Shared Values, Different Lives

Speaker: Sigrid Trombley and Susan Daggett

Each summer, participants from the
Heartland, Central MidWest and our own
Prairie Star district join together at Beloit
College in Beloit Wisconsin for Midwest
Leadership School. Leadership School is an
intensive week of workshops, discussion
groups, interactions, and fun with UU peers.
Each of us has an opportunity for personal,
spiritual, and leadership growth as we create
an intentional community built on shared
experiences, learning, intimacy, and trust.

For the last number of years, our
congregation has sent two individuals to
Leadership School each summer. Last July,
Susan Daggett and I were privileged to have the
opportunity to participate. It’s become a
tradition and expectation at our church that the
individuals, who go to Beloit, share their
experience with the congregation.

The curriculum for the week includes
organizational development, theology, UU
history, elements of worship, the creation of a
worship service, leadership styles, consensus
building, and conflict management, as well as
the opportunity to develop and share personal
belief statements.

Leadership School was an incredible
experience in many ways and for both of us,
one of the most meaningful was the nightly
worship service. This service was conducted the
first and last nights by the staff and all six
nights in between by small groups of us
students. So, rather than give you a report on
each portion of the curriculum, we’ve chosen to
create a worship service informed by that
curriculum and inspired by the worship
services and our entire experience in Beloit.

We hope you enjoy this morning’s service,
and will, in some way, find meaning in our
theme, Shared Values, Different Lives

We arrive out of many singular rooms, walking
over the branching secrets.
We come to be assured that brothers and
sisters surround us, to restore their images
in our eyes.
We enlarge our voices in common speaking and
We try again that solitude found in the midst of
those who with us seek their hidden
This is the reason of cities, of homes, of
assemblies in the houses of worship.
It is good to be with one another.
Kenneth L. Patton

We now join with more than a thousand other
UU congregations in North America as we
dedicate our chalice.

Dedication words:
In spite of our differences, and because of
We meet here regularly and are met here today
in the knowledge that we are all equal under
the roof of the church.
May we be humbled by the recognition that no
one is more important than another…
And yet each of us is important, has worth, as a
Let us then consider the meaning and value of
Celia Midgley

It is to all of us, that I dedicate our chalice this

THEME…a search for truth and meaning
READINGS – “Elevator Speeches”

Sigrid- As I noted earlier, Leadership
School was an intentional community built on
shared experiences, learning, intimacy, and
One of the most powerful means for
creating that community was through Credo
Groups of 3 to 4 students and one staff
member. The Credo Group was the part of
Leadership School in which we were to clarify,
by reflecting and sharing with others, our
theology and emerging faith, and how they
affect what we do. All of us were given the same
topic on which to reflect, so that we were all
united in a daily reflection on a common
The majority of Leadership School staff is
lay staff and two of the staff members are UU
ministers. The Credo question each day was
written by one of the ministers, Reverend Fran
As part of our exploration of the theme,
Shared Values, Different Lives, we asked a
number of the members of this congregation to
respond to one of the Credo Questions that we
responded to at Leadership School.
Here’s the question…
“It’s easy to be a Unitarian Universalist;
you can believe anything you want to.” I doubt
if there are many of us who haven’t heard this
from someone, casual acquaintances and those
near and dear to us. We know it’s not a true
statement. We know that the absence of a
prescribed set of beliefs means we are the
meaning makers and sometimes we aren’t
prepared to respond when someone asks, “Just
what do Unitarian Universalists believe?” Or
asks, very directly, “What do you believe?” A
common challenge to seminary students is to
prepare an “elevator speech.” – – – how you’d
answer the question in the time it takes to ride
an elevator up or down several floors.
At this point in your UU faith development,
how does your elevator speech read?”

Lara P.
Unitarian Universalist churches provide an
environment for individual beliefs, spiritual
expression, and religious freedom within a
supportive, caring community.

