The Gift of Community
The Gift of Community
by Rev. Shari Woodbury
“I wish I had known about this church a lot sooner,” one participant at an Inquirers class said. It’s a sentiment I’ve heard expressed often among visitors and new members.
Like so many Unitarian Universalists, I had never heard of this tradition, either. When I was in my 20s, a new friend I was getting to know asked me about my spiritual leanings; did I have a faith home? I explained that I was a seeker; that I would like to be part of such a community; but that I did not expect to find one that would accept my unconventional relationship to the Christian tradition, my eclectic interest in many other sources of wisdom, or my tendency to focus more on how I live than on what I believe. She chuckled and said to me, “Shari, you sound like a Unitarian. Have you ever been to a UU church?” I had not. But with her encouragement, I soon went to visit one. I knew very quickly that the religious community that I wanted, but hadn’t even dreamed existed, was real. I had found my way home.
I am not alone in this pathway of discovery. When I look out over the bright faces in our sanctuary, I remember stories people have shared of how they arrived here. I see folks who have found a much-needed place of belonging… found a community to help raise their family… found an avenue to learning and personal growth… found a people who share their values and act on them together – here at Westside, because someone they knew recognized that this just might be a home for them, and took the risk of inviting them to visit. If you’d like to share your story, I’d love to hear about how you found this place and what it means to you. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Diane Jones remembers when she was fairly new to Westside. “I had found this group that I needed badly,” she says. Diane thought her friend Beth might feel the same way. So a couple years ago when Westside had a Bring A Friend to Church Day, Diane invited her friend. Beth enjoyed her visit and soon joined the church. Before long she invited a friend of hers, Toni, who is now a member too. The caring that led Diane to invite one friend to church went on to touch several lives with the gift of community. All of us have the opportunity to set such ripples in motion.
Westside is holding a Bring A Friend to Church Day on November 17, and Diane has another friend in mind that she would like to introduce to this church. “As soon as I started going to Westside,” she says, “after I found out I was UU, it filled a hole for me. I hadn’t realized how much I needed to have a church family – other people who were on the same page about respecting each person’s sacred truth, and donating time and money, together, to things that are important to us in the community.”
Diane sees Bring A Friend to Church Day as an opportunity to share that gift of community with someone else who might find themselves at home here. She has a kind of spidey sense about who might benefit from participating: “Maybe it’s something they’ve said in conversation that makes you think it would be for them.” And it’s just an invitation, she points out. “If they say no, the world will not end. Maybe they’ll come later – that happened with another friend of mine, Jeff, who became very involved here.” A simple invitation can open up a wonderful avenue of connection and growth for that person. This is what we are offering when we invite a friend to church: the gift of community.
I hope each person connected to Westside will take advantage of this moment to share that gift. Consider: who in your life might benefit from getting to know Westside firsthand? Be sure to invite them to attend at either service on November 17. Our greeters and teachers will be ready to connect with more new people than usual. Worship will feature a message that connects with newcomers, plus wonderful music from our Special Choir. So, think about whose life just might be made more whole and happy through this community, and be sure to invite a friend or three over the next couple of weeks.
By doing so, you can help us fulfill our mission, to make “a positive difference in the lives of our members, our families, and the world at large through supportive relationships, religious and intellectual exploration, and social action.”
I look forward to welcoming your friends!