Religious Exploration Blog – April 2013

One of my jobs as Director of Family Ministry is to help the congregation develop and instill in our children a Unitarian Universalist identity. This is not an easy task because most of us UU adults are not very good at offering a concise explanation of who and what we are. As said in my homily on Sunday March 24th, I have two stand-by “elevator” speeches: my first is: “Well, if you are Christian, you do not consider us Christian. But if you are Jewish, Muslim, or Hindu, we sure seem Protestant.” My second is: “We are a tradition that lives on a bridge, at the intersection of Catholicism, Protestantism, and Judaism.” That Sunday, our children, after spending time with both the Passover story and the Easter story, built bridges out of popsicle sticks. We live, as a religious tradition, on a bridge. Bridges are not as solid as grass and dirt, nor as fluid as water. On bridge, you are between places. A bridge is about connecting two places. And, as many tourists to San Francisco will tell, bridges can also be beautiful places, something one wants to visit in and of itself. Being on a bridge gives you a different view of the land on which you usually spend most of your time.

Bridges are not easy places on which to build a home. Just ask our parents of young children, who are facing their children’s basic questions of “what do Unitarian Universalist believe?” We want to tell our children something really both concrete and distinctive. But life is complicated. How can we tell them that? Perhaps you feel that ubiquitous message in our culture of “Just pick a place and go there!” But, you see, most of us UUs cannot really choose to leave this bridge. Many people who join a UU community often say “I was UU and never knew it!” Walking into a UU congregation, many feel like it just “fits.” It’s not exactly a choice, per se. It’s not really about your will—for all kinds of reasons, a UU community “just feels” right. We did not build this bridge, this religious tradition: we found ourselves in it. It’s not about “building bridges” (plural), it’s about us, as a people, BEING a bridge. We are a people who live in the intersection, on the border, in the connections. And we come from particular places that led us to this bridge. And so our children will probably continue building popsicle-stick bridges. And because they are creative and smart, they build rafts too—because of course our Unitarian Universalist children intuitively know that there is more than one way to connect two places.