This last week I taught my Spirit Play friends about the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism. We have not used this lesson before when I have been teaching. Church staff and I looked over the text and modified it slightly to match the bedtime prayer that we have been teaching to the families in our community. I started by telling the children that they might already know this lesson, even if they had never heard it before. Sure enough as I made my way through the Principles, one child enthusiastically reported that he DID know this lesson already.
We went through them all at then end. “Each person is important. Be kind in all you do. We’re free to learn together. And search for what is true. All people need a voice. Build a fair and peaceful world. We care for mother earth and all who call her home.”
My friend came up to me during our work time and smiled at me and sat close. I told him that next time I did my bed time prayer, I would think about him doing the same bed time prayer and would remember that we are a community. He looked at me for a moment and then checked in. “But you won’t be at my house”, he said. I told him that was true. He would be at his house with his family and I would be at my house with my family, but we would be saying and doing the same thing as a part of our community. I told him that my thoughts and my heart would be at his house and at my house at the same time.
This conversation was heartwarming to me. The joy on this child’s face as he recognized the familiar words, the extra connection with me later in class, all of these things speak to belonging. We belong to each other as we think about and try to act on the foundations of our faith community. This is one of the sweet moments in teaching where I become inspired about the work that I am doing. It’s not just that this child experienced his belonging, but that we created it together too.
For me, I also felt my belonging. Some nights are so difficult when my own kids don’t want to do the prayers and don’t lend their full presence to our end of day ritual. Sometimes it feels like I am doing this valuable work alone. But I am not. We are a community; each of us in our own houses. We are a community that sends our hearts and thoughts out to each other. We join this community and engage in ritual to connect all the parts of ourselves and to be connected to each other. We say in the sanctuary that we hope our church will be “a place to find and keep your balance, a place where we are encouraged together to live loving lives of integrity, service and joy”. I can’t think of a much better way to get centered and balanced than to remember that I belong. I belong to myself as I seek more love and life on my own spiritual journey. I belong to the relationships I serve, honor and engage in. And I belong to the collective, the community which includes our church and the Mystery far beyond us. This is the joy and the fruit of practice.