Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-eight

The Forty-eighth Day
(Easter Monday, April 22, 2019)

As-Yet-Unglimpsed Possibilities

“The greatest distinction between the general working philosophy of life and the religious one is the type and quality of the crowning value in the hierarchy of values. When the individual has grown sufficiently to discern that the highest conceivable objective of our dominant loyalty is a growth of meaning and value in the universe which is in that sense super human, we have discerned God . . . It is a steady and progressive process of growth.

“Of course, one can give consent to a philosophy of religion worked out by others long before this period, but it is not part of one’s very fibre. A philosophy of religion developed in the process of devoted religious living can never be lost. It can and is modified progressively, . . . nor is it ever finished. Always it moves toward the as-yet-unglimpsed possibilities of a more magnificent and profound Reality-on-beyond, so long as religious living continues intelligent and vital. The quickest and soundest way to the attainment of a worthy idea of God is not through a type of training which tries to ‘give’ ideas and precepts, insists upon memorization of passages of sacred literature, super-induces conversion under high pressure, and in other ways endeavors to coerce the individual into an acceptance of the stereotypes and facts of a cult. The swiftest and surest way to the attainment of a worthy idea of God is through a progressive development of value-habits and ideals which grows into a progression of loyalties by way of devotion to the highest value at any one time conceivable. Finally, one who persists on one’s quest discovers that the highest value for all human living in growthof meaning. . . .

“Of course, no one can have knowledge beyond the culture of one’s time, but one can recognize the limitations of that culture. Culture-bound individuals tend to have blind spots a to the possibilities of exploration and evaluation outside those which have been recognized and standardized by the social group with which they identify themselves. They do not realize the relativity of the techniques and the appreciation of their culture. They take their age and time too seriously. They do not see themselves as only a long moment . . .  They are culture-centered.

“This culture-bound philosophy can be better understood by contrasting it with its opposite. . . . Such persons engage in great flights of speculative imagination, which take off from the proudest heights of truth that this culture can erect. These speculative ventures suggest a larger perspective than that of their own culture . . . it is Reality-centered rather than culture-centered. It development requires a transcendent point of view and attitude. Individuals, here, cannot know beyond the limits of the knowledge of their culture; but they can realize vividly and stirringly that there is more to know, and that there may be new ways of going about the building of knowledge. Their knowledge is bound by their culture, but the exploration and creativeness of their imaginations are not. They are not tradition-bound as are they with the conformative philosopy. They are not ego-bound as they are with the adventitious philosophy. They are not culture-bound as are they who build on (this) plateau. They have a mystical quality in their living and outreaching. They hold themselves ready for the greater which may emerge. They hold their system of concepts tentatively, ready to re-test and re-shape when greater meaning comes. They will progressively integrate their living in the light of the findings.

“(Such persons) participate actively in the actual living processes which go to make up the realities of the every day; but they seek to discern in and through these, those significant meanings which are pointers toward the wider Reality. They have a vivid sense of the unfinished and fragmentary nature of what this particular culture can real of the Supremely Worthful. A working philosophy of religion, developed through a transcendental viewpoint such as this, is realistic while still being creative; it is tested while still being unbound. It favors limited progression in religious living and in the development of that body of concepts which guides it.” (Wieman & Wieman)

We come to the end of this Lenten Exercise on the forty-eight day, as Holy Week comes to an end. But as that week marked not an end, but a beginning, so should this Lenten experience. If it has succeeded, its users will want to go on building in their own daily meditations and ongoing search for truth and right. Everything they learn and encounter will be worked into their growing outlook. It will become the center and power in their lives. It is the noblest of all life’s experiences.. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God, You are the growth of creative mutuality in the universe. Grasp us. Guide us. Grow in us. Glorify us. For Your Shining City’s sake. Amen.

Hymn

Wonders still the world shall witness
Never known by men of old,
Never dreamed by ancient sages,
How-so-ever free and bld.
Sons and daughters shall inherit
Wondrous arts to us unknown,
When the dawn of peace its splendor
Over all the world has thrown.

Men shall rule with winged freedom
World of health and human good,
Worlds of commerce, worlds of science,
All made one and understood.
They shall know a world transfigured,
Which our eyes but dimply see;
They shall make its towns and woodlands
Beautiful from sea to sea.

For a spirit then shall move them
We but vaguely apprehend—
Aims magnificent and holy,
Making joy and labor friend.
Then shall bloom in song and fragrance,
Harmony of thought and deed,
Fruits of peace and love and justice—
Where today we plant the seed.

—Jacob Trapp (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 352)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 191)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-seven

The Forty-seventh Day
(Easter Sunday, April 21, 2019)

The Recreation of Faith

“Religion is devotion to what we hold to be supremely worthful not only for ourselves but for all human living. This applies to all genuine religion as we shall understand it. But the superior forms of religion require an elaborate statement with full equalification. Religion, at its highest and best, is the devotion of the total self, through search, service and adoration, to the highest cause of which one is now conscious, providing that cause is deemed worthy of the devotion of all people, and is symbolic of ever higher unexplored values.

“Religion, then, is a process of organizing the self around and toward the highest values, The total self mustbe involved if the highest values are to be promoted and realized. The total self willbe involved spontaneously if the devotees are sincere, for they believe that that to which they devote themselves is truly the most worthful they know. . . .

“In excellent religion, which is always something more than genuine religion, the objective sought and served and adored has not only the kind of value which must be shared to be realized, but a value which the individual reveres because it leads on to, and always opens out into, higher and wider realms of value which are never fully compassed at any one time by the devotee. Hence the highest that can be clearly formulated and comprehended is always a progression. Always this highest reaches on to values that elude the present powers of specific knowledge and appreciation. Hence the way of life that marks excellent religion is the process of progressive integration, involving the total person, and growing toward a Supremely Worthful which exceeds the scope of present comprehension.

“This is the reason why people’s religion is so important to them when it is genuine. It is not that it is so close to them but that it is the center of their lives. It is themselves. It is their total self living a particular way of life. We can no more suddenly ‘lose our religion’ that we can suddenly lose our personality. Both are present growth processes rooted in previous growth processes, and thrusting toward future growth processes. The particular responsiveness or way of life, and the generating and emerging body of concepts which portray what is at the time the most worthful, are not two distinctly different things, but rather two aspects of the religious process. One aspect is always becoming the other.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Growing one’s own religion is a matter of constantly reworking one’s beliefs into a more and more perfectly integrated, living faith, testing out each fragment by one’s own experience, the findings of others and the wisdom of the past. The task is never finished, but that does not matter, for the task of spiritual growth itself becomes the principal source of personal pleasure, social effectiveness, and carries the sense of transforming glory. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Our God, Yours is the glory, ours is the joy and the labor of realizing it in and around ourselves. Yes, Your glory is always here—potentially—within and among us humans, waiting only our commitment to burst into being. Rouse us to such commitment. Amen.

Hymn

Press on! press on! ye ones of light,
Untiring in your holy fight,
Still treading each temptation down,
And battling for a brighter crown. 

Press on! press on! through toil and woe
Calmly resolved to triumph go,
And make each dark and threatening ill
Yield but a higher glory still.

