My Local Atheist Group Didn’t Meet My Needs

For two full years, I didn’t go to church. I enjoyed sleeping in on Sunday mornings and I enjoyed not feeling obligated to go to church each Sunday and guilty if I did not. But at the end of this past August I began attending the local Unitarian Universalist church. Why, you ask? The question is a good one.

You see, my town is quite liberal, and there is a regular atheist gathering. The group meets at a local pub and the talk is all of how ridiculous religion is and of encroachments on the separation of church and state. I’ve been a couple of times, and each time it was nice to let my hair down knowing I was surrounded by other people who, like me, don’t believe in a God. But this didn’t fit what I needed.

First, I could never shake the feeling that the only thing uniting us was our disbelief in God. There was no guarantee that any of them shared any of my values except secularism. I longed to be surrounded by people who shared my belief in equality, social justice, and environmental justice. And maybe everyone there did share these beliefs, but how was I to know? These topics were never discussed or emphasized.

Second, the gatherings were never kid friendly. For one thing, they were at a pub. I had to call ahead to find out if we could even bring Sally into the building legally (in my state it is illegal to bring a child within site of the actual bar from which alcohol is served). But the restaurant-style setting posed problems too. The last time we went, about a year ago, Sean and I had to leave early because Sally got upset with being confined to her seat and didn’t like the darkened atmosphere of the place, and so collapsed into a screaming fit. Even when we managed to keep Sally happily occupied, I always got the feeling that she was tolerated rather than openly welcomed.

Third, it was not a community. Sure, it was a gathering of people who could talk about what they had in common – atheism – but it wasn’t set up such that someone would bring over a casserole when someone else fell ill. It wasn’t even set up such that anyone there had contact with each other between meetings. Our only contact was the (monthly) meeting, and then everyone went their own separate ways. I wanted something more. I wanted community.

The local atheist group did not serve my needs, but then, it was never set up to do so in the first place. It exists so that local atheists can come together monthly in a local pub and talk about religion and the separation of church and state, and to the extent that that is its purpose, it fulfills it well. This post is not meant to condemn my local atheist group or others like it, not at all. That’s why the post title isn’t “My local atheist group failed me,” but rather “My local atheist group didn’t meet my needs.”

My local atheist group didn’t meet my needs because I was looking for something it had never promised to offer. I wanted community, I wanted common values, and I wanted support as a parent. And so, when my local atheist group didn’t have those things to offer, I turned to the local UU congregation. More on that later.

  • HJ Hornbeck

    Hmm, quick question: why not set up your own meetings and build a community? I doubt you’re the only one there with kids, or an interest with social justice. Admittedly that does require work, but if you floated the idea at the pub you might have gotten one or two helpers.

  • http://Alisoncummins.com Alison Cummins

    Libby Anne, you’ve been an atheist for longer than two years – yet you were still attending church?

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

      Yes – there were a couple reasons for that, namely living in town with in-laws and a Catholic Church with an extremely awesome and quite liberal priest who ignored the bishops’ fixation on about toon and gay marriage and focused instead on social justice.

  • http://elliha.blogspot.com Elin

    I went to a meeting for the Republican Association (an association for people being anti monarchy) and all they talked about was how much they wanted the monarchy in Sweden to end and how they disliked this type of government. I agree with them but I realized that this wasn’t such a big issue for me that I wanted to gather to discuss it on a regular basis. My husband though is deeply involved in this organization and was the one who dragged me there in the first place and to him it does seem to meet some needs. Your text reminded me of that meeting…

  • Mike

    Why is “do it yourself” always the first response to this feedback? Friendly atheist had a similar article a couple months ago. Young mother with two children working to get your grad degree looking for a community? Build one from scratch in your copious free time!
    The point is that people in this situation are very understandably going to find a different community.

    • Katherine

      I would add that not only is starting your own community from scratch HARD, it often isn’t a very good idea because if you just looked around a teensy bit, the community you want already exists. DIY is a great mentality to have about many things, but being in community is about being with and respecting others, and it doesn’t strike me as very respectful (of the very people you might like to be in community with!) to throw up your hands and say “oh I didn’t find it in the very first place I looked, I guess that means NO ONE ELSE is doing it anywhere, time to do it myself!”

      Speaking from a bit of experience, what ends up happening is when you invite people to join your group they say “oh I’m actually already a member of ____, say why aren’t YOU a member?”

