I know some of you but in case you don't know me, I'm Don Rust. I've been a member of the congregation for about 10 years. Haven't always been a UU however.
I began religious life as a Presbyterian and continued to be reasonably devout for probably 20 years. As a young person I was at times, at least, very religious and active in whatever Presbyterian Church the family attended.
As an adult in my 30s, a friend got me to attend a UU service in Lansing and although I wasn't really ‘hooked’, I was interested. Over the following year I probably attended UU services once a month. During this time I had discontinued my relationship with the Presbyterian Church. Never did join the Lansing UU Fellowship.
And, at this point if anyone asked, I undoubtedly would have said I was a Presbyterian. I was probably around 35 or so.
I continued in this vein into my early 40's when I met Sharon. When we decided to get married I didn't want to go to the Presbyterian Church to do so. Sharon didn't have a church affiliation. I didn't even consider going to the UU Fellowship or the minister there. At this point I hadn't formed any friendships in the UU organization in Lansing. However, I had met and enjoyed knowing a Jewish Rabbi that attended the UU Fellowship. I asked him if he would perform the marriage service and he did so in his office at the synagogue.
Still I had no religious affiliation. I moved out of the immediate Lansing area and although we only lived about 20 miles out, I discontinued my attendance at the UU Fellowship in Lansing.
We moved to Florida in about 1985 and began attending a UU Fellowship in Ft. Lauderdale. The pastor to the group was very charismatic. Several group classes were held that interested us and we attended. Gradually we began to feel like it was normal to go to the meeting on Sunday and that we were a part of the group. We still didn't have any real "friendships" within the group and probably remained close, supported, and attended regularly because of the pastor.
We moved from South Florida to Central Florida and became attendees at the Lakeland, FL, fellowship. That fellowship was small - much like the Central Michigan Fellowship. We were not members there, either, and when the group hired a retired UU pastor to be the part time pastor at Lakeland, we clashed somewhat and didn't enjoy our Sunday sojourns as much. We lived about 40 miles away but did, however, continue to attend and support the fellowship and would have probably felt we were somehow deprived if we didn't do at least this much.
In about 1995 we moved to Reno, NV, and became active in the fellowship there. It was somewhat larger than we had been used to. We did join that fellowship and formed some friendships within the group. We considered ourselves to be UU congregants and members of the larger community. That Reno fellowship continued to grow and had growing problems that probably are a universal plague to UU fellowships. In the 8 years we were there, we probably went through 6 ministers, trying to find the right fit. They were struggling when we left and the last I heard, they were still having problems.
That leads us to Central Michigan where we've lived now for about 10 years. We looked around a little when we first got to town. Attended a couple different churches - at least one Presbyterian - and settled in with the Central Michigan UU Fellowship.
Now you know the history. The question is what causes us to want to continue to participate?
I feel like one of the big reasons is the acceptance into a group without an evangelical atmosphere. My beliefs are my own business and while there might be friendly curiosity, there is very little of even that. UU says generally that most any belief is acceptable and no one is going to exert any pressure to change you to their viewpoint. There are some areas of acceptability that are cloudy in my mind but I don't bother with them I feel like people in our group would support me in my belief if they were asked to do so. It probably wouldn't be their's but they'd stand up for my right to have my own.
We have made some friends since becoming more involved in UU. We care about them and about what happens with them and we would hope they have the same feelings towards us.
We have become involved in activities and enjoy both education and recreation with the fellowship.
In conclusion, I think that my association with UU is made into a deeper relationship because of the people that make up the group. Obviously, it isn't a dogma or creed where I'm expected to believe certain things so religion in that sense doesn't enter into it.
I would think at this point in my life that there isn't any question that I'm a lifelong UU. I cannot envision a future that doesn't include a congregation like ours. If I should find myself in such a situation, there would be a big hole in my existence. I will probably continue to support this fellowship as long as I am capable.