Soul Matters is a program shared by over 170 UU congregations, including Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church, who explore the same monthly worship themes. In this way we build greater connections as Unitarian Universalists.


soul matters

Monthly Themes


To read more about the themes, please click on the links below to request access to the resource packets. 



This Month’s Theme

February 2020 – Resilience

Building resilience is not a solo project. Community is an essential element. As Teresa Honey Youngblood writes, “Resilience is about keeping the faith together; reminding ourselves and each other of stories of courage, redemption, and community; and consciously–even playfully–cultivating tools to help us grow into our sturdy wholeness.”

Resource Packet



Upcoming Themes

February 2020 – Resilience

March 2020 – Wisdom

April 2020 – Liberation

May 2020 – Thresholds

June 2020 – Play



Past Themes

January 2020 – Integrity

Integrity rarely means that we need to add something to ourselves: it is more an undoing than a doing, a freeing ourselves from beliefs we have about who we are and ways we have been persuaded to “fix” ourselves. – Rachel Naomi Remem, Kitchen Table Wisdom

We begin 2020 with a focus on Integrity — how do we show up in the world as our whole selves, imperfect though we may be, shedding the masks we have believed were needed to be worthy of love and respect? How might we offer our wholeness to the communities to which we belong, with our actions in alignment with what we value? Let us start the year together discerning our paths to wholeness.

Resource Packet



December 2019 – Awe

Awe is a sense for the transcendence, for the reference everywhere to mystery beyond all things.  It enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine….to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.  What we cannot comprehend by analysis we become aware of in awe.” – Rabbi Abraham Heschel

In this darkest of months, we will seek together the large and small moments of awe that offer us transformation and connection.

Resource Packet

November 2019 – Attention

This month we slow down and take note as we explore the theme of Attention. To what and to whom do we offer our attention? Once captured, our attention moves us to action — to preserve and protect, to move toward justice, to care and take care of. And sometimes, attention offers us the gift of beauty – a glimpse of what is soul-filling — the night sky filled with stars, the world inside a child’s imagination. Let this month be a month of gratitude and re-dedication as we let our Attention rest on what matters most.

Resource Packet

October 2019 – Belonging

To ask ‘Whose am I’ …  is to wonder: Who needs you? Who loves you? To whom are you accountable? To whom do you answer? Whose life is altered by your choices? With whose life is your own all bound up, inextricably, in obvious or invisible ways? — Douglas Steer
As we engage with the theme of Belonging, we will explore these questions together, and consider how the ways we answer these questions impact our spirit and our understanding of ourselves and one another.

Resource Packet

September 2019 – Expectation

As we release the hold of expectations and disappointments, as we stop trying to live into the imagined life and live the one we have been given, we discover a profound inner freedom to make choices out of love, rather than obligation or resentment. ~Christine Valters Paintner

Expectation holds promise and obligation. Sometimes our expectations serve us well, and other times we face stresses and disappointment at expectations unfulfilled. What can our spiritual practices and religious framework offer us for engaging with our expectations?

May 2019 – Curiosity

Our theme this month is Curiosity. Unitarian Universalists tend to be questioners – we like to ask the big questions and we embrace a little ambiguity in the answers. Our curiosity can also move us toward new perspectives. We might consider Curiosity a spiritual practice this month, one that moves us from fear to open-heartedness. What might we delve into with curiosity that could give us a new understanding or point of view?

April 2019 – Wholeness

Wholeness does not mean perfection: it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. Knowing this gives me hope that human wholeness — mine, yours, ours — need not be a utopian dream, if we can use devastation as a seedbed for new life. ~Parker Palmer

Transition and change rule the flow of life. There is no going back. The current of time is just too strong. …the wholeness offered us is not returning our lives to their original state but working with what remains to make something new. The shards are not pieces of the puzzle that needs put perfectly back together, but building blocks waiting to be molded into a yet to be imagined form. In the month of April, we will explore Wholeness, not simply as that which has never been broken, but as the re-imagined, ever changing all that is.


Resources Packet

March 2019 – Journey

We get lost. The question is not whether we will get lost in life, but rather how we will move through it in faith. Will we dwell on everything that we have lost? Or will we focus instead on everything that we have yet to find?  ~Rev. Erik Martínez Resly

Our journey stories are an important part of our UU faith – our unique stories are a central piece of our spiritual growth. We listen to and encourage one another, and make room for our distinct paths. In this month as we explore what it means to be a people of Journey, we remind ourselves that the path is sometimes obscure, the steps tender — and involving as much leaving behind as stepping into.


Resources Packet

February 2019 – Trust


What does it mean to be a people of trust? This month we explore the spiritual practice of building our trust. We enter this effort together trusting that as individuals we can face what comes our way, trusting that when our individual resources are not enough our communities will be there to support us, and trusting that even when the problems of the world seem too big our collective action can, and does, make a difference.


