by Cheryl Sadowski, Lay Minister for Adult Spiritual Development.
Do you remember the joy of kaleidoscopes? – the long tubes pointing to a tapestry of light and color that organizes and reorganizes itself into a new picture with each twist of your hand? When you twist a kaleidoscope all the way around, you occasionally return to the very image at which you began, though really it isn’t quite the same. After all, prisms reflect and channel light, and light changes from one moment to the next.
My own spiritual experience feels much like a kaleidoscope, having wound my way from a ritualized, cultural Catholic upbringing through threads of Buddhism, Taoism and naturalism, and ultimately through the welcoming doors of Unitarian Universalism. It’s under the sturdy, generous umbrella of this liberal faith tradition where I am most inspired by the collective deep and abiding interest in the world.
Each person’s search for truth and meaning is, by its nature, individual and wholly authentic. But what of responsibility in this search? I take that as respect for individuality amid accountability to the faith community and betterment of all – a necessary and productive tension if we are to at all effective in our work.
It’s interesting how little need there is for orthodoxy or spiritual certainty in our dealings with one another, or out in the world; I’m not convinced these things matter, or that they help. In the human realm where planes need to fly, bridges must stand and diseases be cured, I regularly place my faith in the certainty of pilots, engineers and doctors. But in matters of the human heart and how I want to be in relationship to the world, it is uncertainty that often leads to more exciting and tectonic places, where real change and growth occur.
In her Ware Lecture at the 2014 Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, Sister Simone Campbell of the “Nuns on the Bus” movement described uncertainty as a critical part of her spirituality: “I describe my spirituality as walking willing. Walking willing to wherever we are led.”
Walking willing isn’t easy, it requires innate curiosity, wonder and trust: Curiosity for the world beyond your own experience; wonder at the visible, the invisible and for the vastness of human compassion and cruelty; and trust that you will in some way be favorably changed by your journey.
Walking willing is a mantra for seekers.
From the ancient time of Arius through Servetus and Socitus of the early Renaissance to the split from Puritan Congregationalism to visionary and subversive thinkers like Lucy Stone, William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson – Unitarian Universalists have always been seekers – walking willing to challenge systems, decry bigotry and injustice, amplify the voices of the poor and oppressed, and give voice to the natural world, which cries out loudly, though not in the language of man.
We seek because we want to make this world, not another, a better place for all through acts of love and justice.
Our Fairfax congregation offers so much rich fodder for your spiritual journey – adult education classes of every variety, small-group communities, retreats and opportunities to work alongside one another, sermons that inspire and activate. I hope you are taking advantage of a few or many of these opportunities to find your path.
As Buddhists are apt to remind us, the picture in the kaleidoscope is always changing. No sooner do we redress some inequalities, injustices or environmental tragedies than do new ones arise. Yet we are always seeking, growing, wondrous at the promising new tapestries we are able to envision and create, as individuals and with one another.
What a wonderful way to be in the world.