UU Mormon

Archive for the ‘UU Services’ Category

Back however-long-ago it was that I decided to try the UU church, one of the main reasons I was interested in it was their sexuality class for 8th graders.  It’s called Our Whole Lives (OWL) and it covers… everything. Takes all the mystery out of sex.  It covers stuff I never even heard of until I was in my 30’s.  No, I won’t elaborate.

Somehow Butterfly got to 8th grade — I’m really not sure when my little baby turned into this young woman who is living in our house now — and she is taking the OWL class.  At the parent orientation the team of teachers made it clear that what the kids share in class is confidential. It’s very important that the kids feel comfortable asking questions and sharing thoughts without having to worry about it getting back to their parents.  But, as I pointed out to Butterfly, she can tell me about the topics they discuss, in general terms.  When I mentioned it, Butterfly thought about it for a minute and then said “Yeah, but I don’t see why you’d need to know.”

So, I have a class schedule that lists the topics of each lesson, but no idea what Butterfly’s reaction to any of it is.  Ah well.  She says it’s fun though.  NinjaBoy is very intrigued by it — Butterfly told him it’s a class that’s entirely about “inappropriate stuff.” He just started the school version (FLE) where they learn about puberty, sex, and STDs, and Butterfly commented on how little they tell you in FLE compared to OWL.  Just as well.  The first FLE lesson covered basic anatomy and NinjaBoy came home very grossed out.

In other church news, Horatio joined the choir and it has been a fantastic experience for him.  They do a wide variety of music, the choir director is really good, and it’s challenging enough to be exciting, but not super stressful.  There are, oh, 15 or so men in the choir, and Horatio is one of only 3 tenors, so he feels a lot of responsibility to get it right (especially when he’s the only one singing a certain part, since he’s the only 2nd tenor).  He practices at home, listens to the practice CDs in the car, and is generally having a great time.  Last week the whole service was the choir singing Rutter’s Magnificat.  It was wonderful.

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I confess, we haven’t been to church in months.  As my husband pointed out, I’m now inactive in two churches.  Maybe I should go looking for another church to be inactive in.  Maybe I could set some kind of record.

The thing is, I’m just not very spiritual.  I always enjoy church when we go, I’m happy we went, but it doesn’t fill any particular need for me.  My life and psyche don’t suffer from a lack of spirituality.  Not that I’m fulfilling my need for spirituality in some other way, but that I really don’t have one.  I suspect a lot of people won’t believe that.

The way spirituality is expressed in the LDS church makes me deeply uncomfortable.  I don’t know why, because I did grow up with it, but I don’t like it and break out in a cold sweat if I have to participate in it.  I will go to great lengths to avoid public prayers, I’m uncomfortable even listening to them, and I hate hate hate testimony meeting.

I don’t even like personal prayer. When I stopped praying entirely it was like a huge burden was lifted.  I think this is because prayer has always been an expression of my anxiety disorder.  It was about my fears — I had to pray to prevent bad things from happening, but, as you’ll hear in any testimony meeting, if you don’t watch how you phrase things, prayer can make bad things happen. If you want to be a better person, God will make you suffer. As a “test” or to give you the “opportunity to grow”. So praying was a dangerous activity, but not praying was dangerous too.  What a horrible trap to be caught in. So being able to stop was a sign I was getting better.

Spirituality at the UU church is much nicer. It’s about love and kindness and being your best self.  Good stuff with no trickster gods or commandments to be perfect.  I enjoy it.  I’d like to go.

But it does feel optional (part of that lack of commandments about obedience and perfection, probably).  And when my daughter doesn’t wake up until nine on Sundays, I can NOT bring myself to wake her up.  Her need for sleep feels like it outweighs my nonexistent need for spirituality.

We went to the church picnic last Sunday, since it was in the afternoon and I didn’t have to wake anybody up. And the kids wanted to go because, well, there were snowcones.

The only problem was that I only know three people in the congregation and none of them were there.  I have not done well at making connections.  That’s really not my strong suit.  The funny thing is that I’ve become closer to several people in my LDS ward since I stopped going to church.  In my entire life I’ve never had friends in my ward and now I have a bunch.  How does that happen?

I’m going to get more serious about going to church, though not immediately, and not for my own sake.  But as my kids get into middle and high school I would like them to have a peer group where the focus is on treating others with kindness and respect. Also, they have to take OWL.

