Finding a Place by Kim Rivers

I can’t even remember what initially drew me in the church door. I’d gone in and out of the building for years. Classes, conferences, parties, meetings, concerts, I’ve been coming to 175 Wendell Ave for at least 30 years. Despite all the ins and outs, I’d never attended a service. I may have sat in the sanctuary, but there was no way I was going to church!

Growing up I attended catechism, which is school framed on the teachings of the Catholic Church. I wasn’t too swayed even as a youngster. Something about the whole premise of hierarchy and needing an intermediary to communicate with god didn’t sway me. I questioned everything much to the chagrin of the nuns and priests. I did make my first communion, but was never confirmed. I appreciate that when I told my mother I didn’t want to continue going to Catechism or church she agreed. Hence I sometimes jokingly call myself an almost catholic. I explored a number of other churches, but none resonated. It was in 7th grade through a course in Greek mythology that I had my first inklings of polytheism. This led me to the modern incarnation of Wicca. This is where I found my spiritual footing.

Wiccan and other pagan spiritual belief systems offered me freedom from original sin (because being born female meant I was already condemned) and deep connections with nature. No longer was I removed from other beings or the divine. I was a representation of the divine. This is what I think most spiritual seekers are after; not just a higher power to guide their lives, but a potential mirror to see themselves as more than the limits of their body, mind, and heart. Too often I’ve found these aspects of myself can be in competition and without some guiding principles formed into beliefs and values my id would rule most of my day-to-day. It’s not for lack of rational thought to temper my more primal drives, but rational thought sometimes needs a leaping off place. Enter the longing for spiritual connection and guidance.

When a friend invited me to the UU, I came with curiosity, but also some skepticism. It was church after all and I’d already rejected that model of spiritual pursuit. It seems however the cosmos had some different ideas to put before me. I found warmth, kindness, and compassion amongst the UUs. I also found folks from different spiritual traditions, including the pursuit of the intellect. I also found that my own spiritual beliefs or pursuits were not at odds with the UU principles I’d have not thought I’d find a resonance with others in the formal framework of worship. Perhaps it was that there are no doctrines per se, but only the now familiar principles based on dignity, justice, and actively living these in our community, not just confined to the walls of the church on a Sunday.

So too there’ve been times of strife and discord, but that seems to come with any large group from different backgrounds. I’ve seen the Pittsfield UU go through many growing pains. Heck, I’ve contributed to those pains sometimes, but what endures for me is the commitment people bring by returning again and again despite the strife. Some longtime members have chosen to step away. The reasons are as varied as the person, yet still this place endures. And as I sit here and write, I ponder the future. No one knows what comes next, but for the UU I think it’ll continue to draw people in seeking a path to share with others the deep meaning of what it means to engage the divine.