The UUA as the font of Unitarianism and Universalism?

David — whose new Waking Eutycus blog [2009. blog defunct; was at waking-eutychus.blogspot.com] I neglected to note, given I was in a bit of a slowdown — wrote this in a recent comment:

On another issue, I like to consider the UUA as the only entity that has “apostolic” connection/succession to American Universalism (as well as American Unitarianism). However, (and I hate to resort to this tired complaint) I feel that the UUA has failed in safegaurding and promoting these two traditions (despite the efforts of the UUCF).

I used to feel something like this. Where else would a Unitarian or Universalist Christian go? Better to stay and fight the good fight. I’ve since changed my mind. There’s no real respect for Christianity in the UUA — there is use made of it; I’ll get to this later — and I’m too old to fall for Quixotic battles. There, too, is so little to keep a Christian within the UUA. Given the continuing fast pace of change in the UUA, my old standby “I stay because I became a Christian in the UUA” doesn’t quite work . . . because that doesn’t quite work. I mean, Moses got water out of a rock, but I wouldn’t want to rely on that for my thirst. And see how he came out of that situation.

A friend stays — he’s also a Trinitarian Universalist — because (paraphrasing) the UUA should not be bereft of a part of the body of Christ. Christians, he continue, need to hold the rest accountable for the formal pluralism that’s lifted-up as a virtue in the UUA. I used to agree, and now I ask, “Why not leave?” This argument is the flip-side of the UUA’s “success” based on our unique community.

But I don’t think it is a Christian virtue to be used by other people so they can attain something that Christians can’t. The other option is that Christians remain as a sacrifice for the sake of mission within the UUA, but that strikes me both a conceited and futile. Wrap all of the above up in “stay or go if you want, but don’t manipulate others’ intentions in the process.”

Now, as to “apostolicity.” Universalists and Unitarians, institutionally are unusual in being gathered nationally out of congregations and regional (informal) fellowships that sought to normalize and organize their unusual situation. There was no apostle, save those Christians who through their study and experience Unitarians or Universalist. Indeed, there have been other Unitarian and Universalist “volunteers” over the years and new ones even now. David’s elsewhere mention of the Emerging church is illustrative because the theological opportunity (or spectre) of Universalism is alive and well there.

All of which is a way of saying that one can at least faithfully try to be a Unitarian or Universalist Christian elsewhere, because the prospects of doing it in the UUA are remarkably poor.

Author: Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

22 thoughts on “The UUA as the font of Unitarianism and Universalism?”

  1. I wonder if it isn’t easier for a Trinitarian Universalist to give up and find another home elsewhere than it is for a Channing-Ware-Norton-Hedge Unitarian, much less an Emerson-Parker Transscendentalist.

  2. – The Boy In the Bands largely speaks my mind about the UUA. I’ve also grown exhausted by the constant battle to make a place for myself (as a theological Universalist) in the UUA. Little has changed in the UUA since I first showed upo in 1992. I grow tired of my Christian Universalist faith being treated as…

    (1) the enemy
    or (2) a token to be added to the “diversity collection”
    or (3) as a tool for public relations and evangelism

    That said, I differ with Scott in my approach to a response. My ultimate community is the Christian community, and I say that with a post-denominational understanding of Christianity. And I still feel comfortable serving in that minority of UU churches that are either overtly Christian, or at least Universalist in a way that is appreciative of our Judo-Christian heritage. Those churches are just as poorly served by the UUA, as I am by most mainstream UU congregations. I also feel free to serve in liberal Christian churches outside the UUA. And I presently do serve a Universalist leaning Quaker meeting. I am no longer willing to let denominational sectarianism be the major definer of my ministry. I do the ministry of the Gospel with an ecumenical heart, and not merely the ministry of a single Protestant denomination.

    The UUA is not the sole keeper of Universalism, nor is it the only liberal “show” on the block. As for Channing-esque Unitarians, their choices are more limited. But that kind of non-Trinitarianism does show up amidst FGC-Quakers, and in uncommon non-denominational churches like Fountain Street Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Heck, some FGC-Quakers are Transcendentalists without church music.

  3. Rev. Wells– I think you’re right on the money. It is indeed very hard for a Christian to be a UU (not impossible, but hard). I haven’t worshipped in a UU church since 2003. I’m not as mad about it as I used to be. I’ve moved from anger to sadness. And from sadness to, “well, I gotta move on and do my own thing, God willing.”

