Today I co-lead a service at my church with two other people about the community of the church. For the sermon portion of the service, we asked a few members of our church to speak as to how their journey led them to this church and why they are members. The three of us who co-lead the service also gave our own “testimonials” that answered the same questions we asked of the other people we asked to speak. I wish I had a copy of each person’s speech–they were all so wonderful!–but I’ve included mine below. Enjoy!
I always say that there are three things that saved my life after my husband died: U2 music, cycling, and this church. U2 music wove itself into the fabric of my soul, filling me with inspiration and hope when I had little of either. Cycling, by pushing me to my physical limits, helped me to learn the boundlessness of my strength. These were the two tools that carried me through my grief and the first six years without my husband Mike. But I yearned for something more. A spiritual connection. A faith I could truly believe in without having to fake it or lie to myself. Something I could accept wholeheartedly. I found that in this church.
The first time I came to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent, I was frightened. I hadn’t voluntarily walked into a traditional church, other than for weddings and funerals, since I declared myself an atheist in sixth grade. I’d explored spirituality through a short stint with a group of pagans—who, incidentally, recommended Unitarian Universalism to me—but that was closest I got to participating in any sort of religious ritual. It was much easier for me to attend a pagan ritual, which was a completely foreign experience to me as an ex-Catholic, than it was for me to willingly walk through the doors of a church. It was a huge, scary step to come here.
But I did. Because I was thirsty for community and spiritual enlightenment. I wanted a place that reflected my own values and would allow me to grow spirituality—whatever that meant to me at any given moment. And believe me, that changes from day to day. Hour to hour even. I noticed a kind of peace with my friends who had found a sanctuary in religion. I wanted to feel that too. And so I sought faith for comfort. I wanted to believe.
I was drawn into this church the moment I entered. The sanctuary was small and familiar; familiar, even though it was completely opposite from the large, cold, and austere church I went to growing up. It lacked those familiar symbols of Christianity that always made me uneasy. I took a seat in the back—not too different than I do today—and I tried to remain inconspicuous and unseen. Which is extremely hard in this church where part of the welcoming ritual involves turning and greeting your neighbor. A lady sitting next to me introduced herself. She told me she attended this church sometimes, that she found the services comforting; she assured me that I would like it too. “It’s different,” she said. I was relieved because to me, different is almost always good.
I want to say that there was an inspiring sermon that spoke to my personal values and satisfied some of my deeper spiritual quandaries. Sadly, I don’t remember what the sermon was about or who led it (it was lay-led). I experience life through music. In times of contentment or joy, music is the catapult that launches me into the atmosphere; when I hit rock bottom, music is the strong hand that pulls me back to the surface again. So it’s not very surprising at all that when Hal Walker opened the service with one of his beautiful, soul-searching songs, I was immediately moved. The music I found here in this church proselytized Unitarian Universalism to me.
I signed up for the New UU class that day before I left and it changed my life. Through that class, I learned there was a faith that not only shared my common values but also allowed me to find my own truth and meaning in life. I was free to study whatever mysticism fascinated me—Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, Wiccan. Everything was fair game to ponder and consider. Even my own Star Wars inspired belief in a “life energy” like The Force. The Seven Principles were values I could get behind. The people here were welcoming and—most importantly—socially liberal. There was a general concern for social justice and being good stewards of the planet. I saw so many great values in this church, so much wonderful energy.
I officially signed the membership book in November of 2007. Since then, I’ve made several friends through my involvement in chalice groups, a spare few committees, and serving as a greeter on Sunday mornings. Though my attendance at church is not as regular as I would like it, my heart is always here when my body is not. I’m proud to be a Unitarian Universalist—even though I always have to explain to people what that means—and I’m proud to be a member of this church. I’m in a much better place now emotionally than I was when I first came here. That’s because of all of you. You probably don’t even realize the little things you’ve done that have helped me reach this place, and that’s okay, because a community does without being asked. I’ve found great support here. I’ve found my spiritual home.