We talk a lot in our church about doing things “together,” about being “in community” with each other. We celebrate those who join, and we honor those who have stayed. We are a community, a congregation, and we make shared decisions based on our shared values in our shared home.
We don’t talk as much about what it really means to belong on a day-to-day, person-to-person basis. Belonging to this Unitarian Universalist church isn’t like belonging anywhere else—because of the principles of our faith, which call upon us to discover our own truths and to foster democracy, we decide what happens here. And those choices encompass far more than voting at congregational meetings, because “belonging” is much bigger than signing the membership book.
We belong every time we come here on a Sunday morning when we could be somewhere else. We belong every time we try to make our language and our habits more inclusive, and we belong every time we remind the person in charge that they’ve inadvertently left someone out. We belong when we offer constructive criticism, and we belong when we offer totally unsolicited griping. We belong when we listen nicely and we belong when we catch ourselves listening not-so-nicely. We belong when we sing wrong notes, we belong when we have something memorized, and we belong when we change the text or the hymn or the tradition in order to make it more true to our beliefs and our hopes.
So even though we are a community, even though we do things together, we don’t all belong in the same way all the time. We are “intentionally diverse,” and we welcome different approaches, different opinions, different ideas. Everyone’s input is valued, whether you’ve only visited the church once or you’re a longtime leader.
For many of us, this isn’t exactly ground-breaking. Unitarian Universalism is grounded in valuing every person and their individual contributions. This is what we are supposed to have been doing all along.
Well, starting now, we’re going to be doing it even more. We are a community in transition, and now is the time to get serious about our principles and our future. We cannot move forward without every person. We need you to keep belonging in whatever way feels good for you, and we need your individual contributions.
You don’t need me to tell you about the importance of making your pledge to support our church financially for the coming year. What I do want to emphasize, though, is that this year is our year of belonging. We belong to this church, and this church belongs to us. We have many, many choices to make together over the coming months. What we contribute, how we participate, and what we do next—it’s up to us. The important thing is that we all take part.