“This I Believe” is the inspiration for lay-led Sunday services at Channing Memorial Church while I am on vacation and study leave though August 5th. As a Unitarian Universalist congregation, we uphold shared ministry, a vibrant partnership between the faith community and ordained minister.
We believe that each person has unique insights to share about life and the workings of the sacred. It is a true gift whenever people share their personal experiences and spiritual discoveries. We learn essential truths of people’s lives. In listening to this sort of authentic revelation, our own hearts and minds are expanded whether we share the same convictions or we are challenged to consider a new perspective.
“This I Believe” is a weekly series broadcast on National Public Radio in which both famous and every day people share their personal beliefs. The essays are only three and a half minutes in length but they have incredible depth as people tell not only what they believe, but how they reached that conviction, and what made it grow.
The original program was hosted by Edward R. Murrow from 1951-1955. Murrow became one of the most well-known and respected American journalists from his radio broadcasts from London during World War II. When he returned to the States and CBS, he was concerned by what he perceived as an increasingly materialistic and adversarial trend in society. At lunch with colleagues, as they discussed the issues of their day, Murrow asked, “Where are the values?” It was from this simple question that “This I Believe” was born.
“This I Believe” was a product of its time. It brought an important message of hope, faith, and courage in a period fraught with fear, doubt, and insecurity. The fifties marked the dawn of the Cold War. The United States was gripped by Anti-communist fears which led to loyalty oaths, blacklisting, and the House Committee on Un-American Activities led by Senator Joseph McCarthy.
Despite the growing climate of fear and insecurity, men and women were living lives of faith and integrity. The aim of the program was not to be religious in a traditional sense but to offer insight into the core beliefs that guide daily life. At a time when church attendance was high, this emphasis on personal belief rather than religious dogma became a cultural phenomenon. The radio show aired across the nation and even abroad. The essays also became syndicated and appeared weekly in newspapers as well as being compiled into a bestselling book.
A key to the program’s success were the guidelines for sharing. All contributors were asked to frame their thoughts affirmatively: “This I Believe” instead of a tirade of disbelief or cynicism. In order to do so, participants were asked to reflect upon their personal experiences and to speak from the first person instead of preaching or editorializing. When people speak their deepest truths from their own experience, we are offered a precious gift, a window into life from a new perspective that can enrich our own.
In introducing the original series, Murrow said, “Never has the need for personal philosophies of this kind been so urgent”. “This I Believe” was revived on National Public Radio in 2005. Now, fifty years later, our nation is at war and there is a climate of fear especially with rising costs, job insecurity, and market volatility. We are bombarded with messages of hate, conflict, violence, and deceit on a daily basis. For these reasons, it is more important than ever for us to uphold the positive values of life.
One of the simplest ways to do this is by attending worship. All are welcome to our Sunday services held at 10:00am in which members of Channing Memorial Church will share their beliefs along with music, meditation, and a time of sharing. No matter whether you are a member of another faith community, searching for a religious home or looking for a place to center before a busy week, you and your family are welcome.