“With No Force At All”
A Unitarian Universalist Welcome
by Leslie Mills
After I graduated college, with my family of origin in turmoil, I moved to a place where I knew no one outside of the job I was working. As I young person who didn’t know myself well yet, I had some messy relationships, with no healthy models to hold up as a mirror. I was drifting, and in a lot of pain.
In desperation, I recalled my Unitarian Universalist upbringing, and thought I’d take a risk and try out the UU congregation in my new town. I attended a Music Sunday, and was so moved I found myself weeping. I signed the visitors book as a gesture of thanks, not expecting anything to come of it.
Much to my surprise, later that week my phone rang, and it was a member of the welcoming team, introducing herself and asking if she could answer any questions. I was touched, but still held her at a distance, and let her know that while I had enjoyed my visit, I likely wouldn’t be coming back; I had been hoping to find new friends my own age, and instead saw a sea of gray hair. While everyone had been friendly, they weren’t the hang-out-after-work crowd I had been hoping for.
And gently, with no force whatsoever, she invited me to consider the possibility that there were other young people in the same position, and wasn’t it a shame that none of us were willing to step up and be the first one to stick around and draw the others near.
Her words hit me like a lightning bolt. I went back the next Sunday, and every Sunday after, as I helped them call a new young adult minister, started a young adult group, and through that felt my own call to seminary and Unitarian Universalist ministry.
Sometimes small gestures really do change the world.
Rev. Leslie Mills is a third generation Unitarian Universalist. She was dedicated as a child at First Unitarian Society in Milwaukee, and went through Coming of Age at Unitarian Church North in Mequon, Wisconsin. After college, she joined the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, Illinois, where she felt called to ministry. After exploring the 12 UU churches in the Twin Cities during seminary, she was called to serve the Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, Illinois, where she was ordained in 2016.