Puzzling over this statement led me to a crude summary—that our lives are located within settings on at least two scales—one immense and mysterious and one more intimate, human, and social—and that the fellowship addresses my needs on both scales.
I seem to remember being fascinated as a child by pictures of Sumerian figurines—little clay people from the dawn of recorded history four or five thousand years ago. They were immensely wide-eyed and to me looked frightened—not so much afraid the nomads would sack their city as awestruck and troubled by the mystery of their own existence: How did I find myself in this situation, in this world, this life? And what should I do?
Later I learned that most of the world’s great religions were born a couple of thousand years later. But the sense of awe and puzzlement that I doubtless projected onto those figurines remains. Different religions look for the certainty of a question and an answer by posing a problem: Your problem is sin, or exile, or failure to submit to God, or pain, or lack of social harmony. This approach, however, can lead to very partial answers. There are endless Unitarian jokes about how we suspend judgment, but it’s a relief to admit that. Here I can do so and still keep looking.
But Unitarians are also a loving community that works on a less cosmic scale. Beth and I were married in a Unitarian church designed by Frank Lloyd Wright—not a model human being but a great architect and a Unitarian. The minister, Max Gaebler, liked to suggest homey touches from different faith traditions, in Beth’s case Jewish, for the wedding ceremony. We declined to break glass or have a canopy, but it was an occasion of welcoming love.
Obviously joining our Unitarian fellowship is less intense than getting married, but what attracted and holds me and us is a loving community. (That’s an overused word, “community,” and a little formulaic.) But it’s short for people, friendship, doing things together. It also means coming into a place where there are people reaching out to others. I wouldn’t be doing home-delivered meals if Jim Dealing hadn’t talked me into it here. And I hope someday to remember the infant pantry. Of course I’m way short of transforming myself and we’re short of transforming the world, but there are good people here who keep prodding me. And I wouldn’t move much without suggestions and some nudging. So I need this fellowship, and I try to support it.