Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Testimonial by Barbara for Capital Campaign >”Building the Beloved Community”<
November 9, 2012, 10:32 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Good morning – I’m Barbara, and I originally stumbled across this place looking for religious education material for our children.  But the reason I’ve stayed for the last 15 years relates to the quality of my connections here.   This is a place where a person can end up with all kinds of connections.

For me, some of them have been very personal and healing.

Like when I was on a lay ministry retreat at a time when my personal life was in great disarray.  Without going into specifics, I felt like I was about to step off a cliff during the middle of the night.  I felt very alive, but also very distressed, scared, and vulnerable.  My emotions were turned inside out.  And as I shared this at the retreat with people I’d grown to trust, Doug said,  “Maybe we should do a laying on of hands.” I had no idea what that was, but it sounded like it might be good, and I felt safe with them.   So I said ‘okay’.  They had me lay down on the floor and they sat down and made a circle around me.  I was asked if there was some particular way I wanted to physically express myself.  After I thought about it, I decided what I really wanted to do was to yell as loud as I could – so I did.  And when I had finished yelling as loudly and as strongly and for as long as I needed – they had their hands on my head and shoulders and hands and feet, and began softly singing to me, and when the time was right they gently helped me sit back up again and join the circle.

There are all kinds of connections here.

A few years ago I had the privilege of co-teaching the OWL [Our Whole Lives] class on human sexuality to our junior high school group.  In regular school kids often learn about human reproduction, but this class is different, and very holistic. Initially the goal was to help kids just feel comfortable discussing the topic, so they could quickly get to the point where they could think and talk about things like values, elements of good relationships, listening (what a concept!), sexual orientation, gender identity, peer pressure, the media, as well as basic physiological issues.  I would have loved to have had such a class when I was a teenager.  And of course after 5 months of this, I felt connected not only with the youth, but also very bonded with the other three teachers.  It felt deeply satisfying.

Connections here span the continent.

Our youngest son, Cameron, who for a while was in the RE program here, went to the US Naval Academy.  One of a number of things that surprised and bothered him there was that on Sundays, first year plebes are given special time off  – if and only if they are going to an organized religious activity, only traditional, mainstream religious groups qualify.  He thought this objectionable and unfair, and with help from a variety of sources, including the Annapolis Unitarians, as well as our very own Roger Jones – Cameron founded NAFA – the Naval Academy Freethinkers and Atheists.  Although they’re still working on a number of issues, on Sundays the new Plebes who don’t identify with traditional religion now have an approved place to go to, as do all the midshipmen.  They are frequently joined by local Unitarians.  And freethinkers, atheists, and agnostics are all recognized as legitimate groups.  It is a big deal there.

The last vignette I want to share relates to things we experience together during Sunday services.

It is a simple story.  Doug was in the pulpit and the theme was related to social justice.  I was sitting next to Thelma — and as the service ended, the last hymn was Circle Round for Freedom.  As we sang it, strong feelings welled up inside me and tears started rolling down my face.  And when the song ended and everyone was starting to leave, I just sat there, and I looked at Thelma, who was also sitting there, and noticed she had tears all over her face, too.  So we remained there, the two of us, first feeling comfortable saying nothing, then easing into talking about the experience and our tears, how the service and music had moved us, and ending with us each giving each other big hugs.  I’ve always liked the words to the song, and feel like it relates a lot to what happens here at UUSS.

[Barbara singing, solo voice]

Circle round for freedom, Circle round for peace,

            For all of us imprisoned, Circle for release.

            Circle for the planet, Circle for each soul,

            For the children of our children keep the circle whole.

I come here to feel part of the circle.

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