Theologically, Unitarianism offers what to me is a perfect blend of faith and reason, and it also allows for and actually opens the door to the mystery of religious experience. In blending faith and reason, it brings together and reconciles the material and spiritual worlds in which we all live, the ying and yang of existence, and it does so in a way that encourages a continuous search for meaning. This is particularly true, I think, in the way Unitarianism has been practiced and has evolved at King’s Chapel.
The reason component of Unitarianism is equally important to me as it calls on us to use our mind and our capacity to think critically to wrestle with the text of the Bible and to draw on and integrate insights from the other sources of inspiration and explanation noted above. It calls on us, moreover, to think for ourselves, and to know in our hearts that while partners on our spiritual journeys are good and very welcome, we need no intermediaries to get where we’re going. God, the ineffable, and the holy are directly accessible to us and in fact part of us. There is indeed a unity to it all of which we are an integral part, allowing us to use the power of human thought and imagination to approach and appreciate the sacred.
The appeal for me of how we practice Unitarianism at King’s Chapel is that it brings to all of the above a discipline and seriousness of purpose, rooted in a traditional Christian practice, that nonetheless somehow remains open and welcoming to everyone, wherever you are on the path, as our ministers regularly say. So while some might look at the Prayer Book and hear the liturgy and consider us a rather stodgy and restrictive group, the blend of tradition, critical thought, and open-mindedness that defines KC – via the marriage of faith and reason that I began with – actually makes us, in my view, a “big house” church where almost anyone can find a comfortable place to sit and listen and learn and share. The Unitarianism of KC encourages a community of free thinkers who worship in accordance with a structured service and with a devotion to the “freedom of the pews” as much as the “freedom of the pulpit.”
To be sure, the liturgy provides a structure, but not one so rigid that it must be heard, read, and understood in one way alone or the same way always. For me, it’s a flexible tool for prayer and mindfulness that often provides comfort and at its best a path to unexpected insights. As in the service of communion as practiced at KC (especially in the Transylvanian style) , all are welcomed to the table to share in what is almost always a powerful and gratifying act of community in faith, but one that can also be a deeply and intimate spiritual experience.
And then, of course, there is that community of parishioners mentioned above, who, with their many different perspectives and varied histories, make up the eclectic living church that we call KC. Over the years, many of them have helped me more than they can imagine, which is really, in the end, what church, Unitarian or otherwise, is all about. A community of faith in which each member supports the others and the wider world as best they can. May it always be so.