Maybe I am a charasmatic UU?

So the search for a home church is on. It is so much harder than I thought it would be and brings up all sorts of issues. One of the main ones is: I want to want to go to my church. I don’t want to go to church because I should join a church. I don’t need to be ultimately fulfilled each and every Sunday. Everything does not have to be perfect, but I need to find a church that I am excited to go to. And for this to work, I need to feel something during worship. And I need to feel welcome and not awkward. This has both to do with me and my mindset, as well as the way churches are. This brings me back to my megachurch days where there was a whole team of people trying to make church welcoming and enjoyable and they did a great job. I know that this can cross the line and turn into “church lite” or all warm fuzzy feelings without grappling with the hard challenges. But, for me, it didn’t. What it meant is that I could bring my coffee to worship with me, people were friendly and nice to me, I could sing along with the songs and feel them, and I could even get so excited about a song or about something that was being said that I could put my hand up in the air and say “amen!” All the prayers were not written out – they came from people’s hearts right then and there. And the sermons were not all written out – they were not polished or perfect, but they were more spontaneous. There was a sense that we didn’t have to control everything, or think everything out, and we could give some of ourselves, even recklessly give ourselves, over to some power that was awesome and overwhelming. I am not trying to hark back to the good old days of megachurch life – there were lots of problems with it too. But I guess what I am trying to express is a desire for something more charismatic. For something to get lost in and overwhelmed by. For something more welcoming and less stifled feeling. It sucks so much feeling like an outsider each Sunday. Is there a way to make visitors not feel like outsiders? Maybe it is impossible. I don’t know.

It is important for me to stress the balance here – this is not meant to be some sort of indictment of Unitarian Universalism. I feel like too often individuals’ struggles with an aspect of UUism turns into a “Gosh, UUism can’t get anything right.” So I don’t mean to imply that there is some sort of crisis and we need to rethink everything. I suppose I am reflecting on whether or not I am longing for something that we are not. For me, and others that want get overwhelmed by God and lost in the spirit and warmly welcomed by people who really seem to want us there, is this just something we need to find somewhere else? Or can this be us? Or is it asking us to be too many things to too many different people?

p.s. Afterthought: I wonder if this has more to do with being in New England than being in Unitarian Universalist churches? Or, if it has more to do with me feeling more at home in churches that are like the one I grew up with and it is really about me and not the churches I’m visiting? Probably all of this plays into it.

8 Responses to Maybe I am a charasmatic UU?

  1. Lizard Eater says:

    Amen, mah sister!

    I am toying with charismatic UUism, too. The seminary that I go to is overwhelmingly black charismatic. When I give presentations, I get “amen”s and “That’s sure right!” and other things called out in a very natural way. It feels real and it makes it feel like it’s more of a shared experience.

    If I go through 6 years of this (since I’m attending part-time), I think it will be difficult to preach in (or attend) a church like so many UU ones I’ve visited — with polite, poker faces on practically everyone there.

    Speak it!

  2. Philocrites says:

    I think you may also have stumbled onto the problem of how to start going to church again after going to seminary. I know I’m not the only one who picked up an M.Div., worked on the staff in UU churches, and then tried to fit back into life as a church-goer. It’s not at all easy.

  3. Hi Elizabeth,

    I don’t think that’s too much to ask. The concerns you are describing (more or less consistently feeling not welcomed into the congregation and not moved by the worship) are quite fundamental.

    There should be a place within Unitarian Universalism for a more expressive, spontaneous style of worship. It might not work for every congregation, but I imagine there are lots of Unitarian Universalists who would really enjoy this different approach to worship.

  4. Getting spontaneity into a church community, particularly in a UU setting is difficult because UUs are so detail-oriented and cerebral. That being said, I think it is entirely plausible to introduce a more off-the-cuff, less stylized worship service.

  5. Forgot to add this: UUs bring a particular kind of complex to the table–a complex that is commonplace to intelligent people. Often feeling isolated and misunderstood from the rest of society, they are not quick to warm up to newcomers unless they prove themselves up front. It’s very tough to get around that fact.

  6. I think Philocrites hit on something (at least for me).

  7. Elizabeth says:

    I agree – maybe I need to lower my expectations for now and just see it as a time to see a range of different sort of UU churches rather than this YOU MUST JOIN AND LOVE IT pressure that I may be putting on myself.
    Thanks for all the comments everyone…….

  8. Blog says:



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