I went to a Unitarian Universalist church this past weekend.
After several weeks of intense blogging I felt exhausted, emotionally. With all of the new traffic to BITG, there has been a wave of new readers who have no context for why I write or who I am. Without context, without a sense of where I’ve come from, my posts can look rather different from how I intend them to. I’ve felt misread, misunderstood, mistaken for someone who wants to tell everybody how it is — or worse — how it should be.
There have been moments when this lack of context for me and for this blog led me to feel as thought I had no context for my own writing.
It’s been lonely.
So I sought out something different. After writing about why I left church, I went to church. Funny how that happens.
I didn’t go seeking Jesus, or even a return to Christianity. I went in search of peace, comfort, encouragement, and a little context.
I wasn’t raised a Unitarian Universalist, and much of the liturgy of this small church was foreign to me. I’m not sure everyone was on the same page about Jesus, as evidenced by the man beside me looked rather perturbed when the name showed up in the first African American spiritual.
But I don’t think that being on the same page, or at least thinking the same thing, was really the point. UU seems to acknowledge that one religious path, one way of thinking, may not satisfy every one’s spiritual needs.
It may not be polytheism, but at times it felt a little pagan.
Here’s what I loved about this UU service:
I sat and listened to three different people reflect on ethics, morals, and human character. They spoke about a commitment to caring for one another, and they did not sugar coat the challenges we face when trying to do that. They encouraged an entire congregation of people to be reflective. In fact, the whole service seemed to be geared toward inspiring stillness, contemplation, and reflection.
I sat there in a pew of lined up chairs beside old men, young women, couples, singles and children, and I was given something to think about.
I’ve missed that so much.
I wish that just once I could go to a CUUPS ritual, or an ADF Druid ritual, and someone would get up and speak. I wish they’d provide me with context. I wish they’d say — this is how all of this fits into my life, and this is something for you to reflect on as you stand in this circle, or sit before this altar. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at the leader of a ritual and wished that they would just start giving a sermon.
I could label this desire as evidence of my “unresolved issues” with Christianity, but I give myself more credit than that.
A sermon, in the tradition of my youth, was not a moment to drill in dogma or beat us over the head with the Bible. Sermons were the moment when the priest became human. They were the point in the service when everyone got to see the one person with all of the credentials, the titles, the experience, as being no less human than any of the rest of us. She demonstrated her humanity by telling us about her life, about her attempts at integrating the disparate parts of herself, and about how sometimes she succeeded, and other times not so much. She had the floor, and when we heard her our hearts softened.
If the sermon was effective, her life would be the launching point for greater reflection, and we would all walk away with something meaningful to consider.
I watched the leaders of the UU service do this same thing, and something stirred inside me.
There! There it is, I though. There’s that feeling.
I got what I went there for. I got to feel like my humanity was acknowledged, like there were others who shared in my struggles. I felt understood, and not because I’d make the best argument. I felt understood because someone else in the room was willing to stand up and say —
I’m human, too.
That’s all the context I need.