When I was four, my Presbyterian parents told me about God, Jesus, and Hell. It was traumatic. I truly thought that my parents were nuts. Forced to attend church while growing up, I endured the painful hour as one endures a necessary but painful medical procedure, and it was painful. Each Sunday as we exited the building, I experienced a certain euphoria—“It’s over!”
Perhaps only I have CCT (Childhood Church Trauma).
For the next 35 years, I dismissed western churches as closed-minded groups who insisted that one believe what they believed, and that in fact, belief was what the whole thing was about: “We’re saved because we believe what we believe! If you don’t believe what we believe, you are damned, evil, BAD!”
Really? I couldn’t accept a word of it, but I was no atheist. I felt a spiritual calling, a hunger for meaning in life, and a profound sense that there is more to humanity and the human spirit than the superficial aspects of making a living and survival, which (truth be told) does not last. Surely there had to be something more, something big enough to be the source of life itself.
My spiritual search led to eastern religions and esoteric ideas that are hard to find. Since Unitarian Univeralism was organized as a church, I automatically assumed it would not have anything spiritually worthwhile for me. It simply did not occur to me that a CHURCH could embrace doubt, encourage hard questions, fully accept not knowing or not believing, and be honest about our limited grasp of the infinite in which we find ourselves.
When I first visited our church here in Bowling Green, I learned almost immediately how wrong I had been. When the minister said, “For us to believe something, it has to make sense,” tears welled up in my eyes.
Over time, I learned that Unitarian Universalism had been saying what I had been saying (though not as well) my entire life. UUs fully appreciate love, worship, and the religious experience of a higher truth, but we don’t pretend to know something we don’t know. We accept and embrace differences, and we don’t label others as “wrong” simply because they are different. As science and our knowledge of the universe expand, we incorporate into our beliefs what we agree makes sense.
Ten years ago, if someone had told me I would attend a church, I would have laughed. If they had added that I would become a member? Beyond ridiculous. That I would agree to serve on the board? Off the map.
Yet here I am. Language defies my ability to express the honor and privilege that I feel serving as President for the upcoming year. We’ve been through tough times, and we have much to consider this year.
Three of the six members on the Committee on Ministry are new, and they are looking with fresh eyes at their mission now that we have implemented new policies. We’re trying out a new organization with committees grouped into teams, and this is generating new conversations and ideas. Mostly by folks moving away, we have lost dear and long-term members who now live in Oregon, Wisconsin, Indiana, and elsewhere. What can we do to attract others? Our minister retires next summer, and together we must determine what we are going to do next.
I won’t promise miracles, but I do give my word that I will do my best to serve this church and promote what’s best for its future and for our congregation.