Expanding Your Circle of Love

A few weeks ago I had a Sunday off for the first time in years, so I decided to go to the University Unitarian Church here in Seattle. I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist for many years, but my schedule doesn’t allow me to participate often. I’ve written about the religion before, so I’ll just say that its liberal outlook, its highly educated congregation, its emphasis on social justice and the environment, and its refusal to force dogma down your throat are what appeal to me the most. I was really looking forward to attending a service for the first time in ages.

I felt welcomed as soon as I arrived. And I was delighted right away by a little Anna’s hummingbird sitting on its tiny nest in their rhododendron bush. They had covered the window in paper and cut out little peep holes so people could observe her without disturbing her.

The chapel was beautiful—open and airy. And the congregation is so large, with more than 850 members, that they have two services each Sunday. That’s great for those of us who like to sleep in. I’m used to a congregation of about 200 or so, so this was really amazing to me.

Many things were discussed from the pulpit, including politics, but the thing that stayed with me the most was this interesting concept: the people you care about, friends and family, abide within your own special circle of love. Now, imagine what would happen if all of us expanded our circles of love, if only a few inches, to include others. What would the world be like then?

If we could include strangers who are suffering, people of other cultures, the homeless, the oppressed… if we all extended our love to include these people, if we all just made a little extra effort, this planet would be changed for the better in ways beyond our ability to imagine. Fear and hatred would be eradicated. This feeling of free-floating anxiety that we all seem to be experiencing would be a thing of the past. As John Lennon liked to sing, “Imagine.”

I left there feeling better about things than I have in a long time, simply because there’s potential for improvement. I wish they had had a “Joys and Concerns” part of their ceremony, as many UU Churches do, which allows you to stand up and say things, but I suppose with this many people, the service would go on forever. But if I’d had the opportunity, I would have said this: “My joy today is that this church, with its compassion, its social responsibility, and its love for the planet, exists. My work schedule doesn’t allow me to attend often, but I get a great deal of comfort from knowing that you’re here. Thank you.”

And the last song we sang was Lean on Me. How appropriate. If you’re looking for a sense of community without judgment or dogma, find a Unitarian Universalist Church near you.

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