Marcel Kates – My Long Road to the Unitarian Universalist Church

In 1938 or 1939 my Father went from the Netherlands, where he was born, to the Dutch East Indies to seek his fortune.  My Mother followed, and as it turned out, was on the last boat that went from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies before World War II.  During the War, the Japanese overran the islands.  Although we spent three years in a Japanese concentration camp we were lucky.  We were Jewish and 25% of the Jews who lived in my Mother’s home town were murdered in Auschwitz including my Grandparents and many uncles, aunts, and cousins.  Whether it was because of the Germans or the Japanese, I don’t know, but my family never celebrated the Jewish religion or any other religion for that matter.

In the early 1950s my Father read to me from the book “The Story of Mankind” by Hendrik Van Loon.  The book is a historical review of the world’s major religions.  I recall it covered the Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, and Islamic religions.  It had a profound effect on me.  I recall that although Judaism has a vengeful God but most of the rules, it struck me, seem to make sense if taken in the context of health rules.  Christianity struck me as having an all loving and forgiving God.  Confucianism struck me as a set of rules for living a good life.  The Muslim religion just struck me as a form of male power.  Now I could be wrong but these perceptions affected my response to overtures of the religions in later life.

As an elementary school student in the U.S, I loved to sing in class.  My 6th grade teacher took note and asked if I would like to sing in a choir.  So I went to the choir rehearsals at the local Episcopalian Church never thinking about singing at a church service.  After a number of rehearsals, the choir director said that I was ready to sing with the choir on Sunday.  Me? Sing in church?  I had no idea what a church service was like never mind what to do.  But one of the men in the men and boys choir guided me.  Stand up at this time, kneel down at that time, bow your head now, say this prayer out loud, pray silently here, etc.  I did all this trying to look as reverend as I could because the choir was between the congregations and alter and everyone could see me, or so I thought.  After some time, however, I peeked at the congregation during some of the more solemn moments and noticed that a good many of the congregants were looking around or whispering to each other rather than bowing their heads as they were supposed to.  I decided they were hypocrites but more important, I found that I was the hypocrite.  I was performing all these rituals for a deity I had no affinity to, although they kept telling me what a loving and all forgiving God they were praying to.

I stayed with that choir until I could go to high school where a chorus was singing under the direction of the same director that directed the church choir.  That man was Robert K. Love, a great director.  So I found another place to sing and stopped going to church.  This chorus, the Malden High Choral Art Society, performed at many concerts and some at other churches, the church gigs were concerts more than services so that did not bother me.  How they behaved at those churches was their business.  Mine was to provide the best music I could.

When I joined the Army, some years later, I attended the military chapel service at my Army post but, although it was non-denominational, it was not very satisfying because they were praying for the intercession of a supreme being to save us all.  Years later a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses would come once or twice a year to see if they could convince me to join their religion to pray to their version of the all forgiving, all loving, and all seeing God.  As I stated to a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door one day in Pepperell the last time:

“Where was your God when we were incarcerated in a Japanese concentration camp?

Where was your God when my relatives were sent to Auschwitz?

Where was your God when my Father died from a coronary thrombosis when I was in my twenties?

Where was your God when my sister died in a ferry accident in the Yukon? [I was in my thirties]

If He is so all loving, so all forgiving, so all seeing, and purported to be a savior, why did He not intercede?

 

They never came to our door again.  I guess they decided I was a hopeless prospect.

 

And since then I lost an Uncle and my Mother [to leukemia] when I was in my forties, my remaining Uncle and two aunts when I was in my fifties.

 

I had tried a Unitarian Universalist church where I was a Trustee (among other positions) but it, too seemed to invoked a higher being for protection and salvation.

 

And then we found the First Parish Church of Groton (FPCOG).  With raising children and work travel on some weekends we stopped attending after a while.

 

Years later we returned to find Elea Kemler preach that there is no God who comes to the rescue but that we must do it ourselves for ourselves and for each other.

 

It is all summed up by a song that we sang at the offering:

 

*Offertory Response (Words: Sue Gleason)

Thanks be to all who freely give,

Who guide us in the way to live,

With generosity of heart,

Inspiring us to do our part.

