02 February 2009

Free Book Reminder! and as a Bonus: Musings on Religion

Interested in winning a free book from the awesome Barefoot Books? Check out this post to get the details. All you have to do is leave a comment and you could win . . . Seriously, check it out.

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Maddie, Riley, and I had a great weekend. Mostly we just laid low, which was nice. Some friends came to us, we shopped for groceries, we jumped up and down on an extra crib mattress, we watched some Dora, we colored. You know, weekend stuff. 

We also went to church.

I've written here before about wanting to explore church options. I did not regularly attend church when I was growing up, and my feelings about religion are rather . . . unformed. But I would like some kind of community beyond our little threesome to help Maddie and Riley find the directions on their moral compasses. I don't want anything dogmatic or pushy, though. I want food for thought, gentle guidance, and tolerance for a wide range of beliefs. No guilt. No punishment. No judgment. Lots of room for questions. The Unitarian Universalists fit this list of requirements pretty well. As it would happen, it was "bring a friend to church" day on Sunday, so we met friends of ours there to check things out. 

Maddie and Riley are still too young for any formal Religious Education offerings at the church, but they are not too young to hang out in the well-equipped and lovingly staffed pre-K room. They had a blast playing and having snack (at least that's what they reported ex post facto) while I attended the service with my friends. 

I was surprised by how moved I was by the experience. I spent a lot of time crying. The music was beautiful, the readings were thought-provoking, and the few minutes spent in silent meditation were incredibly intense. My friend and I talked afterwards about how easy it is to avoid spending quiet times with one's own thoughts. It's much easier—and safer—to pick up a book, turn on the TV, or call a friend. To just sit and be with my thoughts was difficult, a little painful, and remarkably cathartic. There's a reason I don't spend that kind of time when I get minutes to myself after the kids go to bed: it's hard work. I know it's worthwhile, but it's not easy. My first thought when the quiet bell rang signaling the start of a few minutes of meditation was, "My husband is dead, and I'm really sad about that." It seems so self-evident, but to just sit and feel that was something I had not done in a long, long time.

We all went out for coffee and snacks after the service. Even though it was well into Maddie and Riley's naptime, they held up like troopers and we all seemed refreshed by our experience. I was not only refreshed, but utterly exhausted and oddly ravenous. That hour in the sanctuary was the most emotionally exhausting hour I've spent in recent months. Once the kids were down for their nap, I ate an enormous lunch and collapsed into a heap on my couch. I'd had plans to undertake all manner of projects during naptime, but I was totally incapable of doing anything but sitting. (OK, I did read as I felt like I'd spent enough time with my thoughts for the day.)

I anticipate that we'll be going back, and we may try other congregations to find a good fit. It's a bit like shopping around for the right Al-Anon meeting, I guess. I'm just glad I finally made the time to go. It's something I've been wanting to do for a while, but then when Sundays roll around, we end up with other plans or I'm too lazy or . . . I'm glad it came together this week.

40 comments:

Natika said...

To church or not to church, that was a big question! I have struggled with organized religion for so long. It is so hard to find a religion much less a church to teach your children the basics.
Glad you had a enlightening experience.

Supa Dupa Fresh said...

I'm so glad you tried the UUs. While Gavin was sick, that hour of peace was my only time not "on duty." For the first year and a half after his death, that restful time revitatlized me, and you may have read my thoughts on the "Kaddish" or mourning ritual and how that helped me. As I transitioned to single parenting, caregiving Gavin's mother, and dating, the community of kind hearts and playful peership (and the fact that they were jealous of my dating!) kept me going.

I still find my hour in church a necessary pause, time for something greater than myself, though I don't know what. And now that I'm stronger, being involved allows me to try on new roles and keep growing.

Hope you find a home that feels right! We planned to visit all the UU and Quaker congregations in the area, but never made it past that first one, where we felt comfortable and warmed right away.

LOVE

Supa

Snickollet said...