  • http://www.twitter.com/nicoleintrovert Nicole Introvert

    Thanks for saying that Mike. Some people are not natural or even comfortable with being a “leader” or starting something themselves. I’d love to have a group or community I felt a sense of belonging with. But I am NOT the person who should be starting such a group. (See moniker: Introvert). I’d be happy to join or even HELP with something but starting… not my forte. Never will be my forte, and I shouldn’t be made to feel guilty or less than because of it. That’s not even bringing into consideration my 40+ hours of work per week plus a couple of other volunteer groups I have obligations too. Yes I could find the time to attend, but not create. And I don’t even have kids to throw in the mix.

  • machintelligence

    As atheism becomes more mainstream, I suspect that groups that are family friendly will become more common. Also the founding of the A+ movement may bring atheists with more humanistic ideals out of the woodwork. Of course, in some regions, just putting up a billboard to say that such an organization exists is considered an affront to religion.
    I think that historically (and I speak from 50 years of experience) atheists tend to be loners, or at least keep a low profile. I saw a cartoon, which I can’t locate at the moment, which has a shepherd with a flock of cats telling another shepherd that it’s a lot like herding atheists.

    • J-Rex

      I LoLed.
      I think this might be changing though. When atheism was much less accepted, the atheists were more likely to be people who had no problems going against social norms and they were likely more thoughtful and less social than the average person. Now atheism is on the rise and while I think these types of people are still more likely to become atheists, I’m starting to see a lot more social people becoming atheists/non-believers as well.

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ Christine

    The English philosopher and atheist Alain de Botton thinks some atheists have gone too militant in rejecting everything about religious groups and feels they can have a lot to offer – the idea of community being one of them. I’m glad you found your community.

    As for me, I have the Society for Creative Anachronism. They might be a (sort of) re-enactment group, but it’s MY community. There might be some annoying twerps, there might be some (sometimes nasty) politics, but we’re generally just a bunch of misfits who like being in each other’s company. And help each other out when needed – yes, we do take food to those of us who are sick, we help each other move house, we loan books, we mind each other’s pets.

    • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

      Social outreach is one of the things I’m most proud of in the SCA. I remember local groups donating garb and gear to SCA victims of Katrina.

      • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

        Even here in Lochac, we got together enough goods to send a respectable shipment of material, tools and quality gear to Gleann Abban (sorry if I got spelling wrong!). It’s good to know that if I ever have to move, I will have an instant network to plug into.

    • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

      Woo SCA! I am in it just for the social aspects and highly recommend it to people who aren’t religious.

  • E

    I’ve never gotten the community thing. One of the best parts of leaving religion was leaving the fakey, saccharine, judgemental, guilt-tripping, one-upping church “community” behind. But enough people talk about missing it that I suppose my experience is one of a small minority.

    • http://chillireception.blogspot.com/ Avenel

      The SCA is also my community. My household are tbe people I celebrate holidays with, who I call in emergencies, who can call me in emergencies. Court and salutes on the fighting field satisfy my need for ritual.

      Where in the Known World are you? I’m in Caid.

      • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

        Im in Caid too. My family is nominally a part of drieburgen but we’re waiting for the current leadership to move on (many of the ‘old guard ‘ are not welcoming to families with small children and we have 5). Wer

      • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

        (Continued)
        we’re friendly with the new reeve and revess so we hope to get more active again once they take over.

      • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

        Windhaven here.

      • http://chillireception.blogspot.com/ Avenel

        Vixi, I’m just next door, in Calafia. I’ve been a Champion for the current B&B of Dreibergen. I don’t know the reeve and reevess well, but hope to get to know them. Look for me on the rapier field.

      • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

        The revee and revess hold a combat practice at their home, and the revee is a member of House Blackrune. My spouse used to fight heavies and that was our favorite of our local practices.

      • thin-ice

        “Caid, Calafia, Champion, Dreibergen, B&B, rapier field, Windhaven, reeve, reevess, etc, etc.”

        What secret language are you guys talking? Sounds like you’re in a community of some kind, so good for you folks! But I’ll skip joining another community that has their own lingo, like the church I left . . .

      • http://chillireception.blogspot.com/ Avenel

        Thin-ice, the Society for Creative Anachronism is a non -profit educational organization dedicated to re-creating the fun parts of the middle ages and renaissance. It definitely has its own lingo. So does every group. If you join a car club, you will learn car parts, if you join a square dance club, you’ll learn what an allemand left or a grand right-and-left is. I’ve had to learn dozens of lingos, from Navy to computing to cooking to english country dance to education.

