We Build Church

When I was asked to write a little something about fiscal responsibility, I confess I felt a little twinge of guilt. I felt a little awkward, because fiscal contributions are not a thing I have always done so well. Giving money was once a thing I was going to do... later. Sure, I'd give sporadic donations, but giving in an intentional, regular, significant way seemed important, but presently impractical. Later, I was sure, would be a better time. Later: once there weren't so many debts to pay, once I was out of school, once the kids were out of school, once we were “financially secure”, once we retired, or maybe, once we died? There is always a reason for later. But thinking our financial investment can wait until we are somehow "ready" is mistaken. It’s like thinking we can retire to a home we never got around to building. Church is not a thing we attend, church is not a thing we visit. Church is a thing that we build. Of course, UUTC is a collective effort. Reflecting on our upcoming 20 year anniversary, I am grateful for all who have worked to construct this spiritual home we have each inherited. But, though the church as a whole is built communally, the creation of church is also deeply personal. We each have our own experience of church: our own spiritual journeys, our own relationships, our own connection to something bigger. And we must each undertake for ourselves the lifelong process of building our church.

There are several ways we build our own, personal church. One is through deepening our spiritual and personal journeys. One unique and precious quality of Unitarian Universalist philosophy is its invitation to have our own intimate and open relationship with life's Big Mysteries, all the while urging us in the direction of our most deeply held values. As we each engage in the free and responsible search for truth and meaning, and strive to live each day consistent with our hopes and ideals for who we are and the ways we want to live in the world.

We also build our personal experience of church in our relationships. An awkward hello at coffee hour slowly blossoms into friendship as it is watered with common interests and values and fertilized with shared experiences. We celebrate and grieve with one another. We walk each other home. And in this process we build our community. The human spirit is such that we define ourselves in relationship to each other. We were made to belong. It is how we build meaning in our lives; it is how we make sense of the world. Tending these relationships is a form of building church.

Finally, we build church in our investments. Our investments take many forms. When we bring our children each week and make space for their thoughts and questions, we are building church. When we partake in any action to bring about social justice and the realization of UU principles in society through donating, volunteering, speaking up, or voting, we are building church. When we give our time in simple ways: when we make coffee for coffee hour or soup for lunch, when we bring flowers for the sanctuary or help with any of the myriad small, uncelebrated tasks that a community like ours requires, we are building church. And when we give money with intention and generosity to further our spiritual home, we are building church. And the truth is this: we live in a physical and societal reality in which finances create the bounds in which we can operate. Thus, while not the most glamorous part of church, it is vitally necessary. Without these structural beams to steady us, the house crumbles.

Humans are prone to let our worries of what we think we should be doing paralyze us from doing anything at all. Giving is not all or nothing. It is perfectly okay that our relative contributions shift over time as our life circumstances require. So start with where you are today, and build upward. Ask yourself, openly and honestly: What more could I be doing to build my church? What is the next step in my own construction? Start now, and build well. Because, there is a reason we build. The structures we build give us shelter from the storm. It gives us a place to gather, to rest, to grow, and to dream. We build church.

Elizabeth Williams