Creating spiritual gumbo – the UU challenge

Message from the Sabbatical Minister:

I am a man who loves food. I have a wide and eclectic appetite. Soul food, Chinese, Japanese, French, Nigerian, Middle Eastern and Italian cuisines all satisfy my palate. One of my favorites, however, is Louisiana/Cajun dishes, especially gumbo.

Gumbo as you know is a stew made of different ingredients. My father said it was created by taking what people had as leftovers in the kitchen and creatively constructing a masterpiece. Shrimp, filé, onions, okra, smoked sausage, garlic, crawfish tails and claws, and of course rice turned what the upper class called “garbage soup” into succulent gumbo.

I say all this because I believe that one of the biggest challenges we face as we embark on this journey together is to be about the business of creating spiritual gumbo. We have the rare opportunity to be a mixture of different beliefs and faith commitments combined to create the most amazing spiritual gumbo ever made.

Look at us. We are theists, non-theists, Buddhist, Christian, pagan, pantheists, Jewish and more. We are joined together by our commitment to radical welcome, love and justice. Some of us are leftovers from other religious experiences. Yet all of us bring amazing “flavor” to the fellowship. We are spiritual gumbo.

A great gumbo requires intentionality. The cook prepares the ingredients with care, envisioning how the combination will look and taste. The cook knows that combining these different parts well will result in an amazing dish. We must be intentional about our spiritual gumbo. Garlic must not think it is superior to the rice. The onions are not sausage, nor should they be. Christians should be as affirmed and affirming as Buddhists, or non-theists, or pantheists. Pagans contribute to the gumbo as powerfully as traditional theistic Unitarian Universalists. No individual ingredient is more important than another. Only united can the gumbo be great.

Can we affirm our uniqueness in the same type of manner as the gumbo chef? The chef realizes that everyone does not like gumbo. Some people only like what they are familiar with. Alas, such is life. However, there are lots of people who have been searching for spiritual gumbo for a long time. They are in our community. They are everywhere. Our job is to seek them out if we want to make a fantastic spiritual gumbo.

So church, let us make spiritual gumbo. Every religious denomination including the UUA needs to make gumbo, and yet none have been hugely successful. We have an opportunity to give our sisters and brothers a recipe for success. We should take full advantage of this challenge.

In peace and love,
C.W. Dawson, Jr., Ph.D.
Sabbatical Minister