    • http://equalsuf.wordpress.com Jayn

      There are both good and bad aspects to having a ‘community’, with some being on the balance better or worse than others. You mentioned some bad ones, which largely come down to peer pressure and conformity, but there’s also the support you get from a community (which is especially important if you don’t already have a lot of friends or family to fall back on), having people you can rely on to help you out when you need it. Plus, human are social creatures–most of us need social bonds for their own sake. I hear you on the bad aspects (like most people, I went to high school), but there are also good things that come from belonging to a community.

      • Karen

        This. I returned tot the denomination of my childhood before we had kids because I needed some social outlets that were not my office. Once we had children, church became very much more important. Now that my kids are teens and Tweens, the church’s youth program has become a great help to all of us, because middle school and high school kinda suck, and church is one place where they can make friends from other schools, and where there is little bad peer pressure and NO bullying or snobbery over clothes and gadgets. The people who wish to eliminate religion really need to examine the functions of religious organizations in the lives of the members first, and see if that function can be recreated without the bad stuff.

    • E

      I do have friends and do activities that I consider to be community for me. I just don’t understand how religion and religious ritual can function in that way. Religion for me was about “my personal relationship” with god…other people were a nuisance I had to put up with, basically. Like I said, I’m aware my negative experience was unusual. That’s not to say I have NO community, just that religion never was one for me in the way it was for lots of others, so that was not an aspect I missed, since I have always gotten it from other sources anyway.

    • chris buchholz

      Well E, the church is basically a defacto community. People’s friends are there, often churches already have organized groups to help people with kids, or homes. etc.
      Need help with a home improvement project? Ask around at church
      Help with your garage or yard sale? Ask around at church
      Help with the kids? Your friends at church with kids may know some good babysitters.
      Community is just, the people you talk to and hang out with.
      Church and bible study and the other activities you may be a part of also act as a way to force you to get out and talk to people.

      if someone only goes to church on sunday and leaves right away, then yes, they did not take part in the community, and received no benefits. But for someone to leave who had a lot of support, suddenly has no support for many things in their life, even if it’s just venting about their work/spouse/etc , that is a big gaping hole.

      Plenty of surveys out there show people who go to church are happier and describe themsevles as more stable, 1. no matter what religion and 2. even if they say they don’t believe any of it. That is what having a supportive community offers.

      I have been going to various meetup groups for my interests, but none of them even comes close, they are like the atheist group: people who get together about an issue (or to play games, play sports, read a book etc) but if you’re lucky you can make a few friends here and there, but it’s not the same

  • Doctor Octavo

    Good article. The atheist movement also leaves me cold, due to it’s obsession with not being Christian. I prefer the UU church, but I don’t attend often.

  • Katherine

    I can’t wait to read more about your experiences at the UU church! I was a member of my local church for 2 years (before very specific congregational and leadership issues led me to decide that it just wasn’t the best place for me anymore, and that’s fine) and one of my favorite things about it was going to church atheists, agnostics, and people with very different faiths from mine. I realize it doesn’t work for everyone, but it sounds like it is working for you right now, and I can’t wait to hear about it!

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    “The group meets at a local pub and the talk is all of how ridiculous religion is and of encroachments on the separation of church and state.”

    Sheesh, it sounds to me like you’re well rid of that group. Look, nobody need convince me that encroachment on separation of Church and State is a serious issue (one of many) that needs to be discussed and I’m not gonna say that I’ve never gotten involved in a conversation that wasn’t essentially a bitch-fest about how stupid other things and people are but I’m also not gonna say that I’ve ever felt a need to start an entire group to formalize that practice. That would make me feel kind of lame. An entire group dedicated to people congratulating themselves on how much more enlightened they are than other people? Wow, way to make the world a better place! I’ll take the UU Church any day!

    • http://mymusingcorner.wordpress.com Lana

      SO AGREE WITH YOU. A lot of Christians form groups with the same problems though technically church is supposed to be about worshiping God, not on how great of people we are.

    • http://ripeningreason.com/ Bix

      This is a little roundabout, but my Dad said his friend stopped attending her UU church (in a VERY liberal town) because it was a bunch of people sitting around congratulating themselves on how progressive and enlightened they all were. So I guess it depends a lot on your local group.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Oh yeah, I’ve definitely seen that happen with UU Churches too, but some of them are wonderful and very much about social action and not just talk. Plus, they have a wonderful sex education program for adolescents. On balance, I admire them as an organization.

