Bob Britton

Sunday used to be the worst day of the week for me. I dreaded the coming struggle of the week ahead.

Now I know that on Sundays I can be with caring people who dream of putting an end to war, poverty, racism, homophobia, and replacing each with love and justice. There always comes that point Sunday morning during meditation when all we hear are the birds outside (or the fans overhead), or when we’re singing one of those difficult hymns, actually in tune and harmony! It’s then when the goose bumps run up my spine–I know I can face the struggle again on Monday morning.

A Welcome at the Threshold

In the Beginning God created…No, I guess this can’t be like Genesis. I only have a few minutes to tell you how after 33 years of thinking about it, I finally ended up and felt welcome at Starr King Church.

It was 1968, just after the summer of love. I was 20 years old and getting married…for the first time. The in-laws wanted a church wedding, but I was an atheist…well, at least an agnostic. I believe in keeping my options open.

The only church I’d consider getting married in was Unitarian. I hadn’t heard of Universalists at that point. I wanted the rational, the Unitarian way. If you can’t scientifically prove it, it doesn’t exist. So, the marriage was at the Unitarian church in Long Beach, CA.

A year later, I was living on the S.F. Peninsula. I was about to be drafted and sent to Vietnam. I was a pacifist and writing a thesis for my Draft Board seeking Conscientious Objector status. For the first time in my life I was reading the New Testament. The Book of Matthew is good stuff… if you want to beat the Draft!

If I expected to be granted C.O. status it might help to join a church, right? So I started visiting liberal churches to see if I could stomach any of them. I visited a well-to-do UU church near a famous university. Guess what? They were too rational, too intellectual…and they wouldn’t talk to me during coffee hour! For this boy, straight out of Compton, it wasn’t for me.

Twenty-four years later I moved to this area, saw the sign on Center Street for Starr King Church and I started…thinking about it.

After a couple of years of thinking about it and my wife chiding me that I’d never go to church because all I wanted to do was read the Sunday paper, I followed the signs one Sunday morning and drove into the parking lot of Starr King, but there wasn’t much of a parking lot then. After seeing a bunch of people standing around in waist high grass and weeds, I turned around and left. I didn’t come back for six years.

Ironically, it was a friend and member of that UU Church on the Peninsula who inspired me to try out Starr King again. Luckily, y’all had paved the parking lot by then!

To this day I’m grateful that there were people like Bill Schwab and Keith Lewis who spoke to me every Sunday I visited. There was the minister, Katie, who described herself then as a faithful agnostic. How cool is that?

After a couple of months, I signed the book. May 6, 2001! No catechism, no wafers to eat, no dogma. Just sign the Membership Book!…But, don’t forget to put your address and phone number down.

I wasn’t active at first. But then I found out why we have new members put their phone numbers in the book. I got a call from someone in the Membership Committee asking if I wanted to be a greeter every 4th Sunday. I’m still doing it and I think it’s the best job in our church. You learn everyone’s name and you get to hug whoever you want!

That was my only involvement until I heard about the Building Your Own Theology class. I signed up because it reminded me of cramming theology to beat the draft. But when I was forced to think about what I believed, I had second thoughts. For God’s sake, I’m an agnostic. I don’t believe in anything, except keeping my options open.

Then going through the exercises, I heard another member of the class explain that her theology or creed was love! Love? Love can be a theology??? Sign me up!

And from this podium I got to expound on my theology and share deeply personal events that shaped my beliefs. Though I came to Unitarian Universalism looking for the rational, I ended up desiring the spiritual, more the Universalist than the Unitarian.

Sunday used to be the worst day of the week for me. Sunday is the day before Monday you know. I dreaded the end of the weekend and the coming struggle of the week ahead.

Now I know that on Sundays I can be with caring people who dream of putting an end to war, poverty, racism, homophobia, and replacing each with love and justice. There always comes that point Sunday morning in the moment of prayer and meditation when all we hear are the birds outside (or the fans overhead), or when we’re singing one of those difficult hymns, actually in tune and harmony! It’s then when the goose bumps run up my spine…that I know I can face the struggle again on Monday morning.

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