“…We believe good things come from small beginnings. That’s why we make our Kombucha in the same small batches I used from the start, in my mother’s kitchen. Our batches are small enough to hug. Which we do, because love is our #1 ingredient…”
So says the label of every bottle of GT’s Kombucha – an elixir of probiotics, enzymes, electrolytes, and lots of other things that I would not dare try to pronounce.
I drink more than my fair share of their ginger blend.
I am, in fact, rather notorious in the UUCC office (and elsewhere) for the size of the bottles I buy – 48 ounces.
I would argue – I do argue – that 48 ounces is just right (proportional) for my body, sizewise.
But that is beside the point.
The point (GT’s point) appears to be ‘love’.
So much so, that they made it a point to print it in the very limited space afforded on a bottle label.
In bold letters – and underlined, for good measure.
It seems important to them that the world know that love is their primary principle.
The product (and the list of ingredients) is pretty complex, but the company’s essence boils down rather simply to love.
And though ‘love’ is much easier said than done – I get the sense that this company’s intention is to try to live by it. To infuse their brews (and the world) with love.
To try to preserve that ‘small batch’ feeling, even as their community grows larger.
And to never stop hugging each batch (or each other).
You can’t necessarily judge a book by its cover, but you can definitely tell a lot about a book by what its makers choose to put on the cover.
Often, they are seeking to sum up their ingredients briefly – in a way that will convey ‘…Hey – this is our DNA…”.
This is who we are (in principle), and here’s what you should know about us, up front.
This is us.
I was halfway through one such ginger blend one afternoon in June – knitting together worship threads for a summer of services centered in our seven principles.
And as I was perusing the UUA’s website (reading once again through our faith tradition’s ‘ingredients’), I noticed something.
Love isn’t in our principles.
Feel free to open up another web browser and check – I’ll wait.
See what I mean?
Love isn’t on our label.
It’s implied, I suppose. Inferred. Alluded to.
Ingredients like ‘acceptance’, ‘encouragement’ and ‘compassion’ certainly seem to suggest love.
We stand on the side of love.
But we stop short of labeling ourselves as love.
As I understand it, some very bright minds gathered and labored (just after the merger of the Unitarian and Universalist traditions in the early 1960’s) to craft our original six principles – the second of which did contain the word ‘love’.
Ironically, as much of the very male and largely Judeo-Christian language of that first batch of principles (i.e. fatherhood, brotherhood, mankind) was being thankfully tossed out in the early 1980’s – ‘love’ seems to have also been thrown out with the bath water.
Our present-day principles are the product of many late nights, early mornings, contentious committees, heated discussions, compromises, and revisions. When the dust settled, we’d agreed to craft a more perfect union (in principle), having drawn an infinitely wider and more welcoming circle.
We UU’s often disagree about a great many things, not the least of which is theology. It’s in our DNA. We are a complex blend, which is ultimately part of what drew me to the brew.
Yet I find it infinitely interesting that we couldn’t (or didn’t) agree to have the word ‘love’ on our label.
To be fair, ‘love’ does appear twice in our six UU sources.
However, culturally speaking, we reference our principles first and last – far more frequently than our sources. Disproportionately, one might argue.
For me, the omission of love from what is (in essence) our mission statement is, at the very least, a kind of Freudian slip.
A ‘tell’, perhaps – illuminating some of the bacteria in our denominational culture (not unlike kombucha).
It’s not that UU’s are unloving.
I’d argue that no one is more quick to march, rally, support, provide sanctuary, feed, clothe, transport, etc.
We show up – often in harm’s way.
However, love is not always the ingredient that is most evident to visitors who show up to our congregations.
In my humble opinion (and experience), this is often why our faith has trouble attracting new faces. Or keeping faces in our places.
Figuratively speaking, we struggle to hug our new batches – and our not-so-new ones also, for that matter.
From the outside looking in, the UU stereotype is frequently that we ‘think’, therefore we are. Feelings, for many of us, are far more elusive.
Historically, our denomination has worked to be in right relationship with our world deeply and lovingly – but we seem hesitant to label the relationship.
Perhaps, because we’ve been hurt before (by other faith traditions). Perhaps, we fear commitment – or rejection. Or intimacy. Or that our love will be unrequited?
For whatever reason, we often come across coldly when company comes over.
Many souls’ first visit to a UU parish becomes their last visit – even though they love the principles, and even the worship.
Many find their way to faiths with far less welcoming theologies, but far warmer-feeling (and more welcoming) cultures.
Another way to say ‘love’ might be connection.
What I heard most often this summer from our members and friends was a deep longing for more connection. For a greater proportion of community and closeness.
UUCC began as a fairly small batch. It is now much larger then when it formed as a fellowship (not long after the UU merger). The blessing and curse of a 400-plus member congregation is that people can more easily lose themselves in the place where they ‘found’ themselves.
Deeply seeking the ‘small batch’ feeling. To be hugged on, in essence.
To that end, what was the Membership Committee is now the Membership Council (many thanks to the hard work of a handful of devoted UUCC members). It is a cord of three strands (‘Embrace’, ‘Engage’, and ‘Encircle’), all of which exist simply to help cultivate connection here at UUCC.
So, you’ll hear from us from time to time during this program year – with no agenda. Except to connect with you, check in/catch up, connect you with UUCC interest groups and volunteer activities, let you know what’s coming up on the calendar, field your feedback via surveys and focus groups, and see if we can enrich your experience here (every day of the week, and twice on Sunday).
You’ll see us showing up at a few events during the year – the first of which is the UUCC Engagement Expo on Sunday 9/16.
Paige and I often revisit the essence of the Maya Angelou quote about people remembering most how you made them feel (not necessarily your words or actions).
Many UU’s struggle to remember the principles (the wording is pretty complex).
But we usually return from services, rallies, marches, etc. with fond memories of the feeling we had.
And as we gather together again (in our large batch) for this coming program year, our intention is to give you that ‘small batch’ feeling. And to help create more feelings of connection and closeness in this beloved culture of ours.
Because love is our number one ingredient.
Meadville circles – ‘most important thing to teach your children’ – love?