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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Credo Means I Believe

Presented by Lee Dudek, Tabitha Pierzchala and Ebeth Porter with Worship Associate Celinda Marsh and Erica Shadowsong, Director of Religious Exploration


Credo Means “I Believe”

A service at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church

                                            November 25, 2012

This was a lay-led service in which three members of the church spoke about their faith journey to Unitarian Universalism and Paint Branch UU Church. One of the speakers has made her talk available so far and it is printed below in its entirety.

Good morning.

My name is Elizabeth Porter.  I’ve been a Unitarian Universalist and a member here at Paint Branch for 5 years and today I’d like to share the story of how I wound up here.

I grew up Christian.

I went to church A LOT as a child.  

I was always. At. Church.  

In addition to Sunday mornings, I also went on Monday evenings for choir practice, Tuesday evenings for Youth Group, and every other Thursday for usher board meetings/bible studies.  

For as much time as I spent there, you might think that that I formed some deep spiritual connection with God the Father Almighty and Jesus Christ, his only son, our Lord...but that was not the case.  

In all my years at church, sitting in pews, listening to sermons, singing songs about the old rugged cross and ‘leaning on Jesus, I never once felt anything.

I spent years praying for a connection that never came.

I WANTED to believe - badly.... and I never did.

Though I never truly believed, I also never questioned what was being taught.  I always felt that my lack of faith was a failing on my part.  

I just thought something was wrong with me...Church was a challenge.

...and then, I met Noah.

We had one class together in my sophomore year in high school and I was a smitten kitten.  

Noah was really, really gorgeous and super friendly, and funny.  

He always had something nice to say about my hair and I loved him in a way that only a sheltered 15 year old girl who spent too much time at church could LOVE an 18 year old boy with an earring, and a leather jacket. (Deep sigh).  

A couple of years later, I met Noah’s sister, Laura.

When I discovered that “My Noah” was Laura’s older brother, I started waxing poetic about the deep and abiding love I had for him that one time when we had that one class together.

Laura looked at me askance and said …”You know Noah’s gay, right?”

Well, no.  No, I didn’t.

Even though I hadn’t seen or talked to Noah since that one time when we had that one class together - My heart broke - not because the dream was shattered and I now knew we would never see each other across a crowded room and reunite in a passionate embrace, but because I had been taught that being gay is a sin.... and sinners go to Hell.

For weeks following that conversation with Laura, I couldn’t get the thought of Beautiful Noah and the fiery pits of hell out of my mind.  

Noah is a good person...Why would God send a good person to Hell?    

My thinking went from ‘this can’t be right’ to... “THIS IS WRONG”.

Having grown up being taught to that God is always right and the answers to life’s tough questions can all be found in the bible…this was a big deal.

My world shifted...and it was all for the love of a boy.

For the first time in my life I began to really THINK about what I actually believe vs. what I had been taught.  

I started asking questions and looking for answers and I just wasn’t satisfied with what I found.

I stopped going to church and one day, I said it out loud:

Jesus Christ is not my Lord and Savior.

And I waited…the clouds didn’t converge. God’s wrath didn’t rain down on me.  I was not struck by lightning….but somewhere in the back of my head, I heard a little voice say “You’re going to Hell for that”.

It took me YEARS to silence that little voice.  

I spent many of those years with no religion at all - but spiritually, I was just as unhappy having NO religious practice as I was when I was trying to pray my way into believing in something my heart wanted no part of.

I believe in something bigger than just me...I just didn’t know what it was or how to find it.

Then one day, completely out of the blue, a friend invited me to her Yule ritual.

Of course Little Voice piped right up, “A PAGAN RITUAL! You are SOOO going to Hell for THAT!”

I hadn’t seen my friend in a couple of years and my interest was piqued so I went.

...and it was BEAUTIFUL.  I like the feel of ritual. I like the calm of knowing exactly what happens next.  I always left feeling lighter than when I came in.  

I can’t honestly say I believed  any more than I had in my christian life, but it felt good...better than doing nothing, so I went with it.

While I have since let this practice go, I was able to walk away with a smile on my face and gratitude in my heart.

It was actually through this nature based path that I found Paint Branch.

I met PBUUC member, Tina Van Pelt through the Nature Spirituality Circle and she told me all about the RE program here.

I smiled and listened politely on the outside, but on the inside, I was saying “No. No, no, no, no, no”.  I mean, this is, after all a church, and I’d spent the better part of 10 years trying to avoid church at all costs.

Then one day, after visiting church with my husbands family, my little boy came home and said “Mommy, I want to go to church EVERY Sunday!”

Throughout the following week, I kept hoping he would forget about it so I could ignore his request. He didn’t.  He reminded me every day that he wanted to go back to church.

There was no avoiding it.

I figured since you even HAVE a Nature Spirituality Circle, that probably meant there wouldn’t be any threats of eternal damnation...so we came to church.

I remember my first Sunday here; coincidentally (or not), the sermon was about what it means to be UU...I was completely drawn in.

The inherent worth and dignity of every person - I can get behind that.

Six Sources? Six? Not just one book that’s supposed to be the be all and end all of...everything?  - Where do I sign up?

I had light bulbs going off in my head all over the place; everyone was so nice, and so welcoming.

And that was it.  I was home.  Church was no longer a bad word because I found my FAITH.

My world shifted...and it was all for the love of boy.

Church is still a challenge.  But instead of the continual internal challenge of feeling as though I don’t believe as I should, I am challenged to open my mind and grow my heart...and its a beautiful thing.

I still believe in something that is bigger than just me...even if that something bigger is as simple as being here, in this space, with all of you.

You can play an MP3 audio file of this sermon by clicking: HERE.

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Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church • 3215 Powder Mill Road • Adelphi, Maryland 20783-1097
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