Every week was a new experience . . .
In 2009 I gave birth to twins. I don’t have to tell any of you out there who are parents that in that moment everything changed. Priorities changed. Schedules changed. The way I saw and thought about the world changed. It was time to start a new journey. The scary part was that I was starting this journey not only for myself, but for my children.
Being a parent is extremely rewarding, and extremely challenging. One of the challenges that we faced was deciding on how we were going to teach morals and values. My family was Catholic. I grew up with Sunday school, First Communion, Confirmation, the whole 9 yards. My husband grew up Methodist but hadn’t attended church for over 10 years. Neither of us felt too keen on going back to the Catholic Church we were married in, yet I felt like we needed something. Maybe there was another way. But what way?
While I agreed with Adam that sleeping in on Sunday is a plus, I was more concerned with how we would deal with the big questions in life when they eventually came. What do we tell the kids the first time there is a death in the family? Will they be confused when they have to go to church for certain ceremonies, like weddings and funerals? Will they have a moral compass without a God to be ultimately accountable to? Who will support them and who will they turn to for guidance if something should happen to us? Don’t they deserve, don’t they NEED a group to support them spiritually? Those are some of the deep questions we were struggling with.
Our compromise led us to start shopping around for a spiritual home. We looked at other Christian churches. We weighed the pros and cons and considered what each had to offer. Then one day, Adam came to me and said what about the Unitarian Society in Schenectady? I gave a puzzled look then we sat down and went over the website. It was definitely foreign to both of us.
We started coming to UUSS, which was then known as FUSS, in the summer of 2012. At first I thought, wow this is different. But different can be good. So we kept coming. It didn’t take long to realize that the messages we were hearing were in line with both of our beliefs. It also didn’t take long to start learning the names and faces of those around us. Unlike our prior experiences, people at FUSS WANTED to meet you. They WANTED to come early and stay after the service to socialize. They were more than happy to answer questions, to welcome our children into the nursery, to get to know us. I soon found that I was looking forward to coming on Sundays. Every week was a new experience – not the repetitive readings and prayers I previously recited on autopilot. I was also inspired by the focus on living the faith – not just learning it. And I was inspired by the people around me, who still amaze me with their stories on a regular basis.
I think it’s safe to say that we found what we were looking for. We originally came for our children. They have thrived here. They too look forward to coming on Sundays. They have made friends in the RE program where the morals and values we teach them are reinforced through the stories and practices of many different religions. They are learning to accept others and to include everyone. We have found a language to discuss our beliefs that we can be comfortable with as we live alongside our Catholic and Methodist families. We’ve even started celebrating Earth Day and Chalica. My children identify as UU. And if something should happen to us, I am confident that this congregation will be here for them.
Just a few weeks ago we celebrated our Coming of Age students and honored the Seniors in our annual Youth Service. Looking at those young men and women and listening to them share their experiences and beliefs is truly inspiring. They have become strong, confident, well spoken, responsible members of our community. That is what I want for my children.
Being a member of UUSS has also filled a void in my own life that I didn’t even realize was there. As a stay- at-home mom to twins, I had very little time to myself. I spent about 75% of my time in my house. I had no social life to speak of – the family always came first. That was until I was asked to be an RE teacher. Now, I believe it was Lois Porter who warned me not to say yes to anything before I was ready. Because once you say yes, they will just keep asking. I am glad I said yes. I needed to use the skills I went to college for. I needed to get out of my house and have conversations with people that didn’t revolve around Sesame Street or Dora the Explorer. In doing so I have learned so much more about the world and about myself.
I suppose it is safe to say that things have snowballed since then as I have become more and more active here. At the annual meeting I was honored to receive the Rising Star Award. I haven’t been able to officially thank you for that — I haven’t actually officially thanked you all for anything. So I will take that opportunity now. This congregation means so much to me, and to my family. We are so blessed to have a place to go where we feel safe and accepted for who we are, where we are encouraged to use our talents and share our stories. Never have I been in the presence of such a large group and been able to say that I appreciate each and every member. The way in which you all actively strive to live the principles encourages me to do the same. Thank you and I look forward to continuing to grow with you in faith.