Dear UUCPA folks,
Can I confess something? I think about 20% of my motivation in becoming a UU minister was to recreate a peak experience of my teenage years. Experiences, since it wasn’t one time but something that happened most Fridays during the school year. That’s when several of us would gather around a table in Greg Coleman’s classroom after the final bell. Most of us had taken Greg’s 9th grade English class, and we wanted to keep talking about ideas that mattered.
We would read something together; some I recall are “The Jewish Wife” by Bertolt Brecht, chapters of Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth by Buckminster Fuller, and once over a period of many weeks, Hamlet. And then, over cheese and Stoned Wheat Thins and Greg’s homemade chai, we would talk and talk about what the ideas in the reading meant to us. An early incarnation of the gathering, long before my time, had dubbed it the Friday Afternoon Thing: FAT.
In FAT, I learned to bridge mind and heart. I learned to ask myself, “Why does this interesting idea make a difference in my life? in the world?” and to answer it in the company of other people who cared. I learned that while my classes seldom asked for more than a correct answer arrived at quickly, in this small community the goal was very different: to have conversations that were real. We were a circle of people who encouraged each other’s explorations, had fun together, and got to know each other in ways that the regular classroom didn’t always afford. In short, it was a spiritual community. Although we never, as far as I recall, called it that, what more could one ask from a spiritual organization than that it enable its members to grapple with big issues, care about each other, dare to trust each other, and share their hopes for the world?
Years later, as I began acquiring the skills for Unitarian Universalist ministry–preaching and community organizing and pastoral care and teaching and such–I realized that something else I wanted to create in congregations was, to put it succinctly, FAT. A FAT equivalent for anyone who wanted it: lots of them, at different times, so everyone could have a place around that table.
If you haven’t found that at UUCPA yet, I urge you to talk to me, or Membership Engagement Coordinator John Wright, or the leader of a small group that looks interesting, and find your FAT. We’ll help you find the place where you can have real conversations with people who want them too.
I’m excited about a new one that starts this week: a twice-a-month exploration of something that matters to us via Cole Arthur Riley’s short essays in the book This Here Flesh. If this has the makings of your FAT, take a little time before this Wednesday evening, November 2, to reflect on the phenomenon of dignity in free-writing / painting / dance / whatever, get the book (it’s on the shelves at Kepler’s), and join me. I look forward to our getting real together.