Press on! press on! still look in faith
To God who vanquished sin and death,
And till you hear the high ‘Well done,’
True to the last, press on! press on!

—William Gaskell (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 315)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-six

The Forty-sixth Day
(Saturday, April 20, 2019)

Laughter that Makes People Thin

“What makes one feel at home in the universe is one’s beliefs about the universe, and the part and place of human life in it. This system of beliefs is the foundation of one’s sense of inner security, and is the basis for the organization of oneself and one’s characteristic behavior. When these beliefs are disordered or nullified, life loses its order and meaning. . . .

“A transition period in religion is a very difficult period for human living. There are in commotion many factors and trends which confuse us, and prevent us from feeling at home. . . . These are further complicated because they do not bear upon any two individuals in an identical way. Therefore the reactions of those whose order of being and living has been threatened or disrupted, vary markedly. Some lose meaning, and hence lose the self. Others resist, but with devitalizing misgivings in their hearts and minds. Some, the pseudo-Stoics, that is, the cynics, indulge in the type of laughter that makes thin people. Certain groups keep on with what they have for want of something better, though aware of dry rot and lamed by a sense of futility or an apologetic spirit. A few courageous ones dare to say they do not know, and hold themselves open to all other opinion. Some try to build up a system deliberately, with the assortment of materials at hand. Many shut their eyes tight and turn back to the illusory security of the old dogmatically formulated creeds. There are those, also, who live in shelters and so feel only enough of the cross-currents and rip-tides to confuse these propulsions toward religious construction with wicked temptations. They interpret their impact as tests for consecrated resistance. These are probably the least distressed, for nothing can give sight to their blind faith; they believe devoutly that they live blessedly. Numerous ones do not think, managing this through keeping very active in carious matters felt to be ‘good; causes. Some are self-seeking experimenters, trying first this and then that. But there are, over and above all these, certain searchers in the field who, while holding their findings to the discipline of rigid tests, are exploring with relatively open minds the possibilities of meaning and value wherever these seem likely to be found.

“There is great need today for the same type of objective, critical, intelligent, creative, persistent investigation into the realities which concern religion as has been given to the more restricted inquiries in the realm of the sciences. . . . Religion is the most important way that humans have tried by which to organize the order of life. This way is itself now disorganized, and is being questioned and brought under examination. Whether out of the resulting confusion there will come a period of the chaos of mere ruin, or sort of Dark Ages of Futility, or a period of vigorous growth which will compel intelligent, creative control, is a question of social evolving. Certainly the soil around many of the roots of religion is giving evidence of the sturdy thrusts of living force.” (Wieman & Wieman)

In our age, religion itself is undergoing its own “via dolorosa,” a crucifixion and a resurrection of rebirth in a new more pertinent garb, capable of speaking powerfully to the modern scientific age. But this rebirth and resurrection can become significant only as it takes place in and through us. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God, help us to understand that even the Valley of the Shadow of Death is not frightening, for it is part of Your Plan that all which lives must die to make way for the new and nobler day and life. Not thatwe live and die, but how—is what makes the difference. Jesus has shown us the way, the truth and the life. Help us to take up our cross and follow him. Amen.

Hymn

When my love to God grows weak,
When for deeper faith I seek,
Then in tho’t I go to thee,
Garden of Gethsemane.

There I walk amid the shades,
While the lingering twilight fades;
See that suffering, friendless one
Weeping, praying, there alone.

When my love for all grows weak,
When for stronger faith I seek,
Hill of Calvary, I go
To thy scenes of fear and woe;

There behold his agony
Suffered on the bitter tree;
See the anguish, see the faith,
Love triumphant still in death.

Then to life I turn again,
Learning all the worth of pain,
Learning all the might that lies
In a full self-sacrifice.

—John Reynell Wreford (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 189)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 313)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-five

The Forty-fifth Day
(Good Friday, April 19, 2019)

Religion May Become Fiendish

“There is a fairly pernicious feature in the degeneration of religion. The immediate objective in any social enterprise always involves a stand in relation to persons, for and against. When the horizons of our religion narrow themselves down to some one specifically formulated objective, all the driving power of our religious loyalty may become focused upon persons, forsome and against others. Then the persons who are opposed to us cease to be human in our eyes. They become devils. They become the incarnation of all that is obstructive to the forward movement of history and the fulfillment of highest values.

“Religion often takes this form in times of war. But never does it become so evil and degraded in this respect as in the great struggles to change the status quo on the one side, and defend it from change on the other. Under such conditions a religion that is operative butt unconscious, uncriticized, uncorrected by the insights of history, the fellowships and the meditations of cultivated religion, may become fiendish. It becomes directed by social differentiation—against persons and for person. Then the most terrible persecutions, the most unbelievable cruelties, can arise. They are unbelievable except when we understand the psychological principles of a religion that has become fiendish, by reason of narrowing its devotion to a dauntless and unswerving drive towards some immediate social objective . . . No religion at all is better than that unconscious religion which becomes demonic. Yet without the sustaining devotion and driving loyalty of a religion, social reconstruction with all its difficulties  and sacrifices cannot be carried through.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Rabbi Jesus, during the period we call Holy Week, found himself confronting religions and nationalisms that had become idolatrous. Yet, he continued to believe in a God of all-conquering love, even in the hour of his own betrayal. True religion will always look for God’s judgment upon even our noblest endeavors, and will place itself under that judgment at whatever cost.. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God, help us to catch the vision of endless growth of meaning through creative mutuality in an ever evolving world. Let it stand in judgment upon all of our small victories and partial accomplishments. Amen.

Hymn

The sky has gathered the flowers of sunset,
The earth is red with dew of slaughter.
The shores are ringed with the steel of onset,
And darkness covers the weaponed water.

The world-tree sickens beyond all knowing,
The worm is wasting the leaves that wreathe it.
The bough is drying; the sap is slowing;
For hatreds gnaw in the hells beneath it.

On one sole ground will the world-tree flourish,
On earth unarmored against its bearing,
Its glories free and its strength to nourish
The world-wide lands in a common sharing.

In kinship only, with all earth gardened,
The ravished leaf may be stayed in thinning
The stony ground at the root unhardened,
The boughs be green for a new beginning.

—Ridgely Torrence (Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 197)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-four

The Forty-forth Day
(Maundy Thursday, April 18, 2019)

No Religion is Better Than Demonic Religion

“Religion degenerates when not progressively redirected and amplified by an adequate philosophy and helpful religious fellowship, by meditation, and the religious insights of history. The manner of its degeneration is peculiarly pernicious. Nothing can be so evil as the noblest and most potent interests of human life when they go wrong. This is especially true of religion.

