American Unitarian Conference

Promoting the American Unitarian Tradition

Back to the American Unitarian page

Riding the Sacred Bus

Paul Yonge


There are times when it seems more convenient and efficient to take a bus on a journey rather than a car or train or plane.  Unlike cars, there are no parking problems and bus drivers are relied upon to know the road and give their full attention to staying on it.  Unlike trains and planes, the bus routes are more diverse and the schedules seem more reliable.

As we make our journey through life, we may choose a religious denomination or congregation to facilitate our travel as we would in boarding a bus.  Generally, we start on the sacred bus of our family’s choosing however, as we grow older, we may transfer to another sacred bus that seems to be traveling on a route of our own choosing.  Our destinations vary, as do our needs and the needs of those traveling with us.  We may stop here and there to tend to our individual chores and then rejoin others on the ride to our similar destinations.

Within the past two years, some of us have chosen to clamber aboard one of the AUC sacred buses.  Almost like a charter or tour bus, we may not have been sure of the exact route. However, for the most part, we expressed unanimity as to our ultimate destination. Unlike many other sacred buses with stained glass windows, our buses allowed us to look at the passing landscape and both revel in its beauty and express concern over its deficiencies.

While many charter and tour buses are elegantly outfitted, our buses are more utilitarian.  They may not be equipped with appointments that keep us highly entertained; however they allow a wide range of interaction among the riders.  We should be mindful that there is a danger in too much interaction.

There is an inherent flexibility with AUC buses that allows us to disembark occasionally with the assurance that there will be another one along when we need it.  Some of our fellow riders have already stopped for a while to re-examine their travel plans. Some have gotten off at a stop where they perceive a need that demands their attention.  Others have stayed on the bus engrossed in their discussions with each other thereby passing the opportunities to engage with others who don’t usually take any bus (except, perhaps, whenever their sense of faith requires it).

Our attention should be given to these two latter groups: those whose discussions overshadow their responsibilities – and those whose disillusionments overshadow their potentials.  Our spiritual outlook on life allows us to address the needs of others without demanding that they conform to our beliefs.  Some of us may feel ill equipped to minister to others because of limitations on our own time, talent, and resources.

The act of ministry may, however, be tailored to the time, talent, and resources that we do possess.  Most people know of at least one other person who respects and relies on them for advice, guidance, and support.  Whether ministering is performed to one person at a time or to a small group, those people may in turn be encouraged to minister to others.  We need to change our perception of congregations which, instead of relying on the leadership of one minister, can transform themselves into a fellowship of ministers who each serve others according to their capabilities however limited they may be.

We need to get off the sacred bus more often.  We need to forsake the comfort of like-minded company in order to serve those with different mind-sets.  We need to seek out those who are not on any other sacred bus because they did not meet others’ qualifications or because they were offended by others’ judgmental rules.  We need to assure such non-riders that they will be accepted as they are and that they are more than welcome to share our sacred bus as we journey through life’s adventures.

© 2002 American Unitarian Conference