The Power of Feelings

There’s been a trend in much of United States more liberal or “emotionally-tuned” in culture to lift up and celebrate the importance of feelings. The standard line goes something like this: “There’s no such thing as an invalid feeling. All feelings are valid.” The reason for this pushback, of course, is that there has been a tendency in our culture to invalidate people’s feelings, to ignore them, pretend they aren’t there, or actively require people to invalidate them. And the pushback is good; invalidating and ignoring our feelings is absolutely unhealthy. Feeling, naming, and being present to our feelings, and the having the ability and a safe space to share our feelings with others – all of these are an important part of a healthy human experience. I’m not so sure about the second part of that statement though, “All feelings are valid.” I’m not so sure, for example, that shame is a “valid” feeling – at least not one that should be honored and accepted just the way it is. Shame, of course, is feeling bad about who are as a human being, that there is something wrong with the essence of you. Guilt on the other hand is feeling bad about a behavior or a choice we’ve made. It’s the difference between saying to a misbehaving canine, “bad dog” and “no, don’t do that.” Or in human terms, between saying “I’m stupid, I’m such an idiot,” versus “I made a mistake.” Shame addresses the essence of who we are,
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What Does It Mean to Belong?

Belonging means to be accepted some place for who you are, whereas fitting in means you have to change who you are in some way to be accepted. In a sense then, belonging is the feeling we get when we are the recipients of unconditional love – when we are loved just for who we are. That belonging feeling can also happen under other conditions though, such as when we’re in a gathering or community that values us for just the way we are. Whether it’s through unconditional love, an accepting community or some other way, feeling like we belong is a powerful experience. My hometown Unitarian Universalist congregation was probably the place where I felt like I most belonged when I was a kid. I would roam the halls before and after the service, playing with my church best friend, the Director of Religious Education’s daughter, Megan McDonald. Church was a safe place, a place where I could be myself, a place where I was unconditionally loved and supported by an amazing community. Which is a good thing, because I sure didn’t feel like I belonged at school. And I even had a hard time feeling like I belonged as a young adult, after college. I had a great group of friends when I lived in Philadelphia, and I certainly belonged with them to a large degree. And I was a member of and belonged to the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia when I lived there. But the place where
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We Must Fight

The aftermath of November 8th is still ringing through our lives – it’s still ringing through my heart – and so I sit here wondering: how did this happen? What, dear god, is going happen to people of color, Muslims, Jews, women, the LGBTQ community, and so many other minority populations now that we've effectively given permission to hate groups to be part of the mainstream? And what do we do now? While we'll be analyzing and debating the "how?' question for a while, the "what do we need to do now?" question is in some ways easier, at least in the big picture. While specifics have yet to come into focus, the overall needed response is crystal clear: we must fight. We must fight for what is right. We must fight to protect the rights and safety of all in our country. We must fight for justice. Now, if you’re aware that our theme for September is Peace, and that I’m supposedly writing this article on that topic, you might be wondering how fighting is compatible with peace. For that, we’ll turn to the great Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who wrote (in our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition, #584):
We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. There are some things in our social system to which all of us ought to be maladjusted. Hatred and bitterness can never cure the disease of fear, only love
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Happy Thanksgiving!

As we prepare to spend time with friends, family and loved ones over the long weekend, this brief reflection from Unitarian Universalist minister Rev. David Schwartz reminds us to ask - who is freedom for?  During this season of gratitude and thanksgiving, his words of wisdom about the nature of the Thanksgiving holiday offer some powerful "food for thought," if you would.   Enjoy your weekend!

"Who Is Freedom For?" by Rev. David Schwartz

We gather at Thanksgiving, in some sense, to retell the creation myth of our country. In this myth is our very best and our very worst: a boldness; a care for the common good; a wish to say we before I. Yet from even before the first Thanksgiving feast, it’s a story of theft and violence, and a ruthlessly narrow definition of who “we” really means. The colonists had come seeking freedom, and in that we identify with them. But it was freedom only for themselves. In every generation forward, from that day to this, the people living in this land that became America struggled always with the question: Who is freedom for? Black persons were taken from their native Africa to become slaves. Immigration laws were written explicitly to prohibit non-Western Europeans. Women could not vote even a century ago. In many states right now, gays and lesbians can be legally fired or evicted merely for not being straight. Refugees knock and, in response, voices call to bar the door. The Universalist minister Clarence Skinner wrote, a century ago: "The fight for freedom is never
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Would You Pass the Marshmallow Test?

