Adam Snider

Posts Tagged ‘Unitarian Universalism’

I joined the Unitarian Church of Edmonton

In Religion on May 1, 2009 at 8:25 am

I was going to call this post “I joined the cult,” but my SEO instincts won out over my humour instincts. 😉

It’s true, I have joined the Unitarian Church of Edmonton (UCE). I submitted a membership application about 3 weeks ago (as did Sara) and the board accepted it sometime during the week following.

Why did I join the church? Well, essentially for all of the reasons that I mentioned in my earlier posts, “Why I go to church,” and, “Choosing a spiritual home.”

I feel a sense of community at UCE—especially now that there is a young adult social group for the Gen X and Gen Y members of the congregation (all of whom seem to be really cool people)—and I really feel like I’ve found something that’s been missing from my life since I started going to church.

Plus, I very recently starting calling myself a Unitarian—I even updated my religion on Facebook (and we all know that nothing is real if it isn’t on Facebook). Since I have started identifying my faith in this way, it only seemed logical to become a member of the church.

Will this change my relationship with the church? Probably not. I’ve been attending regularly for months now, and I already felt like I was becoming a member of the church. I’ve begun identifying my spiritual/faith beliefs as UU. All that I’ve really done is to submit the paperwork and make it official.

I mean, OK, now I’ll be able to vote on church issues during general meetings (or, rather, I will be able to vote once I’ve been a member for 2 months). And, I suppose that, maybe, I’ll feel a bit more willing to give money and volunteer time to the community than I did before. But, ultimately, all that I’ve done is to make official what I’ve already been putting into practice for several months now.

Are you a member of a church/synoguage/mosque/temple? When did you join? What made you decide to become a member of your particular church (by which I mean the congregation, not the religion itself)? I’d love to read your answers to these questions in the comments.

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Unitarian minister speaks out against Alberta gov’ts cuts to sex-change operations

In Faith in Action on April 14, 2009 at 8:33 am

This letter is just one of many reasons that I’m happy to call myself a Unitarian Universalist (yes, I’ve decided that it is appropriate to identify my religious beliefs in that way):

In a $36-billion budget, the Alberta government chooses to eliminate $700,000 for gender reassignment surgeries. By my calculation that’s a whopping 0.00194 per cent of the budget.

Sorry, but to me this looks like a convenient opportunity to disguise blatant and cruel discrimination as fiscal prudence.

If it wasn’t tragic, it would be laughable.

And the saddest thing is that the government will now have to spend considerably more than they will save in defending this policy before a human rights tribunal.

It’s wrong, mean-spirited and petty, and for what it’s worth, against my religious principles.

Rev. Brian Kiely, Unitarian Church of Edmonton

The emphasis in the final paragraph is mine, but it serves to highlight the way that my church matches my beliefs. I can’t think of too many other religions where a minister would sign his or her name to a letter like this. For that reason, among others, I can’t think of too many other religions where I’d feel comfortable exploring my spiritual side.

For a look at my own opinion on this issue, check out my (unpublished) letter to the editor, “Cutting coverage for sex-change operations shameful,” on my other blog, AdamSnider.com.

Acknowledging the dark side of life

In Spiritual Experiences on April 10, 2009 at 4:49 pm

I just recently returned from a Good Friday service at the Unitarian church. It was not, as you might have guessed, an explicitely Christian service. Jesus played a part, of course, but it wasn’t the traditional Christian Good Friday mass. It was still called a Tenebrae service, but it the part about “Jesus saves!” was noticably absent (since it was a Unitarian service, rather than a Christian service).

It was quite a moving service, for me. It was short but sombre. It caused me to be much more introspective than I have lately, and to acknowledge the darknesses in my life.

In particular, I thought about my father.

My farther is ill. He may even be dying, albeit relatively slowly. His kidneys are failing. In fact, he started on dialysis earlier this week. While I think he still has some kidney function, it’s as though the organs have already failed him completely.

It seems more and more unlikely that he will live to be an old man (he is only 50). I have been denying this and, in doing so, acting as if our time is unlimited. Instead, I should embrace the dark truth of the situation. I should acknowledge his illness.

I should cease taking my father’s life for granted. I should make more time for him in my life. I should let him know that I love him—through actions, if not through words. I should do all of this soon.

Now may be all that we have.

