we learn about love here : on becoming a member of the united church of gainesville

Sunday, June 15, 2014 |


When you become a member of our church, the entire congregation comes forward and lays their hands in a beautiful gesture of welcome and support.  I took a brief moment to turn around this morning and look at everyone behind me, supporting me and holding me up....it was a truly special moment.


this post has been writing itself for a long time.  bare with me as i bare my soul a bit.

i grew up in the methodist church.  it was a nice church and i have fond memories of it ~ mostly ones i made as a member of the youth choir.  i remember, in particular, our summer tours and the how wonderfully rebellious it felt to sing songs like "Ants Marching" or "Rocket Man" in our Sunday services.  our youth choir director knew how to speak to and with us and it was the first time i was able to see past my fear of religion.  the do's and don'ts of "religion", the check-list of requirements to be "saved", the literal interpretations meaning that some of my gay and lesbian friends or those who weren't completely "perfect" or were just different weren't up to par.  i knew i was far from perfect and so perhaps i too wasn't good enough??...none of that made any sense to me and so i pushed away, threw my hands up with religion.

my experience wasn't traumatic or damaging...but rather left me feeling sort of empty, disconnected.  i believed in my heart that there was something more but was not finding it in this place or through this way of worship.

fast forward to college and i enrolled in a class entitled, "spirituality and health."  it was like comparative religion meets pre-med and i was officially in heaven. no pun intended.  i was raised in a liberal minded home, by two psychologists.....so it came as no surprise to me that there were many different world views and religious thought processes.  this was, however, the first time that i had been immersed in a discussion of how spirituality, an existential kind of entity, could marry with the more physical scientific concepts that were more tangible to me at the time.  it was the discussions in that class that spurred me to ultimately take the courses necessary to apply to medical school and we all know how that turned out.

my formal church life has been nonexistent up until recently.  ryan and i were married by a wonderful minister from his childhood church and the first time i met him and slowly began to attend services there, i knew that i was on to something.  a place where i could be my imperfect and authentic self.  i didn't have to worry about pretending to be someone i'm not.  anyone was welcome no matter how broken or imperfect.  admittedly, we hadn't been as "religious" (pardon the pun) in attending until recently as we had let our hectic life of work and kids and everything else get in the way.  a variety of things have happened over the past few years that have sparked our mutual inner drive and faith and we have now found ourselves there regularly and eagerly looking forward to Sunday morning service.

if you flip to the back of the pamphlet on any given sunday, you'll see the church compact printed there.  it starts with "We join as a spiritual community in this compact To worship God, however known...".  every day i learn more about what and who God is to me.

here's what I've figured out so far.  God is that feeling I get while I watch my children sleep.  My deep and gnawing love for them, the fear that I'll mess it all up, and the courage to just keep going even when I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing.  I see God in my marriage every day ~ the way our 10th grade love has evolved into the most dynamic, challenging, and phenomenal part of my life. God was with us in the mountains, in the morning sun as it ricocheted through the trees as we sat listening to the orchestra created by the flowing creek and the gregarious songbirds.  The peace I felt even in the wildly terrifying moments following my seizure, in a million ways I think that was God.  I feel God's presence with me when I talk with my patients, oftentimes in moments when I have bad news to bear.  That seems silly, I know...as I type it out it makes no sense. but it is in those moments that the overwhelming gratitude floods my heart...not for the news I have but for the opportunity to bear witness to the unfolding of their story.  to sit with them in their broken and less than perfect moments.  it's easy to be grateful for happy news, for a beautiful day....but to find meaning and gratitude in those dark and piercingly painful moments, i have God to thank for that.  God is in those little moments ~ watching Emma and Benjamin talk to one another quietly when they think i'm not watching, the way their eyes sparkle with wonder over simple things like the way the rain falls in fat dollops on the ground.

today, I formally joined the church.  i know it is a spiritual home where I belong. where my family belongs.  where we can roll our sleeves up and get involved in the social justice work and community outreach that is such a huge part of what UCG is all about.  where we can meet people just like us and completely different from us all just exactly where we are on this journey.  with whose support and uplifting we can lead a life like the one Jesus spoke about that is about so much more than Sunday worship.



as I stood in front of the congregation this morning, I shared the following story because I think it sums up exactly why I want to be a part of this group of amazing people.

a few weeks back as we were leaving Sunday service, Benjamin turned to his sister and said, "Why do we go to church?"  i thought it was a pretty awesome question for a 2 1/2 year old and I was really REALLY looking forward to her answer.  she turned to him and said, as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, "We learn about love there."

i'm pretty sure God was in that moment, too.






4 comments:

Donn Smith said...

Welcome to UCG. Beautifully written. I hope you love it as much as my partner and I do.

Katherine Henderson said...

Lovely! We were in that crowd yesterday, welcoming you with our hands and hearts. (and I sang in the service too!) My family has been attending UCG since moving to Gainesville two years ago, and we officially joined last fall. Looking forward to getting to know you all.

The Murphys said...

Thank you so much, Donn. We feel very much at home here and look forward to growing with you all! Hope to meet you soon.

The Murphys said...

Hi Katherine! Thanks for reading and reaching out. Your voice was so beautiful (and I LOVE the song)! We look forward to getting to know you and your sweet family as well!

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