Worship? Really?

Human beings are impelled,
    not compelled,
      by the power of God
        to fulfill the good potential of their lives.
The impulse toward wholeness in humanity
   is predisposed to good,
     though it can be weakened or distorted
         by chaos and conflict.
Authentic worship keeps it alive
   and restores its integrity.


This assertion helped form the Universalist convocation known as “The Humiliati,” a group of men–largely identified with the theological school at Tufts University–who found Universalism in the mid-20th century a moribund lot. Their belief was that they needed to state universalism in a new way for their time. In part, this reflected the growing acceptance of universal salvation–or, at least, the growing rejection of damnation among protestants in the US. 


So they introduced a new symbol, the circle with an off-center cross, to represent their openness to what had been given by Jesus and his followers, but a sense that it was mystery which is at the center. They introduced a bit of scandal when a minister was ordained not to the Christian ministry, as had been the practice, but to the Universalist ministry. And then they made it all the more confusing by wearing very traditional clothes, including collars and stoles; made worship more liturgical and ornate, and spent a lot of time talking about the spirituality of our faith.


These ministers had all been trained under Dean Clarence R. Skinner, the great social justice prophet of 20th century Universalism, and while they did not reject their teacher entirely, they did, as a group, have a sense that no social justice action can last without a deeper spiritual core. And so that is where they began.


I preached last week a “question box” sermon, including answering a serious question about worship. “What, or whom, do we worship? Is worship about gratitude and reverence, or is their some element of subjugation or at least submission? etc.” I loved that question!


If has made me revisit my own sense of the “why” of our common celebration each week. I hope this is a question that I never believe has only one answer. But this notion of the Humiliati–our need to balance our wholeness and goodness against the weakening effect of chaos and conflict–speaks to me. 


I come to church to consider the things of ultimate worth. I seek a body of people ready to do the same. I hope to draw from our encounter with each other–and with “The Mystery”–Life, mine and ours; and Integrity.


That might keep me coming back for a lifetime.

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