    • thin-ice

      Please don’t be so quick to judge. A lot of these groups are doing serious work on a national scale holding back the tide of dominionism, fighting people who believe in an American Theocracy: Center For Inquiry, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Military Religious Freedom Foundation, etc. If these groups weren’t around, your children would be attending public schools that teach young-earth creationism, and use the Bible as a history book. I donate money regularly, and say more power to them.

      • Adele

        I don’t think your statement “If these groups weren’t around, your children would be attending public schools that teach young-earth creationism, and use the Bible as a history book.” is true. More importantly, I don’t think it works even as a worst-case scenario exaggeration. The ACLU has been around fighting for separation of church and state (among other things) a lot longer than any of the organizations you mention. The ACLU fights for the civil rights of everyone, including religious people, which is a cause I find a lot easier to get behind.

  • Merbie

    Every time you give hints about where you live, I keep hoping you live near me and that I could meet you in person sometime. The atheist meeting at a pub sounded hopeful (same/similar thing here in my city) but the law about children and bars in restaurants eliminated my state. Bummer!

    I attended a UU church in the last city I lived in, and it provided some much-needed community for me after leaving the faith of my life to that point (which meant disconnect from pretty much all my family and friends, too). I’m interested in hearing more about your experience also.

  • http://eschaton2012.ca Eamon Knight

    I hear you. Being in the post-kids phase, getting together in the pub with a bunch of fellow-geeks fills our social needs fine, but it was nice being in a (liberal) church when our kids were little. And our atheist community isn’t really a “bring you casseroles when you’re sick” kind of group.

  • smrnda

    At no point in my life was I a believer (I did a few Jewish holidays when I was little but that was it) but at no point in my life have I ever set out to find a group of non-believers to join; part of this might be that most people I’ve known were very secular already, and there’s lots of organizations to join built on things that I do believe in or have an interest in. I’ve met lots of people doing volunteer work or through my local art and craft scene. Overall I find lots of people who share my values. I have some religious people in my circle of friends and acquaintances but most of them are moderate, liberal, or at least quiet about pushing their beliefs on others.

    Perhaps this is a bigger problem in more highly religious areas, where there might be less alternative organizations, or even non-church organizations might be more or less dominated by Christians and would make unbelievers feel unwelcome – you show up to help people pick up trash and everybody is trying to proselytize even when it’s not officially a ‘Christian’ volunteer group.

    All said, it is *very* tough for people with young children to get out and have a social life, and so far it seems that religious organizations are the ones that provide the easiest way for adults who have kids to get together.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lucrezaborgia lucrezaborgia

    My family used to attend such a church back when I was in middle school. I liked it tho I never was religious myself.

  • jillpoke

    I’d like to have something like a UU church around. I live in a conservative, rural part of the country and would like a secular social outlet where I (and my kids) can hang out with people who share some of my values. As it stands now, I don’t have a secular organization to meet people. We moved after we had kids and trying to make friends here has been impossible. Being shy and socially incompetent doesn’t help either.

  • Angela

    Thanks so much for this! I’ve been atheist/agnostic for the past 5 years but do really miss the sense of community you describe. After reading this I looked up our local UU church online and feel like I could really get on board with their philosophy and it seems very family friendly. Planning on attending Sunday to check it out more. Thanks for the idea!

  • Gwynnyd

    So why look for community ONLY in a church-ish setting? There are a lot of groups who can provide the kind of community you seem to be seeking – the SCA, previously mentioned, is only one of many, many groups within which members create their own “families” of like-minded people. So the atheist group didn’t work for you? Why revert back to a church setting when there are so many other existing alternatives if you just open your eyes and look for them?

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Why NOT “revert back” to a church setting if it meets her needs to be in a community of like-minded individuals who share her commitment to certain values and are welcoming towards families with young children? Just because ZOMG IT’S CALLED A CHURCH? That seems a little silly.

      • Alexander

        Clearly it is a question of semantics, but still, doesn’t it sound strange or contradictory: being an atheist and associating oneself with a church? Why does it has to be called church?

