Recently, after a worship service I led at BVUUF, I received two exactly opposite responses to the service from several different people. This reminded me of the many diverse needs we each bring to worship, as well as the diverse frames we use to understand not just worship, but all communication. It also reminded me that worship is just one of several spiritual practices we need to engage to deepen and grown spiritually, both as individuals and as a community. This is an important conversation for UU’s especially, because in addition to responding differently to structures–such as the actual order of the service, the pace of the service, and level of contemplative time versus time spent engaging in listening, singing, sharing, and other worship activities—we also have different theologies and language to describe our theologies. In 2005, the UUA commissioned a report called “Engaging Our Theological Diversity” which looks at how we function as congregational communities on a number of levels. You can find a link and download this document for free, and I highly recommend it. The report looks at these central questions to our faith: “What Holds Us Together?”; our history as a denomination or “Where Do We Come From?”; our culture or “ Who Are We?”; our values or “To What Do We Aspire?”; our theology and “How Do We Frame the World?”; our Worship and “How Do We Celebrate?”; our Justice Making and “How Shall We Serve?”; and our Community or “How Do We Come Together?” The report then makes some recommendations for congregations: http://www.uua.org/documents/coa/engagingourtheodiversity.pdf
What I think is my most important “take away” is that in order to bridge our diversities, we each need to be responsible for our own spiritual deepening and simultaneously be supportive of the wider range of needs in our community. (Sounds like one of our seven principles, doesn’t it?) What I mean by this is that we need to recognize that no one activity is going to “do it all” for all of us, all of the time. Even if a service or worship element doesn’t speak to you, it may be just what the person sitting next to you needs. I would encourage us each to find more ways to deepen our journeys. We can attend classes at the Fellowship, participate in a covenant group, engage in service within the Fellowship as a spiritual practice (greeting, making coffee, serving on a committee, assisting with an event), engage in service to the community outside BVUUF (work with a SJAC task force or project or work with BVCAN), or develop a set of deepening practices we can use individually or communally (such as meditation, hiking, writing, music, prayer). I would advocate some of each of these. UU minister Erik Walker Wikstrom developed a curriculum call “Spirit in Practice” that identifies seven different kinds of spiritual practice: http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/adults/practice/index.shtml. We grow when we deepen our relationship with ourselves and with each other, and there are many ways to do that. When we show up, even in those moments that don’t feel like “this is it!” we are actually laying a foundation that supports all of us in the long run. Teacher and spiritual leader Parker Palmer would probably tell us that when we find ourselves not feeling engaged it might be more useful to “turn to wonder” than to just dismiss the experience. “I wonder why this isn’t speaking to me/working for me? I wonder who might be needing this experience? I wonder how I can support diverse experiences in faith development? I wonder why I reacted to that experience that way?” Sometimes what doesn’t speak to us is as important as what does in bringing us insight and awareness that can help us grow.