Steve Baier
“What do Unitarian Universalists believe?”
I think there are two answers. As a
community, we all ascribe to a set of principles
and values that are in communion with the
world’s great faiths. We value the inherent
worth and dignity of all people, the Golden
Rule, justice and peace, and the interdependent
web of all existence. But these are principles of
living, not a set of “beliefs” or doctrine in the
same sense as other religions. Where we differ
is that, as individuals within the faith, we find
our own path for the great questions of life,
such as why we are here, what is our purpose,
what is the nature of ultimate truth – if there is
any. As free-thinking, volitional individuals,
Unitarian Universalists investigate, inquire,
and ask questions. For answers, we look to all
the faiths of the world, fellow humans, and our
own inner light to find meaning and truth. It is
a never-ending quest, and there are no easy
answers. Instead of “believing”, Unitarian
Universalists search, and seek, and delve into
the unknown to find truth for themselves.
For myself, the Unitarian Universalist faith
has given me a place where I’m not expected to
“believe” what others teach to me. Instead, I
am challenged and encouraged to ask my own
questions, find my own answers, and be at
peace with those questions for which I have not
yet found resolution. I can be at home in not
knowing, and yet be supported while I keep
looking. It’s the most difficult church I’ve ever
experienced, because it’s up to me to do my
searching, to remain diligent in the reading,
thinking, reflecting, and understanding needed
to be in this church. But it’s also the most
rewarding, refreshing, joyful, and enlivening
church I have attended, because here I can be
free, I can be myself, and I can find others to
share the journey with me. I feel valued for
who I am, instead of for accepting what others
ask me to believe.

Del Smith
What brings Unitarian Universalists
together if we don’t have a creed? What do I
believe that keeps me here?
Freedom and Responsibility.
I have the freedom to pursue my own
spiritual path — finding my way through the
theological thickets — and I have the
responsibility to check out my discoveries and
answers and questions through use of reason
and spirit. I also have the responsibility and
privilege of giving others my respect and
attention as they follow their individual paths.
UUs are not bound by a creed, but we do
covenant to seven principles, which are printed
on this wallet card. Better yet, come to church
with me next Sunday.

Jed Closson
What do I believe? Nothing, in the
Christian sense of acceptance of a world view
on Divine Authority, with no other evidence
needed, or possible!
As a Unitarian agnostic, I have no
particular interest in any metaphysic. I have
no desire to be a pawn in some celestial chess
match. I prefer to see the world with my own
eyes and mind, and spend a life arranging the
pieces of my little corner of it. When I want
meaning in my life, I need to make it myself,
for it to be true.

Jackie Erickson
Responding to your request for an
‘elevator’ answer to the charge that we believe
whatever we want to…this is my answer (and it
took me 45 years to fashion it!):
Our church is a haven for the questioning
mind and the freedom to explore all aspects of
its spiritual needs. While providing moral
guidelines, it does not tell you what you HAVE
to believe – it offers you avenues and the
freedom to search and accept what is true for

Susan Wolf
We believe in the worth and dignity of
every individual.
That means we believe each person must
find their own way to god, whatever that means
to him or her.
We support each other in a search for that
meaning, even if it takes them in a direction
radically different from our own “belief
The people I worship with believe in doing
things with their lives to help other people.
Many are in the helping professions, and get
“down and dirty” trying to make the earth and
its people better. These are people who believe
that what you do with your life is more
important than what you believe.
Often, I tell people we believe that “to
question is the answer”; that we are process
people, who believe in the journey, not the end.
In our fellowship I find a group of intelligent
people who can understand a reasonable set of
premises and their conclusions. I personally
find that intellectual companionship is more
important than their beliefs.

Sharon Gherity
I draw my religious beliefs from a variety of
formal and informal teachings taken from a
wide array of religions. Being a UU means that
I can choose what values and beliefs that work
for my life and not ever be told that “you must
believe ____ because that is what the church
says”. While this may seem so some to say we
don’t have beliefs, it allows each person to
follow their own spiritual path and coexist with
others whose values and beliefs celebrate each
unique perspective. No person looks exactly the
same as another and our religious believes
don’t have to look the same either.

David Heinsohn
I’m not sure that I have a canned elevator
speech. It depends on who I’m talking too. In
most cases it might come out something like.
Rather than having a fixed theology and
doctrine we as individual UUs search sacred
texts both old and new from a wide range of
sources and look to our own experiences to
help us in our spiritual journeys.

