“The central task of the religious community is to unveil the bonds that bind each to all.”
—Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed, UU minister and author
Worship in Unitarian Universalist Congregations
by Mark Belletini (adapted)
Unitarian Universalists worship in a variety of settings-from a Gothic nave to a large living room, from a nineteenth-century meeting house to a rented school auditorium. It stands to reason then that no one style of worship has universal appeal among us. Some worship services are formal, with a sense of decorum and a devotional atmosphere. Other services are marked by applause, a pulpit-pew dialogue, and familiar banter.
Local culture, a particular minister or lay worship team, inherited traditions-even geography-contribute to the style of Unitarian Universalist worship.
Whatever the style, Unitarian Universalist services are rooted in our living tradition, which invites the individual to worship within the community. The community remains the locus of the Holy. In the Hebrew scriptures, Moses and Miriam do not come out of captivity alone, but with the whole assembly of Israel. In the Buddhist tradition, Gautama (who became the Buddha) is not content to sit alone under the pipal tree but gathers companions in Deer Park. And in the Christian scriptures, Jesus does not dine alone, but blesses bread for all of his followers. Although we recognize the power in personal devotion and solitary walks in the garden, we choose to worship together for the strength of many hearts beating in the spirit of shared wisdom.
Worship invites us to focus on the transcendental, the intimate, and the worthy. Worship helps us to regain our grip on the fragmented, the obsessive, and the divisive. Worship reminds us that we-empowered by the love we receive and give-may challenge any idol of greed or violence which pollutes the human condition. We ask that you bring to
worship something of what you receive: a capacity to heal, to think both critically and poetically, and to experience a growing sense of belonging, rootedness, and blessing.
Worship helps us regain a sense of ourselves. The slow dance of our bodily movements in daily life, the timbre of our voices when we sing together, the glint of joy in another’s eye, the smell of musk roses on the table, the taste of fresh bread-these return us to our senses in a world that often seems devoid of sensual inspiration. For in worship, the sensual is one with the spiritual, the intellectual, and the emotional. “Come, taste and see….”
The Reverend Mark Belletini is minister of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Columbus, OH. He served as Chairman of the UUA Hymnbook Resources Commission.