My religious upbringing was independent from the start. My mother, like her ancestors, was a lifelong member of a non-denominational Christian church, the offspring of the Restoration Movement brought to America in the 19th century from Scotland. Its founders were theologians: Alexander Campbell and Barton W. Stone. Its intention was the restoration of the simplicity of the church of the first century, the centrality of Scripture, unadorned worship with a cappella singing, adult baptism, a covenant congregation, and salvation of the soul. Its religious roots were less those of the Church of Scotland and the Protestant Reformation and even less the roots of the historic Roman Catholic Church. Its legacy was the church of the New Testament.
Kathe and I joined King’s Chapel in the year of our marriage, performed by the Reverend Dr. Charles Forman. We were attracted by sermons that appealed to head and heart, inspirational music, and Christian liturgical worship – buoyed by freedom of religious belief. We were exposed to its Anglican and Unitarian roots during new member orientations and by independent study. And we were kept aware of those roots. It was for me an authentic expression of religion that was traditional and contemporary, spiritual and intellectual, old world and new world. It was not the church of my upbringing but I felt connected.
Thirty years later, I still feel connected. At King’s Chapel, one can sing the same hymns, say the same prayers, and hear the same sermon with others while remaining differentiated religiously. We are believers and non-believers; theists, deists, and agnostics; Christians, humanists, and Epicureans. Yet we praise God, exalt Jesus as the master teacher, and celebrate a kingdom of peace and justice. We can do this because the hymns, scriptures, stories, and myths are a language of reverence – reverence for that which is sacred in life, that which is beyond knowing but not beyond aspiration. Through Anglican ritual and Unitarian enlightenment we can grasp meaning and intimations of the holy. Through reason, tolerance, joy, and service we can live, not by religious artifice that consoles but religious freedom that liberates.
I find the deep rooted yet independent religion of King’s Chapel worthy of engagement and commitment for four reasons. First, it is proximate. It is here and accessible. Second, it is permanent, at least as permanent as anything in life. Third, it has power. It provides a vocabulary and experience for living well and living fully. It isn’t perfect and its faults are apparent; but it bears the imprint of the magnificent potential of human kind. And fourth, it has promise. The religion of King’s Chapel gives assurance of a robust religion for a rapidly changing future because of its roots and its evolutionary adaptability proven over the centuries.
For me, it would be a foolish deception to believe, as did my ancestors, in immortality. I accept but find difficult to profess the terrifying impermanence of existence and death as the annihilation of the body and consciousness. Yet, when I think of the passage of time not as my 70 plus years but as 100, 500 or more years, I see an extended period of emergent human greatness to which I am privileged to contribute along with others, in which I experience joy, and by which I have a taste of eternity. Life is the highest good.
We consider religion a matter of faith. It could be humanism, moral philosophy, or religion that defines our faith. But by whatever name, it is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.* Long may this faith live at King’s Chapel.
Statements of Religious Belief
In the spring of 2015, six parishioners of King’s Chapel wrote statements about their personal religious beliefs that were published in Between Sundays in conjunction with the Sunday Forums on “The Religion of King’s Chapel – A Living Legacy.” The forums were a series of lectures on three major religious roots: Anglican, Unitarian, and Independent. The lectures were given by the Reverend Dr. Carl Scovel, Dr. Daniel McKanan, and the Reverend Joy Fallon (recordings of the lectures are posted on the KC website under Education). The statements of religious belief were produced by Denton Crews, Julie Hyde, Louise Perkins, Charles Perry, and Peter Sexton.