“One way in which religion constantly degenerates if not corrected by criticism and cultivation is to become narrow and demonic. It becomes demonic when some specific objective of endeavor which is sufficiently near to actual conditions to be within the range of practical achievement assumes the role of the supremely worthful for all human living. When this objective commands the sovereign devotion of a life and is served as though it were the final and supreme good for all history, we have a very great evil. The noblest propulsions, utmost zeal and greatest powers of human life are perverted and degraded by being harnessed to anything so low and so full of evil as any such objective always must be held subordinate to the ultimate objective which is far more spacious, and more lofty than these. In normative religion this supreme objective must eternally reach beyond the meanings and values which the individual is able to comprehend in definite formulation. Nothing short of such vastness and reach in the mastering loyalty of a life can save religion from being demonic, that is to say, destructive of the most precious values of life.” (Wieman & Wieman)

When better than Holy Week for us to remind ourselves of our unending temptation to judge our own particular way as the only good way for all, to make of limited objectives the City of God’s goal. It is this which leads to crucifixions and divisive hatreds where there should be all-redeeming love. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God, dear God, never let us forget our tendencies to label our goals Yours, and set ourselves up as God. Keep us humble, teachable, open, ever-growing. Amen.

Hymn

O life, that maketh all things new, 
The blooming earth, our thoughts within!
Our pilgrim feet, wet with thy dew,
In gladness hither turn again.

From hand to hand the greeting flows,
From eye to eye the signals run.
From heart to heart the bright hope glows,
The seekers of the Light are one.

One in the freedom of the truth,
One in the joy of paths untrod.
One in the soul’s perennial youth,
One in the larger thought of God.

The freer step, the fuller breath,
The wide horizon’s grander view,
The sense of life that knows no death,
The Life that maketh all things new.

—Samuel Longfellow (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 416)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 54)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-three

The Forty-third Day
(Wednesday, April 17, 2019)

The Interpenetration and Transfusion of Cultures

“All missionary enterprise carries with it the interpenetration and transfusion of cultures. . . . . If missionaries have the faith that inquires, they can bring to others a devotion to that supreme and perfect reality which they do not claim to be identical with their own specific beliefs. This reality is much more sublime and perfect than their formulation of it. Thus they can bring others a striving and an awareness that reaches up through all imitations and errors of their own culture and all culture. Their own unworthy practice and all unworthy practices of religion. They can bring a loyalty that reaches up to the supreme and perfect reality of God . . . Such missionaries can bring to all people a devotion that can rally all cultures, all religious souls, all traditions and perspectives, to one great cooperative enterprise of bringing their diverse insights and dominance of efforts into creative interchange, mutual correction, and supplementation to the end of attaining a clearer vision of the sublime and perfect reality of God and of the way of life whereon his goodness shines.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Our world is coming together with a rush, bringing together cultures and peoples who had known of each other but had no real opportunity to interpenetrate. Today, especially in places like North America, they meet and work together, fall in love, marry and have children across all the religious, cultural, social, national and racial barriers of the past. This is God at work in and through us towards a higher, broader mutuality. We need not to resist it, but to welcome it. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God of all people, Source of all the faiths, open our minds and hearts to each other’s yearning and discoveries. Help us to find truth in our differences and reassurance in our similarities, and let us clasp each other as brothers and sisters should, Children all of One Spirit. Amen.

Hymn

It sounds along the ages,
Soul answering to soul;
It kindles on the pages
Of ev’ry Bible scroll;
The psalmist heard and sang it,
From martyr lips it broke,
And prophet tongues outrang it
Till sleeping nations woke.

From Sinai’s cliffs it echoed,
It breathed from Buddha’s tree,
It charmed in Athens’ market,
It hallowed Galilee;
The hammer stroke of Luther,
The Pilgrim’s seaside prayer,
The oracles of Concord
One holy Word declare.

It calls—and lo!, new Justice!
It speaks—and lo, new Truth!
In ever nobler stature,
And unexhausted youth.
Forever on it soundeth,
Knows naught itself of time,
Our laws but catch the music
Of its eternal chime.

—William Channing Gannett (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 76)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 247)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-two

The Forty-second Day
(Tuesday, April 16, 2019)

Creative Interaction—the Saving Reality

“The order of value which commands the devotion of a religious person or group is never a private possession. It belongs by right to all humans living. . . .

“In what we call inquiring religion, as over against the dogmatic, . . . . the religious devotees do not think that they alone have the truth about the saving reality in which all human living must find whatever supreme fulfillment it can ever have. They confess that their knowledge of it is very limited and very partial. They are just as sure of its supreme importance as the dogmatists, perhaps even more so, because they do not have the restiveness and ‘rebel doubt’ which occasionally must assail people who feel that they and their tradition have all truth about it which has been vouchsafed to humankind. But the inquiring type of religionist knows that there are other insights, further knowledge, additional perspectives, and great possibilities of development in our apprehension of this most important reality. That type knows, furthermore, that this growing apprehension, full of vision and more open access to God can be attained only in the way that all truth grows, namely, by creative interaction with many different minds, many different cultures, many different insights, and the pool which is of many traditions. Therefore, such people go forth not to validate their beliefs, for they have no desire to validate them. They want to correct and enlarge them. They go forth not to save other people from the black hopelessness and error of their ways, but to enter into that creative interaction with them, that sharing, that mutual criticism, correction and enlargement that comes from cross-fertilization, filler appreciation and interchanges of thought and spirit. Thus for the inquiring religion the missionary enterprise is preeminently the way by which the road that leads to the Highest is made more plain and broad and open for all . . . It is the way of salvation for all people themselves and their cultural group along with all others. The missionary enterprise becomes the road that leads to God, for the one who has faith and inquires. . . .” (Wieman & Wieman)

A person cannot have a sense of saving truth and not feel compelled to share it with others, all others. But how we go about this becomes all important. If we do so openly, expectantly, hoping to learn as well as teach, we will succeed. If we go forth only to convert, we will fail. The truth of God, the growth of mutuality, cannot be given or taught. It can only be grown into by those who are open to learning as well as teaching. And we know that all of the human faiths have something worth our knowing. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Universal God, make us want to share our religious insights in ever widening circles, ourselves growing deeper and more broad-minded, richer and more useful, the farther our from our home bae we may be able to reach. God, gather us in, and help us to raise each other up. Amen.

Hymn

Gather us in, thou Love that fillest all;
Gather our rival faiths within thy fold;
Rend each one’s temple veil, and bid it fall,
That we may know that thou hast been of old.

Gather us in: we worship only thee;
In varied names we stretch a common hand;
In diverse forms a common soul we see;
In many ways we seek one promised land.

Thine is the mystic life great India craves;
Thine is the Parsee’s sin-destroying beam;
Thine is the Buddhist’s rest from tossing waves;
Thine is the empire of vast China’s dream.

Thine is the Roman’s strength without the pride;
Thine is the Greek’s glad world without its graves;
Thine is Judea’s law with love beside,
The truth that censures and the grace that saves.

Some seek a leader in the heavens above;
Some ask a human image to adore;
Some crave a Spirit vast as life and love;
Within thy mansions we have all and more.