SDF--

I would also like to check out a Quaker meeting. Talk about some quiet time with your thoughts!

-snick

Tony said...

"...how easy it is to avoid spending quiet times with one's own thoughts. It's much easier—and safer—to pick up a book, turn on the TV, or call a friend. To just sit and be with my thoughts was difficult, a little painful, and remarkably cathartic."

Hi there, if you feel this way there's a little thing called zazen you should look into. it's helped me no end 8)

Susan said...

Sounds like a wonderful relaxing weekend. Living in the city sounds like such fun sometimes!! As far as church, good for you. I like how you "think" and how you want to experience different religions - we are a church going family and enjoy it. In fact, I work in the two year old department ;) Have a good week.

Christine said...

We went church shopping a few years ago, knowing we wanted to start a family, and now I am glad we did. I grew up Catholic, as did my husband, but for various reasons that church did not feel right to us. So we became Episcopalian, and we love our church. I think more people should reach outside the bounds of their "assigned" religion and find the best solution for them.

Blopper said...

The other thing that is good about joining a church (besides the obvious religious content) is it is another support network.

Watercolor said...

Catechesis of the Good Shepherd is a lovely program for young kids. Sort of guided play about God in a montessori way.

Ginevra said...

Whoo Unitarians whoooo! (I am UU, as you may recall, although lapsed. The great thing about being UU is you can lapse without feeling like you are going to hell.) I have also been thinking I should go to church sometimes and introduce ASH to all that. Maybe we could all go together sometime. I've been to the church in your town once or twice, and the one in a town near me is also very nice (and a much more attractive building, not that that should matter). I would love to go with you.

I too often cry in church. I think that for whatever reason I usually find myself contemplating the death of those I love, which of course is very upsetting. Or I get in touch with how incredibly grateful I am to have so much love in my life, and that's very moving as well. Anyway, it's not just you who needs tissues. :-)

Much love and a big UU hug,
J

Maggie said...

Check out an Episcopal Church as well. Look on websites; the ones that are gay-friendly are the most liberal and also the most open to families that don't come with both mom and dad. Now I'm ordained clergy, but there was a time that I didn't go to church at all. I found church to be the only place in my world that neither denied death or pathologized it. Grief doesn't necessarily require therapy, but context, all too rare in contemporary society. Good luck.

Lexie said...

When I started going to the UU church, it was literally the ONLY time I had all week where I was not taking care of two infants.

I cried a lot at church at first.

I think I kind of need that hour, now. Sometimes I teach in the RE program and miss the service. I've done that for the last two weeks and I can tell.

The thing I really like about the UU church is that everyone who is there (well, almost, I assume) WANTS to be there and has chosen to be there and is there entirely to try to better themselves or be supported in doing the right things in their lives, whatever form that may take. No one goes to a UU church because their family guilts them into it or because they think they are going to hell or whatever.

Melissa in Grafton said...

Another beautiful and thoughtful post, Snick... thanks.

After my heart attack, while in a state of deep despair, I explored UU as well. They're really wonderful and welcoming. But I couldn't get my staunchly athiest husband on board with any sort of organized religion (no matter how friendly or gentle they are), and I realized that regular attendance at weekly services was not going to be in the cards for us as a family. But I still think fondly of UU... a good choice all around.

I could totally relate to your observation that it's painful to be alone (or to be "present") with difficult feelings... but sometimes, making that time can be an important part of grieving and healing. Not easy though.

Hugs,
m

Aimee said...

I'm glad you are glad you went.

I'm glad M & R had a good time, as well.

I thinking finding the right fit is sometimes really hard. Different people need different things.

I'm glad you found some quiet time with your thoughts and am interested to read more about your church search.

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Even though I have no religious inclination and my husband was raised Jewish but practices Buddhism, we decided to marry in a UU church. It really suited us both and welcomed our desire to have a Quaker type ceremony officiated by the woman who introduced us. They didn't bat and eye and I really appreciated that. I'm glad you had a nice experience at a UU church too!

