#14 | Matthew Johnson | Direct Experiences

Submission 14
Matthew Johnson
The Unitarian Universalist Church (Rockford, IL) 3414

What is your suggestion or idea?

As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder are a primary source of inspiration. These experiences open our hearts, renew our spirits, and transform our lives. We use, and are inspired by, sacred and secular understandings that help us to make meaning of these experiences and to live into our values. We respect the histories, contexts, and cultures in which they these understandings were created and are currently practiced. These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Grateful for the experiences that move us, the religious ancestries we inherit, and the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.

What is the reason for your amendment idea?

This amendment puts direct experience of mystery and wonder where it belongs: as a core inspiration in our liberal faith. This is the distinguishing characteristic of our tradition and its inclusion is essential. These direct experiences have their own power, and are testified to by the “sacred and secular” understandings. We have woven the importance of direct experiences throughout this paragraph.

Have you discussed this idea with your congregation or other UUs?

This language is the collaborative work of a group of Unitarian Universalist ministers, including myself, and the Revs. Sara Smalley, Sadie Lansdale, Cynthia Landrum, Heather Petit, AJ van Tine, Nancy Palmer Jones, David Schwartz, Ariel Aaronson-Eves, Omega Burckhardt, Sara LaWall, and Sarah Stewart. We spent time discussing, editing, shaping language, and were, frankly, inspired by the conversion together. I shared this draft to the UUMA Colleagues Facebook group where the new parts of this language were met with strong support and enthusiasm. UU Christians, Pagans, Religious Naturalists, and others offered their particular support for the language as important to their faith.

I also preached about this language to my congregation, who strongly supported its (re)inclusion.

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Yes! Came in here to say if he didn’t list us, I was one who agreed! Thank you for leading this effort, Matthew!

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I love that you lead with "direct experience . . "! There are a couple of changes I would make, though. I prefer “draw upon” to “use,” and I really hope we can find a more inspiring word than “understandings.” “Wisdom” works for me. Followed by: “We respect the histories, contexts and cultures in which this wisdom evolved as well as current practices of diverse religious and secular communities.”

I find I am also missing the inspiring words and deeds of prophetic people, although I might prefer to call them “visionary.” I’d be happy to have them included in the Inspirations section.

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Very much agree with Corky. Perhaps this version (additions/changes to Matthew Johnson’s original post are in italics) includes all those elements:

As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder are a primary source of inspiration. These experiences open our hearts, renew our spirits, and transform our lives. We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred and secular wisdom (remove: understandings) that help us to make meaning of these experiences and to live into our values. We respect the histories, contexts, and cultures in which this wisdom evolved, as well as current practices of diverse religious and secular communities (remove: they these understandings were created and are currently practiced). The words and deeds of visionary people also inspire us. These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Grateful for the experiences that move us, the religious ancestries we inherit, and the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.

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Very much agree with Corky. Perhaps this version (additions/changes to Matthew Johnson’s original post are in italics) includes all those elements:

As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder are a primary source of inspiration. These experiences open our hearts, renew our spirits, and transform our lives. We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred and secular wisdom (remove: understandings) that help us to make meaning of these experiences and to live into our values. We respect the histories, contexts, and cultures in which this wisdom evolved, as well as current practices of diverse religious and secular communities (remove: they these understandings were created and are currently practiced). The words and deeds of visionary people also inspire us. These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Grateful for the experiences that move us, the religious ancestries we inherit, and the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.

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Great suggestion, Marianne. It’s very similar to one I’ve been working on. If I had the opportunity to vote on this as a delegate, I would vote an enthusiastic “yes.”

What a beautiful reimaginging of this section. It is very meaningful to me as a Buddhist UU.

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I really appreciate the centering of direct experience in this section. Direct experience brought me to being UU. As a theist UU, I’d also like to include a more specific mention of religious traditions, akin to what was proposed in suggestion #147. It also incorporates humanistic and artistic lenses. Perhaps these two suggestions could be blended into one?

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I can get behind this!! I wonder if we can also bring in science - I think of the awe I have for the chrysalis or the sky filled with stars - which I know might be encompassed in direct experience. But I’m also awed by DNA and things I can’t experience. Maybe just add this: We use, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings that help us to make meaning of these experiences and to live into our values.

