our words of welcoming ring out each week from our pulpit:
Come, Come, whoever you are.
You are welcome here no matter your age, your size,
the color of your eyes, your hair, your skin.
You are welcome here no matter whom you love,
how you speak, or whatever your abilities.
You are welcome here whether you come
with laughter in your heart or tears. You are welcome here.
If you come here with an open mind, a loving heart
and willing hands, you are welcome here.
Many times newcomers have approached me and told me that they stayed with us because of those words.
A little while ago I did a sermon on “Extreme Welcoming” and since then I’ve developed the conclusion that acceptance seems a kinder word than tolerance, yet welcoming is a kinder word still. Its one thing to accept someone different, someone whom we find challenging, its another entirely to welcome them, to greet that person whose life experience and ideology vastly differs from our own with eagerness and to want to learn, explore, and grow deeper for knowing them.
For me, that’s welcoming, acceptance to is allow them space.
Since then, this principle, in life for me, has become about stretching my comfort zones, greeting those who differ from me, one way of seeking spiritual growth by trying not just to accept one-another, but to welcome our differences, celebrate them, and learn from them.