Mark Spangler
“You ask me what UU stands for. It is the
abbreviation for the Unitarian Universalist
Association, headquartered in Boston,
I was conceived, bred, born and educated
in Boston.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, “the most
recognized & revered figure in the Unitarian
movement” is a direct, blood, relation. His
words and the spiritual words of the men and
woman before and after him have had a direct
effect on me & my family since the 18th
There have been some ‘disagreements’
within our family structure over religious &
spiritual beliefs; but we, like the member
congregations of the Unitarian Universalist
Association, covenant to affirm:
• The inherent worth & dignity of every
• To use justice, equity & compassion in
human relations.
• To have & show acceptance of one another
and to encourage spiritual growth.
• To honor each other’s free and responsible
search for truth and meaning.
• The right of conscience and the use of the
democratic process within our families,
congregations and in society at large.
• The goal of world community with peace,
liberty, and justice for all.
• True respect for the interdependent web of
existence, of which we are a part.
These are lofty goals, but in my family & in
congregation, we remind ourselves of them
each week; and personally, I try to live my life
by them…”

Lila Arnold
Unitarian Universalism is a congregation
of people who share and promote
humanitarian values, and support one another
on their varying paths to spiritual and/or
intellectual enlightenment, with or without
belief in a higher power however they choose to
define it.

Susan Daggett
From early childhood I didn’t believe that
any mortal human could have a perfect
understanding of God and the Universe. As I
grew up and learned about the world I found
that many of the same basic teachings appear
in all the major religions of the world, and
believed that these common beliefs probably
came as close as humans could come to “The
Truth”. A good example is the Golden Rule –
virtually every religion has a version of it.
I had a friend who kept telling me I was a
Unitarian, but I told her I wanted no part of
any church because I couldn’t believe in a
single doctrine. Well, I finally found out that
my friend was right, because UUs believe in a
common set of values, derived from the major
religions of the world, but do not have a
doctrine. Within our own Wichita church we
have people from Christian, Jewish, Muslim
and Hindu backgrounds. We host an active
Buddhist group and an active Pagan group. We
agree on a common set of values, but based on
our individual life experiences we may express
those values in very different ways when it
comes to making decisions on individual
issues. Since our values include respect for the
inherent worth and dignity of every person,
and the free and responsible search for truth
and meaning, we respect each other’s differing

Sigrid Trombley
I work in a building with nine floors and
the slowest elevators you can imagine so if you
rode our elevators the elevator speech you
heard from me could be book length but even
so, I’ll resist that temptation.
Unitarian Universalism is a religious
denomination that has existed in this country
for several hundred years and comes from
roots in early Christianity much, much longer
ago than that. Yet despite its roots, both old
and deep it is a religion for today – “a living
tradition” so to speak.
Unitarian Universalism draws from many
sources — among them the world’s religions,
Jewish, Christian, humanist teachings, earthcentered
spirituality… and it welcomes all.
While Unitarian Universalism is not a
creedal religion and members are not told what
to believe or required to believe any certain
precepts, that doesn’t mean as people
sometimes think, that you can believe anything
you want to. At its foundation is a set of
principles that Unitarian Universalists pledge
to affirm but are individually responsible for
interpreting and reflecting in their own lives in
their own way. UUs support each other in a
search for truth and meaning in our own lives.
A core principle is a belief in the worth and
dignity of every person.
Well, this is our floor, but if you have a few
more moments I’d be happy to share our other
principles and try to respond to any questions
you might have.

