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Religion column

Unitarian Universalist offers 'disciplined search for truth'

The Rev. Doak Mansfield

The Rev. Doak Mansfield

If you drive by too fast, it's easy to miss.

Nestled within the trees off curvy Morris Bridge Road sits the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, a meeting place for people seeking an alternative to mainstream religions.

There, people meet to mediate and ask questions, to reflect on current affairs and uplift one another. There, nature is celebrated, love is embraced and God has many forms.

The church, which opened in 1959, is in transition. Last summer, the Rev. Sara Zimmerman retired after five years. The Rev. Doak Mansfield, 65, a recent heart transplant survivor, is serving as interim minister until 2015.

Mansfield was ordained by the UU church in 1976 and has served at churches in Ohio, Alabama and Mississippi. I spoke to him about what it means to call oneself a Unitarian Universalist.

In your words, what is Unitarian Universalism?

Our premise is that freedom is the foundation of any spiritual or religious path. Unitarian Universalism is a disciplined search for truth. We are not creedal. We come together to look for truth without the expectation of finding absolute answers. We believe love is better than fear.

Unitarian Universalists are usually very socially conscious. We are proud of where we stand on issues like social justice and equality. Many people call these liberal ideas. I think they are just humane ideas.

How many members attend programs at the Tampa UU?

We have registered 123 members. We have a really active community. We have a diverse group of good people. We recently opened our new multipurpose building and we have the Dome, where we host concerts.

What does the Tampa UU offer the community?

We have the ongoing Sunday concert series. We are partnered with HOPE, the Hillsborough Organization for Prosperity and Equality, and are very involved in social justice issues. We marched in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade. We have our ongoing children's religious education programs.

What do the children's programs teach?

The children study world religions. They study human nature, the discovery sciences and the natural world. They study our key principles. For instance we believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.

I can preach to you about God, Jesus, Mohammed or Confucius, but unless you get your act together and make your own decisions, you're really just buying into what I'm telling you. We teach that we are all a part of another and part of a great whole. So the children explore what it means to be a human being.

What is the biggest misconception about Unitarian Universalism?

That we don't believe anything.

Really, we don't believe in greed. We don't believe in differences. We're ethics driven.

If I had to say my personal theology, it's that love is a verb. God is a verb. We're in this life, on a journey with others, looking at all the magic in the world. I have the heart of a 32-year-old black female ticking in my chest now and so I'm able to be here.

In a cynical world with all kinds of misunderstanding I think telling people you're okay as you are and let's work well together is a good thing for people to believe in. But I'm naive.

Calendar

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tampa, 11400 Morris Bridge Road, Tampa, invites the public to Blues and BBQ, beginning at 6 p.m. Saturday. The Toni Brown Band will perform. Cost to attend is $5 and includes a barbecue dinner. For information on this and other events, visit uutampa.org or call (813) 988-8188.

First Baptist Church of Brandon, 216 N Parsons Ave., will host its annual Sportsmen's Feast beginning at 6 p.m. Monday. The event includes displays, a guest speaker, game appetizers and a steak dinner. Cost to attend is $15. For more information, visit fbcbrandon.org or call (813) 689-1204.

River of Life Christian Center, 6605 Krycul Ave., Riverview, will host Girls With Swords, a women's conference featuring speakers Dawn Raley, Dana Landers, Anna Dow, Andrea Billups and Cecilia Honaker, Friday through Sunday. Cost to attend is $20. For information and times, visit riveroflifechristiancenter.org.

The Joy FM, 91.5, is registering runners to join its radio hosts on Team Freedom, a group of men and women participating in the Gasparilla Distance Classic to help raise funds for Abolition International, an anti-human trafficking organization. Participants can sign up to run the 5K and/or 15K Feb. 22, or the 8K and/or half marathon Feb. 23. Runners must agree to raise a minimum of $400 for Abolition International and pay a $39 registration fee. Benefits include a Team Freedom T-shirt, a tiara and admission to a pasta party featuring a live performance by a Joy FM artist. The deadline to register is Friday. For information and to join the team, visit florida.thejoyfm.com/page/run.

Congregation Beth Shalom, 706 Bryan Road, Brandon, will present the third part in its educational series Your Health: Prevention, Protection, and Preparation for the Future at 7:30 p.m. Feb. 18. Sue Pagano, community representative for Lifepath Hospice, will speak about a holistic approach to palliative care for chronic diseases and the services Hospice can provide and offer advice for caregivers. The event is free. For more information, contact chairperson of Adult Education Janice Perelman at (813) 571-2029.

Unitarian Universalist offers 'disciplined search for truth' 01/29/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 2:18pm]
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