Five Things I Love about My Local UU Church

1. After having veterans stand for appreciation (it’s Veterans’ Day), the minister asked those with family members currently in the military stand, those who had any relatives or ancestors dead or alive who served in military stand, and, finally, those who had been conscientious objectors stand. There was talk of peace and of objections to war without any dishonor of either current soldiers or veterans. (We were encouraged to avoid stereotypes and instead listen to their stories.)

2. The minister is a woman. ‘Nuff said.

3. The congregation overflows with children, and no one cares if the kids sit in the aisles, walk around the sanctuary, and even wander onto the raised platform at the front in the middle of the service (which Sally just might have done today). No one expects kids to be perfectly obedient and no one bats an eye when I breastfeed.

4. Today everyone filled out cards with what they were thankful for, and the minister read them aloud. At least one in four mentioned being thankful for Obama’s electoral victory or for Obamacare. The universal commitment to progressive politics and social justice never ceases to feel revolutionary.

5. Rather than asking the congregation to take a pledge to read through the Bible in a year or spend X minutes in prayer each day, the minister has asked everyone at the church to take a pledge to lower their carbon footprint.

I only just started attending the local Unitarian Universalist church at the end of this past summer. More posts on this to come. 

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • Kat

    I live right near an amazing UU church, but I can never go because I work Sundays! Looking forward to checking it out on Xmas this year though.

  • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

    wow, that’s really neat. I like the woman minister part too.

  • Christine

    I think that 1. is very cool. I’ve never been at a Christian church that managed to handle both sides like that. The problem with a peace church setting is that those who did serve in the military feel very marginalized, even if the congregation manages to avoid the “being anti-war = being anti -soldier” problem.

    And I’m very glad that you’re getting the benefits of a church environment without having to compromise your convictions.

    • http://patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism Libby Anne

      The problem with a peace church setting is that those who did serve in the military feel very marginalized, even if the congregation manages to avoid the “being anti-war = being anti -soldier” problem.

      The minister specifically mentioned this, and used it as the basis for rejecting stereotypes and instead listening to servicepeople’s stories. I thought they did a pretty good job of balancing everything, and I both come from a very military family and today question a great deal of the U.S.’s foreign policy.

      • Christine

        Oh, it specifically gets mentioned, but when the church membership includes a number of people who were some of the “original” CO’s (i.e. the ones who were in jail before they started the alternative service projects) the assumptions happen either way.

        I would assume, also, that the UU church doesn’t have challenging cultural assumptions as being as large a part of its identity. Some of the reaction is due to the cultural trend to turn “honouring the veterans” into “celebrating our war victories” (and it’s a fine line – the big victories tended to have the most dead, and the battles with a lot of dead but not as much of a victory get mentioned too… just more quietly). My church is Catholic, and not only do we not do “Peace Sunday” as much as my husband’s church does, we actually closed with the national anthem. A history of oppression shapes a lot of things.

      • AnotherOne

        It’s true, a lot of the historic peace churches are not welcoming environments for those who have served in the military, but there are a few exceptions. One of the most moving services I’ve ever been to was at a rural Mennonite church, where the pastor led a congregational prayer at the end for a young man in the congregation who had chosen to enlist. There had been a fair amount of grief and tension leading up to that event, but seeing a roomful of people choose to love and support someone in a choice that ran counter to some of their deeply held convictions left a lasting impression on me. I’ve seen a lot of damage done in and by churches, but I’ve also seen moments of grace that will stay with me forever.

      • Aaron

        Reading this makes me want to make the 50 mile drive on Sunday’s to go to the nearest UUA church. Being both a military member and a former evangelical, I have sometimes felt marginalized in some more progressive churches. It is great to see that this issue is being addressed.

  • machintelligence

    I think the UU church is a good place for those who crave ceremony and a sense of community. Because I am something of a loner and have no use for ceremony (plus enjoying sleeping in on Sundays) I am glad that they exist, but I shall probably never attend.

    • http://boldquestions.wordpress.com Ubi Dubium

      I don’t have any use for ceremony either, and avoid “services” as much as possible. But the UUs have a great program for the kids, and they let me teach! So I get to talk about critical thinking on Sunday mornings. It’s my small way of fighting back against the Fundies.

      • machintelligence

        It’s too late for that to be a draw for me, my kids are now in their twenties. Nevertheless, I like the idea. It isn’t that I’m a total hermit, however, I have been a volunteer for over 20 years with the creative problem solving competition called Destination Imagination, and now serve as a state challenge master in the Technical problem. It is a nice secular program that also teaches teamwork and brainstorming skills.

  • murollavan

    There are some Unitarians in my local atheist group because they want to work toward a secular society. I wish every religion was Unitarianism.

  • Skjaere

    I’ve been thinking about visiting my local UU church, because it would be nice to meet people and have that sense of community again. Only problem is, their services are at 10:30 AM, and I get off work at 6:00 AM. I’m always too exhausted to be social by that time of day.

