Choose to belong, and then belong with all your heart.
~Rev. Mary Frances Comer
Welcome to fall and to the monthly theme of Belonging. Numerous questions came to mind as I pondered “belonging.” Each question led to another. To what or to whom do we belong?
We belong to one another; we belong to ourselves; we belong to Mother Earth. We belong with those we love. We belong here at Piedmont UU Church as part of Beloved Community. Pondering on, I considered our relationships to this thing we call church.
How do we engage? How do we show up? How do we connect, become involved? How do we belong?
One means of belonging comes through active involvement — whether through attending church, serving on a team or committee, or “volunteering” as a nursery attendant, helping out with Religious Education. Maybe you connect through the yardsale or auction. Or through singing in the choir or playing an instrument. Perhaps you connect in less public ways — like helping tend our buildings and grounds or working on our policies and bylaws. Involvement means staying connected in some form. Right now I’m thinking of the connections being made by our Social Action Team.
In contemplating how that team leads us in considering our relationship with Earth and our responsibility to care for the environment and maintain sustainability, the question of volunteering came to mind, but the idea of volunteering at our own church didn’t feel quite right. In a blog called “Your Church Does Not Need Volunteers” by Erin Wathen (2017), she notes that volunteering for your church is like “babysitting your own kids.” You don’t babysit your own children. You parent them. And you don’t volunteer at your own church. She says that volunteering is what you do “at a place that is important to you — not a place that belongs to you.” The she makes the following distinction:
You cannot volunteer at your own church, in the same way you cannot babysit your own kid. Because the church belongs to you in the same way your family does. It’s your own place, your own people. So of course you help take care of it. Of course you do yard work and make coffee and teach the kids and sing in the choir and whatever all else it is you do for the home and the people that you love.
So, if you catch me asking for volunteers in the days ahead, please gently correct me. Wathen says: “Call it serving…Call it mission or the ministry that we all share together…” Actually, she’s writing from a Christian perspective, so she includes more possible names in her list like discipleship or priesthood of believers (noting that “Priesthood of Believers” would “not look great on a t-shirt.”). Whatever we do, she notes, and I agree: “We should remember that we don’t just belong to the church–it belongs to us. And we do not babysit that which is ours.”
Thank you for reading. Thank you for caring. Thank you creating beloved community by choosing to belong. I close by echoing the words of the poet, activist Audre Lorde: Tomorrow belongs to those of us who conceive of it as belonging to everyone; who lend the best of ourselves to it, and with joy.
May we lend the best of ourselves to tomorrow, with joy.
Peace to you,
~Rev. Mary Frances