Sources and Stories

For all that is our life! by Rev. Andrew Clive MillardLighting the Flaming Chalice

While the Seven Principles are fairly well known, usually discussed in terms of guiding values and ideals to which we aspire, the Six Sources don’t often get as much attention.  For reference, here they are in full:

The Living Tradition we share draws from many sources:

  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision.

If the Principles are about values and ideals, then the Sources are about learning and understanding, particularly when differences of opinion and belief are involved!

There are a number of RE curricula that are organized in terms of the Sources, and of course there’s plenty in them on which sermons can be based.  (Of course, we do need to be careful of how we present ourselves.  I was once asked if I would preach on, for example, Islam, and my response was that I would probably not: it would be more a book report than a sermon, given that I’m not a Muslim nor do I have any direct experience of Islam.  What I have done, though, is shared the pulpit with people of other faiths who can speak to our shared topic from their own tradition, thus living the religious pluralism of which the postscript to the Sources speaks.)

Though not initially intended to be so, this month’s services align with the Six Sources.  I’ll refer to the First Source in terms of my own religious journey this Sunday, and a week later demonstrate the Second Source through the power of our own history.  (No, we don’t have a single story from a single holy book: we have a whole lot of stories from many books, with more being written all the time!)  Then we’ll see what the Third and Fourth Sources show us about ourselves, and at the end of the month our own Lin Chambers will bring together the Fifth and Sixth Sources and what they mean for sustainable life on Earth.

At the same time, all of these services lean heavily on story, from the personal to the historical, from folklore to science.  The telling of stories is one of the most foundational methods of communication, helping us to understand ourselves, one another, and our world.  Indeed, our sense of identity, both individually and in community, is intimately woven from the stories we tell about who we are.  In other words, our stories not only reflect who we have been but also shape who we are going to be…  so choose your stories well!

As we come to the end of my sixth year serving the mission of this congregation, I thank each and everyone one of you for the stories that you bring to make this a dynamic community that celebrates life and searches for truths.  This is ministry at its best and I am truly glad to share it with you!



About acmillard

Andrew serves as minister to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia.
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