Two Reflections in Western New York

My thoughts are in Buffalo this morning. The church in which I discovered Unitarian Universalism was featured in UU World. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Buffalo was highlighted for having a beautiful building and an interesting tie to history: one of the designers was killed in the sinking of the Titanic as he sailed to his retirement. I saw the picture of the sanctuary and knew the place before I read the article.

The church hosted The Vagina Monologues and I was volunteering at some information tables. My first surprise was that a church was hosting the Monologues. My second surprise was how stunningly beautiful the place was. My third surprise came to me as I was idle during the performance. Behind my table was a bulletin board that advertised activities in the church. I will never forget one of the fliers advertising a support group for LGBTQ folks that had partners who were substance abusers. Huh. Clearly, this was a church that I would feel at home in, if I ever became Christian again. It took awhile and a BeliefNet quiz before I realized exactly what Unitarian Universalism was, and that it was already the spiritual home for me. That church sparked a transition in my spiritual orientation.

The article is a well-written brief. I could not help but think that it was morbidly appropriate that the church’s history is tinged with tragedy. Heaven knows that so many places in Buffalo are.

As I have written, I eventually joined the Unitarian Universalist Church of Amherst. That was in the former mansion of the fellow who founded Williamsville, NY, with a beautiful sanctuary built as an addition.  The decision of which church was made by proximity: I could ride my bike to UUCA because I lived down the road. Between the wonderful communities at University Unitarian Church and UUCA, proximity is working well for me as the decision-making criteria.

The people at UUCA were so warm, inviting, and sustaining, The minister, Rev. Tim Ashton, is fabulous. That word seems inadequate. His sermons spoke to me, and really inspired me to consider things I never would have thought of. His warm ways of being and his wisdom were inspiring. I had that sense of, “I want to be like him when I grow up!” That, to me, is a benefit of belonging to a community. You cannot learn everything on your own, sometimes it takes participating, experiencing new things, trying, and learning from other people. UUCA, and Tim, embraced and encouraged me though I was so green. I still am, but that’s a post for another time.  I have recently learned that Tim is retiring. It is public, posted on the UUCA website now. In any case, I could hear his voice in my head as I read the letter announcing it, and I smiled. It is so clearly the best move for him, and imagining him retiring with his wife brings me joy. I hope he has a very happy retirement, he certainly deserves it. At the same time, I felt a bit of loss for my old church because I know he will be very missed. It is a gift to know people like him.

These transitions are the way of life. I’m grateful.