MARCH 5, 2017
I was drawn to the UU faith back in the 80’s, when I joined the West Hartford, CT congregation, a large prosperous church, a big brick building that had an organ, a paid choir director and sometimes even paid soloists from the Hartford Symphony Orchestra! After I returned to Massachusetts, I found my way to FUSF about 13 years ago, and while we don’t have a choir loft, and a pipe organ, I think we have much more. How fortunate we are to have so much musical talent – performers who love to share their love of music with us, a choir director who gives tirelessly of her time. Not only music, but art as well! Since the ARTWall’s inception, do you know these walls have shared 45 exhibits, including many by FUSF members!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. What was it that brought me to embrace Unitarian/Universalism? There have been many defining moments in my life that pushed me in the direction of a liberal religious faith. My grandfather was a Congregational minister, so I was baptized in a Congregational Church in Vermont where my family lived. I was 5 years old when my mother divorced and remarried. Fearing ostracism from his Catholic parish for marrying a divorced woman, my stepfather moved us from New England to Richmond VA into the world of the segregated South. It was there that I witnessed some horrific things that are seared in my memory as if they happened yesterday. It was there that my mother decided I should be baptized again, this time in the Baptist Church. I was 6 years old, and will never forget the fear and confusion I felt as I climbed up the metal steps, dressed in a white robe, and in front of the whole congregation, descended the steps into a vault filled with water up to my chest. There the minister put a cloth over my mouth and pulled me backwards into the water, until I was completely submerged. This is my first memory of church, and it scared the living daylights out of me! Was religion supposed to leave me frightened, fearful? And as a child, I couldn’t understand why the same God-fearing people I saw in church wouldn’t let my brother and me play with the black kids that lived nearby. Were we not all children of God?
Later, I worshipped at a Congregational Church until I went off to college, then after that an Episcopalian Church… But the questions persisted. And the answers I was given didn’t pass muster with me. I couldn’t accept the quid pro quo that if I did this, I was guaranteed that. Then came the 60’s and then the 70’s! Many of you may not remember what a turbulent time it was. Much of what is happening today in the political arena is like deja vous all over again. These times reinforced my beliefs that I needed to stand up for a liberal progressive agenda, and find a religious community where these views were not only accepted, but even shared. I needed to find a church where I was accepted for who I was, with my questions, my personal struggles, my search for truth, with my humanity. Here I am free to follow my own spiritual path, within a loving and supportive community, feeling comfort in knowing that we are all traveling the same road, but can learn from each other’s shared experiences. We are challenged to live by our UU principles, knowing that they form a firm foundation under our feet, and help us to live our lives fully and compassionately and to weather the storms that are sure to come.
“LOVE IS THE SPIRIT OF THIS CHURCH, AND SERVICE ITS LAW.”
We see this in practice every Sunday, when so many of us take on the duties of teaching our children, making beautiful music, making the coffee, providing food to share, greeting our members, welcoming new people, while our spiritual leader Reverend Jenny shares insightful commentary on life’s mysteries, joys and sorrows, encouraging us to bear witness against many of life’s injustices, and to take action when required by our commitment to social justice. And it’s not just what we see on Sunday mornings that embodies the spirit of this church. It’s all the behind the scenes stuff too, like weeding the lawn, delivering meals, giving rides, shoveling the snow, painting the walls, maintaining our property, sitting on committees, serving on the Board, joining discussion groups, marching in solidarity, and of course fundraising – volunteering for so many things and handling much responsibility – all in service of keeping the flame burning, keeping our UU values alive for ourselves and for our children. Much of this work can be mundane, time consuming, and tiring….. sometimes it’s good to remember, that underneath even the smallest task, we are affirming the love that is the underpinning and the guiding principle of this church.
So, in order to keep our community thriving and growing, along with our time and our talents, we give our treasure. We want this church to be there for our kids, and our grandkids, and their grandkids. We need to think about how much we receive from this community, how much we want it to be there in the future, when we think about how much to give.
I encourage you all to give of your treasure, as you give of your time and talents, generously and with love.