First, I'd like to talk about my "spiritual” journey.
I was brought up Catholic and during high school in the early 1970s was quite involved with the church. This was in part due to a young liberal priest who ran a "rap group" for young people. It was a mix of prayer, folk songs, consciousness raising, and meditation.
As I entered my late teens, I began questioning Catholic teaching and was generally drifting away. Two separate incidents that disillusioned me were when the head of the Mafia in New York City -- the real-life Godfather -- had a big Catholic funeral, and when my liberal priest friend became more conservative.
Also, during high school, I had a good friend who became involved with Buddhism and spent time in a Buddhist monastery after graduation. I also became a fan of Jack Kerouac's writing, particularly the novels On the Road and The Dharma Bums, his novel about Zen.
I attended a nominally Catholic college where the dominant religion was "used to be Catholic." Its strong liberal arts tradition included required courses in religion and philosophy, and I have continued to read and study religion and philosophy since then. Some things I learned included: Not only did Paul never meet Jesus, but – if one compares Paul’s epistles to the gospels – he seems only vaguely aware that a historical Jesus existed. There were so many Christians in the early church who did not believe that Jesus was God that they had to hold a worldwide council at Nicaea to enforce that Trinitarian dogma.
During the 1980s and 1990s, I never went to Christian churches, although I occasionally attended a Buddhist event, even sometimes a New Age or Mythopoetic Men’s Movement activity, and was generally a Humanist in the Joseph Campbell tradition.
Over the past few years, I have renewed my interest in Buddhism and especially Zen, and deeply thank Joyce Haydock (senior dharma teacher) who leads the Monday evening meditation sessions here at FRS. I myself would summarize Zen as the discipline to question authority and to question our own beliefs and hang ups. More recently, I’ve been running -- which I do partly as a spiritual practice (called kaihōgyō).
My wife, Bev, and I moved to Newburyport about 30 years ago and attended the FRS occasionally, looking for a community of like-minded people. Once we had kids, we became more involved, and for me, it meant mostly taking turns teaching Young Church. I became on official member about 5 years ago, disregarding Woody Allen's advice about belonging to a club that would have someone like me for a member.
For my second theme, I'd like to move from spiritual topics to say a bit about activism.
While I was in high school, the Vietnam war was in full swing, as was the anti-war movement, and I was a ringleader in small high-school walkout following the Kent State massacre. I attended a few marches after that, and the war basically ended as I graduated from high school. Like many of us back in the day, I then spent the rest of the ‘70s and ‘80s waiting for the ‘60s to return. They didn't. But I did attend a couple of conferences for the New Left, but they would probably would be considered the Old New Left now.
Fast forward to the 21st century, I visited Occupy Boston a few times, participated in a march and rally they had. In hindsight, I believe the UUA could have done much more to embrace and support Occupy, and it was a missed opportunity for our Unitarian Universalist movement, I say this because these kinds of opportunities to make a progressive stand happen quite infrequently. But more recently, I joined an anti-Dakota Access Pipeline march in Boston, protesting the infringement on Sioux land. I'm delighted to say that the pipeline project was halted.
Although it is easy for me to feel cynical in times like these, I’m delighted by the FRS community’s participation in the Washington and Boston Women’s marches, particularly the involvement of our young people, our action faction, our vanguard. Thus my own very personal message to my friends who took part in the marches, and in the words of the immortal Victor Laszlo, the resistance leader from the film Casablanca: “Welcome back to the fight. This time, I know our side will win.”
Pick up the latest collection of Journey of Faith statements in the vestibule. The new booklet, containing all the Journeys of Faith from the 2015-16 church year, has just been printed.