Identity can be a big part of church. Jewish friends greet each other -- "Shabbat Shalom!" as they walk into temple. Black ladies ... at least in my part of the world, show off lovely Sunday hats, hats that are only seen on Sunday, going to church. Catholics wear their ashes all day, showing their religious identity.
It is bonding, religious identity. Several of my seminary friends come from AME or other predominately black churches. "It's one time of the week that I can come together with my people," they explain to me.
My people. I get that.
There is a lot to be said for group identity.
Some would argue that. Some would say that identity that comes from group membership is divisive. Maybe. But we still have the pull to it, don't we? Vegetarian, environmentalist, religious liberal, book lover, Star Trek fan ... it feels good, sometimes, to be with folks who are like you. To take a deep breath and say, I am with my tribe.
Not all the time. I am going to a non-UU seminary, a seminary where my race is not the majority and I love it. Of course, I am also around people like me -- people who want to make religion their profession.
People like me ... it changes as you move through groups. Heck, Saturday morning at Starbucks, you're with people like you ... people who want coffee in the morning.
So, once a week, it's good to be around people like you, religiously.
In our groups, we're still different. Watching the Democratic party right now is proof of that. Ye gods! Divide, divide, divide. Go to General Assembly and you're with people like you ... Unitarian Universalists. Divide, divide. UU Bloggers. UU Ministers. UU laiety. UU DREs.
But we are Unitarian Universalists.
It's not just the church I go to. It is part of my identity. I am a Unitarian Universalist. I am proud to be a Unitarian Universalist.
The Christian says proudly, I am a Christian. He feels that it explains something important about him.
Wouldn't you like to be a Pepper, too?
I wear my UU shirts out in public. I want to be identified as a UU. I think it says something important about me. Only problem is, nobody around here knows what a Unitarian Universalist is.
First step: Shabbat Shalom! Glory in our Sunday mornings as a time in which people like us come together. Glory in our shared identity. (I want a short pithy phrase like Shabbat Shalom that we can say to each other. In two short words, it says: Celebration! Holiday! Proud to be a Jew! Joy to be together! When you figure out what this UU phrase is, please let me know.)
Second step: By their fruit you will recognize them. UU's ... get out, get out, get out. Go to church on Sunday morning, be refilled, but then get out into the world. Plant a tree, feed a child, build a house. Live life as a Unitarian Universalist, looking for the positive in others, listening to their words and their better intent before responding. By their fruit you will recognize them. Live life so that others say, I want to be one of them!
And let me know what the UU Shabbat Shalom is.