Tattooed Under the Skin
We re-post an excerpt from Elissa McDavid’s blog Skies Will Follow the story of her decision to get a chalice tattoo. – Ed.
Tattoo or should I say TattUU: Understanding my faith
Originally I wrote this post almost a year ago. I edited it to fit how I grew this past year. And holy crap this is a long blog post. I don’t represent the Unitarian Universalist Association or all Unitarian Universalists ever. This is MY opinion.
Dear Unitarian Universalism,
I hope this makes some sense, it still feels slightly jumbled to me. But, I really can’t remember the first time I thought about getting a chalice tattoo. I always thought as soon as I turned 18, I would march up to a tattoo parlor and get inked. As my 18th birthday came and went, I really began to question.
What if I decided to leave you, Unitarian Universalism? What if UUism just disappeared?
I hadn’t gone down this windy and scary path of thought until last summer (2012). Most of this questioning came from the thought of leaving youth community into young adult hood. I believe people saw me struggling and I know I hinted at it, but writing this down feels pretty darn good. UUism is quite flexible and open, but still anyone and everyone has a right to question (some would say UUism is all questions 😉
I feel very blessed to have grown up in Unitarian Universalism and the past few years it has been a bright spot in my life. I have almost savagely gone after UU youth leadership positions, sending emails at midnight (sorry mom and dad), having the chance to go to General Assembly not just once, but soon to be 3 times as a youth (twice as staff for youth caucus, this third time I will be on a youth and young adult scholarship). For all these things I am immensely grateful and looking back I am in awe in the amount of people who supported me and gave me a chance – not realizing what type of crazy they would unleash.
The reason for my love of Unitarian Universalism was originally created from youth community. I had always liked and enjoyed going to church, but never felt like I really had faith, until I stepped into youth community. I believe that was my fear from the beginning, of being unsure if I could still be an UU outside of that community. At the time I had mainly felt most UU, most connected to this faith was in youth community; at intense midnight worships, surrounded by woods, candle wax burning fingers, and singing hymns that aren’t often sung in church walls. These are insanely beautiful moments. But outside of these conferences/youth community, I struggled with my own concept of what UUism really “looked like” in action. Was it in my youth community, or was it in church services – where I found it difficult to connect (god I hope my minister isn’t reading this ;).
This past year many articles and studies have been published about religion in America. Mainly focusing on my generation. I won’t get too in depth (this deserves a whole blog post), but basically, we ain’t going to church. Unitarian Universalism is one of the few faiths that has been doing alright (but not great).
When I was at the Pacific Western Regional Assembly in San Jose this past April, Rev. Sarah Moldenhaur-Salazar gave an insanely electrifying and tear jerking (in a good way, but not gonna lie, balled my eyes out) sermon, at the closing worship on Sunday (listen to her sermon here). Much of the theme of Regional Assembly was about UUism in the 21st century (as well as collaborating cross western districts).
Her main point was that covenantal communities are not just churches, but they could be anything. Congregations are important pieces to our faith, but they are not the whole piece. Just like my time in youth community doesn’t just define UU experience (though it was a large piece). She called us to expand our understanding of what Unitarian Universalism really “looked like” in the 21st century.
Over the years (and this year especially), I have grown to love the many pieces of my UU faith. From the personal chalice(s) I have on my window sill, to the events with the most-amount-of-UUs-ever (like General assembly) or youth conferences. But also NOW loving every bit of my church’s worship services – from the reading of joys and sorrows, to the message of the morning. Faith is hard, it can be complicated. But the thing that I love and hold the highest, is the idea that we keep returning and coming back, to build something stronger (we are a living tradition). That I could sit in my struggle, and have a space where I could breathe. This past year my congregation has unintentionally given me space to do that. That’s when it really hit me, that I could have faith while still having questions.
The reason why I cried (tears of joy) from Rev Sarah’s sermon, was because it was like someone, a group of people were standing up with me and saying, “Oh hell no, Unitarian Universalism isn’t going away.” We can be gentle and fierce warriors for this faith. Because I love it to pieces.