On January 24, I attended Portland First’s “Seminary for a Day.” The keynote speaker was newly retired President of Starr King School for Ministry, the Rev. Dr. Rebecca Parker. In his introduction of her, Bill Sinkford said that more than anyone else, Rebecca had shaped a generation of ministers’ understanding of theology. My only regret is that I did not have the opportunity to study with her as she is not only a theologian in her own right but a brilliant interpreter of both philosophers and theologians.
The focus of her presentation was on “creating a sanctuary of openness.” In particular, openness to the possibility of finding a “yes” beyond the “no” UU’s have said to notions of God. She pointed out that Unitarianism in particular, has spent the last 200 years “critiquing unworthy concepts of God.” She went on to define God as “The source of love larger than ourselves on which we can depend.”
It is not secret that UU’s have spent more time articulating what we cannot affirm theologically or religiously then we have articulating what it is we do affirm. The reality is, we have no common theological core. What we have as UU’s is more a common set of ethics that answer the question, “How shall we live?”
Parker is encouraging us to find something beyond our “no.” To find that which we can say, “yes” to. She said that the ethical test of whether to accept or reject a concept of God is to ask,
“Is this a God who harms, oppresses or destroys life or a God that enables liberation and sustains life?” She challenged us to spend time thinking about ideas of the sacred that “carve away what is oppressive and unworthy; that creates openness; that is worthy of my life’s devotion.”
She ended her address not by saying that we UU’s have had to say either “no” or “yes” to God. She invited us, as I will invite you, to ponder these three questions:
What really does claim our lives?
To whom do we belong?
To what are we dependent?
For the answers to these questions defines each of our lives.
Yours in the quest,