Resources Packet



January 2019 – Possibility


Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending. Maria Robinson

Unitarian Universalism is intrinsically a faith embracing possibility. Historically, when others saw depravity and sin at the core of human identity, we saw potential–sometimes with hardly any boundaries. When many were preaching that this world was fallen and we should look instead to the hope of an afterlife, we found ourselves falling in love with the possibility of heaven on earth. Theologically, you might say that we were the people that believed that God hadn’t given up on any of us and so we shouldn’t give up on each other or this world. Psychologically, it’s led to us being a people of “why not?” Why not give people another chance? Why not fight what seems a losing battle? Why not risk a little failure?


Resources Packet

December 2018 – Mystery


Unitarian Universalists love puzzles. We proudly announce that we are the religion that loves questions and questioning.

Or to put it another way, we love figuring out life’s mysteries.

But what if mystery isn’t just something to figure out? What if it’s also something to be listened to? This is the lesser recognized call of our faith. Being a people of mystery isn’t just about engaging life as a marvelous puzzle. It’s also about allowing yourself to be spoken to by life’s wonder. Sitting at the heart of mystery is not the unknown, but unity. We fall into mystery and it falls into us. Its voice is one that whispers, “I am you and you are me.” Mystery doesn’t put up barriers; it dissolves them.


Resources Packet

November 2018 – Memory


“What is it that takes you back, and where does it take you?” These may be our most important questions this month. “What takes you back?” invites us to see memory as having its own volition. Not a skill we manipulate, but a sacred energy that “wants” something from us, or “hopes” something for us. And “Where does it take you?” The space of memory is elusive. Mysterious. Seemingly beyond our grasp.  But here’s what we do know: it is in the space of memory that we are somehow held together, and also re-assembled.  As we remember, we are re-membered.

Throughout much of our history, we Unitarian Universalists have not been overly nice to memory. We’ve given it the label, “tradition,” and treated it mostly as something that holds us back. But the past is not a place that traps us; it’s more like soil that clings tightly to our roots in order to nourish and stabilize us. If memory had a voice, it wouldn’t sing “remember me.” It would call out, “don’t forget who you are.”


Resources Packet

October 2018 – Sanctuary


What Does It Mean To Be A People of Sanctuary? Just saying the word “sanctuary” brings one a sense of peace and safety. It can bring back conflicted memories for some, but for most of us the idea of sanctuary conjures up feelings of being protected. Like its close cousin refuge, it speaks to the universal longing for a space to retreat from the dangers and depletions of the world. One thinks of the family ties and friendships that protect, restore and heal us. The sanctuary movement and its refuge for immigrants is another powerful example of offering life-giving safe space. As the well-loved Irish proverb puts it, “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.”
So, certainly, the hunger for protection and the call to protect each other is central to this month. But as we dig deeper, we are reminded that the sanctuaries in our lives do more than simply protect us; they also strengthen us for the new journeys ahead. And, as we journey forward, we also discover that our sanctuaries need sheltering and protection themselves. It’s a paradox: our sanctuaries can’t protect and repair us unless we also protect and repair them. The green sanctuary movement is a great example of this. The solace of nature and the life-giving interdependent web needs us as much as we need them. The same is true for the sanctuaries in our personal lives. Friendship, silence, stillness: these are all things that wither if we don’t tend to and make space for them. So, in the end, maybe the most important question this month is “How are we caring for our sanctuaries so they can take care of us?”


Resources Packet

September 2018 – Vision


“What will mess you up most in life is the picture in your head of how it is supposed to be.”

Most often, we’re encouraged to “stay true to your vision.” We’re warned that without a clear vision, we’re vulnerable to whatever winds blow. It’s true. A clear vision anchors us. It gives us direction and hope. It is, indeed, a precious thing to which we should hold fast.

It is also, of course, imperfect. As Unitarian Universalists, we also know that one vision isn’t enough. As clear as our perspectives may be, we all know by now that none is complete. To see the entire view, we need everyone’s vantage point.

What a delight and opportunity! Learning about the visions of others isn’t just a way of making up for your flawed perspective. It’s also an invitation to see the world anew! And while having to let go of precious visions and dreams is painful, it’s also exhilarating to evolve and grow.


Resources Packet


August 2018 – Letting Go


When cast into the depths, to survive, we must first let go of things that will not save us. Then we must reach out for the things that can. – Rev. Forrest Church


We cling. You name it, we’ve wrapped our grasping fingers and anxious hearts around it. Whether the object of our grasping is good or bad is not, as we learn, truly the issue. The grasping itself-that’s the real problem. Holding on too long and too tightly is never good for the soul. What might we gain by Letting Go?


Resources Packet


July 2018 – Balance


When we talk of balance, it’s natural for calm and rest to be the first things that come to mind. We are often so weighed down by responsibility and worry that it only takes one drop of something unexpected to tip us over. So, yes, we long for rest. And yet, balance is as much in the dynamic tension in the moment when the diver stands at the end of the diving board, about to go all in as it is in the calm repose of re-centering. It’s not just about rest, but about resting up for a journey. Balance allows us to catch our breath, but it’s also about finding our center so we can end all our aimless wandering around. Balance, then, becomes our source of strength that gets us where we need to go.

