Why I’m Not A Unitarian Universalist

For those of you who follow my blog, please disregard that post I wrote about being a Unitarian Universalist. The truth is, I love the idea of Unitarian Universalism, but I honestly don’t actively identify as a Unitarian Universalist and haven’t for awhile. I’m loosely affiliated with my local fellowship and take advantage of resources provided by the Church of the Larger Fellowship (the online Unitarian Universalist church). I also listen to Unitarian Universalist podcasts. But I don’t really consider myself a Unitarian Universalist because I couldn’t find a place for myself at my local fellowship and as so I wonder if there’d be a place for me in another Unitarian Universalist church, and even the larger denomination. And so writing that post wasn’t entirely honest and thus didn’t keep with the goal of this blog.

My history with Unitarian Universalism is filled with much pain and disappointment. I tried to locate a place for myself in my local fellowship, figure out a way that my skills could be of use to the community while challenging me to grow and live up to my values. I joined my local congregation about four years ago, and almost immediately tried to find these opportunities for myself. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find my niche. It turned out that what I have to offer isn’t what the local fellowship needed.

The local Unitarian Universalist congregation has a very limited pool of volunteer opportunities. The primary type of volunteer work is committee-based. Sure, there is youth ministry and special event work, but the majority of jobs are committee positions. One of the expectations of membership is that you serve on a committee; it’s an unsaid expectation that you serve on multiple committees.

I’m not wired for committee work, or at least not the way the local fellowship does it. I simply don’t have the personality or the work approach for it. I’m a nonlinear person who prefers an informal work space. I also prefer to do church work that requires me to interact and serve other people, like volunteering at a food pantry. I like getting to know other people and, building relationships. The whole reason I sought out a church was for community and relationships, and the chance to serve the larger community within a church structure.

So meetings felt like a waste of my time. Plus, committees felt like an endless cycle of creating more and more work so to justify the necessity of the committee, even though that work didn’t seem absolutely necessary to keep the congregation running. I felt like I was spending so much time supposedly working with fellow members of the church and yet never really getting to know them, without any substantial work to show for the hours spent in meetings. It was very unsatisfying.

I finally reached my breaking point in June of last year. It finally clicked with me, really clicked with me, that my involvement with the congregation wasn’t good for me. I hadn’t grown as a person. In fact, I frequently left the fellowship feeling like I hadn’t achieved anything, because I wasn’t able to plug in and do the work, which meant that there was something inherently wrong with me.

It finally dawned on me that this didn’t mean I’m defective in anyway, it meant that the church’s needs are different from what I can offer. In other words, they didn’t have a place for me. I needed something different. I needed a church community that I could grow with, one that I would need and it would need me too. I needed to be affirmed and transformed. I took a couple of months off of church and then started attending a local Episcopal church. It’s been almost a year now, and I am happy to say it is the church community I’d been looking for. I’ve grown a lot since I started attending the church, and I’m even happier to report that I’ve changed the church too. I’ve finally found the church community for me.

I’ll talk more about my involvement with the Episcopal church in a future blog post (I promise), because it really does deserve it’s own post, and I want the focus of this post to be on my inability to connect with Unitarian Universalism. I also have other criticisms of Unitarian Universalism that I plan on sharing in the future.

I know, you’re waiting with baited breath.

Cheers!

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8 thoughts on “Why I’m Not A Unitarian Universalist

  1. “I hadn’t grown as a person.” And that is exactly why you were right to cut your losses and move on. Thank you for sharing your experience, for thinking fairly about what the fellowship had to offer versus what you needed, and for alerting all of us to the reality that we lose many seekers because of such typically limited vision and frustrating ways.

  2. Pingback: – Why I’m Not Ready to Say I’m No Longer a UU |

  3. I’ve enjoyed perusing your blog. My husband and I tried our local UU for a couple of years, but sadly, it didn’t feel right to us. We like the principles, but we had a hard time making friends, and we found the sermons (mostly) uninspiring. We would really like to find a church where we feel at home and that will be a good fit for our children too, but it’s been very hard. I have a lot of questions about the existence of God, yet I have a deep spiritual side too. Doesn’t make for a good fit with most churches. We are also introverts, and we’d rather just go and enjoy a sermon without having to volunteer (at least while our children are young and we are mostly exhausted), but no church seems willing to accept people without eventually trying to get them to volunteer.

    • Thanks for the comment.

      Do you listen to any UU podcasts? A year or so ago I discovered the podcasts of Rev. Matthew Tittle. He is a Unitarian Universalist minister and I love the sermons he has offered as podcasts.

      I especially recommend his “Through the Roof,” because he beautifully talks about 3 kinds of churches – two unhealthy types and one healthy type. The unhealthy churches are addicted to asking their members for money and time, while the healthy kind of church is affirmative and transformative (on all levels). It was a cathartic listen; it was great to finally hear a fulfilling UU sermon and someone else talk about what I have learned through church experience. I really can’t recommend his sermons enough.

      • Thank you for your suggestion. A few years ago I remember my husband and I perused the list of UU podcasts, but in general, I don’t have a lot of time for listening. I’ll try to check out his work. Thanks!

  4. Stephane:

    As a lifelong UU, I’m sorry that you did not find that your local congregation did a good job meeting your needs.

    I just wanted to let you know that there are many UU churches that ARE active in community activities such as food pantries. For example, my own church, People’s Church in Kalamazoo, is active in the local community in a number of ways. We work with a local interfaith group on issues such as early childhood education, mass transit, and low-income housing. We have active volunteers working as tutors in a low-income elementary school. Some members are working with prisoners and ex-prisoners on prisoner re-entry programs. We also have some members who volunteer to help at a regular weekly Sunday dinner for homeless persons in conjunction with other local churches. And we have some engagement with partner churches in Transylvania and Africa.

    Our efforts were written up when we won one of the UUA’s annual awards for social justice. http://www.uua.org/action/stories/199486.shtml . I think the UUA is trying actively to encourage congregations to do more of this kind of social activism.

    My own belief is that whether a church engages in the local community is more a function of the particular history of a church and its current membership and leadership than of the denomination.

    In addition, I believe that any church, of whatever size, can find ways to be actively engaged in social justice in the local community in a way that respects the individual consciences of congregation members. The issue is whether there is a critical mass and leadership at the church interested in doing so.

    Regards,

    Tim Bartik

  5. Stephane,
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences. I’m sorry you didn’t find a good fit in your local UU congregation, but it does sound like you learned important lessons that ultimately helped you to find your current church home.
    As a UU, I really like Tim’s reply, especially where he writes: “My own belief is that whether a church engages in the local community is more a function of the particular history of a church and its current membership and leadership than of the denomination.”
    Yes. Unlike Episcopalians, UUs have a congregational polity — meaning that each church is wholly independent and self-governing. Each church relies entirely on its members for support and direction. This governance style gives us great diversity in theology and engagement, sometimes to our detriment.
    I wish you “happy trails” in your spiritual journey and evolution. May you find peace and fulfillment.
    Love,
    Susanne

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