What’s It Like to Belong to a Small Church

               If you’re a member of the UU fellowship of about 75 members, here is a countdown of the Ten Benefits you will enjoy:

10.   You will get to letter in four sports.  You can belong to enough committees to fill every day or night of the week.

9.       You will get to hear Reverend Nancy Holden 4 times a year.

8.       You can save money on entertainment by attending Movie and Game Nights weekly.

7.       You will become an instant leader by raising your hand at almost any gathering.

6.     If you want an adult class on any topic, you can suggest it to the Program Committee, which will immediately endorse it and ask you to teach it.

5.       You will know the names of everyone sitting in your row each Sunday.

4.      You will feel like a part of a large and sometimes boisterous family.

3.       You get to help take care of the flowers in summer by signing up for weeding, you get to help shovel the sidewalks in winter, and you can volunteer to mow the grass.  The only thing you don’t have to sign up for is vacuuming the carpet inside.

2.       When you sing, you will hear your own voice along with others.

1.       You will feel as if you have come home.

This is a church in which it is impossible to remain anonymous.  The second part of the service, known as “coffee downstairs,” is a cacophony of sound:  people talking and expounding on the sermon or some favorite issue; children running; people hovering around the food table and murmuring about the morsels that are available; children dishing up plates that look as if no one fed them since the day before; and the occasional visitor standing toward the outside of the mass of people.  Usually, someone will reach out to them, discover a common interest, and establish the beginning of a relationship.  With repeated exposure to “coffee downstairs,” even a shy introvert like myself eventually becomes to feel as if she belongs.

When a church member dies, there is a massive outpouring of food, flowers, and expressions of concern.  You are missed when you die, because you were known and valued when you were alive.  When the leader of the funeral service speaks of the person who has died, he or she didn’t have to take notes at a meeting with the family because they’ve never done more than shake this person’s hand.   At death the small congregation is reminded of John Donne’s admonition in the 17th century when the church bells would toll to signal that someone had died:

“No man  [sic] is an Island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the                Continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were; any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved  in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.”

If you are lonely and want to find connections, a small church is for you.  If you are bored and need stimulation, a small church is for you.  If you have a special talent you’d love to display but have been to shy to get up in front of 300 people to do it, a small church is for you.  If you want to feel needed, a small church is for you.

Hope to see you next Sunday.

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