I went back to church last Sunday after missing most of the month of December due to late Saturday nights at holiday parties, and a couple of weeks of Portland vacation. I was recruited to act as a greeter that morning, and so I stood at the front door of the church, offering smiles and orders of service to all those who walked past, as well as hugs for friends I hadn’t seen in weeks.
The service began with music and a welcome. The minister lit the chalice as we were led in the responsive reading that I can recite by heart. We blessed the fire of our faith and the illuminated moment of our gathering and welcome all who gather to our intentional diverse religious community. Last week, the standard script was missing from the pulpit, so the worship associate who was assisting the minister was without the words we are used to hearing. She explained this and then reaffirmed the welcoming nature of the church community by listing from memory all those groups who are often not greeted with acceptance by churches. It was a complete list as far as I knew, but she finished by saying, “and if I didn’t list your group, I’m sorry to have missed you, but know that you are welcome here.”
During the Sharing of Names, a long time church member stood at the lecturn to celebrate an event in his life. He said,
My ex-wife and I have two wonderful children, but as much as we ask, they have not given us grandchildren yet. While I still have hopes for them, I just got some wonderful news, which I’ve been given permission to share with you all. I’m going to be a grandmother! My partner’s son and daughter-in-law are having a baby!
The congregation burst into applause, and this church member walked back to his seat with a 3-foot grin on his face, his partner radiant with joy back in the pew.
I call the Unitarian church the Ikea of religions. You go in, you pick out what you need and you take it home and put it together for yourself. It is self-directed and individualized, which is a radical concept in religion these days, when the majority in the country want nothing more than to be told what to believe. They condemn us all for asking our members to sculpt their own theology, for telling them it’s okay to keep what works for them and abandon that which doesn’t.
My church doesn’t feel radical when I’m sitting in the sanctuary, gently tinted light filtering through the stained glass. It feels loving, warm, joyous and yet (dare I say it) almost traditional. If only radical love and acceptance were the traditions of our land. Until they are, I take them where I can get them.
That’s why I like the UU church, too. I find it really hard to describe to people who aren’t familiar with it, though.
Is it really a unified faith when everyone can say what their faith is? Can there be hope to any if there is no truth at all to give them?
I say this not out of any anger or hate. That in my heart has no place in church. But what does seem to must have a place is truth. Now what the truth is thought to be varies. But there must be a truth for any of it to matter. If the main point of it all is just to feel good about ourselves and others then why do we need religion or church for that? Just live life in a community. If there is a God then do his thoughts matter? I have always thought that I know everything I believe can’t be right but there is a truth and I must be willing to belief it when I see if I am ever going to see it. God Bless!
David: you say “Can there be hope to any if there is no truth to give them.” With this question you show that you have made an assumption about being a UU that is not true. There is truth. Universalism promotes the concept that all are “saved,” because love, forgiveness, and salvation are unconditional. Unitarianism got is start when a Transylvania monarch, some 400 years ago, declared that all religions were welcome to be worshipped in his realm. These two groups joined together in the 1950s. You must keep in mind that truth is not influenced by the thought of a religious position or creed. That’s pretty arrogant, and sadly, religions so confident in their own truth, believe other religions must be wrong. Isn’t this the road to war?God’s truth is God’s truth, and no religion gets it 100% right. The sooner each religion shows respect and love for all other religions, the sooner there will be heaven on earth. The UU position is that each member has the right, no, the responsibility, to seek their own truth and develop their own spiritual life and activate their conscience. Isn’t this behavior most pleasing to God? There is a God, and his/her thoughts matter. It is each of our jobs to work out our own relationship to the sacred, not to buy an “off the shelf” religious position.
Dad, I couldn’t have said it better myself!
As someone who was raised Roman Catholic I find all this ‘freedom’ greatly disturbing.
Then again I went to a Jesuit high school were they encouraged us to be ‘free thinkers’ and question everything.
a lovely entry. the beginnings of an essay with a personal touch. your second to last paragraph could also describe aspects of buddhism, which i now strongly tend toward. can you believe the changes i’ve made in my beliefs since college? hah! perhaps a better word would be clarifications, not changes. i believe buddhism brings out things in me that have always been there – but again, i get to discover them myself.