When I was a young girl, about 10 years old, I started to attend the Very Popular Presbyterian Church. It was wonderful. I loved church. I loved the people, the message, the entire thing. I spent my teenage years involved in their very active youth group, doing all sorts of fun activities. We put on full production musicals, we had book clubs, sports teams, and a choir. We owned an 88 acre camp where I worked in the summer as a lifeguard. During the school year I did something church related at least three days a week. Eventually I even became a deacon.
I had the greatest friends. Our church, being very popular, attracted the most interesting, intelligent and talented kids in our town. We had a bumper crop of musicians, actors and artists by the dozen; some kids were just really, really nice.
Now here comes the shocking part. (At least it’s shocking to my modern day, living-almost-in-the-south, fundamentalist-saturated experience.) We never learned about hell. We were never pushed to ‘receive salvation.’ We were allowed to talk about and debate scripture all day if we wanted. In fact, it was encouraged, but most kids didn’t really care. Jesus was a wonderful counselor and God was love. That was the end of the story.
Sunday night Fellowship was packed, but not just by members of the church. Jewish kids came. Catholic kids came. If our town had any Muslims or Hindus, I bet they would have come, too. The message was clear. Everyone was welcome. And I know this may be very hard to believe, but others’ faiths were respected.
It’s no surprise to grow up and find a lot of my former youth group friends are now Unitarian Universalists. I have heard in the Midwest there are some Christian UU churches, and I bet their message is very similar to one I heard back then. A few, like me, are out atheists.
As my own children were entering adolescence, I wanted them to have this experience, too. When my older daughter, faced with the discouraging fact that The Big Popular Church in our town is Southern Baptist, began expressing a need for like-minded community we started attending the UU church.
As you can see from yesterday’s post (and undoubtedly a few in the future) this didn’t go so well.