Religion and me..

On Sunday, I did the unimaginable-I went to church.

I’ve been debating for awhile now the idea of getting back into a religious/spiritual community. But I wasn’t sure which one to join. It’s been awhile since I stepped into that kind of environment and while I wasn’t exactly relishing the idea of getting up early on Sunday morning, I thought it might be nice to see what I’ve been missing. (If anything)

Don’t worry, this isn’t a post about me joining some cult, nor have I been “reborn” into one of those freaky, Christian “robot people” who say the words Jesus Christ every two seconds and are on a mission to be as annoying as humanely possible!

I am still the (usually) rational human being, who doesn’t take the myths in the Bible literally and greatly values independent thought. I have no interest in the prejudice, exclusion, misogyny, animosity towards science and outdated ideas, etc, so often featured in conservative and fundamentalist religious denominations.

But I still believe in a higher power and in things larger than ourselves, and recently have felt the desire to take some time to be around people who are in a similarly spiritually positive, openminded mindframe. So after some research, I attended my first Unitarian Universalist service. It was actually kinda nice. It seemed more open ended, less didactic. We weren’t scolded for hours for being “human” or read the same dry stories, while people got their ZZZs on.The more constructive and positive aspects were taken from Judaism and Christianity and a few other religions, and presented in a optimistic, without being too flaky or naive, tone.  Love, forgiveness and peace were the main messages given from the pulpit.

At one point in the sermon, the minister asked the guests to stand. My face probably went two shades of crimson while I nodded at the entire 250 congregation and sat back down. That part I could have done without, but the purpose was so that the newbies could be welcomed into the community. (Or maybe just to embarass the shit out of us for the entertainment of all, who knows? LOL)

Unitarian sermons appear to be short and sweet, running for just an hour. There is singing, messages from the minister, guest lectures and members are encouraged to come up to the front with any important news they may have. (Weddings and funerals are big ones)  Unitarian churches welcome and accept people from all cultures and sexual orientations and are one of the few religious denominations who happily provide wedding services for homosexuals. In fact many of the active members wore small rainbows on their name tags and one guy told me that their church had a banner in this year’s Pride Parade.

After the service, I checked out a social room where food, coffee and books on social and environmental issues were on display. I drank free coffee out of a green mug, that designated me as the newbie. (In case, anyone didn’t catch my glorious display of awkwardness during the service). Pamphlets for groups within the church that do work within the Ottawa community and abroad were circulated.

Things seemed pretty relaxed, so I might go back. But if I do join up, never fear, I won’t be talking about it every week here or hunting for converts. Religion isn’t the point of this blog, nor is it the most central part of my life, so these kind of posts will be very few and far between. I just thought it would be neat to share my experience and get some feelers out there, since religion is such a hot topic nowadays. At this point in time, many people have either run full throttle away from religion or plunged headfirst. Moderates like me, can feel like a minority sometimes.

What about you guys? When was the last time you went to church/temple/mosque/etc? Or if you don’t subscribe to religion, have you joined any Humanist groups? What do you think of the whole idea of getting together with people who share your ideas on moral/spiritual issues?

Picture: http://www.thefarside.com/

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23 thoughts on “Religion and me..

  1. L A Cochran

    If it works for you, great!

    I’ve always found it more separating than connecting. But that’s probably more a reflection on me than the various congregations.

  2. Jen

    Fellowship is a good thing, and I’m glad you were able to connect with others/ find a place to belong.

    To answer your question, my last time at Mass was high school — I was in the band at a Catholic school, so I was there, playing in the ranks. The last time I went regularly or willingly though? Probably around the time I got Confirmed (13).

  3. leashieloo

    The last time I went to church I was in high school maybe? My dad always forced Catholism on us and it didn’t quite stick. I don’t identify myself with any one religion but I do like the ideas behind Buddhism…though I guess that is more of a philosophy than a religion.

  4. Marie

    I grew up where religion (Christianity to be precise) is a lot different than it is here in the US. I’m not sure how to describe it except in saying it’s not the way it is in the Western world. In fact, we sort of think the way people in the Western world practice Christianity are nuts (i.e. the kind you described in your first few paragraphs).