SERMON – Susan
Shared Values, Different Lives
We have heard a variety of perceptions of
what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. I
can see that you are all shocked and amazed at
the variety of points of view. But – are they
really so different? All use or paraphrase the
concept of “individual spiritual path”. All
acknowledge that there is not a required creed,
only an agreement on a set of principals or – as
I like to call them – values.
So – is it true? Are we really this wonderful
group of open minded, mutually accepting
people? This is what I will explore today – are
we, members and friends of the First Unitarian
Universalist Church of Wichita, really that
accepting of other people’s spiritual paths and
the way in which others apply the seven
principles? Can we do better?
Let’s take an example. How many of you
are uncomfortable whenever you hear the word
“God” in this meeting house?
Wait a minute – this is a CHURCH! How
can you be uncomfortable with the word
“God”? Okay – I will tell you why you are
uncomfortable. Because many of us were told
sometime during our lives that we were to
believe in some kind of Sistine Chapel version
of an all powerful personified deity that
dabbles to one extent or another in our daily
lives. The extent to which this deity dabbles
varies according to what your specific religious
upbringing. The point is that many of us now
reject the idea of a personified deity.
Nevertheless, there are some in this room who
believe in SOMETHING larger than ourselves
– something for which we may not have a
vocabulary, other than that poorly defined
word “God”.
So tell me – is it fair to get all uptight when
someone else, who has no alternative
vocabulary for their own personal concept of
the word “God”? Is it respectful of their
spiritual path? Just as the Humanists and
Atheists and Agnostics want to be free to reject
“God”, it is incumbent upon us to also be
accepting of those who do believe in a Higher
We have a similar problem with the word
“Worship”. The Seeking Circle that I belong to
spent one entire evening redefining the word
“Worship” in a way that was acceptable to each
of us. We didn’t all arrive at exactly the same
definition, but we each arrived at something
that we could accept. In my case it had to do
with feeling a reverent appreciation for the
miracles of the natural world. Oops! I just used
another bad word – miracle. What a loaded
language we have! Heaven forbid that I say
anything that would upset our religiouslyliberal
mutually supportive fellow seekers of
truth and meaning!
And we are religiously liberal, and
mutually supportive, and responsible seekers
of Truth and Meaning, aren’t we? Our
Humanists won’t resign from the church if they
hear the word “worship”, will they? Our
Buddhists won’t be upset if there is a quote or
two from Jesus in the service, will they?
(Though there is a school of thought that,
during those “lost years” between his birth and
reappearance as a religious leader, Jesus may
have been studying Buddhism in Asia.)
Leadership School helped me to really
focus on my personal spiritual “beliefs”. What
came into clear focus for me was that it is my
values are very important to me. I think it was
quite fortunate that the values of the UU
church coincided with the values I had already
developed for myself during my forty years
prior to discovering this church. Or maybe the
fact that the seven principals and purposes are
derived from the great religions and
philosophies of the world are why they
resonate with me and with so many others. In
my elevator speech I mentioned the “Golden
Rule”, which is reflected in our UU principal to
“Affirm and promote respect for the
interdependent web of all existence of which
we are a part”.
At any rate, I realized that I live a values
driven life, and have become much more
conscious and intentional about my values
since returning from Leadership School. What
is especially interesting to me is that having
shared values does not necessarily lead to the
same opinions on every issue. Each of us has a
unique set of experiences that we wrap around
our values. I happen to enjoy hearing other
people’s opinions, both when they agree and
when they disagree with mine. I like to hear
about how their experiences have colored their
viewpoints. Sometimes I am given new
information, or shown a new way of looking at
something that causes me to reconsider my
own opinions.
Note that I said I will reconsider my
opinions. My values do not change. My values
are at the foundation of what might be called
my spiritual life. The rest of my life informs my
values and leads me – and each of you – to
opinions about specific issues.
I already touched on how we share
common values but may have significantly
different religious points of view. I also
suggested that we don’t always remember to
honor the differing religious views of others.
But we can behave very well in disagreement,
I will share an example of how our shared
values were expressed in different opinions in a
process that this church handled very well a
few years ago.
The UU General Assembly, composed of
delegates from congregations throughout the
U.S. and Canada, convenes annually to conduct
the business of the Unitarian Universalist
Association. At that meeting a number of
general resolutions which have gone through a
two-year congregational review process are
considered and voted upon by the delegates.
Some of you will remember two or three
years ago when at a congregational meeting
Carolyn presented us with one of these
resolutions… it was a resolution for abolition of
the Death Penalty. What happened was that, to
the great surprise of many, the resolution was
We discovered that:
a) the list of “Where-as’s” at the top of the