June 2018 – Liberation


Individual liberation and collective liberation are deeply intertwined. American culture tempts us into an individualistic thinking, a narrowed worldview that sometimes ignores the sufferings of others. Our
spiritual communities call us back to a sense of solidarity and respect for one another. In this
community, we support one another both in freeing ourselves to be who we are meant to be, and in
widening the lens of our concern to focus on the broader community. Justice and liberation are deeply
spiritual. Without tending to our personal needs and spiritual sustenance, it is difficult to maintain effective engagement in the work toward collective liberation.
Join us this month as we consider both the personal and collective aspects of liberation.


Resources Packet

May 2018 – Embodiment


Every religion worth its salt will tell you that the reason to pay attention to the present moment is so that we can better hear what life and our hearts are trying to tell us. Embodied living is not simply about being grateful for the unnoticed gifts in front of us; it’s also about noticing that every moment and every context –- no matter how imperfect, messed up and incomplete – is trying to talk to us! The reason we are called to allow nature to embody us is not simply so that we can feel our interconnectedness; it’s so that we can allow that interconnectedness to tell us its wisdom. Let’s take the time this month to hear this wisdom.


Exercises & Questions

April 2018 – Abundance


When it comes to abundance, our culture and our religion are clearly at odds. Our culture cries, “Accumulate! Go and get what you want!” Our religion counsels “Appreciate! Learn to want what you have.” But appreciation only gets us part of the way there to live a life with abundance. Noticing places abundance in view, but only new commitments put it within reach. So, what needs to change so you can dance with what is plentiful rather than worrying about what is scarce?  What will make room for new abundance to enter in? What changes will free you from the urgent and allow in the important to experience the abundance that life can bring?


Exercises & Questions

March 2018 – Risk


James Baldwin wrote, “To act is to be committed, and to be committed is to be in danger.” Risk is usually associated with the dare devils and thrill seekers. The real danger, we’re told, is a life of boredom. The battle is between the bland and the bold. Yet, as James Baldwin reminds us, it’s not quite that simple. He places commitment, not thrills, at the center of the game. For him, the ones to be admired are not so much the dare devils as the dedicated ones. From this perspective, the important question about life is not “Are you willing to jump off? Will you be daring?” but rather “Are you willing to jump in? Will you stay true?” The most deeply rewarding risks are the ones that involve jumping into causes and putting our hearts in the hands of others. Join us this month as we explore how we risk jumping in for our most important commitments.


Exercises & Questions

February 2018 – Perseverance


Most often when talking about perseverance, we’re asked, “Are you ready to be strong?” The standard recipe is well known: Keep moving forward! Dig deep; you are stronger than you know! But maybe this isn’t the path to perseverance; maybe it’s just the path to breakdown. As a people of perseverance, we are being called not just to grit and strong wills, but to gentleness and self-care. Constantly pushing ourselves without also giving ourselves the gift of pause gets us nowhere. Perhaps vulnerability is the real secret to perseverance. We don’t have to give up those pep talks about digging deep, but right alongside that, let’s make sure we’re doing the more tender work of propping each other up and reminding each other to breathe.


Exercises & Questions

January 2018 – Prophecy


UU theologian Rebecca Parker wrote “Our times ask us to exercise our capacity for prophetic witness…our capacity to see what is happening, to say what is happening and to act in accordance with what we know…Prophetic witness…is the ability to name those places where we resist knowing what needs to be known.” We need prophetic communities now more than ever. Most of the time, holy work is about finding common ground among differing world views. But sometimes, holy work is about prophetic judgment and knowing when some views need to be opposed.


Exercises & Questions

November 2017 – Simplicity


It’s not just society that celebrates status, stuff and over-scheduled lives; we cling to them as well. The busyness of our lives is not just overwhelming; it’s also seductive. Over-scheduled lives don’t just tip us over; they tempt us. They promise us power, affirmation, and proof that we are worthy. To be busy is to have made it. To be over-committed is to be wanted and needed. No wonder we have such a hard time giving it all up. Changing how we perceive this busyness takes courage and the support of an alternative community that celebrates a different equation of “worthy living”.


October 2017 – Healing


That Does It Mean To Be A Community of Healing? The easy answer: it takes work – a dedication and a willingness to dig in – to fix what’s been broken, to listen away each others’ pain, to ask for and to offer forgiveness when we are not the good people we so want to be. So yes, it is easy to remember that it takes work. But what if we remembered that healing always begins with perception and sight? Let us begin to reframe to open our hearts to healing.


September 2017 – Invitation


Invitation calls us to make space, to create an openness that welcomes someone, or some idea, in. How do we cultivate such a space, in our physical landscapes and in our hearts and minds? What practices do we need to engage to open ourselves up to what is offered to us, and to offer space to another? We invite you to engage with all the aspects of invitation in this month of new beginnings.