WHY I AM A UU
Irene L. Hause
at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship
of Sheridan, Wyoming
January 17, 2010
Like many UUs, I wasn’t always a UU. This is my path from being baptized Lutheran as an infant to becoming a Unitarian Universalist in 1994.
My mother was 13 years old when her family emigrated from Germany to Minnesota in 1926. They were Lutherans. I think members of my father’s family were either Lutheran or Episcopal. I really don’t know much about that because my father died when I was only two years old. My mother remarried a year later, and we moved from St. Paul, Minnesota, to Davis City, a town of about 300 people in rural southern Iowa.
No Lutheran churches were anywhere close, so my mother’s former pastor said that of the five churches in that small town, we should attend the Methodist Church. So we did.
My only memories of the Methodist Church are of playing games in Sunday School, attending wedding receptions there, and even at that young age noticing how few people attended church and that almost all of them were women. I do recall my mother’s remark that she guessed men didn’t think they needed what church taught. My step-father didn’t attend church. He said that he didn’t need to be around people who were so pious on Sundays when he knew what they were really like on the other days of the week.
When I was in seventh grade, our family moved back to St. Paul, Minnesota. It was back to full-blown Lutheranism for my mom and me, and I attended confirmation class as a teenager.
Then my folks bought and operated a bakery in Northfield, Minnesota, where I finished my last two years of high school. Virtually everyone in Northfield was either a Catholic or a Lutheran. Church was always something I just did, like eating, sleeping, and going to school and never had any deep meaning for me.
My first year of college was at St. Olaf, a Lutheran college, also in Northfield. It was at St. Olaf College that the first seed of questioning developed in my mind. It was something my favorite teacher, Dr. Ditmanson, said in a religion class. He said that in the Middle Ages the priests used to take part in long arguments about such things as, “How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?” And I remember thinking to myself, “What a stupid way for priests to occupy themselves when social conditions were so bad and they could have been out helping people.”
Although I did fine academically, I was unhappy at St. Olaf and transferred to a state college in Missouri attended by kids I’d grown up with in Iowa. I went to a Lutheran church in Missouri for just a short time. The minister there was really into all the miserable sinner stuff, which I found very depressing, and I thought it was foolish to go to a church where I felt less happy walking out the door than when I’d walked in.
For a while, I attended another denomination with one of my closest college friends. It was a pleasant church, but I went just to be around kind and friendly people, not for the teachings.
My first job out of college was in St. Louis, Missouri, and I never attended church there and didn’t attend church for a few years after I moved to California.
Then one day in the 1970s, all that changed. My considerably older neighbor didn’t have a car, and I was sitting in her living room waiting for her to finish dressing so we could go shopping. She was a librarian’s assistant at Occidental College and always brought things home to read. While waiting for her, I picked up a small magazine by my chair. It was Science of Mind magazine, which I’d never heard of. I read only a few paragraphs and knew I’d found my church -- the Church of Religious Science – started by Ernest Holmes in 1927. Because of the similarity in names, the Church of Religious Science is sometimes confused with Scientology or Christian Science.
Founder’s Church of Religious Science was only eight miles from where I lived. Both my neighbor and I began attending this large church which had no dogma, taught that all beings are expressions of and part of Infinite Intelligence, and emphasis was placed on personal responsibility. There was none of the doom and gloom and sin and salvation of the Lutheran Church. Wherever I moved in Los Angeles County, I found the nearest Church of Religious Science.
Then came my move to Sheridan in 1993. No Church of Religious Science existed in Wyoming, and none exists to this date, although there is a study group in Alpine. So, with relatives, I attended a traditional church here in Sheridan, but only a very few times. Listening to all that poor miserable sinner and begging for forgiveness stuff again was very disheartening after years of attending the Church of Religious Science with its uplifting services that were relevant to daily life.
But I wanted a spiritual home. While looking through the church notices in The Sheridan Press, I saw the notice for the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship. I knew nothing about it, except that my Lutheran cousin Louise in Minnesota reportedly had become a Unitarian. So I imagine I went to the Sheridan library and looked up some information, I don’t really remember. Anyway, I wrote a letter to the address in the newspaper and was contacted by Ronn Smith. I was invited to attend a service and was happy to learn that the basic ideas and lack of dogma that I found in Religious Science also exist within the seven principles of Unitarian Universalism. And here I am, 16 years later, still attending UU.