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.