Sunday #21 – First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Antonio, 7150 W. Interstate 10
Had to do some research on this denomination, as I knew nothing about it before deciding to go. In my research, I learned that in 1961, the American Unitarian Association consolidated with the Universalist Church of America to form a …..tongue twister. Yep…all week, I flubbed up the name of this denomination over and over as I tried to tell people what church I was going to attend. I continually wondered whether the members referred to themselves as UUs, because saying that whole mouthful would be too difficult.
From the website I gathered that this was perhaps the most inclusive place of worship in San Antonio, as it openly embraces alternative lifestyles. To me, that’s a good thing, because everyone needs a place to worship without feeling his or her lifestyle is being judged.
Preconceived Ideas about Unitarian Universalists
I’ve never known anyone who worshipped in the Unitarian Universalist church. But, I’ll take a stab at what I think.
- With a name like Unitarian Universalist, my guess is that this church has some similarities to Unity, Church of Religious Science and every other New Thought church
- From the website, I believe I’ll see a lot of lesbian, gays and transgender types, since the website talks a lot about its openness to all lifestyles
Even though I was early (surprise, surprise), I turned into the parking lot and into the back of a line of cars awaiting parking spots. Immediately, I chastised myself for not wearing flats instead of heels because this would obviously be a long walk. Then, I saw it….the Holy Grail – an empty visitor’s parking spot. SCORE!
I got out of my car and on my way to the sanctuary, I passed by a VW bug to beat all VW bugs. You don’t see many like this and I suddenly wondered if this was a strong indicator of the liberal leaning that I’d read about on Wikipedia.
Weaving through people, I walked to the sanctuary, and was met by some friendly people at a table filled with literature for newcomers. I stopped, gave my name and address and then they started handing me a bundle of literature from all parts of the table. Balancing the papers, I made my way into the sanctuary and a cushioned pew at the back. I took a seat among people of all ages dressed in shorts, jeans, dresses, but saw no men in suits. At this point, the sanctuary was about half full, but it quickly filled to almost three quarters of its capacity.
With a loud gong, the service began. Music emanated from a large black grand piano on stage. A very talented musician tickled the ivories and set the tone for the service. Then, the interim pastor Reverend Dr. Maureen Killoran stood to give the invocation from an iPad. Then we sang from HYMNS! Of course, they weren’t hymns that I knew, but I was surprised nonetheless. I guess the Unitarian Universalists aren’t using the large projection screens with the highlighted words to the music as in many of the other churches I’ve recently been in. During the first hymn, children came down the center aisle with baskets of flowers for the service that would center on flowers.
I noticed a lot of children in the sanctuary. Many children walked around during the service freely, but no one seemed to think anything of it. They apparently felt comfortable being there.
Then, a call came for people to line up for the “Candles of Joy and Sorrow.” Apparently, if you had a joy or a sorrow for which you wanted to light a candle, you could queue up to light one near the front of the stage. This would have been a beautiful part of the service if the church organizers could have lowered the lighting. However, this sanctuary has many windows with lots of natural light, so that wasn’t possible.
Then came a beautiful song by the choir called “There’s a River Flowin’ in my Soul,” followed by the offertory, which in the bulletin used the words “Invitation to Generosity” – loved that wording, as well as the choir music.
Then the interim reverend gave a two-part message on the Flower Communion Story. Half way through, we all sang a hymn, and then she gave the second part of the message. That was different, like a message intermission. I wondered if every service was like that.
A music interlude followed, with the consecration of the flowers, another hymn and then parting words from the interim pastor, which I just loved: Today’s service has now ended; now your service begins. I’ve never heard those words said before, but I thought they were perfect for the conclusion of a church service.
People didn’t interact with me as I left the building, but they were definitely what I would call “peppy.” They all were full of energy and seemed to have pep in their step.
Post Service Commentary
I’m not sure what to think of this service. I expected something a bit more like Unity, Church of Religious Science or Divine Science. I didn’t hear any mention of Jesus Christ and only found the word “God” in a few of the hymns. Most songs were about the clouds, community and beauty, etc. Though I’ve never been to a Native American service, I would think it would have the same general feel. I’d call this church a true “feel good” church. While I didn’t get much from it, I’m glad there are denominations like this that are welcoming to gay, lesbian and transgender people, who often find it difficult to worship openly with their partner in an environment filled with judgment.
What do you guys think of Russian Orthodox or Greek Orthodox? Not sure if I can find one in San Antonio, but I’ll look. I hear that’s quite different and would give me something to share. Anyone have any recommendations for churches that they’d like for me to peek inside? Let me know.