Welcome to this week’s installment for Thankful Thursday. Today I am so grateful for the spiritual community of Unitarian Universalism that I found ten years ago. The church that defines itself not by a creed, but by a set of seven guiding principles that can be applied to any creed.
I was raised as a born-again Christian, was baptized at the age of 5, and when I grew up I realized that I could not follow that religion any longer. I spent years feeling lost. As a child, I had enjoyed the ritual of going to church on Sunday mornings. I enjoyed having a spiritual community. When I set aside that religion, I didn’t know how to keep those things in my life. I was deeply drawn to earth-based religions, but the formal groups that usually serve them didn’t seem comfortable to me. I’m not big into rites and formalities. As a friend once said in describing herself, I am more comfortable with the theater than the ritual. I want it to surround me fully, not just be something I jump in and out of.
Search for community
In my search for some sort of religious community, I attended two solstice services (one summer and one winter) sponsored by CUUPS. I was highly amused that these pagan services were being held at a church. I wondered who was so charismatic that they could convince a church to allow a pagan ritual there. While I was there, I saw a brochure in the church’s literature rack that proclaimed that everyone was welcome there, regardless of their creed. I had still not healed from my trauma of growing up in an evangelical church, and thought rather disdainfully at the time of Christians. I laughed. I knew how hateful Christians were. I had seen it plenty.
The message of that brochure stuck with me, though. It whispered in the quiet of my mind when I felt lonely. I yearned for that childhood habit of attending church on Sunday mornings, of setting aside time to be holy, though I never would have described it that way back then. I wanted to have the sense of belonging that I had as a small child, before I outgrew my former beliefs. There was a gaping hole in my soul and it ached for a church.
Proving them “wrong”
A couple of years later, I moved to a town that had a Unitarian Universalist church. I had already decided that I was going to go prove that brochure wrong. Our new apartment was a mere half mile from the church, so at 7 months pregnant, I herded four children ages 10 and under for a walk on Sunday morning. I was welcomed the moment I walked in the door. I was about a half hour early, but there was already someone in the hallway when I walked in. She introduced herself and showed me where the religious education classes and nursery were for my kids. She gave me a quick tour of the building and soon I saw my midwife in the sanctuary. I was so relieved to have someone I already knew to sit with.
When the service started, I was shocked to see that a woman was in the pulpit. What a powerful message she preached that morning. It was precisely what I needed. She spoke a message of being a home to the lost, to the disaffected and disillusioned. I was so touched by her sermon that I wept. Although I tried to hide it from my friend beside me, she noticed and handed me the box of tissues in the pew rack. I had never felt so welcome and accepted in my life. Not even in my own family.
No longer spiritually homeless
Needless to say, I returned. Week after week. At first it was only every other week because my then-husband was none too happy about my going, so I would only go on the weekends he was at work. Soon though he started going with me, and I have been a proud member of KUUC now for ten years. I have truly found that home I so desperately needed.
Is there a place or community that you are especially thankful for today? Please share it with us in the comments.