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When was last time you shared a secret?

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When was last time you shared a secret? When did you last, tell a story, so questionable or so doubtful you ended it with a “shhh now it’s a secret I wasn’t suppose to tell you so don’t tell anyone”… you know just to be sure. Secrets are held and kept for many reasons, some of the most common reasons are because if the secret was known it might change how we view the subject of the secret… we might think less of them or sometimes knowing the secret would take the mystery away or make the mysterious common. Take for example Colonel Sanders Secret 11 herbs and spices… knowing that the largest part of that secret mixture of those 11 herbs and spices is “Accent flavor enhancer” or MSG just may take the shine off Kentucky Fried Chicken for many us. We end up thinking less of the 11 herbs and spices. Secrets and the telling of secrets have been with us for a very very long time. This in spite of the fact I believe that the Universe doesn't like secrets. It conspires to reveal the truth, to lead you to it. And as we peel back the secrets more of our life is revealed and we are always the better for it. Just like in our own lives Unitarian Universalism is no stranger to secrets… to not telling the most controversial parts of our history; of keeping them locked away, perhaps for the noblest of reasons. Keeping the world view of our faith as the one we present to that world… a view of diversity but within reason. Remember now what I say is a secret: Our secret begins in the western and central counties of New York state a place called “the burned over district” in the mid to late 1800’s it was called this because it was believed that there was no one left there that needed to be saved by the traveling evangelists of the time. It was in many ways the frontier. And so at the same time established churches in the district were few and far between. And still all the while free thinking men and women were meeting in meeting houses and homes throughout the district. It was a time of revival… of spiritual revival, and riding the fervor of what is now called the “second great awakening” were both Unitarians and Universalists and these meeting houses and homes soon became churches. It was during this time the First Unitarian Church of Rochester was built, the church home of Susan B Anthony. Movements that sprang from the area included women’s rights, equal education for all and the abolitionist movement all spurred on by the non-creedal system of worship put forward by both the Unitarians and the Universalists. It was in many ways as I said the wild frontier of religious thought in its time. And so it is against this backdrop that in a small town just outside of Rochester we find three little girls the Fox sisters Leah, Maggie and Kate scheming to frighten their mother. The girls by their own later admission did just that using methods have never been quite fully explained. Well the girls kept the secret and more importantly to our story… Mrs. Fox their mom bought into it so much so that she invited the neighbors and strangers too, to come and listen to the ghostly rapping happening in her house… what could the girls do? They did not want to be caught in a lie so… They gave them what everyone wanted a voice from the other side. And it was Mrs. Fox who devised the method, a kind of Morris code for spirit speak if you will, where so many raps meant one thing or another. Now the communication lines worked both ways. The meetings in the Fox home became famous, people traveled from miles away even New York City to listen and ask questions of the spirit rapping’s. And the answers they received were uncanny in their detail. Some of their neighbors now regarded them with awe, as divinely inspired individuals chosen to interpret messages from the dead. In contrast, another group of locals treated the girls with contempt, convinced that they were either tricksters or witches. Emotions ran so high in their nearby Methodist Episcopal church that they attended ultimately asked the Fox family to leave the congregation. In the ministers view the girls had engaged in unholy practices and their parents must be held accountable. And so the girls were sent away. But the die the die was already cast… American preoccupation at this time with death was widespread. The nation’s new cities were expanding, its immigration was at an all-time high and its factories and ports booming, all of which contributed to urban overcrowding and poor sanitation, which spawned epidemic after epidemic of cholera, whooping cough, influenza and diphtheria. The mortality rate was on the rise. Nearly one-third of all city- born infants died before reaching their first birthday, and young mothers — bearing on average five children each — very often died during child birth. Death did indeed touch all families, leaving behind millions of loved ones with memories of those who had passed to the other side. Simultaneously, prosperity born of America’s urbanization and expanding economy flooded the marketplace with factory-spun textiles, dishes and furniture, prompting a new hope and materialism. In such an atmosphere, traditional religions, with their doctrine of original sin, no longer seemed relevant. In was in this time that more and more people found themselves drawn to the non-creedal beliefs of Unitarians and Universalists but also, both Unitarians and Universalists found themselves drawn to this new spiritualist movement. Balancing very different views of that movement and at the same time welcoming in to their fellowships both new and younger members. Exciting times for sure. Our Children gave us a very good picture of the struggle that was within our faith during the story for all ages. Both Reverends’ Spear and Whittemore were highly regarded Universalist Minister’s with a very different message. And they were only two of many… Some Universalist Ministers ended up being defrocked for their belief in Spiritualism where did they go? They were welcomed into Unitarian Fellowships… why? because Many Unitarians were interested in spiritualism. Transcendentalism's advocacy of the sacred within the everyday, its encouragement of self-reliance and its preference for mystical experience over reason provided reinforcement for encounters with what they called angels in the parlor. However not everyone felt that way that way at all, _[Ralph Waldo Emerson_](http://uudb.org/articles/ralphwaldoemerson.html), called spiritualism "midnight fumblings over mahogany" and a "rat-hole revelation" that "comes in by raps" from the scullery. In response, spiritualists, such as the Rev. John Pierpont, drawn to spiritalism from Unitarianism, pointed out that even Jesus had been born in a lowly manger. Exciting times indeed… these guys did not mince words. And equally famous ministers advocated for both sides. And in the end both found Unitarian Universalism was their home and most remained home. Today we have not traveled so far as to not be filled with mystery have we? 1850’s French educator Allan Kardec had this to say about spirit: "If we had never seen fishes, we should be at a loss to understand how any living beings could exist In the sea." What questions, those questions that were being asked in the parlors of the burned over district in 1850 are the same questions that people are asking today. On television almost any night you will find shows such as **Ghost Lab, **_[Most Haunted_](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000P GTNDO?ie=UTF8&tag=cynthiaboris&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creative ASIN=B000PGTNDO)**, **_[Ghost Adventures_](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0 029Z8K60?ie=UTF8&tag=cynthiaboris&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creat iveASIN=B0029Z8K60)**, **_[Paranormal State_](http://www.amazon.com/gp/product /B0026RLMAW?ie=UTF8&tag=cynthiaboris&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&cr eativeASIN=B0026RLMAW)** or **_[Ghost Hunters_](http://www.amazon.com/gp/redir ect.html?ie=UTF8&location=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.amazon.com%2Fgp%2Fentity%2FGhost-Hu nters%2FB001CH3N5O%3Fie%3DUTF8%26ref_%3Dntt%255Ftv%255Fdp%255Fpel&tag=cynthiab oris&linkCode=ur2&camp=1789&creative=390957)** just to name the most popular ones. people are searching people are looking for comfort and yes people are looking to be scared just a little bit. It’s what we as people do.** **So there you have it it’s our secret so when see that vintage picture of a séance or that old picture of a Ouija board being used more than likely there is a Unitarian or a universalist there and he or she probably leading… and if not they just might have been outside the door ready to expose the whole thing as a fraud! ** **What does this tell us about our faith? Well one thing it certainly tells is we don’t always agree! But also it tells us how important being a non-creedal is… it lets us explore our on faith without boundaries as individuals… it reminds us also how important it is that we are welcoming… and how willing we are as a community to engage with people over Spirit as well as the causes and movements that our faith brings us to advocate for… and to listen to one another and speak boldly when other churches remain silent. That’s our spirit.** **Shhh it’s our secret… there has always been a place for spirit in our faith and you will find it in our free pulpit in our pews in our children’s classrooms in the causes we support in the actions we take ** **We are Unitarian Universalists and we are filled we spirit! We always have been….BLESSED BE **