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Sitting with Ruth inside her office, I feel her warmth and joy as she discusses her ministry at First Universalist. As a minister and head of the Coming of Age class, she has a great deal of passion for the youth that she works with every week and guides throughout their religious journey to understanding truth. She shared with me that there “certain things” that they discuss in the religious education, and says that “we affirm and we welcome that divine spark. We want that to flourish. We teach compassion, we teach hospitality. We teach that there are many paths to the divine, that there are many paths to a meaningful, purposeful life”. 1
There are many paths to a meaningful, purposeful life.
Ruth’s focus on religion is on the free and open questioning that she sees as key in religious understanding. As a non-creedal faith, she wants to make sure that Unitarian Universalism is never asking people “to ascribe to a certain set of beliefs in order to be part of the religious community”, and that “instead, our religious tradition invites us all into a vitality of faith engagement, to ask questions of ourselves, our community, and then align our lives with the answers that emerge.” 2
However, she made it clear both in talking with her one on one and in her sermon that Unitarian Universalism does not mean that a person can do and say whatever they want and still believe call themselves Unitarian Universalist. “You don’t get to believe anything you want” she shares in her sermon. “You actually can’t do that and hold true to the very meaning of religion.” “But you do get to have a free and responsible search”. 3 Similarly, she shared that the principles are really what guide the adherents of UU throughout this questioning of faith. She says that a person can’t believe in murder, because of the core principle that “within each one of us is inherent worth and dignity, so there is no way to hold that central principle and say something like ‘well I believe in murder’”. 4 This emphasis on free and responsible search for meaning under the UU guidelines are present in Ruth’s approach to her ministry, and underlie her entire approach to her ministry.
You get to have a free and responsible search