UU diary, episode 3
After crashing an evening event at my local UU church, I went to a Sunday service last weekend with my son Charlie (almost 25), who was visiting. I went again today.
Both visits were very positive for me.
I have found the people so welcoming and sincere. Can’t emphasize that enough.
The hymns, the responsive readings and the sermon were all quite moving and challenging. On the first visit, it was Veterans Day weekend, and the service focused on the idea that we all need to own up to our complicity in the suffering caused by war (to service members on all sides, civilian casualties, refugees, military families, and others) and do what we can to lessen it.
On the second visit, there was a guest preacher — a faculty member from a UU seminary in Berkeley — who spoke on “vocations” and how they differ from careers.
In both of the services I attended, there was a strong emphasis on moral responsibility, a repeated call to be socially responsible and compassionate — not in order to spread a message but for its own sake, to improve people’s lives.
The people who plan and run these services really walk a thin line in order to minister to the more spiritually minded members without making the more ‘humanist’ members feel excluded. I’m sure some people feel that the god they believe in is never given proper attention in a UU service while others feel that any mention of any god is too much. But the compromise they strike seems pretty effective, and apparently it’s been working for this congregation for many decades.
Strong points of the worship services at this church:
- All the spoken and written communications, including sermons, announcements, ‘milestones’ (comparable to ‘praises’ and prayer requests), bulletins and fliers.
- Responsive readings.
- Hymns and (to be candid) old-fashioned ‘white people music.’
- Instrumental music – the two pianists I’ve heard so far play beautifully.
Honestly, the only thing about the services that I’ve had trouble enjoying is the musical selections that might be called ‘spirituals.’ Not this congregation’s strong suit! But it’s understandable — most members are over 50 and white. I admire the musical director(s) for stretching the congregation and including a genre that is culturally significant and that many people find inspirational.
After the first visit, I knew I wanted to take my (almost) 7-year-old son, Jacob, to the church, so during the following week, I started an e-mail conversation with the church’s education director. I told her about Jacob, and she told me about the program and what to expect from Sunday school. She invited us to meet her in the office before the service today, and we did. She gave us a tour of all the classrooms and let us hang out in the K-thru-2 room. It was nice because it gave Jacob a chance to warm up to the environment and some of the people for about half an hour before I left him with the teachers and the other kids. He ended up enjoying the class and being a very active and enthusiastic participant.
There is more I could say about my experiences with this church so far, but I’m tired and my eyes sting!
We will be going back again in two weeks, after a mini vacation. Stay tuned.