I started working at Cedar Lane Unitarian Universalist Church in Bethesda, MD in September 2011. I vividly remember applying for the position of Administrative Assistant, having reached a clear point of desperation to leave a job where I was most certainly working for “the man” (something I have no business doing). I was at my cousin’s wedding when I received the call that I had gotten the position, and felt such a sense of relief and joy that I’d be working in a place that would (way) better align with my values and interests.
I’ve been working in a UU setting (and of course now at UUCC) since that time. And lately I’ve been reflecting on how my sense of spirituality, community, and self has evolved over the years, and how I have so many Unitarian Universalists to thank for it. All of these years of very human experiences, relationships, sermons, poems, readings, tender moments, not-so-tender moments, and yes, meetings—they’ve all shaped me, and I now don’t know who I’d be without them. And I don’t wanna know.
My recent reflection and gratitude most certainly is tied to me being raised Baptist. Raised Baptist in Vermont, of all places. So for me, that means that I grew up with a firm fear of hell… and frankly, God. We were taught that you don’t make it to heaven unless you ask Jesus into your heart as your savior. We were taught that your belief in Jesus ultimately outweighs your deeds, and that your interest in making it to heaven eclipses interest in how to live here on earth. A fear of hell seemed to swim through all aspects of the faith, as far as I could tell. And so, fear swam in me. I remember so many Sundays while driving to church with my grammie, aunt, and sister, that I’d (almost obsessively) be asking Jesus into my heart, while feeling pretty clearly that if God was all he was cracked up to be, that he’d know that it wasn’t a heartfelt act of belief. It was an act of fear, because I never believed that Jesus was my savior. And I was prettttty preoccupied with the implications of that reality. God knows I couldn’t tell my grammie! Nut uh.
So, as I look back on my Baptist childhood, and all of those unpleasant Sunday school classes, Bible camp experiences, stressful coffee hours, stifling sermons, full-length dresses and Easter hats, and all of the fear it instilled, I now recognize that it all has been largely washed away over the years. It is only a small part of me now, and usually is just a distant memory. Unitarian Universalism, and specifically the people and moments that it has led me to, has helped me grow into who I am, to learn how to embrace love as a way of being, to strive to make much of my life’s purpose about trying to embody love, rather than fear.
So, thank you UUCC, for this opportunity to learn and grow with you all. I know I’ve not been here even a year yet, and that because I started this job when the pandemic hit in March, that we still have yet to connect fully—something that can best happen in person. Yet, I am so grateful for ways I connect with you all now, and look forward to a stronger connection in the future. I look forward to continuing to be shaped by you all, and to continuing to be changed by this faith.
P.S. I wouldn’t dream of referring to God as a he at this point.