I came, I saw, I immediately felt at home . . .
For an audio version of this story click here:
When I agreed to do this Connections talk, Margret sent me her description of them. She suggests, for example, that we describe “an instance that was important to you, that made you feel connected or supported in this church.” And I thought, just one??? Just one instance, one story?? Holy moly, I have felt supported or connected to this place every week for years!
Here’s where it started. My family moved a lot when I was a girl. We were Presbyterians, but some years we attended a Methodist or Congregational church when no Presbyterian church was nearby. I enjoyed the music and sense of community in all these places, but by my college years, the theology made me uncomfortable.
My husband is a Recovering Catholic. He and I had basically ignored the question of a religious education for our two kids until our daughter Leah was in middle school and suddenly wanted to be part of a church and to go with her friend to Sunday school at a local Lutheran Church. My husband and I thought, “Uh oh! We have neglected this topic for too long! If someday as an adult Leah chooses to be a Lutheran, that’s fine. But that is not the kind of environment where we want her religious explorations to begin. We need to do something — and fast.”
My sister told me she really liked the Unitarian church near her and suggested I try that. So I did. I came, I saw, I immediately felt at home here. Just as my sister had predicted, I did immediately feel at home with the people, the language used, and the social justice issues that were important here — even with the theology. Right from my very first visit, UU Schenectady felt like a good place for me and my children. And hard as it is for me to believe, that was more than 20 years ago.
You see, recently I discovered that 2016 is my 20th anniversary of being a member here. Yup, 20 years and God-only-knows how many committee meetings and Board of Trustees meetings in-between. If I had to select one word or one idea that has meant the most to me in those years, I would say “community.” Being here has taught me the power of community. I have witnessed how a group of human beings
- Can come together in love and make things happen.
- Can come together and change lives for the better.
- Can come together and magically make one plus one equal three.
Last Sunday, Rev. Craig Schwalenberg was here to talk to us about the upcoming Search process. Collaboration was the theme of the joint worship service he conducted with Margret. We learned from Rev. Craig and Rev. Margret that when we gather together we can find power, meaning, support, solace and the ability to work together toward a great purpose.
And it seems to me that their term Collaboration is not very different from my sense of Community and from the magic that happens when we choose to live like an extended family in community here with one another.
It is true that, over the past 20 years, I have given a significant portion of my time, talents, and treasure to the UU Schenectady community. But here’s what you may not realize: everything I have given to you has come back to me double-fold. Here are some of the gifts YOU here in this Great Hall, individually and collectively, have given me, and for which I thank you.
- You have walked with me in love and accepted me despite my faults.
- You have been role models for me and my children.
- Many of you have shown me what true generosity means, how many forms generosity can take, and how I can improve in this.
- You celebrated with me when I retired and when my two granddaughters were born.
- You supported me when my father died.
- You provided the perfect ceremony and the perfect setting here for my daughter’s wedding.
- You gave me the courage to return to one of the joys of my youth — something I had not done since junior high — namely singing in public in a choir.
- You have helped me grow and have trusted me with major responsibilities including being your president, which made me very proud.
- You have given me friendship, and through my work here you have brought me into contact with many other great people and organizations.
- You have nudged me to take on new responsibilities, new skills, new roles that were previously out of my comfort zone, like when you elected me to the Trusts Committee — which somehow six years later I found myself chairing.
- You and some of the former members of this congregation have shown me another joy — how my money can continue to provide for the betterment of this church family long after I am gone.
- Recently you trusted me again with a key to the church office — which makes me proud, even though I suspect there is an ulterior motive at work, since that key enables me to do more clerical, writing and page layout tasks for the church.
- You have fed both my spirit and my tummy.
- You have given me and taught me so much.
- You continue to love me, and amaze me, and fill so many parts of my life with meaning and joy.
For all these gifts and connections, I thank you.