I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Universalist Church for Sale--Cheap!

I was checking out some of the weblogs that I find most interesting and came upon an interesting post on "Boy in the Bands," a blog maintained by my friend, colleague, and long distance member of Eliot, the Rev. Scott Wells. In it he links to an eBay item, namely an old Universalist Church building in New York state.

Scott says we shouldn't be too sad as it has been defunct for some time. Still, I cannot help but feel a little morose. Before coming to Eliot I served two Universalist churches in Northwestern Maine. It is disheartening to see any part of that great tradition sold for parts.

Here at Eliot, not surprisingly, not all of our members are unitarian in their christology. We have a veritable rainbow of views on this subject. We have Unitarians, Arians, and Trinitarians all possessing various theological shades and nuances. We have some atheists, agnostics, and people of Jewish heritage who also have varying understandings of the guy we quote weekly in our services and who we honor once a month during communion (In order to properly reflect these differences, we have three communion services that we rotate through, but that is another post).

Our Universalism, however, is one of the major uniting forces in our collective theology. Many members of the church are not aware of the finer points of the doctrine of universal resoration, but they are Universalists, nonetheless. Otherwise, we would not be able to find a place for so much diversity in what is, after all, a liberal Christian church (though some of our individual members are Christian and not liberal and others are liberal and not Christian).

For the detailed (and ongoing) explanation of universal restoration, I refer you to Scott's blog (in my links section). But basically put, it is the belief that all people, regardless of faith stance, and/or their actions on earth, will go to the same place when they die.

Traditionally, this doctrine was based on the idea that Jesus died not just for a select few, nor for only the "good" people, but for everyone. It is the logical conclusion if one believes in an all loving God, or for that matter, if one doesn't believe in God at all. What changes, I think, would be the idea of where souls go. Most Theists probably have some sense of "Heaven" or "mystical Union" with the Divine. I know I do. Either way, I find it hard to believe that there is anyone who regularly attends services with us who believes that their fellow congregants are going to Hell! The strength of our community, after all, rests on its ability to challenge and to stretch every one of us.

Of course, you will find universalist beliefs outside Eliot and outside the UUA. Thank God for that! Even though this church that Rev. Wells found on eBay is no more. Its spirit moves on in us and, hopefully, through many more of our fellow inhabitants of planet Earth. Long live the Universalist Church!