  • http://kindminusgoodleft.blogspot.com// Janice

    I went to a UU church with a HS friend as a teen. I was active in the youth group and the three state district’s youth ‘cons’ and get togethers. It was quite wonderful to bee with a group of young people so educated and aware of multiple religious views and general social and environmental action. I will always credit my experience with them as one of the few great points in my youth. Although I identify myself as a UU now I do not go to my local church currently. I find UU churches vary a good deal depending on many things (age of active attendees, personality of minister, etc…..UU is well known for it’s insistence on consensus!) After I had my kids my eldest son went to pre-school there which he also enjoyed. This particular congregation in my town has many older people who were not happy with my young children being nosily. A few people politely encourage I go to the ‘crying room’ where you can see and hear the ‘sermon’ on speaker…… but you can’t hear anything because other parents go in there to talk! Anyway, my point is you get out of a UU church what you put into it so give it a chance…they vary so much!

  • http://kindminusgoodleft.blogspot.com// Janice

    I went to a UU church with a HS friend as a teen. I was active in the youth group and the three state district’s youth ‘cons’ and get togethers. It was quite wonderful to bee with a group of young people so educated and aware of multiple religious views and general social and environmental action. I will always credit my experience with them as one of the few great points in my youth. Although I identify myself as a UU now I do not go to my local church currently. I find UU churches vary a good deal depending on many things (age of active attendees, personality of minister, etc…..UU is well known for it’s insistence on consensus!) After I had my kids my eldest son went to pre-school there which he also enjoyed. This particular congregation in my town has many older people who were not happy with my young children being nosiy. A few people politely encouraged I go to the ‘crying room’ where you can see and hear the ‘sermon’ on speaker…… but you can’t hear anything because other parents go in there to talk! Anyway, my point is you get out of a UU church what you put into it so give it a chance…they vary so much!

  • Andrew G.

    Did you see the posts on Daylight Atheism a year or so ago regarding the anti-atheist material in A Chosen Faith and Buehrens’s defense of it?

    Start here:
    http://bigthink.com/daylight-atheism/can-an-atheist-be-a-unitarian-universalist-part-1

  • Godlesspanther

    I was raised UU. They are very accepting. They even tolerate me. I don’t believe in god and I swear habitually.

  • http://www.crosspointechurch.tv/ Christian church in Yorba Linda

    It is churches like these which encourage people to come and visit them. The relevant ideas being shared no hard and fast rules being implemented makes it a place where a human would come willingly to find peace.

  • http://marriageequality.org Thom Watson

    I used to be very active in both my local UU church, back when I was living in Virginia, and in the national organization. I was an openly gay man and an atheist, and was recruited by the ministers as a worship leader and as a teacher for the 7th-9th grade component of the UU’s comprehensive sex education program, OWL (Our Whole Lives), which included at the time a three-week focus on sexual orientation including transgender issues as well as safer sex. In Northern Virginia where I lived, many parents who were not UUs enrolled their kids in our sex ed classes because they were much more comprehensive, non-judgmental, non-abstinence-based, realistic and affirming of sexual minorities.

    For the national UU Association, I was a workshop leader for several years in a program called BCT (Beyond Categorical Thinking). BCT specifically recruits people of color, LGBT people and people with disabilities, provides them with training, and then sends them in teams of two to UU churches that are in the process of calling a new minister. We conduct the worship service one Sunday morning, and then that afternoon we meet with church leaders and the search committee and engage them in workshop activities to help them understand how we all engage in categorical thinking (i.e., often seeing people who belong to specific groups less an individuals than as members of the group, responsible for and representative of any biases toward or against, or prejudicial thinking towards the group as a whole). We talk about our own habits of categorical thinking, help them understand theirs, all with the whole of making them more self-aware and potentially more willing to call a minister of color, an LGBT minister, or a minister who is differently abled (we didn’t focus on gender, because the UU church had done much of the work there previously, and rather successfully; women already were a higher percentage of the UU professional ministry at the time I was involved. UUs were much less successful at attracting racial minorities. And, while the UUs had a more progressive outlook on LGBT people in general, compared to mainstream religious organizations, there was still a lot of work to be done, especially at the level of more inclusion within the professional ministry).

  • http://marriageequality.org Thom Watson

    As a follow-on, the UUA was among the first religions organizations to ordain openly gay and lesbian and transgender clergy, and has long been supportive of LGBT civil rights and marriage equality, even having filed amicus curiae briefs on behalf of marriage equality advocates in several marriage equality lawsuits (including Prop 8 in California). UU congregations even in states without legal state-recognized marriage equality for same-sex couples nonetheless have been solemnizing same-sex unions for years.

  • Adele

    I am so glad to see a post from you about why you “love” your UU Church. :-)

  • Adele

    I am so glad to see a post from you about why you love your UU Church. :-)


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