FPUU Is a Gift
On Sunday, September 26, 1993 William and Karen Wians brought me, their 6 month old child, to First Parish for my dedication. Far too young to remember the event myself, it marked a very important moment in my life, as an incredible gift had just been given to me.
Through the earlier parts of my life, attending church was just about the last thing I wanted to do with my Sunday mornings. I really made my parents work every weekend, testing their patience and seeing just how far they were willing to go to get me to come to church. I was too young, too impatient, to appreciate the gift that was being presented to me.
In my early years of religious education, I was exposed to numerous other faiths and beliefs, and opportunity not available to my friends of other faiths. Visiting the Sikh Ashram in Millis was particularly enlightening, as I was learning about beliefs and lifestyles that I had never encountered before. Not only was I being exposed to these religions, I was being encouraged to embrace them, examining each for any aspects that resonated with how I viewed the world.
As I grew older, my relationship with FPUU changed. In 8th grade I participated in the OWL program. OWL was a truly amazing program. I always found it difficult to explain to friends what the OWL program was about, as most people couldn’t imagine going to church for that brand of religious education. Working with my peers, and the fantastic facilitators, OWL was a unique experience, and helped me to realize that FPUU was no ordinary house of worship. I began to appreciate the gift that I had been given.
The Coming of Age process was another milestone for my life at FPUU. With David Maxson as my mentor, I again was encouraged to explore my own beliefs. My Statement Of Beliefs was one of the first times I stood and presented to a large audience, and although I was nervous, I knew that no matter what I said, I would be loved and accepted here.
Of the many things I learned about the world and myself through my Coming of Age, one piece of advice in particular has stuck with me. David Maxson told me that my statement of beliefs was not about what I did NOT believe it, but what I DO believe in. So much of what I discussed revolved around the things I did not believe in, typically the beliefs held by the major religions of the world, that I had not realized how underdeveloped my own beliefs were. Coming of Age taught me that things I believe, are far more important than the things I do not believe.
Through my High School and college years, my church attendance dropped dramatically. As a young adult, I could now convince my parents to let me stay home from church, sleeping in until they returned. I was happy to have Sunday mornings to myself, free from the weekly obligation of church.
However, I did not forget FPUU, nor did I ignore the role it played in my life. Instead, I began to understand the true impact of the gift that had been given to me.
Among all of my friends growing up, I was the only one exposed to a church where the mission was not acceptance of dogma, but one of religious discovery and independence. I hadn’t realized how lucky I was, to be part of a community that accepts all, and encourages everyone to find truth and meaning in their own lives. I realized that whatever stage of life I am in, I would always be welcome at FPUU, happily greeted by all of you, who have played such an important role in making me who I am today.
This is the gift of First Parish Unitarian Universalist.