I may have written on this subject before. I’m doing it now because I was answering a question posted on a UU group site on FaceBook and my answer was turning into an essay. When my comments get that long I have decided it would be better just to turn them into a blog and post the link instead of having a book written on the comments area.
I had heard of Unitarian Universalism churches in my early teens and I was told they were like Scientology, Christian Science and New Age and all that “demonically” influenced jazz. I was led to believe that though they thought they were “saved” they were actually deceived and needed “saving”.
I went to a funeral at the UU in La Jolla Ca. with my then non-denominational charismatic church. It was awkward feeling walking into a virtual devils lair but the congregation was very sweet and welcoming and we always thought of ourselves as living witnesses so that helped. Of course the church folks I went with said it was the UUers who were surprised at how kind and loving we were and we knew we had been a good testimony to them. I see now the awkwardness was more likely on our part and they were the ones who were a good example to us. But the Christianity I was raised in didn’t allow for that sort of realistic thinking.
When I work up to reality at the age of 38 I spent some times being bitter for a while. I found comfort and encouragement in the online Wiccan community. It was one of my on line Wiccan friends who suggested I try out the local UU. I had become accustomed to relearning every thing I though I knew so that idea was right up my alley. Also, I didn’t want my kids to grow up afraid of going to church.
I called the Kalamazoo, MI UU and asked if we could get a ride. They told us they didn’t usually do that but they would send someone with the church van to pick us up. The first time we walked into the lobby my oldest and I sighed a breath of relief as if we expected to have burned up. Even though it was a UU church it still looked like a church which we were very burned out about. We only attended that UU a few times. It was a lovely and welcoming place. We stopped because we moved to Springfield, MO.
In Springfield Mo we became members of the UU there. I have wonderful memories of that place and thanks to FaceBook I still keep up with some of the wonderful folks I met there. I really enjoyed the early morning Sunday School time where we met in the basement and sat in a circle discussing the weeks topic. In attendance was often one or a few Christians, Pagans, Humanest, eastern religions type people, etc. We didn’t always agree on everything but everyone remained respectful and willing to learn.
When I lived in Chili, Wisconsin I went to the UU home meetings in Marshfield. They used the CLF program (The online church). It’s a small group of very lovely people (only adults were there) and we always brought food to share and had dinner together. This is where I learned about the book by Eboo Patel called Acts of Faith which I wish everyone would read.
I had also visited the UU in Wausau but besides it being to far they had their closed teen program they had going which I didn’t know about till we got there and it was a big set back for my oldest daughter because she couldn’t attend the youth program during church. It may not seem like a big deal to some but when someone has aspergers you never know what will turn out to be a big deal.
When we lived in Grand Haven, Michigan I went to the UU in Muskegon. Again, a wonderful place. They had a fun kids program over summer that I took my little ones to along with my then fiance’s little one. Even though I visited his church (it was a Calvary Chapel) he wouldn’t visit my UU cause as it turned out he had no room for anything but his style of Christianity.
When we moved back to Wisconsin (Plover) I went to the UU in Stevens Point for a while. It’s on the small side and in a non-traditional building. Like the Springfield UU church I loved that they brought in speakers, some from the church and some from abroad.
Where we live now in Wisconsin the closest one is the Wausau one. I do like to go when I can, it depends on my gas money situation. The closed youth program is going again and will be for a long time. My oldest doesn’t go with me anyway but my other daughter has a friend who is interested so it still sucks they have to do that program on Sunday mornings. It’s in a very traditional looking church building that they built on to. There is always some friendly faces to chat with there. They just got a new minister so it will be interesting to see how things go.
I really love most my UU brick and mortar experiences. I love being able to tell people who say coexisting isn’t possible that it is and I’ve seen it in action. That’s just awesome!
What I don’t care for, or I should say what I miss, is more lively modern music. The hymns and old songs are good but it would just be nice to have some modern time stuff as well. There are usually very musically talented people in UU churches so it shouldn’t be to hard to start up a church band.
Also, I have hardly seen any teens in the UU’s I’ve attended. Maybe if they would update their music it would help some. Many Christian churches have done that and though a lot of Christians see it as selling out I think it’s a great idea. Maybe even have an alternative modern type of service.
As far as the closed teen group, they have good reason for making it closed. They cover sensitive topics and want the teens attending to feel safe and comfortable with each other. So they take the time to get to know each other then they close the group for several months. I hear it’s a wonderful program. I just wish they would do it on a different day or night. It feels awkward and wrong to invite people and then tell them that their teen can’t join the other teens. When I asked about this the time before when we lived in Wisconsin they told me that they had tried to make it on a different day but the parents said they would only let their teens go on Sunday morning. So it doesn’t seem like it’s the church leaders fault necessarily. I’ve taught Sunday School and kids Bible class in my Christian years and I must admit that parents can be very difficult to work with. They often don’t consider the other kids, just their own and their own families agenda. It doesn’t matter what religion or belief, people will be people.
I would also love to see more UU’s willing to pick people up that can’t afford to drive or don’t have a vehicle. It shouldn’t be an odd incident but something perfectly normal. I’m sure there are some that do, I just haven’t seen it where I’ve been. I did meet a lady at the Wausau UU who told me she’d give me a ride anytime I need it. That’s more like how I grew up, helping people get to church.
Some folks don’t see the need for a church that supports the different religions and non-religion. These type of folks also see secular and atheist churches as silly. But it isn’t. There are groups for just about everything because people need people. It’s too easy to be isolated these days and places to go to like church, AA meeting and even coffee shops and pubs is helpful in order to meet up with like minded people. it gives people hope and positive energy and just what they need to make it another week. Also, churches like UU’s do a lot for social justice and the needs of their town.
If you are interested in visiting a UU I suggest going to the UU main site and type in your zip code to get a list of near by UU congregations. Don’t judge the church by your first visit though. Most UU’s have very different services from Sunday to Sunday. Also on their web site and the back of their church program is usually listed a variety of local activities and groups you may find fun and interesting. Click here – UU main site – to find your local UU.
If you can’t make it or there is no local UU you can find encouragement at the online UU church at http://www.clfuu.org/. Some folks do both! Some folks would rather stay home Sunday morning. What ever your cup of tea is as long as you stay encouraged.