Credo by Mark Glenny
Good Morning! I’m Mark Glenny.
Many years ago, as a new Unitarian Universalist, I was told that I should just say ‘Yes’ when approached for any service opportunities. Now, I’m not sure if that congregation just needed more volunteers but following this advice has led to many interesting journeys in my UU life.
So, several weeks ago, when Beth Ann asked me if I’d like to speak at the Adult Credo Service, I simply said, ‘Yes’.
And here I am.
Thank you, Beth Ann, for organizing and enabling this wonderful service today.
What is a credo? The word has Latin language roots1 meaning, ‘I believe’… From a Unitarian Universalist perspective, it is a snapshot of one’s values, faith, identity, and beliefs at one point in time.
The Unitarian Universalist Association website2 states, ‘We live our values aloud, not alone’.
It’s useful to articulate every now and then what those values, faith, identity and beliefs are and how we are living them.
So, this morning, I’d like to share with you my values, my faith, my beliefs, who I am, and how I live these ‘aloud’.
Today’s snapshot is influenced by my life’s journey.
Richard Bach, in his book, ‘One’3, writes, “I gave my life to become the person I am right now! Was it worth it?”
On the Unitarian Universalist Association website, on a Many Beliefs Welcome page4, we can find how others weave their traditions and identities into who they are today. There is Information on:
Atheism/Agnostic, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Humanism, Judaism, Islam, Paganism,
Did you know that there is a Unitarian Universalist Buddhist Fellowship - the UUBF5.
And there is Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship - the UUCF6.
And this is where I’d like to start my credo this morning.
My faith tradition is from generations of Roman Catholics. My grandparents and great grandparents all came from Montreal to work in the factories in Holyoke, seeking a better life for themselves and their children – me. My family roots are noted in the records of books of St. Gabriel’s Church in Montreal and Precious Blood Catholic Church that was on Cabot St in the French section of Holyoke.
I have always had a strong religious nature – even as a child – the cornerstone being Roman Catholicism – that which my family gave me. The Roman Catholic Church was a foundation of my faith, beliefs and values until I was in my mid 20s.
This is the faith tradition that marked many transitions in my family – these transitions were sacred sacraments: First Communions, Confirmations, Marriages, Deaths.
This is the faith tradition that sustained me through my teen years – giving me solace before my understanding of being a gay man.
This is the faith tradition that consoled me as my mother died of cancer in my late teens.
This is the faith tradition that gave me guidance through my college years as I studied computer engineering in Boston.
But as I learned about those doctrines that I had accepted without question – I learned that these were indeed man-made, that these were constructed over a long period of time. I became uneasy. I realized that I could choose other beliefs. I could choose another path.
3 Richard Bach, One, Dell, 1989 (Reissue)
As I struggled with my identity as a gay man in my 20s, I could no longer find solace in the Catholic Church.
So, I went church shopping – I thought it would be easier to change my religion than to change being gay. I’m a practical engineer…
My beliefs became less focused on doctrine and more focused on behavior that promote strong values and provide moral guidance. The UU 7 principles7 were perfect for me:
1. Inherent worth and dignity of every person
2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations
4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning
5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and society at large
6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
These principles were much harder to practice in my life than perhaps reciting the Nicene creed every week.
These principles dovetailed with an approach to living and organizing the truths that I witnessed and experienced.
The 4th principle especially spoke to me: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
My family’s faith tradition taught me that my life would be as a story or book. There is a plot that makes sense, the characters have development that support the plot, the themes are aptly discussed, and the ending is tidy.
However, that was not exactly how my life has worked. I have found that the path is sometimes not straight, it is not tidy.
I’ve learned that the less I try to control and the more I open myself to experiences, the better my life is.
Today, I live with more intention. I meet challenges not with the paralyzing fear of Original Sin doctrine, but with an idea of an interdependent web of all existence. My decisions are more from those values – not fear, not guilt.
Several years ago, as I grew in the Unitarian Universalist society, I wanted my work as an engineer to be more meaningful. While fairly successful as an engineer, I wanted more connection. I was redefining ‘successful’ for myself.
After many years, I worked up the courage to ask the universe for ‘Increased Faith’.
So what happened?
The dot-com bubble burst, I lost my lucrative engineering jobs, I was in my mid-40s, I struggled financially, I struggled with my sense of belonging - after 2 college degrees and a 20 year professional engineering career, I struggled with this new reality.
So much for the tidy plot story…
As I looked around to recreate myself, I had to ask for help. As I lived with uncertainty, I relied on a faith community that could not tell me what to do, but could nourish my spirit.
I was grateful for the ability to be able to go back to school, I returned to college and became a Registered Nurse.
I was grateful that I could work while in college – in my 40s – by teaching fitness classes, working as a barista and delivering cakes to area restaurants. My ego diminished.
The path to ‘Increased Faith’ was not easy.
Along the way to finding more connectedness, the story was not tidy, but the more I quieted my ego, the more at peace I became. The more I learned about the interdependent web.