—George Matheson (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 418)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 249)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty-one

The Forty-first Day
(Monday, April 15, 2019)

Face Turned Towards the Light

“People who choose to live for God as growth of meaning will have an underlying zest which arises out of disaster as well as fulfillment. They will know that in all fulfillment there is the presence of death; and in all perishing is the beginning of new life. They will see that each individual, each order, each epoch, each aeon, can actualize but a very small part of the fullness of possible meanings that is in God . . . They will seek perfection with all their powers. But when they find it, if happily they should, they will know that it must pass, giving place to further fulfillments. Thus in all perishings and in all beginnings, they will live with gentle might out of growth and the infinite realm of possibility joined in that unity which is God . . . Their chief end will be the promotion of that growth and richness of the world’s meaning which all people may share and to which all may contribute. . . . Because they discern the perpetual emergence of new possibilities, they will see that all human life is failure, and all is success, so long as they render their uttermost devotion to God.” (Wieman & Wieman)

We men and women of this world are all hung upon the cross of a perpetual paradox, the very best we can make of ourselves and our situations must be superseded. Our victories are mere stepping stones towards a yet higher good, which stands in judgment upon our noblest efforts. Yet, if we set our minds and hearts and lives on service of the highest, even our failures will be true success. We will have the satisfaction of knowing that we served God faithfully, as best we could, provided the next step up in a long climb, and live and die content. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Evolutionary God, teach us to accept the limitations of being human, yet always to strive to overcome them, that Your City of Love may be progressively realized through us. Amen.

Hymn

Out of the dark, the circling sphere
Is rounding onward to the light;
We see not yet the daylight clear,
Although we see the paling night.

And hope, that lights its fadeless fires,
And faith that shines with steadfast ray,
And love, that courage re-inspires,
As morning stars, lead on the way.

Look backward, how much has been won;
Look round, how much is yet to win!
The watches of the night are done;
The watches of the day begin.

O thou, whose mighty patience holds
The night and day alike in view,
Thy will our dearest hope enfolds;
O keep us steadfast, patient, true.

—Samuel Longfellow (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 99)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 208)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Forty

The Fortieth Day
(Palm Sunday, April 14, 2019)

Working with God to Rear a Realm of Meaning

“People throughout history have come back to think that serious work is concerned almost entirely with procuring the necessities of existence. All else, such as education, art politics, friendship, home life and the like, are of interest to people who see it as a form of recreation or as a means of promoting the economic enterprise. We must unlearn this lesson which the ages have taught us. The serious business of living for human beings is to transform the planet by way of political, educational, artistic and other activities into a place where growth of meaning in the two forms of development of personality and growth of culture can fulfill itself most abundantly.

“In the past it has been the function of institutional religion to constrain them for purposes of social conservation. In the future it must be to release humans for purposes of social creativity. It must release then into the freedom of God. In deep creative community of meaning we must work with God to rear a realm of meaning, rooted in the economic order, but flowering in the highest spiritual outreach of imagination.

“It is the cardinal function of the church to turn our hearts to God so that such meaning may grow. It must keep us eager, expectant and alert for this growth. Growth of meaning must seek above all else. The beastly labor of struggling for bare existence is past, if we can learn how to distribute what we are able to produce. The distinctively human labor of developing a world of meaning, may not be ours. The prison walls of hard necessity are crumbling. We are free, almost, to give our all to God, as we never could before. Also we are free to ignore God as never was possible in the past. If we choose the latter course, the zest of life will gradually, inevitably fail until at last we seek death because living will not be worth the trouble.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Man’s high calling is to create upon this earth an integrated world of meaning in which the highest potentials of all participants are called forth and exercised. In our time, we stand at the threshold of such a possibility. It awaits only our willingness to share our knowledge and our creativity more wisely and more widely. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God, as we confront the awesome opportunities, arouse in us an equivalent dedication to the common good, and determination to share all that we have and are with our human kindred under every star. Amen.

Hymn

These things shall be—a loftier race
Than e’er the world hath known shall rise
With flame of freedom in their souls,
And light of knowledge in their eyes.

They shall be gentle, brave, and strong
To spill no drop of blood, but dare
All that may plant soul’s power firm
On earth, and fire, and sea, and air.

They shall be simple in their homes,
and splendid in their public ways,
Filling the mansions of the state
With music and with hymns of praise.

Nation with nation, land with land,
Unarmed shall live as comrades free;
In every heart and brain shall throb
The pulse of one community.

New arts shall bloom of loftier mould,
And mightier music thrill the skies,
And every life shall be a song
When all the earth is paradise.

—John Addington Symonds (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 360)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 190)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-nine

The Thirty-ninth Day
(Saturday, April 13, 2019)

A Web of Necessary Mutual Support

“God is in the economic process. We cannot intelligently and devoutly shape history until this is seen and felt. . . . Today the entire planet is becoming one community, not in love, not in mutual understanding, and cooperation, but in interdependence. The superhuman power of God is shown and shaping the lives of men into oneness that they never intended and which is, more often than not, contrary to their purposes. Physical things, human purposes and living organisms of all sorts are woven closer and closer and wider and wider into a web of necessary mutual support. The growth goes on wherever there is production for exchange. It is God at work in the economic process weaving a web of unity that can grow into community if we will do our part. . . . The church as the prime established institution of religion must awaken humanity’s loyalty, love and sensitivity to God in this realm of production for exchange, so that its economic striving will be corrected, inspired and directed by the ultimate sense of this divine presence at work shaping history through these activities. The church must develop criteria which will enable us to know when our economic striving runs counter to the working of God in this field of endeavor. . . . With such criteria sufficiently developed, and with people awake and sensitive to the presence of God, the church should be able to say: This is the way God is moving. Theretofore that bit of social structure that stands in the way must be stopped. With adequate criteria the church can speak with authority and insight and save us from the chaos and ruin of fighting against God. (Wieman & Wieman)

We live in an age in which economics rules the roost. Giant corporations seeking the highest possible profit, irrespective of the means they employ, the people they hurt or the resources they use up forever are in the saddle. The theory is that if everyone is selfish enough, the whole will benefit. But it is not working out that way. The rich get richer and the poor get poorer until there is a social explosion and many get hurt. The Church and its members have the responsibility to find and demonstrate a more excellent way. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Transforming God, Your command is that we love and serve each other in allour doings. We cannot do this while we exploit our fellow humans. If we grow rich on their poverty, we condemn ourselves. We become despicable in Your eyes, and our affluence cannot last. Correct us, God, and, in Your great mercy, help us to reform and redeem ourselves. Amen.

Hymn

Let there be light, oh God of Hosts!
Let there be wisdom on the earth!
Let broad humanity have birth!
Let there be deeds, instead of boasts!

Within our passioned hearts instill
The calm that endeth deadly strife;
Make us thy ministers of life;
Purge us from the lusts that curse and kill.

Give us the peace of vision clear
To see our comrade’s good our own,
To joy and suffer not alone;
The love that casteth our all fear.

Let woe and waste of warfare cease’
That useful labor yet may build
Its homes with love and laughter filled,
God, give thy wayward children peace!

—William Merrell Vories (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 397)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 201)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-eight

The Thirty-eighth Day
(Friday, April 12, 2019)

Political Endeavor in Time of Social Crises

“It is the part of religion in all times, but especially in times when people undertake the shaping of history, to equip each individual with loyalty and a way of worship that will enable each one to combine perspective with energetic action; patience with passion; sympathetic understanding of other ways, with zeal for one’s chosen way; driving forth, with a sense of high tragedy in all human undertakings; a single-eyed zeal that never flags, with experimental resourcefulness; ability to preserve poise when history-making issues are at stake. . . .

