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This is Who I Am – by Allysha Dunnigan
This is Who I Am – by Allysha Dunnigan

Since the day I was born I have been linked to a unique and distinct religion. Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning." This is the community that I have identified with for as long as I can remember. Growing up Unitarian Universalist exposed me to inimitable opportunities and circumstances that molded me into the person I am today.

Being raised in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn always made me feel like I had a reliable and trustworthy community that always had my back. I grew up surrounded by fun, exciting, and loving church members that made me feel like church was the best place in the world. But, as I entered grade school and met new kids, I realized that my views of religion and church differed immensely from the people I was surrounded by every day. I had always felt proud and blissful about the religion I identified with until the world around me started to change my ideas. I attended a public elementary school in which almost all of my peers and classmates identified as Catholic. This was no big deal to me, of course, because I was taught to accept people for the way they are no matter how different they are from me.

So I thought nothing of it - until it became a problem that I was the different one and I was labeled as the “odd one out.” At school I would hear stories about CCD, confession, and making first communion. I was told by my peers that everybody had to do all those things and that it was bad if you didn’t. My six-year-old self thought that I would be a bad person and that people would judge me if I didn’t accomplish all these things that I supposedly had to do. During this time, I started to truly second-guess myself and how I had been raised. According to everyone else I was “doing religion the wrong way.” This was the first time where I actually began to think that being a Unitarian Universalist (UU) was wrong and wasn’t supposed to be a part of my life.

As I grew older I still had the idea in my head that I was different, but I began to learn how to cope with it. I would exclude myself from conversations about religion since it made me uncomfortable, and chose to not answer when people asked me what religion I practiced. This continued into middle school until I experienced a life-changing event that forever changed my views on life.

When I was in the seventh grade, I attended my first Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly (GA) Youth Caucus. At first I had no idea what this was or why I was attending it. The first day experiencing the GA life was unbelievable. I walked into a huge arena where I was surrounded by thousands of people just like me - yet we were all different in so many ways. It was a thrilling feeling knowing that I finally had people around me that practiced the same religion I did but were wary of it, as well. After that week in which I participated in many workshops, events, and rallies, it opened up my eyes to a whole different world. On the second to last day we had a huge gathering in the arena of all the Unitarian Universalists that were there. Looking around and seeing all the happy and loving faces of everyone there was when I finally realized how proud and excited I was to be a part of such a wonderful and unique group of people.

I changed my thoughts about being different and not fitting in; I realized that it didn’t matter because I was happy with the religion I was and I finally understood it. Attending GA opened my eyes up to all the amazing things Unitarian Universalism has to offer. It was after that week that I finally understood the religion and knew how to explain it to all my friends back home who had no idea what it was. Before this experience, I never knew how to answer the question “what is a Unitarian Universalist?” Now I know that the answer to this question is simple: we are a group of people who accept everyone for whom they are; that treat the earth we live on with great respect; and that have the freedom to believe in what/who we want. This is how I answer the commonly asked question about what we are and what we represent. I believe that my definition of a UU defines us perfectly while showing all the great qualities we portray. I know that I can believe in what I want to believe in and I don’t have to hide it or pretend because my congregation wont judge me for being me.

I love how this congregation is open to all races, ethnicity, members of the LGBTQ community, and even people of other religions. Having such a diverse community in which everyone gets along so well is an amazing thing to be a part of. It provides a unique but wonderful place to grow up and to have as a part of your life. These are the aspects of my church that people judge and put down, but I know that these are our best traits. I am proud to exemplify them.

 

My name is Allysha Dunnigan and I grew up in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lynn in Swampscott, MA. I am from Lynn, MA and graduated from Lynn Classical High School this past June and am currently attending the University of Tampa. I kept busy in high school playing soccer, swimming, and softball, but also managed to attend church every Sunday with my family. I am a fourth-generation UU and proud to keep the family heritage going.

About the Author

  • Ted joined the staff of the Office of Youth and Young Adult Ministries in February 2010. He brings more than twenty years' experience using media to create social change by creating communications strategies and content for progressive non-profits, political campaigns, and cause...

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