Sunday, February 16, 2014

All you need is love

This week, I attended the Unitarian Universalist Church of Ogden (UUCO from hereon out). So what was my time like at the church of the flaming chalice?

Atmosphere:

The UUCO is quite a lovely church building. In the parking lot, there is this lovely sign that I just had to snap a picture of:


If you can't read it, it says "Standing on the Side of Love."

 Inside, the building that has a feeling of a cozy log cabin. When you enter the sanctuary, there's just this warmth that you feel from the colors and the people.


View from the back of the church.


View from the front of the church.

Along the sides of the wall are banners representing different faith traditions from around the world. Here are three of the banners representing front to back: Secular Humanism; the Eight Spoke Wheel of Buddhism; and the flaming chalice, the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist tradition.


I also enjoyed this little quilted church banner that welcomes you into the chapel:


Overall, it's a very homey and welcoming environment.

The People:

The people at UUCO are very kind and very inviting. When the minister gave her announcements she said something to the effect of, no matter who you are, your prison record, your gender idenity, your sexual orientation, income level, whether you have a PhD or didn't graduate high school, your faith background, you are welcome here.

And I definitely get that impression. People in the church will come up to you and ask you about yourself and your background. They truly don't seem at all judgmental about where you come from or what you believe. The people there were very kind to us, and in particular, the minister went out of her way to be very friendly and welcoming.

The Service:

The service was lovely. The music at the beginning was gorgeous, I don't remember the song, but the choir sang it beautifully. Then they sounded a singing bowl. For those of you unfamiliar with a singing bowl, they are these instruments, you tap on the side of them then run the mallet along the edge and it creates this gorgeous sound which resonates through the air for nearly a minute creating a sense of calm. Theirs is a lovely white one made of glass, I believe. Perhaps it is some other material.


After the singing bowl, the minister read a short poem about love and then they lit the chalice. The flaming chalice is the symbol of the Unitarian Universalist faith and represents the warmth of love, the light of truth, and the energy of action. This congregation has a child come up and light the chalice. Here is the chalice while unlit:


After they lit the chalice, we all sang a hymn entitled, "Though I May Speak with Bravest Fire." After the hymn, there was a responsive reading which I didn't really get the chance to listen to because I was fumbling through the book trying to find it, so I feel like I missed out on that part.

After the responsive reading, the minister gave a prayer on behalf of the community. The prayer was for many things including comfort to those in need, healing for members of the congregation suffering from ailments, an end to war, an end to suffering, care for the earth, and celebrations that were being had that week.

After the prayer was a reading from 1 Corinthians chapter 13. I have a very complicated view of the Bible. Having read the book cover to cover twice and read many sections of it over and over, the book as a whole repulses me and I do not see it as a holy text, or even a good book to base your life around in the modern world. However, withing pages of hard to to believe stories, strange wisdom sayings, and horrific tales, there are beautiful pearls of wisdom, the pearls that believers cling to. In many cases, these beautiful passages from the Bible are all that a believer knows, and this one is, in my opinion the most beautiful part of the whole Bible:

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part,10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhoodbehind me. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

After the reading, there was a video which featured a bunch of people singing a song called "Life is Better with You." The video featured diverse couples of every age, background, and sexual orientation. It was quite beautiful.

After the video, the minister gave a sermon, more details on that below, and this was followed by the gathering of the offering. That involved them passing around the collection plate. As they passed it around, the pianist played the song "Same Love" by Macklemore. While they were doing that, you could go and light a candle just like in a Catholic church.


You could also place a stone into a bowl of water as a symbolic gesture of releasing your burdens.


After that, we sang a song called "Standing on the Side of Love." The song had a very good message of loving without restraint and was quite upbeat. Afterward, the minister gave some closing remarks before we sang the song again, this time clapping along to it.

Overall, a very lovely service with tons of great music. I recommend a Unitarian Universalist service for the uplifting and positive feeling you get from it.

The Message:

The sermon was entitled, "What is Love?" She began her sermon by talking about the four types of love in Greek: eros, storge, philia, and agape, explaining the differences. She then talked about how we shouldn't be afraid to love ourselves with these four loves. Then she asked if something so complex as love could be divided into categories easily.

I am posting a link to the blog where her sermons are kept so that you can go and read it yourself if you like, but here are some highlights I loved:

Love is an outlaw, and we can only sign on as its accomplice.

Her very touching story about her wedding day. After being engaged to her now wife for 39 years, they were finally able to get married recently. She recalled what she had written in her wedding vows and also the toast her daughter had given.

A quote that really stuck with me was, "If somone truly loves you, it is a miracle."

And finally, love is what matters most in life. And like all things that matter, love takes work.