    Fausto– I’d say it’s easier for Universalists to go elsewhere because Universalists have always been a mix of Trinitarians and Unitarians. Unitarian Christians, on the other hand, for obvious reasons, don’t have that flexibility (the American Unitarian Conference offers some support in this regard, but it just doesn’t seem right that Christian Unitarians and/or Universalists have to go beyond their own denomination in order to be Christian.)

    Graham– Would they feel more at home among Quakers? I guess it would depend on personal taste, worship-wise. You know, the whole silent meeting for worship thing.

  4. As a former liberal Protestant minister (raised, educated and oradained as a Southern Baptist, but who eventually wound up in the Presbyterian Church USA) and current member of a southern UU congregation, I’ve found it distressing at times how often we’re (myself included) are guilty of Christian bashing both in off-hand comments during worship or overtly in sermons. I’ve seen “hurt” Christians who’ve left their religious tradition of origin come through our doors seeking a safe place to re-connect with the “God” they can’t quite leave behind, and they invariably wind up in another local congregation (usually Episcopalian) because our die-hard humanists can quite understand that appreciation of diversity extends to Christians as well as the Wiccan in our midst. Thankfully, we are gettng better, but I’m afraid that we still aren’t where we need to be. If UU congregations are going to grow in the Bible Belt, we can’t risk alienating liberal Christians. There just aren’t that many humanists/atheists around. And the ones which we do seem to attract at times are those who have relational, emotional or mental difficulties which adversely affect their ability to connect with those in the community of faith. We’ve come a long way, to be sure, but we’ve much further to go.

  5. After four interim ministries and one settled ministry in UU Christian and theologically-mixed churches, I have learned that theology is not really the issue that I thought it to be. Most UU churches are in reaction to the faith in which eighty-five percent of the membership grew up. In most UU contexts, that is the Christian faith. Many of our churches are in extreme reaction to Christianity.

    When I first read George Orwell’s “Animal Farm” as a teenager I learned that extreme reactions usually produce the same conditions as that to which they are reacting. Many of our churches proclaim their theological diversity yet are not really diverse. If they are asked to define such it usually boils down to anything but Christianity–which means that they really are intolerant. Paraphrasing Orwell, “Some animals are more diverse than others.”

    I used to view this issue as a theological one but now see it as related to group psychology and dysfunctional behavior. A friend of mine worked at Bose and she told me that of the thirty engineers in her section, nine were former U.U.s. Note the word “former.” They all found that our churches were tolerant of anything but Christianity–which meant that the “free and responsible search for truth and meaning” was not really free. They learned that their churches proclaimed values that they really did not live and left.

    As someone who had doubts about the Trinity beginning when he was five or six years old, I often wonder whether I would be accepted as a minister in any other faith. Can a Channing Christian exist outside the UU context? And for that matter, can a Channing Christian still exist within a UU context? Other than finding one of those mostly dysfunctional UU Christian churches clinging to a theological vision that died even in liberal Protestantism around 1900, where is there a home for us?

    I suppose that the answer that a leader gives is that our movement is fluid enough to enable one to form the kind of church that one would like to serve. That is, those of us who are agents of change should accept this psychological and behavioral challenge and move forward.

  6. Hey There!

    Man, is it hard to keep up with you guys!

    I have been thinking a great deal about this issue myself and, if I ever get the chance to pull myself together a bit, will post something over at Unity. As I mentioned earlier, I have had a few encounters recently with folks who presume to speak for Unitarian Universalism and yet seem to be unable to either accurately represent their own position or mine. I agree with Scott. The UUA as an instituion hasn’t really given this Christian much air as of late and I do not see it doing so in the future. It seems to be in a period of confused struggle for an identity. This isn’t bad, but I do not necessarily see it going in the same direction I am.

    That having been said, I remain a UU minister and probably will for some time. I am able to do this, in part, because of my congrregation’s dual affiliation with the United Church of Christ. This isn’t only because of the obvious Christian foundation this gives me and my church community, but also, frankly because the UCC is just crawling with Trinitarian Universalists!

    Graham, the UCC is, in many places, rather liturgically and culturally like the UUA and a good place, I think, to find many fellow liberal Christians, both Trinitarian and, to a lesser extent, Unitarian. That, at least, has been my experience.

