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.