She then had us read together the words from 1 John 4 where it famously talks about God being love and if you do not love you do not know God.

Here is the minister's blog:

http://theresauuco.wordpress.com/2014/02/16/what-is-love/

Overall Experience:

This church is amazing. The love and sense of community you feel in it is almost tangible. I would definitely return time and time again to UUCO. They approach religion and faith not with simple dogmatic answers that are beyond question, nor with the arrogance of certainty, but with humility and acknowledgment that there are diverse beliefs out there. Since their focus is not on doctrine and easy answers, their church is instead focused on the community and making this life better for all. I completely support this sort of religion and spirituality.

The Unitarian Universalists are a wonderful group to see out there in the modern world filled with pessimism and a future that seems hopeless at times.

Additional comments:

This next week I may do another video blog about how things have been since my last video. If so, that will be up in a day or two. I'm thinking that halfway through the week each week I might do a video explaining not just the experience, but also my religious background. Let me know what you guys think.

Next week will be a fun week. Next Sunday I am attending the Japanese Buddhist Church in Ogden. It is Nirvana Day, which is going to include a blessing of pets. I think it should be fun.

Until next time, peace be with you.

10 comments:

  1. Hi there. I am a Unitarian Universalist, and I am honestly thrilled that you had such a positive experience. This is exactly what we try to do every week, and really every day out in the world.
    I have to know, though: Did you know anything about the Unitarian Uniersalists before you went to this service? What perception did you have? How accurate was it? Would you have ever gone in if you hadn't been on this personal quest?
    I know that you don't owe us these answers, but I hope you see that we have a good message, and while we don't want to force it on anyone, there are people whose lives might be improved by knowing that we are here, and that we would welcome them. And we are really bad at reaching out. We are in the first week and a MAJOR overhaul to our public image, starting with a new logo for the national Association that represents our congregations. The whole thing is aimed at being more visible and helping people find us. I'd love to hear your thoughts on how we could do that, since you sound like the type of person we hope to reach.

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  2. I actually knew quite a bit about the UU before going today. I've gone to this congregation a few times and had a great time each time. This service in particular was amazing

    I study religion as a hobby and have done so since I was 15 years old. I am now 28. I really enjoyed the UU and would definitely go back again. This journey has been a fun one and is surprisingly changing me in a lot of ways I didn't imagine. Hope you keep checking back in. Still many more churches to see and many more things to experience.

    Thank you very much for your kind words.

    - Chad

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  3. I have been reading more of your posts, and I really appreciate your thoughts on the services that you've been to so far. I will come back to read more and follow your progress throughout the year. Thank you for sharing your experiences!

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  5. Not sure who the above poster is - clearly a UU from some other church. I would explain the seven principles somewhat differently than she did, and most UU's have their own interpretations. The Unitarian Universalist Association's descriptions are here: http://www.uua.org/beliefs/principles/index.shtml Also, I definitely would not say as she did, "However, it's important for people to know that Unitarian Universalism is NOT part of Christianity." I would say, instead: "Unitarian Universalism arose from Protestant Christianity, but we are no longer exclusively Christian." Slightly different in tone and I think much more accurate, at least for our Ogden congregation. Awesome blog, Chad. I look forward to reading about the rest of your adventures. Thanks for the fab review. Rev. Theresa Novak

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  6. Honestly, I copied and pasted the 7 principles from another source- not bound in any way to the explanations.... Love your phrasing of our heritage!

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  7. I'm so glad you had such an amazing experience: You most definitely experienced the epitome of UUism. However, Unitarian Universalism arose from Protestant Christianity, but we are no longer exclusively Christian. Many often get confused because we were founded by the Unitarians and the Universalists, thus using terms like "church" and "minister." The bible was referenced at your service, but UUs draw from texts, quotes, etc from many many religions- just as much as they touch the bible. We have Christian UUs, Muslim UUS, atheist UUs, UUs who think that life is random, UUs who think that everything happens for a reason, agnostic UUs and many other mixes of people. We are not defined by creed but by covenant (which some believe that god is present and others see as just sacred).

    We have seven principles (so anyone reading this knows)
    1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
    2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
    Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
    4th Principle: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
    5th Principle: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
    6th Principle: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
    7th Principle: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

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  8. This is a really terribly designed website. It is impossible for me to even read given the extremely distracting background pictures. I am especially disappointed that a UU group wouldn't consider accessibility important in a website.

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  9. Love what you're doing: exploring religions and sharing your impressions. As a UU, I'm glad you had a great experience. One friendly suggestion....I find your blog very hard to read because of the busy background design and the white lettering on dark brown. I would like to follow your blog, but probably won't unless is becomes easier to view. JMHO.

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