The communities where we live and work and go to school are constantly changing. The nation and the wider world is constantly changing. There is so much that we do not control. We face everyday challenges as we go through the various phases of our own lives and the lives of family and friends. And in these challenges there are many opportunities for us to stretch and grow.
I grew up in the UU church, All Souls in Washington, DC. It helped to shape me. In my younger years I was skeptical about organized religion. It was my belief that we don’t need to go to church to be good people, and there was no guarantee that people would be better because of church.
Somewhere along the way, my attitude changed. My appreciation for what the church had given to me deepened and I wanted to give back. The more I got involved, the relevancy of the church in people’s lives and in the wider society became more apparent. I started to see churches as critical centers of community life that tend to important individual, family and community needs. The church is where we mark certain cultural and life transitions: child dedications, graduations, marriage, anniversaries, and celebrations, caring and memorials when life comes to an end. It is where we bring our joys and sorrows and know that we are not alone.
In addition to my own lived experience, I had an interesting window that helped to shift my understanding. Most Sundays I attended services with my mother. We processed sermons together and attended meetings. She was usually the first person I called to bat around some new ideas or to make sense of confusing feelings. At the same time, my daughter was being raised as UU. I was seeing church through three generations at one time.
When my mother retired from teaching, the church community became more central to her life. There she could find people she loved, inspiring messages from the pulpit, music to soothe the soul. She could count on our church for continued intellectual engagement, and being active in a caring community contributed to a healthy emotional life.
At one point, I became evangelical in my belief that everyone needs to belong to a church. I wanted to shout from the rooftop, everyone needs to belong to a church, no matter what church it is! There are things that are essential to our lives and churches are perfectly suited to be centers that contribute to quality of life for each of us.
Recently, someone shared that they joined a UU church, after the last election. They found us on the internet and knew they had found their people on the first visit. There are many others who are in need of sanctuary, community or safe harbor in a troubled world. The program year is well underway and the next election is approaching Let’s keep building healthy ministries and be ready to welcome newcomers.
Paula Cole Jones
Interim CER Congregational Life Staff