Why do we come to church? Why do we bother getting up on a Sunday morning, especially in the summer months? There are many temptations: sleeping in both Saturday and Sunday; an extra few hours at the park; Starbucks. Why do we bother doing year-round church?
I remember a time, before I entered the ministry, when my church shut down for the summer completely. I’d take a few weeks off, then wound up attending the congregational church down the street, or others, from the end of June through September, when my UU church re-opened its doors. Why couldn’t I stay away from church?
The answer for me over the years has been a need for ultimacy and intimacy, which doesn’t take a summer vacation. It is also central to an understanding of the purpose of liberal religion. Ultimacy is the term Unitarian Universalist James Luther Adams used to describe a desire to be lifted up — beyond the mundane, ordinary, even human dimensions of our lives — and to have others recognize our inherent worth and dignity. Ultimacy is that feeling of wonder and awe.
We cannot make sense of ultimacy without intimacy, and we cannot recognize intimacy without ultimacy. It is through connection with others that our lives strike balance between the personal and the universal, the concrete and the felt. In our church life, this is why we encourage new members to find a group to connect with. It is why our services are designed to encourage a sense of ultimacy. With the intimacy that small groups and gatherings provide, and the ultimacy lifted up on Sunday morning, we begin to make sense of the wonder of our lives. We create beloved community that reaches beyond ourselves, all year long.