At All Souls we like to say we stand for Love Beyond Belief. But, what do we mean by Love Beyond Belief?
I would explain it this way. When I was an Episcopalian, I said that the business of religion is truth. The priest agreed with me. That was his job, telling us what the truth was. Now that I’m a Unitarian, I say that the business of religion is love. That is why love is beyond belief—beyond, that is to say—belief in what is true.
The business of religion is LOVE
At All Souls, we say that our Great Covenant is to “dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.” We seek the truth. We do not proclaim it. Although we like to say we “speak truth to power,” it would be more honest to say we “speak opinion to power.”
“Love is the Spirit of this church and service is it’s law. This is our great covenant; to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.” – All Souls covenant
After many years of having only one traditional service, we welcomed New Dimensions—a multi-racial Pentecostal congregation which in time resulted in the addition of the 11:30 a.m. contemporary service. I hate to say it, but I realized All Souls could be a little boring before New Dimensions came.
With our mission of Love Beyond Belief, we added the Humanist Hour, initially named The Point. At one time, The Point was at 8:30, the traditional service at 10:00, and the contemporary service at 11:30. During a lay-leader training session, we were practicing explaining the difference between the services. One man told me, “8:30 no God, 10:00 a little God, 11:30 a whole lot of God.” I concluded, correctly, he didn’t want any God and attended the 8:30 humanist service.
Dramatic Illustration of Love Beyond Belief
The Humanist Hour is now held at 11:30 a.m. in Emerson Hall at the same time the contemporary, quasi-Pentacostal service is held in the sanctuary. This is a rather dramatic illustration of Love Beyond Belief. During the summer, the humanistic and traditional services were combined at 10:00 a.m. during the Summer Sundays series. This further tested our ability to live and love beyond belief, to step out of our comfort zones, and to meet people from different services.
The meaning of UU
As for myself, I used to attend the contemporary service, until one year I worked with the youth program which met at 11:30, and I started attending the traditional 10:00 service, and have been doing so every since. I consider myself a confessional Unitarian Universalist, by which I mean, I believe in the actual existence of a unitary personal God and the universal salvation of the soul after death, the definition of the words Unitarian and Universalist. They don’t mean chic and trendy. The unity of God and the universality of salvation are the two truths that I believe in firmly. I recognize that other people who belong to All Souls believe more about Jesus or less about God than I do. Love Beyond Belief means accepting our differences and working together for common purposes such as social justice. We all want to work for a better world to live in.
An Episcopal priest I knew used to say that the church is a hospital for sinners, and not a museum for saints. It is no accident that many Unitarian churches are named All Souls throughout the nation, none are named All Saints. Whatever you are, whoever you are, you are welcome at All Souls.