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Congregation's Welcome Has Changed Lives
I've been a member of Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, NH, since the fall of 2000. But the day that I first walked into church was a major struggle for me. I didn't want to be in a church that day; it was the last place I ever wanted to be. My partner Gary Finger, was asked to play the piano for a service and it was the first public solo he had done in over fifteen years. I needed to be there to support him.
As a gay man coming from a Baptist background, my experience with "church" wasn't a positive one. How could people be Christian and yet pass judgment on me and declare that my love wasn't real? Because my lifestyle was different from their "norm," for many, I wasn't worth associating with.So I resolved never to belong to a church again. Why did diversity have to be this thing that some people hated so much?
I had no idea that I was a Unitarian Universalist (UU).The first day I attended a service at the Manchester UU church, I spent the service sitting in my chair and crying. Here was a community where George Smith could be Jean Smith and feel safe. This community gave Jean the confidence and the courage to transform herself into the butterfly that she is today. Today George no longer exists. Jean now lives full time in his place and does it with pride and conviction.
The day that I sat in the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester for the first time there were other gay couples sitting in this sanctuary as well, and they were holding hands, arms around each other, free to worship as a couple. The opening words of the service said exactly what I had always believed, what I had been hoping for. Seeing that openness and support instantly melted the wall that I had built against church and organized religion.
I didn't want to be in church that day, it was the last place I ever wanted to be. Sometimes you don't have to go looking for things, they come looking for you. I'm clear that I was supposed to be in this particular church that day, you see.
Today I'm a Youth Advisor for Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester. Do you think my former church would have ever entrusted the well being of their youth to an openly gay man?
The first day I came here I fell in love with this church. Each week that love grows deeper. I've become friends with some truly enchanting individuals, and this church has become a second home for me. It holds my second family.
I didn't want to be in church that day, it was the last place I ever wanted to be. And for the rest of my life I will remember it as one of the best things that ever happened to me.