Church #67 First Unitarian Universalist Albany

So, my life is busy! My daughter likes a church for a while and we find ourselves unable to go anywhere else as I support her identity as a Christian. But this week she decided to miss, so acting on a tip that I might actually like them, I went to a UU church. So this time I will be doing a very short review of a church I haven’t been to before.

First Unitarian Universalist of Albany service starts at 10am. There is a handy website to give you particulars like service time, parking recommendations, and other church information. I give full marks on said website. (I have been to churches with a non-interactive, single page broken, incorrect websites- this isn’t one of those!)

The building is modern with light colored wood beams in parallel lines on the ceiling of the sanctuary. It is lit by daylight and pine cone shaped lights. The space is large but plenty warm on the winter-like March morning.

I was slightly late and missed the start of service. I was able to find a seat easily enough in the mostly filled room where a couple others also trickled in late. I managed to accidentally sit next to a woman with my name, which amused us.

The service was like a church service that was partway into turning into a friendly lecture. If that sounds weird, just know that it wasn’t. The lecture part was a talk on altruism. Here are some things I learned.

Altruism was coined as the opposite of egotism.
Altruism has historically been seen as suspicious.
One real trap for the altruist is that of an addicted or abusive partner.

The rest of the service was taken up by music and joys and concerns.  The joys and concerns were done as follows:  each person picked a rock up from the table and placed it into a bowl for their joy or concern.  Each was invited to speak if they would like.  Music was (as is standard in my experience) from a music book-  The songs were hopeful and uplifting though none specifically referenced God.  This makes sense as I believe the UU tradition allows for atheism amongst membership.

At the service we heard that First UU is looking into what it would take to become a sanctuary church. As well, they are involved in other social actions. Over many years they’ve been working on issues ranging from hunger and homelessness, to anti-fracking and prison reform.

They also have a mailing list I’m going to get on to receive info on future actions. Overall a good experience!

Lest you think “it doesn’t happen here”

A friend of mine describes the following. Yes it was local to the Albany area:

Went to buy ice at the store across the street. It is owned and operated by a very nice family of middle eastern ethnicity. The jerk in front of me in line was telling the (particularly shy and nice) man (not the owner though) running the register that, “You’ve got a nice store here, and you’ve had a good run, but there’s a new president, and it’s time for you to go back to your hut.” He continued on this vein even after he’d paid for his purchases (“keep the change, you’re gonna need it to move”). (Cashier) whom I’ve conversed with many many times, basically pretended he didn’t understand the language. The bigot was getting agitated because (cashier) wasn’t rising to the bait. I was afraid to interrupt because this guy was itching for an excuse to become violent. He finally left, and I apologized in tears to (cashier) and told him that guy was a jerk. I’m still so angry.

Return To St George’s Antiochian Orthodox

Answers this time from Father Gregory Francis DesMarais. **

1) How does the church feel about current political events and the recent election?

It’s been a challenge. There are strong feelings on the right and the left. I preach the gospel. What does it say about feeding the hungry? Clothing the naked? Sheltering the homeless?
I also believe it’s important to help in all the little things.

2) What is the church doing in support of any of the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee?

As a church we don’t isolate into groups. We have our own corners but we bring it together. We offer help to people who need: spiritually, financially, what have you. We have our traditions and our beliefs but we must never condemn others.
We have a ways to go in terms of social outreach. For me pastoral care is more about one-on-one than programs.
We are the smallest church in the diocese, but we are the second largest contributor in food donations. The church that gave the most was in fact the largest church in the diocese!

Disclaimer I am not a reporter. I can’t do shorthand and the answers here are not direct quotes. If something I paraphrased is too far off I apologize, and I welcome correction.

Return to Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist

This Sunday I spoke briefly with Reverend Elgin Joseph Taylor of Sweet Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church. **

1) How does the church feel about current political events and the recent election?

It is what it is. We pray. We trust god no matter who is in the White House.

2) What is the church doing in support of any of the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee?

We are sticking together in fellowship across not just black churches but all churches. We are praying.

Disclaimer I am not a reporter. I can’t do shorthand and the answers here are not direct quotes. If something I paraphrased is too far off I apologize, and I welcome correction.