“This is the aid which religion can bring to political endeavor in time of social crisis. Without some such union of religion with political action there is little hope that we will be able to exercise that degree of social control which our times require. On this account we say that religion and politics must work together in the new era toward which we are moving. . . .” (Wieman & Wieman)

Mahatma Gandhi once said that anyone who thinks that religion and politics have nothing to do with each other doesn’t know what religion is. The task of religion is to keep politics from becoming idolatrous or demonic, to keep the molder and maker of events on the track, and to sustain him of her through good times and bad. Thus, to keep the realms of this earth growing towards the most meaningful City of our God. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God of Power, You have entrusted the earth and its future to us humans. You have given us the knowledge and the power to make it a paradise. If we do not make it according to Your growth of meaning, it quickly becomes a hell of selfishness and strife. Help us to turn towards Your heavenly hope. Amen.

Hymn

From hill and glen, from square and street,
Of this vast world beyond my door,
I hear the trend of marching feet,
The patient armies of the poor.

Not ermine clad or cloth’d in state,
Their title deeds not yet made plain,
But waking early, toiling late,
The heirs if all the earth remain.

The untaught brain shall yet be wise,
The untamed pulse grow calm and still;
The blind shall see, the lowly rise,
And work in peace time’s wondrous will.

Someday, without a trumpet’s call
This news will o’er the world be blown;
‘The heritage comes back to all!
The myriad monarchs take their own!’

—Thomas Wentworth Higginson (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 343)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-seven

The Thirty-seventh Day
(Thursday, April 11, 2019)

Loyalty to a Higher and Richer God

“The chief political function of religion in the difficult and dangerous times of social reconstruction is to provide us with an object of loyalty which is vastly higher and richer than any specific objective. The great danger in such times is that we will focus all our passion and all our loyalty on some definite goal. Such goals we must have, and we must strive for them with all our powers. But a noble religion enables us to pour out our passion and energy for this specific objective not as an end but as a metaphor of that which is infinitely higher. . . .

“When we have a mastering devotion to the unfathomable and unexplored riches of the wholeness of God, we are able to pause worshipfully to recover lost perspective. We can take note of ignored interest. We can discern the inevitable tragedy of all limited human endeavor. Most important of all, we can do this in such a way that energy for action is increased rather than diminished by this worshipful recovery of the higher vision. We are able to be objective in our survey and treatment of all the factors in each concrete situation. In the midst of confusion, hate and passion, we will not become wither demonic or despairing, either fiendish or futilitarian.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Our greatest human failing is the tendency to give our all for limited, human objectives—to build the family company and fill the family coffers, to put one’s own city or country above all else; to forget that in God’s Being-Becoming we are all bound together, so that if one is hurt all are ultimately hurt, and if one rejoices, all ultimately shall rejoice. It is not easy, but God’s command is to give ourselves for the well-being of the whole. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

God of all, help us to be more deeply aware of the bonds that bind us to all men and women everywhere and to all the generations past, whose victories are summarized in us, and all who are to come who must receive their world from us. Help us to pass on this world to those who will come after us as a more harmonious place. Amen.

Hymn

Hail the hero workers of the mighty past!
Those whose labor builded all the things that last.
Thoughts of wisest meaning; deeds of noblest right;
Patient toil in weakness; battles in the night.

Hail then, noble workers, builders of the past,
All whose lives have blest us with the gains that last.

Hail ye, hero workers, who today do hear
Duty’s myriad voices sounding high and clear;
Ye who quick responding, haste ye to your task,
Be it grand or simple, ye forget to ask.

Hail then, noble workers, builders of the past,
All whose lives have blest us with the gains that last.

Hail ye, hero workers, ye who yet shall come,
When to this world’s calling all our lips are dumb!
Ye shall build more nobly if our work is true
And we pass life’s treasure on from old to new.

Hail then, noble workers, builders of the past,
All whose lives have blest us with the gains that last.

—Anna Garlin Spencer (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 330)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-six

The Thirty-sixth Day
(Wednesday, April 10, 2019)

Religion Shaping History

“Religion is the way in which we endeavor to deal with the superhuman. Increase of human control over the social process does not mean that we will be any less dependent upon the growth of meaning, which we have seen if the reality of the superhuman in our midst. It does not mean that God, working in ways that are beyond our power, will be any the less operative in history. Quite the contrary is the case. We shall be more dependent upon the superhuman growth of meaning than we have been in the past. . . . When we are constantly reconstructing the social order in basic ways, there is bound to be great loss of old meanings. Therefore the meaning of life will decline, swiftly and fatally, unless there is continuous growth of new meaning.

“This danger that people in times of social control will ignore their dependence upon God for growth of meaning, is no mere speculative menace. Again and again it has happened that when people have achieved means of control over their own ways of living, they have neglected to give highest loyalty and prime concern to growth of meaning . . . They have not yielded themselves to the creative, transforming power of growth of meaning . . . They have not given supreme devotion to God. The consequence of this refusal to give primary importance to the superhuman growth of meaning has been a steady decline in the meaning of life . . .

“We are being tested again in this old way. We will be exercising more power and so have more at stake. Can humanity be trusted with power to direct the social process in human history and still remember that it is made for God and God alone? Or will we throw off that ancient allegiance and divine sovereignty and so find ourselves in a world full of activities but so barren of meaning and value that life ceases to be worth the living?

“Which way we shall go will depend very largely on what sort of religion we develop.” (Wieman & Wieman)

We live in an age of burgeoning human power, power to command material wealth from the earth, power to change the course of human evolution. Yet it is power also to pollute the atmosphere and the great waters, and to set human against human in wars which could wipe out all human life. We desperately need guidance in how we wield that power, and humility in the face of its divine and demonic potentials. It is not by chance that the age of power coincides with the dawn of folly. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Our God, You are that Power which appears in and rewards mutuality of life’s relations. You seek to make us more sharing more supportive, more enhancing of one another. You have bound us indissolubly to all the generations of the past, and those yet to be. Help us to live and work in this realization. Amen.

Hymn

From age to age how grandly rise
The prophet souls in line!
Above the passing centuries
Like beacon lights they shine.

Through differing accents of the lip
One message they proclaim,
One growing bond of fellowship,
Above all name one Name.

They witness to one heritage,
One Spirit’s quickening breath,
One widening reign, from age to age,
Of freedom and of faith.

Their kindling power our souls confess;
Though dead they speak today:
How great the cloud of witnesses
Encompassing our way!

Through every race, in every clime,
One song shall yet be heard:
Move onward in thy course sublime,
O everlasting Word!

