A congregational self assessment survey wasy conducted in the summer of 2004. Below are the responses to two of the questions that relate to why people attend the Fellowship.
Why do you come here (UUFYS)?
- Spiritual needs are met here
- I love the people (7 similar responses)
- To be with like minded people (8 similar responses)
- I learn something every Sunday
- Fellowship (8 similar responses)
- To increase my knowledge of the “spiritual” world (but not forced to believe one set of unchanging rules)
- Intellectual stimulation (6 similar responses)
- Being with 100 friends and learning 100 new things
- To create my own theology
What sustains your involvement in our Fellowship?
- Trying to work together for peace (5 similar responses)
- Contacts with like minded people (7 similar responses)
- Interesting programs and commitment to program development (9 similar responses)
- Everyone is accepted
- Progressive people
A Personal Perspective about UUs
When I was in high school, long before I had any experience with UUs, I had a friend who was a devote born again Christian. I can remember him once joking that Unitarians can, “do whatever they want.” He was implying that since Unitarians didn’t have to be saved or profess a certain belief, that anyone could be a Unitarian by simple saying so. No sacrifice. No conversion. No struggle. The sacrifice, conversion and struggle made him a moral person and somehow those who did not sacrifice, convert and struggle were less moral.
At the time that I write this I have been attending the Fellowship for a couple of years and have recently become a member. I sometimes wonder, how do I communicate with someone like my friend and explain what the Fellowship means to me? How do I do so in a way that they can relate to and understand?
Since my friend was a devote Christian there is a story in the Bible that comes to mind. It is the story of the Good Samaritan. As most people know, the story is one about a man who is attacked by robbers and left half dead along the road. A priest comes upon the beaten man and instead of helping, moves to the other side of the road and keeps walking. Similarly, a temple official comes along and does the same. Finally, a Samaritan comes and finds the man, feels compassion and helps him. This story is intended to show the importance of being compassionate towards and loving one’s neighbor.
Why did the priest and the temple official move to the other side of the road and ignore the beaten man? The Bible doesn’t say. I always assumed it was because they were callous and uncaring. Because they were in a position of power that somehow they didn't have to help. A few years ago I read a book that gave a different answer to this question. The book explained that Jewish law at that time forbid Jews from touching anything dead unless it had been through the proper blessing rituals. So when the priest finds the man “half dead” he moves to the other side. Helping might be a sin if the man dies or is already dead. The priest and the temple official are trying to be good by not helping. They are trying to follow the letter of God’s law.
Samaritans and Jews did not get along particularly well at that point in history, though they shared some common religious beliefs. It is ironic that Jesus would choose the Samaritan to be the good guy in this story. A person who is not accepted in the Jewish community, an outcast, is the one who does God's work. While the priest and temple official, who follow God's law to the letter, fail.
In our culture I see Unitarians as being in a similar role as the Good Samaritan in the story. We are the religious outcasts. The ones who question and who don't fit in. We are Christians, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics, Humanist, Wiccan and many others. From my personal experience, one of the main things that bond us together is our desire to do good, to be compassionate towards our fellow human beings. This makes sense to me. When Jesus was asked what was the single most important thing a person can do, His answer wasn't to get baptized, recruit new members, or to follow the law. His answer was to love. "Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor like yourself." Love--that is what I am trying to do.
Joel Smith - UUFYS Webmaster