  7. I’m not at all sure what you UU Christians want in UU churches. In my experience, we don’t talk theology much at all in UU churches. Why would we talk Christian theology if we don’t talk any other theology? The values that we claim (and no one lives all of the values they claim) are essentially similar to (my understanding of) Jesus’ values. If we proclaim Jesus’ values without crediting Jesus as the author — is that what you are objecting to? Or is it form you are complaining about?
    I agree that we don’t have much diversity, but I think it’s because of our distinctly New England flavor.

  8. Dear Arlen,

    Do you *really* mean it when you say, “… our die-hard humanists can’t quite understand that appreciation of diversity extends to Christians as well as the Wiccan in our midst…we can’t risk alienating liberal Christians. There just aren’t that many humanists/atheists around. And the ones which we do seem to attract at times are those who have relational, emotional or mental difficulties which adversely affect their ability to connect with those in the community of faith…”

    I’m asking because it seems such a sweeping and unfair statement about a significant portion of our UU community that I’m wondering if, in the strength of your feeling, you got a little carried away. (It is the kind of thing I’m likely to do myself, so I’m trying to learn to cut other folks some slack!)

    While I do not doubt that there are some people identified as Humanists who have “relational, emotional or mental difficulties,” I think you’d be hard pressed to explain how these difficulties are an expression of their Humanism. And if it is true, as you say, our congregations attract these troubled Humanists, than that really says more about our congregations than it does about Humanism. (And to be clear, I am speaking now of Humanism in the context of modern UU culture. I’m not speaking about or neglecting other, broad, humanist movements which, of course, emcompass Christianity.)

    I imagine that one person’s “die-hard Humanist” might also, and perhaps more fairly, be described as someone with a sincere religious conviction seeking communion with others who share their belief. The real difficulty, to my way of thinking, is that while Christians and religious Humanists tend to orient their religious experience around belief and truth, the high value UU culture places on pluralism and diversity necessarily devalues theological precision and orients religious experience around the practice of an unquestioning acceptance. I think *anyone* who believes *anything* definite is bound *eventually* to feel at odds with UU culture.

    Perhaps the real problem you describe is less the fault of particular Humanists or Christians, than the result of an unrealistic expectation that Christians and Humanists–who, after all, worship very different things in very different ways–should be required to compromise their religious convictions for the sake of a unified UU religious identity.

    Anyway, that’s my perspective as both a religious Humanist and someone with a deep respect for Christianity.

  9. Kim – I object to neither the credit nor the form. What I am concerned about is that the activity of worship and theological deepening is such a difficult issue in UU congregations. I don’t go to church to talk about stuff, or do activities. I could talk about stuff and do social justice activities through my local Kiwanis Club (and they often do those things quite well). I go to church so that in worship I can build my relationship with God. I just find that there is much more to religion than mere ethical values. My values need to be inspired from somewhere, and I find that Jesus largely speaks to my condition. In many UU churches that link is missing.

    Why is it missing? In some cases because we have adopted a theory that ethics universally transcend theology. IN other cases because as Lary wrote we are reacting against our past. In other cases because we are so unsure about our identity.

    -Derek

  10. I have to say that I don’t know anyone who’s really comfortable in the UUA ((personally, I don’t feel comfortable in the wider UU association because of the generally low expectations, the resistance to serious theological conversations, the idolatry of flaming chalice and “7 Principles,” and too much tolerance of clergy sexual misconduct; but I digress…)). To me, the real question is: “Can I feel comfortable within an individual UU congregation?” And too often that answer is, “No.” So many of our club houses for a select few, than like religious insitutions. This attitude is manifested not only in Christian-bashing, but in the tremendous resistance most UU congregations have to numerical growth, in unjustified anti-authoritarianism, and in the resistance to engaging in deep theological reflection. ((And no, your congregation is probably not an exception.))

    Having said that, I believe that in many congregations Christian-bashing and anti-authoritarianism are convenient excuses to avoid numerical growth, and to avoid deep theological reflection and conversation. And sometimes I believe that what’s underlying all that is a deep lack of trust on the part of many individual UUs. That lack of trust is often attributed to the fact that so many UUs are refugees from other religious traditions, and while that may be true I do think other powerful factors contribute to that lack of trust — e.g., the widespread clergy sexual misconduct of the past thirty years (I estimate that between 1/3 and 1/2 of all UU congregations have experienced clergy sexual misconduct in the past 30 years) — and e.g., the fact that many of our congregations have enormous assets (both real estate and endowments) which they protect at all costs so that individual members and friends don’t have to pledge.

