Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Greater Good

I've recently discovered a new quarterly magazine - Greater Good - that seems to be so very in-step with my beliefs and values. The magazine strives to connect science with the roots of compassion and altruism, relating research, articles and stories of compassionate action to its readers in an inspiring and educational format. Hubby and I are both looking forward to regularly receiving and reading this wonderful new publication.

Not to belabor the point (and since this is only the second time I'm bring it up, I hardly consider it "belaboring" anyway), but I wanted to talk again about how much we're enjoying our new church - and how clearly I see the greater good playing out through the church's actions, beliefs and community.

We've been going to this church for a month now (save for one week where we had previous plans) and are quite used to our new Sunday morning routine. Sweetie continues to look forward to and have fun at her "church school" and Hubby and I feel very welcome and comfortable among the many friendly members.

The sermons are inspiring, informational, even sometimes humorous in nature. Always different, always interesting. 

The songs are beautiful, uplifting, joyful and fun. Last week we sang Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. Ode To Joy is my most favorite piece of classical music, so that was a real treat for me. This week we sang This Little Light of Mine. Such a simple, wonderful song that Sweetie recognized, could easily read along with and sing!

I love how Sweetie stands on the pew between Hubby and I, puts her arms around each of our shoulders/necks, and tries to follow along with the words of the songs in the hymnal. She does pretty well, softly sings along, and never gets frustrated by not being able to keep up with everyone else. 

I love how there's always a story for the kids - where the children of the congregation get to go up to the altar area to gather 'round to listen - about a 1/2 hour into the service. Then we all "sing the children out" to go off to their various Circles. Sweetie eagerly skips off to the Kindergarten Circle where they listen to a story, do crafts, have a snack, and talk about things like dreams, friends and family. 

I love how each sermon feels more like a lesson in humanity, compassion and respect rather than strictly religious rites and doctrine. Respect, compassion, acceptance and community are key components of the church's teaching. We learn, from week to week, little bits of knowledge from all different customs and cultures - yet each always come back to these same basic principles.

I love that Sweetie's Circle usually seems to end a few minutes after our service ends - encouraging Hubby and I to partake in the coffee hour in the community room downstairs. Since Hubby and I are usually so quiet, we'd not be terribly likely to strike up a conversation with other church members of our own accord. But now that we've done that, while waiting for Sweetie, we've had the pleasure of meeting some really personable people and look forward each week to seeing them again.

I love the church itself - a beautiful stone building close to the town's main square. The rooms are each named for prominent Unitarian Universalists of the past - Henry David Thoreau, Loisa May Alcott and P.T. Barnum to name just a few. Some of these historical figures' framed pictures adorn the walls as well.

And I love arriving home from church, asking Sweetie what she did and/or learned during her Circle time, then having Sweetie ask me - "And what did you and Daddy learn in your church class this week, Mama?" This past week's sermon happened to discuss Faith and Politics - specifically, how to reckon being fellow church members and friends with others who may or may not support the same presidential candidate or political party as yourself. So I was happy to get a chance to explain this to Sweetie in terms she'd understand - that it's important to realize you can still get along with and be friends with someone who feels differently than you do about certain things. It's important to respect others' opinions and ideas while still holding on to your own beliefs. Everyone is different and that's okay. In fact, it's encouraged!

I love learning what Sweetie's doing in her Circle time. She knows at least part of the usual greeting each child (and attending adult) extends to each other every week. She loves that her picture is now hanging on the room's wall with those of her peers. And she's making friends with the other kids, enjoying sharing time together and having fun.

Hubby and I are both happy to expose her to as much social interaction among kids her age as she can get. The more practice she gets at being part of a sharing group, the better!

I am actually saddened that we'll not be attending church this coming Sunday. I go to my book club's meeting approximately once a month - something I of course previously recognized and felt fine in maintaining, thus foregoing one trip to church every so often. But according to this past week's church bulletin, I see that this next sermon is dedicated to the children of the church and will focus on special issues just for them. In this case, I imagine children won't be going off to their Circles but will stay for the entire service. Knowing we'll be missing this special gathering disappoints me. Almost makes me want to ditch book club. But I won't - because I know book club is actually going to be something special this month as well (a call-in from the author of the book we've just read. Very exciting!).

Hubby and Sweetie could still go on their own, but I'm rather confident they won't. Not because Hubby only agrees to go to church because of my wishes. He's liking church just as much as I am. But more so because I know Hubby also enjoys his Sunday mornings at home, where he gets to chill out, get up a little bit later, watch Sunday Morning, and relax a bit. Especially with Sweetie. It will be nice for the two of them to have a Daddy and Sweetie morning at home. 

But there's also a couple gatherings after church this weekend - one in the early afternoon and one in the evening. One to discuss the future of the church and where/how we want to focus our energies, monies, etc. And one to welcome newcomers. We three will definitely attend the newcomers' gathering. And - depending on when I get home from book club - we may also be able to attend the other meeting as well. It would be nice to be a part of some decision-making. We'll see what we can do.

At any rate - we are happy to be among some great, like-minded, open-minded people. We feel like we are connecting more with each other, with our own selves, and with our community. We are happy that Sweetie is getting social, cultural and spiritual exposure - vast exposure to so many different ideas and beliefs. She will become an even more accepting and open human being than she already is. 

We all will. Continuing on our unique paths to fulfilling our Greater Good - helping, as individuals within a larger community, to make ourselves and our world a greater place to be.

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