I’ve spent much of my summer thinking about sin and virtue. This year, in our worship, I’ll be exploring the seven deadly sins and the seven heavenly virtues. I spent much of my summer study leave reading, writing and reflecting on these topics.
A list of seven deadly sins is an ancient idea with roots in ancient Greece and Babylon. Early Christian leaders compiled competing lists of the worst sins. The seven as we know them—gluttony, envy, anger, greed, sloth, pride, and lust—were popularized in the 1300s in England, when priests were instructed to teach them to their congregations so the people would know what actions to avoid.
In my reflections, I’ve come to realize that these seven behaviors are sinful because we are tempted to place them at the center of our lives, perhaps even worshiping them as an idol. At their core, each of the seven sins are about an innate human need or desire—food, romantic union, a sense of self, comparison, the need of possessions. The problem arises when these needs and desires consume too much of our time, energy, and attention. I’ll be exploring how we live in this tension during services this year.
In her lecture at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly this year, radio host Krista Tippett called virtues ‘tools for the art of living’ and ‘spiritual technologies.’ We will also be exploring the seven heavenly virtues—faith, hope, charity, prudence, temperance, courage, and justice—in worship this year. What do these virtues, especially the out-of-fashion ones like prudence, have to offer us? How might these ancient ‘spiritual technologies’ equip us to live more meaningful lives now?
Virtue and sin won’t be the only topics addressed in worship this year. Planning is in the works for an intergenerational animal blessing service in October that ties in with the Harry Potter curriculum that our children and youth are following this year. There will be meaningful, joyful services for the hearty few who decide to come to church on Christmas and New Year’s morning. (I’m grateful that DeForest is young enough not to notice that Santa will come to our house on Christmas afternoon or December 26th this year.) Our guest worship leaders will include Glen Thomas Rideout, the music director at the Ann Arbor UU Congregation, and Jill McAllister, People’s minister emerita. It’s shaping up to be a meaningful year in the worship life of our congregation—and in so many other areas of church life. I’m excited for it all to get underway.
See you in church,