Our January meeting for reverence and worship was led by Lucy, and focused on why the words practice and discipline keep popping up in religion.
We started out by noticing that there is no single Unitarian faith, and that every Unitarian service is an interfaith service, since – although we can never know – we can imagine that every person has a different faith.
In the light of the recent Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris, we also agreed that it is important for people of faith to practice their own belief system long enough and seriously enough that they no longer harbour the fear that another belief can insult or affect their own. Losing fear of other beliefs is one way to work towards peace.
After the lighting of the chalice and our normal opening ritual there were readings from Hinduism and the Jesus tradition. The Hindu reading came from the sacred book of the Upanishads, and it was the story of Indra and Prajapati. Indra spent one hundred and one years as a disciple of his teacher Prajapati before he gained the mystical knowledge he sought.
The second reading was by a contemporary writer explaining some of the teachings of the Christian hermits, men and women, who lived in the deserts of 5th century Egypt. These hermits are known collectively as the Desert Fathers and Mothers and the teachings they gave were one of the inspirations for monastic life through the centuries. These wise people have emphasised to us that it takes a very long time to fully become the human being we have the potential to become.
So these two traditions both advise that application and repeated tries are the only way to develop and grow in a spiritual sense. The view was offered that the words discipline and practice can more or less be interchanged, and that having a regular practice to hang onto can prevent us from becoming completely derailed when crises and shocks occur.
We spent some time in silent contemplation of the practices that have emerged for us in our personal lives, that allow us to grow in faith or spirit, and we sang some hymns in gratefulness for the project of spiritual growth and the chance to keep on trying.
We finished with the International Prayer for Peace. The words of this prayer, adapted from the Hindu Upanishads, were used by Mother Teresa in 1981. She urged everyone of all faiths to use the peace prayer daily at noon.
Lead me from death to life,
from falsehood to truth.
Lead me from despair to hope,
from fear to trust.
Lead me from hate to love,
from war to peace.
Let peace fill our heart, our world, our universe.