L. said...

As someone from a UU background/family, I am really pleased that you felt so positively (if that's the word) about the service. From what I "know" of you through your blog, UU seems like a great match for you.

I only went to church a couple times as a kid and I go about as often now. I do keep on thinking about it, but didn't really enjoy the service I attended at our local UU church (the only one for miles around, sadly). Your experience inspires me to try again, though.

django's mommy said...

My husband was raised Episcopalian, I was raised Jewish. Both of us were fairly involved growing up, but had become sort of 'meh' about organized religion once we left home. We both agreed that the community aspect of organized religion was the one redeeming quality we really liked, and although we didn't much care which one we picked, we wanted to raise our son within that sort of community.

I put our son in the local Jewish day school a year after his dad died, and it has been FAN-EFFIN'-TASTIC from a community-building perspective. I have bonded with other single moms there, we watch out for each other, my son has friends, and we both LOVE it.

I am glad that you have found a place where you can feel comfortable.

Anonymous said...

What a fantastic post - this gets to the heart of why I requested the book I did for my kids. - Christa

Rachel said...

Glad you found a church you like, and that M and R enjoyed the childcare. I agree that UU sounds like a good fit for you guys.

One of things things I like about church is that it's one of the few times during the week when I just sit quietly.

Giovanna Diaries said...

Glad you and the kiddos enjoyed the experience. Enjoy your church shopping.

Elizabeth said...

A couple of folks have already recommended the Episcopal Church. Check out the one around the corner from First Church: cccambridge.org. The Episcopal Church certainly fits your politics, and we have a wonderful church school program. Plus, if you come, then we can be friends IRL, which would be cool.

Anonymous said...

It's good to look into the church thing. But also remember that you did fine without attending church in your formative years; your moral compass seems tuned. Your kids will be fine without church if you don't find the right place. Kids can learn things moral from their role models, i.e., parent, teacher, coach, neighbor, whomever figures prominently in their lives, not just through their church. (Yes, I'm a parent who skipped the church thing and so far have not had any " negative fallout" from doing so with my kids).

Rebecca said...

My husband was raised in a Unitarian church and has wonderful things to say about it and the sense of community it gave him---although he is still rather agnostic. There is a wonderful in Worcester if you ever end up that far west---I'm still looking for a great one in this area.

SupersammyG said...

As another UU I say we would love to have you in the flock. Every congregation is a little different so shop around. Also the minister is really important so find one you really connect with and enjoy their sermons. I think that UU would be a great fit and I would say that I am the person I am from the very close UU congregation that I was raised in. I knew at least 10 adults that if I was in a pickle and felt I couldn't ask my parents that I could call and they would help me. It makes being a kid so much easier.

Jo in Boston said...

You've put your finger on exactly why I go to church--it's the only time all week that I'm alone with my thoughts and not taking care of someone. Though I grew up Greek Orthodox I've been attending UU churches for 25 years (God never made sense to me--at least not the one that watches everything you do). UU for me is like attending a really good college lecture with hymns. I used to attend the church you visited though I moved to the one in West Roxbury after my son was born and I stopped working in Cambridge and now attend one on the North Shore where I now live. I think the Cambridge church has a good balance--some can be rather more Christian and some more activist. Also, the music there was always excellent.

buddha_girl said...

I'll admit that I'm jealous of your experience at church this weekend. I researched that very same church down here and was contacted when I sent an email requesting some information...there is no longer one in my area. I'd have to drive more than an hour each way to attend the closest one. I'll live vicariously through you.

Perhaps I'll find the oomph required to find one here.

Anne said...

Yay! I found the UU church mostly by accident in my late 20s, after having more or less given up on organized religion. I remember reading a website that explained their core beliefs, and, like you, crying--because it was exactly what I needed and wanted. I haven't gone much lately, because my 2 year old absolutely WILL NOT stay in the nursery during the service, but I am really looking forward to getting involved with the RE program in the future.

Anonymous said...

