Todd’s Thoughts – October 2019

In The Gadfly Papers I speak of the historic and unresolved theological differences between Unitarianism and Universalism. Unitarianism is rooted in humanistic, rationalistic, nontheistic, and nonsectarian values. Universalism has been more traditionally theistic and sectarian in its approach, especially when it comes to worship. These differences often manifest in our congregations with some members preferring intellectual speakers and others enjoying speakers who emotionally move them. Few ministers, if any, are good at both, for these require opposite styles and personalities. When I first came to UUCS, our Humanists felt so dissatisfied with our services that they met separately in our chapel. This was a bit tragic considering our church, in particular, is the birthplace of Religious Humanism. After I’d been here a while, however, they felt comfortable discontinuing their alternative meetings. I was told by my late friend, Mickey Thompson, who led the group, “We’re getting what we need from the pulpit now.” About the same time, I also began hearing grumblings that my sermons are too “intellectual” or not “spiritual” enough. This, in my opinion, reflects the unresolved theological tension that remains inherent in Unitarian Universalism. I bring this up now because, in the wake of my controversial book, increased discussion about the quality of my preaching has risen, which I think is always appropriate for churchgoers to do, so I’m not complaining. Yet, it should be remembered that sermons deeply reflect a preacher’s mind and heart and personality, which cannot be altered without changing persons. As I have long said, I hope to remain your minister for as long my presence works for most, understanding I can’t satisfy everyone and would drive myself insane trying. For I cannot alter the nature of my sermons or preaching style without becoming somebody else entirely. I hope it is, at least, helpful to better understand this is a common dynamic in many Unitarian Universalist congregations.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *