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Midweek Message — 3/10/16 “Belonging From the Beginning”

The weekly Wednesday vespers service at seminary was a true family affair: students and faculty, along with respective partners and spouses and children of varying ages. It was a new experience for Jess and me. We’d grown used to our UU congregation where there was nursery care and RE during the service — kids downstairs and grownups up above in the sanctuary. We needn’t have worried. Once we explained to Brandon and Nora (who were 6 and 3 at the time) what it meant to sit in church with the grownups, they took to weekly worship as if it were a natural thing. They grew to know many of the songs by heart, they knew when to sit and stand, and they could always snuggle in one of our laps if the sermon made them fidgety. Vespers was for them as much as it was for the grownups. They belonged to the community and it belonged to them.

That sense of ownership was on full display especially once the service was over and the fellowship hour had begun. Snacks were laid out, juice and wine were poured, and everyone milled about in conversation — including my kids, who flitted about having brief checkins with my classmates and teachers, often with that “little kid serious” look on their faces that is at once adorable and gives a parent pause. And then, conversations finished, they would climb up onto the chancel and sit in the pulpit chairs with their snack plates in their laps and just watch the community as it did its thing. The first time that happened, I knew that they had arrived at a place where they felt comfortable and safe in a community. There they were, week after week (and in the years to come, shepherding the new kids who arrived into that same space), embodying what it meant to feel like one truly belonged to community and felt some sense of ownership of and responsibility toward it.

This Sunday, we take a look at why a real multi-generational community is so vital to the future of church. Join us at 10:30 a.m. for “A Time and Place for All Ages.”

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  1. You and Jess are very lucky that you were able to have a full family experience with your kids in church. I always dreamed of the same since that is what I grew up with with my sister and parents. But unfortunately, autism happens to a family and changes goals. Our goals now are for our son to be able to wait patiently for the rest of us to attend services while he waits in a quiet back room. It has been a journey that often was not pretty and often caused us to have to leave early. The reason I know that we arrived at the right congregation is not that everyone sits together during service, but that we have each found our own place to just “be” under the same roof with a congregation that doesn’t judge and does its best to accommodate and understand. Thank you for your story and for listening to mine.

    • John Cullinan John Cullinan

      Thank you, Danise. You are right. The sense of ownership and belonging in community comes from many directions. I hope to touch on that this Sunday

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