Another topic I think the Bartlett’s do a good job of exploring is our habits of worship. This description seemed particularly insightful:
Event the attenuated Protestantism from which about half our members come, retains many conventional religious symbols, which in our rebellion we reject. This leaves us with little representational art, few anthems acceptable unfumigated, and with “religious” language that ahs to be emotionally neutered. Thus we will “aspire” but we will not pray; we will employ the word G-O-D if at all, only after a lengthy disclaimer. If Unitarians’ preferred party entertainment is conversation, so also is talk their only save medium of religious exchange. But at that, listening to the decibel of chatter around the sacred coffee urn, would one say that the talk is listless or lacks emotion?
We are not cold, just corseted. We have felt deeply enough about religion to leave our childhood church, rather than stay with it and bear its affronts to the intellect with and easy, “Come now, it’s only symbolic–why take it so hard?”
Observers of Unitarians “off location”are always struck by what a high place they give to the aesthetic dimension of life. They may endure low-fi recordings in teh fellowship Sunday program, perhaps as one gesture of contempt for all orders of service. But hte fellow who spins the platters is, at home, a hi-fi nut. His wife probably makes her own jewelry, and their walls are hung with original paintings, likely by and artist-member of the fellowship! Art cannot bloom for people suspicious of life. Unitarian Universalists, logically, are some of the very people who should be restoring the partnership of religion with poetry and dance and drama and all the arts…
…More than that, why should we take it for granted that a sermon, by the minister or by anybody else, is the best way of handling every theme? The trouble isn’t only that the ministerdoes all the preaching. The trouble is that we expect preaching to do it all! …The task, rather, is to use our total resources and imagination as a congregation.
The religion is not the medium–not in the form “sermon” as form, but in what comes through the medium: person-to-person, “deep calling unto deep.” Sermon or music or drama, if they are merely performances will not feed our spirits. But so also, if a message in any medium touches life with its wisdom, splendor, healing, or illumination, it is authentically religious.