Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Voices of the Beloved Community, #5 — UUSS worship service 10/29/12

We had a beautiful ensemble of members’ voices last Sunday, talking about how this religious community has touched their lives. This one is by a member in his early 60s who works in the environmental field and leads Buddhist meditation courses.  There are six entries here in total, including the opening words for the Chalice Lighting.

I did not come to UUSS by accident. When my wife and I arrived in Sacramento in 1988, we based our search for a place to live on three factors: work, the American River, and a Unitarian Universalist community.

We first became UUs at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Davis in 1979. We deepened our involvement at the West Hills Fellowship of Portland, OR in the early 1980’s. When we returned to California in 1982, it was to a rural town on the North Coast with no UU presence. After 3 years without a church, we moved to a larger town in the San Joaquin Valley as committed UUs in search of a religious community. As soon as we arrived, we looked up Unitarian Universalist in the phone book. I called the number. “Where do you meet? Do you have services this Sunday? What programs do you have for children?”  “We meet in a member’s home, but we’re not meeting this week – it’s Super Bowl Sunday.” With two daughters 3 and 6 years old, we decided maybe that was not the congregation for us. So from 1985 to 1988, we drove an hour each way to the UU Church of Fresno to sing in the choir and attend services.  Our girls attended religious education. The community was caring, intelligent, and deeply engaged in the affairs of the day.

So, as soon as we arrived here, we settled near the River and near UUSS. Over the years since then, our places of work have changed, but the River and UUSS have remained. They have literally “been there for us.” The River is a place to walk in nature, to allow the oaks and salmon and egrets to bear witness to whatever sorrow or frustration or joy we bring to that moment.

UUSS offers a different kind of engagement. I love that there are people here who are happy when I am sad. I love that there are people here who share their grief and fear with me when I am feeling grounded.

When we joined, I loved that there were people who were old when I was young. I was in a men’s group and a Latino awareness group called LUUNA with Frank “Paco” Winans.  Frank started offering our Day of the Dead services in 1999 and asked me to take over for him the following year. My wife and I were privileged to visit with him as he was dying in August 2005, to sing hymns to him, and to whisper in his ear as we left “Vaya con Dios, Paco.”

Now that I am old, I love that there are people here who are even older, and there are people who are much younger. I have facilitated the junior high youth group, served as a mentor in the Coming of Age program, and gotten to know children on our Annual Family Camp and through our Valentine’s Day intergenerational activity called “Special Friends.”

UUSS has also been there for our family. When our older daughter began exploring her sexuality as a teenager, she had people at UUSS to turn to with life experiences different than ours. The OWL program gave her a safe environment to learn about sexuality in a group of peers led by adults with a commitment to our youth and supported by a solid curriculum developed by our denomination. When she chose to research the HIV/AIDS crisis for a school paper, she found Steve. Steve was the director of The Lambda Center and he shared his own knowledge as well as the Center library to help her research. Steve moved on to become active in the San Francisco UU Church; The Lambda Center moved on to become the Sacramento Gay & Lesbian Center; and our daughter earned a Masters Degree in Human Sexuality from San Francisco State University. In one of her first classes, the professor asked if anyone in the class had had any positive reinforcement of their sexual identity from a religious community. Rachel was the only one to raise her hand. When she was asked about her own “coming out” for another paper, she wrote that it was no big deal – she felt in our family and in this community that she never had to “come out” in any dramatic way. She continues her involvement with the UU movement and spent the last year in the first program for young adult activists sponsored by the UU Legislative Ministry of California – as a Fellow in the Spiritual Activist Leadership Training program.  She graduated at the UUA General Assembly in Phoenix in June.

UUSS has been there for my family and for me. That’s why I plan to be there for UUSS over the long haul.

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