Minister’s Mind – What is a Community of Perseverance?

Although I have had the same experience in many choral groups, I credit Michael Moore for this story that introduces an element of the meaning of perseverance. ”I have been pondering a lesson I learned in high school Glee Club. Sometimes music requires players or singers to hold a note longer than they actually can hold a note. In these cases, we were taught to mindfully stagger when we took a breath so the sound appeared uninterrupted. Everyone got to breathe, and the music stayed strong and vibrant. Let’s remember music when we seek to understand our place in this world as a Community of Perseverance. Start the note with others. Take your breath. The rest of the chorus will continue to sing. Rejoin the chorus, so others can breathe. Together, we can sustain a very long, beautiful song for a very, very long time. You don’t have to do it all, yet you must add your voice to the song.”

Here’s today’s question: How can my participation in our San Gabriel UU Fellowship help me with my own personal development? Process philosopher Alfred North Whitehead wrote in Religion in the Making that “Religion is the art and theory of the internal life.” That stated, our UU Community instills a practice that religion must be a first-hand direct experience, rather than some set of stories or doctrines adopted from someone else’s experiences. The saying is,”Don’t come to a UU community to be given a religion, come to develop your own religion.” A religion, indeed most religions, are given to people by a book, a tradition, a lineage, a charismatic leader, a church or school to be memorized or recited, yet that does not work for many of us when life meets us head-on and we are under fire to act from our own minds and hearts. We need an authentic religion and cannot personally develop alone.

This is what our self-sustaining UU churches and fellowships articulate. Our religion is meant to be lived 24/7, practiced in our families and in the marketplace. We say ours is a religion of deeds not creeds. Our true home is in this world and not in some future after-life. We stand for a religion of action and behaviors which are in accord with modern knowledge and experience. Most UUs are neither superstitious nor supernatural. Most UUs experience their faith based primarily on the natural order. We generally respect scientific research and findings as tentative answers that are on the right track. In fact, UUs don’t ascribe to the need for final answers that define reality in all cases. We believe that questions and curiosity are more creative than answers.

UU theologian James Luther Adams eloquently articulated the essence of our UU “organization” as a “free church” in which “the individual is central,” in whom “all authority is rooted.” Accordingly, such authority as the community, church or fellowship possesses rests on the consent of individual members. This describes both individual freedom and institutional freedom and is the bulwark of a democratic society. This kind of freedom was true in the early Christian church, which was also and only a form of voluntary association. A characteristic of a Community of Perseverance is that our personal development is key and that our participation is free and voluntary.

Let’s join together and explore the virtue of perseverance in our Sunday Services, Religious Education and Connections Groups throughout the month of February.

See you soon.


Rev. Mark