I Gotta Go To Church

symbol_gradientAbout a month ago, my partner and I started attending the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. This is the first time I’ve regularly gone to church in nearly 30 years. Turns out I really missed it.

I went to church from birth, or thereabouts, until my late teens. I started as a Catholic, and rather than going straight to atheism as many Catholics do, I was a fellow traveler with the Methodists for a while. As you know if you’ve read this, I wanted to be a Catholic monk or priest, then a Methodist minister. Once I realized I didn’t believe in god, it seemed like that just about wrapped it up for church. (Apologies to Douglas Adams.) I did attend a Zen center or two over the years, but my last regular communal religious experience was certainly 25 or more years ago.

Over the past year or so, I’ve decided I’d like to become a Unitarian minister. (As you’ll know if you’ve read this.) An important part of that is being an actual Unitarian. My partner, who was raised in a progressive Episcopal church, has also been feeling the call of the pew, especially since Christmas, when they went back to their home church for a visit.

And so we awoke one Sunday morning a month or so ago and decided to try our hand at the local UU fellowship. I’d been there before because my kids and their mom used to attend, although they no longer do. To be honest, I was a bit lukewarm on it before. I’m a “high church” guy – a fan of ritual and robes and incense and such. If there’s one thing this UU fellowship isn’t, it’s high church. I also tend to prefer very forceful ethical challenges to the congregation, and the few times I was there, I didn’t get the impression that those challenges were part of the deal. Just to reiterate, these aren’t criticisms at all, just reflections on how I felt at the time.

In the year or so since I last attended, my own thinking and needs have shifted, and I think I’m more open to the possibilities of the fellowship than I was before.

In any case, I’ve really enjoyed going. It feels good to gather with people in a place of moral and ethical instruction, and to be surrounded by people with at least some of the same beliefs and commitments as I have. The services tend to be fairly short but dense, in a good way. I like the interim minister very much. And because of my activity in the community, I feel like I know half the congregation already.

Last week O and I attended a monthly potluck dinner and spent most of our time chatting with a lovely English couple who retired to the United States to be nearer to their son. This past Sunday offered the congregation a chance to learn about all the various committees that exist at the fellowship. O and I volunteered for so many things that I think we’re both ordained now.

I look forward to going each week. It’s become a cherished part of my Sundays, and of my relationship with my partner. I finally feel like I’m walking the path toward becoming a spiritual leader in my own right, too, which is exciting and satisfying. As I said at the beginning, I didn’t realize how much I’d missed going to church. It feels good to be back.

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Updates on my road to the ministry

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Last June I wrote an essay called “Charting a course for the next part of my life” about my desire to finally pursue my dream of being a religious leader in an intentional community.

Several things have changed since I wrote that essay, and I’m further along the path than I was when I had the epiphany I mentioned back in June.

First, I changed jobs. I’m now the program director and morning show host at a great radio station in State College. I really love my job and it’s a much healthier, more fulfilling place to be than where I was. So that’s good news.

Second, I recently had another of those setbacks that’s really a step forward. As I mentioned in the June essay, I have student loans in default. They’ve been that way for years. Two weeks ago, I got a note from a collection agency that they were going to start garnishing my wages, which they now are. However, this kick in the pants caused me to finally start a loan rehabilitation program, which means that by this fall my loans will be out of default, clearing the way for more school.

Third, my partner (another great change!) and I are now attending the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Centre County. We’re only a couple weeks in, but we both feel good there and I think we’ll become members. That’s another step in the right direction, because…

Fourth, I’ve narrowed down my goals. In June, I said I wanted to be either a Buddhist chaplain or a Unitarian minister. I’ve thought about it a lot since then, and I’ve decided that I want to be a Unitarian minister. I have so much respect for chaplains, but that’s not the work I want to do. I want to build and nourish and challenge an intentional community, and that means being a minister in a church with a congregation.

I have a long way to go. I need to finish my BA, get accepted to a Master’s of Divinity program, find a way to pay for all that and, hopefully, do it without moving while working full-time. So there’s a lot left to figure out. But after half a year of stasis, I feel like I’m moving forward. I’m happy about that, and grateful for the support of my friends and family. Keep me on the path, OK?

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The podcasts I’m listening to these days

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I love podcasts. I host a couple (here and here and another on the way), and I listen to many. Here’s a list of what’s in my gPodder these days.

My Main Squeezes
These are my favorites. The podcasts from which I never unsubscribe. The shows that have seen me through the good times and bad. You get it.

  • Kermode & Mayo’s Film Review: The BBC’s flagship film review program, and one of the best things you can possibly put in your ears. I wrote about it at length here.
  • Star Wars Minute: Pete The Retailer and Alex Robinson go through each Star Wars movie one minute at a time. The concept is brilliant, the execution even more so.
  • Poetry Off The Shelf: Curtis Fox interviews poets in a way that makes the listener feel included and welcome. This podcast has sent me to the bookstore more times than I can count.
  • The Longshot Podcast: Four people from the world of comedy sit around a table, often with guests, and talk about life. Pretty soon, they feel like family.

Other Great Shows
Many of these shows are also close to my heart, and all of them are worth your time. I subscribe to all the shows listed here. I’ve included the shows’ own descriptions where available.

Tell me your favorites in the comment section. Thanks!

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POEM: speechless

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POEM: love devotion surrender

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POEM: you are the poem

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