“As Unitarian Universalists, we believe that all people should be free to choose their own spiritual path….”
October 27, 2019, 10 AM
I ran into the lower level entrance of this church while rain poured down in sheets. The parking lot filled up as I followed a few others to hang my coat and umbrella in a side room. I followed them again upstairs to the sanctuary area. I’m not sure they call it that but it was obviously the room where they conduct their services. Three official looking people sat up front on the stage area facing the congregation. I assumed correctly that the man wearing a black robe was the pastor.
A Board of Trustee member greeted us and said visitors were welcome to join the coffee time after the service. The pastor gave a few announcements, the choir sang a prelude and a few children went forward to light the chalice, a large Aladdin-like vessel. Then we stood to sing a hymn to the tune of A Mighty Fortress is Our God, but the words were: We are the earth up-right and proud; its winds are music in our mouths, in us its rivers flowing. The sun in our hearthfire; warm with the earth’s desire, and with its purpose strong, we sing earth’s pilgrim song, in us the earth is growing. The words seemed to worship creation and perhaps our place in it, while never mentioning a creator.
For the children’s time, the pastor read a Dr. Seuss book called, “The Big Brag.” It was not one I had heard before and delightful as only Dr. Seuss can be, it was also a reminder of our braggadocious culture, especially those in political power.
Another trustee gave a short talk about “why I serve,” which probably means they’re trying to fill their leadership roles at this time. If I understood correctly, they give half of their offering to a different outreach every week. That’s quite a commitment and it shows their priorities. Then it was “candles of community,” time, whereby several people came forward to light a candle. The pastor called them to come, describing why they were lighting the candle: celebrating a milestone, upcoming surgery, thankfulness for an outcome, etc. This was basically joys and concerns, but moderated and carefully worded by the pastor. After being in churches where parishioners can go “on and on” about a particular joy or concern, I felt like this was an efficient and thoughtful way to handle it.
The sermon followed, which was thought-provoking and self-reflective. He spoke about the need for more humility in ourselves, which is found between hubris and humiliation. We need to stand in the middle of these two extremes–knowing we are as good as anyone and not better than anyone. It’s a healthy self understanding, which enables us to communicate, love and serve better. In humility, we know we are both great and small. We are made for the universe and we are but dust. We are confident, but not cocky, self-assured but not self-possessed.
Then we stood to sing the closing hymn, O What a Piece of Work Are We, another modern take using an old tune. The words went like this: O what a piece of work are we, how marvelously wrought; the quick contrivance of the hand, the wonder of our thought, the wonder of our thought. Why need to look for miracles outside of nature’s law? Humanity we wonder at with every breath we draw, with every breath we draw! But give us room to move and grow, but give our spirit play, and we can make a world of light out of the common clay, out of the common clay.
Very nice. But the world of light was here long before any one of us and I suspect will be here long after we’re gone. And why can’t the wonder of our thought look for miracles outside of nature’s law? Are we confined to only what we can see or explain? If so, then are we not restricting the room to move and grow and to give our spirit play?
I’m so glad there’s a place for everyone and I’m sure this church meets the needs of many. The full worship space attests to that. However, other than the standard opening words of greeting from the trustee, no one personally greeted me. We even closed with a hand-holding benediction. Still, no one said hello. Sadly, this church FAILED the WELCOME TEST.