Shrine of Vows

Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation's
Shrine of Vows

(see instructions at bottom of this post)

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I vow to live with compassion and integrity.

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Make the time to care for yourself, to be kind to all others, and to protect the planet. -Jacy

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I vow to push forward in love.

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I vow to live soulfully, and to give back.

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My great vow is to give of myself through caring, nonjudgmental listening, my empathy and sympathy, my friendship to all those who are struggling in life with things like sickness, death, relationships, daily life for an immigrant etc.

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To give everyone the care I give to my family. To hold my beliefs lightly and change them as circumstances change.

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To be present in loving awareness.

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I vow to be mindful of both self care and care for others.

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I vow to know, to know not-knowing, to not know;
To learn to be what is new, to arrive fresh, to arrive in love, to endear;
To stumble with, to embrace, to grapple;
To companion, to befriend, to love, to love, to love;
To attend (to serve, to wait);
To notice, to bear witness, to never let creation play to an empty house;
To be the motion of stillness -- and the stillness of motion;
To yield, and yield, and yield, and budge not an inch;
To receive all the pain of the world -- and all the joy;
To rest in the peace of defeat -- restless in triumph;
To live until I die -- and die, and die, and die until I live.

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I vow to love and to learn.

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Accept all beings as my teachers

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I vow to recognize, cultivate and nurture community

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See the Magic in everything.

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Aging gracefully
With Compassion, Frugality, and Joy

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Inherited: education has a way live to my adult live life free of economic uncertainty and potential hardship; don’t let others squelch my talents
Reactive: to be free of emotional instability
Heroes: political and cultural leaders who fought for fairness and equality, e.g., JFK, RFK, MLK, Gene McCarthy, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan

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Inherited - Be selflessly loyal to one's family
Reactive - Be open minded, no matter how challenging
Inspired - Learn to be happy with less
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Articulating Your Vow (from Apr 19 sermon, "What's Your Great Vow?" -- see text and video of the service HERE):
As you think about how you would articulate your Great Vow, it’ll be helpful to reflect on your sources of vow. There are three sources: inherited, reactive, and inspired.

Inherited Vow

What is your inherited vow? As you were growing up, what were you given to understand by your parents or primary caretakers was the primary function of a life? They may never have articulated it to you, but if you had to now articulate what your parents’ great vows were, what were they?

My parents were both professors – Mom’s field was chemistry and Dad’s was English. In the early years of my life, they were grad students, then they settled into tenure-track teaching positions. So my inherited vow from both of them was: One, learn stuff. Two, teach it to others. These vows made sense to me, and they guided me through young adulthood as I became a professor myself.

You might, however, have reached age 18 feeling that your parents showed you more about how you wanted NOT to be than how to be. So that leads to the second possibly important source for your vow:

Reactive Vow

“Reactive vows can ricochet through many generations. For example, a child raised by a military father who is precise, strict, authoritarian, and conservative may become a hippie. The hippie’s child, tired of dirty clothes, living out of a van, and not having predictable meals, may decide to become an accountant who lives in the same house for forty years and hoards food, toilet paper, and paperclips. The accountant’s child becomes a rock musician perpetually on tour; the musician’s child, a buttoned-up stockbroker; and so on.” (Jan Chozen Bays, The Vow-Powered Life 36)
Or reactive vows can be a response to situation faced while growing up.
“People who become physicians often have had an experience with illness or death in their early years, either in themselves or their family. Their choice of profession may be due to an unconscious desire to gain control over the helplessness and vulnerability they felt as they faced sickness and death at an age when they had no defenses or coping skills. Incidentally, many lawyers seem to be impelled into law after an early experience of injustice” (Bays 12).
A reactive source of vows is not a bad thing. It COULD be over-reactive, but reaction itself is often not overreactive. What makes it reactive is that’s it’s driven by a desire to avoid something – avoid being like your parents, or avoid a kind of experience, such as sickness or injustice.

Inspired Vow

A third, and the last vow source I’ll mention, is inspired vows. We pick up inspired vows – often in adolescence or early adulthood – when we learn about someone we admire. We aspire to be like them. Martin Luther King Jr’s vow of nonviolence came from an inspired vow – inspired by the life and work of Mahatma Gandhi. Athletes often draw inspiration from a particular athlete they admire. Who are your heroes?

Discerning Your Vow
“You cannot discover your vows by thinking. Your vow lies within you” (Bays 5)
To bring it out, to consciously articulate and thereby strengthen it as the orientation of your life, it helps to explore those three questions:
  1. What did you learn from parents or primary caretakers about what life is for? What are your inherited vows?
  2. Second, what negative lessons did you learn – lessons about what you wanted to avoid if at all possible? What are your reactive vows?
  3. Third, who are your heroes? What are your inspired vows?
STEP 1: Take a piece of paper and write down your answers to these three questions.

STEP 2: Sleep on it.

STEP 3: Some time the next day, look again at your paper – what you put down about your three sources of vow – inherited, reactive, and inspired. Then, in that light, draft your Great Vow.

STEP 4: Email your Great Vow to me at minister - at - cucwp - dot - org. OR: Add your vow as a Comment below.


  1. To fight for justice, to never give up, to be strong, to help the weak, to be honest and respectful, to be supportive of and nice to people and to respect each and every one of them, to work hard, to live with integrity, to see and enjoy the beauty of the world.

  2. I vow to create peace wherever I can.

    1. I vow to bring love with me wherever I go.

  3. Inherited vow: scribe
    Reactive vow: empathic
    Inspired vow: yoga mama

    I vow to be in the light.

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