Her theology and spirituality are wide enough to embrace everyone in our congregation; all feel accepted and included... She was honest and open about her spiritual journey in a way that connected us all to a sense of awe and wonder about our own spiritual seeking... you must know that our congregation includes atheists, agnostics, humanists, Buddhists, Christians, Sufis, pagans … Her spiritual grounding leads her to write sermons that deepen the listeners’ understanding of their own theology… We are inspired by Shari’s ministry to become our best as individuals and as a congregation. ~ Intern Team, UU Congregation of Columbus, Indiana
While in seminary, I wrote a Co-Mingling Chant that expresses much of my theology poetically. Here are the lyrics:
Harmonic backdrop parts: [repeating]
A: The fishes in the seas and birds in the trees
Mother Earth and you and me
B: Birthing – breathing – living – dying
C: Outward… inward… outward… inward...
D: [rain stick]
1- Growing cosmos, circling planets,
mingling all around.
2 - Growing life forms, circling eagle,
mingling from sky to ground.
3 - Growing geodes, circling atoms,
mingling all the way down.
4 - Growing insight, circling wholeness,
mingling where love is found.
5 - Birthing, breathing, living, dying,
to all we are bound.
To all we are bound.
Curious musicians can see the sheet music.
Written as my final project for Arts & Aesthetics, this chant was inspired by lots of great chanting in a paganism class with Margot Adler; by process theology (dynamic, interrelated, all-natural reality); by love of nature and the grief and urgency that come from awareness of our present path of destruction; and by mystic perception, as captured in these words of William James:
“Our lives are like islands in the sea, or like trees in the forest, which co-mingle their roots in the darkness underground. Just so, there is a continuum of cosmic consciousness, against which our individuality builds but accidental fences, and into which our several minds plunge as into a mother sea or reservoir.”
A socially conscious mystic with a genuine passion for the work of the Beloved Community… Shari is subtle in her representation of her theological leanings. In a tradition as diverse as ours, this is a positive. A minister must “do ministry” out of a theologically authentic place, but must also engage and heartfully respond to - and evoke responses in - the various spiritual spaces of others…Shari has walked that line about as well as it can be walked.
~ Rev. Dennis McCarty, Minister Emeritus, UU Congregation of Columbus
You & Me & Theology
I am delighted to belong to a tradition for which theological diversity has been a hallmark for almost 200 years. My personal faith is shaped by forces similar to those that shaped Unitarian Universalism: direct experiences of wonder, awe, and connection, often in nature; the best of the Judeo-Christian heritage, including the call to prophetic action and to build the beloved community; the ever-unfolding revelations of science about our amazing universe; the rich insights and beauty found in the arts; and deep encounters with Eastern sources of wisdom.
I accept the labels eclectic, seeker, mystic, poet, panentheist, religious naturalist, lover of life. I have had moments of spiritual bliss and moments of existential despair. In my personal spiritual life I use many names for the holy, feeling that collectively all these words and images may come closer to capturing our vast reality than any single name could. Yet ultimately I am left with an intimate Mystery. In worship I tend to use poetic imagery and shy away from God-language, which connects for some people but disconnects others. The cornerstone of mysticism – the recognition that the spark of the divine is within everyone – is at the heart of my theology.
As a UU minister I support people as they develop and live out their own theology. Since I left the Christian church of my childhood for our faith of "deeds not creeds," I understand that well-worn path to Unitarian Universalism. I also recognize that people come to us from many other heritages – Jewish, pagan, humanist, Hindu, Muslim, Mormon, secular, and born-and-raised UU. I invite people into a spirit of curiosity, respect and mutual enrichment as we engage in meaning-making with a variety of viewpoints. Our diversity is itself a resource for our collective growth.