Over the past few weeks, we have heard testimonials from some of our members, hearing why they give to this congregation. What is so interesting to me is that while all of us share many things in common, many of us are also here for diverse reasons. That diversity of reasons for being here is beautiful, and it makes me happy to see what makes others happy at Neighborhood.
Our story begins in 2010. Both John and I were each seeking a new spiritual home. I admit that for the majority of my life, I have existed without a faith. I felt that what people called faith was often inimical to my identity. Despite this, I still felt a need for community – I still needed a place where I could freely explore the mysteries of our world and the great questions that every living being has asked, without feeling pressured into one set of rigid beliefs. John, on the other hand, as a liberal Christian, was seeking a place where he could retain many of his religious traditions and beliefs, but like many others who have come to Unitarian Universalism, was increasingly dissatisfied belonging to a conservative denomination that didn’t support his values of kindness and charity, or his and my relationship. Our situation was ripe for a revolution.
After hesitant research, I began attending a UU fellowship for the very first time in Newport News, Virginia in 2010, and shortly thereafter, John began attending as well, albeit on a limited basis since he had maintained his membership at his original church. During a difficult process of coming out as gay to his father, John found that his church was no longer willing to stand behind him, but the UU fellowship was! It wasn’t just an tolerance, but a hearty inclusion that was extended. We found that congregation to be a great fit for us. We quickly became involved in music and cultivated strong friendships that persist even today.
But as with all good things, the winds of fortune turned, and new work brought us to the greater Los Angeles area. It was quite a change for us, and challenging in many ways, but the first thing that we sought out was a new Unitarian Universalist church to call our home. It had become immensely important to us to find a community where we could continue to commit to making the positive change we believe in; we had really found that in Virginia. During this search, we visited Neighborhood. We knew right away that we were home. Perhaps it was the music, or maybe a particular sermon or two that pulled on a heart string, or the kindness of people (I can think of some particular people!). We knew that it would be a place that we could find family.
I hope you will be lenient if I make use of a somewhat worn analogy. Our UU congregation is like a village. In a village, everyone has their role to play. A baker is needed for bread, builders to make homes for newcomers, artists to beautify our little hamlet… A church is like that too. Everyone brings something different to this place as they are able. Some people donate their time, some, a talent, some, money, and many of us, all three! Each of these are necessary for a vibrant and healthy congregation to exist. And the village isn’t just for us. It’s for newcomers who are here to settle. It’s for people just passing through. It’s for every heart we touch and share our values with.
When we came to Neighborhood, we found an already marvelous village. And now that we are settled, we are excited to lend a hand in helping to maintain and improve this village with you. Take some time to reflect on what inspires you here, what you love. I know that each of us has a secret talent to contribute, some time to commit, and as we are able, a financial contribution to support our good works. I know that, whatever you have to give, it will help extend the reach of Neighborhood’s kindness and I’m full of gladness knowing that.
-Nickie and John Hirlinger-Saylor, NUUC Members
2017 Canvass Testimonial