Unitarian Universalist Religious Pluralism

Religious-Pluralism(Del Smith heard Forrest Church speak at her UU Church in Long Beach, CA, in 1998. She now admits that she was excited that he was the speaker, but only because his father was the late Frank Church, liberal senator (ID). Rev. Church’s message that “acceptance trumps tolerance” quickly converted her to being a fan of the younger Church.)

Deeds Not Creeds: The Legacy of Forrest Church

The religious pluralism to which we covenant includes “Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.”

Forrest Church’s chapter, “Deeds Not Creeds” in A Chosen Faith reminds us of our Unitarian and Universalist heritage. Mary Alice Livermore, leader of the Massachusetts Suffrage Movement was devoted to suffrage and women’s rights. Livermore had worked in Chicago with Henry Bellows who founded the precursor to the American Red Cross. Clara Barton (health care), Adin Ballou (industrial policy), Henry Bergh (animal rights), Susan B. Anthony (women’s rights) – all Unitarians or Universalists in the front ranks in their day. All are recognized as prophetic men and women whose words continue to challenge us to confront power with justice, compassion and love.

Michael Durall recommended that our congregation consider service to others outside the walls of 7202 East 21st Street, Wichita, Kansas. Deeds, not creeds! We have revitalized the Social Justice and Social Action arm of the church. Mary Erickson described her experience with the St. Paul’s food justice outreach in last week’s blog, “A Circle of Service.” Louis Goseland, chair of the Social Action Task Force, often blogs about our social justice work in partnership with Sunflower Community Action.

Health or family or job obligations prevent some congregants from participating in some social justice activities and they find other ways to help. The need for donations to the Wichita Food Pantry exists year round, so we established CornUUcopia. Two non-perishable food items are brought each week to be delivered to the pantry. Find out more about our approach to “Deeds, not creeds” by attending a Task Force Meeting. They meet each Sunday after church.

Forrest Church’s The Cathedral of the World emphasizes the energizing spiritual force our pluralism brings. The book begins with a metaphor, “….one light and many windows…Unitarian, one light, Universalist, many windows–my cathedral metaphor weaves an all-embracing theological garment, suitable for universalists of every religious persuasion.”

Forrest Church described himself as a born-again liberal. From The Cathedral of the World: “The word ‘liberal’ means openhearted, open-handed, and open-minded. We need only consult the dictionary to reclaim this much-abused word. Liberal means free; worthy of a free person (as opposed to servile); free in bestowing, bountiful and generous; free from bigotry or unreasonable prejudice in favor of traditional opinions or teachings; open to the reception of new ideas.”

Forrest Church died in 2009 of esophageal cancer. He was senior minister for 21 years at All Souls in New York’s Upper East Side. Just two examples of his “Deeds Not Creeds” gospel of service: setting up a shelter in Harlem for homeless women and taking a leadership role as an AIDS activist. Several of his books are available in our church library.

Del Smith