A journey (Oxford English Dictionary) is an act of going from one place to another or of traveling for a specified distance or period of time, a march, a ride, a drive, etc., or a combination of these; an excursion or expedition, especially to some distance. Figuratively: referring to the passage through life.
With this figurative sense of journey, UU’s are welcomed into our congregation. Membership does not require belief in some authority’s articles of faith. Membership is extended with an invitation to share the story of your personal spiritual journey. We wonder about how we have come to this time/space; what values have drawn you here; how are you realizing your highest and best.
This invitation is not unique to Unitarian Universalist practice. It is implicit in the life of communities. It is documented on the stone walls of caves and crossroads from our earliest hunter-gatherer times. Telling tales of our journeys, of hunting game, finding and sharing food, inflicting and receiving wounds and returning with the story is the essence of being homo sapiens. We walk through the world then we gather around the fire and recount the events and lessons of our journey.
Whether on the Gunflint Trail or the trek to Everest or in line at Starbucks , when hikers meet they ask, “Where have you come from? Where are you going?” As the conversation deepens, as we know each other not as threat but as fellow travelers, we name and honor our ancestors repeating the oral traditions of their journeys. I listened to my maternal great-grandmother’s family stories; sitting on her lap, threading needles as she quilted or untangling the yarn as she crocheted. She took me from Old Order Mennonite to Nazarene to Methodist social service to the Choctaw nation, to Billy Graham. My step-father took us, compliments of Uncle Sam, through many moves; never finishing a school year where I started it. In Methodist Youth Fellowship, I was introduced to deep friendship in congregation and to disillusionment with corporate “organized religion.” I graduated to medical school, sitting zazen in San Francisco, to anti-war activism and union organizing, to general practitioner, to psychiatric residency, to certification in psychiatric administration, to First Congregational church in Vermont, to visiting UU churches in Vermont. I came eventually to UUCM where I was invited to share my “spiritual journey”, albeit in abbreviated narrative form.
But this invitation is not just about sharing your past. Your invitation is to share in creating the ongoing story of your journey as a member of this caravan of fellow travelers. I have been welcomed in as a congregant and blessed to serve on the board of trustees of this congregation during the fulfilment of its decade long preparation of this new building and vision. I feel like the character Rob Cole in Noah Gordon’s book, The Physician, who traveled across Europe in the 11th century, to study in Persia, to return to London and finally to rural Scotland where he lived out his dream of being just what he always wanted to be. This is no caravan of despair.
The Soul Matters syllabus for this month offers a challenge exercise with this anecdote. Ernest Hemingway took up a bar bet that even he could not write a novel in six words. He wrote: “For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.” The exercise is to take on the same challenge.
Here’s my first effort: “Moved lots. Connected dots. Sitting still.” Welcome to the journey. Where have you come from? Where are you going?
President, Board of Trustees