Given by Judy Fayre, given on Sunday, January 13, 2019
I search for acts of kindness. I search for it in people, events, movies, and myself. I find I must avoid the evening news, or I feel myself begin to doubt the human imperative for kind acts.
My faith life had a Catholic beginning. I was born in 1962 in Barre, Massachusetts. I was baptized, sent to catechism, and confirmed. Our family rule was to attend mass every weekend. There was no space for questions; this is what was expected. I went without argument, as I was a lover of both music and stories, and church generously provided both.
As a young child, I was intrigued by Jesus, and liked the stories of his acts of kindness. But I couldn’t wrap my mind around the idea that God chose only one being to teach the whole world. Learning that Jesus was Jewish….(not Catholic, as I had assumed) was unnerving, We were taught that only Catholics would enter heaven. Wasn’t that good Jewish man, Jesus, in heaven too?
With the question of Jesus’ chosen religion, my religious questions began….they have not stopped.
My childhood was blanketed with a constant dose of fear and anger from my mother who was overwhelmed with 4 children, born within 6 years of each other. Unhappy having sole responsibility for a home which she kept to very high standards, she was often taken over by an anger that surfaced without warning. My father, distant emotionally to me, was a good provider for our family, working during the day and then staying out of the house by working in the barn and gardens.
I am ever grateful for my grandmother. When I heard the 10am bells toll for Mass, I could run to church, which was literally across the street, and sit next to my grandmother, bringing me a sense of quiet, warmth, and closeness. After church I’d help Gramma with the babies and with the cooking for our extended family who descended on my grandparents’ home for Sunday dinner. This weekly ritual was nourishing for my childhood soul and a necessary antidote to my home life.
During high school I dated Matthew. He was from a deeply devout Southern Baptist family. The only form of dating his parents allowed was to church events, so we immersed ourselves in church. Although I was still required to attend weekly mass, I was otherwise allowed to attend Baptist events. I loved the Southern Baptist way of singing and “Amen-ing” right out loud. It fit my need for community and religion until my high school senior year, when the pastor’s wife suggested that we consider marriage! Well, that gave me a deep scare and brought an abrupt end to dating Matt and Baptist church life.
Nothing moved me to be deeply involved in any church for many years after. In my early 20’s, I married and raised a family. Then when my marriage fell apart after 16 years, I felt utterly alone.
It was during this dark time in my late 30’s that I had begun to confront a truth about myself that felt shameful but undeniable — I knew I was attracted more to women than men. I thought that that would exclude me from further church attendance.
And then a little bit of magic entered my life.
A church in Milford, New Hampshire, that I drove by daily had a rainbow flag waving, beckoning me in. I got up the courage one week and went. It happened to be “Welcoming Sunday.” I cried my way through the service as a self-identified lesbian woman told her story. It was a UU church– I had finally found a church home!
I became a member and looked forward to both Sunday services and to the wider community that had opened up to me. I met Gail through friends at that church. We’ve been married 13 years now. When we moved to Newbury, it was an easy decision to explore and then become a member of this congregation. It has been wonderful to get to know many members through Chalice Circles.
My deepest service work at this point in my life is my role as a foster parent. I believe in the words …”And service is its prayer,” Foster-caring is my expression of prayer. It has brought us deep connection to both the children we have opened our home to and the members of our community who have reached out to help us as we are helping these children.
Being a Unitarian Universalist directs me in my search for kindness and finding kindness gives me hope.