It just so happens that it is St Valentine's Day today - whatever that may mean. I am a cautious supporter of commercialism as it provides jobs for many people. However commercialism can over-shadow thought and reflection about different seasons and special days. I have been mulling over this post for some time it just so happens that I am writing it today.
There has been some talk on national forums about the rights of existing congregation/community members and those of new people as if a rights-based approach is what guides our actions. Even if it did I am not sure who could define the rights of anyone within a congregation without also talking about people's responsibilities. New people coming into any group cannot have the same 'rights' as those who have been here a long time - what have they invested in the community? Our 'old timers' have spent years in service to their community washing dishes, cutting lawns, doing the accounts, attending hours of meetings, donating money, visiting sick people, writing newsletters etc etc. It is because of them that we are here, now with a spiritual community to belong to.
But this really is not the point - the point is love. When we are in spiritual community with people we are creating right relationship with all of those we find ourselves with. We are moving in the direction of love - sometimes it is easy and sometimes it is harder - but it is always the right thing to do. Can we say that we love people who we have known briefly or those we do know not at all (the closet Unitarians located somewhere near our building) as much as those people we have committed to loving over some/many years? If we truly love people then we want the best for them not just the sub-set of people who believe what we believe.
If we want to change and modernise and if we want to reach out as well as in then we must surely decide to do this together. If we decide that the majority has it and we are going to make significant changes without taking people along with us, then are we really prepared to wound those people that we love, who love us and who love our community? There are ways to gently challenge, there are ways to ensure that we provide a range of spiritual and social offerings, there are ways to make our love real. These things may slow down any process for change but they are fundamental - because love is fundamental. I would not want to join a community which behaved otherwise.