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From Quaker to Unitarian Universalist
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It's been a long road, over 70 years. I was born into a Quaker family (we were members of a Group of Friends until we moved to a Connecticut village without a Quaker group).

My ancestors crossed the Atlantic not once, but three times, looking for religious freedom. They were Quakers and their first arrival on these shores taught them the truth about Puritan intolerance. Quakers were unbelievers.

Back they went to England, only to discover that Quakers and Catholics were being executed in their homeland as heretics (17th century). One last trip back to the colonies and settlement in a more Quaker-friendly group. All the while my female ancestress was naming her babies Tolerance, Deliverance, Sarah, Faith, and so forth. Can you imagine what it took to make that voyage forth and back and forth again, all the while pregnant and raising little ones? They were sturdy, resilient people.

In the 19th century, my Quaker ancestors maintained a station on the Underground Railroad. Behind the massive kitchen fireplace, accessed by pull-out cabinet shelves, was a small waiting area with a bench made from bricks. Inside you can see the holes drilled for air. That's where the refugees stayed, waiting for dark and the next conductor to come and get them.

The Connecticut town I grew up in did not have a Quaker group, only a choice among Congregational, Episcopalian, and Catholic, so we joined the Episcopal Church. I was raised on Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Mozart, so after an experience with the Sunday School singing, "Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so", I refused to leave the service and go with the children, so my Sunday mornings were spent listening to the adult service. I became very familiar with the Book of Common Prayer.

Thing of it is, in a small town everybody knows everybody else, all the kindnesses, all the gossip, all the misfortunes and triumphs. I found I could not tolerate the hypocrisy--the gap between the tolerance and justice and love preached on Sunday and the vicious backstabbing behavior and words I witnessed Monday through Saturday by these same supposed Christians.

So I left the Church, and for 40 years wandered in the wildnerness.

Meanwhile, my mother moved to California (Berkeley) and joined a Unitarian Universalist church there. I would have none of it. I would not set foot in the place of so-called worship of an organized religion. I had seen how self-styled Christians behaved; I had worked with missionaries on the reservation and been subjected to their intrusive questions about had I accepted Jesus as my personal savior, and so forth.

I had looked and looked; I tried lots of different variations of Protestant, also Catholic, and everywhere found hypocrisy and the need to control and dominate through shame and manipulation. No, I wasn't having any. I was prejudiced against any form of organized religion.

One day at work, my friend told me about a friend of his who was a UU minister who had given a wonderful sermon. I looked it up online, read it, and said, "Gotta give this place a try."

When, during the service, the congregation said its covenant, which begins, "Love is the doctrine of this church, The quest for truth is its sacrament, and service is its prayer...", I knew I had found a spiritual home. I've been a member ever since.

Thank you, Dan Gent.

We've had our ups and downs, as any group of people will, but it is still the closest thing to a family I will ever know.

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