52 Churches 52 Weeks

Worship Exploration Journey

Week 16 – Valley Unitarian Universalist Congregation – A Welcoming Community

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For the first time since beginning my worship project I left the service a little confused. I have no idea what the Unitarian worships. There is no mention of God or Jesus, no cross, no nothing. The Reverend and his alter leader let us know that the Unitarians “welcome everyone – black, white, brown, gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, everyone.” So we have that established early on. Please remember that as I write the following I am only sitting in this church one time as newcomer. I have no background, no history, no study of this particular worship. My thoughts and feelings are only my own as an outside observer one time.

There was a LOT of focus on the poet T.S. Elliot and his writings prior to his mid-life crisis in his 40’s when he, much to the shock and disappointment of his family and friends, became a “Christian”. Apparently the Unitarian Church has a long history of liberal thought stretching back to the 1800’s. I had no idea. For some reason I thought Unitarianism was a relatively newer religion that had come out of the New Age movement. That is not correct.

What I felt when I was in the church is that it is more self-centered rather than God-centered. That it’s more of a community centered activism group than a true place of worship – although there was definitely worship occurring – I just couldn’t figure out what we were worshipping. Perhaps it is people coming together with a common philosophy and belief system that is not necessarily tied to God? From my own personal life observations and experiences I think that we are too often self-focused. When we focus outside of ourselves we create the opportunity for true growth and inner peace – and maybe a very busy schedule.

They had a group meeting after the service for newcomers that were interested in learning more about Unitarianism and I probably should have gone so as not to mis-represent the Unitarians in any way, but I just really wanted to get home and be with my family.

There was so much that was familiar in an unfamiliar sort of way. There was a candle on an altar, a Reverend wearing a traditional black robe (which actually seemed overly formal), and spiritual sounding music that focused not on God but on the earth and nature. There were traditional song books that focused on the sun, the earth and the sea. There were no bible passages. I had actually begun to wonder if T.S. Elliot was their leader.

They did something so adorable for the children who were invited to the front for a short lesson. When they left to go to Sunday school the whole congregation got together in the aisle and created a “tunnel of love” and the children skipped out while everyone sang This Little Light of Mine. The music throughput was really beautiful and I could tell the Music Director loved her job.

The Reverend mentioned God without really mentioning Him – God was referred to as, “something beyond us.” The Sermon was on Tradition and making connections through time. The reverend asked us to be good, be thoughtful, be loving, be compassionate and be forgiving. He quoted T.S. Elliot at the end of the service – “For us there is only trying. The rest is not our business.” I guess sometimes we have to let go and let God.

To Visit this church http://www.vuu.org/

To learn more about the American Poet T.S. Elliot here is the Wikipedia link – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/T._S._Eliot


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