      • Adele

        It doesn’t matter a whit to me one way or the other and I attend a UU “church”, but there are UUs who feel VERY strongly about the semantics of it. Consequently, there are UU “Fellowships” and “Societies”. At my own church there was a brief kerfluffle about whether to call the room where we gather on Sundays the “Sanctuary” or the “Auditorium” (Auditorium won). On the other hand, there has been some movement within the US UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) recently to be more “spiritual” and also to be sure our congregations are not unwelcoming to people who are not atheist or agnostic. Personally, I am in favor of this movement. What I get from my church is community, yes, but it is religious community. For me, it meets needs that I actually don’t think I could get from joining a book club or a country club or whatever. It is the combination of social outlet with ceremony and ritual and intentionally setting aside a time and place to focus on the “big picture”, step aside from my day-to-day concerns and think about philosophical questions, etc. that makes me think religion cannot be readily and easily replaced by an existing secular organization. Though based on this comment thread – maybe SCA does it!

      • Kodie

        I’ve never been to church so I don’t know, but it does seem to serve some kind of function to some people to meet regularly and do stuff together. There are other ways to do that, of course, but few offer the diversity of inter-cooperative services that a church might. It’s a whole-family setting like few things are that one might get oneself involved in. They don’t just have “book club” things or “knitting” things or “basketball” things to talk about or do – they do these potluck things, activism things, fundraising things, parenting things, etc., and you meet people who maybe don’t have your specific interests in common, your family situation in common, your peer group in common, but are still nice to meet and get to know. People who live away from their family or are perhaps unfortunately cast out by their religious families maybe need something like a church to extend their feeling of community and family, and I’m not sure “atheism” ever seems to fit that bill. Maybe because we’re MOSTLY not looking for a church, but to be very specific to atheist causes or interests or religious recovery, along that vein. It doesn’t seem like the thing that would build itself into anything like a church on its own, it doesn’t seem to offer much for kids even though there’s nothing really anti-kid about it. It’s sort of like how atheist blogs are pretty much for the adults to talk, atheist clubs in person would be similarly specific and oriented toward whatever the adults want to talk about, and may treat younger children as an afterthought and host once in a while a family picnic day. It would be nice to have a drink while we chat through our topics, since atheists don’t have large halls or auditoriums, and church is more like one person doing all the talking, then you sing, then you chit-chat in the parking lot before you go to brunch. Atheist meetings are probably more of a group talk, just talking about stuff.

        I know there are other groups loosely based on one factor of one’s life who don’t just sit and talk about things in a bar – they organize smaller groups for fun outings and activism stuff. I don’t, for instance, need to join an atheist hiking club to get together with people and hike, but I would join an atheist group that one of the things they might do is organize hikes from the group, whoever wanted to go signed up and went together, and also did other stuff like go to the movies, run a 5k, have a volleyball team, take the kids roller skating, and also had letter-writing campaigns, charity drives, kept up on important secular and/or humanist issues, and did whatever we’re supposed to do about that. I think that’s what churches do for people is bring them together to get to know each other, and find interesting ways to get together even more often that you might not do all by yourself.

        It’s sort of like school when you think about it. You don’t just have to go home, you can stay after and be in the drama club or the soccer team and meet kids who aren’t in your class. Out here after graduation, you might take a pottery class as a way to meet people who also like pottery, but probably your whole family isn’t going to want to go, and you’re probably not going to be great friends with anyone there, maybe one or two, and it’s only 6 weeks. Some get-together situations are more inclined to offer off-topic socializing than others, but not necessarily anything interesting to you – for instance, if people are talking about their kids or celebrity gossip, I’m not going to want to go back, it’s not my thing. I think in a “church” setting, people who want to talk about their kids find each other, but there are other people to talk to and acceptance of a variety of interests because you’re still a united club and you mingle; not necessarily so if your choice of socializing activity is a book club or a softball team.

  • Karen

    This conversation really speaks to me, since I’m a loner (introvert) by nature and also someone who really needs more social contact to keep my sanity. There is actually a Humanist group that meets Sunday mornings a half-hour or so away from me, but they seem to be about lectures, not community. I’ve had mixed results with UU churches; the only one close to me was a very tiny, close-knit community that I couldn’t seem to penetrate. Another, more welcoming church was realistically too far away. The third, also quite a drive, seemed very full of status-envy. So I sleep in on Sunday mornings.

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com Christine

    I’m in Lochac. *WE* own Antarctica, not you Caidans! I thought about fighting when I first joined, until I saw fighter practice. These days I cook, sew and espouse the benefits of early period personas to anyone who will listen (and a few who won’t…)

  • http://exconvert.blogspot.com Kacy

    My atheist group doesn’t really meet my needs in the same way a church did. It’s not kid-friendly, and there is a usually a huge gender imbalance. There is a UU church locally, but I’m a bit turned off because their website shows that they did a book club on a new-agey book. From what I’ve heard there is a strong pagan and new age influence in this UU church, and I’m not really interested in leaving the Christian church to go to a church with a different sort of spiritualistic bent.

