I Walk Imperfectly

Visiting the Unitarians

Mon 25 January 2016 |

Today I attended a Unitarian Univeralist (UU) church service.

I was the only person there wearing a tie, and I could feel my clothes projecting my Mormon-ness. I was eventually OK with that. I'm still Mormon. I struggled not to judge some attendees as looking sloppy or scruffy. I was less OK with that, but a lifetime of conditioning isn't undone in a day.

The prelude was an instrumental piano rendition of With a Little Help from My Friends by the Beatles.

Though Mormons are known for thinking in black and white, they're nuanced when they need to be. They're nuanced on politics, where the church normally takes an official stance of non-involvement (the Prop 8 campaign being the extraordinary exception), even though Utah Mormons skew overwhelmingly conservative.

The UU service was overtly political in a way that I'm not used to seeing at church. And it was liberal in a way that I'm not used to hearing Mormons discuss openly. The theme of the day was "authority". The woman leading the "Story for All Ages" part of the service told about how she led the congregation's youth group in a civil disobedience action while at a Black Lives Matter conference in Denver last year. Part of today's collection was for SisterSong, a group whose mission is "to strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive (RJ) justice by eradicating reproductive oppression and securing human rights."

I'm not opposed to these causes, but they're also not the reason I go to church. Maybe they should be. I'm still thinking that through. I like the idea of youth being taught how to protest when something they care about is at stake. I wouldn't like it to be the focus all the time, though. My primary spiritual focus is on overcoming my own selfishness, biases, and fears so I can better help and connect with others.

Going in, I knew nothing about Unitarian rituals, or even if they had any. It turns out they do. The service began with the "lighting of the chalice" (light seems to be the central UU symbol). Various points throughout the service were marked by the ringing of a bowl-shaped bell. There was a guided meditation, followed by a minute of silence. These were comforting, though unfamiliar.

After the service, Reverend Patty invited any visitors to introduce themselves. I stood and told the group that I had been raised in the LDS church, but spent the last year learning how many of its teachings weren't true. I told them how I was in a process of trying to leave behind the bad while retaining the good, and that I was looking for a new spiritual home. As I was sitting down, I was gratified to hear Patty reiterate the point that there is much good in the LDS church. Three other men stood and shared stories similar to mine.

For postlude, the pianist played Just the Way You Are by Billy Joel.

I think I will attend Unitarian services again, but not right away. I want to try Community of Christ services with my friend Ben, and I want to check out the new Oasis group that's getting organized in the area right now.