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, June 27, 2006

God Language

Over at Peacebang there is an interesting conversation about the use of the word "God" in Unitarian Universalist churches. It is interesting, but I must admit that I am feeling a bit distant from the conversation. I have only served churches where talking about God is the norm. My current congregation is Christian. The two previous ones were not but they were rather friendly to theists of all stripes.

I am also feeling a bit distant from the conversation, frankly, because I am one of those folks who is repeatedly invited to leave and join the UCC. I cannot complain about this either as I already accepted half the invitation. That is, I haven't left the UUA, but I do have that Dual-Standing in the UCC and rather like it. I have, to paraphrase the words of friend Scott Wells, one foot on either side of the Cuyahoga!

Another reason is that it is hot out and I am tired of explaining myself. More often than I care to quantify, well meaning UUs ask me how (how!) could my church survive the enormous gulf between denominations. I used to try to explain how the United Church of Christ is a liberal Christian denomination and how they (that is, we) are open to a wide variety of perspectives when it comes to the nature of the Divine. Our (and my) shared affiliatiion isn't a burden but a source of strength that provides both the opportunity for free and responsible exploration of the transcendent and deep roots in one faith tradition.

I do not do that much anymore because this idea seems to not be a part of the UU concept of what a Christian is. After putting out the effort, I am often politely informed that I am wrong and that Christians could never manage in the UUA. Is this because Unitarian Universalism is so complicated that only the enlightened few can fully understand its subtle ways? It is amazing how often people answer this question in the affirmative. Good grief!

The final reason that I am having trouble getting too into the issue is that I still don't see how the UUA represents a specific, identifiable religion! If it was (whether they were allowed to use God language or not), I probably wouldn't belong. Then when I am shown the door, I would be grateful for clear directions out of town. To me, the UUA will always be a collection of independant congregations fully capable of finding their own language of reverence. When did we start working for the UUA instead of the other way around? I like the challenge that different church cultures provide...

So, anyway, I am comfortable talking about God. People at my church are comfortable talking about God, too (even the athiests!). I hope that everyone gets comfortable because that is how so many choose to frame their spiritual journeys. I say good luck (and thank you) to the conversationalists who care enought to discuss this issue. I am particularly grateful to my friend PaceBang for her continued good works on this subject. Who knows? I just might join you when the weather cools off...