—Frederick Lucian Hosmer (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 423)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 231)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-five

The Thirty-fifth Day
(Tuesday, April 9, 2019)

City of God

“The church has always cherished the dream of an ideal social order called the City of God, and has striven to bring it into existence. . . . The church has tried to improve society by changing individuals. But the social order cannot be changed through effort to change its individual units for a very simple reason. Suppose it were possible (as it is not) to make all individuals into saints without first changing the social system. Still these saints, each with the best intentions in the world, would find themselves destroying one another and all the values of life, if the coordinating institutions were not fitted to direct their interactions in ways that were beneficial. . . . The more complex and compact society becomes, the less effective is the good intention of the individual who lacks the guiding support of institutions to coordinate his or her activities with those of others, We cannot personally know the needs of most of the people who are affected by what we do. . . . To be sure these saints—supposing they could be produced in the midst of such malfunctioning institutions—might change the social order. But that is a gigantic task in itself and cannot be left to take care of itself while everyone is striving to transform everyone else into an individual saint. . . . Yet without the sustaining devotion and driving loyalty of a religion, social reconstruction with all its difficulties and sacrifices cannot be carried through.” (Wieman & Wieman)

The City of God is not a place, but a condition. It is never wholly achieved, but always a-building. It requires individual transformation, which in turn sparks social revolution. The task if religion is, step by step, to help people grow into that City, so that they may discover it emerging within and among them, transforming their society in the direction of wider mutualities. This inevitably will require new and reborn social institutions if the reborn spirits are not to be suffocated and stifled. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

We pray, dear God, Your City come on earth as it exists in Your own mind and essence. And we know that requires us to forgive if we expect or hope to be forgiven, and that we learn to love more fully year by passing year. Teach us to love. We know also that Your promise of the better day must come to pass through us. Rouse us to that task. Amen.

Hymn

At length there dawns the glorious day by prophets long foretold,
At length the chorus clearer grows that shepherds heard of old.
The day of growing humanhood breaks on our eager eyes,
And human hatreds flee before the radiant Eastern skies.

For what are sund’ring strains of blood of ancient caste or creed?
One claim unites us all in God to serve each human need.
Then here together, humans all, we pledge to God anew
Our loyal love, our stalwart faith, our service strong and true.

One common faith unites us all, we seek one common goal;
One tender comfort broods upon  the struggling human soul.
To this clear call of humanhood our hearts respond with love;
We join the modern new crusade of our great God above.

—Ozora Stearns Davis (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 356)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-four

The Thirty-fourth Day                  
(Monday, April 8, 2019)

Beyond the Boundaries

“After a wholesome mystical experience, whether it involves any such radical reorganization of personality or not, there is almost always a deep feeling of refreshment. The restraints, conflicts, tensions, crampings, limitations, have been thrown off for a little while, and perhaps the return to ordinary life is not quite so cramped as the old way. . . .

“Also one carries a sense of spiritual adventure following such experience. We have looked beyond the boundaries of all known and achieved values into the infinite . . . We have stood beside the great sea and beheld its unformed, ever rolling waters. We must confess concerning the sea that

‘I know not where these islands lift
Their fronded palms in air.’

Only we know that there are islands of meaning and value there to be discovered. So we can set sail with eager zest and expectancy and high courage . . .

“In some such spirit as this, one comes from the mystical experience when it is wholesome and fulfills its fruitful function in life. Also one can come from it with a new appreciation for the old objectives of life. One sees them in a new perspective. One sees them as pointing beyond themselves . . . They represent an outreach after the wholeness of God . . . When we come from the mystical experience, we find ourselves in the old universe, but it is renewed. It has distant vistas. On its horizon is the light of meanings yet to dawn. It has qualities it did not have before. It is an open universe, not a closed one. It opens out into the infinity of God. So the mystics have a song they cannot sing, a truth they cannot declare, a vision they cannot share. But it is a song, a truth and a vision which anyone may have who has the experience, It is both very simple and very profound because it is nothing else than the unfathomable and undiscriminated wholeness of God in relation to the world.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Because we are children of God, parts of the Living Whole, and we humans live upon its growing edge, our creative potentials are boundless. Each accomplishment is a springboard rather than a resting place. Each mountain top scaled reveals eat another higher one beckoning. Somewhere, lost still in the blue distance is the “City of God” itself, which is our goal, the Everest of the spirit, what Hartshorne calls “the unsurpassable except by Itself.” Towards it we reach and strive as long as life permits. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Eternal God, You have made us restless until we find our peace in Your Larger Life, Your ever-on-becoming. Make us to be still unsatisfied until we feel ourselves to be fully caught up in the high adventure of living our Your love to our fullest capability. Amen.

Hymn

All hail the pageant of the years
That endless come and go,
The brave profession of the spheres
In Time’s resistless flow—
Arise and crown our days with good
In glad exultant humanhood.

Around us lies the heritage
Of clashing sword and shield
The want and waste, the hate and rage
Of many a gloried field—
Arise, and crown our days with good,
In glad, exultant humanhood!

The aeons come, the aeons go
The stars nor pause nor cease;
On wings of silence soft as snow,
shall come the boon of peace.
All hail, our days are crowned with good,
In glad, exultant humanhood!

—John Haynes Holmes (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 146)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 205)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-three

The Thirty-third Day                    
(Sunday, April 7, 2019)

The Wholeness of God

“The most comprehensive value of . . . mystical experience . . . is that it is the only way in which we can vividly and appreciatively hold before ourselves the wholeness of God. . . .

“The mystical experience brings the minded organism of the individual into interplay with the ignored richness and fullness of the immediate environment with its hidden possibilities of meaning and value. It releases from tensions and restraints, from cramping limitations and blindnesses of the organized system of directing habits which ordinarily control the individual. As a consequence there is a heightening of the physical tone. This affects the mind, since the mind is one function of the organism. There is new vigor and resiliency, renewed plasticity and sensitivity. There is increased power to appreciate, to organize, to achieve. . . .

“The disciplined and organized personality is always cramped and distorted in some measure by cultural and other influences. The influences that have shaped and organized the personality have all the evils that are known to human life. Many appreciations and powers are stultified, suppressed, misdirected. Above all. The is a natural spontaneous rhythm, grace and ease of expression and of living which the healthy-minded organism can display when these cramping limitations are relaxed. . . .

“The free, spontaneous, relatively disorganized interplay of the minded organism with its environment during mystical experience, may make possible a most wholesome reorganization of habits and patterns of living. While this interplay is going on, the old organization is somewhat dissolved, hence a new and better organization is made possible. Sometimes a quite complete reorganization of personality may occur. This is sometimes called rebirth or regeneration, where this reorganization involves a redirection of living so that henceforth the individual is sensitive to high values not appreciated before and, above all, has appreciation and aspiration for the wholeness of God. . . .” (Wieman & Wieman)

Mystical experience is an important part of life and worship. When we stand upon a hill of a summer’s afternoon gazing across an entire valley with all its teeming life below us, visible—but apart—as though it were another world, we seem almost to be dissolved into its totality and we sense a beautiful involvement in the minutest aspect of its burgeoning life. When we stand beneath the stars at night, awed and silent at the unimaginable magnificence, again we feel ourselves privileged to be part of something grander than we can fathom or explain. Such experiences leave us with a new perspective on our petty, daily cares. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Infinite yet Intimate Spirit, lift us above the pettiness of self into the glory of Your Being, where we may blend into its beauty and see ourselves in Your Context. Amen.

Hymn

The spacious firmament on high,
With all its blue ethereal sky,
And spangled heavn’s, a shining frame,
Their great Original proclaim.
Th’ unwearied sun from day to day
Does its Creator’s power display,
And publishes to ev’ry land
The work of an almighty hand.

Soon as the evening shades prevail
The moon takes up the wondrous tale,
And nightly in the listening earth
Repeats the story of its birth;
Whilst all the stars that round it burn,
And all the planets in their turn,
Confirm the tidings as they roll,
And spread the truth from pole to pole.

