Here are two stories from readers who attend a Unitarian Universalist church and how it differs from more traditional churches in the U.S. The first reader, John, describes how being exposed at an early age to a very different faith in a very different culture opened up his mind—and then closed it off to religion:
Fascinating collection of personal essays. Here is mine.
I grew up in Northern Virginia and was raised Episcopalian going to a long established Episcopal parish in Fairfax and being confirmed there. In 1962 my father joined the U.S. Information Agency. That September we moved to Ankara, Turkey. I was a few months short of 12.
The move exposed me to the Turkish version of Islam. It was also the beginning of what I like to think of as an appreciation for what William James termed “the variety of religious experiences.” My father was a great believer in getting out and exploring the country, for which I will always bless him. We travelled all over the Turkish Mediterranean coast, to Istanbul and to Greece. This exposed me to Greek and Roman polytheism and to the Greek Orthodox traditions of the Byzantine Empire and modern Greece. At around the same time I was beginning to explore Western classical and American history, including the impact of the Enlightenment on Revolutionary America.
After my parents separation in 1965, my mother, sister, and I returned to Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I was quite offended by the lack of understanding she received from the Episcopal minister there. I don’t recall the impetus, although I think I can infer it, but in 1966 she left the Episcopal congregation for the Kalamazoo Unitarian congregation. It is possible that my mother’s Quaker heritage on her father’s side could have played a role. We continued as Unitarians when we moved to Tucson, Arizona, in 1967, when I was 16. In my 20s I gradually drifted away from organized religion.
I have recently begun connecting with the River Road Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Bethesda, Maryland, where I now live. I consider this an intellectual, not a spiritual, connection—one prompted more by my respect for the ethics and intellect of the two ministers leading RRUUC and a personal quest for community after my wife entered long-term care for Alzheimer’s.