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Pillar and Cloud

If you had told me ten years ago that I was going to change careers and become a Unitarian Universalist minister I probably would have told you that you had mistaken me for somebody else. I also would have seen my moving to the beautiful place that is northern Arizona as likely as my setting up residence on Mars.

But life has a way of being unpredictable sometimes, and one change can lead to another, and then another. That is how it came to be that a few years ago years ago, during a period of introspection, I felt a profound call to devote my remaining working years to Unitarian Universalist ministry. It felt as if something greater then myself was at work in my life, and that I needed to follow a path set out before me. In some ways my new calling feels a bit like the story of the Israelites’ escape from Egypt as recounted in the Hebrew Bible:

The Lord went in front of them in a pillar of cloud by day, to lead them along the way, and in a pillar of fire by night, to give them light, so that they might travel by day and by night. Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people. (Exodus 13:21-22)

In following my path to ministry I have felt the presence of the pillars of cloud and fire leading the way. That is why I decided to call my monthly column for the congregation I served before coming to Granite Peak Pillar and Cloud, to recognize my personal spiritual journey. It seems only fitting to use the same title for my monthly column during my year as your interim minister.

Unlike the ancient Israelites, however, I’m not looking for the Promised Land someplace else. Instead my call to ministry means working to help make this land fulfill its promises, promises expressed and implied in our national constitution, and embodied in our seven Unitarian Universalist principles.

As I write this column, my first for GPUUC, our third UU principle – acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations – is uppermost in my mind. For too long our country and our national leadership has gone down the path of becoming more and more polarized, and our national dialog has become increasingly more rancorous as a result. How can I, and how can we, as spiritual beings, help to promote acceptance of a diversity of opinions in the larger community? After all, isn’t acceptance of diversity one of the things that our constitution is supposed to encourage?

It seems to me that spiritual growth in the wider community ought to be a new national priority. Regardless of where one stands on the theological spectrum, from atheist to theist and all points in between, the work of social justice is not just a moral or ethical issue. It is a spiritual issue as well. That is why most of us recoil in horror when we see young children separated from their parents by US border officials acting at the behest of unfeeling individuals far removed in Washington D.C. Justice is a spiritual response to the kind of injustice that denies the human spirit its freedom.

In the year ahead I am looking forward to my own spiritual growth as I serve as your interim minister. And I look forward to all of us sharing our spiritual journeys with one another as we engage in our shared ministry of living according to our Unitarian Universalist principles and values. May a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night lead us all as we undertake that journey together.

May it be so.
Terry Cummings, Interim Minister