Do UU Congregations Support Us?

Such is this digital age that there are people whom I've never met in real life of whom I'm nonetheless fond.  They are people I've interacted with in online forums and such on a regular enough basis that I think I know just a little about them and they about me.  And I want for them to be happy as much as I want that for anyone.

It's also the case that one of my motivations for going onto these forums is to evangelize Unitarian Universalism.  That doesn't mean preaching at people that UU is the right faith and that everyone should come.  Of course not.  But I am mindful of being "out there" openly as a Unitarian Universalist, to (hopefully) make a good impression, and to answer any questions that might arise.  Every now and then someone tells me that they are going to check out their local UU congregation and I say, great!  (If it turns out that it's not for them, that's fine too.)

But this week I had a pang of conscience.  An online "friend" of mine, after relating several substantial stresses that are going on in his life, said:

"I've decided I need to go to church. I need a support group."

And my initial reaction was not "Great!"  What I actually thought to myself was, "Huh, I'm not sure you're going to find what you need in a UU congregation."

I do think that UU is wonderful and worth sharing; otherwise I wouldn't be a part of it.  But when I'm "evangelizing" about how great UU is, I'm more thinking about our "free and responsible search for truth and meaning" and our commitment to social justice work.  If you come to us, you will be met (for the most part) with respect and acceptance of differences.  If you are part of a marginalized group, you will find understanding and encouragement.

But what if you just want comfort and support when you're going through a rough spot in your life?  I searched my brain for the experiences I'd had at church and most of what I could come up with was people engaging me in interesting conversations and giving me opportunities to engage in social justice issues.  I could not picture - and I love my UU church very much - fellow congregants giving me support when I was stressed or down.  I've sought and received it from my ministers, yes.  There is a caring table where people sign cards, yes.  And we share joys and concerns during the service, yes.  And there are always those few people who seem to know and care about everyone...  maybe it's just me that's making too big a deal out of this.

I of course didn't talk him out of going to visit his local UU church this Sunday.  For all I know he'll find exactly what he needs there and I worried for nothing.  But knowing that we are not always the friendliest bunch when it comes to welcoming strangers, I asked him to let me know how it goes.  And in the meantime, I am disturbed by the fact that a friend told me that he wants to join a UU church and I experienced reservations on his behalf.

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