petition, which were supposed to be facts in
support of abolition of the death penalty, were
not agreed by everyone to be legitimate and
incontrovertible facts; and, even more
b) not everyone in the congregation
believed that the Death Penalty should be
Months of discussion followed, with focus
groups and in-service presentations. Most of
the discussion was healthy and productive.
Few people actually changed their minds on
the issue as a result of the discussion, but they
did come to a consensus on what the resolution
should say. If you were here then you may
recall that in the end we settled on a resolution
that eliminated all the “where as’s” completely
and called for a “moratorium” on capital
punishment rather than abolition. Even those
who felt that there were cases where the Death
Penalty is appropriate could agree that there
were serious flaws with the current system.
And how does the Death Penalty relate to
our Seven Principles?
The principal most frequently cited by both
those for and against capital punishment was
“We affirm and promote the inherent worth
and dignity of every person”. The arguments
went something like this:
Even the most reprehensible criminal has
an inherent worth and dignity, and the death
penalty dishonors that; or
The person who commits the most heinous
of crimes has forfeited their own inherent
worth and dignity, and the only way to honor
the inherent worth and dignity of the victim is
to apply the supreme punishment to the
See how that worked? A common value,
stated as one of the seven Unitarian
Universalist Principals and Purposes, agreed
upon by all, when overlaid with different points
of view by people with different life
experiences, results in apparently polarized
I first observed this phenomenon well
before I came to this church. I have always
been a liberal – though I secretly abhor that
word, but that’s another discussion. Anyway, I
worked in an office with seven other people, all
of whom appeared to me to represent the
religious right. I listened to them try to bait me
with their creationism and homophobism and
anti-environmentalism and all manner of
opinions that – to say the least – differed from
mine. I tried to ignore them because I don’t
believe such arguments are appropriate in the
workplace, though I frequently simply had to
leave the room and go for a walk to get away
from them. It took a while, but eventually they
stopped trying to bait me. They still talked
about their beliefs, especially around election
time, but in a more natural, non-baiting
manner. What I eventually came to understand
was that these people wanted the same things I
did – for people to be nice to each other, for all
babies to be wanted babies, and to feel some
level of personal connectedness with and
contribute something to this huge and crowded
world. We disagreed on how to achieve these
things, but our core values really weren’t that
Here in this congregation of people who
share a common set of values we have
significant diversity – and as we grow we need
to foster even more diversity and civil
discussion. But even as I exhort you to be
respectful of each other’s differing opinions
that come from your different life experiences,
you may be asking yourselves why this is even
important. If you are not likely to change your
own point of view, and you secretly think
anyone who disagrees with you is a fool, why
should you respect their differing opinion?
Here is why: Because diversity is the key to
survival. This is true in biology, and it is true in
sociology. When we are able to drill down and
find the common ground – i.e. the common
value – between what appear to be polarized
opinions, we stand a better chance of resolving
our differences and moving forward. Just as we
found a common ground to move forward on a
resolution on the death penalty, we can find
common ground on other issues if we respect
differing opinions and focus on the underlying
Ours is a church where diversity and the
individual pursuit of life’s answers is prized –
at least we say that often enough. I exhort you
to make sure you respect the differences of
others even as you ask them to respect you.
• Many of us would characterize ourselves as
agnostics, atheists or Humanists; but there
are also those who do believe in a separate
higher power, whether they call it “God” or
something else. Let us all respect each
other’s beliefs.
• Many of us do not believe in an afterlife,
whether Heaven and Hell or reincarnation,
but there are also those who do believe in
some form of afterlife or renewal. Let us all
respect each other’s beliefs.
• Many of us are pro-choice and anti-death
penalty, but there are also people who are
against abortion and in favor of capital
punishment in some instances. Let us all
respect each other’s opinions.
What we all agree on as members of this
congregation are our common set of values –
what we call our Principles and Purposes. We
recited them earlier in the responsive reading
and I will read them again
We, the member congregations of the
Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to
affirm and promote:
• The inherent worth and dignity of every
• Justice, equity and compassion in human
• Acceptance of one another and
encouragement to spiritual growth in our
• A free and responsible search for truth and
• The right of conscience and the use of the
democratic process within our
congregations and in society at large;
• The goal of world community with peace,
liberty, and justice for all;
• Respect for the interdependent web of all
existence of which we are a part.

We all have two religions: the religion we
talk about and the religion we live. It is our task
to make the difference between the two as
small as possible.
William E. Gardner