Most of my writing on this blog concerns Paganism, Druidry, and polytheism. But I’m also a Unitarian Universalist, and today at my UU church I was one of four speakers on the theme “Why I Became a UU.” This is my story.
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I had no intention of becoming a UU when I came here in 2003. I had read a little about Unitarian Universalism and I had attended a few services at two churches in the Atlanta area. I found it intellectually fulfilling but spiritually bland.
I came here for CUUPS – the Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. I’m a Druid and in 2003 there were no Druid groves anywhere in North Texas. Even though there are two today, they’re in Arlington and Oak Cliff, not particularly convenient for regular participation when you live in McKinney. I had heard about CUUPS and decided to check it out. I came for Imbolc 2003 and I never left.
The leaders at the time made it very clear that Denton CUUPS is part of the Denton UU Fellowship, an emphasis we continue to this day. It’s not an outside group that uses the building. CUUPS members were expected to support the church, to the extent that felt right to them. This struck me as a good thing – a embodiment of the Pagan virtue of reciprocity.
We sing about reciprocity here at every service: “From you I receive, to you I give, together we share, and by this we live.” (#402 in Singing the Living Tradition) If I needed to support the church, then I’d support the church, so I started attending on Sunday mornings.
And I found I liked it. I liked the emphasis on every person’s free and responsible search for truth and meaning. I liked the Francis David quote “we need not think alike to love alike.” Even though we may come to very different ideas about the Gods or God, that’s no reason why we can’t work together to build a more compassionate, more just world here and now.
I liked that Unitarian Universalism let me keep the best of the religion of my childhood, without asking me to believe things I couldn’t honestly believe. We still celebrate Christmas and Easter, we still draw wisdom from the teachings of Jesus, we even sing a few of the same hymns… just with slightly different lyrics. Unlike the accusations fundamentalists often throw at those who leave their faith, I was never “angry with God.” But I was very angry with those who twisted a religion of peace and love into a religion of fear and hate, and while the Christian path no longer calls to me, I’m happy to see it reclaimed for those who want and need it.I came here to learn. I had gone as far as I could go as a solitary practitioner, and I needed a group to continue my spiritual growth. I expected to learn through instruction and mentorship – I found very little of that. Instead, I found opportunities for service. I was asked to join the worship committee, I was asked to coordinate Sunday services, and before long I volunteered to speak on Sunday morning.
I had been a member of DUUF for a little more than a year when I was asked to be Board President. I do not recommend asking new or newish members to serve as President – a look at the list of past Presidents who are no longer here shows it’s generally not a good thing. But DUUF needed a President, I needed experience in leadership, and so I jumped into the deep end of the pool. It worked out OK, and I will never forget the value of learning through service.
I believe in the mission of Denton UU, but I wouldn’t have stayed if it wasn’t for the people – people who share my values even if they don’t share my Pagan beliefs and practices, people who genuinely like belonging to a church that includes Pagans even if they have no interest in Paganism themselves. I’ve made many good friends here over the years.
It has not been all pleasant. There has been hard work. There have been people who disagreed with decisions the Board made under my leadership – some of whom left the church because of it. There have been decisions other Boards and other members have made that I strongly disagreed with.
Such is community. Even when we share common values we may disagree on how best to express those values. Sometimes those disagreements become passionate. Sometimes we make mistakes and sometimes we do things we later wish we hadn’t.
Our world needs a church that, in the words of John Murray, gives people not hell but hope. We need a church that loves and supports all people regardless of sexual and gender orientations. We need a church unafraid to say Black Lives Matter in a culture whose actions say they don’t. We need a church that fights for clean air and water, that plants trees instead of bulldozing trees. Denton UU is that church.
I had no intention of becoming a UU. But I’m very glad I did.