My first brush with Unitarianism came when I was in elementary school. On the way home from school one day, Wendy Wentworth, a girl I knew, pressed her face against an elm tree and curled her finger into a “come hither” gesture. I went behind the tree and she kissed me. She was a Unitarian. This was my first taste of Unitarianism: bold, possessed of great names like Wendy Wentworth, and secretly pleasing.
Since then, I’ve always wanted a spiritual home like the one I found at First Church in 1989. For many years, religion was either too hot with emotion or too cold with issues, never just right. I started out Episcopalian, not realizing until after college that I was a Democrat among Republicans. I tried on Judaism and came away with a lot of great Yiddish words. The Quakers came close with their calls to action on cherished beliefs, but I felt at times while working at the American Friends Service Committee that I was loved more for the causes I supported than for who I was. Buddhism was a source of endless wonder and still is.
When I finally turned to Unitarian Universalism 20 years ago, it was a homecoming, where I belonged, where all the pieces fit. I told my parents that I was now a UU, attending a church with a wonderful woman minister. “Oh,” they said, “when did they start having women ministers?” “1863,” I said, “but she will be leaving and a wonderful gay man will be taking over.” “Oh boy,” they said. First Church is the place where I turned in my pew to ask Hugh Robinson if he’d like to start a men’s group. There had been supper clubs and outings for men in the past but this was different — a support group. One man showed up saying, “I thought we were going bowling” but is still meeting weekly with our group 14 years later.
I was part of Victor Carpenter’s Ministerial Relations Committee, helping sort out the challenges of moving to two worship services. I served on the Worship Committee for seven years, during the time when the idea of a casserole dish filled with sand and candles took root to replace the passing of microphones among the pews. As a member and former chair of the Adult Programs Committee, I’ve put together the last nine brochures you find in the Unitarian. I’ve toiled in the underworld of Children’s R.E. and had the immense privilege of working with the Youth Group for several years. Along the way, I’ve organized lay-led services on topics ranging from divorce, depression, and organ donation to men’s stories, the healing power of poetry, family matters, and forgiveness. In other words, I’ve been given a chance to grow and become, be the changer and the changed, to find succor and opportunity here that eluded me elsewhere. This is the place where my son was dedicated with the help of his two godfathers who have been together longer than most of my straight friends. This is the place where my marriage fell apart and I was lifted up and held together by my companions here. This is the place where I spoke with grief of needing to have open-heart surgery and I spoke with joy of the happy outcome and your heartfelt help along the way. And beyond the individuals I so love, there is also the institution I love.
Ours is not a religion fixated, like the History Channel, on events that happened long ago. My friends, the Bible is still being written by poets found in our Hymnal — Walt Whitman, William Blake, Emerson, Dickinson, Mary Oliver, Wendell Berry, Denise Levertov, and many others. I used to think that men were from Mars and women were from Venus. Through this church I have come to realize that men are from Earth and women are from Earth — deal with it! There is no age of sages riper than this one. We are the people we’ve been waiting for.