Monday, October 12, 2015

Tell me all your thoughts on god

I recently started attending church after a very long hiatus. It seems cliche, but when I was faced with the possibility that my time here alive on Earth may be cut short by cancer (turns out I only "sort of" had cancer), I started thinking about my spiritual self again. Since I wouldn't describe myself as Christian any more than I would describe myself as Muslim, Jewish, or Buddhist, I didn't really know where to turn. I prayed just in case someone was listening, though I generally believe prayer is a form of positive self-talk that offers comfort and strength. Several months after surgery, my body was healing, but my mental state was deteriorating. Caught in a downward spiral of "what ifs," I made an appointment with the psychiatry department at my medical group. The lovely nurse practitioner whom I had seen once before on the day they told me I had a large pancreatic tumor talked to me for 20 minutes and referred me to the Living Well Cancer Resource Center. I expressed my concern that I didn't "deserve" their services as I didn't really have cancer. She looked right at me and said, "It counts." It took another month or so for me to work up the courage to call Living Well, but I did eventually call and started receiving individual counseling. The counselor didn't turn me away of course, so I saw her several times. She asked me about religion, I told her I had none. At a later session, I told her I was contemplating going to a Unitarian Universalist service. In the true fashion of a psychologist, she asked me how I felt about that. I told her something like, "Well, I thought I'd give it a try. I don't have to go back." She affirmed. So I eventually worked up the courage to go to a Sunday service. I attended on a day they had a member of the congregation give the sermon rather than a church leader and the sermon was titled "Back to School." The main ideas of the message I left with were choosing kindness, service to others, and self-improvement. I felt like he was speaking directly to me. 

Most people of faith that I know would identify as some kind of Christian, so I am taking a leap and assuming most of my readers cannot define what a Universal Unitarian is. Frankly, neither can I (yet). But here is a definition lifted straight off of their website:

As Unitarian Universalists, we are part of a long tradition of religious freedom, theological inclusiveness, and community acceptance, and we cherish our diversities of race, age, ability, politics, theology, sexual orientation, culture and ethnicity.

Seems like a good match for me. I was raised watching Mister Rogers and internalized the idea that "You are special." I don't mean me, specifically, but each and every one of you are a worthy human being. Any religion that preaches self-righteousness and exclusivity is not for me. Going back twenty years or so to my "Statement of Faith" I gave at my confirmation, I said before the congregation something like: "Faith is what you make it; it is individual. No one religion can be right and not every religion can be wrong." I'm paraphrasing here, as I didn't actually keep that piece of loose-leaf notebook paper, and I surely did not properly use the semi-colon at the age of 13. My Pastor and the congregation accepted my statement of faith and I was confirmed in the United Church of Christ faith. They apparently were an accepting bunch and let me in despite my lack of commitment to their particular brand of Christianity or Christianity in general. The Pastor was a jovial man who once told me that he saw God everywhere, even in a package of Oreos. I always felt at home there. My family moved shortly thereafter and I never did find another house of worship with which I identified. 

I have been back to service several times and I have always walked away wanting to be a better person. If that isn't the right reason for going to church, I don't know what is. Some of you don't understand, and that's okay. Some of you think I'm wrong, and that's okay, too. I stepped out of my comfort zone when I stepped into service that one August Sunday. I reminded myself that I didn't have to go back. I did go back. Several Sundays in, I still tell myself I don't have to go back. But I probably will.


  1. This sounds like a wonderful church, similar to our very progressive Presbyterian Church which is inclusive and very mission oriented :)

  2. About 15 years, I decided I just couldn't be Catholic anymore, for many reasons. I couldn't walk into a church for a while. This is pretty complicated. I spent a couple years looking for a new church, and ended up in a United Methodist church, which I loved. Now I'm back to not feeling comfortable entering a church, but I also miss it. I've never tried a Universal Unitarian church, but you've piqued my interest. Thanks, Cori!