At the February meeting of the Family Ministry Team, we discussed another chapter of our study book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UU’s by Kate Tweedie Erslev. This month’s chapter was about the need to encourage regular Sunday morning attendance and participation, and it launched a great discussion about why each of our families comes to church.
We come because it’s a place to connect with our family, perhaps even our extended family, and we come because we want this community or education for our children, and we come because we love the music or the message, and we come because we feel a need for connection and spirituality. There are obstacles that have to be overcome: reluctant or disinterested partners, just the difficulty of getting up and organized and out the door, feeling tired and wanting to rest instead, kids who might be reluctant to come sometimes. Tweedie Erslev points out that: “Joining a UU congregation is not the same as joining the Sierra Club or the Brownies. We offer support for a life-enriching, lifelong journey that involves the whole family through the calamities and joys of life”. We are a community, and that comes with many benefits and some costs.
As a recent blog post at the blog Yet Another Unitarian Universalist points out: “And in fact one of the great weaknesses of today’s Unitarian Universalist congregations is that so many of the people who think of themselves as Unitarian Universalists aren’t willing to sacrifice any of their autonomy to participate in the congregational community. But here, as in so many aspects of life, ya gotta pay to play. Rule number one of congregational community:– if you want a Unitarian Universalist community, you have to give up the much-loved American autonomy that says it’s better to sleep in or go for a walk or play video games on Sunday morning. Then add some volunteer hours on top of that. Otherwise, you’re not part of a community.”
It is wonderful to be able to come to church when the sermon topic looks Really Interesting, or when it’s your birthday and you want us to sing for you, or when you have something weighing on your heart, or an event or cause to work on, but I would suggest that it’s just as wonderful to show up when you have nothing on your own agenda, and to be there to sing for someone else’s birthday, to hear what is weighing on someone else’s heart, to be surprised by a sermon topic or a religious education class that speaks to you in ways you would never have guessed, and be there to sign-up for a really great event or project.
As another UU blogger, The Journey, wrote in a blog post titled “Everything I Needed To Know About Church I Learned At Weight Watchers”, going every week matters because it gives you accountability and community. The real work of your life (whether it’s spiritual growth or losing weight) may be done during the week, but you come and check in and listen to other people speak from experience. And you have community, with all its benefits and the need for commitment it requires.