The Theology of Joy, by Libby Moore

I love this time of year, basking in end-of-summer peace and quiet but also looking ahead to what’s coming in the fall. The beginning of school was always a pleasure to me, getting back to new subjects, new teachers, friends, books. Even as a retired adult, I find that September brings the promise of new things. The lazy summer days are made sweeter with the anticipation of good work to come.

Wellspring is good work, indeed. Jen and Joy and I met last week to prepare for our new groups, which will start getting to know each other at our retreat in September and then meet regularly every two weeks after that. Members of the new groups have been preparing, also – finding their spiritual directors, getting books, starting to think about their spiritual practices. I’ve been hearing from them with questions, especially about spiritual direction, which is so foreign to UU’s. It’s exciting to think of these wonderful people coming together with their stories and strengths, their openness and their resistance to change, growing together over time into a cohesive, supportive unit.

One of the things Jen and Joy and I did in our planning was to revise one of the sessions. We realilzed that we made room for the crises of life and how UU’s face those and that we talk about perspectives on evil, but we hadn’t included anything about joy. How do we, with our Puritanical roots, incorporate joy into our spiritual lives? Is joy an integral part of our religious experience? Our UU heritage stresses service to the world, the interdependent web of existence, truth and justice. All good, but what about the joy that comes with connection and love? Is that a legitimate part of our theology? We thought we’d use one Wellspring session to explore these questions. (We removed the session on our local church history, since we talk about that in other contexts).

The reading list for this topic isn’t firmed up yet, but there are so many possibilities. There’s an article from the Kripalu newsletter called “The Yoga of Pleasure,” by Sally Kempton, which talks about including simple pleasures in our spiritual lives. There’s a book called Stumbling on Happiness, which talks about why we’re so often dissatisfied and about the surprising ways we find ourselves happy. There’s a lovely book of poetry called Dancing with Joy by Roger Housden, which celebrates joy in its many manifestations. We’re joyful at the idea of putting this session together and adding it to our already rich curriculum. If you’d like to take a look at the revised curriculum, click on the Wellspring Curriculum link in the column on the right.

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