I have always said, "nature is my church." I do not feel comfortable worshiping inside of a building because what I worship cannot be found withing the confinement of four walls. I feel most spiritual when I am in the woods, walking along a shoreline, in the middle of a lake, or even walking through the Boston Common. I have a lot of anxieties regarding death, and when I walk among nature I find comfort in the unknown; I find security in my beliefs, and if something were to happen to me at that very moment I would be at peace (though, at 33 I certainly hope it doesn't).
The one feature of worshiping in a building that I didn't know I was lacking was community. When I lived in western MA I felt that I had a community. I have not felt that way since moving from there. Sure, I have friends and people I hang out with and talk to; but I don't feel a sense of real belonging anywhere. More so, I don't feel it in regards to my emotional well being. As a Pandeist Pagan, I have never been interested in Covens. I find most of them to include belief in anthropomorphic deities, and use of paraphernalia. I would not feel comfortable in that sort of setting. I am more than sure there are groups of nature based Pagans out there, but the thing is my time in nature is sacred. It's my alone time, my time to connect spiritually. I do it my way and on my terms.
As I mentioned, I didn't know I was lacking a spiritual community. I didn't know this until I went and visited the First United Parish in Quincy, MA. This is the church where John Adams and John Quincy Adams are buried, and I went there for their historical tour. During the tour I learned the the church was a Unitarian Universalist church. I had heard the term before, and knew it as "the churches with the LGBT flag", but never knew what it was really about; so I asked questions. I learned that while UU churches are rooted in liberal Christianity, what they look like today are more of a community rather than a religion.
From the UU Wiki page; "Unitarian Universalism is a liberal religion characterized by a "free and responsible search for truth and meaning". The Unitarian Universalist Church does not have a creed.
Instead UUs are unified by their shared search for spiritual growth. As such, UU congregations include many agnostics, theists, and atheists among their membership. Unitarian Universalists state that from these traditions comes a deep regard for intellectual freedom and inclusive love, so that congregations and members seek inspiration and derive insight from all major world religions. The beliefs of individual Unitarian Universalists range widely, including, atheism, agnosticism, pantheism, deism, Jusaism, Islam, Christianity, neopaganism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Daoism, Humanism, and many more.”
The UU Church is also a very liberal community. They are inclusive of all LGBTIAPQ people, people with disabilities (including invisible illness), and people of color. I decided to attend a service, to see what it was like. Here are some bullet points from my experience.
- One of the readings was a letter from Jesus. What I liked about the reading was it presented Jesus as a human, and not a divine being. I have always believed Jesus to be a great Rabbi, Philosopher, story teller, but not as the son of God. This was the only "Christian" feel to the service, and I didn't feel uncomfortable.
- When ending prayer the words "blessed be" were spoken along with "amen." As a Pagan this made me feel incredibly included.
- There was a moment of meditation were the Reverend reflected on several people and events including; the people of Orlando, those living with physical and mental illness, the LGBT community in Boston who just celebrated pride. We reflected in our own way, and the words were inclusive of all schools of spirituality and thought.
- A reading was done called, The Summer Day. The last line asks, "tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life." After the reading they has a, "Call Across the Ages." This was a multi generational sharing of the answering of the aforementioned questions. The people who spoke were a young mother (through the Reverend via email since she could not attend), a middle aged man, and an elderly woman of almost 90. Their stories and experiences were great to listen to, and I felt I could resonate (especially the young mother who talked of making the world a better place, servicing others, and seeing the best in people). There was no heavy religious undertones. In the Catholic Church a Priest could give a great sermon, but then it always comes back to the Christian God, and I lose the connection; I can't resonant. Here, I was able to.
- There was a point where people were encouraged to share a sorrow or a joy, and candles were lit. Again, a way for everyone to feel included. I shared a sorrow and had several people come up to me after and thank me; tell me I was brave.
After there was a potluck and I got to meet and talk to people. Their last service is next Sunday and they start Chalice Circles (discussion and deep listening groups). I am definitely going back, and hope to be part of the community soon.
Nature is still my church, but once a week coming together with other spiritual, liberal, inclusive people is something I need.