At Sunday morning worship this morning, we got a good old-fashioned Universalist sermon. But the rest of the worship service was anything but old-fashioned. The music was not 19th C. Western European classical music, it was jazz, gospel, and world music. The children’s story incorporated dance and drama to tell an ancient Sufi tale. And worshipping in the Fort Worth arena with about three thousand other Unitarian Universalists did not feel like traditional church — it did not even feel like the old-time Universalist camp meetings. No, the worship was contemporary.
But the sermon, given by Rob Hardies, minister at All Souls UU Church in Washington, DC, gave a message that the 19th C. Universalists would have recognized. The line from Hardies’s sermon that stuck with me went something like this: “The spiritual life isnâ€™t about dabbling here and there, itâ€™s about giving your whole life over to love.” Hardies gave new life to that old Universalist theme that love is the most powerful force in the universe, by pointing out that love will transform us as we use love to transform the world into a more humane and just place.
Hardies also had a good line about the name of his church. His church is called All Souls, which he contends is the best name for Unitarian Universalist churches because we aim to invite all persons in. But, said Hardies, “Can you imagine a church named ‘Some Souls’?” Everyone laughed, and then he added, “But isnâ€™t that the defacto name of dominant religion in America today?” Murmurs of recognition greeted this statement.
Hardies went on to add, “The good news that Unitarian Universalism must deliver to the world… the good news that has literally saved my life, is that a god who picks and chooses is not god at all, it is an idol.â€ Then he said we must â€œpreach the old Universalist gospel that all souls are invited to the welcome table.”
Well, this Universalist agrees with Hardies wholeheartedly. The professional musicans and well-rehearsed worship service for 3,000 people is fine and good, but what really matters is getting that message out to the world.