In 2011 I co-edited ‘Kindred Pilgrim Souls’, a collection of short reflections written by members of my congregation, and the following is my own statement of belief at that time. Most of it still stands, more-or-less.
I believe… we are all one. All beings are interconnected and interdependent and so the least of our actions may have infinitely far-reaching consequences. We must always consider the effect of our deeds on others and aim to cause less harm and do more good.
…life is difficult for most people most of the time. We must do whatever we can to make life more bearable for the people whose lives we touch and help to reduce their suffering. Take care to bear in mind the needs of the most sensitive or vulnerable in any situation. Our own happiness / well-being is equally important to that of others (not more, not less).
…in cultivating kindness, compassion, peace and harmony by the way we choose to live. This is positively counter-cultural and it can feel like very hard work to swim against the tide. Try to be soft and vulnerable anyway. It takes great strength to stay open and undefended but it allows us to form true connections and to be real with one another.
…an honest ‘I don’t know’ is a good starting point for learning and growth. It is vital to drop our masks, admit our weaknesses, and be real with others instead of perpetuating a world of pretence. This can open up opportunities for authentic exploration and discovery.
…in wholehearted commitment – whether it is to a person, a project, a community, or an ideal – I believe in staying put and taking your time over things. Loyalty, patience, and steadfastness enable you to develop trust and really get to know people at a deeper level.
…we should try to speak out and get off the fence when we see injustice being done. I recall the saying ‘all that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing’.
…all people fall short of our highest aspirations – we all have blind-spots, off-days, and make mistakes (sin!) – and therefore we should all try to be generous, ready to forgive, and cut each other some slack. We also need to cultivate greater awareness of our own behaviour, the ways in which we fall short of our ideals and impinge on others’ well-being. Whenever we can, we should support and encourage others to follow their passion, to enable them to make their unique contribution to the world and fulfil their highest potential.
…being part of this Unitarian community has helped me to reflect on these values and attempt to live in closer alignment with them. I have been introduced to new ways of looking at the world – religious teachings from many traditions, spiritual practices and life philosophies – which have greatly enriched my life. Poetry, symbolism, and mythology help me to make meaning from my experiences. The love and support of my Unitarian family, through good times and bad, is a large part of what makes life worth living.
…in God as all that is beautiful and good. God’s essence permeates all-that-is. There is a spark of the divine in each of us. Yet I feel that God is also something beyond all that… so I tend to call myself a panentheist. I don’t mind if this is only true in a metaphorical sense as I feel that acting ‘as if’ this is true helps me to live a better, more loving, and meaningful life. I believe that we will all ultimately return to the one great light where there is no separation.
…everything under the sun can be fascinating if you look at it with eyes of love. There is no such thing as being boring / ‘sad’ (in the pejorative sense) or having ‘guilty pleasures’. As long as you are not having fun at anybody else’s expense (whether through causing physical harm or emotional distress) then go ahead and enjoy yourself! Sometimes I like to be silly and frivolous; sometimes I like to be serious and intense. I often think of the beautiful words of the poet Mary Oliver: ‘Let the soft animal of your body love what it loves’.