An essential spiritual and moral value

Susan Frederick-Gray


UU World Magazine Summer 2019

When my son was just 2 years old, I found him bringing all his stuffed animals into the shower. When I asked what he was up to, he answered, “It’s shower church.”

I smiled and asked, “Oh yeah, what’s happening at shower church?”

He told me he would be preaching. When I asked what he was preaching about he answered simply, “Love, mommy. It’s always love.”

There’s an old saying that even the best preachers only have one or two sermons—we just keep finding new ways to share them. In that moment, I thought my son clearly figured out mine.

Love is a core foundation of my religious understanding, but it is not a love that is simply an emotion, a feeling, or an expression of the bonds of loyalty felt within a group. In personal relationships, when we love someone, we wish for them the fullest unfolding and development of who they are. We wish for them freedom, safety, joy, and life. Love as a religious practice extends our compassion, solidarity, and care beyond the personal to seeking the liberation and wholeness of every person. It reminds us of our fundamental interdependence with all of life.

It is this understanding of love that formed one of the most precious gifts Unitarian Universalism has given me: the gift of a religion that teaches that the work of justice is inseparable from a faith rooted in love.

This understanding that love and justice are inseparable was nurtured by my UU atheist and activist mom, who told me as a young child she did not believe in god, but if she did, she would believe god is love.

It was reinforced by the stories and theology of Unitarian Universalism—that no one is outside the circle of love.
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