have a variety of characteristics. Last night at the followup Conversation on "The Arts" as a possible Source for Unitarian Universalism, I remarked that I had had four wonderful and inspiring conversations in the past 30 hours or so.
The first was at the lectionary group on Friday morning, when I mentioned to our Quaker member that UUCWI was considering putting up a banner reading "Torture is a Moral Issue" on our sign on the highway. Our side discussion about this morphed into a general conversation about our responsibilities in a rural community where our congregants know each other, where we know each other well, and where the issues are close at hand, not as detached from daily life as they may be in other, larger congregations.
We were speculating on the causes of the world's troubles and G., our colleague at the more conservative end of the spectrum, theorized that there was a "gospel of rebellion". We were all interested in this idea and asked him to say more, which he did. Father R then chimed in with his disappointment in the secularization of American life and an approach to life which favors expedient solutions---abortion, divorce, gay marriage---all of which are against The Church's laws. This, of course, had the potential for becoming explosive----but it didn't. Instead, we were able to go beneath the political hot buttons and talk about the commonalities we share which, actually, lead us in different directions because of our own experiences.
This conversation was remarkable in that it did not devolve into argument but allowed us to converse at a deeper level than political/doctrinal differences.
The second conversation was with D, about our service on "Science as a Possible Source for UUism" on June 1. To talk with a congregant about our deeply held thoughts and knowings was a thrill, especially as it forms the foundation for this service. D is a rocket scientist, literally, and his understanding of the scientific method and how it informs his life without locking him into a "left brain only" mentality is inspirational. He too, like my local colleagues, is honest and straightforward about his way of seeing things and we talked about our different approaches to life (mine is more intuitive) without any sense that one way was better than another.
The third converstion was with C, a local candidate for UU ministry, who has a global ministry with her husband, teaching gender reconciliation in South Africa and India, where violence toward women and girls is a terrible problem. I was spellbound as I listened to her talk about the success they'd had, albeit on a small scale, and the changes she saw in human lives because of their work. This conversation had the effect of enlarging my horizons around ministry; C is not sure whether she will complete her journey toward ordination, as she finds this ministry consuming and not needing the validation of ordination for her to be truly a minister.
And the fourth conversation was last night with the six congregants who came to talk about the Arts and their spiritual lives. What a great bunch! And because I know them so well, our conversation was intimate as well as far-ranging. We talked about our own experiences with creativity, how music or art or interpersonal relationships, even cooking and other less-obvious arts, informs our spiritual life. Toward the end of the conversation, I asked "how can the Arts be a part of our congregation's ministry to the island?" Lots of ideas from people there and I hope we pursue some of them---film festivals, concerts on themes dear to our hearts, art shows on controversial themes, perhaps even the showing of art works on a moral issue such as torture or same sex marriage.
I hate chitchat. I'm no good at it. I love good conversation that includes themes that are important to me. And I love it best when it crops up unforced and unexpected. I'm still savoring all the good conversations of the past week. May there be more to come!