Last week, I attended our UMMAS Unity retreat at the Kanuga Conference Center in Hendersonville, N.C. (Unity Ministers of the Mid-Atlantic States is a voluntary association of Unity ministers, spiritual leaders, and their spouses/partners from North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama). This was my thirteenth year, and it’s always an incredible experience! I always come back refreshed, renewed, and filled with so much more love and appreciation for all of life. The theme this year was "What Would Love Do?”
Our keynote speaker was Rev. Jack Bomar, whose history of being of service to humanity is phenomenal. Eddie Watkins, Jr., who has played with many well-known artists including Quincy Jones and Barbara Streisand, provided us with extraordinary music. We also had the opportunity to attend numerous classes and workshops on various topics.
One workshop I attended was “Pathways to Peace and Justice” about looking beyond assumptions, stereotypes, and appearances, and embracing the unity and worth of all people so that we can communicate authentically with others in deeper ways. They also shared a beautiful prayer with us titled “Our Prayer for All People.” It states, “There are many names for Spirit, many faces of Spirit, many paths to Spirit, but there is only One Spirit. And this Spirit expresses through all people. Knowing this, we bless people of every race, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, economic status, and mental or physical ability. We celebrate the Divinity of all people, and give thanks that this is so.” (www.pathministries.info)
Another workshop I attended was “Loving Our Transgender Neighbors” that gave us information to better understand the transgender journey, Biblical teachings about gender, and our own gender enculturation. One of the speakers was an amazing transgender woman named Gabrielle Claiborne. She and Rev. Linda Herzer are co-founders of Transformation Journeys Worldwide. They offer presentations and workshops in order to share their passion for educating all people about the transgender experience. I had the opportunity to speak with Gabrielle for a little bit and her heart is so full of love and compassion. (transformationjourneysww.com)
The last night of the retreat, we have a talent show and I’ve had the opportunity to participate every year which is so much fun. This year, I appeared as ‘the Little Old Lady’ in a fun skit with three friends from my Unity helping me. Fortunately, because we each have a great sense of humor and the gift of spontaneity, it turned out to be hilarious and we had a blast performing it.
The music at Kanuga is provided by fabulous Unity musicians and singers and they are always so uplifting and exhilarating. They play songs that are meditative and songs that get us dancing, and all of them touch our hearts and souls.
Even though I don’t claim a religion, one reason I love Unity so much is that we really do try to live and follow the practical teachings of Jesus in that he commanded us to love one another (no exceptions), as well as ourselves. We’re open and accepting and love all people because unconditional love is what Jesus and all the other great spiritual masters taught.
Now that I’m back in ‘reality,’ I need to decide whether I want to stay in a state of love and peace, or if I want to again get involved in all the negative drama of the world. I’m going to try to choose love and peace. I know it won’t be easy, especially when we’re bombarded with so much negativity in the media, but it’s my intention that counts and where my heart is. That doesn’t mean I’m going to ignore everything that’s going on as I still need to be aware of world events, but I don’t have to dwell on them or give my power over to them any longer.
Instead, I’m going to remember the words of Eddie Watkins, Jr.’s song, “What Would Love Do?” To paraphrase the lyrics: “Just before you say something you can’t take away, take a breath and let it out, try to think about, what would love do now? Wondering if you should cross that line for good, whatever you decide, ask yourself from inside, what would love do now? Everything is either an act of love, or a cry for love, that’s why for love, we try for love, in the end that’s all we know that’s real. Whether right or wrong, does it matter just as long, as you let your heart decide, ask yourself inside, what would love do now?”
“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” Erich Fromm
Published in the Cookeville Herald Citizen newspaper September 30, 2016.