At last Sunday’s service at the Unitarian Congregation in Mississauga  I spoke about religious language (Found in Translation, January 11, 2015) and the struggles we have as Unitarian Universalists sorting out the words that shape our spiritual orientation. I committed to a blog post each week to explore a word and its meaning in the hopes of helping my congregants (and myself!) to better understand UU theology and vocabulary. We hope to figure out where our common meanings lie, what the differences are; where we can be on the same page, where we might have to compromise, and where we might need a new word altogether.

These comments reflect my current understanding of a word.  Please join in the conversation by sharing your thoughts in the comments.

by Alannah Lee Clamp

by Alannah Lee Clamp


Spirit is the vital principle which animates life but is not itself material. I like to think of it as the whole which is more than the sum of its parts, that part of each living being which expresses its essence. Spirit is linked with breath, wind, air. Like air, spirit can be felt, but not seen, it is ethereal, but also a source of connection. Spirit brings us closer to the living world when we recognize its vital presence everywhere on earth. An awareness of spirit calls us to presence, to pay attention to the here and now. I don’t understand spirit as separate from the body, but rather see spirit and body as integrated expressions of life. I don’t see spirit as a guiding authority or independent presence but as an essential part of being alive and part of the whole.

A sense of spirit is hard to experience – it’s always just beyond my awareness, but I sense it during walks in the woods or when a group of people are caught up in a moment together.  Because of spirit’s ephemeral nature, it can be easy to not notice it. People can live well without consciously experiencing a sense of spirit.  For others, it is an invaluable experience of being connected, of belonging. Seekers are helped by an embodied spiritual discipline such as prayer or meditation or dance, part of that paradox of being present in the body opening us to the spirit.



5 thoughts on “Spirit

  1. Hello Fiona,
    I am at home sick today and reading your Empty Chalice is the perfect balm for the soul. Your blog is a rich catalogue of poetry, reflections, photography and art. I will follow more regularly, hopefully not just when I am ill.
    Keep it going.
    John Rowell

  2. Dear Reverend Fiona – I am the Denominational Affairs person at my fellowship (North West Toronto), and signed up to receive your Empty Chalice blog at the start of your ministry in Mississauga.

    I find that we are often discussing different aspects of the spirit in our fellowship, and wondered if I could share your blog with our members at UFNWT?

    I became a member at First Toronto 55 years ago when I was just a teenager. In those days, humanism ruled! There was certainly no mention of spirituality! But now, UUs are evolving, just as we always have done. Good for us!

    Marilyn Harris

    • Hi Marilyn, Please share away! You might also be interested in the blog I did last year for UUCDURHAM on spiritual practices, you can find it in the links. I’m delighted to meet a neighbour, let me know if I can support North West in other ways.

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