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I love the centering of wonder but what about also centering wisdom and grounding? what do y’all think about our suggestion here #290 | Jennifer Courtwright | Proposal is too Generic to be Meaningful - #2 by courtwrightj01 and would folks on this thread be interested in collaborating on an amendment?

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@uurockrev I will be attending the discussion sessions on May 11th and 21st if you are interested in collaborating

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Of the 10 suggestions (just starting my review of the hundreds of suggestions), on different parts of Article II, this one strikes me as having strong resonance. I wish the coalition that gets behind what could be an amendment effort success.

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Seems to me it would be useful to think more about the original title of this section - Sources. This suggests that the focus should be on what activities give rise to the peak experiences of religion, like transcending mystery and wonder: Practices like meditation, contemplative walks in nature, inspirational readings, a wide variety of artistic expression, etc. Also, what we’re really talking about is a deep humility - an appreciation of the vastness and complexity of the universe, and also about a deep gratitude - that we are alive and able not just to be part of it but also to be able to penetrate at least part way into its complexity.

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@uurockrev, following up on the Amendment discussion tonight in Breakout #2, how about a modification of Alice’s on the one sentence/phrase we were discussing tonight ("of these experiences):

" We use, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings that help us make meaning (of these experiences and** to) as we live into our values."

That is, DELETE “of these experiences and to”

Great amendment!

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Thanks for capturing this!

After friendly suggestions at the workshop, here is the new cleaned up version:

As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of transcending mystery and wonder are a primary source of inspiration. These experiences open our hearts, renew our spirits, and transform our lives. We draw upon, and are inspired by, sacred, secular, and scientific understandings that help us make meaning and live into our values. We respect the histories, contexts, and cultures in which they these understandings were created and are currently practiced. These sources ground us and sustain us in ordinary, difficult, and joyous times. Aware of the religious ancestries we inherit and grateful for the experiences that move us and the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.

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@uurockrev

Hi Matthew, I appreciated your facilitation skills in Workshop #1. I just wanted to put some of my feedback into writing.

I like your amendment, but I want to make sure I at least ask you to consider the 2 issues that my congregation is concerned about.

Here is my first suggestion:

“As Unitarian Universalists, we proclaim that direct experiences of LIFE AND transcending mystery [DELETE] ARE [DELETE] primary sourceS of inspiration.

My reason for this suggestion is that I think it helps include some people who have direct experience of the wonder of life and find that in itself inspiring - without necessarily feeling they have had a direct experience of “transcending mystery.” Since these are now essentially 2 different direct experiences being listed, I changed the singular “source” to “sourceS.”

And here is a second suggestion:

“Grateful for the experiences that move us , [DELETED] OUR SPIRITUAL ANCESTRIES, and the diversity which enriches our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.”

My reason for this suggestion is that some in my congregation don’t like the idea of being grateful for the religion they inherited. I thought softening it to “spiritual” instead of “religious” would help. And maybe there is no need for the words “we inherit,” since that meaning is implied in the word “ancestries.” Also there may be people who have no religion they inherited, but do have a personal history of various spiritualities. So for example, maybe my parents were atheists, but I have explored a number of different spiritual traditions over the course of my life. In a sense those are my spiritual ancestries, but I did not inherit them from anyone.

Thanks for your consideration.

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@uurockrev On the quoted phrase, is this an editing issue? Or is it a refined expression? — “in which THEY THESE understandings…”

It could mean … “in which these understandings…”
Or
It could mean … “in which they, these understandings…”

Or?

Thank you, I sure will vote for this and yep, I’m a delegate.

Bek Wheeler, Newport News, VA (UU Fellowship of the Peninsula)

Yeah, that’s a typo. The “they” will be deleted. Thanks!

@uurockrev
Although the last sentence meets includes ideas to satisfy my congregation, I find the wording a little awkward.

I’m not sure I have a solution, but here’s one idea:

“Grateful for the experiences that move us, aware of the religious ancestries we inherit, and enriched by the diversity of our faith, we are called to ever deepen and expand our wisdom.”

What do you think?

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