Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Me and Church. Getting There.

A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at church.  Although I haven't written about it here, I officially became a member at the Unitarian Universalist church in Cedar Falls last January.  It's a perfect fit for me and I just wish I had found it sooner.  I spent years and years of my life thinking I was pretty much alone in my beliefs/ lack of beliefs/ apprehension/ questions/ etc.  If only I had known that there was a whole community of people out there--with similar beliefs (or lack thereof) and questions and ideas-- who were amazing and wonderful and kind and generous and good!  I feel welcome and happy and purposeful and part of a greater good when I go to church-- and while church isn't for everyone, it's something I'm glad has been carved into my life.  Here's what I shared with our tiny congregation:

 I'm not exactly sure how my journey to CVUU began, but I suppose it started thirty some years ago, when I was attending Sacred Heart Church with my parents and grandparents.  Raised Catholic, I grew up with a heavy dose of tradition and an equally heavy dose of guilt.  Weekly mass was traditional-- never wavering, always the same.  There were many expectations-- things we were supposed to believe and do, without much question.  I felt guilty the very first time I even questioned Christianity-- which was at a very young age.  I was always an inquisitive child and tended to question the answers that were given to me.  (I'm sure this made me an incredibly fun teenager to raise.) As a second grader, I remember questioning the purpose of "confession" and the role and power the priest held.  Even at eight years old, these traditions didn't add up.

As I continued through adolescence, I was active in our church-- but not by choice.  My parents insisted I volunteer as an altar server, and I was always expected to attend CCD classes.  It wasn't until my junior year in high school, when I simply refused to be confirmed that I felt my parents start to take me seriously.  I'm not sure they realized how much thought I had put into religion up until that point.  I simply could not go through a ceremony confirming my belief in a faith/ church that I did not believe in and agree with.  (And yes, there was guilt associated with this decision-- especially since I was still attending mass with my very Catholic grandparents at the time.)

When I was in college, I tested out a few more Catholic churches but aside from enjoying the music (Sing to the Mountains!  Sing a New Song! Though the Mountains May Fall!) I did not feel connected to the beliefs.  In fact, I usually found myself looking around and thinking, "What am I missing?  Why can I not just accept and believe this doctrine like everyone else here?"  And finally, after trying for years, I loosened my grip, attended mass on holidays,  didn't think much more of ever becoming a member of a congregation.  I would often mull questions over in my head, but I didn't know anyone who had similar questions or who would be willing to engage in a conversation about these.

So fast forward a few years (like fifteen) when I was pregnant with our first child.  Suddenly, what had seemed like a non-issue was back at the forefront of my mind again.  People were asking me about baptism and Christenings and things I hadn't thought of.  Suddenly, I found myself thinking of those questions again.  I remember talking with Mason about baptism and thinking that we should probably baptize Charlie just to be on the safe side....

Ultimately, we did not have Charlie baptized, but I did begin searching for..... something.  I didn't know what I was looking for at the time.  I knew I missed church.  I missed the community, I missed the special events, I missed the singing.  But I didn't miss Catholic church.  I wanted questions and conversations and non-answers.  I wanted to belong to a group of people who knew me and cared about me and my family.  I wanted to belong to a group of people who would bring me soup if I was sick or offer to babysit my kids during an emergency.  And, perhaps more than anything, I wanted my children to grow up knowing "church" but in an environment that allows them to ask all the questions they want--- and then some--and not be given any answers.  I want my children to be exposed to many different ideas of thought-- and understand that no particular religion or belief is "right".  I want them to seek spirituality, in whatever way works for them-- not within certain parameters and following certain rules.

At some point, a friend suggested I look more closely at Unitarian Universalism.  So where do you go for information?  Google.  I began to google UU, and read different UU articles and blogs.  A quick search  revealed that there was a UU church in Cedar Falls...and I made the decision to check it out.

The first few times I attended CVUU, I was similar to a social media lurker.  I came in conveniently late, sat in the back row, and left as soon as the service ended.  I avoided the greeting crew at all costs--which is very hard to do in this church.  I attended once every few months for over a year until I finally decided to get serious about this place.  I joined a purpose moia and that was it.

Through the purpose small group, I met six women whom I have come to know and love so much.  I leaned on them, during a particularly sad and confusing time in my life... and I hardly knew them.  As I attended church more frequently, I met more people and felt more comfortable.  I knew I belonged.  When Anna was born, I felt like I had a community to lean on and share her with.  I look forward to coming to church-- to hear the sermons yes, but mostly to see and connect with the people here.  This is not my home church, but finding the CVUU feels like I've come home.

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