Sunday, July 26, 2009

Try #2: The Unitarian Universalist Church

After the megachurch "incident," as I would like to call it, we needed something much more broad-minded. Fewer references to women in the kitchen and fewer crazy people writing letters from Jesus. The criteria was loose but important. We decide to try the Unitarian Universalist church.

For those who aren't familiar, the Universalist churches welcome all faiths. They believe that all religions worship the same God but call him/her by different names. I am, at heart, a Universalist, so I had high hopes for this service.

In many ways, I was not disappointed. Despite its strange outward appearance -- this church was a large dome, actually more bizarre looking than the one in this picture -- the congregation was warm and inviting. People came early to talk to each other and to visitors, and they stayed late to reflect on what they'd learned in the service and to share coffee with each other. Universalists are against proselytizing, so no one tried to convert or pressure us. And the highlight of the service occurred when, before the "joys and concerns," the pastor reminded her liberal audience that "just because the microphone is available doesn't mean this is a time for political rants or polemics." That. Was. Awesome. "So this is where liberal democrats and academics go to church," I thought to myself. And all this time, I've been looking for other people who think like I do, who embrace all faiths as different interpretations of the same story. It was quite refreshing.

But it wasn't a fit, not wholly. To begin, unitarians (not universalists) shun the trinity. No matter how open-minded of a raving liberal professor I am, the trinity is a very important concept to me. And because the universalists welcome all faiths, the service worked very hard not to step on anyone's toes. While the principle is wonderful and welcoming to me, the practice translates into an entire service where nothing definitive is ever actually said. The hymns were purposefully vague; because no one worships the same way, the songs could only discuss the universe, space, and family. And "sameness." The sermon talked about the parking lot growing weedy outside, and lamented the fact that the Universalist church rarely attracted members who gave money. The credos expressed the idea that we are all one, but it was not a credo in that it professed any one belief. And for some reason, some stubbornness ingrained in me, this irked me a little.

In sum -- I appreciated the warmth, open-mindedness, and intelligence of the Unitarian Universalist church. But I'm in a new place, in a new job, meeting new people; I long for just a dash of something familiar. So for next time: the First United Methodist Church of Hyde Park.

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