The search for truth is a personal one—unique for each individual. Each of us is different and is affected differently by life’s events. The purpose of the Unitarian Universalist Church’s services and Religious Education Program is to help adults and children explore their own religious and spiritual ideas and feelings (as well as those of others of all times) in a friendly, non-judgmental environment.The first Sunday I attended, the message was given by a special musical guest, Peter Mayer, who told his story of growing up as a Roman Catholic, but losing his faith in early adulthood and then searching for another religion. He said he and his wife would go to services, and if they could get through one without having to mutter under their breath, "Bull-oney," then they would go back. That didn't happen until they visited the UUs. He mentioned that the UUs were a somewhat ironic group, because they're an organized religion that is largely composed of people who are disenchanted with organized religion.
Then he spoke of what he'd like to see in the future, great works of art devoted to the wonder of everyday life, stained glass windows depicting the Big Bang or the first cell. I found particularly touching the contrast he found with Catholicism where only a certain very few things were considered holy, and this world and this life were considered imperfect rubbish, nothing more than a pit stop on the way to the afterlife and heaven, which are held up as better and more real in most religions. He wrote a song about these feelings, "Holy Now." An excerpt:
When holy water was rare at bestYou can see the video of the whole song at the bottom of this post, or visit Peter Mayer's website to hear more of his music or buy his CDs.
It barely wet my fingertips
But now I have to hold my breath
Like I’m swimming in a sea of it
It used to be a world half there
Heaven’s second rate hand-me-down
But I walk it with a reverent air
‘Cause everything is holy now
The next time I visited, two graduating seniors were invited to talk a little about their experiences with the congregation. One young woman talked about feeling like the odd one out as a child because all her friends were Christians, but as she grew up, many of her friends were having these crises of faith, being told they had to believe certain things but not being sure if they did or not. And she realized, "Hmm, my church told me I could believe whatever I wanted and decide for myself." She felt free to find her own path.
That week's speaker was a women's activist who talked about her work with the local Girl Scouts and what we could do as community members to work toward equality for women. At one point she asked, "How many of you here would consider yourselves feminists?" And I grinned as almost every single hand went up.
I stayed for coffee and conversation and the people were all great. I glanced through their lending library, which included the Bible, the Koran, books on Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism and... Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. How many churches do you know of that would include Sam Harris in their lending library?
Will I go back? Probably. The local congregation doesn't meet during the summer months and I discovered them just as their church year was ending. The words spoken and the lyrics of the congregational songs were all things I agreed with. It was very open and accepting and non-dogmatic.
But... I found it a little bland. The genercism (I invented a word there) that allowed for such a wide pallet of individual beliefs and paths lacked a certain depth and potency that I crave in religious practice. For me. But overall, I think UUs are great and they fill a need for community and tradition and education that many people lose when they can no longer believe in many mainstream religions. So I'll probably go back and visit, but I don't see myself joining.
If you'd like to learn more about Unitarian Universalists, you can read about them on their website, where you can also enter your zip code to find a congregation near you.