Mixing the strange and the familiar keeps our progressive religion evolving …

The good poem maintains a delicate balance between strangeness and familiarity. The author must make the familiar strange enough to be re-seen or re-felt by the reader. The truth is always a little strange because the conventional world has little interest in truth, and regularly accepts packaged versions of it …

This excerpt from Stephen Dunn’s essay, The Good, The Not So Good, defines a central paradox of Unitarian Universalism. Mixing the strange and the familiar keeps our progressive religion evolving. People ask, “How can people who don’t believe in God be in the same congregation with those who do?” It’s not so hard when you promote diversity and compassionate listening.

We need the sense of being rooted in our lives as we are growing out of them. The need to have a safe haven where you can be yourself doesn’t exclude the need to practice radical hospitality. Welcoming the stranger stretches us into an essential tension. To be open to others is a way of being open to the world. Being stretched in two directions keeps us flexible.

The willingness to evolve makes life so much more interesting. Yes, there are some awful consequences that the industrial revolution has wrought, but it has freed many people from spirit numbing and body breaking labor. All the new technology today may feel off-putting to those of us who are older, but it can provide amazing tools of communication that have a democratizing impact on the world we live in. It gives everybody the opportunity to lift up their voice. Yes, it can feel chaotic, but it also brings in a new order.

The history of failed UU congregations may be marked by their lack of willingness to change; to shake things up a bit. I’m not advocating chaos as a good strategy, but the feeling that comes when I walk into a happy grammar school which is deeply supported by families, teachers, staff, and community. There’s a buoyancy that makes me feel more alive, more curious, more receptive and very happy.

Thoughtful experimentation is a good way to go. We honor those people who started and nurtured this Fellowship by infusing it with new programs within and without. If something doesn’t work, try something else. But one thing for sure is that we don’t want to be a packaged version of Unitarian Universalism. I believe we want to live out our shared truth with brave hearts and keen intelligence. I believe that the potential for an increasingly colorful, vital and meaningful presence is endless if we give ourselves to the big vision of what is possible!
With love,


  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • email

Leave a Reply