Opinion

Spring helps renew our faith in changing lives | Interfaith | March 25

In the Pacific Northwest, signs of spring come early, as crocuses and other nascent flowers emerge in late February and March. But it usually begins to really feel like spring as the lovely month of April unfolds. April is a month of hope, when life bursts forth in color, fragrance and blossom.

For religious people, spring is certainly a time of hope as well. In the deep Jewish tradition, Passover is a reverent celebration of freedom from bondage. For Christians, Easter brings the promise that comes from the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

My faith, Unitarian Universalism, draws strength from both Jewish and Christian teachings. In the spring, we, too, delight in the power of religion to make a difference in our lives.

We honor the spirit of Passover and give thanks for the many ways devoted people throughout history have worked for freedom from oppression.

We also honor the spirit of Easter, celebrating many aspects of rebirth as well as the power of hope to transform our lives.

Some may find it odd that one religion can honor different beliefs. Some may feel that a group can’t be religious together unless all agree on the same ideas about God, Jesus, or life after death. Not so!

We strive to learn about and respect the beliefs of others, knowing that there are many paths to spiritual truth. And so we encourage our people to find and cherish the route that works most authentically for each of them.

The path of Unitarian Universalism is quite wide, supported by two important ideas. We believe in the Unity of all of creation, what our Unitarian ancestors called the Oneness of God, now often perceived as the interconnectedness of life, certainly pertinent during “Earth Month.” And we believe in the Holy Spirit of Love, what our Universalist ancestors termed Universal Salvation—“all souls” are saved.

Our faith teaches us that “Revelation is not sealed,” meaning that there is still much to learn, even today. When we celebrate Unity, we do so partly because of what we’ve discovered about our planet in recent years. One of the most powerful revelations that occurred in my lifetime was the picture of our Earth from space.

Seeing our tiny yet beautiful shared home floating amid the darkness of space changed our view of creation and deepened our common identity. In April especially, our part of the Earth is gloriously renewed, as are we.

We also take time each spring to participate in a ritual that emerged from our Unitarian heritage.

In the early 20th century, the largest Unitarian church in the world was in Prague. Its minister, Norbert Capek, wanted to create a ritual that would allow Jews and Christians (and others) to worship together.

He invented The Flower Festival, where each participant brings a blossom to Sunday worship, creating a large, lovely display of blessed unity in diversity.

At the end of the service, each person takes a different flower with them, as a symbol of the unique spirit each of us brings into shared community.

Every year when I take part in this simple but beautiful ceremony, I remember anew the power of faith to change lives.

However you celebrate during the welcome return of spring, it is my hope that you will find time to recognize the wonders of our planet and celebrate the gorgeous diversity of our human community.

Our varying religious angles do not have to unduly separate us from one another. As my religious ancestor, the great Hungarian Unitarian Francis Dávid, said in the 16th century, “We need not think alike to love alike.”

The Rev. Dr. Barbara W. ten Hove is co-minister of Cedars Unitarian Universalist Church, along with her spouse, Rev. Jaco ten Hove.

 

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