As many of you know, I am a Unitarian Universalist, but since our move to Seattle almost two years ago, I have not stepped foot in a UU church. The reasons … oh. Well, they are few, but significant:
- I wanted to focus on my family and settling into our home and new town. I have a history of saying “Yes” to people’s requests and overextending myself. I issued a one-year moratorium on making volunteer commitments, and avoiding church altogether made it much easier to keep that promise.
- I liked my old church. A lot. It was the only church I’ve ever been a member of, and it was emotional to leave it behind. I didn’t feel ready to jump into a new church yet.
- Did I even want to go to church anymore? I’ve spent a lot of time over the last 21 months thinking about that. That question deserves its own post, really!
Well, I don’t have the final answer to question number three yet, but I know part of answering it involves the act of physically visiting area congregations. That year-long moratorium came and went, and I hadn’t gotten myself out there on a Sunday morning. For a while it was seeming like maybe it would never happen, but last night I was reading an email from a UU friend that got me thinking about all the great UUs I’ve met over the past ten years. Some of them are my closest friends, and the UU community has been, for better and for worse, my community for most of my adult life.
I still have some serious concerns about how well it can serve my family in the long run, but for now I feel it has a role to play in my spiritual development, and that I might still have a role to play as a member of a UU congregation. I also really want Kidlet to have a chance at experiencing something akin to a community, seeing as how our family is far flung, and she won’t be going to school for years (if ever). In the wee hours of the night, I decided, “Tomorrow I will go to church.”
Today I went to the largest UU congregation in the Seattle area – University Unitarian Church (UUC), and, as I expected, everything was familiar but not quite the same. The first time I stepped into a UU church, I was a naive 25 year old, shy, and almost clueless about UUism. This time, I walked in as a confident 35 year old mother, having served on many a UU committee.
I didn’t know a person in the building, but whatever! Kidlet and I walked in, and I got my bearings very quickly. I was a little disappointed to hear it was a Service Sunday on Water Rights. It sounded like a bit of a dry topic (no pun intended), and it meant there was a guest speaker instead of the congregation’s minister at the pulpit. But I retained an open mind, and as it turned out, the guest speaker – Patricia Jones of the UU Service Committee’s Environmental Justice Program – was pretty fantastic to listen to. I learned a lot, and was moved, and wanted to talk to Jones some more after the service. A spark was lit in me, and I really wanted to do something about water rights – if not I, then who? If not now, then when? But …
“Hold your horses,” I said to myself. “This is how it always goes for you, you want to pitch in on every great cause – this is why you needed that one year moratorium! You came here to visit the church, not to start a local or statewide campaign on water rights!” It was tough, staying focused. But I did it. I will earmark that for later, though. Maybe I will just send the UUSC a small monetary donation for now.
Apart from the sermon Jones gave, I loved the music at UUC. It was fantastic. The choir sits up above the congregants on a big platform, and I couldn’t even see them, but they sounded amazing. The format and spirit of the service was very similar to those of my former church, so that felt familiar. It still felt a bit choppy, and planned, and more than a little sedate. The minister even alluded to the stiffness of those in attendance, which prompted many of the grey heads around me to bob in polite, self-conscious laughter. I shook my head, and smiled a little. Some things never really seem to change.
Kidlet enjoyed “church school,” which was lightly attended today, so mostly she just played and laughed and cracked people up in the preschool room. I liked the facilities and the teaching/caregiving volunteers. They were very down to earth, and comfortable. The snacks at coffee hour were rather fantastic – carrot sticks, pretzels, several kinds of cookies, cake, muffins, grapes – quite the spread. We ate and drank water, and a few people talked to us, but I was not in a gabby mood. My mind was on water rights, and where to catch the bus before my phone battery ran out. Kidlet walked around like she owned the place, talking to strangers, and would probably have stayed forever if I hadn’t taken possession of her last cookie and headed for the door.
Next week we’ll go to another UU congregation, and we’ll probably rotate through the four or five nearby places for a while until it becomes apparent to me what the next step is.