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Church for the Rich

by Lorinda A. Henry

MY FAMILY has always needed to buy secondhand clothing — and it is truly a blessing to have had this resource. However, in religious education classes (RE) my daughters were subjected to the "you don't have the right kind of sneakers and designer jeans" attitude of other young people; consequently neither of them ever felt comfortable in RE. This was not a problem at school, however, where many children shared our economic status.

Though we have not given up on Unitarian Universalism, both girls left RE before they were in junior high. The older one started attending services with me; the younger provides child care on Sunday mornings. My older daughter looked forward to signing the membership book and did so as soon as she turned 16. The first communication she got was a pledge form. She said, "Am I supposed to give them my allowance?" The situation has improved — my younger daughter received a personal welcoming note from our minister when she signed the membership book last year.

Once, at pledge time, members were urged to give up "just one bottle of wine and one dinner out" per month and donate the proceeds. At the time, my husband and I went out to dinner only once a year, on our anniversary. He once joined a committee to help raise funds for the church — something he is very good at — but he had to drop the committee since it met at an expensive restaurant where committee members were expected to take turns buying dessert for the rest of the members. At the time, dessert for the group at that restaurant was our grocery budget for an entire week.

When we joined the UU Society over 20 years ago, my grandmother said, "Oh, are you sure you can afford it? That's a church for rich people." We scoffed then, but unfortunately, I think she was more right than I wanted to believe. Can we be welcoming societies if we are indeed a "rich people's church"?

Lorinda A. Henry lives in Milton, Vermont.

UU World XV:3 (September/October 2001): 13-14.

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