Sunday, October 18, 2009

Going To Church: Check!

At 10 a.m. this morning, I suddenly remembered that we were going to try and go to the 11:30 a.m. service at the Unitarian-Universalist (UU) Church of Oakland (pictured, left). I was still in bed, reading, surrounded by purring kitties, and Terri was fast asleep next to me. I knew she needed all the rest she can get (as always) but I also knew that she really wanted to try and go to church, so I reluctantly woke her up (I opened the blackout curtains). As predicted, she rolled over and said, "Why is it so bright in here??"

We've been talking about trying to find a church for years, but things just kept getting in the way. But in the past few weeks we made up our minds to really try to get ourselves out the door on time for a service (this is quite a feat when it takes Terri a full two hours to become awake in the morning!). I was so proud of us -- even though we were unshowered and bleary, and struggling against a complete change of Sunday routine, we made it out the door and headed downtown. We were only a few minutes late.

From the very first minute we stepped in the door, it was nothing but wonderful. People were so helpful and friendly, helping us find places to sit, being kind and not at all dismissive of the latecomers. I felt genuinely welcomed. As we took our places in the small, cozy and beautiful space, the rest of the congregation were singing. Everyone looked so happy and the feeling in the room was one of warmth and welcome. We looked up at the front of the church, and saw a choir filled with multi-racial and multi-generational faces, a woman reverend, two laypersons, and a very cute couple of women holding hands and guitars. My kind of place.

I'd been to the Unitarian Church of Berkeley before quite a few times, 6-7 years ago, and I liked it, but I liked this better. Terri did not really like the Berkeley church, so I wondered how she was liking this service. As the sermon went on -- the reverend (a woman) was talking about how to reconcile a God that creates, as well as destroys, and how we reconcile tragedies that occur in each of our lives -- I felt the tears rise up. I was so moved by her words and the story she was telling. I looked over, and saw that Terri was crying as well. So I figured things were going well. We both continued crying, on and off, for the remainder of the service.

The music was really great. They had a local singer-songwriter-activist duo (the two women, obviously a couple) singing -- I think they were called Emma's Revolution. We loved them! Sort of folksy Indigo Girls-ish, the style of which I only like occasionally, but live and in such a nice setting, they sounded great and were really joyful and inspiring. The church choir sang, too -- a few different things, some gospel, a few modern hymns (I assume they are modern hymns; maybe they are UU hymns -- I have no idea. I liked them). We loved all the music.

We both felt very at home and comfortable there. Unitarians believe in many paths to God (or no God -- atheists welcomed!), so it's extremely inclusive. I think the service started out with a reading from the Bagavad Gita (we missed that part, but it was in the program). I love that. I like that we can come there with all our questions and experiences and they are all accepted, and what's more -- encouraged. This works very well for me. It's also a very liberal church -- the faces around me were of all colors (very Oakland). All orientations and genders welcome and represented as well. The focus of the last quarter of the sermon was on social justice, which is also very important to me.

I think we both had to fight the urge to sign up for membership right then and there. We felt so welcomed, and the church and congregation seemed so homey and comfortable. I felt like we fit right in, and that is not a feeling that comes to either of us easily.

It felt like a community, a real community. People of all sorts, with all kinds of beliefs, coming together to work for their own spiritual development and a better world. I can totally get behind that. Plus -- awesome music!

So, it would be an understatement to say we are optimistic and excited. We are *so starved* for social interaction and community -- it gets awfully lonely sometimes, and difficult to make plans (or to follow through with plans). We loved everything about our experience and we will definitely be going back. No 'churchiness', no guilt trips, no confusing dogma making me feel like I'm on the outside, looking in (and not really sure I'm wanting in). No Bible (this week). I also really loved that there were several same-sex couples holding hands in church. That's really important to me. I will not be a part of anything which makes me feel uncomfortable being with the person I love. So, score one (plus a lot more points) for the UU Church of Oakland!

Will report back on further services -- right now, feeling pretty great about our experience. (more about Unitarian-Universalism here, and here)


Tammie said...

wow. it sounds like it really couldnt have gone much better. im so happy for you both.

there are so many times i feel like going to church but ive had such bad experiences. my neighbors across the street go to the UU church here and i may talk to them about it next time i see them working in the yard or whatever. my family doesnt have much *community* either.

Daphne said...

It was pretty awesome. There was nothing that made me uncomfortable or feel like I didn't belong. One of the things that makes it so great is you don't have to check your brain/doubt/current beliefs (or non-beliefs) at the door. You can come with all that stuff, and work it out with people in the same boat.

We really loved it. I can't wait to go back. I think you would like it.

Barefoot_Mommy said...

That sounds so awesome! I really wish we had a church like that around here. Unfortunately here your choices are Baptist, "First" Baptist (whatever that is), Pentecostal (*shudder*), Holiness, etc... oh yeah, and one catholic church...

The closest I've come to a unitarian service was at Red Tent Temple in B-ham (a three hour drive). It's a women only thing and as the coordinator explained, "Red Tent has no religious affiliation but it is very New Age and Flarfy and we don't apologize for it." I Loved it and go to the meetings whenever possible. Can't wait to read more about your experiences!

Daphne said...

Barefoot -- that sounds like fun! I love stuff like that. I'm pretty lucky to have access to pretty much any sort of religious or secular services you could imagine. I was extremely pleased with today's experience and can't wait to go back next week!

Stefanie said...

That's so great that you had such a wonderful and welcoming experience! I have some friends who attend a UU church and invited me and James one Sunday afternoon not for a service but for a screening of a film about the evils of Walmart. It was a big crowd and everyone was very nice.