    To use terminology from pastoral counseling, I’d like to call on us to look beyond the presenting issues — and see if we can find out what the underlying issues really are.

  11. Oops, typo —

    “So many of our club houses for a select few, than like religious insitutions” should read — “So many of our congregations are more like club houses for a select few, than like religious insitutions.”

  12. Dan -What do you mean by the “idolatry of the flaming chalice and 7 Principles?”

    I have only been a UU for several years, but there are 7 congregations in my general area and they all seem different. I attend a large congregation (typical Sunday services see between 500 and 900 folks), but there are several lay-led fellowships or churches around town. There is another minister-led church that seems to be rather old fashioned (and tiny). Another that doesn’t even have a building.

    I thought the whole point of polity was so that each church or congregation COULD have its own identity. It could be more Christian-centered or pagan-centered or humanistic … depending on what the congregants wanted.

    For this reason, I do not expect every UU church to appeal to me personally in its style of worship.

  13. Kim asks:

    I’m not at all sure what you UU Christians want in UU churches.

    Here’s the kind of church we still have a few of, but I’d like to see many more of, and I’d like to see the UUA aggressively encourage:

    A church that preaches theology and embraces theological discussion, rather than avoiding it.

    A church where “worship” is routinely used as a transitive verb, not only as a noun.

    A church that embraces many different apprehensions of “God”, rather than avoiding or denying the validity of the concept.

    A church where not only is the word “God” as easily spoken as “human”, but also “Jesus” as easily as “God”, “Christ” as easily as “Jesus”, and “Tao” and “Buddha” and “Brahman” as easily as (but no more easily than) “Christ”.

    A church that recognizes and uses the Bible as its paramount source of moral and spiritual insight, rather than neglecting or denigrating it.

    A church that not only discusses theology in the abstract but also affirms “Channing” Unitarianism and/or “Ballou” Universalism at its foundational theological identity and a home base for broader spiritual exploration, rather than as anachronistic historical oddities.

    A church that refuses to searh for spiritual truths either within the Christian tradition alone, or beyond the Christian tradition alone, but that accepts truths from beyond Christianity as accretive and supplemental to its Christian origins and heritage, rather than as superior and contradictory.

    A church that employs both reason and tradition as a test of validity for all new spiritual truths and insights, and employs them rigorously and equitably, rather than valuing vague notions of community and inclusiveness more highly than reason and tradition, or holding Christianity alone to a uniquely demanding, nearly impossible probative standard.

    A church that is not afraid to name the “Humanist” worldview as first pronounced in the 1930s as a half-true, half-false heresy, rather than embracing it as an inviolable bedrock doctrine: half-true in its affirmation of human worth, but half-false in its bitter denial of all prior apprehensions of the Holy throughout the entire course of human experience.

  14. Kim asks:

    I’m not at all sure what you UU Christians want in UU churches.

    Here’s the kind of church we still have a few of, but I’d like to see many more of, and I’d like to see the UUA aggressively encourage:

    A church that preaches theology and embraces theological discussion, rather than avoiding it.

    A church where “worship” is routinely used as a transitive verb, not only as a noun.

    A church that embraces many different apprehensions of “God”, rather than avoiding or denying the validity of the concept.

    A church where not only is the word “God” as easily spoken as “human”, but also “Jesus” as easily as “God”, “Christ” as easily as “Jesus”, and “Tao” and “Buddha” and “Brahman” as easily as (but no more easily than) “Christ”.

    A church that recognizes and uses the Bible as its paramount source of moral and spiritual insight, rather than neglecting or denigrating it.

    A church that not only discusses theology in the abstract but also affirms “Channing” Unitarianism and/or “Ballou” Universalism at its foundational theological identity and a home base for broader spiritual exploration, rather than as anachronistic historical oddities.

    A church that refuses to searh for spiritual truths either within the Christian tradition alone, or beyond the Christian tradition alone, but that accepts truths from beyond Christianity as accretive and supplemental to its Christian origins and heritage, rather than as superior and contradictory.