    With that said, I’ve managed to find community in other ways. There is cross-over between the local atheist group, a secular moms group, and a secular breastfeeding support group. The atheist group has also started monthly Sunday playdates for those of us with kids, and there will be a local Spiral Scouts group starting up soon. It’s not one main organization, like you see in a church. It’s several different groups, but with a core group of people, who also happen to be atheists.

  • Rosie

    My “local” UU groups don’t really meet my needs, as I’m not really into kids or Sunday mornings either one (and it’s a 20-30 mile drive to either town). And the church-like setting is…triggering…for me. But I’m rather confused as to why some folks seem offended that it’s working for Libby Anne? Different people need different things at different times in their lives. *shrug* I might need to find a way to contact my local SCA group, though; I do like costumes and making things.

    • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

      http://sca.org/ is the website. The society is world wide and the web site will give you information on what kingdom (and progressively smaller, local groups) you belong to based on geography. The SCA offers more than fighting (plenty of people work in different ‘heritage style ‘ crafts like brewing, costuming, metal and wood working, leather crafts, even bladesmithing), much of the community is about making long term friendships and enjoying our crazy hobby.

      • Rosie

        Thanks, Vixi! I’ve been a Ren-Fest attender for decades, and my friends and I have always been kind of “on the edge”–knowing one or two SCA people but not well. I’m already pretty deep into several ‘heritage-style’ crafts (brewing, cheesemaking, herb-lore, spinning, knitting, etc.–though I do use electric shears for shearing sheep and have no plans to revert to the non-powered type!) Also, I’ve noticed that Pagan, poly, and SCA seem to have about a 90% overlap around here, and I’m interested in both of those ideas too. Hmmm…looks like I’m in the kingdom of Calontir.

      • http://vixidragon.blogspot.com Vixi Dragon

        Check out your kingdom website (sca.org will link you) for the events calendar. Also check for local branches of the brewer’s, costumer’s, and perhaps weaver’s guilds. Most have plain clothes meetings and will let prospective members come get a feel for the group (also nice to know some of the faces before going to your first larger event, and some will let you borrow period clothes if you dont have your own.) Have fun getting your toes wet!

  • J-Rex

    It sounds like UU churches can be very different from one another, depending on where you live. I might give one near me a try sometime to see if I like it.
    What are their services like? Do they have singing? That’s the main thing I miss about going to church. Now I don’t have a church or school choir and I feel like I’m going insane!

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

      UU’s often have really good choirs and lots of singing. And unlike traditional churches, they are not restricted to religious music. My local UU has a really good jazz band that plays some mornings, an adult choir, youth choirs and handbells. My mom was a Presbyterian, joined her UU because their choir was so good, and stayed because she really liked how they didn’t tell her what to think.

      As for what the services are like, at my local UU it’s just like a mainstream protestant service, except with the “you have to believe this” part taken out. There’s hymns, readings, a sermon, quiet meditation, sharing concerns, all the usual.

  • Gwynnyd

    @42 – well, of course, if a church-ish setting is what makes someone the most comfortable, then by all means, let them go find a church-ish group to be their support community. UU is perfect for them. But it is NOT the ONLY way to find a supportive, helpful, near-family community. The choice is NOT between “I need to find a church-ish setting so I can have ready-made support group” and “I am alone with no support.” There are many other places to find community.

    My experience has been the opposite. Within the churches I belonged to in my devout youth, I found a lot of lip service to “support” with no actual support forthcoming or support only within very narrowly defined, approved parameters (parish shut-ins must be visited every Sunday afternoon, for example, and they would STAY even when the house was already full of visiting family because it was their duty to be there, faithfully, every week, but do nothing else.) whether that met my family’s needs or not. In my life, I’ve found a lot better support and certainly a much more useful source of community in non-church groups.

    Sure, there are many church communities out there who are more flexible and inclusive and there are interest groups that don’t coalesce into community. But I would not recommend giving up on either type based on one experience. You have to do what’s comfortable for you. I, for example, do not find churchy settings welcoming or comfortable *for me* at this stage in my life in any way – no matter how inclusive and friendly and not overtly religious they are – so I am glad that there are other avenues available. I just want to put it out there to others here that reverting to a church-like setting is not the ONLY option to finding a real, ready-made, supportive community.

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