Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Trying Something New

On Sunday, I decided to do something I never would have considered a couple of years ago: I attended a Unitarian Universalist (UU) church service. My husband had to work on Sunday, so I used the opportunity to attend a congregation I knew he'd have no interest in visiting. Much to his credit, he didn't try to dissuade me when I told him what I wanted to do. I've had a feeling that the denomination might be a good fit for where I am now. There's very little by way of church doctrine. The focus is on humanist values and there's no doctrine about belief in God. Both atheists and believers alike attend.

What was the experience like? It felt surprisingly comfortable for me. My boys attended with me and they took to it immediately. Someone thought we were members because my boys were so social and unhesitatingly involved in the activities. I enjoyed the sanctuary with its large, numerous windows that allowed me to view the grove of pine trees and the clear blue sky overhead. These natural adornments presumably took the place of crosses or other symbols of religion. The focus of the service was on the principles of love, community, unity, and human value. The message from the pulpit didn't leave me engaged in internal debate over points of disagreement. It was a much more peaceful experience than I've had at church in sometime.

I admit it was strange to hear the name of God invoked only once from worship leaders during the entire service. And the one time the minister used God language she followed it up by pointing out a different type of language that could be used if one wasn't a believer. I enjoyed the fact that the minister who led the service was a woman. Given my own faith tradition, I felt surprised that the men in the audience looked so comfortable listening to a woman preach and half expected them to stand up and object. It felt refreshingly affirming of women.

My husband has asked why one would even bother attending a church if he or she is agnostic or an atheist. However, it actually makes some sense to me. If I were to fall into one of these categories in the future, I could see myself wanting to attend a church, particularly a UU church. It provides a community of individuals with similar values with whom you can develop friendships and find support. It also gives you an opportunity to meditate on what matters to you and to live out your values within a community where a greater good can be achieved. And if you have children, you may appreciate having a community such as this in which to raise them.

It's interesting to me how some individuals respond to doubts about their faith by retreating from faith communities, others by clinging more tenaciously to their religion and doctrines, and others by finding different faith communities. I guess I've done a little of all three. We all have to find our own way. I'm wondering what you have done and how well it has helped you along in your journey. And I'm interested in knowing if anyone has ever attended a UU church?


  1. I have not. At the time I looked at one there would have been….difficulties…in implementing such a visit within my home life. My wife would have been unhappy, and would not want to explain to the kids why I was going to a different church.

    As my social life filled with other activities, the desire to attend a church, even a UU, has regressed. On the rare occasion, I still attend a church (I still LOVE Christmas Eve services of any sort—call me a softie *grin*) and while I immensely enjoy re-connecting with the people there, I am also starkly reminded why church does not suit persons like me.

  2. I have attended a Quaker meeting with my family. I liked it OK (I attended as a child, and my mother is a practicing Quaker), but my wife was not enthused, as it did not "proclaim Christ." I have thought of visiting a UU church, but never have the gumption to go, rather than doing other things around the house on a Sunday morning. Timely post, as my wife is out of town this weekend and I was thinking of visiting somewhere. I suspect the inertia thing will kick in again though...

    As DagoodS wrote, I haven't had a hard time finding other things to fill my time (and find great joy in having the freedom of time to do so). If my wife was interested in attending with the family to enjoy community together, that might be different, but I guess I don't have the interest level by/for myself.

  3. DagoodS,
    Yes, when you have a family, decisions about church attendance are often not easily made on an individual basis.

    So, it sounds like your kids still have no idea you're an atheist then?

    I wondered, as I sat through the UU service, how comparable it was to Quaker meeting. I have a colleague who is Quaker, but I've never attended.

    Like I said in my post, I can't imagine my husband ever going to a UU church, but I think I can actually fit in attending the UU church after our own church services. My kids are actually asking to go back, primarily because there is a service project one of them wants to complete there. We can't do it this week, due to my son's chess tournament, but maybe the week after. Of course, I still need to discuss this with my husband. (So if you're reading this, remind me to discuss it with you!)

  4. One of the most influential people in my life was my one grandfather. His formative years were in a UU church. I didn't know this until near the end of his life, at the age of 100, just a few years ago.

    If there was a UU church here I'd probably check it out. There is a small congregation about 30 minutes from here but so much of my life was spent 30 minutes from here and I'd rather stay here now. :-)

    Grandpa did believe in "God" but never with dogmatic attachments. He believed in a generic way, that there is a "God" but all people believed in that "God" differently and that that was okay. The only time I ever heard him talk about God is when his granddaughter would ask him if he believed in God. *grin*

  5. Hello! Glad you stopped by! I visited a UU church about a month ago and was surprised by how much I loved it. It was the only place that I've been so far (I've been doing a church hopping project) that I felt would not condemn my current state of unbelief. Although I've not decided yet where I stand spiritually, I'm already mourning the potential loss of a church family if I end up as atheist- the community, the support, the encouragement, the socialization with like minded people. Visiting the UU church made me happy with the thought that I could still be a part of a church family, only this one would be accepting of me no matter what doctrine (or lack of) I held onto, plus the people would continue to challenge me to give of myself to the world and stay involved (without getting naggy). I found the experience very refreshing and can see myself going back.

  6. Nice to see you here! I'll be interested to hear how your church hopping project goes. I plan to go back to the UU church soon, probably this coming Sunday.