Jun. 25, 2018.

By Outgoing Lay Minister for Caring & Wellness Linda Zack.

I was raised Catholic and as such, I embraced many of the teachings I learned as a child and found truth in them. Yet, as I grew older, I felt more and more there was something missing. Was it really “wrong” if others didn’t believe as I did? What about people practicing other religions, or no religion at all? Were they forever damned? What about people not allowed to take communion in a Catholic Church? Why are they excluded from a vital part of the faith?

I did have good spiritual experiences with the Catholic Church, and the first meditation I ever did was with a Catholic spiritual director. As I broadened my spiritual horizons and became more interested in meditation, a friend suggested we go on retreat to Yogaville (the Satchidananda Ashram) south of Charlottesville, VA. At the retreat, I visited their large interfaith shrine, which includes altars for major faiths, faiths less well-known and faiths not yet known. Swami Satchidananda says, “What is it that we should see if we really want a peaceful co-existence? We should see the one unifying factor, the Spirit. If we see the Spirit in us, we realize that we are all one. … Ultimately, we all aim for the same truth while walking on different paths. It is time to understand each other better and to live as one global family.”

The reason I am a Unitarian Universalist today is because our faith is about inclusion. It encompasses atheists, agnostics, people who believe in God and people who are exploring the idea of a higher power. It encompasses people of all sexual orientations and gender identities. Our children are taught about different faith traditions and values, and then allowed to think for themselves. Our Coming of Age program (what other churches might call “confirmation”) is a time when we ask young people what they believe; we don’t tell them.

Our inclusion is what creates our Beloved Community. We can share the truth about our beliefs and about our lives. We come together to support each other through experiences of loss, pain, joy and exploration. Over the past 5 years, working with our Pastoral Care Committee and Caring Network, I have had the privilege of witnessing how congregants care for each other in times of stress and need. Congregants are quick to sign up to bring a meal, provide a ride, lend a listening ear and let their fellow human beings know they are not alone.

We UUs tend to be an independent lot and sometimes we don’t expect help in our times of need, or perhaps even feel entitled to it. Maybe we’re not sure if we even want help. The Caring ministry at UUCF provides a safety net in times of life’s challenges and includes phone calls, cards, practical care and home visits. Ministers are supplemented by a cadre of trained Pastoral Care Associates along with a Caring Network of volunteers who coordinate and provide meals, rides and respite care.

In these trying times, when compassion is hard to find at the highest levels of our society, our Beloved Community is a way to connect deeply with others and experience true compassion for one another. May we support each other, and allow ourselves to be supported, in all that life brings.