On Sunday, January 8, 2023, Rev. Paige Getty led a service entitled “Faithful Questioning” which introduced the Values, Mission, Ends initiative to the congregation. We invite you to read the closing portion of her refection below, which provides context for our upcoming collective effort. You can listen to her full reflection here, starting at 44 minutes, 50 seconds.
“… living in a state of visionary surrender to the elemental questions, free of the quiet desperation of clinging too tightly to answers, may be our greatest act of faith.”
— William O’Daly, on Pablo Neruda’s The Book of Questions
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In the coming weeks you’re going to be hearing more from the Board of Trustees and other UUCC leaders about engaging in a process to update and better express our core congregational values, mission, and ends. (When you’re invited to participate, I hope you’ll say yes!)
In recent months the Board has been preparing for this endeavor by working to articulate a single “powerful question” that will inform the small group discussions that will be at the heart of the process in February and March.
Writing the question has not been a simple task. Hours of conversation and dozens of emails have been exchanged in the effort to use language and imagery that will be evocative, forward-looking, visionary without being too lofty, realistic without impeding the imagination. A question that draws us out of the habits of our thinking while remaining grounded in our values (in our convictions!) and in the rational realities of our existence.
It’s not been a simple task—and it’s not yet a completed task—because these leaders recognize the value of a good, powerful question.
And it’s what our Unitarian Universalist tradition teaches, too—that it’s faithful to engage with the world with an attitude of inquisitiveness and curiosity partnered with our reason, it’s faithful to humbly acknowledge that there’s way more that we don’t know (not only about the universe overall, but about our own existence) than what we do know, and that—as we’ll sing in our next hymn in a few minutes—“even to question truly is an answer.”
Our faith, our lived experience, our engagement with the world, is invigorated when we ask questions that spark our imagination—perhaps leading to more questions—rather than posing only questions that are predisposed to tidy, certain answers. “… living in a state of visionary surrender … may be our greatest act of faith.”
My favorite line of our congregational covenant is that we promise to struggle together on our spiritual journeys. We do not pretend that this world is orderly and predictable—no, it is messy and surprising and magical and difficult. Often the journey does feel like a struggle. But we promise not to abandon one another on that journey—we will struggle together.
And so we are going to be asking questions as a congregation about who we are and how we are to be in the world. All of us—engineers and mystics and agnostics and artists and theists and scientists—together will illuminate the way forward. We will ask ourselves first, not what are we certain of, but where do our deepest convictions lie? And as the poet suggests, what questions are encouraging us to stop what we are doing right now? What questions that have no right to go away? (Whyte)
May we allow space for those questions. And may we be “free of the quiet desperation of clinging too tightly to [particular] answers.” (O’Daly)
So may it be. Amen.