Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Rules for Church

Just because we are creedless doesn't mean we are rule-less. There are a few simple rules to being a Unitarian Universalist church member, or at least there should be. Here are a few that come to mind off the top of my head in no particular order...

* Try to sing along. Hymns are not about performance, perfection, or complete agreement with the lyrics or key signature. We sing hymns to lift up collectively ideas, questions, hopes, inspiration. The service is not about the service leader, it is about the congregation. Singing is one of the things the congregation does to lend its voice. Even when the voice is off-key.

* Look around and say hi. This isn't the opera or the movies. If you come to a church, the people around you are THE CHURCH. Check them out. Say hello. And if they look unfamiliar, start up a conversation.

* Your book addiction is encouraged here. Are you constantly interested in learning new things? Do you have multiple library cards, an Amazon account, and are on a first name basis with all the new and used book sellers in town? We are only going to encourage you in these efforts.

* Whine about money at your own peril. If you have some savings and are able to pay your normal living bills each month with money left over for movies and eating out, you are better off than almost every UU church I know. There is no amorphous "they" in a church spending "your" money. If you want to deny your friends' children new curricula and well-lit, well-heated areas to learn and play at church, then look those little kiddies in the eyes and say so. Otherwise, take part in the process to make your church successful in its mission.

* We are pretty free and easy on the dress code, but show some respect. The guy in the tie is always easy to spot, and we think he's cool for being a rebel. The guy in the "Bite Me" shirt, well, not so much.

* Church ain't no secret. Talk to your children about their classes and services you attended. Talk to your friends about ideas and questions that came to you during the service. Talk to other church members about theological and philosophical questions you have. And practice the name, it's tricky. Uni-tar-i-an Uni-ver-sal-ist. The order does matter.

* Admit ignorance. There is this faulty assumption that you have to be part of a brain trust to be a UU. Not at all. What I know as a UU I found out by asking the greatest question of humankind: Huh? You aren't going to hurt this church by asking questions. Just be prepared to get a variety of answers on some things.

* Come back. We aren't perfect. Someone will forget to say hi. Someone will wish you a peaceful solstice, forgetting that you are a practicing UU Buddhist. You'll come to a service that doesn't move you. These are normal parts of church life. But we keep coming back. And we strive to be gentle and honest with one another in ways that are not well-modeled in the rest of society.

Church isn't a gathering of people poised on the edge of perfection. It isn't a movie or a sitcom whose purpose it is to make you happy and comfortable. Church isn't always easy. But then again, neither are you. And neither am I. And yet, we are still welcome at church to share our finest hours, and our most difficult.

That is why we are not a social club, not a discussion group. A Unitarian Universalist church is a group of people of all ages who support each other through life's changes, encourage one another to spiritual depth and intellectual growth, work to improve the community we live in (and beyond), and celebrate what it means to be human in an amazing and fragile world. All of this we do in the spirit of a long and rich religious heritage and in the distant light of hope for a better future.

And with a few rules.


Lizard Eater said...

Love this!

Jess said...

This is so fabulous! Thank you so much for writing such a fantastic, community-building list.

Earthbound Spirit said...

I wish I'd written this. I especially like the piece on finances - and respect. Amen, sister.

Will said...

This is great, Rev. And congrats on all the UU Blog awards. Yer making quite a name for yourself--


Lyndi said...

I love this. I think a lot of UU churches are struggling to even be seen right now. I think if people could really believe what you wrote we would have a much different story. Glad to have stumbled upon your blog. Keep up the good work.