Sunday, October 12, 2008

A Unitarian Sabbath

The incomparable Peacebang is entertaining questions concerning the spiritual practices of Unitarian Universalists and it is a vital question. I, myself, have been ardent tourist through the world of spiritual practices over the past few years and this is, I believe, a danger inherent in a denomination such as the UUA which seeks respect for the religious expressions of others and, at the same time, has largely forgotton (or rejected) its own root tradition (I say this not in criticism but as an expression of reality.) I will write later about my personal spiritual practices and the practices of the "Boston Unitarians," but right now many of my thoughts are centered around the Sabbath and its deep and vital (and largely declining) influence on our spiritual lives.
I am blessed to be a part of a wonderful congregation with a minister who takes very seriously the spiritual importance of the Sabbath. But the larger reality of Sunday Morning is that church is no longer the only game in town and, especially for our younger families with children, many other activities, once unheard of on Sunday morning, are routine. Like all spiritual practice, an element of habit must be included and our Sunday schedules don't seem to allow for that (much to our detriment.) For church workers, the issues are different and I hope to explore them in future Sabbath posts.
I found a book the other day.the "Memoir of Charles Lowe". Published in 1884, it is an old- fashioned "Life and Letters" biography consisting mainly of Journal extracts and letters strung together by short passages by the author, Martha Perry Lowe (the subject's wife). I confess a love of this type of memoir, now much out of style and all my other reading has been set aside. Lowe was a New England Unitarian Minister who served in New Bedford, Somerville and other parishes before becoming an Army Chaplain during the Civil War. He later served as the Secretary of the AUA and was very active and influential in denominational affairs.
In a sermon on "The Sabbath" Lowe lays out the historical progression of Sabbath recognition and admits no divine sanction for Sabbath Practice. And yet he gives to the day the holiest of benefits. Some extracts of his sermon and remembrences by Martha Perry Lowe...

"The Sabbath"

"He believed the value of Sunday lay in our own highest wants, and that its value was inestimable." But, Lowe laments, attendance is declining for many reasons and as the old injuctions for the Sabbath decline, reasons for staying home increase..."But" Lowe preaches, "let each one who sustains public worship feel that he has a duty which he cannot set aside. People do not realize how much the interest of a service depends upon those who attend. Nothing except enthusiasm is more contagious than indifference...Among the beautiful reminiscences which gather around the day, is one connected with its earliest observance. When the early Christians met on Sunday morning, their customary salutation was, 'Christ is risen.' It is related, that, when any of them had quarrels and differences with one another, this salutation was a signal and a pledge that all was forgiven and forgotten...Let the words, 'Christ is risen' still be the language of our hearts as this sacred day returns. And when, each Sunday morning, the church-bells send forth their clear tones over hill and dale, let them exclude every meaner sound. And let them shed all over our land the holy harmony of rest and peace."


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