Sources for Unitarian Universalists

One of the best things about being a UU minister for me is the plethora of sources that I can draw upon for sermons. While I love reading the Bible and preaching from scripture, I’m not bound by it. I can choose as my sources of inspiration the same sources that you choose for your inspiration, then preach from it.

For this reason, I read a variety of materials for my personal and spiritual edification. Most recently, I borrowed a book of poetry by Elizabeth Alexander, whose poem, “Praise Song for the Day,” was written for President Obama’s 2nd inauguration. I’ve also been working my way through various passages of the Bhaghavad-Gita the sacred Hindu scriptures. I used a text from the Gita in two recent sermons. Both of these texts both have enormous wisdom for the world contained within them. I love science, too.

In the world of Unitarian authors, few stand as tall among contemporaries as Rev. Dr. Mark Morrison-Reed. He wrote the seminal work about black ministers who pioneered the way into Unitarian Universalist ministry and the many obstacles they faced. Last week, I preached from a more recent text he penned about his own life.

The difficulty of using these liberating sources is that they don’t appeal nor resonate with people like me, other people of color, who often regard the Bible as the only sacred text worthy of preaching. I’d prefer to be able to reach more people of color when I share a word. So, this is a struggle, or chasm, for me; one that I’d like to bridge. The UU faith needs more ethnic and cultural diversity to realize its mission in the world. This ought to be a moral imperative for us.

The official “word” on UU sources is that we have six. Like many traditions, we begin with direct experience. From there, we make a distinct departure to include human prophecy, humanist teachings, Christian & Jewish scriptures, world religions, and spiritual teachings. UUs love this diversity of sources! I do, too. But, the breadth of sources is a liability for us because we tend to choose those we like and throw out the others.

Some congregations are strictly humanist. Others lean heavily upon Buddhism. You might call this “throwing the baby out with the bath water.” For me, no tradition has more authority than any other. All are sources of wisdom and part of my role as a minister is sharing this conviction. I realize that non-UUs who visit our congregations need to hear something that resonates with their faith structure. I believe UU ministers should pay attention to this reality.

I hope that you’ll beckon the doors of a UU congregation in the near future. And when you do, my prayer is that the readings and sermon move your spirit. Then, I invite you to come back. We need you!



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