Love is the doctrine of our Church,
The quest for truth is its sacrament,
And service is its prayer,
To dwell together in peace,
To seek knowledge in freedom,
To serve humanity in harmony with the earth,
Thus, do we covenant together.
Thus goes the covenant that is made by the congregation of Horizon Unitarian Universalist Church every Sunday (Yes, even over the summer). It is not particularly restrictive. It is not at all dogmatic. It does not forbid any thought or action. What it does is to frame our mission, to “[Grow] spiritually healthy people who promote love and justice in the world“, in a way that gives the members responsibility to each other and to our community.
Our Doctrine, that which is central to what we believe and teach, is simply love. We want to extend love to every person who will accept it, even if they are not ready to love us back. We believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all people, and we hope to encourage them to recognize it in themselves. We strive to look at each other as family; very different people who have different views, but who are looking out for each other and what we share.
Our Sacrament is the quest for Truth. It is our rite and our grace. The Truth is not handed to us by officiants, as is Communion, but our leaders do question our motives and our presumptions to nudge us along the way. We must seek this blessing for ourselves, though, and that is a crucial difference between us and mainline Christianity. We know that the whole of human experience is meant to lead humanity to its destiny, and we do not simply dismiss anyone’s vision of the divine whole. It is a sacrament that we seek for ourselves, and that we find in each other, whether through reading, admiring artistic works, or through direct experience and conversation. If there is one truth, none of us can seriously expect to find it on our own.
Our prayer, an invocation to the Universe, both in gratitude and to entice change in our world, is service. We seek to be the change we want to see in the world, and we work to repay our good fortunes and alleviate the suffering of others. In committing acts of kindness, we open the pathway to our better selves and that part that is connected to the divine. Our deeds speak louder than any silent words to a formless entity and better direct the universe towards our desired outcomes than an entire stadium full of devotees singing hymns. We act out our prayers, so that there is no doubt that they will be manifest in our communities.
We conclude our recitation with promises to each other; to dwell together in peace, continue to seek knowledge free from undo oppression or oversight, and to work, together and as individuals, to better the human race and the world we live in. We make this our covenant, to each other and to our community, so that our congregation (verb, not now) means something more than just social time.
It matters that we have promises that speak to our commitment to each other, and that there are reciprocal commitments of the community in our lives. Some of them are understated for the purpose of poetry, such as that “live together in peace” entails the worth of dignity in one another or that “seek knowledge” implies a certain amount of skepticism and assisted introspection at times, to keep us each honest. We pledge ourselves to this community, not that it owns us or that we loose our individuality, but that in making room for us, we also internalize the mission and the message and make the community part of ourselves.
I cannot call myself a Unitarian Universalist, because that term has no meaning. There is literally no single viable definition for it, and I have come to realize that this is intentional. It is a hollow label that absolutely anything can be set behind. I cannot wear it, knowing the abuses that will come of it.
But I am a member of Horizon. It is a community that stands for something and that has changed my life. I love these people, and I cherish their shared vision, in all its individual chromatic tints. There are those with rose colored glasses, and dozens of other hues, and they all lend something to the covenant we share. Everyone is taken in, and we strive to give everyone a place to use their talents and their vision to own a part of our community. We do this, always, with a vision in mind and a sense of purpose. We know that, ultimately, every conflict and every reconciliation, every victory and every set-back, every thing that we do together, internally or in the larger community comes back to the promise that Love is the doctrine of our Church. That makes all the difference in the world.