Just a Few

When you come into the SSUC building on a Sunday morning, you experience the vibrancy and energy of a whole community gathering together. We see old friends or the opportunity to meet someone new. We engage in a spiritual gathering that helps us all connect with our deepest values, self understanding, and ways of being in the world. I’ve heard from so many of you that this is one of the most meaningful things about SSUC – the expansive, affirming, and challenging time we spend together on a Sunday.

But that’s not all a spiritual community like ours is about. Some of the most impactful and life-changing work we do as a community happens at different times and looks quite different. The times when we’re putting our values into action, giving or receiving support, learning something new and discussing ideas, issues, or new understandings on the expansive path, are most often done with just a few other people. It would be impossible otherwise. Could you imagine everyone having their say and wrestling with ideas outloud in a group of 15o folks? That’s not manageable nor necessarily comfortable or safe. But we can do those kinds of things when we find ourselves with a few other people who want to sit knee-to-knee, or work side-by-side, or connect online.

A community that inspires compassion and connection will always find ways to be together in small and relatable groups – this is the way we get to know each other and support one another; it’s the way we get our hands dirty with the work of justice or care; it’s the way we will learn from each other’s diverse experience and wisdom. I want to encourage us always to bring our needs and our skills, our passions and our hearts to the life of SSUC. This is the way that we become not just a Sunday morning community, but a 7-day-a-week community that meets you – and everyone – exactly where they are.

As we grow, transition and evolve together, may you feel the health and connection you need.

Library Learnings Extra: Church: It’s a Healthful Place to Be

Alfred P. Doolittle may have been on to something when, in the midst of Lerner and Loewe’s “My Fair Lady,” he beseeches, “For God’s sake, get me to the church on time!” It’s a healthful place to be.

That, anyway, is the takeaway from David DeSteno’s June 8 article in The Wall Street Journal, “Is religion good for your health?” Professor of psychology at Boston’s Northeastern University, and host of the podcast, “How God works: the science behind spirituality,” he tells how research shows “a strong link between religion and better physical and mental health.”

True, DeSteno inserts the usual disclaimers and qualifiers: “[S]tudies that demonstrate a link between [church] services and better health are subject to important doubts”; and, “[H]ealth benefits that appear to come from being religiously active might actually have a different source”; and, “[R]eligion is only one of many factors that affect health.”

Be that as it may, research also shows “that a majority of Americans, including [even] a majority of family physicians, believe that religion can heal,” and so it is that “77% of hospitalized patients ask physicians to consider their spiritual needs.”

But it’s this one study to which DeSteno devotes particular attention: published in JAMA Internal Medicine in 2016, and using data from over 70,000 women who were part of a 1992-to-2012 study of the health of nurses, it “found that those who attended religious services at least once a week had 33% lower mortality, from any cause, over a 16-year period. In particular, deaths due to cancer or cardiovascular disease were 75% the rate of non-attenders.” Even the risk of suicide was lower: “Among the nurses attending services at least once a week, or more, cut the suicide rate by 80%.”

Led by Harvard epidemiologist Tyler VanderWeele, this study, coupled with data from other large-scale surveys, “found that religiosity improves mental health.” Weekly church attendance, or meditating regularly—this, too—“reduces feelings of depression, and increases feelings of life satisfaction and purpose, even among adolescents.”

DeSteno concludes, “Reciting prayers, chanting mantras, and engaging in deep contemplation, affect worshippers in multiple ways. These practices slow breathing, and brighten emotional states, with a direct positive impact on the cardiovascular system. They alter thought processes, imbuing situations that might seem hopeless with a sense of optimism, which is also linked to improve health.”

Ken Fredrick

Featured Book: Nomad

Featured BookNomad: A Spirituality for Traveling Light

In Nomad, Brandan Robertson tells the story of his halting exodus from religious fundamentalism. It is a coming-of-age story which Fr. Richard Rohr calls “one man’s compelling account of moving beyond the boundaries of rigid religion into an expansive, true spirituality.” The 31-year-old author writes, “[I]t’s only when we allow ourselves to get lost that we can have the opportunity to find and be found.”

Robertson, whom Wikipedia describes as “a gay writer, activist, minister, and TikTok influencer,” acknowledges, “Allowing myself to wander off into the vast jungle of religion and spirituality has often led me stumbling upon life-altering new ways of thinking, living, and being.” In his review of the book, blogger Alexander Steward enthuses, “His story is one of wonder, and encourages us to wander.”

In introducing him to its audiences, the Wild Goose Festival (“grounded in faith-inspired social justice”) has him “[a]cclaimed as one of ‘the most hope-inspiring young Christian leaders’”; it points out that Robertson has been a “guest speaker at a wide range of venues, from lecturing on spirituality at Oxford University, teaching on LGBT+ rights at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, to speaking at the White House on the impact of religiously-motivated bullying.”

Nomad: A Spirituality for Traveling Light
By Brandan Robertson
Augsburg Books, 2016

Gatherings at 10AM Sundays