By SAMANTHA FREDA
WilmingtonFAVS news intern
Before meeting with the Rev. Cheryl Walker, I knew very little about Unitarian Universalists, beside a vague understanding of the belief system’s liberality and tolerance of many different forms of spirituality.
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Wilmington is a humble-looking building on Lake Avenue. In its foyer is the symbol of the flaming chalice (the primary symbol of Unitarian Universalism) within two overlapping circles, signifying the union of different faiths and acceptance of nontraditional religious concepts or interpretations.
The organization of Unitarian Universalism was in the combining of both the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, which existed separately of one another until May 15, 1961, when the Unitarian Universalist Association was formed.
Universalists, whose belief in universal salvation—that a loving God would not eternally damn anything it created—came into conflict with some traditional Christian concepts. Unitarians exercised faith based in reason, living by a principle that one should not have to believe in something they can not reasonably find to be true. Both came out of the Christian faith, though their beliefs and teachings are drawn from many different sources.
Walker, spiritual leader of UUFW for the past three years, led me into her office where we quickly fell into a casual conversation on the nature of this fellowship.
“I didn’t always do this,” Walker said, speaking of her days working in applications development at Merrill Lynch on Wall Street.
“During the day I was helping to make people more money who had enough but wanted more. Then at night, I was volunteering to feed homeless people. I finally just realized that, these two things I did every day were opposing each other. It had to be one or the other,” she said.
Though she was raised as a Muslim and still values many aspects of Islam, Walker found both her logical side and her spiritual yearnings were satisfied by the Unitarian Universalist philosophy.
“We’re a model for how religious pluralism goes,” she told me as she read off some of the texts from which she writes sermons: the Bhagavad Gita, the Bible, the Quran, the Upanishads, The Book of Mormon, even a text on aboriginal ideas.
Walker is currently teaching from a book called “Freedom From Fear: Finding the Courage to Act, Love, and Be” by Forrest Church. Church recognizes how guilt, worry, anxiety and dread are associated with the body, intellect, conscience, emotions and soul.
Besides the natural instinct inherent in physical fear, the book says the rest of the effects connected with fear cause distortions in perspective that limit our quality of life. Church attempts to encourage readers to realize their own strength and overcome their fears.
Walker has given sermons based on this book.
“We need not think alike to love alike,” Walker said, concluding our meeting with a quote from 16th century Unitarian preacher, Francis David. The simple phrase captures an essential aspect of Unitarian Universalism, a belief in the inherent worth and dignity of every person, while maintaining a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.