It Was Like One Big Discussion: A Visitor’s Perception of a Unitarian Universalist Sunday Morning Service

So on Saturday we moved. And we hired two moving helpers off of craigslist. They were great movers, hard workers and we couldn’t have done it with out them.  Thank you Eric and Chris wherever you are. I thought I would share an amusing conversation that Eric (one of our movers) and I had on the way from our old place to the new place. I wish this was some sort of anomaly, but I bet it isn’t.

And so goes the conversation:

Me: So did you guys grow up in South Boston?

Eric: Yeah. What do you do here?

Me: I’m in school.

Eric: What do you study?

Me: Religion.

Eric: So are you gonna be a minister or something?

Me: Well, I am a candidate for ordination in Unitarian Universalism although the process might take a long time.

Eric: My grandma goes to one of them churches.  It was the weirdest fuckin’ place I’ve ever been.

Me: How’s that?

Eric: Well, first there was two ladies breastfeeding in the middle of church. [Dramatic pause.] And the people made me talk about what I believe and stuff.  I HATE talking and they made me talk.

Me: They really shouldn’t make visitors talk if they don’t feel comfortable with that.  I promise you that isn’t the case with all Unitarian Universalist churches.

Eric: Well, and then afterward they had coffee and stuff.  And they kept talking. The whole thing was like one big discussion. I hated it.  I told my grandma never to take me back there again. Wicked weird.

Note that I don’t wish that the breastfeeding was uncommon – I wish that the making visitors feel weird and pressured to talk was uncommon.  Granted, perhaps Eric wasn’t as forced to talk as he might have perceived, but nevertheless, he seemed to feel very uncomfortable with the whole thing. I wish we could reduce the extent to which we come across as weird, although that of course raises the question how much you can seem “mainstream” and “normal” without compromising. The breastfeeding is a perfect example – I would hope most of us would not be willing to give that up on the chance that it would make visitors feel more comfortable. But the question remains – how much do you give up to seem more normal and mainstream? I think it applies not only to Sunday mornings but to UUism in general.  I don’t have the answer…

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7 Responses to It Was Like One Big Discussion: A Visitor’s Perception of a Unitarian Universalist Sunday Morning Service

  1. One of my good friends in college described seeing her first UU service as similar to being an audience member on the Gong Show. I don’t know if you remember that show, but I had a good laugh.

  2. Chalicechick says:

    (((Note that I don’t wish that the breastfeeding was uncommon )))

    I would like it to be uncommon, but only because I want babies in the service at all to be uncommon.

    CC

  3. elizabeth199 says:

    Do you think babies should be in the nursery during services?

  4. Meowia says:

    I would like it to be uncommon, but only because I want babies in the service at all to be uncommon.

    CC

    Sounds so “welcoming”…

  5. rae says:

    Hello. I really enjoy reading your blog. I just wanted to add that when I have visited new UU churches, I always find it strange that they request visitors to stand up and introduce themselves. I find this to be extremely intimidating, and I am not even a shy person. I always wondered where this tradition came from.

    As far as the breastfeeding goes, I also think women should be able to breastfeed whenever, wherever.

  6. Chalicechick says:

    (((Hello. I really enjoy reading your blog. I just wanted to add that when I have visited new UU churches, I always find it strange that they request visitors to stand up and introduce themselves. I find this to be extremely intimidating, and I am not even a shy person. I always wondered where this tradition came from.)))

    Heh, the protestant church I grew up in does this and the UU church I now attend doesn’t.

    Will address the baby-in-church thing on my blog soon.

    CC

  7. Charlie says:

    I don’t particularly like standing up in front of a group of strangers and introducing myself, but I appreciate why churches ask this of visitors.

    Once after doing so at a Unitarian Universalist congregation, where we were sitting near the rear, everyone turned around in their seats and boldly proclaimed in unison, “Welcome, Charlie and Vicky!” I can appreciate that, too, but still feel a flinch when I recall it.

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