Still with the goal of seminary swishing around in my thoughts, I decided to take some graduate courses in literature. With my bachelor’s degree in English, I chose a liberal studies program focusing on gender, religion and social issues, while also working to improve my writing skills.
Needing to write about an epiphany in my life, I was facing a deadline and had settled on something plain-Jane to get the job done. But when I began writing, the story was not so plain at all.
What fell onto the page was my early steps to finding my own religion, or even so, finding Unitarian Universalism.
From my early years as a veritable latchkey kid, spending more time tromping between school and (insert name of the latest-independent-fundamental-Baptist-church here) than I did getting my ass home.
It all spilled out, bouts of brimstone by greased old men in cheap suits, missed Sunday evenings with Mickey and The Wonderful World of Disney, and years of over-involvement, prayers for heathens, and groups of righteous people joining to discuss the second coming while eating ambrosia salad with tater tot casseroles, always ending our prayers with the name of Jesus because only heathens prayed only to God.
It was the awareness of an awakening. A growth that I hadn’t acknowledged. The discovery of my faith in the joining of words, in poetry, in writing, in essays and speeches, and my transcendence beyond the faith of my fathers.
I was 16-years-old, and I had taken the first step to my own freedom of religion.
Driving into Washington, D.C., is a daunting task at best, but when one is on a schedule it’s even more so for those not accustomed to the city. Luckily for us last Sunday, providence was on our side as we drove up to the historical All Souls Church, Unitarian, and easily slid into on-street parking directly across from the church’s side entrance–easily arriving on time and on point to our latest location.
Settled in the pews of the sanctuary, we all rose as the choir and Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Robert M. Hardies, entered the current sanctuary with song–a sanctuary built in 1924, and the third location for this congregation founded over 190 years ago on November 11, 1821.
With an amazing history, and one that is dotted with famous patriots like President William Howard Taft, and founding members President (then Secretary of State) John Quincy Adams, and Vice President (then Secretary of War) John C. Calhoun, the three locations of All Souls Unitarian have been used for a multitude of community and social progress events from serving as a Civil War hospital, to the current Green Souls, and as part of the Washington Interfaith Network.
On this Sunday, Rev. Hardies’ sermon focused on resilience itself and our personal ability to find faith in those things that we may draw on in times of need. It is the act of finding beauty, beauty as the Reverend would jokingly describe for himself as “shiny objects,” but more seriously in what brought him to our faith, the ability of UU’ism in finding “human beauty at [the] intersection of our vulnerability and our strength.” A compassionate humanism and a faith that leads us to be able to continue to grow and exist, even after death and pain have altered our lives’ paths and thrown us into the turmoil of the unknown and self-dependence. It is the ability to draw on the flame within ourselves that keeps us moving forward, progressing and helping those in our community to also find and walk this path of resilience and beauty.
For more information on attending All Souls, visit: http://all-souls.org/
All Souls Archives and History: http://all-souls.org/archives
To learn more about the Washington Interfaith Network’s (WIN): http://www.windc-iaf.org/
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