Adam Snider

Posts Tagged ‘church’

Choosing a spiritual home

In Religion on March 12, 2009 at 1:51 pm

I’ve been trying to write this post for far too long now. I kept thinking that, in writing about the fact that I have chosen a new spiritual home, I should write a post comparing the two churches I was choosing between—Unitarian Church of Edmonton (UCE) and Westwood Unitarian—and saying what it was about UCE that made me choose it over Westwood.

The problem with this approach, and the reason that I’ve finally abandoned it, is that in saying what I like about UCE the post kept sounding like I was criticizing Westwood. That was not my intention at all. It’s simply that UCE is better fit for Sara and I, so we have decided that it will be the church we attend regularly.

Without commenting on Westwood, then, what is it about UCE that made us choose it? Well, I can’t pretend to speak for Sara, but here are my reasons for choosing the Unitarian Church of Edmonton as my new spiritual home:

  • I like the belief system (or lack thereof, depending on your point of view) that Unitarian Universalists share. The openness and liberal philosophy have strong appeal for me.
  • I like the minister; his sermons are thought-provoking and insightful. He’s also got a good sense of humour and isn’t afraid to let it show when he’s at the pulpit—religion doesn’t have to be deadly serious.
  • The congregation is large enough that I will probably be able to meet some like-minded people and perhaps even make some new friends, but small enough that it still feels like a fairly close-knit community (of which I am very slowly becoming a part).
  • They offer a lot of opportunities to learn new things. Currently, Sara and I are taking two courses through the church: Our Neighbouring Faiths (an introduction to 6 major world religions) and The New U (an introduction to Unitarian Universalism, including the history of the faith in general and of UCE in particular).
  • Like all UU churches, UCE is welcoming of everyone, regardless of race, colour, creed, religion (seriously), gender, sexual orientation, income, or anything else. To be able to be a part of such a welcoming community is an amazing feeling.

There are lots of other reasons, too, but mostly I just feel comfortable at UCE. I’d probably have checked it out a long time ago if I had known about it sooner.

It feels very good to have found a spiritual home where I can explore my own faith on my own terms while still being part of a welcoming community who can help me in my journey (and, eventually, I hope to be able to help others, whether by volunteering at the church or by just talking about spiritual matters with other members of the congregation).

The next step, I guess, is to become a member of the church. I haven’t quite decided that I’m ready for that, but I think it’s likely in the cards. Hell, one day I might even start calling myself a Unitarian Universalist.


Why I go to church

In Religion on January 28, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Since I first visited the Unitarian Church of Edmonton (UCE) four weeks ago, I have attended every week. Part of the reason for this is that I’m still trying to decide if UCE is the right place for me.

But, my reasons for continuing to go to church are more numerous than that one point alone.

I have a number of reasons for attending church, not least of which is the fact that each sermon at UCE is as much about learning new things as it is about connecting with my spiritual side.

My reasons for going to church include:

  • Feeling a connection to god, whatever god may be.
  • Feeling a connection to a caring and compassionate human community.
  • Connecting through physical contact with other people.
  • Feeling more connected to Sara.

Let me explain each of those points in greater detail.

Church makes me feel closer to god

While this may seem like a strange thing to say, given my view of god as something impersonal and largely absent from the day-to-day workings of the universe, I feel closer to god when I attend church services.

I can’t really explain why. I guess it’s just that church brings out my spiritual side. That’s one of the main purposes of attending a church service—nurturing the spirit—so I suppose this should come as no surprise.

Watching people light candles of caring and concern, or lighting my own, makes me feel close to god (and to other people). Listening to sermons sometimes make me feel closer to god. Most importantly, moments of quiet meditation make me feel closer to god.

It’s that last point that, in a way, surprises me the most.

I have always thought of faith and religion as something very personal. The experience of god is a very individual experience. In this regard, it makes perfect sense that a moment of quiet meditation would be a moment where I feel close to god.

What surprises me, I guess, is that I feel that experience more strongly when I’m sitting in my seat at church than when I’m meditating anywhere else.

But, again, church is designed to be a spiritual environment. It’s a place where we can open ourselves up to whatever it is that we believe in.

The nature of the space allows me to open my heart and mind to the possibility of the something greater than myself, and so private meditation within the bounds of the church building tends to be more intense than it would be in another situation.

Church connects me to a real and human community

The second major reason that I go to church is because it is a community. I am a social creature as much as any other human being, so I enjoy the idea of being a part of a like-minded community where I am free to be myself.

While I am not a humanist in the secular sense of the word, my beliefs are heavily influenced by humanist thought. I believe that the human world, the everyday actions that define who we are, is as important and as spiritual as anything supernatural that may or may not exist.

Being a part of a church community, a community made of fellow human beings, helps to remind me of the importance of our humanness. It also reminds me that, as humans, we are more alike than we are different.

This reminder that all humans are, at the core, mostly the same, helps me to move beyond the prejudices and stereotypes that all of us tend to develop. In many ways, I think this is what the first principle of UU—the affirmation and promotion of the inherent worth and dignity of every person—is all about.

Church gives me a physical connection to others

This is a small thing that has a big influence on me.

I’ve read before that physical contact is a basic human need. We are healthier and happier when we touch other people. This is in no way a sexual thing. (Unfortunately, I can’t seem to track down the study I’m referring to.)

I’m not sure why, but I’ve always been a fairly closed off person. I used to be uncomfortable hugging people as a way of saying hello or good-bye. I am not uncomfortable with this anymore, but it’s not something that I do often.

To be honest, other than the occasional handshake with a client or co-worker, I would likely go for days, even weeks without having physical contact with another human being if I was not in a romantic relationship (one of the few places where I’ve always felt comfortable touching another person).

However, despite the fact that I’ve often been uncomfortable touching people, this is more to do with social expectations than any kind of physical comfort. We live in a society where we’re not supposed to touch one another.

In fact, quite the opposite of not wanting or needing to have physical contact with other humans, I enjoy it. It makes me feel happier and healthier.

Because of this, I really enjoy the fact that, at the end of a church service (at least at UCE) we hold hands with the people on either side of us and sing a short song. This simple act of holding hands with people who are, for the most part, strangers, has a powerful effect on me.

It heals me. It connects me to other people. It connects the spiritual to the physical (in my mind, the two are often one and the same, which probably goes back to my humanist beliefs). Without this simple act, I would have far less physical contact with other people, and I would likely not feel as happy as I do.

Church helps improve my connection with Sara

I believe that humans are biologically predisposed to be spiritual. Even atheists engage in spiritual practices (though they may not recognize them as such). It appears to be a part of human nature.

If spirituality is built into our DNA, then is an important and basic part of who we are.

If spirituality is at the core of who a person is, then is only makes sense that I have begun to feel even closer and more connected to Sara (my girlfriend) since we started attending UCE together. While our spiritual beliefs are not the same, the Unitarian church provides us with a place where we can have a shared faith experience.

It’s also got us talking about faith and spiritual matters more than we used to. As we talk about our personal ideas of faith, religion, and spirituality, we get to know one another even more than we already do.

Sharing this important aspect of our lives has, I feel, improved our connection. I feel that I know Sara more intimately than I did before. I feel that I am closer to her than I was before. And I feel even more certain that she is the right woman for me.

Do you attend a church of some kind? What does church mean to you? Why do you go to your place of worship?