I imagine my audience when I write. I see both of you hunched over your computers, your faces illuminated by the screen, your jammies a wee bit askew. You, my mother, are reading this with a New Yorker in your other hand, and another window in your computer open to the Metropolitan Opera schedule.
As for the other you, you are harder to imagine.
Sometimes you are pumping your fist and shouting encouragement to me. Sometimes you are scratching your head and weighing whether this time couldn't be better spent doing a crossword puzzle. On good days you are an adorable couple I married, sharing a couch and laughing. On bad days, you are my former seminary professor banging your forehead on a Greek lexicon praying I never mention you by name.
More days than I care to admit, I forget you are there and so am shocked when we run into each other and you say, "That chocolate frosting, fake orgasm post made me giggle." I am momentarily confused and wonder, "Did my Mama tell you about that?"
But here we are, the three of us, and my Mama is nervous. She has considerable trepidation about this brand new thing I have been hinting at. She doesn't trust you not to barrel over me with what you want out of it. And after all these years she is still surprised by me on a regular basis. So I think this will all be easier for the lot of us if I just do this now.
Look, Mama! Let's save up and go to THIS for my birthday this year.
That'll keep her busy for awhile so you and I can talk.
You: Stop with the smoke and mirrors. What is this brand new thing you keep muttering about?
Me: I would like to be part of a multi-faith, inter-generational experiment in worship and community. No one has created one that I feel meets my admittedly unique needs, so I am creating one. Maybe for five months. Maybe for longer. I hope to put music, philosophy, theater and mother nature in a bag, shake vigorously, and see what comes out.
You: How many times have you told me you don't feel like you can be yourself in parish ministry?
Me: Daily. Sometimes hourly.
You: So how is this different?
Me: First of all, this is not a church. It is not a static place - we will be on the move. It is not tied to one tradition - unless it is the tradition of American free-thinking and a quest to be in a community where you can be honest about your beliefs - even if you are not certain what they are yet.
Secondly, I greatly respected the churches I served and morphed as best I could to meet their needs. This time I am creating something that fits my... ummm... rambunctious spirituality, less than subtle personality, and insatiable desire to try new things.
My partner keeps describing it as "low to the ground." (More on the secret partner later.) We experiment. We adapt. We experiment some more. My personal goal is not to begin an institution nor replace an institution. My goal is to try something new, exciting, and challenging without daily meetings.
Thirdly, no mornings, no mortgage, no set liturgy. For awhile you'll have to bring your own deck chair just in case. There will be LOTS of laughs, music, potlucks, asking big questions, meeting new people, in depth discussion, going places we've never been, learning how to be ourselves without being defensive, and commenting on the brilliance and excessive beauty of the children in our midst.
Finally, I would never allow myself to take so much risk in a church that I could unintentionally bring about its failure. As this is not a church, a fellowship, a synagogue, or any other outlet of an established religion - our shared responsibility is only to each other and Richmond. No beloved institution becomes endangered if we change early and often.
In this endeavor, a failure to thrive is not failure. I can live with this not working out. In a brand new thing the only failure to fear is the failure to risk.
You: This sounds pretty Unitarian Universalist to me.
Me: I am a Unitarian Universalist without a doubt, and this endeavor is shaped by my upbringing and daily adherence to that religion. But you know how at some point you walk your own path that is not in the opposite direction of your upbringing but is different?
You: (Blank stare.)
Me: This is imagination at work. I feel much more comfortable taking the risk of people thinking I am over the top than I am having people judge an entire faith tradition based on what comes from my mouth.
There are two excellent Unitarian Universalist congregations in the Richmond area (First and UUCC). They provide religious education for all ages, worship, pastoral care, buildings with roofs, choirs, staff, newsletters, websites, and almost countless activities practically every day of the week. They are full of great people and have been consistently serving liberal religion in this city for decades. If you are looking to join a UU church, to grow in a community with extensive history, or to go to services that are consistent in time/place/ and general content, they are where you go.
If, instead, you are a rebel, a risk taker, opinionated, creative thinker, loud laughing, march to your own drummer, lover of philosophy, unaffiliated, can't get up before 11 AM, afraid lightning will strike you if you go into a house of worship, hope lightning will strike if you are forced to go into one, or just like to watch lightning... you might want to give us a try. Or if you are none of these things but have been ticked off ever since your last birthday because you haven't tried anything new...
You: I hear your mama coming.
Me: Hi, Mama! Have you read about THIS??? (Ok, thanks. But we gotta' hurry. She looked suspicious that time.)
You: Well, I guess the most obvious next questions are: When? Where? And Who"
Me: SUNDAY, AUGUST 14th at 5 PM
I have a verbal agreement on the rental space but want to be sure before I post the fun and surprising location here. Hint: It is in Southside, in the Richmond city limits, and I was guaranteed that services of any kind are a rarity there. It is also a landmark in peril.
Our goal is to meet there the 14th, 21st, and 28th. Then we will have a better idea of who you are and what we want to try next. Maybe we become a 21st century reimagining of the French Salon. Maybe we become a babysitting collective. Or a singles group. Or a hiking club. I wasn't planning on any of those but I am making myself be in the moment on this.
On the 14th I'll be there wearing whatever the heck I feel like. I suggest you do the same. My partner will be there and will be named at that time. And NO, my partner is not a hand puppet, nor a volleyball with a face, nor a ghost. For those of you who are getting a creepy hippie vibe off of this - my partner will cure you of that. We manage to be complimentary opposites. There is a method to my madness and it is my partner.
We are currently calling this group, gathering, series of events: Winding River _________. We can't put the third word in until we meet you and decide whether we are a collective, a chance encounter, or a community. Heck, for all I know, we might end up being a band. (Now we're talking.)
To be sure that you find out everything you need to know, now would be a great time to subscribe to Auspicious Jots and "like" Jots on Facebook in the column to your right. ----------------->
If this didn't clear anything up for you, this may not be your sort of thing. Then again, maybe you should wait and meet the partner first.
As for Mama, I don't think it is her sort of thing, but she is a devoted mama so she'll be there, at least the first time. Chat her up about opera when you see her. And any assurance that you can give her that you will not be an accomplice to my arriving at my grave early would be appreciated.