I grew up in a Methodist family that attended church, though not regularly. I learned about Unitarian Universalism in college but didn't attend. Our family moved to Springfield, Missouri where the UU church was our "neighborhood" church. Once I attended, it was as though it was where I should have been all my life. The people and the theology have met my needs and fed my soul for the subsequent 30+ years in three different UU churches.
I found that church leadership was challenging and fulfilling. A succession of positions and roles have facilitated my growth as a leader. I was also invited to teach in religious education. This provided an experience that broadened my perspective.
Finally, I found that the church helped me with what I brought to it. When I first started attending, it brought connection with like minded individuals and a theology I could believe in. Later, when I brought a young family it provided my children with a religious education program I was proud of. Now that I am an "empty nester," it provides a broad community to enhance and enrich my life.
Chet, my husband, actually found the Unitarian Universalist church when we lived in Springfield, MO, and it was literally our neighborhood church! He was smitten from the very beginning with the relaxed service and diverse congregation. I, on the other hand, decided to put my energies into religious education as I was a teacher at heart. After many years in the role of religious educator, I was asked to speak on "why I was a UU?" By this time, we had been members of three congregations all in the Southwest District and had ties to many other UU's around the country. Part of what drew me to this faith is the focus on the here and now and the commitment of individuals to live out their faith every day, plus the acceptance of the positives in all faiths and lifestyles. The close friendships and broader faith community we developed over the 35 years of connection to Unitarian Universalism have taught me that I am not alone in my journey through life and have deepened my commitment to my faith. Some of my interests in being part of our faith community have included my passion for religious education starting with our youngest in Sunday School and continuing now with welcoming new adult friends and members. My love of music and singing in a choir, that started back in the church of my youth, also draws me into an active role in our music program at Community UU and fills me with joy each time we practice and sing for services. I have found like-minded souls who are committed to their "search for truth" and who willingly celebrate LIFE with all its twists and turns. Both who I am and also who I hope to become have been welcomed and affirmed and encouraged in all three UU congregations to which we have belonged. My heart and soul are enriched and blessed through our church and my personal faith journey I know will continue on supported by friends and family both within and without our church's walls.
I grew up Catholic but had serious doubts about the resurrection and, at times, even the existence of God. I also wondered, even as a child, how anyone can claim to know that their faith is the “right” one. When I married a Protestant and had children, we attended a Methodist church sporadically, but none of us embraced it. When our daughter was eight years old, she started saying that we should be attending church every Sunday, even though she complained vehemently whenever I suggested going. Her friends at school talked about their churches, and she needed a religious identity.
I’d had several friends tell me over the years that my beliefs would fit well with the Unitarian Universalist church, so I decided to look into it. I found Community UU Church in Plano, conveniently located for us. We visited for the first time two years ago, and I instantly felt welcomed, at home, and never pressured to make commitments before I was ready. It’s small enough to not feel lost in the crowd; the people are friendly, supportive, and respectful, even when they don’t share your beliefs; the sermons are insightful; and there are fun activities for the whole family. I’ve enjoyed singing with the First Friday Folksingers and teaching the children in RE. The UU teachings help me confidently answer my son’s tough questions despite my lack of knowing “What is God?” and “Which came first, God or people?” without feeling hypocritical. My daughter has thrived here, playing the piano during services and having lead roles in plays. The friends I’ve made here and our pastor, Reverend Price, were such a blessing during some difficult life events. I know that I am now where I was always meant to be, to help me and my children on our spiritual journeys.
I was "saved" as a Baptist. When I found the teachings too rigid, judgmental and even contradictory, I went to the Presbyterian Church where I found a more intellectual interpretation of scripture. In time as a Sunday school teacher, I found some bedrock beliefs that I could not logically defend. I have always had a dogged refusal to just "go along and get along." To thine own self be true and for my peace of mind, I had to find another way, another church that was open to exploring spirituality from the perspective of science, other religions and rational philosophical discourse as well as from a Christian perspective. There seemed to be no such organized religion out there and I found myself turning away from organized religion in general.
One day a friend said that being alone is just not good for any person's spirit. A sense of community is fundamental to mental and even physical health. So I tried again. This time I searched on line. In true 21st century fashion, I "Googled" the issue. A site called "Belief-O-Matic" came up and after taking the test I was told I was 99% Unitarian Universalist. Who would have thunk it? I came to Community UU due to proximity and found a welcoming congregation not just open to but actually encouraging exploration of a variety of moral constructs and perspectives. Even better, I found a true acceptance of others, whatever race, creed or color. I found a religious home that nourishes me and helps me to grow without requiring a litmus test of belief to separate the saved from the infidels. We are all God's children and at Community UU they practice what they preach and sincerely welcome one and all.
Wendy and I grew up in traditional Christian churches where we followed our parents to the pew every Sunday, as we were told to do. We were uncomfortable with some of the main principles: this is what you should believe and everything else is wrong. Questioning authority or scripture was just not an option. It felt very exclusive. But that was all we knew and we didn’t know there were other options. As we grew older, we both drifted away from this system and belonged to no religious community.
Over time we read other religious and spiritual texts and our eyes were opened to many positive thoughts, ideas, and values of other religions and spiritual beliefs. After doing some online searches, we saw that Unitarian Universalism was a religion that welcomed people like us who were searching for our own truth. The more we read about UU, the more it resonated with our core beliefs. As the birth of our first child approached, we decided it would be good for us to give church another try, so we sought out a local UU church and found Community Church in Plano.
Within the first five minutes of walking into Community Church, we knew we had found our new church home. Everyone was very welcoming to us, the service was very meaningful, and Rev. Price’s sermon was relevant, personal, and thought-provoking. We weren’t spoon-fed what to believe, but rather provided an opportunity to think about the topic presented and determine our own truth. It’s very freeing to be in a church environment where we are “allowed” to believe certain aspects from many different sources. And we may believe differently than the person sitting next to us – and that’s OK!
Wendy and David Hanenburg