Thursday, February 28, 2008

Why I *do* go to church.

A response to this extremely popular post

1. Because farmer’s markets that close at 11:30 are open for lots of hours before that. Out of bed, Hippie!

2. Because I am, at heart, an extremely self-centered person. (IMHO, you pretty much have to be to have a blog and write about yourself, your thoughts, what you’re up to, your political views, etc) Going to church on Sunday, even if I don’t attend the service and teach youth group instead, reconnects me back outside myself. I need a time each week to remind myself that it isn’t all about me, and when I get it, there is a corresponding drop in my stress level over little stuff.

3. Because my local BFF goes to the same church and after church we often get burritos together and hang out with her family. No church, no queso and no laugher ringing off the walls as ZombieKid beats up on me.

4. Because when I lived in South Carolina and was depressed and lonely, I drove 60 miles every Sunday to go to church with a minister whose preaching reallysucked. Now that I have my pick of churches within ten miles, I’m so going.

5. Because lots of the people who mean most to me in this world met me through UUism. (Katy-the-Wise, Linguist Friend and Jana-who-Creates, for starters, and lots of other people.)

6. Because I’ve made a commitment to work with the youth, a commitment that has brought me lots of joy and given me a chance to do the most fun thing in the church.

And oddly enough, people think that it is a big sacrifice and fuss over me for it.

(When people say, “You slept in the youth cabin this retreat? You’re so brave!”
My stock response is “Yeah, last night we stayed up until 2:00am listening to Queen and talking about boys. And sometimes I let them do what THEY want to do...”)

7. Because the UUs I’ve known, even the annoying ones, have done so much for other people and the world, I like to keep an eye out for things I can do to help them and help UUism.
Also, church is the one place in my life where people accost me and ask me to make sack lunches for homeless shelters, pay for English classes in Transylvania and donate to canned food drives. Am I happy to do these things? You bet! Would I end up doing them if I wasn't asked? It's unlikely!

8. Because I can sing and pray and talk to people who are making the same spiritual trip I am, though usually by a different route. UUs are often really thoughtful and cool and well-educated and while I’m sure that makes us elitist in some ways, it also means that a high percentage of us are fun to talk to.

9. Because every once in awhile, UUs will peer-pressure me into trying some sort of hippie spiritual practice and I find some real spiritual value in it. I’m thinking specifically of walking a labyrinth and meditating*, which is the sort of thing I would not ever have imagined myself finding helpful. It just is.

10. Because I feel closest to God when I am refining spiritual ideas through reason, weighing them against each other and figuring out new ways to examine spiritual issues. So my big ol' church full of different ideas and groups is perfect.

I think part of the problem is that lots of UU churches are too small. Ironically, my church has lots of stuff geared toward childless adults, I'm just too busy with YRUU to do any of it. I'm sure the petty shit that bothers Ms. Theologian happens in my church, it happens in every church, but I'm not close enough to the base of power to care.


* People, especially Christians, who get snotty about this really irritate me. If you’re upset that the UUs “stole” this practice from the Christians (who presumably “stole” it from the Greeks) you need to get a hobby or something. IMHO, if a practice works for you, you should use it. Don’t pretend you’re using it the same way other groups did if you haven’t done the work to make sure that you are, but yeah, you should do whatever helps you connect with that which is holy. Duh.


Stephanie said...

I am *really* glad it works for you. :) I had a burrito friend for several years at a UU church, and that made everything excellent (as burritos and friendship tend to do).

Comrade Kevin said...

It's hard to answer this question without being accused of sanctimony, pride, and vanity. The doctrine of embracing simplicity is now nagging away at me and I see George Fox waggling his finger, but I will indulge myself. :-)

I go for many of the reasons you have mentioned but, as you allude to, I go mostly because I want to feel as though I am making a difference in a larger context beyond my own head.

Regarding your sarcastic comment made at the end, I do apologize whenever anyone decides to play holier than thou with doctrine or unique ideas. Truth be told, many of the strategies employed by UUism, Quakerism, and liberal Protestant faiths can be employed without one having to claim ownership or copywrite. That's pretty counter-productive and petty if you ask me.

What we ought to be seeking is to find common solutions and learning from each other so that we can enrich each denomination, which I see as branches of a much larger tree in desperate need of being watered. What will work in a UU context may not work in a Friends context, but we can certainly find the commonality and tailor solutions unique to each other.

Each denomination has its own dynamic and its own unique set of challenges, but the basic outline is the same.

Aaron Sawyer said...

Great Post! I need to get lunch with friends after church and feel foolish for not thinking about that. Make it a regular thing. I LOVE "regular things."

Anonymous said...

This post just rocks.

While we UUs have a lot of problems (and just love to talk them to death) this speaks to why churches (when they work) are so awesome. Thanks for this.

Robin Edgar said...

"IMHO, if a practice works for you, you should use it."

Glad to hear that CC!

My "alternative spiritual practice" works for me and I most certainly am using it. . . ;-)

PG said...


I'd be interested in your take on this debate, since you've worked with coed youth groups (and I'm guessing by the "talking about boys," single-sex ones as well). I've never worked with a whole group of kids, only one at a time, so I cannot think of what's best for them as a group thing -- my automatic instinct is to know what works for the individual kid, which perhaps is not feasible in public education.

RandomRanter said...

I think it's a interesting challenge that faiths that do not require attendance in order to achieve/receive salvation to make the experience worthwhile. I think some congregations are better at it than others.

Elizabeth J. Barrett said...

Terrific post! I love to attend worship services at my congregation, and agree that sometimes this can be easier at a large one. Worshipping with 250+ other people gives a service such a robustness, an instant vibrancy, especially when we all breathe (sing) together. But, I've felt the spirit move at much smaller worship services, too.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you for your incredible humility around and commitment to and advocacy for UU youth ministry! it means so much to have adults like you in our congregations.