About a year ago I decided that as I still hadn't found a religion that I felt suited my own experience of spirituality and god, I would create one!
A few of us met to discuss what it would be, and we began our research, during which I discovered New Unity, a Unitarian Church, in Islington/Newington Green, and felt that their ethos was similar to my own. I intended on going to a church service but didn't get around to it, and as with life, things happen, and, over a year later after becoming quite ill, and at the end of a relationship, I was looking for somewhere I could connect to, be a part of an existing community. I remembered the research I'd done, and decided I'd finally go to the service. Today was that day. The first time since I was 10 years old, I attended a church service that wasn't a funeral, wedding or christening.
The service was led by Andy Pakula and had the title Slow down! New Unity Church is Unitarian and has particularly liberal views, welcoming agnostics, atheists, jews, muslims, Buddhists and anything in between.
I joined in the singing, although that isn't my strongest skill ever! And I was delighted to see a beautiful ritual as part of the ceremony; anyone who wishes lights a candle for a
joy or a sorrow, or both and if they chose they can share with the congregation what they are lighting it for.
There were some beautiful joys shared, and some touching sorrows. One lady cried as she was sharing, so much so that I couldn't make out her words. The words were irrelevant, what was important was that she was heard by the congregation and I loved that a space like that was available. That here is a space where it's ok, it's accepted to experience human grief, no need to "stuff it back down".
What this said clearly to me, is that all of me, no matter how joyful or sorrowful is welcome in this church. It was a touching moment; there were certainly tears in my eyes.
There were a few minutes silence for meditation, more singing and a reading, then a story. The story made me smile, very much so :)
It was about an MBA educated man explaining to a poor fisher man how catching more than he needed and selling it would provide him with great fortune, so that he could live a relaxed life and enjoy time with his family; something he already had by only catching what met his families' needs.
The sermon wasn't preachy, it reminded me of many of my own blog posts, a mixture of sharing from experience of how as a mere human being doing our best and learning is enough, and adding wisdom and knowledge from other sources.
The opening asked about how often do you do one thing at a time? Not very often I thought! Commenting on how we are taught that being busy is valuable. How so many of us live as though we are never going to die, and then we die without ever having lived.
And in finishing up, a reminder that the worth of what you are, is greater than what you do. I liked that phrase so much I wrote it down, on the little pamphlet that accompanied the service.
This is a warm congregation, a warm, friendly and loving church, the values of which are community, spirituality and love. There was no hell or damnation, no judgement or dogma. Just a gentle, warm loving acceptance of all whom were there.
I felt at home here. I felt inspired by listening to the readings and Andy's sermon. His way of communicating touched people today, left an impact, added value, it made them think about how valuable they are as people.
It made me think, it affirmed my recent choices, to slow down, concentrate on regaining my own physical health. Attending the service today made me feel warm, connected. I felt at home, like I've never felt in a church before.
I suspect I probably will set up a church of my own at some point, whether I call it a church, or a community, I'm not sure, but for now, I feel New Unity is somewhere I can go to feel at home.
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carol williams (Tuesday, 18 October 2011 04:24)
Claire, this is beautiful and exactly what I feel every time I come for a service at this place. I'm an atheist through disillusion with the Church and doubts about many of its statements about God. I travel in from Worcester Park in Surrey to be with this congregation as often as I can. I love them! As you say so exquisitely, they welcome the whole of you and they give me real hope that people have goodness in them and that society can be changed.
Claire Boyles (Tuesday, 18 October 2011 05:32)
Hi Carol :)
Thanks for commenting! That's a long way to travel, but well worth it from what I've experienced so far.
I live in Camden, which is 3-4 miles away, with public transport though it can take me an hour to get there! Again, worth it though :)
If we can connect with each other in a community like this to support each of us as individuals, with love, what better way is there to change society? We can start small, but the ripple effect will reach everyone in the end!
I look forward to meeting you at a future church service. I really wanted to come for the harvest dinner, but sadly I'm away that weekend, giving a talk about decisions at Change Camp in Newcastle, which is exciting too :)
Dr. Walter Sims (Wednesday, 19 October 2011 09:57)
I love to read your blogs. You have such a powerful way of gently speaking to the heart of your readers. I love the experience you conveyed about your attending your church service. I am a pastor and church is high on my priority list. AND it is good to know that people come to church to feel love, acceptance, and a place where it is ok to be YOU! Thank you Claire for sharing you with us.
Claire Boyles LifeMatters (Thursday, 20 October 2011 08:51)
Hello THE Minister of Motivation :)
Thank you for you kind and lovely feedback, it is very gratifying when you say I reach the heart of my readers. As Paulo Coelho says
"A writer lives in the heart of his/her readers. It is a love story without sex"
It is a very lovely community, and I am looking forward to getting to know more about it, and the wonderful people within :)
Yewtree (Friday, 27 January 2012 05:08)
Excellent blogpost Claire - if only more people would blog about their experiences with Unitarian services.
Claire Boyles LifeMatters (Friday, 27 January 2012 06:07)
Hi Yvonne :)
If I have anything to do with it, they will be :)
I'm working with our Minister to lead up a social media team- getting the word out on line on twitter, facebook, Linked in, YouTube and Blogs.
Once we've got it working well for our community I'd love to deliver a training programme for others to do it too.
Very exciting :)