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?

Should I explore Quakerism?

In Religion on January 13, 2009 at 11:15 pm

Quakerism is the religion practiced by the Religious Society of Friends (also known as Quakers). In my readings about Unitarian Universalism (UU), I’ve noticed that there seems to be some overlap between the two faiths, especially in more recent times.

Several prominent Unitarians (and probably many more non-prominent ones) were Quakers, at one point in their lives. Of course, many members of the UU faith belonged to a different religion at one point in their lives, so perhaps this doesn’t mean much.

But, the point I’m trying to make is that Quakerism shares many similarities with UU.

Both faiths believe in finding your own path to god (or whatever is meaningful to you). In fact, although Quakers are generally considered Christian, many Meetings (a congregation of Quakers) have become more liberal and welcoming of non-Christians. It is now possible to be an atheist Quaker, or a Muslim Quaker, or a Humanist Quaker.

This sort of liberalism is, as I’ve said before, one of the things that I’m looking for in my spiritual life. The freedom to explore my own path to the truth is something that is vital to my spiritual growth and personal happiness.

After reading about Quakers and what they believe, I wonder if they might not be the faith community that I’m looking for. To be honest, I don’t think that they are, but I’m definitely curious about how they do what they do.

There is a Quaker community in Edmonton, and I think it would be interesting to check them out. I’ve read a bunch of the info on their website, and they seem like a welcoming group.

I plan to go to a Quaker Meeting for Worship at some point in the future. From what I’ve read, it sounds like quite a unique experience.

For now, I’m still very interested in exploring Unitarian Universalism, but I definitely think that checking out the Quakers will help me to better understand both my own spirituality and that of others.

I’m interested in hearing from you, though. What, dear reader, are your experiences with Quakers (if any)? What notions—either preconceived or learned through experience—do you have about the Religious Society of Friends? Does it interest you? Does it appall you? Please, share your thoughts in the comments.

Welcome to Exploring the Spirit

In Uncategorized on January 6, 2009 at 1:19 pm

Hello, and welcome to Exploring the Spirit. As is typical for me when I start a new writing project, and particularly when I start a new blog, I’m not entirely sure how to begin.

I guess the simplest thing to do would be to explain a bit about what I hope to achieve with Exploring the Spirit.

For a quick introduction, you can check out the About page. If you want more details than that, keep reading.

Why Exploring the Spirit?

Why call this blog Exploring the Spirit? Because it is about doing just that.

I intend for this blog to be an account of my personal spiritual journey. I set a personal goal for myself at the beginning of 2009 to become more in touch with my spiritual side. One of the ways that I will do this is through this blog.

I will use this space to record what I have learned and discovered during my readings, discussions, and other spiritually-related activities. I will also use this blog as a space to work out questions and internal debates. Hopefully, you—the reader—will join me in these debates.

What about religion?

The About page says that this is not a blog about religion. That’s only partially true. While I do not intend to only write about any one, particular religion, there is no doubt that I will write about various religions and religious ideas.

How can one discuss spirituality without at least touching on religion? It seems to me that it would be quite difficult.

That said, this is not a blog about any one religion. It is definitely not about Christianity. The spirit referred to in Exploring the Spirit is not the Spirit of Christ.

It may be the spirit of god, but I’m not sure about that. That’s part of what this exploration is about. What is the spirit? What does it mean to be a spiritual person? What do I, personally, believe in?

If you’re wondering about my personal religion, I don’t have one. I currently fall into the category of “spiritual but not religious.”

However, I recently attended a Unitarian Universalist church, and I find myself quite drawn to the openness of this liberal faith. It may be the case that I will begin to call myself a Unitarian Universalist at some point in the future.

For the time being, though, I am not a member of any organized religion.

Who is this blog for?

While Exploring the Spirit is primarily a documentation of my personal spiritual journey, I hope that it will help others who are on a similar journey.

This blog, then, is for anyone who is on the journey toward a better understanding of their own personal spirituality (or lack thereof). If you find my posts useful, insightful, or interesting, this blog is for you.

If you find my posts ignorant, useless, or just plain stupid, then maybe it’s not for you. Then again, maybe you’re the person who can educate me when I’m being ignorant. If you think I’m off-base or out-of-line, please leave me a comment.

