church for the non-religious

A church for the non-religious {Thankful Thursday}

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.

 

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