A ‘Reboot’ of Our Faith

Often when we ‘reboot’ a computer something realigns and it operates better. Might a periodic ‘reboot’ of our faith tradition be wise? At this service with Rev. Sue Browning we’ll consider how the proposed updates to the Unitarian Universalist principles may serve as just such a ‘reboot’ or our faith.

“Spirit of Life” #123

Welcome Rev. Sue Browning

Prelude “Blackbird” John Lennon and Paul McCartney

Chalice Lighting Sarah Walsh

Opening Hymn “We’ll Build a Land” #121

Covenant of Our Fellowship (in unison)

“At the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship at Easton, we seek to nurture spiritual and intellectual growth for all ages, and to be actively involved in community outreach and service. Cherishing diversity, and celebrating our oneness with all humanity, we covenant to support each other in the spirit of compassion, respect, and love.”

Thoughts for All Ages Sarah Walsh

UUFE Testimonial Ann Davis

Meditation

Joys and Sorrows

Offertory

Reading “Why It’s Time to Revise Again” by Diane Miller

Sermon “A ‘Reboot’ of Our Faith” Rev. Browning

Reflections and Questions Congregation

Board Announcements Margaret Merida

Closing Hymn “For the Earth Forever Turning” #163

Closing Words and Extinguishing Our Chalice

Postlude “Your Song” Elton John

PLEASE JOIN US AFTER SERVICE FOR COFFEE AND FELLOWSHIP

Headphones are available for persons with hearing impairments. Large print hymnals are also available. Please ask the usher for assistance. Note: Please silence your cell phone for the service.

Music: Mark Faber Usher: Ann Davis

Sound: Todd Cranwell Greeters: The Harton Family

Coffee Hosts: Dave Moore and Sally Deren

Reading and Sermon (Rev. Sue Browning, March 10, 2024)

Reading

Our reading today is a summary of an article in UU World titled,  “Why It’s Time to Revise Again’ by Elaine McCardle, April 3, 2023. The article offers reflections from Rev. Diane Miller on the last major changes to the UU principles.

In 1981, Rev. Diane Miller would have been in her early 30s, and was asked to join a committee to examine the Unitarian Universalist Association Principles and Purposes as stated in Article II of the bylaws. In the the interview, Rev. Miller recalls: 

“I was appointed as a young, feminist minister, given that much of the impetus for change had come from women seeking more inclusive language and perspectives … There was enough groundswell of people who wanted to change the language around feminism, for one thing, but there were many other reasons. People were ready for some different expressions in there.”

In 1982 Rev. Miller spoke before the General Assembly about the changes. In 1984 delegates overwhelmingly voted in favor of the new bylaws which came to include Seven Principles and Six Sources … that have remained largely unchanged for four decades. 

About the current (2023) proposal, Rev. Miller, now in her 70s, shares:

“Times change! We have changed! … The principles were not given on tablets on a mountaintop. They emerged from a small group of dedicated UUs in living memory, with tremendous input from UU church members, church leaders, congregational meetings, and clergy … How glad I am to see these core statements and values being widely examined once again!”

As she looks back at the objections UUs voiced to changes forty years ago … she notes they are strikingly similar.

“We heard just about exactly the arguments you are hearing now … People said, ‘Our present statement has served us well for twenty years, so why tamper now?’ … that bylaw revision shouldn’t be a top priority … it would create divisiveness and confusion … ”

Rev. Miller urges UUs to see the current process as a remarkable opportunity for UUs to shape their faith by discussing what it means to be a UU.

“The thing I loved about the process was the actual engagement with theological questions and issues. I loved it and loved that we were doing it as a group, as an Association, not only as a committee group but with the whole movement being asked, ‘What is our faith today?’

Sermon    “A ‘Reboot’ of Our Faith” (Rev. Browning)

In a few minutes we will talk about our UU faith tradition and changes to the principles. Before we do that, I’d like to reflect on the ways we need to ‘reboot’ our own lives from time to time.

Last weekend I was with students from the congregation – ages 10-15 – as we prepared a lasagne dinner for the Talbot Interfaith Shelter.

At a break, I told them I needed assistance with my sermon for today. I explained I’d titled today’s sermon, ‘A Reboot of Our Faith. I asked if they could they tell me what actually happens when I reboot my computer.

The conversation was quick.

