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Reflections from Rev. Alan Taylor

Cultivating a Community of Transformation
Rev. Rev. Alan Taylor, Senior Minister
minister@unitytemple.org

April is a wonderful time to explore transformation because it is the month when the natural world transforms from the denuded, stark landscape of winter into the glorious symphony of spring. We can trust that this will occur. We know that in time the beauty of the earth will arise again. Can we trust that this too happens for us human beings?

Wherever we are on our life journey, it is important to begin with where we are at. Honesty is the first step to inviting transformation—and through honesty we invite, cultivate, and participate in a Community of Transformation. When I began thinking about this theme, it seemed alien and far away from my experience. Feeling stuck in the winter of the soul, a voice suddenly called out from within, “Pray for transformation.” As I shared this perspective, the act of sharing brought me much closer. That’s the power of community.

Often transformation is preceded by a journey through the dark night of the soul or a journey through the valley of death. It is a natural part of the human journey to feel lost or despairing. If we are always feeling content and we see everything through rose-colored glasses, why would we need transformation? But if we struggle and can share our struggles with others, the discovery of community is our vehicle. As it says in the great spiritual Amazing Grace, “I once was lost but now I’m found.”

Transformation is a profound core value for our community. It is related to mystery, surrender, grace. We cannot will our own transformation. I doubt that transformation can be the result of an elaborate self-improvement regimen, for trying to purify or prove ourselves is a sure way of staying stuck. Instead, spiritual transformation comes as a gift of grace. It isn’t about seeking inner purity. Rather, it’s being open with our attention, to welcome shifts within ourselves so we can see and experience the world with fresh eyes and a new spirit.

As Henri-Frederic Ariel notes, “Let mystery have its place in you; do not be always turning up your whole soil with the plowshare of self-examination, but leave a little fallow corner in your heart ready for any seed the winds may bring, and reserve a nook of shadow for the passing bird; keep a place in your heart for the unexpected guests, an altar for an unknown God.”

During April and the season of Easter, may your participation in our community remind you, as another has reminded me, that the path of transformation is about breathing not being better, patience not perfection, attention not improvement. 

May this month be a time we can grow in acceptance that we all are flawed, imperfect human beings. May we, in community, come to accept ourselves and others more fully, and grow in the gratitude and humility that leads to a forgiving heart and a liberated soul. 

Warmly,
Alan