I was a faithful church-goer from childhood through high school, but after I came to school here at IU, I spent the next 20 years avoiding church, except for weddings and funerals.? Those 20 years weren?t exactly well-spent, and after surviving yet another unfortunate relationship, I decided it was time to undertake a major overhaul of my life.? Thinking it might also be time to go back to church, I asked a trusted friend where she went.? At that time, First United Church was known as First Baptist Church, United Church of Christ. I heard ?Baptist? and cringed.? I didn?t know there was another ?Baptist? besides ?Southern?, but my friend set me straight, and I took her up on her invitation to visit one Sunday.? That first visit was both surprising and reassuring; there were several people there that I knew and respected, and there was no hellfire and brimstone being preached from the pulpit!
For a couple of years, I only came to church during the summer because during the fall and spring semesters I was working weekends.? I felt that it was unfair to join the church and then only be able to contribute in any meaningful way three months out of the year.? As soon as that changed, about two years later, I became a member.? That next spring, I was asked to serve on the Board of Worship, and a few months later, I got really brave and joined the choir.? That was scary!? The choir is so good, and I hadn?t sung anywhere but in my car for over 15 years.? I?m honored to be a member of a really good group of singers, and I count as a highlight of my years in the choir the evening we sang Brahms? German Requiem on the first anniversary of 9/11. My involvement at First United has grown since then.? I?ve served on two more boards, taken many Sunday School classes, volunteered for the Interfaith Winter Shelter, and helped in many other ways large and small.
If home is where you hang your hat, then home is also where you hang your heart, and I believe if I ever had to leave this faith community called First United, I?d truly be ripping my heart out.? I realized very early that this church believes that every one of us is free to find their own spirituality and their own way of finding God.? There is no one way to believe, no right or wrong in how we choose to be in relationship with God.? Just as no two human beings exactly alike, there are no paths to finding one?s way through life that are exactly alike.? In this place, among these people, united in their wonderful diversity, I have found a home, a place to hang my heart. I?ve spent nearly all my life saying ?Don?t put me in charge? or ?I don?t think I can?.? But here, I?ve been encouraged and supported in pushing the edges of my own envelope, in getting way out of my comfort zone.? I?ve chaired both the Board of Outreach and the Board of Physical Plant and Facilities, which also means service on the Church Council.? And because I?ve gotten tired of saying ?I can?t? I took a flying leap of faith, and have found myself on a bicycle with other church folks, riding around Lake Michigan, seeing the sights in Washington, D.C., grinding uphill in the Adirondack Mountains, and riding along the Mississippi River from Minneapolis, Minnesota, to Cordova, Illinois.? I?ve grown a lot since joining First United, and I continue to work on expanding that comfort zone.
Maybe somewhere out there is another faith community I would have been happy in, but I?m sure not looking.? I?ve found my home at First United Church.