Did I mean restart or reboot? Shutdown or put it to sleep? Did I have an Apple or PC. (And then a side conversation on Ctl Alt Del.) After a few clarifications, the students explained:

“Rebooting would shut down all the open Tabs – the applications… It would clear out memory… It would help with viruses… It would reset the whole thing – rehook to other devices… gaming systems would work better and faster… Internet would be better.

These were the responses from 10 year-olds. Their elders, the 14 and 15 year olds, weighed in with a few more details.  

It was a Friday night and we talked of ways they reboot. Basketball, soccer, an upcoming sleepover. Reboot made sense to them.

Wikipedia describes “Rebooting” this way. “Powering off and cycling back on ensures that all memory, CPU, registers, hard drive, video boards, audio and network devices internally to the machine are restored to a startup state that provides optimum availability of resources as needed when you call upon them. This is something you do not need to do everyday, but should be done every so often.”

When we do reboot our computer, we turn it off with intent – carefully. With the right buttons clicked we invite it to shut down so all the resets can happen. We’re going for an optimum availability of resources. (Slamming it shut in frustration is not an effective reboot.)

Done well, a ‘reboot’ does not erase the fundamentals of the computer. The files remain. The programs you use remain. Mostly you stayed signed into your beloved applications, though at times we need to re-scramble for a lost password. A ‘reboot’ is not risk free.

Ideally, the screens won’t look all that different when the computer restarts. It’s more the cobwebs of the cyber world are cleared out. 

Just the need to reboot a computer at all is a reminder that even computers aren’t smart enough, or self-aware enough, to keep the myriad systems and application operating all at once in an optimal way. Layers build-up of conflicting and competing goals – of email, Facebook, news apps, searches on medical symptoms and recipes and travel, and the latest Turbo tax can clog it up.  

If computers can’t keep it straight, how do we keep our barrage of information, obligations, and life challenges aligned?

How are you doing in the barrage of everything? When might a ‘reboot’ of a human sorts help? What does that even look like? Feel like? Where do you even start?

Computers align back to core settings. If you were to do a reboot, what is it you would align with?

As a start, we need to align with the realities of 2024 – we’d look forward a bit to 2025, maybe. There’s no use realigning with anything but the present. Our lives, families, physical bodies, or politics of the 1980s isn’t a useful anchoring point for alignment. Informative maybe. Aspirational maybe.

A reboot starts with taking stock.  It’s about examining which of our core values best serve as a guideposts at this time.

Eventually there is a need to prioritize, but it’s not where we start. The image of a reboot reminds us we need to first clear the decks enough to breathe. To see. To reflect. There is a making room; a gentle letting go of what can’t continue – or might not be best to continue – or that needs its own reframing to align with current times.

We know this helps us personally.

For our faith, our earlier words from Rev. Diane Miller remind us that at its core our UU faith must align with the world as it is. For our faith to serve us and the world, we need a periodic reboot to see what it is we share, and to reflect on why.

Forty years since the last formal UU reboot is a long time.

The principles agreed to by UUs in 1984 helped us articulate the crux of our faith. The words selected then – tweaked just a tiny bit in 40 years – have been durable. They were well crafted and meaningful. No one will take them away.

But take a moment to recall life 40 years ago. Around this time – say 1983/1984 – the Washington Redskins won the Superbowl (so much in that sentence). Karen Carpenter died. People smoked in offices. The Cold War was still intense. The TV show MASH ended. The first mandatory seat belt law had yet to be passed. (The earliest states requiring the use of seat belts adopted rules in 1985.)

Forty years is a long time. A few here were in pre-school or elementary school. Some were not yet born.

Another arrival to our midst about 40 years ago was the Windows operating systems. Not too far off the time our UU principles were adopted.

I can’t help but recall that a first major joint purchase for me and Bill was a new PC in 1986 – maybe $4000 – with all programs on floppy disks. We saw no need for a hard drive. And we used our one-time life purchase 20% discount (offered by my company) to buy this forever computer. Like pots and pans, we planned on a lifetime with that computer.

We didn’t know then what we didn’t know. Not about computers of the future. Not about our faith of the future. And still we lived forward.

The principles and sources adopted 40 years ago were done well, and were never intended to become permanent.

The world has changed. Not only technology in the last 40 years, but our sense of a multicultural world…our awareness of harms done by the aspiration of lived values of white people of European background who aligned with a view of progress and often forgot the full accountability it takes to live in equity.

