Here we are, six Salem Universists, gathering outside of the Coffee House Café last Thursday evening. This was the first meeting of our non-dogmatic spiritual support group, loosely organized under the Universist banner.
“Loosely” is the operative word, as I wasn’t organized enough to check and see if the café had a band playing on Thursday nights. I’d pictured us sitting on the Coffee House’s comfortable couches, sipping lattes and discussing deep philosophical issues.
As soon as I walked in the door, clutching a Universist flyer to my chest so a few members I hadn’t met yet would recognize me, I quickly realized that we still could discuss inside—but there’s no way we’d be able to hear each other.
So, failing to find another downtown coffee shop open and quiet at 7:30 pm, when Salem begins to roll up its streets, we huddled around a streetside table. We had a great conversation, interrupted only by mufferless vehicles cruising by. It sure was obvious that Salem, like most American cities, isn’t geared around pedestrians; it’s geared around cars.
It also was obvious that people with all sorts of different outlooks on life can come together most pleasantly when everyone has an accepting open mind.
Jacque, Laurel, Laura, Tom, Patricia, and I covered lots of ground in our 90 minute get-together. We shared our basic spiritual outlooks, which ranged from skeptical agnosticism, to universalist Christianity, to meditation mysticism, to the teachings of a soul-guide channeler, and more besides.
I talked some about how nice it is when people are willing to throw their spiritual ideas and beliefs out on a table, figuratively, for others to see. This also is what I’m trying to do here at this Church of the Churchless blog.
Most of the ideas and beliefs here are mine because it’s my blog. But almost all of the comments are from other people who add to the richness of the tabletop thoughtful fare.
When everyone focuses on the ideas and beliefs, a conversation (in person or in cyberspace) goes smoothly. I mean, we then meet in a shared psychic space where each individual is respected and left alone, but the thoughts that have been thrown out for discussion can be examined, talked about, even criticized.
On the other hand, we all know what it is like to have someone act like they want to get inside your head and rearrange the contents. “You should believe this! Don’t believe that! I’m right and you’re wrong! Anyone who doesn’t agree with me is a fool!” You can’t have a real conversation with someone who has an aggressive self-righteous attitude like this. They’re interested in a monologue, not a discussion.
We all were after a discussion on Thursday. That’s the Universist way, which also is the way of other open-minded groups. I said that Laurel and I had thought of attending Unitarian meetings, but what we are looking for is fellowship and conversation with fellow non-dogmatic spiritual seekers.
So it seemed to us that if what we really wanted was the post-Unitarian service coffee klatch, we should organize a group where you skip the sermon and go right to talking, eating, and drinking.
If you live in the Salem (Oregon) area and resonate with the Universist philosophy, consider joining up with us. If you’re looking for spiritual answers, we don’t have them. But we love to talk about the questions.