Feb 23, 2020: Ash Wednesday and Opening Our Hearts
Whether we are talking about the dust out of which the Hebrew god formed us, or the carbon created in the belly of stars, we are born out of ashes, and to ash we return. Ash Wednesday is a Christian ritual developed to remind us of our mortality and invite us to confess, repent, and seek to live our lives according to the life-giving values of faith. We explore the meaning of ashes, Lent, and the triumph of life.
What to Expect
At Universalist Recovery Church, we gather for sacred sharing and reflection at 2:00 pm every Sunday. Our Sharing Circles include readings, silence, sharing, and reflection. On the first Sunday of the month, we seek wisdom from Scripture – Biblical and other – to enhance our recovery.
Although not officially affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association, we are part of their emerging ministry program. Eastrose Fellowship Unitarian Universalist supports us by letting us meet in their worship space and gather for meetings and activities.
The Rev. Barbara Stevens, who leads most of the services, is a Unitarian Universalist minister. We embrace these Unitarian Universalist connections because we honor the openness and commitment to beloved community that is part of the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Because of our association with Unitarian Universalism, we draw from various religious traditions, as well as honoring scientific insights and prophetic voices.
Our Understanding of Recovery
Besides, Unitarian Universalism fits with our understanding of recovery. That’s because we believe recovery must be grounded in acceptance of who we are and love for ourselves, one another, and the divine.
For us, recovery means making a commitment to be our best selves and live according to our highest values. Gathering together in sacred circles supports that recovery. It helps us remember who we really are: children of the earth, of the holy essence, and of life itself. In this way, we support each other in living according to the values of peace, love, freedom, hope, grace, joy, compassion, and generosity.
Recovery isn’t something we do for a while and then are done with. It lasts a lifetime. Which is a great thing, because it means we get to to grow and become more whole until the day we die, and maybe even afterwards! In our gatherings, we listen to each other’s stories, witness the deep and holy feelings that arise, and honor one another the way we are, right now.
By itself, that kind of acceptance promotes healing and transformation. Yet we also invite growth by reflecting on and challenging our assumptions. Our worship provides the oneness, the sense of connection, and the love we need to heal.
As a Recovery church, we examine spiritual topics from the perspective of those who have not only survived, but have learned to thrive amid, life’s pains and hardships. Indeed, we would say we thrive partly because of those struggles. We celebrate the joy of life in song, story, tears, laughter, and respectful listening.
Although we are Unitarian Universalist, we claim the Universalist tradition for a reason. For instance, Universalism embraces the belief that we are all one. The Universalist god is a loving god, one who accepts everyone. Whatever salvation may mean for you, Universalists believe there’s nothing you have to do to earn it. God will damn no one, no matter what.
That doesn’t mean you can do anything you want and get away with it. First of all, when we betray our values, we wound our spirits. That hurts us right now, in this life, in ways we’re not always aware of, though those around us are. Second, we don’t claim to know what happens after we die. While not all Universalists believe in an afterlife, we trust that if our souls do survive the death of our bodies, then we receive whatever love, support, and healing we need to make amends for our wrongs and heal our inner being. We do not believe in hell, unless it is one here on earth.
Additionally, we draw from the writings and teachings of all the world’s religions, as well as from our personal experience with the holy, our relationship with nature, and the truth uncovered through artistic and scientific exploration, a truth that comes from our hearts as well as our minds. In our gatherings, we honor the wisdom that more fully enlivens us.
The Unitarian Universalist principles embody such a truth. These include respecting the inherent worth of every person, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and encouragement toward spiritual growth. Because no one tradition holds all the truth, we seek wisdom from all the major world religions, from aboriginal and native traditions, from science, the words and deeds of religious and secular prophets, the arts, and our from own transformative experiences.
Worship and Connection
If hell exists on earth, it’s largely because of how we treat one another, and people have been threatened with hell fire for a long time, but it hasn’t made them kind or compassionate or good. Holding one another accountable is part of recovery, and if necessary, that’s what we do.
Accountability doesn’t always look the way we expect, though. Universalism teaches us that unless we act from a place of love and wholeness, we will not be happy. When we manipulate, torment, and condemn others, we may experience a rush of satisfaction, but that’s not happiness, and it certainly isn’t joy. Oh, we may laugh because we “got over” on someone, yet when the moment passes, we need something else to give us that high. Inside, we are empty, bitter, and lonely.
Joy, on the other hand, is the pleasure that comes from feeling at one with our family, our friends, with nature and our inner spirit, and with God, whatever we understand that sacred essence to be. Recovery is about experiencing true joy.
During our circle time, we come together to remember who we really are. We tell stories, we listen, and we recognize the beauty within each person. We invite truth, compassion, and holiness. By encouraging silence, tears, and joyful laughter, we connect with one another and with our higher power. When we care about one another, we ease our loneliness.
No matter what you understand your higher power to be, if you seek wholeness, freedom, peace, and the healing of love and compassion, you are welcome. Come on in.