Unitarian Universalists

This afternoon Biffle and I began the very odd process of becoming members of the UU congregation in Charleston.  It's odd mainly because I'm considering joining a church.  As we've discussed here before, we'd feel more comfortable if it had some sort of other title than "church"--cohort, gathering, cult, etc.

But we like it there, so we're moving forward.  We want the official nametags.  Today's meeting was mostly a get to know ourselves and each other kind of event.  We all went into separate spots in the building and wrote about why we were there, and then we got together and shared.  So I thought I'd share my thoughts with you--as I wrote them, I reflected, "This sounds like something on Baxter Sez."


1.  Because of Biffle.  I would never have come on my own.  I wasn't missing a religious community--in fact, I was/am pretty skeptical of religious communities because I see people who've been badly damaged by religion.  Plus, much religion really chafes at my approach to the world.

2.  Because of Maybelle.  She loves it.  Seeing how happy Maybelle is here was a big part of why I was willing to come back a second time.  Plus, she was openly welcomed and included--not looked at in a pitying way at all.  That would have been a deal-breaker.

3.  Because of me and Biffle.  I was surprised to find that church services are a space where we connect--sitting side by side, sometimes giggling at the hymns, sometimes getting surprisingly teary.  We could have an ugly Sunday morning, but coming to church gives us a second start and a feeling of us-ness.

4.  Because there seems to be no religion here.  It's all vague, questioning, accepting, and I like that.  I don't feel that I've necessarily learned anything being here, but I haven't been offended, and I do get the occasional nugget.  Social justice seems to be quite central, and that's one of the central things in my life, too.

5.  I'm not at all religious, but I'm open to spirituality--to the notion that I'm not the center of/the most powerful thing in the universe.

6.  At a meeting over the summer, someone shared the joke that Unitarians are atheists who have children, and that resonated with me.  But I don't come to the UU church because I want Maybelle to be "acceptable," to have an answer to the constant Southern question of "Where do you go to church?"  I want her to be a radical activist and piss people off!*  But I want our family to have a few different communities that support us all as valuable people in the world.

Thoughts that came up during the conversation:  I had few friends and was widely ridiculed during my junior high years.  It wasn't until high school that I met a crowd of artsy/nerdy/misfit friends who welcomed and embraced me.  I've been sort of assuming that this is the nature of junior high--but today's conversation led me to think that Maybelle might not feel totally reviled in junior high if she has an artsy/nerdy/misfit bunch at the Unitarian church that she can hang with and go to camp with.

*One of the other couples there shared that their daughter discovered that the family of one of her friends won't let her hang out with them anymore because she "worships the Devil."  My initial thought on hearing this story is that I hope Maybelle will roll her eyes and say, "Fuck you!" if someone ever says this to her. But then I remembered Cindi May's very good advice:  we need to teach Maybelle to look sympathetic and concerned and say, "I'm sorry that you're so ignorant" when she hears things like that.  Much more effective, plus you get to feel morally superior.


Melissa said...

Glad you've taken this step. Sounds like it is a good one for all. As you know, we've been UUs (on and off) for 10.5 years now. (We're currently in an "off" phase, but that might change.) I hope that your new congregation is everything you hope it to be.

Elizabeth said...

I belonged to All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City many years ago. I still miss it.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you bring this up right now. I spent a few hours last week reading over the website for the UU church here, and then spent 20 minutes talking to a very disinterested husband about it.

I lack a community where I live. If I could create a community it would be filled with activists and lifelong scholars who intentionally question and push boundaries. It would be a community that included religion only in a philosophical way.

But the UUs seem like they might meet most of my criteria. And since I've never had anything meet all of my criteria, I'm willing to give it a shot. We'll see how it pans out.

Anonymous said...

Your subtext made me laugh out loud. I want to teach my child (when she can handle it- ? age 30) how to say a good Fuck you!
As for the church. Good for you. I haven't found such a community before except when I lived on the Cape and I belonged, as much as a white girl can, to a tribe. It had its ups and downs. My friends there were Quaker with a silent mtg and I loved that.
I think the joining with hubby seems good. I'm with you on the misfits. At least you had some kind of label. I was in the unlabelous ? category.

krlr said...

Congratulations! I like the way you summarized it, having oft struggled with that grey area btwn 'not religious' and 'spirituality', though I want a different term, because 'spiritual' always makes me giggle, thinking of healing crystals and meditative yurts (I grew up amongst hippies).