NinjaBoy told me this story about his RE class today:

Once upon a time, the earth had ten suns. They burned the crops so Houyi shot down nine of the suns with his bow.  As a reward he was given a pill that would grant eternal life, but he was supposed to fast for twelve months before taking the pill.  Houyi hid the pill in the rafters, where his wife Chang’e found it and swallowed it.  When Houyi came home, Chang’e started to float and flew up to the moon.  When she got to the moon she spit out the pill and it turned into a jade rabbit.  She built a palace on the moon, and Houyi built a palace on the sun.  Once a year Houyi visits his wife on the full moon.

I don’t know if this is the 100% correct story, but I was impressed that he came up with such a cohesive tale from memory hours later.  It’s like he was listening or something.

There were cookies.  NinjaBoy didn’t try them.  Because the teacher said they were kind of like gingerbread.

Butterfly came to the worship service with me, which was put on by the high schoolers. It was about their take on love, and I think Butterfly particularly enjoyed a skit about how love manifests itself in a typical high school day (ranging from PDAs to donations to Haiti relief), along with music and talks and ending up with “All You Need is Love”.  My favorite bit was where one young man said something to the effect that love is a lot like religion — nobody really knows what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep talking about it.

What I wouldn’t give to hear every religion in the world concede that point.  None of us has all the answers, none of us knows anything with complete certainty, we just need to keep talking and thinking.  What a refreshing idea.

Wow, I’m not doing so well here.  No posts in a month. It’s not that we haven’t been going to church, though we’ve missed a couple weeks because of weather and traveling.  I think I’ve been avoiding posting a little because I feel like I should be coming up with profound spiritual and religious insights and, well, I’m just not that person.

But anyway, at the last service I attended the minister spoke about joy;  she said it takes faith in the beauty and goodness at the heart of all that is.  At the moment, I wasn’t really feeling it.  But she also talked about “attending to our own part in the goodness.”  That was something I could grasp onto and understand.

One of the things I most like about this church is the many opportunities it offers to attend to and practice being part of the goodness in the world.  Just a few examples:

  • A percentage of the collection each week goes to a charitable organization that helps the hungry, the homeless, the mentally ill, etc.  A different organization is spotlighted each month.
  • The congregation is involved in working for local affordable housing.
  • The church opens its doors every winter to participate in a hypothermia shelter, providing a place to sleep and breakfast to those most at risk during the coldest part of the winter.
  • Raising money for the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which promotes human rights and responds to humanitarian crises.
  • Fundraising for The Fistula Foundation to help women’s health in the Congo, Afghanistan, and Burundi.
  • Sponsoring Thanksgiving dinner at an urban homeless shelter; making pies beforehand and collecting food on Thanksgiving day.
  • Holiday giving tree (this was a good one for my kids– although NinjaBoy was a little worried after picking out a Transformer for a nine year old boy that perhaps it was too violent a toy.  “It shoots things!” he said.  I thought it was probably okay).
  • Food drives/grocery shopping for low income families in the area.
  • Arranging summer internships for teens at various local charitable and service organizations.  I want my kids to do this when they’re old enough!

That’s just what I can think of off the top of my head, not to mention blood drives and environmentally friendly landscaping and encouraging political participation in various ways.  They’ve got stuff like this going on all the time.

For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

For a non-Christian church they do a fine job of putting the best Christian ideals into practice.  It was another bit of culture shock for me, actually.  I’ve never been to a church that had such hands-on involvement in charitable causes and I can’t quite figure out how they have the resources or the energy.  I’m still trying to get oriented, but I hope to get my kids and myself more involved.

After a 12 day migraine and a so far thoroughly crappy weekend, I had a little trouble getting moving this morning.  Got out of the shower and discovered that it was time to go — right then.  I went out in my bathrobe with my dripping hair and said to the kids, “Will you be heartbroken if we don’t make it to church today?”

Now, based on every other occasion when I’ve suggested skipping church (back when we went to the other church), I expected an enthusiastic “YAY, NO CHURCH!”

Nope.

NinjaBoy said, “Well, I want to play Playstation, so if we can’t go I guess I could play more. But if we go, that would be good too. What holiday are we doing today?”

Butterfly said, “What if we just get ready as fast as we can, and maybe we’ll be able to still get there for some of it?”

So at the urging of my children, I got ready for church.  And we weren’t even that late.  And I nearly cried at how cool it is that my kids want to go to church, and we feel happy when we’re there, and we talk about what we learned. Together. *sniff*

I never imagined I could love Sundays.

NinjaBoy remembered what holiday they learned about today — Holi.  This is awesome… It’s a Hindu festival where people throw colored powder or colored water at each other.  Music, bonfires, squirt guns, and cannabis milk shakes.  What’s not to like?  (Pot wasn’t mentioned in class, I found that bit on Wikipedia.)  NinjaBoy said little kids get to drink alcohol and then go knock on people doors and throw dye on them.  w00t!  In class they threw confetti at each other, but they only drank water.