The experiment is simple.  Leave a five year-old in a room with a marshmallow sitting on the table in front of him or her, with the following instructions: “I’m going to leave the room for fifteen minutes.  If you eat the marshmallow while I’m gone, that’s the only marshmallow you’ll get.  If you can wait the whole fifteen minutes, and don’t eat the marshmallow until I get back, you’ll get a second marshmallow.”  While this sounds quaint, and perhaps even a little trite, this experiment was indeed run in a highly scientific manner by Stanford professor Walter Mischel in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  The focus of the experiment, of course, is to measure individual children’s ability to employ delayed gratification, and the long-term follow up was to see how predictive their behavior was of long-term success in life.  The results were startling. A person’s five year-old response to the experiment, the level of delayed gratification they were able to demonstrate even back then, was a higher predictor of future success in life than any other measure, including IQ tests, SAT test, and anything else.  For all the fancy results and analysis those and other tests provide us, they are less predictive of success in life than whether your five year-old self can successfully delay gratification long enough to get the second marshmallow. This experiment, and others like it, speak to the power and importance of emotional intelligence.  For a very long time in our country, our focus was strictly intellectual
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Linda Gregory

"I believe we come to church to be a service to others. Yes, we'll benefit personally, but what a joy we may be to others we encounter, just be being there and making them feel welcome and a part of our UU community."
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Our Beliefs

We are an intentionally diverse religious community, welcoming all people without regard to age, race, national origin, ableness, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We embrace freedom of belief for those beliefs that are unknowable and unprovable, with our members holding a variety of beliefs about the existence  of God, what happens to us after we die, and beliefs of that kind. We share beliefs about how to live together on this planet:
  • We believe in living our lives with love, compassion and kindness.
  • We are inclusive, we seek justice, we promote equal rights and equal treatment for all.
  • We honor individual autonomy while recognizing the interdependent nature of existence.
We are actively engaged in a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Seven Principles

As Unitarian Universalists, we affirm and promote these Seven Principles:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
We invite you to explore these Principles in more depth at the UUA web site.

Exploring Faith

We define faith as the process of finding and making meaning out of our lives and the world, understanding that we all find and make meaning in different ways.  Our fourth principle calls us to “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning,” and we intentionally draw upon a diverse body of wisdom, as we explore our Six Sources.  As we continue ever forward on our spiritual, ethical and religious journeys, the Sources ask us to examine the wisdom of the world religions, results of science, personal experience of life’s mystery, and the words and deeds of those who exemplify compassion, justice, and the transforming power of love. We embrace the use of reason on our free and responsible search for truth and meaning.  Unitarian minister Ralph Waldo Emerson said of preaching that a minister should share of his life – “life passed through the fire of thought.”  The same can be said of the Unitarian Universalist journey as whole; ours is an examined faith, one that includes many doubts and questions and a commitment to growth and learning on the journey. We don’t view faith and reason as opposites, but instead consider them as complementing and supporting one another.  Similarly, while acknowledgment of and respect for each individual’s beliefs is of high importance to us, we also recognize and value the power and importance of religious community.  New thoughts, ideas and perspectives shared between us help each of us to deeper understanding.  Indeed, our time together is enriched
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Practicing Inclusivity

Our church welcomes all people without regard to age, race, national origin, ableness, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity. We welcome people of diverse theological perspectives, including atheists, agnostics, theists, and polytheists.  We welcome those who identify as Pagan, secular humanist, Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Hindu, religious humanist, Muslim, Jewish, and more.  We draw the line at theologies that encourage violence, harm or oppression towards other people – we believe each individual’s right to safety, security and happiness trumps other people’s right to beliefs of their choice. When we say we practice inclusivity, we mean it.  We do our best to welcome everybody, and, we are also aware we are imperfect.  When we recognize that we are falling short, we do our best to change our attitudes and behaviors.  It is for this reason that our national organization, the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), created the Welcoming Congregation program.   Unitarian Universalist congregations were saying we were welcoming to the LGBTQ community, but unfortunately folks who were attending found us falling short of our of ideals, despite our professed support.  The UUA thus created a program to help each congregation who elected to participate do a better job of actually living into the verbal proclamations we were making, and become more truly welcoming to the LGBTQ community.  Our church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Muncie, is proud to have completed this program and officially be a Welcoming Congregation since 2003. You are welcome here.
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