Sunday, October 25, 2009

My journey to Universal Unitarianism at First Parish Church

I was asked to deliver a talk about my journey to Unitarian Universalism at First Parish Church. Here is what I presented to the congregation:

My spiritual journey started as a young child attending services at St. Mary’s church in Beverly and I was confirmed Catholic. I became disillusioned with the Catholic Church in high school and I fell out of religious practice completely toward the end of my college years. I remember many useful lessons from the Bible like loving thy neighbor, but I continue to work on reducing my self-righteousness that was reinforced by my religious upbringing.

About 10 years ago, when Jenny and I decided to start a family, we began looking for a spiritual community for our kids. During my first service here at First Parish Church, I had my UU ahhaaa moment. I thought, church can be like this,? Open, informative, challenging, current? I was hooked. I recall the feeling of peace that I felt when I was attending services. That peace became more difficult to attain as my children grew to toddlers. I began grasping for the tranquility that our services provided and I could become frustrated when the children would not stay in the nursery or attend classes.

At that time I realized that I could create the calm atmosphere at church in my home through Buddhist meditative practices. A little over 3 years ago I began meditating at home daily. The moment I started a daily practice, my grasping for the tranquility of church was greatly reduced. But I welcomed the moments of peace between stints of sheparding the kids.

My spiritual practice involves creating a calm state of mind so that I can try to act in the interests of all concerned in any situation. This involves trying to develop a steadier mind that can recognize when the afflictive emotions, such as, anger and frustration are arising. If I am successful in recognizing the afflictive emotion and can connect with the breath I can often act with compassion. Compassion: understanding and alleviating the suffering of others, is critical to my religious practice. Most of my time in meditation is spent reflecting on what has happened in the past to cause me to become angry, and to try to envision the feelings of others when anger arises. I believe that God exists in the interconnected web of all existence and our actions either cause the web to shine brighter or dim.

We talk about these topics often at FPC when we discuss the interconnected web of all existence and compassion in human relations. These are 2 of our 7 principles, which I carry in my wallet. But, please don’t quiz me on them:)

I like to use a college analogy when describing UUs and FPC: I feel like we are all majors in UU with various concentrations in other religions. I believe that my concentration is in Buddhism. I feel uplifted and rejuvenated when we weave the Buddhist tradition into our services. I also am inspired by our sermons on Thoreau and Native American culture.
I love how this church exposes us to different traditions. The only thing that I knew about Judaism before FPC was that my mother got all the Jewish holidays off as a middle school teacher in Peabody. Now I know about many Jewish holidays and traditions as well as Hinduism and even Wiccan.

I am grateful to be able to lead the FPC meditation group. It is a time when the group comes together and deepens our spiritual practice. We work on connecting with our breath and developing our patience and compassion through positive visualization and insight meditation. I am thankful for the group energy that we create during our monthly encounters.

Ferry Beach is my most spiritual weekend of the year. It is a weekend of Meditation, yoga, dancing, singing songs around a campfire and connecting with friends and family. It is a weekend of the deepest renewal and it allows me to sustain my patience with my family for weeks afterwards.

Some of my best friendships have been established through this church. I can prove this because at least half of my Facebook friends are from First Parish. I have shared many Spiritual Parenting nights, winter solstice celebrations, Halloween parties, small group ministry meetings, auctions and Pastoral Care meetings.

I have watched members of this church take up the call to community service and that inspires me to do as much as I can in the community. Many of us gathered together to demonstrate for peace during the escalation of the Iraq war. Among my most cherished memories are the ones when we came together to cook meals for the less fortunate. I have been involved in several Monday night suppers and preparing meals for the River House or the kids for a UU coming of age weekend. There is nothing better than preparing a meal with friends, especially when you are doing it for a great cause.

I have had the opportunity to connect with many of the children in the church through teaching at our Sunday school. This will be my third year teaching. I am happy to have gotten to know so many of the kids at are church through teaching. It also helped me to appreciate the different learning styles that we have in our youth, and that fact kept me on my toes. I organized a scavenger hunt for the class last year for earth day and that was one of my favorite classes.

I have loved my last 10 years at FPC and look forward to 50 or 60 more.

1 comment:

Claudia said...

This is a beautiful read! I wish I had heard you deliver it, but still your thoughts are a gift!