I?ve had a long (twenty years) spiritual journey before I found First United. ?Before returning to Bloomington fifteen years ago, I lived in Cincinnati where I worked at Memorial Library at Xavier University.? It is a Jesuit Catholic university where all are welcomed and embraced.? Among other things, the Jesuits are all about social justice. I think that was the initial spark:? I wanted a church like that for myself.? One of my colleagues at Xavier was married to the pastor of Mount Auburn Presbyterian Church.? I wound up attending that church because it was so welcoming and progressive. There were three flags on the balcony behind the altar:? United States flag, State of Ohio flag, and the Rainbow flag.
So what brought me to First United??? In Bloomington, I visited a handful of churches but none quite spoke to me.? One was too dogmatic, another too focused on green/environmental issues.? I learned about First United from the website, and from a former colleague (now retired from Wells Library at IU).? ?It occurred to me that if a church is gay-friendly that could only mean that it is also progressive.? On the website, you?ll see a big bold proud statement that First United is ?open, welcoming, and affirming? and I decided this just might be the place for me. Our mission statement includes several affirmations about our vision and commitment.? I especially like this one:? ?We minister to our neighbors and care for creation. Members of First United Church respond to the needs of our community and the troubles of the world.?? I see that and feel that in everything we do. I am blessed to be a part of this church.
There are many things keeping me here.? Generosity. Compassion. One Sunday there was a vote of the congregation about donating $100,000 to help the Community Kitchen build its new facility.? $100K!? Am I hearing this right?? Equality. On another Sunday, I just about leapt out of the pew when Caela referred to God as ?she.?? Am I hearing this right?? Inclusive and embracing the holy spirit in all. Jack has spoken often about our commitment to the LBGTQ and other marginalized communities. Am I hearing this right? These are a few examples of what is keeping me here.? First United deliberately looks outside itself.? There are so many programs and services we provide to the larger community.? The outreach service I am wholly committed to is the Interfaith Winter Shelter (which we host two evenings each week).? I am gratified to give my time and hospitality in service to the ?least of these.? ?There are also service opportunities not directly sponsored by the church.? For example, a member of the congregation launched a grassroots effort to educate our friends and neighbors about the Affordable Care Act, and I have volunteered to help at Community Health Fairs he has organized.? There are of course many opportunities for personal and spiritual growth. ?I have attended several Sunday School classes on different topics, including reading and discussing the book ?The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.?? I truly believe that whatever your interests and passions may be, there is something for you here. Open minds and open hearts.