    A church that employs both reason and tradition as a test of validity for all new spiritual truths and insights, and employs them rigorously and equitably, rather than valuing vague notions of community and inclusiveness more highly than reason and tradition, or holding Christianity alone to a uniquely demanding, nearly impossible probative standard.

    A church that is not afraid to name the “Humanist” worldview as first pronounced in the 1930s as a half-true, half-false heresy, rather than embracing it as an inviolable bedrock doctrine: half-true in its affirmation of human worth, but half-false in its bitter denial of all prior apprehensions of the Holy throughout the entire course of human experience.

  15. One of the ways I keep my UU commitment fresh is by spending as much time as I can with other clergy people, Jewish and Christian. In doing so, I have evidence all the time that MOST religious institutions are social clubs who don’t want to grow and are afraid of deep theological and ethical encounters and that MOST religious institutions have a healthy population of totally dysfunctional people. “Shiite Humanists” (as one colleague calls them) are a definite brand of difficult church people, but they’re no worse or more plentiful than hypocritical holy rollers. I think we just we feel their damage more because our numbers are so tiny.

    That said, UUism’s avoidance of contemporary Christianity as a source for growth and vitality is especially damaging for us because of the reality that without liberal/heretical Christianity, there would have been no Unitarianism and Universalism. We know that at some unconscious level, and by keeping those ancestors in the basement and worshiping only their dusty old portraits, we know on some psychic level that we’re smothering a source of life and strength. I think a lot of the terror among Christian-phobic UUs is what could happen if we really lived up to our own PR as a truly FREE, truly inclusive, spiritual growth-promoting religious movement. No one wants to deal with the passions that would be unleashed if we let each other breathe free without defense and criticism. There wouldn’t be room in our current institutional structure for it, and more than that, there isn’t room in our hunched-over, angry, mutually suspicious denominational culture for it.

    If I leave UUism, I imagine I’d probably leave the church altogether. I had a very content life as an unchurched school teacher, and I could have a content life as an unchurched ex-minister. Why? Because while it’s heart-breaking to serve any human institution that proclaims a commitment to higher values (such as an educational institution), the Church proclaims the highest values of all and consistently and willfully violates them, constantly and eternally, world without end, Amen.

  16. “For this reason, I do not expect every UU church to appeal to me personally in its style of worship. “
    I think there are two different issues here: polity has normally meant that the congregation governs itself, as you state, but the expectation that some have is that there is some religious commonality amongst congregations that have chosen to associate together. As an analogy, we’d expect there to be commonality to some degree between the states that have associated with one another to create the US; we would not expect California to be a monarchy and Montana to be anarchist and Vermont to be a communist dictatorship. At the same time, New Englanders might prefer cuisine that’s different from that most liked by those in the Southwest, but still there is enough in common to keep them in union.

    Theologically, it seems odd to some UUs for congregations that practice Christianity to associate with congregations that don’t believe in God, and with congregations that believe in many gods, and congregations that have no real theological center at all.

    So the perennial question then becomes: what brings all UUs together in association? Many have pointed to social justice activities, but as Derek points out, he could do that at the Kiwanis club. One of the things that lead me to not join the church I was attending recently was a similar sentiment; welcoming people of any and every belief is all good and well, but I can stay home and respect other people’s beliefs; what is it that should give me reason to get up, get dressed, and drive to church on Sunday morning?

  17. “I think anyone who believes anything definite is bound eventually to feel at odds with UU culture.”

    I think you are spot on.

  18. Dan said he didn’t know anyone who is comfortable in the UUA. I am. I like what’s happening, I like Bill Sinkford, though I don’t agree with him completely. I am not entirely comfortable in my current congregation, which is somewhat conservative and clickish(sp?). (I’ve only been there about fifteen years, so I’m still new….). I was raised in a UU congregation that was very humanist. –it was the times….
    I don’t have a problem with Jesus, but i do have a problem with some Christians. The type of Christians I am likely to meet in a UU context are not likely to be the type that annoy me.
    I notice that we talk about each other’s tolerance as if we expect each other to be perfect at it. We criticize each other harshly, and yet, we often are more tolerant than most. We just expect perfection. I would like us to be a little more gentle with each other.

  19. With regard to Dan’s question.

    I’ve belonged to four Churches since 1986. Two were UU, one was UCC, and the other Catholic. While I didn’t convert to Catholicism, the rest of my family were communicants and since I contributed financially, I felt like a member.

