I grew up without religion. My grandparents were Catholic, but my single parent mom had no use for it. She believed when my sister and I got older we could choose our own religion, if we wanted one. So the only time we went to church was on Christmas Eve, and only because we went to our grandparents’ house and they made everyone go. I remember being bored to tears and counting the minutes until we could go home.
During high school, we had a lot of deaths among the student body…..a couple of them were friends of mine. I remember during funeral services I kept thinking “aren’t I supposed to believe in god?” Seemed like everyone else was getting solace knowing these kids were “in a better place”, but I never felt any of that. So I thought well maybe my problem is that I never really went to church and that’s why I don’t have this strange thing called “faith”. I decided to give it a try. I went to a Baptist Church. It was the one my friend in high school that died belonged to; and I even got myself baptized. But I never felt anything really. I still didn’t believe in a god. I thought prayer was a waste of time, the words they spouted meant nothing to me…..it was gibberish. And, seemed like my purpose in that particular church, as a woman, was to serve the men. NO THANK YOU!
So, I stopped going, and didn’t really think about it again unless it was brought up by others (usually religious people that felt I was wrong for my lack of beliefs).
During my 20’s and 30’s, it was a non-issue…the people I hung out with didn’t go to church, and didn’t care about religion. When I met my husband Bob, we talked about if we wanted marriage and kids, but religion didn’t come up. He was a very non-practicing catholic and when I met him he didn’t attend church or do any of the religious stuff. He just called himself catholic and left it at that. I still didn’t have a word for what I was or wasn’t. I was Lisa, nice to meet you.
Things happened in my life. A young 26 year old friend died in her sleep, my mother was very ill and suffered for 10 years before her too young death at 65 years old, my father died 6 months before that at 71. And at all the funerals, I heard over and over….”well, at least now they aren’t suffering and are in a better place.” Well, my brain didn’t believe that. I was mad at the thought of a god that lets the suffering happen in this world. Who would worship such a thing????
I decided there can’t be a god. And that was the end of religion for me. But after moving out to the middle of nowhere from a major city like Ann Arbor, Michigan, I was feeling lonely. I needed a way to find new friends. I loved the social idea of church, seeing the same people on a regular basis, doing projects with them, charities. But there was just NO WAY I could sit through a service to get the other stuff.
Then one day, I was visiting with friends and one was talking about the church she goes to, a UU in Cincinnati. She was trying to explain to me how it was there, but I kept getting caught up in the words she was using….church, religion, spiritual. By now, I wanted nothing to do with anything even remotely “religious”.
But she kept saying, “it doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe, you are still welcome there”. I was skeptical, but desperate and so I decided that week I would look up a local UU and give it a whirl. I expected to hate it.
I found a congregation in Findlay, and MVUUC . We decided we would try them both out, and see what they were like. I still expected to hate it.
We showed up at MVUUC first, and it was love at first service! There were no judgments, no expectations. I wasn’t wrong for my non-belief. In fact, no one even asked me about my beliefs….ever! It was just friendly, warm, loving people gathering together to do good things for each other. I couldn’t believe it. We would be out of town for the next 2 weekends, but decided we would return for a second visit at MVUUC when we got back to make sure it wasn’t a fluke. It wasn’t. It was even better the second time, and people actually remembered us. We never made it to the Findlay UU. We knew this was the place for us. We were invited to Circle dinners and that sealed our fate. The small gatherings were a perfect way for us newbies to get to know the congregation on a personal level. A few months later, we became members.
And that is Why I Belong.