What though the solemn silence all
Move round the dark terrestrial ball?
What tho’ no real voice nor sound
Amid their radiant orbs be found?
In reason’s ear they all rejoice
And utter forth a glorious voices,
Forever singing as they shine,
“The hand that made us is divine.”

—Joseph Addison (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 33)
(Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 41)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-two

The Thirty-second Day                
(Saturday, April 6, 2019)

Illuminate the Darkness

“No one can live this religious life alone. We must have the fellowship of others who are trying to live this way. This is so because the human personality above all things is a social entity. It is created by association and shaped by association. Interchange of thought and feeling with other persons is the very breath of life of personality. As the organism must breathe to live, so the human personality must communicate to live.

“The most potent group in which to foster the distinctively religious way of living is small in number. It should range from two or three or four up to twelve or fifteen, although the last number is too large except in rare cases. One of the purposes of such fellowship is to make inhibitions dissolve away the dark areas of personality to be illuminated, and the individuals to become translucent to one another.

“Our civilization is one in which people, as a usual thing, do not know one another beyond superficial levels. Consequently we are constrained, concealed, unconfessed; at best suave and smooth and efficient, with an oily ease in getting about and dealing with people. But the depths of personality are never exposed. Human personality cannot grow and flower in such dark crypts of social concealment. It must have the sunshine and rain of understanding and sympathy. Psychic madness, social revolution, and international conflict rise higher and higher as long as this personal isolation continues with its competitive attitude toward all comers. 

“In forming a fellowship to save personality from these evils the individuals should be selected with care. A single wrong choice will ruin it. If it found that there is some one who cannot interact fittingly, this group should disband and another be formed at some later time. Individuals selected should be ready to practice the method we have described. This exclusiveness is not selfish, for the main purpose of such a group is to release power to transform personalities and change the social order in the interests of greater community among all.

“The group should worship together, although the practice may not go by that name and should assume the form best fitted to their needs. It may be Quaker silence, or singing together, of reading together great prose or poetry or biography. Such practice helps to illumine the direction and meaning of their lives, unite them in their controlling loyalty, purge them of inhibitions, fixation, conflicts, and disturbing attachments. It widens their horizons, purifies their motives, quickens their devotion.

“In a time like ours the only way that a new and transforming religious movement can be started is through creative fellowships such as we have tried to describe. Anyone who lives in the peculiarly religious way must have the support of such a group. The devitalizing, competitive, atomistic social order is all around us. It will suffocate or crush or desiccate the devoted life within us unless we have the support and nourishment of such a cell of spiritual renewal and power.” (Wieman & Wieman)

The Church is regarded by many in our time as old-fashioned and outmoded. But, if it were to die it would have to be recreated. For human beings could not stay human without its prodding, explaining, correcting, comforting presence. A community without a synagogue or church would be like a human being without a soul. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

We pray for the Synagogue and the Church, O God, for they are sorely needed in our time. Help us to do our part, to make our Church a part of Your City of Truth and Right, and Peace and Love on Earth. Amen.

Hymn

One holy Church of God appears
Thro’ ev’ry age and race,
Unwasted by the lapse of years,
Unchanged by changing place.

From oldest time, on farthest shores,
Beneath the pine or palm,
One unseen Presence it adores,
With silence or with psalm.

Its priests are all God’s faithful ones,
To serve the world raised up;
The pure in heart its baptized ones;
Love, its communion cup.

The truth is its prophetic gift,
The soul its sacred page;
And feet on mercy’s errands swift
Do make its pilgrimage.

O living Church! Thine errand speed;
Fulfill they task sublime;
With bread of life earth’s hunger feed;
Redeem the evil time!

—Samuel Longfellow (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 407)
Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 261)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty-one

The Thirty-first Day
(Friday, April 5, 2019)

Cooperative Worship

“In the public worship which we here have in mind we gather together to help one another find God each for oneself and one's own way. As a group we try to cooperate with each to help all make that adjustment which is most helpful to them personally. Hence public worship of this sort is a method of private religious living even though it might be a group worshiping together. This kind of public worship might be called cooperative worship as distinguished from collective worship.

“In collective worship conducted by a crowd the chief end is to produce the emotional glow and satisfaction that comes from feeling that we are all together and having the same experience. Each member of the crowd is brought to a state of acute suggestibility by the interacting of many individuals of one another so that any thought of feeling suggested by the leader is transmitted to everyone in the crowd and is tremendously intensified by the stimulus of many people interacting on one another and having the same experience.

“The kind of public worship we now wish to consider, on the other hand, is that in which each individual member conducts his or her own personal worship under the stimulus and cooperation of the group. All do not have the same thoughts. Each does not passively yield to the sentiments that sweep over the crowd. On the contrary each exercises his or her own initiative and seeks out that personal adjustment to God which will help most. Public worship of this kind is a gathering of people who have come together to provide for one another those conditions which one cannot provide for oneself but which are most helpful in enabling us to worship according to the unique requirements of our own personal need.

“In public worship of the cooperative deliberative type all members of the congregation (ideally) cooperate with each individual in each personal endeavor to worship by providing (1) beauty in such form that it can be religiously experience, (2) rituals, prayers and readings which will enable the individual to achieve an appreciative and critical survey of human experience in widest scope and fullest content, (3) a readjustment of personal attitude to the end of living more successfully.” (Wieman & Wieman)

As one gains the ability to pray and worship in solitude, one may wonder whether worshiping together with others in Church or Synagogue is really necessary. It is! We need the friendly fellowship of others known to us, and we need the mentally-stimulating debate of important questions that a loving trusting fellowship makes possible. “Another Sunday in the Church” or Sabbath in the Synagogue should be the high point of our week. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Steadfast God, You visit us in our aloneness but we express You best in our togetherness. Dedicate us to the upbuilding of that quality of fellowship which is a true expression of Your being. Amen.

Hymn

Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine:
Gifts in differing measure, hearts of one accord,
Manifold the service, one of the sure reward.

Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.

Wider grows God’s city, reign of love and light;
For it we must labor, till our faith is sight. 
Prophets have proclaimed it, martyrs testified,
Poets sung its glory, heroes for it died.

Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.

Not alone we conquer, not alone we fall;
In the each loss or triumph lose or triumph all.
Bound by God’s far purpose in the one living whole,
Move we on together to the shining goal!

Forward through the ages, in unbroken line,
Move the faithful spirits at the call divine.

—Frederick Lucian Hosmer (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 329)
Hymns for the Celebration of Life, no. 215)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Thirty

The Thirtieth Day                        
(Thursday, April 4, 2019)

Steps and Stages of Worship

“The first step in the act of worship is to relax and to become aware of that upon which we are dependent, that which sustains us in every breath we breathe, that which shapes the cells of our bodies and the impulses of our hearts according as we adjust to life in this way or that. One can think of this all-encompassing reality as atoms, if he wishes, or electric tension, or use some other such imagery. The imagery adapted to one mind will not be adapted to another. To talk about all our lives being sustained and shaped by atoms or electric tension is, of course, pure mythology. But some minds may be of such a twists to find such a myth helpful. The point is that we are sustained; and in so far as we rise to higher levels of living we do so by adaptation to that which lifts us. In this first act of worship we fill and suffice or minds with the sense of this encompassing presence that sustains and lifts and works toward the organic community of each with all. 

