This weekend I have been immersed in our Unitarian community. On Saturday I had a Communication Commission's meeting in Manchester followed by the East Cheshire Union's AGM at Dukinfield in the afternoon followed by tea and buffet - delicious! I covered over 100 miles by car and also had a train journey from Ashton to Manchester. Getting home to an empty house, my 18-year old daughter was out celebrating a friend's 18th, and my mind was buzzing.
I watched some TV hoping to empty my mind so that I might sleep well. But as soon as my head hit the pillow my mind started racing again. So many ideas and issues - so many important things - what to do, what to say - so many happy exchanges with like-minded people. On waking very early I got up and turned on my computer. I had to get at least a few of my thoughts written down. I then wrote on my other blog and prepared the announcements for the morning's service. I was feeling jaded by then - not enough sleep and too much mental activity - and although I like services I could happily have stayed at home and snoozed.
As I drove there with the radio on, listening to messages of love passed from one person to another via the DJ I began to reconnect with the world outside and was happy that there was such love around. I parked my car and spied two of my friends and we juggled my bags and their garden produce so that we could help each other to the Meeting House. A lady who had just got out of a car called out, 'Are you going to the Unitarian church?' 'Yes,' we replied, 'are you?' Turns out that Cathy and Jack from Washington State were staying with Helga and Mark from Crewe and always tried to visit a Unitarian chapel whenever they visited somewhere new. We chatted with our visitors as we walked towards our Meeting House.
When we arrived others came forward to welcome our visitors and I had some time to put packages down and get sheets of paper out of my bag. The mother of one of our member's had just died - he was not there but we like to be with people in spirit at difficult times. We were unsure about whether one of our members was on his way - if he is coming then we start the service a little later to allow for his bus journey. So it was a bit delayed and a bit raggy at the start. Our bus-rider arrived and we felt able to then hold our bereaved member in our thoughts and send love and comfort.
One of our members led the service on awe and wonder. It was a stirring service with mainly unfamiliar hymns which we did our best with. We finished with Led Zeppelin's Stairway to Heaven. What would our visitors think? They loved it. And they loved the welcome. And they loved, as we did, that sense of connection. Now they will be included on our list to receive our newsletter.
We were asked in the service to think about those things that made us feel 'wow!' Whilst I like a good view, it is also human connections that make me feel 'wow!' The simple pleasures of feeling connected to so many people over a 36-hour period. The joy of listening to the radio and feeling warmth as messages of love are sent by and to people that I don't know and probably will never. Thinking about all the opportunities to connect - I asked Helga about her name, her father was German and had been a prisoner of war. 'Locally?' I enquired.' 'No, near to Leicester, ' she responded. It just so happened that I was going to Leicester that afternoon to my sister-in-law's 60th birthday celebrations. I also have a family connection on my paternal grandmother's side.
As I left to drive home I felt so proud of our community for all that we do together - at how we work so hard to translate our values into real attitudes and actions. I reflected on the rest of the weekend and the broader network that we belong to and the feelings of sincere love that underpin my experience of our Unitarian community. It is not just a feeling of 'wow' but a more sustained feeling of awe and wonder at the dynamic of this, our religious community.