• Attendance

    January 2013
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  • The “Class”

    Avery, Naim, Aaron

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January 20, 2013

We went to Church, which may be for  the last time or so. Which I am feeling a bit ambivalent about. It has been building up over time. We have had really the exact same issues with this church as the last one, and that has been very disappointing. That quote that I think Ghandi said that goes something like “The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is indifference.” describes our experiences to a T.

I actually think this church did a worse job than Little Church when you think that they are bigger and have more staff. Looking back, little church didn’t do half bad! But since we started going a year ago, it was constant fighting for the simplest accommodations. All we asked for were the following:

  • a working assistive listening device that consistantly works every week.
  • preferential seating in the first few rows (this was not only for my vision, but due to the fact that the assistive listening device did not work in many parts of the room. Something I asked them to work with me on, but they ignored, so figuring out where it worked literally took months of trial and error.)
  • Braille and/or large print orders of service, including words to songs.
  • Some assistance getting around coffee hour and potlucks.

That was it! That they could not pull off without us begging for it and nagging and coming off as “those disabled bitches.” Now, of course, we wanted to take it further, like having a volunteer disability coordinator (which could have been one of us), incorporation of technology into services (i.e. orders of service or sermons available electronically before hand to be used via iDevices during service.) And training for staff and members who wanted it on disability civil rights issues. Also, we offered training for other parishioners that may have hearing/vision issues that we were offereing as a free service if the church could provide space and announcements, possibly childcare. But we did not even get that far in the conversation. And I was NICE! I tried to learn from my mistakes at the other church and make sure I was offering solutions, not just whining about problems and being really positive about it. But we were just literally ignored. And why should I go week after week when I am just SITTING THERE and cannot hear or see or participate and it is just making us feel bad? And again, the kids start to notice and then you are kind of like…what am I teaching my kids? That it is ok to marginalize their family? What are they learning there?

I also joined EqUUal Access, but found it to be fairly inactive and looking more outward rather than inward. And they seemed extremely intimidated to say anything negative about the UUs. They would agree that yes, it is a big problem, like the whole  diversity problem within UU in general, but that it is just too sensitive of conversation and people are not ready to have it yet.

It never bothered me nor surprised me in the least that the UUs would need help learning to deal with people like me and my family, but the complete unwillingness to talk about it and the hyper defensiveness when you brought it up was completely surprising. I was, I guess, supposed to be so greatful about the fact that they had even thought about an Assistive Listening Device and not really go so far as to make sure it actually was regularly in working order.

The final straw came Sunday separately for Nik and I. I had gone to class with Naim because it was about death and this is an issue that is really hard for him to deal with.   He struggled in class, and half way through, during snack, he got really upset and started crying. Tears streaming down his face. I took him out into the hall to talk privately, but he was getting more worked up, so we went for a run in the courtyard and that helped. The thing that got to me was how shallow the death discussion was (not that I expected to be that deep with this age) but just how it was bringing up death and then just letting it go splat out there in a contrived way that didn’t go anywhere. I felt like I put my kid through this for nothing and no positive outcome. The second was that my kid is crying and not one teacher bothered to stop and ask how he was. No concern or notice whatsoever. I know they must have been letting me handle it and that is fine. But you would think at least a kind word. We went back to get our stuff in the last five minutes…and nothing. It was just so typical UU. There is no “THERE” there. It is all talk and no action.

Nik went to the service and it was about MLK. Our black minister talked about his personal experiences and Nik felt like they related to his. So on the way out (there was no one behind him yet) Nik complimented him on his sermon and said something to the effect that he related in some way. And the minister said, “Did you get our large print order of service?” Not that this has anything much besides back patting to do with what Nik said, but no, Nik did not get a large print or Braille order of service because their were not any that day. Which happens on regular occasion. The minister basically then just blew him off and walked away. It was, he said, completely dismissive. And if it was just a one time thing, it could be excused as he was busy or thinking about something else, but it happens ALL THE TIME. Almost every conversation.

I do want to say that I do not mean to say that collectively UUs are a bunch of shallow hypocrites. Just that it appears that they are at the paid staff level, or management /pastoral level systemically as it were. The only exceptions are that I do think both of the DREs at both churches are very sincere and conscientious about what they say and they have always tried to be helpful and accepting to us. There are also many members that are like-wise very nice people. But it kind of isn’t enough for the effort we are trying to make, unfortunately. We can’t even reach these people when we can’t even access the service to even be able to comment on it at social hour or whatever. We cannot volunteer for service projects easily when we do not have access to the information about them. If they cannot even TALK about accommodating us at the service, how can we expect to be accommodated (necessary for us to effectively and usefully volunteer) in other settings?

They are always having articles and discussions in UU World about how they are not growing and are bleeding members, especially the kids that grew up UU. And I want to say to them, it is because what you profess to be is not what you are. And that is ok because who is perfect? No one. But then you cannot even look inside of yourselves honestly enough to open up to other people. You all need to just GET OVER YOURSELVES. Have the hard discussions and try to stop spending so much time complimenting yourselves. Yes, you do some wonderful things and have some wonderful principles. But for me and many others like me, going to that church feels like being on the outside of a glass sanctuary. I can see in. I can see everyone doing all these nice things, but I am not allowed in unless it is to allow you all to use me to compliment yourself on your diversity wonderfulness.

I have a lesbian friend and she attends an Episcopalian Church. She said, everyone said to her for years, “You’re gay! You should try UU!” And so she did for a few weeks, but she said she felt like a token. The patting themselves on the back because they accepted her made her feel UNaccepted. She said she never felt so gay, and although she is proud to be gay, she doesn’t want to walk around with a big G on her head every Sunday. I feel like that as well, but with the addition of not having access to basic church services at the same time. The hypocrisy stings.

So, it is sad because I do value some of my experiences there and I will miss it. But it just doesn’t justify getting the whole family up and heading down every Sunday for that crap feeling we always seem to get, and that is spreading sometimes to the kids. So we are thinking of what other things we can do to replace it, because we just don’t want to drop it and forget about finding a “soulful” bonding experience that we can do as a family and with community.

So ideas are:

  • We could go back to little church, or at least sometimes for special events.
  • We talked about “nature Sunday.” Doing something for the earth each Sunday.
  • We talked about all of us taking family yoga, since our health is sort of one of our biggest  concerns and the body is the temple and all that.
  • We could find a service project to do.
  • We could utilize the church of the larger fellowship materials and perhaps do it on our own or with a small group of people in our home.

So, I don’t know. It is with very mixed feeling that after over 8 years I am surrendering to the fact that the UU  Church is not going to be a good match for us in the foreseeable future. But time and life is short, and I have made enough of an effort. And as she says, “No longer lend your strength to that which you wish to be free from…”

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