Rev. Barnaby Feder, Minister
Rev. Barnaby Feder, Minister

You won’t meet the ten members of an adult religious education class I began teaching in November: Chris, Tracey, Florida James and Illinois James, Tim, David, Ryan, Robert, Felipe, and Zebediah. All of them belong to the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Larger Fellowship – the UU group for people who can’t conveniently get to a regular UU congregation. These ten can’t get to any UU church because they are in prisons scattered across the South, Midwest and New England.

The class addresses five fundamental questions. What is the nature of humanity? What is the truth (and how do we know it)? Who – or what – is in control of the universe, if anything? What happens when we die? What makes life meaningful?

These questions are best explored in a group, but that’s not possible in this case. All of our communications are by old-fashioned letters, most of which are hand-written rather than typed. Nor do they have each other’s addresses. Recently, I responded to each one personally based on what I had received back so far. I can’t share particular exchanges because of our confidentiality rules. But I can say that I was struck at how diverse their spiritual journeys have been and how diverse their current views are.

That diversity reminds me a lot of what I hear from newcomers each time we teach a new UU class at CVUUS. I couldn’t generalize about what these incarcerated people, ranging in age from 34 to 74, believe. But there does seem to be a pretty strong consensus that you don’t know who you are if you don’t persevere in the struggle to get clear what you are responsible for, both in the past and going forward.

Prison challenges you to think about that, but the conditions limit what you can do with your answers. Maybe it’s an under-appreciated blessing to be able to seek such understanding in freedom and in a community like our congregation.

We’re headed into our shortest month. But it’s a time when we will begin intensively planning for what will do with downstairs and what, through our preliminary budget for next year, we will be taking responsibility for. Let’s make the most of our freedom!

Blessed be, Rev. Barnaby