The following is Kristina Spaude’s “testimonial” from the service this morning (at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent). Her speech was so well-liked, we asked her to do it again at the second service (she was originally just scheduled for first).
When I was first asked to participate in this service, I naturally said yes without thinking about it. When I got home later that day, I started to wonder, though, what I would say. So many people here have heard my story – and I know that there are more of you now who haven’t, but I thought, meh. So I returned to the sermon title, “Why This Church?,” and I knew that I would find something worth sharing.
The first service I attended here was October 1, 2006. That day only one person talked with me, but I knew that this would be my home. Granted, I had been intentional about the first service I came to – a Yom Kippur service, which I knew that I would almost certainly enjoy. But it wasn’t just the sermon that I liked – it was everything about the service. And although only one person spoke with me that day, I was aware that this would be my home. I decided to make this my home. To testify to that is the fact that I almost never miss services. Apart from this last summer, when I was unable to attend for about 4 months due to my back problems, I have missed only 4 services. I don’t share this for any reason but to reiterate that this church, this congregation, this community is important to me. Church is not structured around my life; my life is structured around church.
It’s about 4 years to the day now since I officially signed the book and became a member, but I had already been getting involved in different activities – primarily the Social Justice Committee and the Small Group Ministry program (now named Chalice Groups). Since then, I’ve been involved in… Well, so much that I can’t even remember it all off the top of my head. Currently I’m serving as a Worship Associate and as a Youth Group advisor. I also now have the privilege of having served as the Interim Office Administrator after Judy retired, which was also the time that Rev. Melissa was preparing for and going on leave, as Rev. Katie was coming on board as our consulting minister, as Pam stepped down as Sexton and Colleen agreed to serve as Interim Sexton, and as a permanent replacement was found for the office, who I also helped train. That was a position I loved – it was a gift to be able to do it, really like a dream come true, if but for a time. In considering the position permanently for myself, I had to make a decision – to serve the congregation in the office or to serve the congregation in the church. But it wasn’t really much of a decision for me – I chose to remain here with you.
Why? The only way I can begin to explain why, what you mean to me, is to ask you to take a moment and look around this room and at the people in it. Not the people you know and you don’t know, not faces and names you recognize, but look at each other. Look into each others’ eyes. If you can’t see their hearts and souls, their divine spark, look again because you aren’t looking closely enough. Each of you made a choice to be here this morning, to be here together. To be here as your whole selves, because you know that you can be whole here – and you know that truthfully, we wouldn’t want you any other way.
So, why? Why am I here, week after week, serving the congregation in most of the ways I’m asked to, to be here with you? Like you, I come here to be present and to be whole-ly present, to share this holy presence. I come here to be grounded, to be restored, to be renewed. I come here to share my journey with you, to receive what you offer me, to love you. I come when my heart is radiating with love and when I can’t help but cry, and you are here to celebrate and comfort me. I come because you help sustain me. You remind me of all that the world can be, that my hopes and your hopes, that my work and your work are for good cause and make a difference. You remind me of who I am, you teach me to grow more than I ever could have imagined, you ask me to share myself with you. I come to be, I hope, a reflection back to you what you are to me and so that perhaps my presence will serve as an expression of the gratitude I have for each of you and for this home we covenant to make here together.