    In no case did belief have much influence on my decisions to join or leave any of these four Churches. In every case I received something from each and gave something in return to each. I felt at home in all four. Only in the first UU Church did I see any bashing.

    I worried in our current UU Church that someone might bash the rest of my families’ Catholicism but this has never come to past. I should note while I attended a Catholic Church for a good ten years I never heard any comments about my failure to take communion or join the Church. The Priests and Nuns I spoke with during CCD all came from families with mixed religiouis backgrounds. Religous diversity was something they were used too.

    My wife and I both noticed while going through new UU classes, established members label themselves as humanist-UUs, or Christian UUs, or Pagan UUs. We just never felt compelled to label ourselves like that. We were there for our kids and because we felt good after the Sunday service, and we were both looking for service opportunities to help in the community. We weren’t into labels, would in fact be embrassed to attempt to label ourselves for appearing unthoughtful.

    Which brings me to this point. My experience with Evangelicals while at work years ago in a factory, and later as a volunteer at Cook County Jail was they never asked anyone much about beliefs. They asked if you had accepted Christ as Savior. It wasn’t a question about your head by about your heart. And many times it was what was happening in the heart that was far more important for the people I saw asked the question.

    My grandfather left the Dutch Church for American Congretationalism in the 1920s. I’ve been reading about the Dutch in Chicago though and much of it centers around the myraid small Reformed Churches they established. There was also a small Dutch Unitarian Church that didn’t last long. Here is a quote found in Robert Swierenga’s book Dutch Chicago which describes their demise in the words of a Dutch Reformed minister,

    The Unitarian body attracted a smattering of free thinkers; it was “insignificant and so strangely officered and led as to be a t present of no account,” said Moerdyke in 1891. Three years later he announced its demise with sarcastic glee. “Without a tear or so much as a sigh, we chromicle the ‘poor, dying rats,’ of that Holland Unitarian organization of our city, and, ad far as we can learn, its death. Defunct, at last, yes, so early, to all appearances. Died – of starvation, being without the Bread of Life”.

    For me, it’s not the beliefs that bring comfort and may me at home in any Church. It’s the Bread of Life. If it’s not their, you move on. It’s some spiritual sustance: the good feeling after a service, the connection with another person found in service or whorship together. That’s what really counts.

    Of course, and this touches on Dan’s comment on clerical behavior, it’s a huge help if your church not strangely officered.

  20. As a Unitarian Christian, I agree that we are in a state of limbo – too much belief for the UUA, not enough belief for the mainstream Christian churches.

    I personally feel lost. And it is a deeply unsettling experience to be feeling like this for at least 3 or 4 years now. I feel I cannot attend a Unitarian church or a mainstream church because in each I feel like a fraud.

    My only ‘home’ at present is with little internet groups such as this http://groups.yahoo.com/group/UnitarianChristians/. Even these have been met with hostility by many other Unitarians who see Unitarian Christians as some sort of threat to their diversity and freedom. Often they cite previous bad experiences with Christianity as justification for this prejudice. But would they cast such judgements on other faiths by selecting the actions of the few as representative of the whole? The answer is no, because other faiths aren’t considered ‘fair game’ in the way Christianity is.

    Even when I have found a Unitarian Christian church, they are often archaic and very traditionalist – full of extremely old people and with no real thirst for theological discussion or newer forms of worship. They are happy to simply exist and have no real passion to attract new members. In Britain, many of the Unitarian churches are also extremely old and are protected from modernisation by laws. This means the few Unitarian Christian churches that do exist appear little more than empty museums to a past faith.

    I think the TCPC has the potential to offer the most suitable home for the exiled Unitarian Christian but unfortunately, I live in the UK and the TCPC’s sister group (PCN Britain) have expressed deep reservations about being linked with Unitarians because they feel it will discredit them in the eyes of other Christians.

  21. derek said: I go to church so that in worship I can build my relationship with God.

    How exactly does one do that? What makes one service more “spiritual” than another? How do you build your relationship with God in the same service as atheists and make it work for both of you? what element or elements of the service builds your relationship with God? Lighting candles? Singing? Bible readings? (does content matter?) Children’s stories with morals? Personal reflections? discussions of ethics? moments of silence?
    And how do you deal with the fact (I am presuming this is true) that what is spiritual to one person may not be to another? what works for one doesn’t work for another. whose way takes precedence?

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