Butterfly said her class talked more about beliefs and they pretty much all believed in science and nature.  Sounds like her kind of crowd.

In the worship service the minister talked about mercy as kindness put into action and as compassion practiced.  It hit me that the only source on earth for mercy, compassion and kindness is… us. Me.  I feel completely inadequate to describe the minister’s amazing sermons, but I always leave them with my mind opened and a desire to be better.

After the service Butterfly helped out as a parking lot attendant.  She got to wear a reflective vest and use a walkie-talkie.  That was pretty darn cool.  She did a good job too.

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I was so cranky going to church Sunday morning.  We were probably the only people in the world, I thought, who could have a whole extra hour and still be late.  But it turned out plenty of people were late.  And I learned that the way to get a parking space is to be on time.

And it was raining and it was cold and it was muddy.  As we were walking down the hill to the RE building I was telling my kids about my previous post and how I should be focusing on those little things that make me happy instead of how grumpy I was with the weather and being late.  “At least I’ve got boots on,” I told them.  “At least I’m warm. I’m not wearing a dress and pantyhose.”  “Or carrying a big heavy bag,” my daughter offered.  “And you don’t have to teach a bunch of rowdy kids.”  Okay then. I admitted I was glad to be where I was.

NinjaBoy rushed into his class without saying goodbye or noticing me leave and I went off to the worship service, which was in memory of those who have died in the last year, and was essentially a concert of Fauré’s Requiem.  It made we want to join the choir, or get my flute out (and have it repaired).  Everyone was invited to light a candle for someone who had died, and there were many many candles lit and many tears.

Once again when I went to get NinjaBoy he couldn’t tell me what holiday they learned about.  He said they made patterns with colored powder (or colored rice, in this case) and ate “cow cake,” which Butterfly and I decided, upon sampling NinjaBoy’s leftovers, tasted of butter and coconut.  He also said that for this holiday you clean your house, and if it’s clean enough then the goddess  (he told me a name, but I can’t remember what it was) would ride to your house on an elephant.

Sound familiar to anyone?

Butterfly’s class talked about different religions and philosophies — Christianity, Humanism, Buddhism, and Paganism.  She said the class agreed that humanism sounded plausible, but she felt that if humans are all there is, the world is in REALLY BIG TROUBLE.  She does not have a high opinion of human nature.

I told her my opinion that people are slowly getting better, and if you look at history things are a lot better now than they ever were before.  There may be hope for us yet. I’m not sure she was convinced.

She also said that now she doesn’t have to believe what the LDS church teaches, she’s not sure what she does believe.  I’ve heard it said that kids her age need concrete beliefs, they need the black and white.  So now of course I’m wondering if I’m doing her a disservice by not giving her that.  But to give her a religious belief system beyond right and wrong ways to treat people and behave… Well, I couldn’t do it without lying.  I can’t tell her how the universe works and whether there’s a god and what happens after death because I don’t know and I don’t believe anyone knows.

What I can tell her is that while I don’t believe anyone knows, I think what matters is finding a way of thinking and believing that helps you live a better life, but that it can be different things for different people.  She needs to find what gives her peace and strength and helps her want to be a good person.

I don’t know if it’s enough, but it’s the best I can do and still be honest with her.

Some of the things about church that give me the most joy lately are the little things.  Like… a couple weeks ago the weather was cold and wet and nasty and I wanted to wear jeans and boots and a fuzzy sweater. And I could.   Normally I try not to wear my everyday clothes to church — I’ll at least wear a blouse with buttons instead of a t-shirt and pants that aren’t jeans — but when my feet are cold enough that I want hiking-type boots and thick wool socks, well, that’s okay.  I won’t feel out of place and it’s not a sin.

My life is at a sort of stressful place right now and I decided that this school year I was going to cut back on volunteer work and focus on a small set of activities that are important to me.  There are a few billion volunteer opportunities at church, and some things that I might like to get involved in at some point, but if right now I feel like I can’t do that, it’s okay.  It’s not a sin.

Last week after I got my son to his class I seriously considered not going into the worship service.  I hate being late, and the worship service at this church has a much greater sense of the sacred than an LDS Sacrament Meeting, so you can’t just wander in and out like people do at an LDS ward.  During almost every part of it it would be like walking in during the sacrament itself.  So I considered sitting outside and listening to it on the intercom or even — I can’t believe I considered this — reading a totally non-church-related book. I didn’t, but I could have, and it would have been okay.  Skipping my meeting and reading a book wouldn’t have been a sin!

These things keep popping up and surprising me.  Can’t quite believe how many opportunities to feel inadequate I’ve lost here.

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