As a nursing student, I learned about the field of Healthcare IT – blending nursing and engineering. In fact, the spouse of the minister at the Unitarian church I attended in Worcester, was a ‘thought’ leader in that field. Again, the interdependent web…
As my ego receded, I found connectedness and opportunity I could not have planned.
Funny, how that worked out.
Today, I try to focus on service, principles, compassion, others, and prepare myself through quieting my ego for the solutions to challenges in my life. I try to make peace with ambiguity, without a tidy story, while casting aside the well-constructed religious doctrine.
A favorite British author, Karen Armstrong, has written many works on comparative religion, and states:
I am not interested in the afterlife. Religion is supposed to be about losing your ego, not
preserving it eternally in optimum conditions. 8
She writes: The only way to show a true respect for God is to act morally while ignoring God’s existence. 9
Disclaimer: she is a former Roman Catholic religious sister.
So, I have spoken a bit about my credo – today’s brief snapshot of my faith, my beliefs, my values, my identity…. and my journey.
It is interesting to write my credo and watch how it changes as I grow and as I reflect on Richard Bach’s question, “I gave my life to become the person I am right now. Was it worth it?”10
8 Karen Armstrong, Transcript of an interview by Steve Paulson of Salon.com, 2007, from
9 Karen Armstrong, A History of God: The 4,000 Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Ballatine Books, 1994.
10 Richard Bach, One, Dell, 1989 (Reissue)
Credo by Michael Holroyde
Hello my name is Michael Holroyde and this is my credo.
When I was 8 and living in India we had an amazing vacation in Kashmir. We lived on a houseboat on a quiet lake, next to Lake Dal which was by Srinagar the capitol. The lake was surrounded by low lying mountains, the foothills of the mighty Himalayas, which lay beyond. One day we took a trip to Gulmarg about an hour west of Srinagar. We drove along winding mountain roads with lush valleys below until we reached our destination at about 9000 feet. Then we rented ponies with a Kashmiri guide. I was very excited. I was told that we might see Nanga Parbat, the 5th highest mountain in the world – one of the few 8000 meter peaks on the planet – over 26000 feet high. After a while we came to a clearing and the guide pointed and said look…I looked down across the valley below where the Hindu Gush and the Karakoram ranges of the Himalayas meet, the birthplace of some of the great rivers of India – the Indus, the Jamuna and the Ganges. As my eyes travelled up I said O no as I realized that the Himalayas were shrouded in mist and cloud. I was so disappointed. The guide looked at me and said “ No sahib, look above the clouds, look above the clouds” . I raised my eyes and there it was – magnificent, foreboding, a triangle of white and grey rising majestically to point a few thousand feet above the clouds, silhouetted against a pale blue/grey background. Nanga Parbat. Look above the clouds said the guide look above (hold that thought).
Looking back over my life I have come to identify 2 states of being – the first I call the Limited I – this is when circumstances rule your life – where in a sense you are surrounded by clouds, your vision is not clear – you may be struggling to make ends meet – you might feel isolated, lonely or alone – there is a feeling of unease as if your life is full of unrealized living – you are in a sense a bystander. The second at the other end of the continuum is the Unlimited I where you rise above the fog – your vision is clear – you are riding your wave – you feel you have control of your life – you are one with all of humanity – the stars are not only out there but within you – this is a transformative state of being - you are what I call an Upstander. I, perhaps like some or many of you, have oscillated between these two points – but I do know I would rather be nearer the latter than the former.
I have used the terms Bystander and Upstander because back in January all the students at the JFK Middle School in Florence were asked as part of MLK day and Black History month to define them and give examples. If you walk around the school you would see posters – A bystander is someone who witnesses an act of injustice and does nothing about it – an upstander is someone who witnesses an act of injustice and does something about. In the context of what we were discussing you will see a lot of posters about Rosa Parks sitting on the bus, students leaving school in Birmingham in 1963 to support adults trying to register to vote and so on – you also might see to call out bullying or offensive gender remarks for example.
So finally how do you extrapolate yourself from the limited I or bystander situation to a fuller more productive existence. In 1984 after a long period of feeling isolated and lacking a community, I will never forget meeting Frances Crowe of the AFSC here in Northampton who said “ Michael join the peace movement and make relationships.” While she was right because I did get involved and that is how I met Kitty, my lovely wife! I also got arrested with Frances a few times but that is another story!
I do believe – looking at my own life – that with a little courage, with a little compassion, with a little commitment, with above all else a community, a community of loving people that you can find your way – it may not be constant – you may regress – but my humanity – our common humanity asks that you and I least try this journey – our future depends on it.
Well I have come to the end – I feel like I have given a commencement speech to a group of undergraduates – well now that I look at you well undergraduates in spirit..so I will leave you with 3 bumper stickers:
The People United Can Never Be Defeated,
If The People Lead The Leaders Will Follow and,
If You Look Above The Clouds You Might See Your Nanga Parbat