Well, I am very pleased to be able to report to you all that Malinda and I are, now, married! Alyson came down to Half Moon Bay two weeks ago and married us in a rose garden by the sea, and a truly lovely occasion it was. We had fun planning our wedding, but there were some hard decisions to make. We have each been members of a number of communities over the years, and if we’d invited everyone who had nurtured, supported and cared for us in that time, there would have been very little cake to go around. So, we designed a small ceremony for close family and local friends, and were able to thank them in person as they promised to continue looking after us in our marriage. We felt the support from this community too, though: thank you for all the good wishes you sent us!
This particular decision, about who to invite to our wedding, got me thinking, about the similarity between our UU community in San Francisco and our local community in Half Moon Bay. UUSF exists “to be a sanctuary for individual religious growth and learning, to celebrate life and worship in diverse fellowship, to bear witness to suffering and joy, and to work for peace and justice in our world.” When I think about the coffee shop in town where we all meet, religiously, every morning (8 o’clock on weekdays, 9 o’clock on weekends), and the welcoming, rambling, caring conversations that happen at Table One, I can see each aspect of this UU mission reflected there - less intently, less explicitly perhaps, but no less authentically. And the people who show up there so regularly know why they do: their representative, Steve, gave a toast at our reception. “To Community,” he said, “because that’s what it’s all about.”
At the rehearsal dinner I got talking to my brother-in-law about community. Kikkan is skeptical of all organized religions (and the disorganized ones, too), but he is very interested in local communities, and how valuable they can be. He sees the vital ingredient for a local community to be that of a shared purpose. When humans come together in groups to do something together, build something together, find agreement, and make progress, they bind themselves to each other and become something greater than a collection of unconnected individuals, and the group’s members end up caring for each other as a result. You can sense it, can’t you, that peoples’ book clubs, yoga groups, society meetings, and so on can all serve as sanctuaries for them, where the being with others is, to them, a tonic, a timeout, a breath of fresh air, or an escape.
What feels to me to make the UU community different is the intention of our shared purpose. A shared purpose of “building beloved community” is not only more abstract, and more holistic, than that of most other groups I’ve been in, it’s also somehow very self-aware. Here, in this place, we actively seek and explore the benefits of being in a local community, rather than passively happening on them as a side effect of working on something together, and I like the purposefulness of that search. We worship community here. I can’t tell yet whether UU is for everyone or not (as one friend once put it to me, “it’s still church!”). But it feels as though it at least could be for everyone, and it certainly is for anyone who’s looking for it.