While this is a document of my personal journey, and while it will often be very introspective, I am writing it as a blog, rather than a private journal, because I want to know what other people think of the topics and ideas I’m writing about. If you have an opinion about anything that I write here, please leave a comment.

Who is Adam Snider?

I am not a spiritual guru. I am not a religious leader. I am not any sort of expert on matters of faith, religion, or spirituality. I’m just a regular guy on a journey of self-discovery.

My words and experiences are my own. I hope that this story will help you, but nothing you read here should be taken as absolute truth. This is my truth. You have to find your own truth, your own path.

If it helps, here is a bit of background about my spiritual journey as it stands at the time of writing this (January 06, 2009):

  • I was baptized as a Christian sometime after being born; as far as I know, my family is non-denominational, but I think I was baptized in the United Church of Canada.
  • I was not raised in a religious household. My parents, I think, both believe in God, and would probably call themselves Christian if pressed, but religion was never a major force in our house.
  • I was taken to church a few times when I was youngish. I can’t remember exactly how old I was, but I was probably no older than 10. I remember that I thought church was boring and I didn’t like going. I think we attended on a regular basis for less than a year.
  • Sometime in my early teens, perhaps even sooner, I developed the idea that all religions are “correct” in the sense that they are all just different ways of understanding God. Since God is loving, he would not condemn anyone just because their understanding of him was different from someone else’s understanding. Around this time, I also began to suspect that the Bible was written by humans, and was not necessarily the divine word of God. I think my dad shares this opinion, and told me as much on at least one occasion.
  • I toyed with Wicca and other Earth-focused religions for about 5 minutes.
  • I toyed with Satanism for about 5 seconds.
  • Religion and spirituality were essentially absent from my life for most of my high school experience, though my best friend at the time was Mormon (sort of) and we did sometimes discuss matters of faith during our many coffee talks.
  • In university, I dated a woman who claimed to be very religious. She was a Christian in name only, as far as I’m concerned, but she sparked a desire to learn about religion in me. I began to read the Bible. I studied Christian literature. For a few months, I even referred to myself as a Christian. I attended a Pentecostal Church with her and was turned off of the idea of evangelical Christianity almost immediately.
  • During this time, I attempted to reconcile my humanist beliefs with Christian dogma that contradicted my personal convictions regarding things like abortion, homosexuality, and pre-marital sex (in case you haven’t guessed, I believe that these things are acceptable, while the dogma indicates otherwise).
  • After breaking up with the aforementioned woman, I bounced between hopeful-agnostic (meaning that I wasn’t sure if there was a God or not, but I hoped so) and atheist.
  • After university, I dated a Catholic woman and again the question of religion came into my life. Questions about, “If we marry, how will we raise our kids?” came into play. I knew I could not convert to Catholicism, as it didn’t mesh with what I believed personally, but I again started thinking about religion and spirituality.
  • After that relationship ended, I started referring to myself as an atheist, despite knowing that I felt something greater. I didn’t know if this thing was God in the Judeo-Christian tradition, and so, while I started to use the word “god” to describe it, I no longer capitalized the word (as I wasn’t sure it was an anthropomorphic god).
  • I started dating Sara, my current girlfriend. She was raised Catholic, but isn’t sure if she still believes in that faith. She does, however, believe in God and (I think) Jesus as the Christ. While she made me aware of this, and we’ve talked about faith more than once, she never tried to force her beliefs on me the way that past girlfriends have done.
  • Sara suggested recently (just a few weeks ago, in fact) that we visit the Unitarian Church of Edmonton (UCE). I hesitated at first, but soon agreed. I knew a tiny bit about Unitarian Universalism (UU), but not much. I read as much as I could find about it for a few weeks before finally saying, “OK, let’s go to church.”
  • Together, Sara and I attended UCE for the first time on January 04, 2009. While I’m still not certain that it is the place for me, it has reawakened my spiritual side. I will definitely be attending this church again, and probably visiting other religious services in an effort to learn more about my personal faith in whatever it is that I believe.

That’s pretty much it, in as brief a form as I can manage. If you’d like more information about who I am, or about my journey-to-date, feel free to contact me.

As for what’s yet to come, well, that’s what this blog is all about. If you’re interested in coming along for the ride, you might want to subscribe to Exploring the Spirit—it’s completely free and I promise not to spam you.