We recently heard from former UUFP member Nicole Lorsong, who was thrilled to receive a care package we recently sent to her family. Before they moved to Oregon last November, Nicole gave the following testimonial one Sunday morning. ACM
I’m sorry in advance if this testimonial is a bit rough, both because I’m probably going to cry through the whole thing, and because I’ve never done a testimonial like this before. I’ve never been a member of of a place like this before. I’ve never had a place to belong to.
I started coming to the Fellowship in the Spring of 2013, shortly after moving to Virginia, not even exactly sure what a Unitarian Universalist was. I was in a transitional period in my life, having gone from working full-time to stay-at-home mom, living hours away from the family and friends I grew up with, and knowing I needed somewhere to find a sense of safety and belonging. Something drew me here, and safety and belonging are exactly what I found.
When I told family back home that I’d started going to church, I got some funny looks. I think the word “church” has a certain connotations, at least for some people, as somewhere you to go to be told what to believe, what to do, what is right and wrong. Anyone who knows me knows I don’t take too well to being told what to do. But that’s not what this place is about. It’s about wondering, learning, sharing and working together. It’s about acceptance and love.
Because of what this Fellowship is, my two children and I have grown so much in our short time as members here. I’ve grown in confidence, in spirit, and in community. Just over a year ago I did a short presentation for the Policy Board about Navigators, and I shook like a leaf and barely got through it. However, they trusted me with the project, and everyone here has been so supportive, and your confidence in me has built confidence in myself. Now here I am speaking in front of all of you for the second time this month. Even family and friends who don’t attend the Fellowship have mentioned what a positive effect being a member here has had on me. I’ve done things this year, outside of the Fellowship, that I’ve never done before, and I credit this place, in supporting my baby steps in courage in walking through the doors, saying, “Hey, it’s safe here. Maybe I can try these other things, too.”
For my kids, at the last retreat Rev. Andrew asked me, “Remember when B— [that’s my six year old] would barely say anything?” and I had to reply, “Yeah, now how do we get her to be quiet?” When we first came they clung to my legs, but now they run off to bother Joanne or some other adult. They know that here they are safe and welcomed and loved, and it feels like a second home.
That confidence and feeling of safety and growth extends into my spiritual life, too. I had the seeds of a spiritual life before I came to the Fellowship, but here they’ve really been safe to flourish. I feel like, especially for people in my age group, though maybe this is true across the board, it’s tough to be one who is genuinely curious and joyful about the world and life. There’s just so much apathy and cynicism. But here, a piece of each sermon feels like it connects with something in me and creates a peaceful wondering; I can sing “Spirit of Life” and feel the energy in the room; my kids can talk about the magic of seeing the stars; an act of service can be an act of spirit — and I don’t have to feel shy about or alone in sharing these feelings, because I’m among open-minded and open-hearted friends, many of whom probably feel the same way.
Finally, the community here has just been amazing. I don’t know how to begin to express my appreciation for all the welcoming, open arms, the smiling faces, the outpouring of support when it’s needed. Most of my and my children’s best friends we met here. It’s not just a place for Sunday morning services, but also for so much of our social life and activities. Just yesterday B—, my nine year old, shared a birthday party here with one of his best friends from RE.
There’s a part of one of my favorite quotes, from Starhawk, which I think sums up the ways I’ve grown in community here, and the safety and belonging I’ve felt, which has bled into all other parts of my life. It goes, “Community means strength that joins our strength to do the work that needs to be done. Arms to hold us when we falter. A circle of healing. A circle of friends. Someplace where we can be free.” That’s the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula to me. Thank you for letting me be a part of it.