This past weekend my 14-year-old daughter attended a Coming of Age retreat with youth throughout the region. The purpose of the retreat was for the young people to explore their own lives as spiritual journeys, and to spend time reflecting on their personal beliefs, which they will turn into a Credo Statement to be shared with their faith communities in an end of year ceremony. This is an important ritual in Unitarian Universalist faith formation, which signifies the movement from childhood to adulthood. While UU’s recognize that our beliefs evolve and change over time, the credo is a chance to offer public witness to those values and commitments we hold most dear. Credo writing is a practice I believe we should continually revisit throughout our lifetimes.
Just as our own beliefs change over time, so does the wider faith of Unitarian Universalism. Murray Grove retreat center is significant as the historic location where the founder of Universalism, John Murray, first arrived in America and started preaching in 1770. The serendipitous meeting with Thomas Potter- an illiterate farmer who had built a chapel in hopes that an unknown Universalist preacher might come- is one of the most fantastic in UU history. (Read more here: https://www.murraygrove.org/thomas-potter-and-john-murray-story )
Universalism was a theology of hope in a times of doomsday theology. It proclaimed that all people were saved, all sins forgiven, because God’s goodness was limitless, and God’s love too wide to leave any behind. This theology of universal salvation was radical and unique for its time, spurning Calvinist doctrines of predestination and other theologies that proclaimed eternal damnation for the unsaved.
The stream of Universalism that merged into modern-day Unitarian Universalism changed over time, with less attention on human destination in the afterlife, and more focus on the wideness of God’s love here on Earth. Today, many of us still affirm a Universalist theology: That Love knows no bounds. We are saved by Love- not in some eternal paradise, but in the here and now.
As we explore April’s theme of “Salvation”, I encourage you to remember and reflect on our Universalist heritage. What is your theology of salvation? Are you a doomsday believer? Or can we be saved from the threats of violence, destruction, and devastation around us? If so, what might be the source of our salvation? Let us reflect on and explore these questions together.