Return to Delmar Presbyterian

Sunday I spoke to pastor Karen Pollan at Delmar Presbyterian. Here are my two questions and the responses I got. Disclaimer below

1) How does the church feel about current political events and the recent election?

The church rarely has consensus about political matters. On average it is to the left of center, but there is diversity.

Some members were saddened by the election.
I try to keep us remembering be kind to one another.
2) What is the church doing in support of any of the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee?

Delmar Presbyterian is part of the Interfaith Hospitality Network, a ministry to help homeless families. On church premises they host families at night by converting the Sunday school rooms into bedrooms. This ministry happens in partnership with B’nai Shalom.

To foster friendships across into other communities, the youth group has visited a mosque, and some church members attend gatherings at the Turkish center.

This particular church is welcoming to LGBTQ including weddings.

Disclaimer I am not a reporter. I can’t do shorthand and the answers here are not direct quotes. If something I paraphrased is too far off I apologize, and I welcome correction.

On listening to injustice and my new direction

I am going to explain to you about my new direction for the church project. Stay with me, I know this sounds off topic.

During the process to wait for a healthy infant of any ethnic background, and the process to adopt a particular child of both white and black background, I read about racially mixed families. And I learned some stuff.

I am white. I come from a really white saturated area. My husband is white. In learning about opening our family to a baby with a different background from us, most sources said it would be important to connect with communities of people that look like our baby. And I gathered that it would be important to listen. And I have been listening as best I can. It had not seemed important before to discover what it was like to be stopped by the police while black. It does now. I’m sorry I’m late.

Once I started listening, I heard from many communities of people who suffer injustice. And recent political events brought it all together sharply. My background is Christian. I call myself agnostic. But those Christian stories are still very powerful for me. In them I hear of a man who welcomed outsiders and challenged those in power. And I want to know: is any of that man still in the church today?

As presidential candidate and president-elect, Donald Trump and those around him have by their actions and inaction, caused vitriol and violence towards marginalized groups. People now feel emboldened to threaten and harm in Trump’s name. But I think there’s someone else’s name that needs to be invoked.

Donald Trump has denigrated the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee, and by extention has encouraged others in hatred. There are probably groups I left out. My new church project will ask how the church plans to instead lift them up. I will be asking two questions:

1) How does the church feel about current political events and the recent election?

2) What is the church doing in support of any of the following communities: LGBT, Muslim, Black, Disabled, Immigrant/Migrant/Refugee?

I will not be doing this in a fixed order, but will try get a mix of locations and denominations. I may revisit churches I’ve been to once and hit a few new ones. I’ll write what responses I get and hopefully have a comprehensive list of good works, protests and outreaches when I am done. If not, then Jesus help us all.

Life update late 2016

I thought it might be time to get a proper update posted. A long while ago I wrote a post in which I said “God is all my friends” because God is supposed to be there for you when you need him. I saw that in the many friends who comforted me. At the time my husband and I had been working with an adoption agency trying adopt a baby. It is a long emotionally fraught process to adopt a healthy infant domestically. There are certainly other emotionally fraught adoption processes, but we had not experienced any of those. After filling in a ridiculous amount of paperwork, we had a match and expected to adopt a baby girl. This however fell through. The day we learned it wasn’t going to happen after all I was quite devastated. My friends were supportive and I was and continue to be thankful for them and their kindness.

Fast forward several years and we were still with the same agency, but still hadn’t gotten a second match. We decided to sever ties with the agency. I realized kids were not in our future and tried to figure out how to live my life under this assumption.

In late 2015 I was working to convert the spare bedroom into a project area. We got an urgent message from a friend of ours “possible adoption opportunity 5-year old”. I was hesitant. I didn’t know how to raise a half-grown kid. What if it fell through? Now fast forward to today. We have adopted our 6-year old and our family is doing well. Another drawn-out and emotionally fraught process had to be undertaken in the interim. Things are busy now and happy and difficult and rewarding and emotionally fraught. My life has changed a lot. I pay attention to different things. My child is of biracial heritage, and I worry about the challenges my family and my child will face. I don’t know what the future will be like. In my next post I will talk about hopefully restarting the church project anew and how it relates to the changes in my life.