The following reflection was delivered by Kate Gillis, a retired educator and life-long Unitarian. Gillis asks, us to consider those who are seekers. She writes, “The path to truth is not well lit. We move in and out of illumination as we go and we see our way more clearly sometimes than others.”
“Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law. This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.”
Each week I join with all of you in saying the Unison Affirmation. Since I have it memorized, I am free to look around while I am saying the words.
By the time we are halfway through saying the affirmation, my eyes have usually centered on the large painting that is behind the pulpit. I am almost always drawn to looking at it by the time we are saying the last three phrases of the Affirmation, the part that says “To dwell together in peace, To seek the truth in love, and to help on another.” As I say the word “dwell” I look at the building or house that is in the middle of the picture. “Dwell” — dwelling. That house represents someone’s home – my home, other people’s homes. That is where peace must be practiced. I can focus on that house in the picture and fill it with energy to radiate peace to all who enter. If that house represents all the houses in the world and they were all filled with peace, then maybe we could all dwell together in peace.
As we recite the next phrase, “To seek the truth in love” my eyes go to the figures on the road. From a distance and even close up it is not possible to really see any details in these figures. So again they can represent all of us, all people who are seekers. The two people and the horse and cart are moving towards us. They are in the sunlight but have just left the shadows and will soon move into the shadows again. The path to truth is not well lit. We move in and out of illumination as we go and we see our way more clearly sometimes than others.
And then the last phrase “To help one another” brings my eyes right to the two people. Each of them is traveling along the road with the other. They have each other to help carry their burdens and to share riding on the horse. They can talk to each other and offer encouragement and comfort as needed as they proceed on their journey.
In the Unison Affirmation, the three phrases about dwelling, seeking and helping, are the supporting details for the initial statement – “Love is the spirit of this church and service is its law”. In the painting the people and house are also the details of a larger painting.
The main object in the painting is the snow covered mountain. It is a massive mountain that reaches up into the clouds. For me this is a perfect symbol for love, for the divine spirit. People have always been drawn to mountains as the homes of the gods. Often temples have been built on the highest location possible. When I am standing on top of a mountain with a cleared peak, I can see for miles and soak up the majesty of the ongoing land and the vastness of the sky. It can feel like a love that encompasses all.
The other objects in the painting represent some suggestions of what else is part of our world. On the left is a second path. The people are traveling on one road but the presence of the second path suggests all the many possible roads there are to travel. There is also a substantial rushing stream or river. Water. I am so glad water is in the painting. We cannot live without water. Our lives are entwined with the salt water of the sea. In the foreground of the painting are boulders, rocks – the holders of the memories of the earth. There is also a meadow and some trees, homes for some of earth’s creatures.
All of these things call out when I say the phrase “And service is its law.” If I love all these things, want a healthy vibrant earth, want peace, want to be free to seek the truth and live with other people then my law must be service. I must consciously act in ways that work to preserve our beautiful blue-green planet home, the earth.