Mequon, the nearest congre-gation to our new home in a new hub. I have been processing-although that word is overused in my profession it still means something important-my experience since then.
I struggle in some ways to articulate it. It was uniformly positive and I am certain I will join the church. But it was also disturbing in some ways, how comfortable and peaceful I found it. This is the part I have difficulty articulating.
I arrived early, earlier than anyone else except the member and her daughter responsible for preparing the sanctuary. I talked with them a while and then with an older woman who was chief greeter for the day, then with one of the church's two (!) ministers, then with several others as they walked in. My wife refers to this as my funeral director mode, when I wander around introducing myself to people, sometimes introducing them to each other.
So I was at ease when I sat in the sanctuary to listen to the pianist and watch the bulk of people filter in. It's a UU church, after all, so most of them showed up at 9:56 for a 10 o'clock service, with another 30 or so arriving after the welcome and first hymn. The second part of that sentence carries a measure of something that surprised me. Although there is another, larger congregation in Milwaukee, the church has a couple hundred members, probably 25 of them black or Latino, and nearly 125 to 150 were there that day. The speaker was the retired minister from the Milwaukee church so some were undoubtedly visitors from there to hear him; but at 100 were congregation members who generally showed, I figure.
The retired minister was a good speaker and had a good sermon about UU beliefs I couldn't argue with. But what I was most absorbed by was the feeling I had surrounded by the people. I felt outside myself, emptied into the sea around me. I loved the image from Star Trek: Deep Space 9 of one character's people as an ocean (beginning about 6:40 in) into which they subsume, every particle mixing, and what I felt was something like that. To call it feeling "at home" seems banal but nonetheless accurate.
Here is the best I can say: I felt as in family, as among my tribe, as comfortable as I do in my best times with the Rainbow Family or with vagabonds. A friend of mine calls it being accepted in one's integrity, a statement I think is good as any and more accurate than most. I was taken in not only for who I am, but given my anonymity, in spite of who I may be. As if all my sins, rather than being washed clean, simply have no place there. Unconditional love. Acceptance without boundaries. I felt comfortable leaving because I know it will be similar when I come back.