About 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.