“I no longer identify as Christian.” It has taken me years to comfortably make that statement. Into my 20s, being a Christian was entwined with how I understood myself and many of my relationships with family and friends. As my religious outlook shifted over the years, I continued to speak about my Christian roots—in both warm and critical ways. But by indicating that I no longer identify as Christian, I am recognizing that the Christian tradition, texts, and concepts are no longer the ones that I choose to frame my worldview of understanding life’s purpose or ethical choices.
When I engage in interfaith work, I often have to gently clarify that First Parish is not a Christian church but a Unitarian Universalist congregation. I don’t really blame those who take a look at our building and assume we are Christian. Our history, our architecture (steeple), as well as the structure and terms used in our worship services (hymns, postlude, etc.) all reflect the Christianity of our historical roots. Additionally, some of our members identify as Christian or find meaning in elements of the Christian tradition. So, is First Parish Christian? Or do we no longer identify as Christian? And if we do not identify as Christian, what is our relationship to our Christian heritage and the vestiges of its presence all around us?
As we start our journey of “Encountering Difference” this year, we begin by focusing on Christianity. By starting here, I invite us all, whether we individually grew up Christian or not, to consider the ways in which our own beliefs as well as our congregation is similar to and different from Christianity. Of course, Christianity, like all the religions we will engage this year, is itself full of differences. So also, I imagine that there are a range of answers to these questions within our congregation. My hope is that we will share our thoughts with one another as we practice encountering differences within and beyond our walls.
Read Rev. Dr. Stephanie May’s full article in the October Unitarian newsletter.