The Search for a Place of Worship

…Or how Erin ended up at Unity…
…Or the differences between Unitarian Universalists and the Unity Movement from my personal experiences…
With extra details about my new gig.

The Pathway To Unity

My faith and spirituality has always been important to me.  When I was growing up, I was in church multiple times a week.  I went to services with my friends at their churches, and I went to events at my family’s as well.  When I came out, that all changed.  I fell away from the faith that I had been raised in and discovered paganism, which eventually led me to my faith as a Kemetic.

I finished my years up in high school leading small groups filled with other kids my age who were interested in paganism for various reasons.  Some wanted to stick it to their parents, and some were like me: legitimately interested.  After high school, I joined the Wiccan Pagan Student Association as the Education chair.  I held seminars on paganism to break down stereotypes on campus, and I was in charge of planning the rituals for the group.

Once I left, I didn’t have a spiritual home for awhile.  I looked around, but didn’t find anything.  I had a small group of renegades a couple of times, but nothing ever solidified.  I taught classes at one point, once a week, on various different topics to my group of seven or so, but then, like all things usually do, situations changed, and the group fell apart.

I started looking into the Unitarian Universalist church.  There were two in the area: One close to me and one not so close to me.  The one further from me had a CUUPs group, and I toyed with the idea of going to their meetings, but I never did.  Eventually, my boifriend at the time took me to the UU closer to where I lived.  The day we went happened to be a pagan ritual ceremony, and I absolutely loved it.  We started going on a fairly regular basis.

We broke up, and I left the church.  Not because I wanted to, but because my ex was there before me and I didn’t want things to be awkward.

Jump ahead a number of years, and Erin and I are looking for a place of worship.  At this point, we’re doing the long distance thing on weekends.  When we were at her place, we went to Jubilee! Community Church in Asheville.  I was skeptical about them at first because their website leaned heavy on the Christian side, but Erin assured me that they weren’t that Christian.

They called corners, but not the traditional pagan corners I was use to.  I had trouble connecting because everything seemed off from what I was use to.  There was meditation.  There were readings from the Bible.  And there was a message.  The message that really got me was when Howard Hanger quoted Joshua from the Bible with the verse, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”  He talked about the beginning of that quote that most people leave off about how Joshua says that it doesn’t matter who you serve, as long as you serve someone.  And I thought, this is awesome.  This message is the best thing I’ve ever heard up to that point in my life.

When we were here, we would go to the local Unitarian Universalist church, but the one that had the CUUPs group, as it was closer than the other at this point in my life.  Every time we went, the message was good, but there wasn’t a connection for me.  I felt more like I was in a lecture hall in college instead of a spiritual place of worship.  We would always be learning about some type of faith or some way of life, but nothing that ever made me feel closer to the divine.

We thought about going to the CUUPs group, but at the time, there was a lot of drama running through those circles (it has, as far as I know, blown over at this point), and we didn’t want to get involved.

Once Erin moved in, we were desperate to find a place that felt like home for us.  We went to the UU here and the UU that I use to go to.  We looked for another Jubilee close by, but the closest in SC was in Columbia, and that was too far of a drive.  We’d also heard their minister preach before, and while she was good and we liked her, we liked Howard better, and we weren’t sure if we could really enjoy the services and get involved without constantly comparing the two.

And going to Jubilee in Asheville was out of the question.  It was just too far to drive every weekend.  We decided to stick with the UU, but it got to the point where I felt the total lack of spirituality (because the church here is very  humanist in nature) wasn’t worth the early wake up anymore and we both ended up just sleeping in on Sundays.

With no where else to go, I turned to Facebook:  “Erin and I are looking for a place of worship.  We’ve been going to the UU for a while now, but we’re just not feeling the connection that we’d like to feel.  They’re great, but there isn’t a lot of worship going on there.  We’re more theist and they’re more humanist, and it’s just not a very good match.  We don’t care if the place is rooted in Christianity or some other faith practice, but they need to be welcoming and affirming of the fact that we’re gay and that we are Pagan.”