    I do however try to go to church (I go to a Catholic church) on Saturday evenings (the mass on Saturdays is the same as Sunday mornings). I really like the church I go to because again as you mentioned they are not telling you everything wrong you’re doing in your life and saying you’re going to go to hell for it. It actually gives me some sort of inner peace and time to myself (not sure if that makes any sense).

    At the same time, I’m always of the mind that religion is something personal to a person. I hate it when people criticize others for not practicing or make fun of those who do. With anything else in life, you find your own way and do what you want.

    (Sorry for the long comment!)

  5. Laura

    Interesting post Pauline. I’ve looked into Unitarian services back in Toronto, but never followed through. I like the idea that one congregation would welcome my unique Christian/Jewish/non-religious/multicultural family. We only go to religious ceremonies when family members are celebrating something. We do not attend any services because no one really wants us! lol

  6. Tania

    I’m glad you posted this – strangely, I too have felt myself drawn to church lately. I was not raised going to church or anything like that – somehow my unwed parents managed to get me baptized as United. I guess, by default, I have been leaning towards visiting the local United church …
    I maintain my own spiritual practices at home which tend to be more Buddhist in nature but … I’m all about collecting pieces from all over that I agree with and pasting them into my own religious mosaic.
    Anyway, good luck with your explorations 🙂

  7. meanie

    My girls have been asking lots of religion based questions lately and this is the one church I am considering taking them to – maybe I’ll see you there one Sunday! Did you notice if there were many children there, and if they had a children’s service?

  8. Blueberry

    We attended a UU church for several years. We are a liberal Christian (him) and an atheist (me), and we were pleased to find a place where our very different views were both welcomed. Mostly we loved the pastor, Davidson Loehr, who proudly described himself as heretical. Unfortunately, the Board of Directors ousted him, and we, along with about 25% of the congregation, stopped going there. Our problem was more with the local church(es) than UU in general, which I think is a positive force. Praise and rants: Davidson Loehr and UU.

  9. Zhu

    I’m a non-militant atheist. I don’t believe, that’s all. It runs in the family and I have never been exposed to religion, which is probably why this is such a foreign thing to me. That said, I respect people who believe, although I hate proselytism.

    I was amazed to discover so many churches in Canada. Had I been religious, I wouldn’t have known where to go! And every time I try to understand why let’s say the Calvinists are different from the Lutheraans, I get lost in the explanations 😆

  10. VioletSky

    That is funny about having a different coloured mug! But I guess that means the people who want to meet you can find you easier. I like that, actually.
    It has been many years since I was at church but I find now, I sometimes wish for that community. Not having family around, I know that if were a part of a church community and took ill, I would have people who cared and willing to help.

  11. Kate

    The last time I remembering setting foot in a church was for a Christmas Eve service several years ago. It was held at the Episcopalian church my mom goes to. As a kid, my family never went to church and we didn’t subscribe to any religion. Living in New England, people talked about religion a lot less than they do here in the Midwest — that has taken some getting used to over the decade I’ve lived here. Admittedly, I am pretty turned off by organized religion. I consider myself agnostic — I honestly have no idea whether or not a higher power exists, although I tend to believe more that one does than doesn’t. We’ll see what happens as I grow older. Both of my parents are now actively involved in church communities, which is certainly a change from when I was a kid.

  12. Laura Best

    I actually go to church fairly frequently. In some respects I suppose I should feel like a hypocrite because I know that many of my thoughts probably do not jive with those of the church. Not that my church is strict and backwards in its beliefs, but |I don’t necessarily go along with some of the ritual practices. For me, the church is a feeling of community and fellowship. Much of what I believe I keep private because I don’t believe in pushing my ideas onto others.

    Some people describe me as religious, but I think more in terms of spirituality. They really don’t know what goes on inside my brain, now do they?

