Thursday, November 29, 2012

Belonging, Part I: Who Speaks for the Church?

I’d been attending Unitarian Universalist services for several months when our congregation hosted a District wide UU University.  Eager to learn more about my new faith, I signed up with Sonia, one of the congregation’s respected leaders.  Participants could order a catered lunch, but since I couldn’t afford the extra money for lunch on top of the tuition, I packed my food.  At lunch time, I carried my brown bag to the Social Hall where the catered lunch was being served.  I sat down at a table eager to get to know the other students.
I crinkled open my brown bag, but before I could take a bite of my sandwich, Sonia, the organizer of the event, swooped down on me with a clipboard and a frown.  “You can’t sit here,” she said.  “These tables are reserved for those who paid for their lunches.”
I slunk out of the Social Hall, my brown bag clutched to my chest.  Who did Sonia think she was anyway, keeping me out of her stupid lunch? Why didn’t I stand up for myself and refuse to leave? There were plenty of chairs.  Most important, did Sonia’s attitude represent just one person or the whole organization?
When I spoke to Sonia later, it turned out that she assumed those who didn’t buy lunch would go out to a restaurant.  Sonia, secure in her upper-middle class status, seemed unaware that not everyone would have money to spend on a prepared meal.
If Sonia represented the congregation, I was out of there.  I consulted the minister.  She assured me that Unitarian Universalism as a whole is aware of class issues and aspires to include all income levels.  
I decided to give the congregation another go.

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