This is a personal statement I presented at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Virgina, in 2002. While it may not be exactly how I would frame my beliefs in 2020, it still rings true.
My name is Justin Newman. I’ve been asked to share with you a little about what I believe.
I believe in Creation as a single, living, breathing organism. As I sit in meditation and let my lungs fill with oxygen, and release carbon dioxide, I often think how the plants in the room are absorbing that carbon dioxide and releasing the oxygen back to me. This organism, these codependent parts, forms a community.
As I look around this room, I don’t know everyone. What I do know is that we too are a community. A community of very different people, some young, some old, some Humanist, some Christian, some Buddhist, some atheist, some all of the above. We are a community of all these different people drawn together around common principles and purposes.
My biggest involvement with UUCA during my 18 months here has been with the Young Adult Group. Our events range from monthly potlucks to a biweekly “Listen,” to weekly worship services at 8:00 every Friday night in the Chapel. All of this is made possible by a single, high-speed medium: the Internet. It doesn’t matter what we’re planning, public email lists and web boards are our mediums of choice. These lists bring us together, whether we’re in town, or, as many young professionals are, travelling all over the world for work. It doesn’t matter whether we miss a few weeks in a row, or a few months… we can always “plug right back in”, by plugging in our computers, and checking our email.
It was the Young Adult Group that first introduced me to the work of Thich Nhat Hanh. Thây’s beautiful words about mindfulness spoke to me. When my boss called a while ago and reminded me that I hadn’t used my annual vacation allotment, off to the Internet I went to find a place to disappear for 10 days. Soon I found myself standing in the middle of Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery. I had expected a place without any technology… but that turned out not to be the case. Thây’s sangha (sangha is the word Buddhists use to refer to their spiritual community) does use technology… but they use it mindfully. At one point in one of Thich Nhat Hanh’s Dharma talks, Thây became tangled in his microphone cords. He simply smiled, untangled himself, and reminded us, .I have a causal connection with this wire.”
It’s this connectedness of all things that underlies my Unitarian Universalist beliefs. It’s this connectedness that brought me into the young adult group, and this connectedness that began to teach me about the interconnected web of all Creation. It’s this connectedness, of me to you and you to me, that draws me back to this sangha, week in and week out.