Searching for a Home
We have three weeks and a couple days before we leave South Carolina for good and start our journey forward in Florida. Part of this journey requires that we find a new spiritual home.
Here, we’ve been attending the literal most faith-affirming church we have come across. It’s hard for people in our situation to find a steady place of worship that is open and accepting of your faith and practices, that will nourish you spiritually and help you along you way to grow as a stronger spiritual person.
When we were starting on this path here, we were split. At the time, Erin was living a state away, and we were splitting our weekends between here and there. Here, we were attending the Unitarian Universalist Church. There, we were attending the Creation Spirituality church.
At the time, if we’d had the choice, we would have picked up our church there and moved it here, but we didn’t have that kind of option, unfortunately, and we felt stuck in a place that we felt was literally afraid of offending anyone.
All Unitarian Universalist (UU) churches are different. We tried the local one and the one a town over, but neither of them felt right. It felt like we were stuck there out of a lack of choice, not because we wanted to be there, felt welcome, affirmed, and spiritually fed. Week after week we would go and listen to their messages about social justice and broadening our educations through listening to different people speak on different topics.
The hymns were classical church hymns with a UU twist to them, but it was still a stand up, sit down, sing a song with little beat, etc. The messages were, to us, bland and uninspiring. The messages didn’t help us to feel spiritually fed. We didn’t feel the desire to make a change within ourselves, let alone the world around us. We felt as though we’d spent the last hour of our lives listening to a BuzzFeed video or some other infomercial about whatever the topic of the day was.
Yes, they accepted gay people. Yes, they accepted Pagans… But was that really it? It got to the point where we stopped going all together.
That was when we found Unity, which not only accepted us a gay women but also as pagans. The music was uplifting, it got us moving. The messages inspired change within ourselves, and the meditations helped us to connect to whatever spiritual power we felt the desire to be connected to. It wasn’t long before we realized: This was our spiritual home.
But, just like with UU churches, Unity churches are also all so different, so moving is going to mean we need to begin exploring different churches there.
And within driving distance, we have quite a few options:
- Two UU churches within 30-40 minutes
- One Unity church within 30-40 minutes
- One Center for Spiritual Living within 15 minutes
- Two UU churches just outside an hour’s drive
- Two Unity churches just outside an hour’s drive
There’s definitely more choice in Florida than there is here, and I’m looking forward to starting this journey again. The last two weeks, Erin has gone ahead and checked a coupl places out.
Last weekend, she went to the larger and more established UU of the two in the area. She said, “It’s just like the one back home. I felt like I was being lectured to about something I didn’t really need to be lectured to about by someone who was really angry about it. I ended up leaving half way through.”
At this point, Erin said she’s 0 for 3 when it comes to UU churches, and she’s not looking forward to checking any else out. She said she won’t go without me anymore. I started wondering, why is it that we don’t seem to mesh with the UU? Their principles meet with our own spiritual standards, so what is it?
I think I figured it out: it comes down to the difference between being religious and being spiritual.
Now, these two terms are not completely separate, nor are they completely inseparable. Religion is a set a beliefs shared between individuals within a group. Spirituality is the force behind religion. It’s the freedom of living without strings to hold you down. It’s the feeling of surrender to a greater journey. It’s the sense of gratitude and love and wonder that comes with simply living.
But Kel, I’m religious and I feel all those things.
Yes, I suspect that you would because healthy religion is going to lead you on a path to a more spiritual and free life. And that, right there, is where I think the UU churches, or at least the ones I’ve been to, seem to struggle.
There is a lot of unhealthy religion out there in the world that attempts to control people through fear and hate and violence. There are a lot of people out there who have been wounded by those bad religions, and many times they go unhealed because they don’t know where to begin.
But here’s the thing: behind the bad religion is a story of spiritual peace and freedom. It is perfectly possible to look beyond the dogma to the real Truth, which could, I believe, help many people heal from the hut and pain that was caused by those bad religions, but it takes time and it takes being unashamedly unafraid to stand up and actually talk about it.
And it’s not easy to talk about a Higher Power when so many have been hurt by the words of failing humans who just missed the mark like the rest of us. It’s easier to say, “Well, if the God they believe in is going to say and do the things that they say and do, then I’m just not going to believe in that God.” It’s easier to put God or the Gods in a box and put that box on a shelf in a dark room in the back of our brain.
And then, it’s really easy to get upset when people come around and talk about God. “I don’t want to hear about that. That hurts me, and I don’t want to mess with it.” And I get it. I was hurt by the Christian church when I came out many years ago, and it’s taken a long time for me to be able to step back and realize that the Higher Power isn’t in the words that people say or the things that people do that hurt me. Hell, the Higher Power isn’t even in the words in the book. It’s beyond that. It’s deeper than that. It’s greater than a few thousand translated pages.
That is where, for Erin and myself, the UU churches we’ve been to seem to fail. They are catering to a population of people that have placed God in a box, and maybe they’ve kept the box to themselves instead of locking it away, but they are definitely not sharing their box with everyone else because the God in the box of others may be completely different or it may be locked away, and it’s better to just keep our box to ourselves instead of trying to bridge or even unpack our boxes… to look at the Truth beyond the rituals and words.
In a spiritual home, we were desperate to hear a message that spoke to the box we’d placed our Gods in so that They could come out into this world and we could worship openly without the fear that we would offend someone with our unyielding faith. When we were at the UU, the conversations were all extremely humanist.
We, as humans, have the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, and we don’t necessarily need the help of a Higher Power that may or may not exist. Services there caused us to feel like we needed to box up our Gods and place them in storage while we listened to a lecture on a system of beliefs that was more informational than inspiring or spiritually nourishing.
But coming to Unity, we felt our boxes unpack and our connections return. The beautiful thing about the local Unity church is that their principles, while not as specific as those of the UU, are essentially the same, but they are unashamedly theist, which is what we needed.
We are not humanist. We have no problems with people who are, and for those that are, we fully believe that the UU is a fantastic and wonderful place to go. We are theist, and we are unashamed of it. I had such high and wonderful hopes for the UU churches in Florida as a possible place for us to call home because just like all UUs are different, all Unity churches are different, and just because we found our spiritual home here at Unity does not mean we will feel it there as well.
We are, of course, going to give them another shot once our entire family is there and school is back in session, but a humanist meeting place is not the place for a couple of theists. But this is part of the journey to finding a spiritual home: trying different places more than once, going back again and again to places we enjoy until finally, we realize we haven’t left in awhile, so this must be home.
And where ever that place may be in Florida, I am looking forward to getting there.