When I was young, there was only one place that I grew to enjoy: Church. People made fun of me at school and I was brow beaten and put down at home. The one solace I had was Church. People there treated me like a peer. They seemed to value my input and seemed eager to let me help to shape small parts of how the whole functioned. It was one of the very few places where I felt safe, where I felt at home, and where I commanded some small modicum of respect.
So, as you can imagine, as I began to lose my faith, it felt like my whole life was unraveling. My source of friends, my source of entertainment, my source of standing in the community, and the source of my wife were all tied to the Church. And since the time I left the Church I have clung to my Facebook and Tumblr communities looking for something similar.
In that time I’ve managed to forge some new Internet-based friendships and even a bit of community but it felt like a pale and weak replacement for what I had before. I had lost the feeling I’d had before that I was an important and valuable part of a vibrant community.
My wife will tell you that I don’t do anticipation well. I try not to think about holidays, trips, or special occasions too much or too far in advance. So I was trying to keep my expectations in check when I started listening to Bart Campolo and Ryan J Bell but I felt a small stirring inside. I continued to try keeping those expectations in check when I heard about Sunday Assembly and, especially, the Oasis Network. But I couldn’t help it any longer. Those small, small sparks of possibility began to run away with my imagination.
I began to think that perhaps I could once again be an important part of a vibrant community again. So, I looked for another option and I’ve now been exploring Unitarian Universalism for a few weeks now. It looks like a promising possibility.
Yet, I couldn’t help but tear-up with happiness today when I listened to the latest Life After God podcast. Gretta Vosper, the atheist cleric from Canada, has joined forces with the Oasis Network. Put that together with the growth of both Bart and Ryan’s work and I can’t help but feel a little giddy and excited. Maybe I’m not doomed to be an outlier insurgent barely eeking out a social existence. Maybe the day will come when Sunday Assembly‘s goal of providing a place for fellowship in every town that wants one is met.
I don’t know. It’s still a small and faint hope. But it’s growing much faster than I ever imagined it could. I only hope I can contain myself as I wait for it to reach us here. In the meantime, I’ll explore with enthusiasm Unitarian Universalism and be trying to keep in check that small, small hope that there will come a day when a secular fellowship exists here in the Piedmont.