As the world shifts, our faith shifts. It’s a Unitarian Universalists practice to routinely reassess our core purpose – our principles.

It’s our way. We don’t have a creed.

And I want to share, I cringe each time UUs describe ourselves as ‘non credal’ – not because it is untrue (though we’re not the only ones) or because being non credal is bad. It is a fit for us, AND I know many whose faith relies on adopted creeds, who also have ways to stay current and aligned, just in another ways.

It may look different – may not fit for you – but many others have a way of adapting. 

Think about traditions which have shared creed or other tenet that is a deep part of the foundation – say the Nicene Creed. Or think about the Bible. Or think about the role of the 10 commandments. Some traditions – traditions that I respect and learn deeply from – find grounding in specific agreed to words.

There is a virtual permanence … “We believe in one God, father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and of all seen and unseen…” … “Honor your father and mother…”… “Thou shall not murder”

These traditions center specific cornerstone teachings as they create centers for belonging. They align by asking each week, ‘How is my faith sustaining me in my life today?’

In these traditions, the core tenets can act as invitations for reflection; as reminders – as jumping off points to see how the various ancient teachings shine light on challenges of today and to consider how the stories of leaders may offer helpful direction, or be reminders of where not to head.

Human’s hunger for certainty and control is broad. We want to sense what is constant and consistent that we can turn to reliably. For example, at UUFE we have long shared out covenant we say together as a part of worship. Not necessarily as permanent, but as grounding – as shared.

As a denomination, UUs have principles, first identified in 1961 at the Unitarian and Universalist merger as the purpose in our bylaws. The principles were overhauled substantially in the 1984 change. We have these 1984 principles on our walls. We have them on bookmarks. We teach them to children.

We know they are not a creed per se, and yet we rely on them to explain our shared experiences. We appreciate the consistent message. We love our principles, which has had many wondering – what is there to re-examine? Why now?

I’ve talked, and guest ministers have talked, about the update of the principles, the reboot. I say rebooting because the essence of what is there now does move forward and we need to align with the world of today.

The work in the early 1980s created language that continues to matter dearly, and that holds us together, and we have the chance to better align. We do the updates of our principles seriously – reverently.

The new proposal – we’ve described before – has 6 values all centered around the value of Love. (Hold up handout.) None are above or below the other. The values…

Interdependence

Equity

Justice

Pluralism

Transformation

Generosity

The new purpose is in the form of value statements, and has emerged from a long process. Each are defined. Each reflects the charge given to a commission several years ago.

Excerpts from the report:The Article II Study Commission is hereby charged to review Article II and propose any revisions that will enable our UUA, our member congregations… to be a relevant and powerful force for spiritual and moral growth, healing, and justice. The Board believes that one core theological value, shared widely among UUs, is love.The new Principles and Purposes should guide us in the transformation of ourselves, our communities, and our faith into active networks of collective care, restoration, and justice. … Our commitment to anti-racism, anti-oppression, and multiculturalism is love in action, and should be centered in any revision of Article II.Move us from personal needs to collective needs.”

I was a part of the GA vote this past June 2023 that recommended moving the changed to a final phase. As noted in the report, the recommendation was made after “the Commission engaged in 45 feedback sessions, with 4,611 total participants. Their videos reached 7,765 viewers, and their 29 surveys generated a total of 10,925 responses.”

As we’ve discussed the vote was about 80% last summer in favor of moving forward with changes. Among those not supporting the change, some resist the accountability in the new language, some just like the old model, and some question, ‘why now?’

In a few minutes we’ll pass the mike and take a few minutes to hear your questions.

Where is your heart around the last three years of efforts to retool our faith? What do you see the new values statements do to align our faith with our personal needs? The realities of the world? What are your questions about the impact of the change to the purposes on UUFE?

(Shared discussion time.)

This congregation will have the privilege to send delegates to the annual conference to represent the congregation and vote. By send, I mean to sign up for this year’s General Assembly which will be 100% virtual and to vote the conscience of this congregation on the revision of the purposes. (If you are interested in representing UUFE, please check in with the Board.)

Whether a reboot of a life or a roboot of a faith, change is hard. Rev. Miller offers good advice.

“I would say, loosen up, enjoy it! Relish the fact you get to have a part in this process of a new direction and see if that is something you could live by. They [the commission] have done lovely work … I’m very excited.”

The goal is to align with the world as it is. It’s how together we imagine what might be.

It’s how we journey together in love.

May It Be So

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