This past Sunday I did something I had not done in about a decade: I went to church. No, it wasn’t a wedding or a funeral. It wasn’t even a special kind of service.
To some this is a regular event, but I am an atheist. My husband is an atheist. My children have never been exposed to church teachings.
Today, we all piled into the minivan and attended the local Unitarian Universalist church service. My six year old has never even attended a church service before and never had a christening. My 12 year old would not have remembered the few weddings that she would had attended as an infant.
What got us here in the first place was perhaps a bit of curiosity and a feeling (on my part) of trying to better involve ourselves with our community. We have lived in this neighborhood for 9 years and never really integrated ourselves, other than with school events. Both my husband and I have driven past or nearby this church almost everyday and wondered what this denomination meant, but never bothered to find out.
Last year, however, my interest was piqued when I discovered two anomalities (to me) at this location:
- It was this congregation that hosted the annual Hallowe’en haunted house event in the town
- There was a rainbow flag flying high at the front of the building
I realized then that perhaps this was not the normal, everyday, run of the mill type of congregation.
I did a bit or research on the website and found that all were welcome here: atheists, agnostics, people of any faith, or people of no faith. I read that this church was one of acceptance and inclusion, unlike the ones I had been raised in which seemed to want to send my damning soul to Satan for every misdemeanor.
Maybe this wasn’t a bad place, after all.
I was raised in the church but I’ll be honest, I’ve never felt like I belonged there. I’ve visited various denominations and witnessed their various ways of following church teachings. None of them have ever attracted me nor made me actually want to return for more. I’ve never felt filled with anything after leaving a sermon.
Sunday was very different from any other church I had ever visited. The sermon encouraged inclusiveness, acceptance of others, tolerance, and liberalism. Very little mention of God or Jesus, and no mention of hellfire. Candles were lit by members who wanted to share their sorrows, their joys, or their good news. The choir sang beautifully in Hebrew, in German, and in English.
Now my friends in other churches would say (and have said) that this is no church at all. That this is not even Christian. But I beg to differ. Here were people coming together to celebrate each other in peace, in love, and in unity. They discourage violence or intolerance of any kind. They provide assistance for those in need in the community. Isn’t this what being Christian was supposed to be all about?
As I have been out of the church going mood for quite some time, it’s unlikely that this will be a weekly event for us. But I do know that if I ever feel the need to surround myself with people of tolerance in a spiritual setting or if my children would like to have more of a religious experience, it’s good to know that there is somewhere I would be comfortable recommending to them.