On Faith – Touchstone Ministry Theme, November 2017

On Faith – Touchstone Ministry Theme, November 2017

by Rev. Aaron Payson

touchstones wordle for november 2017 theme of faith

The celebrated public theologian, William Sloan Coffin once quipped, “Faith isn’t believing without proof-it is trusting without reservation.”  Indeed, faith isn’t about belief at all.  As Martin Copenhaver, the current President of my alma mater, Andover Newton Theological School notes, “Imagine that you are at a circus. A skilled high-wire artist has accomplished so many marvelous feats that the audience has come to believe that he can do almost anything. The ringmaster addresses the crowd: “Ladies and gentlemen, how many of you believe that this daring man can ride safely over the high wire on his bicycle while carrying someone on his shoulders? If you believe he can do it, please raise your hand!” Many in the audience raise their hands. “Very well, then,” says the ringmaster, surveying all the raised hands, “now who would like to be the first to volunteer to sit on his shoulders?” The difference between belief and faith is the difference between staying in your seat and volunteering to climb on the shoulders of the high-wire artist.”


The proto-germanic origin of the word “belief” is “ga-laubjan” which is literally “to hold dear.”  It is a word that connotes a sense of intimacy.  The word trust, on the other hand, in archaic German, “trost” means “to comfort.” It is a derivation of the Gothic “trausti” or “alliance.”  While belief is about the valuation of something we hold close, trust is about that which we align ourselves to.  One gives us comfort the other courage.  And the sources of our comfort and courage as Unitarian Universalists are as varied as human experience itself, as my colleague Joanne Fortaine Crawford notes in her poem, Every Third Thursday.


Every third Tuesday, I am a Buddhist

I empty my mind and lighten my heart

And try to let go of attachments


Every other Friday, I am a Christian.

I look for the least of these

And try to love God and my neighbor


The full moon of the month finds me Wiccan;

I honor the dual nature of God

And find my rhythm as maiden, mother or crone


On the 15th of the month, I am humanist

I respect science, integrity of fellow humans

And all that we have learned and have made


Every fourth Wednesday, I am Hindu

I take a breath, and understand that what is unfinished now

Will remain for me to continue…next life


On alternate Fridays, I am Jewish

‘Y’varekh’kha ADONAI v’yishmerekha,

I tell my children, softly touching each head


And the Thursdays and the Mondays, and the Saturdays and Sundays,

And all the other days in between

Find me reading, or listening, or watching


Philosophers, Muslims, Mormons, Baha’i and more

Fill my heart, touch my soul

And yet…


The one thing that none of these provide

To me

Is the certitude that they are The One


They lend me wisdom, sing to my heart

Cause me to question, help me find answers

Make me more me


And at the end of the day, every day,

I am Unitarian Universalist.


In parcel and in pledge

And with all my heart, all my soul,

All my mind and all my strength

I honor this faith

I hold it close

As it lets me run free.