As a Peace Corps volunteer in my mid-twenties, I was in Nepal teaching English as a second language for two years. When my Peace Corps term ended, I received a one-way ticket home, and was allowed as much travel time as I wanted . . . I took six months travelling through India on third class trains, the Middle East, and Europe. I encountered other religious and spiritual paths to climb up Life’s mountain, in addition to the one I had climbed in my Lutheran Church:
Hinduism and Buddhism in Nepal and India
Islam in Iran
Judaism in Israel
Eastern Orthodox Catholicism in Greece
Roman Catholicism in Italy and Spain
When I got home, I returned to my family’s Lutheran Church where Gary and I were married 44 years ago. We both had discovered Unitarianism when we were in college. Gary would drive from Bowling Green to the Unitarian Church in Toledo to hear Waldermar Argo, the minister from the late 50’s to early 70’s. I would take the bus up High Street from Ohio State to the Unitarian Church in Worthington. So soon after we were married we decided to visit First Unitarian Church of Cleveland.
Like many new members, we attended service regularly and became very involved in church activities. Susan and Jack were born in 1972 and 1974. They began in the crib room and participated in the RE program. When they were three and five, I returned to my life as a high school counselor and eventually became a school psychologist.
But I still SHOWED UP regularly on Sunday mornings for the INSPIRATION of the Worship Services, attended other church events and our family celebrated holidays with our First Unitarian friends in each other’s homes.
I now want to share with you “Why I’m STILL here?” When I was working in schools, they were my primary communities, but I always knew that when I retired, OUR CHURCH would be MY BELOVED COMMUNITY, which it has been and will continue to be. That is why I am wearing a t-shirt that SAYS SO instead of being dressed in my Sunday best. I got the t-shirt this past July when Gary and I attended the Southeastern Unitarian Universalist Summer Institute (SUUSI) with 1300 other UUs at Radford University in Radford, VA.
BELOVED COMMUNITY was the theme of this year’s SUUSI. BELOVED COMMUNITY makes me think of our church’s “Ingathering” Worship Service this year. Daniel’s and Bethany’s homilies contained precious words:
REASON WITH COMPASSION
LOVE OF TRUTH
TRUTH OF LOVE
FULL WEEK FAITH and POWER RELEASED THROUGH ME.
What I treasure most in our “BELOVED COMMUNITY” are the FRIENDSHIPS I have had, the ones I have now, and the new ones that occur by attending SUNDAY SERVICES, being a member of the Lay Pastoral Care Team, belonging to the “What Next” and “Poetry” Covenant Groups, and participating in our congregation’s projects, events and celebrations.
Since we Unitarian Universalists are free to develop our individual concepts of God in the context of our UU core values, the brick I contributed to the border of the Perma-Culture Garden says “God is Love”. That is why I’m STILL here! I’m free to be who I am and share what I believe.