  13. Pauline

    Lacochran-Organized religion isn’t for everyone and that’s o.k. Some people would rather do their own thing on their own. 🙂
    Jen-Many people would probably say the same thing that it’s been awhile since they “willingly” went to a religious institution. 😉
    Leishieloo-Forcing something on someone is never good. Buddhism is very interesting. Speaking of eastern philosophies/religions, I was really into Taoism for awhile and might review some of its principles and ideas.:)
    Marie-I could see why people in the Middle East would think that the way Christianity is practiced in the West as weird, considering that it’s usually the more extreme, fundamentalist, crazy religious people that get on the news. It’s the same misconception that people in North America and parts of Europe have of Muslims, since it’s usually the same fundamentalist, insane ones who get the most attention. But there are obviously lots of moderates out there, the media just likes to focus on the negative and sensational, I suppose. That’s great that you enjoy going to church and derive peace and happiness from it, that’s what I’m hoping to gain by going.
    I agree that I don’t like anyone who is too hardline or obnoxious about their beliefs-Athiests or otherwise. Live and let live, as the saying goes.:)

  14. Pauline Post author

    Laura-Well if no one wants to, then it’s pointless to force them, but if anyone in your family is curious, then you will be welcomed into the Unitarian church.:)
    Robin-Interesting. I didn’t know any Unitarians growing up. Does he still go?
    Tania-Thanks and it sounds like we have similar background, because my parents are also not overtly religious, but I was also baptized as United. United churches are exclusively Christian and believe in the Trinity, but they are moderate Christians.
    Meanie-Yes, there are programs for children while the regular services go on. There is also a childrens choir, if your kids are interested in singing. If you want more info, here is the link to the Church I visited. They can tell you more than I can since I am childfree:
    http://www.firstunitarianottawa.ca/
    Blueberry-That is unfortunate that he was kicked out. Perhaps you can find him at a new church and go there if you are so inclined. 🙂

  15. Pauline Post author

    Zhu-Your beliefs sound very reasonable. 🙂 Yes, there are lots of different Protestant churches and when people try to explain the differences to me, I also get lost sometimes, and I’m a Protestant! LOL
    Violetsky-Yeah, it was kind of nice, better than having people staring wondering who I was! Well, you can always look into religious groups. You could even check out other religions outside of Christianity.
    Kate-What is Episcopalian? Is that like Pentecostal? (I don’t think there are any Episcopalian groups here in Canada) There are lots of Agnostics. Organized religion can have its downsides that’s for sure.

  16. Pauline Post author

    Laura Best-I’m more spiritual than religious as well. I want to be part of a community, but I think my relationship with God is more important than my relationship with an organization and its hierarchy.

  17. Lynn

    Thanks for talking about this, Pauline. I’ve been missing the church of my youth, but I’d definitely want something more open and liberal. This sounds like a good fit…I will keep it in mind.

  18. Pauline Post author

    Lynn-No problem.:) I wasn’t sure if I should post on this topic since it tends to get pretty heated, but it’s something that I’ve been thinking about and an interesting subject.

  19. Pearl

    other than weddings or funerals, it’s been 17 years for me. I just met someone from Unitarian a couple days ago. she said much of what you said so the branches are pretty similar.

  20. Nat

    Last time I was at church was for a baptism. I expect next time will a funeral or a wedding.

    I was raised Catholic, and we used to go to mass every Sunday. Honestly, I don’t miss it and haven’t found a reason to go back to Catholicism or Christianity — too much skepticism over blood spilled in the name of religion for me to consider ever rejoining — no matter what the incarnation. I am an atheist.

    That being said, I think there may be value in joining a group or a club. Glad the experience was a relatively positive one.

  21. Pauline Post author

    Pearl-I’ve only gone to one Unitarian service so far, but I imagine they are similar. They are all guided by a set of principles, just like any other religious sect. (Albeit more rational and moderate principles)
    Nat-Yes, there’s a lot of violence in many mainstream religions, which, is sad. But some people are hateful and will use any excuse to express that mirth. Religion to me is about love and acceptance and the quest for higher meaning of our existence. I really don’t understand why more religious leaders don’t practice the certain things they preach.

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