Yay! I've been a UU for 35 years, starting when my girls were little. They didn't rebel by becoming Pentacostal; they're still UUs 2! It's a great place to raise kids and find a home for yourself. Welcome!

OTRgirl said...

I definitely load up on tissues before going to church. As you said, it's one of the few times in the week I let myself be still and just feel things. It can be overwhelming, but always good in the end.

Your kids sound like such troopers. I'm glad you're finding a place they enjoy where you can get your own place as well.

Rev Dr Mom said...

I'm glad you had such a positive experience, and the UUs may be the place for you. But I have to second all the other suggestions that you try an Episcopal Church (or more than one!) as well. (Wish you were closer to me!)

Snickollet said...

Anon:

I certainly don't mean to imply that non-churchgoers have no sense of morals. Certainly the influential people in a child's life—parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, etc.—provide much of a child's moral foundation. I just hope for myself, Maddie, and Riley to find a spiritual framework for those morals, and reinforcement that a community can uphold those morals.

In any case, your point is a good one and I certainly did not mean to step on the toes of those who choose not to attend church.

-snick

Snickollet said...

Rev. Dr. Mom:

I, too, wish that I could make a stop by your congregation on a Sunday morning! I might be on the Cape this summer . . . if you're still around :).

-snick

Anne said...

Hi Snicks,
I found the Baha'i Faith to be a wonderful source of comfort and support to me. Good luck with your search! I actually have a real interest in religion and have explored quite a few cultures (Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, various Christian denominations).
Let us know how it goes!
Anne

Anonymous said...

http://www.uua.org/visitors/index.shtml

I am also on the search for an organized something and I am leaning towards UU. Take a look. I have a feeling it would be a good fit for you.

Anonamama

mary said...

Good luck on your church search. There is no such thing as a "perfect" community of believers but I do hope you find one that meets your's and your children's needs. =)

Anonymous said...

I am a UU. When my husband was in Iraq, I would cry at every service and would be starving by the end. I can only imagine how much more intense it was for you.

The evening of Obama's inauguration we attend an interfaith peace service at All Souls UU in DC. It was so very moving.

I"m glad that overall it was a good experience for you and the kids.

Kathleen

Sandi said...

I love the Uniterarian Universalist Church. I don't go anymore, but maybe I should again.

Ellen said...

Yet another reason why it feels so familiar when I read your posts. Born and raised UU, and I still attend (though not as regularly as I would like/should/could).

Thanks to you and Barefoot for the book. Can't wait to read it.

Cris said...

Snick, you should check out our church--First Church Cambridge. I'm not really into organized religion (was raised Catholic and have an intense dislike of presyltization-spelling?) but I like the community at First Church. They aren't too preachy, everyone's really nice, they are welcoming to all walks of life, do a lot for the community/are invested in social justice, and have really nice day care providers!

Good luck in finding something that works for you.

mlg said...

We have a UU house down the street from us and I have often entertained the idea of walking down there with the kid. We have been there before. Just before the elections they had showings of the movie "For the Bible Tells Me So" Which is an excellent movie and I was so happy they were screening it for the community as an attempt to defeat our Prop 8. I know there are a lot of GLBT families in their congregation. Like you I loved the idea of going and having a different community fort he kid and I. Since it moved you so much maybe I will once again consider walking down there Sunday morning...

Gianna said...

I've been reading your blog for awhile and was interested to read your post about churches. I've been to First UU Cambridge as well as First Congregational Cambridge - both great communities. Actually, one of my friends sometimes volunteers with the little kids at First Church Cambridge on Sundays.

I also wanted to introduce you to another amazing church community in the area: First Congregational Church of Somerville, on College Ave. near Davis Square. www.firstchurchsomerville.org

My husband and I have been members there for a few years now and were looking for the same things you describe in a church. With two amazing pastors and perhaps the most honest, genuine religious community I've ever been a part of, it's worth checking out. You can even listen to some of the sermons online to see if it seems like your thing.