Unitarian Universalist Congregation
of Northern Chautauqua

companionship on life's sacred journey

Trust is like the air we breathe. When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.
— Warren Buffett

Message From Our Minister

From the Heart

One of my heroes from the Universalist part of our tradition is Reverend Angus MacLean. Angus was a Canadian Presbyterian minister who had served in the front lines in the First World War. He found himself questioning his own religious beliefs because of the horrors he encountered in the trenches.

Searching for deeper answers, during the 1920s Angus signed up for a Doctoral Program at the Columbia University in New York City. For his doctoral thesis, he studied how children in New York City churches were learning about God. He compared what the churches said they wanted to convey with the children’s actual understanding of the Divine.

He found a huge gap between the children’s actual ideas and feelings about God and the feelings and ideas the congregations’ adult leaders and teachers were hoping to pass on. Most significantly for our liberal religious tradition, he found that the gap was just as large in liberal congregations as it was in more conservative ones.

This was a fascinating result for Angus and sparked a lifelong study of the process of liberal religious education. His thesis work gave him data to support his growing sense that the process of religious learning is very individual and arises from life experience much more than formal schooling. It is in fact not wise to try to instruct children about the nature of God.

His teaching and writing provide much of the foundation for our current-day Unitarian Universalist approach to religious exploration and faith formation.

I will be expanding on this in a February 24 sermon entitled “Welcoming the (Young) Stranger” – so named because the young folks among us need warm heartfelt welcomes much more than they need us to be instructors.

In faith and love,
Reverend George Buchanan