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“It takes more than words. . .”

Filed under: Reflections — Jess at 9:13 am on Friday, July 6, 2007

Today, a short newsletter column from the newly called minister of the Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C., Rev. Lillie Mae Henley.

UNMC is slightly unusual in the Unitarian Universalist Association, in that the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth are central to the worship life of the church, though there is no creedal “test” for membership in the congregation. The church itself was built as the “headquarters” of the Universalist Church of America, before that organization merged with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1961.


Words from Rev. Lillie, June 1, 2007

Newsletter article by Rev. Lillie Mae Henley, Universalist National Memorial Church in Washington, D.C.

My father said, more than once, “Never argue about religion.”

I don’t know whether it was my father’s wise words, or my own nature, but I’ve never been inclined to debate or argue religion. I have had discussions about religion, but when the other person(s) become argumentative, I find a way to extricate myself from the discussion.

I won’t argue, because my father was correct. Beliefs and religion are highly-invested and internalized, and it takes more than words to change personal beliefs.

What people believe are their experiences, and what changes their minds and their lives, is living out the stories of their lives.

Perhaps you remember the news story of the rabbi and the skin heads surrounding a synagogue on the west coast a few years ago. The details for me are vague, but the story is clear. There was a group of skin heads who routinely desecrated a synagogue with graffiti and threatened the lives of the rabbi and his family.

It happened that one of the skin heads became chronically and critically ill. He had no one to take care of him, and the rabbi and his congregation became his constant support system. It was not very long before the skin head changed his mind about his “enemies.”

Reaching out, caring for, forgiving, and reconciling are the actions that changed the lives of everyone involved. It was not words; it was behavior that changed their lives.

When we think about making a difference in the world, it is not necessarily what we say, but who we are and what we do that changes people and conditions.

Making a difference is about how we involve ourselves in relationship with others, and how we involve ourselves in the stories of others’ lives. Because we all realize, eventually, it comes down to our shared existence.

Living out our religion changes not only others’ lives, it changes our own lives, too. If our lives are a witness to our beliefs, then we never have to argue with anyone about religion.

Source: Rev. Lillie Mae Henley, Universalist National Memorial Church, Washington, D.C., June 1, 2007 newsletter.

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