Yesterday was the start of the official church year. It was really nice to see all our church friends after the summer break (discussed in an earlier post). Our congregation has a Book of the Month group. We mostly read books that somehow deal with Unitarian Universalism (UU). They range from the historical to contemporary. I have learned more about our/my faith through this group, then any other class I have taken through the church. We are a small, but dedicated reading bunch. Most of the books we have read are listed in my sidebar.
In an effort to make ourselves know to the larger congregation, we have set up a little book table, selling the books we will be talking about this fall and other applicable books. I was SO EXCITED to see how many people bought books. I know deep down, people are looking for a deeper understanding of UU. I can not even tell you the amount of people I talked to about the various books. Even if they don't come to the book discussion, I hope they read the books. It was also an eye-opening experience in the lack of communication between the activities at our church and people's awareness of them. Almost everyone with whom I talked with, was surprised that we had been meeting for a year! - despite the fact we were in the newsletter at least once a month. It really brought home the fact that if you don't see something in action, it is hard to take note of it.
During the second service, while I was manning the table, I had an interesting discussion with a longtime church member. I asked if he was planning on attending the service. He said that he doesn't anymore. This caught me a little by surprise as he is retired and continues to commit to teaching RE every year. His partner is also very involved in the choir. He stated that the minister doesn't really speak to him and he doesn't get much out of the service. I told him that, even though he doesn't come for the service, I am glad that he still attends the church. We (church) would greatly miss his commitment and help to the congregation.
That is where the conversation took off. He brought up the excellent point (and a point brought up beautifully in "Heretic's Faith), that, traditionally, UU is about a covenant to eachother, not to church doctrine. He is right. That is one of the reason's I was drawn to UU. I liked making a commitment to our community. A community that welcomes all that are willing to commit and support eachother. As I mentioned in my previous post about missing tradition and symbols, you don't get that in a UU church. This member noted that he has seen an increase in the UUA trying to bring about a more streamlined vision of its member congregations. Also, many people who come to UU, come with a religious background that pretty much told you what to believe and how to behave. When they start looking around the UU community, it is hard not to have that available. There is a tendency to feel that we need to develop standardized practices/traditions/beliefs, etc. But that isn't UU at heart. When I meet people who are interested in UU, I always suggest that they visit a few congregations. We all have a different feel, and it is important to find one that meets your needs.
Which brings me back to this congregant and books. While he doesn't feel the sermon's meet his spiritual needs, he has made a covenant to the people of our church (and us to him) and that is what keeps him coming back. I feel the same. But I would also add that only through active learning can we really understand UU and our own belief systems.