Today was my first-ever visit to a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship service, and I absolutely LOVED it!!!
Before I share that experience, let me take a moment to explain why I decided to start attending Sunday morning fellowship services.
In the past two months, I’ve read so much about climate change, ocean acidification, and the mass extinctions currently underway, that I’ve made some permanent shifts in my life, and searching for a local community of environmental activists has been one of the changes I’ve undergone.
One group I now follow online, via newsletter and Facebook feeds, is 350.org. This organization is led by Bill McKibben, and I became aware of his group after hearing him speak the night before the Climate Change March in New York City in September 2014. Naomi Klein also spoke at the Talk Before the Walk, which you can view here if you’re interested. I’ve been reading Naomi Klein’s most recent book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate, and fortunately, I came across this video, in which she discusses and summarizes parts of her book.
Bernie Sanders also spoke at the Talk Before the Walk, so this video was doubly interesting to me for that reason. Like many liberal progressives who support socialist safety net programs for the poor and disenfranchised, the elderly and the disabled, and children from all walks of life, I’m in love with Bernie Sanders. I want to make this t-shirt for myself, after I discovered this design online —
I just adore Bernie so much. I have two brothers who are in love with Donald Trump, who would love to see Donald Trump in the White House, and my husband has several close friends who also love and support Donald Trump. I understand why the mainstream media is focusing so much on his campaign — since, from where I stand, he is definitely the most talked-about and beloved Republican candidate among people I associate with, my family members and oldest friends — and then here I am, on the other extreme, in love with Bernie.
Regardless of how deeply divisive politics can be, I love my family and friends, and I don’t ever like to fight over political views. The biggest reason I watch the PBS NewsHour is the lack of vitriol expressed on that program. Anchors and guests must all follow a code to be civil and calm, no matter how high their passions might run. I will never know everything about how the world works, but one thing I do know about anger is that rage is rooted in fear, and it’s hard to find truth in fear. Fear bends people, puts them into survival thinking, makes them see threat and danger instead of opportunity and grace — and truth needs the opposite to thrive. Truth needs courage, and fearlessness — and anger and rage don’t often foster that kind of dialogue.
Fear is useful though — I would never say fear and anger don’t serve a purpose. But in journalism, I need level-headedness and calm, so I can come to my own conclusions about issues. I need peace to weigh facts, take in new information, and sift through my own emotions on difficult subjects, rather than have a news anchor express their own angry feelings while delivering a broadcast.
So this is me right now — worried about climate change, wanting to join up with people who are also deeply worried about climate change, but when I checked Meetup.com, there were no local climate change groups for me to join.
I thought about starting my own climate change group on Meetup.com, since I run an authors group called Writers and Scribblers that people use Meetup to find.
Then I thought — wait! — there is a Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Durango. They fly a gay pride flag outside their building, have a beautiful wooden facility, with a tall ceiling and lots of light streaming in, big cushy chairs, an altar where a flame burns — I’d been in this building once before, for a book signing hosted by Maria’s Bookshop last November, so I decided to check out their website.
The following is printed right on their homepage:
Welcome to the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango
“This congregation has had a successful history of lay leadership, thriving as a home for open and welcoming liberal religion. Here is a place where both newcomers and long-timers alike can worship, experience spiritual growth and learning, and strive to make our world a better place. As a living tradition, we are encouraged and expected to be the arbiter of our own beliefs, and this congregation is a good illustration of that, as we include liberal Christians, neo-pagans, natural theists, atheists, agnostics and Buddhist practitioners.”
Any spiritual group that embraces agnostics and atheists and pagans — accepting of all — is definitely my kind of group! And the fact that this congregation wants to help “make our world a better place” — well, that sounds exactly like the kind of group I was looking for.
This morning’s service focused on race and racism, and the Black Lives Matter movement, and the history of privilege in the United States. In her address to the assembly, Reverend Katie Kandarian-Morris quoted James Baldwin, and Ta-Nehisi Coates, and gave a brief history of the origin of “Jim Crow” as a label for segregation — and I felt such amazing peace and contentment and happiness, being present in a place full of people who are thinking about, and discussing, such subjects together.
During one part of the service, people were invited to come to the front of the room to share their joys. At another time, children were invited to come to the front of the room to hear an address delivered just for them. After the service, everyone was invited to gather outside and talk freely, and then we were all invited back at 11:30, after a half-hour break, to share our reflections on Reverend Katie’s address.
I met a woman named Barbara, and a woman named Norma, and also chatted briefly with a woman named Donna who is married to a local author I’ve met at the library before. A woman named Kathleen mistook me for a college student, and wanted me to join the youth group — but I am 35, long past my college days, and my Writers and Scribblers group meets at the same time of the month as the youth group.
Everyone was so friendly, and open, and kind, and hearing people share their individual joys, and express their own thoughts and feelings on race and racism, brought me the same peace and contentment as Reverend Katie’s wise words.
I also drew a great deal of comfort from the fact that Reverend Katie is a woman. Women’s bodies are sacred to me, most especially because we are all created — at great personal cost — inside the womb of a female body, and I love hearing and seeing women in leadership roles, especially when they are guiding spiritual groups.
I took home a membership packet, to learn more about joining this Fellowship, and plan to return next Sunday. Anyone local who would like to join me — please let me know! The services start every Sunday at 10:00 a.m. and the building is located right in town. As the webpage for this organization makes clear, everyone is welcome. It’s a place of peace, curiosity, and openness, and I’m looking forward to going back.