Krista Tippet invited listeners to " ... tell us about a surprising or revealing moment that helped change the way you think about the other." About two years ago, my Universalist Unitarian church congregation undertook a visioning process. We taped the pre-requisite big sheets of paper to the walls. We used magic markers to write down our thoughts and ideas. Our hopes. Our dreams for our community. Standard stuff. Then I saw what Liz wrote: “Stop using the word God.” My heart sank.
In my church, we recite a covenant each week that concludes “… thus do we covenant with each other and with God.” Even though I don't know how to define God, God is important to me. For me, God is, and I want that acknowledged.
I was angry and resentful of what Liz wrote. But mostly, I was afraid. What would I do if the congregation acted on her suggestion? My thoughts jumped to how I might have to leave my church. I was upset, but held my feelings inside–which was good because I quickly realized I didn’t need to go anywhere. If my church “dropped God,” I would simply say the word silently.
By the time the visioning process ended, I had come even farther and realized that more than words, it was the community that mattered, and that we in our own messy way would continue to love and support one another in individual faith journeys no matter what words we used.
My church never acted on Liz’s suggestion. We still covenant with each other and with God, but Liz got my attention. I kept an eye out for her. I was leery of her. Despite my realizations, I wanted to stay clear of her. She was Other.
I would still be standing that ground, if summer hadn’t come along. Kayak-time. I love to kayak, and I am often looking for a companion to join me. A friend told me that Liz had a kayak and was always looking for someone to go with her. Liz? Liz? I didn’t know about that. But the next Sunday I ready to head to the river, and there was Liz drinking coffee after the service. Yes, she’d love to go kayaking that afternoon.
It a lovely day that I will long remember. Not because of the way the sunlight sparkled on the water. Not because of the blue herons slowly rising from the water’s edge, or the kingfishers darting up ahead. And not because of the soft-shelled turtles sunning on water-soaked logs. No, it was because halfway through the paddle, while eating snacks on a little beach, Liz and I talked. Fairly quickly our words came around to religion. I told Liz my understanding of the ultimate reality that I call God. She told me hers. And this I will never forget: We were both saying the same thing.
More information about text formats