So a few weeks ago Daniel and I decided to check out this church called the First Parish Unitarian church – it’s one of many Unitarian Universalist churches that have been around since like forever but because they had the name “church” attached them, I never realized they were something different.
I’ve blogged a bit about my feelings on religion here. I’ve talked at great length and thought about it even more. My biggest problem has always been with denominations, or rather in choosing just one forever and ever amen. And if you choose the wrong one? What then? What makes, say, Catholics so obviously better than Baptists or Jews or Buddhists, or whatever. Who’s to say any of them might or might not be right – or maybe none of them – or maybe ALL of them are? I hate to “declare” myself to this one rigid thing, when I hope to grow and develop in my faith forever. I don’t imagine I’ll ever have the answers and I don’t think people should be bogged down in trying to find them, trying to cling to this one thing.
“The most important thing to remember is this: To be ready at any moment to give up what you are for what you might become.”
-W.E.B. Du Bois
And it turns out that I’m not alone. I’m not this one only person who has thought this, who has thought, “Why can’t we all just get along?” There is even a “religion” that basically says just that.
“Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion with Jewish-Christian roots. It has no creed. It affirms the worth of human beings, advocates freedom of belief and the search for advancing truth, and tries to provide a warm, open, supportive community for people who believe that ethical living is the supreme witness of religion.”
-from the UUA website
So what is a mass like in a church where everyone believes different things and some people believe nothing at all? What unites them? What do they talk about? How do they get along? Basically, their openness to freedom of thought, freedom to change your mind, and a desire to grow and learn is what binds them, along side a firm belief in doing what they can to help the rest of the world in any way they can. The UUA recently started a Welcoming Congregation Program to become more inclusive towards bisexual, gay, lesbian, and/or transgender people. They really seem to want to open their doors to anyone who wants to lead a good life, help others and learn and grow. It’s like a church full of really smart people, from all walks of life. It’s awesome.
Our parish is lead by a Buddhist, but there are people of all religious walks of life, of varying ages, sexualities and family sizes. During the mass, they sing songs, recite quotes that resonate with whatever that week’s discussion is, have group discussions among the entire congregation, discuss literature and then meet in the parish hall for snacks and coffee (that part seems almost as important as the mass – they are really community oriented). The thing which first really drew us to them was actually their nursery and Sunday School programs. We just got a very good vibe from the people watching MM and loved that if and when he joins their Sunday School instead of the nursery that he will have an opportunity there to learn about all religions instead of just one and in the most unbiased way that I can imagine. I really want him to feel free to make his own choices when it comes to his spirituality and I think this is a great step in that direction.
Once we were satisfied that MM was in good hands (and having a blast, he didn’t want to go home when we picked him up after mass), we were able to sit down and listen and were just so impressed. Glowing with intellectual stimulation – not bored. Last week we discussed The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins and it was amazing to see people agreeing to disagree and talking so freely about their varying beliefs, not to mention the fact that there were like 100 people all sitting around discussing an anti-theology book together in church and it being totally cool and enlightening.
For someone who doesn’t have all the answers, and is glad, this church is perfect. Someone being me. I intend to walk a long road, discovering anything I can, learning, growing, developing, never finished. And I really feel like I can get a lot out of that walk with the Unitarian Universalists. My husband, by the way, is equally enthused. It’s so cool to see us actually excited about this, together, to see my son looking forward to going to church every week (I know he’s only going to the nursery, but he’s two, it’s not like he’d get anything out of these masses yet, but he’s already made friends and loves it there, which makes us feel so comforted) and us looking forward to it, too. It doesn’t feel like a burden, it feels like a fun end to our weekend, a chance to stretch our brain muscles and interact with people that we wouldn’t have otherwise. It’s what I’ve always been looking for, I think, I just never realized it existed.
If you’d like to look for a Unitarian Universalist church near you, there is a great search engine at the UUA website.