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The 8th Principle (C)

Monday, June 18, 2012

In the Unitarian Universalist tradition, you hear a lot about the “7 Principles”. These are the backbone of our covenant with one another, the agreement we have made to walk together in right relationship and right action. We affirm and promote, through our Principles, respect for all people and our environment, free inquiry, use of conscience and democratic process, and justice for all.


What many Unitarian Universalists, especially those who are new to our religion, do not realize, is that these were simply drafted and voted upon by a group of delegates at a General Assembly a few decades ago. These were not handed down on Mount Sinai, they are not etched in stone, and they are not from God. They were just written, and voted upon.  They can be changed! In fact, they should be changed! According the UUA bylaws, a review should be undertaken regularly of the Principles, and changes should be made accordingly.
I’d like to propose an 8th Principle (This could be a suggested principle for our own hearts, even if it’s never officially on paper) … “We affirm and promote these Principles, and honor our Sources of Inspiration, with a spirit of openness, gratitude, and humility.”

Sources of Inspiration? These are the items that immediately follow the 7 Principles any time they’re printed! You can find them in our gray hymnal or on the back of our Orders of Service. They describe the multiple ways Unitarian Universalists are inspired in their path, including one’s own experiences and conscience, Judeo-Christian tradition and world religions, wisdom teachings of prophetic men and women, Earth-centered traditions, and science and reason. The beautiful thing about these sources is that they are ALL available to us for inspiration. One or two might speak more loudly to you than the others, but they come together. They are not a menu from which to pick and choose.
A Spirit of Openness?  We pride ourselves on our open-minded approach to theology, but when it comes down to it, we can be as fundamentalist as any religious zealot. It is good to know your truth, and to speak it, but when you do that to the exclusion of other possibilities, or other ways of life, you have abandoned the true Unitarian Universalist path.
Gratitude? Most newcomers to our churches, when I first speak to them, say something like this: “I am so grateful to have found a place where I can truly be myself, believe what I have known all my life, and ask questions!” At what point do we begin to take all of that for granted? Let’s remember the gift this faith has offered us, and receive it with gratitude over and over again.
Humility?  Humility is the fruit of gratitude. When I first attended a Unitarian Universalist church, I remember the minister opening her prayer with the phrase “God of many names, whose mystery is beyond all our naming…” and I remember feeling so humble in that moment. We don’t know God’s name. We don’t know much of anything, as humans. We strive to learn and grow each day, but we are still small, and we are still a piece of this grand universe. Fred told the story last Sunday of the blind wise people and the elephant. Each held a piece of the truth, but they could not grasp the whole thing, and so they misunderstood each other. Let’s remember to be humble in our dealings with each other, with others we might not understand, or those with whom we disagree.
Our 7 Principles are a covenant, not a statement of belief. A covenant is a promise we make to each other, about how we are going to live our lives and create the beloved community. I would like us to think about not just WHAT we are going to do, but HOW we are going to do it. With openness, gratitude, and humility!
Blessings… -Rev. Christina

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