by Marlene J. Geary
Chair, Sunday Services Committee
Unitarian Universalist Society: East
Manchester, CT, USA
“Vocation at its deepest level is not, ‘Oh, boy, I get to go to this strange place where I have to learn a new way to live and where no one, including me, understands what I’m doing.’ Vocation at its deepest level is, “This is something I can’t not do, for reasons I’m unable to explain to anyone else and don’t fully understand myself but that are nonetheless compelling.”
– Parker Palmer
“The challenge for [Unitarian Universalists] is to make sure we are providing evidence of what we love and serve more than secretly. Actions speak louder than words. Do we care about conventional wisdom more than justice? Do we care about keeping up with our neighbors more than enlarging those who are truly our neighbors and inviting all persons to the party? Where are our hearts leading us, not just in secret, but here, publicly?
This challenge means we are talking about vocation— a calling to something. Here we are, having covenanted, having promised to affirm and promote these principles and draw upon these many traditions. Here we are answering this calling, which sometimes we might struggle to define, answering this calling here, to work in this church and in this faith.” – Rev. Naomi King
The ministry theme for January is vocation. This is at first glance a more secular choice for a theological theme. We’re all familiar with the definitions of vocation – a life’s work, the purpose of a group, a strong inclination toward a particular state or a course of action. The word has been connected to a divine sense of work, traced to the Christian Bible.
But I am particularly interested in the etymology of the word for this month’s column.
The first known use of the word is from the 15th century. It comes from the late Middle English vocacio (1400-1500CE). This sourced from the Latin vocare, which meant a call or a summons. And vocare came from vox, which meant voice.
And what I see from tracing the etymology is that the call grew out of the voice. The voice became the call that became the vocation. The voice is the vocation. Out of the vocation comes the voice.
What is the voice?
The voice is what you hear inside you that calls you to grow, think, move, change, act.
The voice is what people hear together that causes movements, protests, changes. It founds new religions. Unitarians and Universalists heard a voice that they could not ignore and they answered the call to found a new religion. From this group vocation, they created a new voice that speaks to us today through the principles of Unitarian Universalism.
At some point, you made a deliberate decision to become a Unitarian Universalist. It might have been as a child, as an adult, as a senior. But something within in you spoke and you listened. It might have taken a few steps or many, but you followed the call to find a Unitarian Universalist congregation. And here you are today, at Unitarian Universalist Society: East.
So I would ask: now that you have been called here to be a part of this faith community, how are you participating in your vocation as a Unitarian Universalist? What is your work within this faith? The UU Principles begin with the statement “we affirm and promote”. If you affirm, do you also promote?
This vocational work of promoting the principles is a core function of our covenant together. Unitarian Universalism is not a passive religion. At its heart is the deep justice work of building equity and compassion in human relations. At its heart is a staggering goal of a peaceful world community. The voices of Unitarian Universalists are heard the world over, promoting these principles.
This is the vocation of the faith community of which you are a part. I invite you to listen to your voice and ask where your UU voice fits into that community vocation. What is your UU vocation? Where is your voice heard? Where is your voice not being heard?
If you are proud of this church, become its advocate. If you are concerned for it future, share its message. If its values resonate deep within you, give it a measure of your devotion. This church cannot survive without your faith, your confidence, your enthusiasm. Its destiny, the larger hope, rests in your hands.
-Michael A. Schuler