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)


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.


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.