Today I celebrated Yom Kippur (or Day of Atonement, the holiest date on the Jewish calendar; see for more), in a most unlikely place: The First Unitarian Universalist Church of Nashville (
I say “unlikely” only in the sense that such a setting is new for me, and that the context was not a Jewish temple. However, for decades Unitarians have paid homage to the traditions and deep meanings of other faiths, yielding to the indefinable mystery of divinity rather than trying to brand or package it. It was interesting to experience the mix of Psalms, poetry, folk tales and personal anecdotes woven into the service, amid a casual atmosphere where people were free to dress as they pleased and come as they were.
I spent most of the hour in the Unitarian congregation meditating on the simple phrase “I am divine peace,” rather than agonizing over whether I was saying or doing the right thing. And that was rather refreshing.
The morning’s communal crescendo was the individual clutching of a small stone, meant to symbolize something to let go of in order to grow spiritually and have stronger unity with other human beings. For me, the “stone” was inauthentic behaviors, some of which have caused a great deal of pain and others that have unleashed new epiphanies for holistic living.
It seems that ever since leaving the United Methodist pulpit in January 2004, life has required me to drop such stones at various intervals and yield to the resulting consequences. Books, people and new vocational opportunities have shown up just when I needed them—whether I initially wanted them or not. Each of these droppings have served like a “mini” atonement to the false self within me, gradually healing what is perhaps the one true “sin” that has ever existed: hindrances to embracing one’s own divinity.
To all friends—Jewish or not—I offer you a happy Yom Kippur!