“The second step in worship is to call to mind the vast and unimaginable possibilities for good which are inherent in this integrating process called God. These possibilities are actualized in us and in others and in all the world round about us in so far as we and others find and establish the required adjustment between ourselves and this cosmic process which is God. In the meantime, however, these possibilities are genuine constituents of our world by virtues of the pervasive working of that which we call God.

“No matter how we may doubt the possibilities of personal improvement and social transformation and reconstruction of physical conditions, there is that noblest kind of personality, that highest degree of health, the\at clearness of mind and largeness of purpose, that measure of equality of opportunity, of cooperation and mutual understanding and deep organic community of heart and mind between all beings which may be attained by the best possible adaptation of means to ends. It is this possibility which we now bring to mind.

“The third step is to face the chief problem with which we are struggling. If we are living earnestly we are always struggling with a problem which taxes our powers. We shall frequently have the sense of being baffled because we do not see the way to its solution. But most of the time, unless we take opportunity for the kind of worship we are here describing, we shall not face the problem in its entirety and get it in its true perspective. We are too busy dealing with some pressing detail to face it in all its fullness.

“The fourth step is self-analysis to find what change must be made in our own mental attitudes and personal habits. No problem was ever solved, no desired results ever attained, by worship or in any other way, which did not require some personal readjustment on the part of the person through whom it was attained. Worship has practical value and is a way of doing things only because it enables us (1) to discover what personal readjustment is required of use and (2) to establish that readjustment in ourselves.

“The fifth step in worship is to formulate in words as clearly and comprehensively as possible the readjustment of personality and behavior which I have discovered is required of me if I am to close the circuit between certain disconnected factors in the world round me. This verbal statement of the needed readjustment is very important. It should be accurate, comprehensive, concise. Above all, it must be affirmative, not negative. For in worship we are not primarily trying to break a connection but to establish a connection. We must be positive not negative. No good thing was ever done by merely a negative attitude. No problem was ever solved in that way. The overcoming of a fault is always a positive, constructive operation.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Let no one thing that learning how to worship is easily mastered. Like tennis or golf, or writing or preaching, it requires daily practice. It taxes our persistence. It gradually becomes second nature. Then comes the incredible experience of refreshment, transformation, constant correction and rebirth. There is nothing like it in all human experience, nothing so worth while. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

Persistent God, help us to grow in prayer with You. Make us persist in our efforts, even if, at the beginning, they appear fruitless. As we struggle to reach You, reach out and lift us up—into Your Glory. Amen.

Hymn

Come, thou Almighty Will!
Our fainting bosoms fill
With thy great power:
Strength of our good intents,
Our tempted hour’s defense,
Calm of faith’s confidence,
Come in this hour!

Come, thou most tender Love!
Within our spirits move,
Their sweetest guest;
Exalt each low desire,
Transforming passion’s fire,
To deeds of love inspire,
Quickener and Rest! 

Come, Light serene and still!
Our darkened spirits fill
With thy clear day:
Guide of the feeble sight,
Star of grief’s darkest night,
Reveal the path of right,
Show us thy way!

—Hymns of the Spirit 1864 (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 47)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980. 

Outstretched Wings of the Spirit--Day Twenty-nine

The Twenty-ninth Day
(Wednesday, April 3, 2019)

A Little Time Each Day

“A little time taken each day, with occasional longer periods, for clarifying our function in the integrating process of God, and cultivating the personal attitudes adapted to it, will develop a slowly growing propulsion which will increase in power as the years pass, like a stream swelling to a river as it gathers the drainage of a watershed. There is nothing which can unlock such stores of human energy as this. It is the religious release of energy. The way we have described the nature of God may not be acceptable to many. But however one may formulate the idea of God, the method of worship and religious release of energy still holds good. . . . 

“There are three preconditions which must be met before effective worship is possible. The first is that one must go out into deep water. One must take life seriously.  One must not shirk the heavy responsibilities. One must venture out to depths where wading is difficult. No one ever worshipped profoundly and with largest results who was not struggling. That does not mean that one must do something conspicuous before the world . . . It merely means that one assume the tremendous responsibilities that inevitably fall upon every one who lives earnestly and has sufficient insight to discern the tragedies in human life.

“The second precondition is sincerity. That means that we will not take into our worship and beliefs which we doubt. If, for example, we doubt there is a God, then in worship we will earnestly seek the best adjustment to whatever in all the universe we believe to be that which can help us most, even though it be nothing more, in our belief, than our own subconscious self, or our fellow associates in the group to which we belong.

“Whenever any belief or word puts us under a sense of constraint, or gives us a sense of unreality, we must set it aside. Worship is preeminently probing down beneath all the sham and pose which inevitably accumulate in every one’s life with the daily routine. Worship is struggling to cast off all this unconscious and unintended but inevitable hypocrisy and getting down to reality about ourselves and our world, as we are able to experience it. Absolute sincerity, completest honesty, is indispensable to help worship, and ultimately it will lead to more adequate and well-established beliefs.

“We must think differently about prayer from our forebears. But our manner of praying, if we The third precondition has to do with time and place and surroundings. The time may be any hour of the twenty-four; but the best time, we are very sure, is just before retiring at night and soon after the rising of in the morning. Some room will serve, especially if it can be shut so that one need not fear others will hear even when one speaks, aloud, and where the mind will not be distracted by any sights, sounds or apprehensions. The purpose of worship is to turn the minds away from the lesser things and give the whole attention to the supreme thing.” (Wieman & Wieman)

Religion, like anything else, will be as important to and in us as we ourselves make it. Worship with our friends on Sundays is important, but to become really effective it must become also a daily home habit, like eating, drinking, sleeping, working and physical exercise. We know what we think is important, and what is not. We give time to what we deem important, and skill develops slowly with unremitting practice. A very famous old prayer comes to mind in this regard. (Donald Szantho Harrington)

Prayer

“Help us, O God, to serve Thee as Thou deservest; to give, and not to count the cost; to fight, and not to heed the wounds; to serve, and not to ask for any reward save the joy of doing Thy Holy Will. Amen.”

Hymn

I thank thee, God, for strength of arm
To win my bread,
And that, beyond my need, is meat
For friend unfed;
I thank thee much for bread to live,
I thank thee more for bread to give.

I thank thee for my quiet home,
Mid cold and storm,
And that beyond my need is room
For friend forlorn;
I thank thee much for place of rest,
But more for shelter for my guest.

I thank thee, God, for lavish love
On me bestowed,
Enough to share with loveless folk
To ease their load;
Thy love to me I ill could spare
Yet dearer is thy love I share. Amen.

—Robert Davis (Hymns of the Spirit, no. 279)

Donald Szantho Harrington wrote the Lenten meditation manual Outstretched Wings of the Spirit: On Being Intelligently and Devotedly Religiousbased on the theology of Henry Nelson Wieman and Regina Westcott Wieman. It was published by the Unitarian Universalist Association in 1980.