My name is Diane Wagner and I’d like to share with you some thoughts on what belonging to this community means to me. Like many of you, I arrived here from a mixed religious background. I was raised Baptist by parents whose personal faith was, and still is, very important to them. I think I always had doubts, and I did not chose to be baptized when others usually do, at around age 13. I later was baptized as a Catholic, after being married at the Newman Centre on U of T campus. This was, at the time, a supportive and liberal community, but when I went back a few years ago it had changed a lot, and so, I suppose, had I. The music was beautiful, but I came to realize that I could no longer believe the things I was expected to believe. Several years ago I heard someone interviewed on the radio who said that once he admitted to himself that he didn’t believe what he was taught to believe, he couldn’t go back. That has been my experience as well.
So I found myself looking for a religious community where a wide spectrum of beliefs were accepted. I was also looking for a community that would accept and respect my lesbian daughter. I just happened to meet someone on a Bruce Trail hike who told me about First Unitarian. I arrived at First at just about this time of year, 6 years ago, and in the fall I started attending the Women’s Group. Small groups at First are a great way to get to know people, and the Women’s Group has become a very important part of my life. It is a warm, supportive group of women from all kinds of backgrounds who share the ups and downs of their journeys through life. From these women I learned to listen to my own feelings, and to actually stop and ask myself how I feel.
After about a year and a half I decided to become a member of First, and then I attended a Mapmaking series. For the first time I got to know some men in the community. By the way, two of the members of my Mapmaking Group went on to become chaplains, and a couple of others have run adult programs here.
So what keeps me at First? I feel very much at home with the principles we share, and in fact the first time I heard them, I thought someone must have been reading my mind. To me “growing into harmony with the divine” means respecting and being part of the interdependent web of existence.
I appreciate the intellectual and spiritual stimulation at First – in the services and in the workshop series. My favourite series was one where we had to decide whether our main approach to life was humanist, naturalist, mystic or theist, and then look at questions such as “What is real to you?” and “How do we know what we know?” By the way, I started out in the naturalist group, then decided to join the mysticism group, but I’m still not quite sure which group I belong to.
Something else that is very important to me here is the experience of R.E. for my granddaughter -- a place where she can feel that it’s quite normal to come from a non-conventional family. In fact, after her first R.E. class a couple of years ago Daya came up to me, excited, and said “Grandma, a little boy in my class has three Moms. He’s so lucky! I only have two”.
But what is most important to me is being part of a supportive community.
Mark said in one of his recent sermons that it’s the job of ministers to always strengthen the fabric of community. I told him afterwards that he and Donna must have done a good job, because I feel confident going forward into our uncertain future. I’m confident in our community.