Monday, April 26, 2010
At our semi-annual Southeast UU Ministers Retreat at “The Mountain” near Highlands, N.C.; we traditionally have a break from our meetings and workshops on Wednesday afternoon. Some choose to find a good rocking chair on the decks of the lodge or their cabins. Others take hikes to nearby mountain peaks or waterfalls. And some even venture into the nearby community for some recreational shopping in the unique mountain craft shops and second-hand clothing stores.
At our spring retreat, I chose to join the hike to Highland Falls. What a glorious experience! As we entered the area, however, we were faced with some choices. There were multiple paths that would take us to these falls. They provided different levels of climbing difficulty, different lengths, and different views of the falls. Some came together at times then would split again. Our group made our decision for an initial path, then used hardy “scouts” to determine which alternatives might be worthy of our efforts on others. In any case, we made it to a point in the falls where we could relax on the large stones, be cooled by the slight spray, and meditate in the beauty of the moment in that wondrous place! We chose an alternate path on the return trip and assisted one another to make sure we all reached that higher level where our cars were parked.
Our little adventure with the different paths to the waterfall reminded me of that old religious metaphor regarding different spiritual paths to the mountaintop. And, of course, we Unitarian Universalists are strongly supportive of this concept. Included in our principles are the declarations that we covenant to affirm and promote “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations,” and “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”
How can we do this with all our diversity? When we meet together as a congregation, we can enjoy our differences as we sing songs, worship with rituals, hear informative and inspirational messages, and participate in talkback. These activities, as well as many of our social and religious education activities, provide some broad support for all of us. But sometimes we feel the need to travel on our own theological path more deliberately with other like-minded members and friends. Our earth-centered spirituality group (a.k.a. the pagan group) has provided a good model for us in this effort. Although the members of this group participate regularly in our larger congregational worship and religious education activities, they also meet separately for study, ritual, and support of one another.
In recent weeks, I have heard others express the desire to more formally associate. Three possible “pathway” groups for our congregation are Buddhist, Christian, and Freethinkers (which may include agnostics, atheists, humanists, and others with more naturalistic theologies or cosmologies). Our association provides many resources for these pathways and there are organizations at the associational level that can be supportive of our congregational efforts. If you are interested in participating in one of these groups, please email me at email@example.com or give me a call. I will assist in connecting folks and help in scheduling or coordinating some organizational meetings. Then group members can decide on how they want to move forward together. Hopefully this will allow us all to travel more deeply on our paths with the support of others in the UU community. And we can all delight in the waterfalls and mountain peaks that we encounter.