I got a couple of “good luck” and “I don’t think a place like that exists” responses.  A couple people offered their home churches until I reminded them about the Pagan part, and then they weren’t as okay afterwards.  “We don’t have a problem with different faiths, but I don’t think that you’ll be welcomed and encouraged to openly worship and practice your faith their.”

I understand.

And then my friend, Misha, responded, “Ivy’s mother goes to Unity.  You should try them.  They’re kinda like the UU.”

So I looked them up.  They believed in a “practical Christianity” and believed in five principles:

  • God is the source and creator of all. There is no other enduring power. God is good and present everywhere.
  • We are spiritual beings, created in God’s image. The spirit of God lives within each person; therefore, all people are inherently good.
  • We create our life experiences through our way of thinking.
  • There is power in affirmative prayer, which we believe increases our awareness of God.
  • Knowledge of these spiritual principles is not enough. We must live them.

I saw those and thought, “I agree with those.”  I watched a couple services on the computer, enjoyed them, and decided to e-mail the minister, who responded that they not only were welcoming and affirming to GLBT people, but that we wouldn’t be the first Pagans to ever attend a service either.

So we went, and we haven’t gone anywhere else since then.

The Differences

Erin and I have often talked about why we prefer Unity over other religious movements or spiritual traditions.  Unity accepts and welcomes us as who we are.  They believe that all paths, all religions, lead to God, which we also believe as Kemetics, so that is really nice.

I like to refer to Unity as the Unitarian Universalists with theism.  Now, I know that not all UU churches are super-humanist like the ones around us, but I know that a lot of them are.  They have their tenets about loving the earth and looking to earth-based spiritual paths for guidance, which creates an open door for different CUUPs groups around the country, but I’m not a “cast your circle” kind of girl, so I usually don’t fit in with their ritual styles anymore.  That’s just a personal preference.

I know the group here will have classes and meetings and different events, and we’ll sometimes go to those if they interest us, but that’s really the extent of our involvement there.

With Unity, we get that all inclusiveness that we get from the UU, but we also get a lot of prayer, meditation, song, and an understanding that God-energy does exist, which is something that I’ve found is sometimes lacking in UU circles.

On the flip side, Unity is less dogmatic than the Jubilee! movement.  I love Howard Hanger and the Jubilee community, but they are decidedly Christian.  They are multiple readings from the Bible.  They tell a story from the old testament AND the new testament every single Sunday, and while they’re open to other faith backgrounds, we never really saw them represented in services while we would attend.

I think Unity is the happy medium between the UU church and the Jubilee! Community.  It’s a place where Erin and I, along with quite a few of our friends, have been able to call our spiritual home, even though all of our backgrounds and beliefs are drastically different.

The Meeting

Which brings me to the meeting that I had with our minister this week.

We went over some ideas.  I showed him what I had planned for the month of April so far (which I’m completely changing now), and what my ideas and plans were for the future of education in the preschool and elementary and future-middle school classes.

He told me what they were looking for, and I said that was in line with what I was looking for, and then he offered to make me the Youth Education Coordinator.  I’ll be paid, and once I’m announced to the congregation, my picture will be taken, and I’ll be on the staff page.

The thing I thought was the single best part of the entire experience though?  When he asked me what my plans were for upcoming lessons, I told him that I wanted to really get into what God was and really get the kids understanding the Unity theology of God-energy.  Then he suggested that after that, I could start adding in lessons from other faiths.  He said he would love for the kids to learn about earth-centered faith practices along with Christianity, Judaism, and Islam!

This is monumental for me, and I am so flipping excited about it all that I can barely stand it.  I get to plan the curriculum for the youth at my church.  And I get to teach them about all different faiths, including my own and other earth-centered forms of paganism.  How absolutely cool is that?!?

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Posted on March 20, 2015, in Religion, Teaching and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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