 

Here is the spirit of community where we help, support, and enjoy each other.  Although we do participate in a more or less formal order of service, it is never a rigorous ceremony which is preordained. We are not powerless in the eyes of a super human being but have the power to make a difference. 

 

When we decided to winter in Florida we again looked for a UU church in the vicinity.  We went to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte Count (UUFCC) and never went elsewhere. They, too, did not preach about a supreme being who will save us from our own foibles but .promulgated mutual support and service to others. 

 

 I do not believe in an afterlife of eternal bliss nor eternal punishment.  You do what you can or will in this life and when you pass away what is left is what those who knew you remember.  The only thing you have control over is what and how well they think of you.



 





My Long Road to the Unitarian Universalist Church

 

In 1938 or 1939 my Father went from the Netherlands, where he was born, to the Dutch East Indies to seek his fortune.  My Mother followed, and as it turned out, was on the last boat that went from the Netherlands to the Dutch East Indies before World War II.  During the War, the Japanese overran the islands.  Although we spent three years in a Japanese concentration camp we were lucky.  We were Jewish and 25% of the Jews who lived in my Mother’s home town were murdered in Auschwitz including my Grandparents and many uncles, aunts, and cousins.  Whether it was because of the Germans or the Japanese, I don’t know, but my family never celebrated the Jewish religion or any other religion for that matter.

 

In the early 1950s my Father read to me from the book “The Story of Mankind” by Hendrik Van Loon.  The book is a historical review of the world’s major religions.  I recall it covered the Christianity, Judaism, Confucianism, and Islamic religions.  It had a profound effect on me.  I recall that although Judaism has a vengeful God but most of the rules, it struck me, seem to make sense if taken in the context of health rules.  Christianity struck me as having an all loving and forgiving God.  Confucianism struck me as a set of rules for living a good life.  The Muslim religion just struck me as a form of male power.  Now I could be wrong but these perceptions affected my response to overtures of the religions in later life.

 

As an elementary school student in the U.S, I loved to sing in class.  My 6th grade teacher took note and asked if I would like to sing in a choir.  So I went to the choir rehearsals at the local Episcopalian Church never thinking about singing at a church service.  After a number of rehearsals, the choir director said that I was ready to sing with the choir on Sunday.  Me? Sing in church?  I had no idea what a church service was like never mind what to do.  But one of the men in the men and boys choir guided me.  Stand up at this time, kneel down at that time, bow your head now, say this prayer out loud, pray silently here, etc.  I did all this trying to look as reverend as I could because the choir was between the congregations and alter and everyone could see me, or so I thought.  After some time, however, I peeked at the congregation during some of the more solemn moments and noticed that a good many of the congregants were looking around or whispering to each other rather than bowing their heads as they were supposed to.  I decided they were hypocrites but more important, I found that I was the hypocrite.  I was performing all these rituals for a deity I had no affinity to, although they kept telling me what a loving and all forgiving God they were praying to.

 

I stayed with that choir until I could go to high school where a chorus was singing under the direction of the same director that directed the church choir.  That man was Robert K. Love, a great director.  So I found another place to sing and stopped going to church.  This chorus, the Malden High Choral Art Society, performed at many concerts and some at other churches, the church gigs were concerts more than services so that did not bother me.  How they behaved at those churches was their business.  Mine was to provide the best music I could.

 

When I joined the Army, some years later, I attended the military chapel service at my Army post but, although it was non-denominational, it was not very satisfying because they were praying for the intercession of a supreme being to save us all.  Years later a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses would come once or twice a year to see if they could convince me to join their religion to pray to their version of the all forgiving, all loving, and all seeing God.  As I stated to a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses who came to my door one day in Pepperell the last time:

“Where was your God when we were incarcerated in a Japanese concentration camp? Where was your God when my relatives were sent to Auschwitz? Where was your God when my Father died from a coronary thrombosis when I was in my twenties? Where was your God when my sister died in a ferry accident in the Yukon? [I was in my thirties] If He is so all loving, so all forgiving, so all seeing, and purported to be a savior, why did He not intercede?

They never came to our door again.  I guess they decided I was a hopeless prospect.

And since then I lost an Uncle and my Mother [to leukemia] when I was in my forties, my remaining Uncle and two aunts when I was in my fifties.

I had tried a Unitarian Universalist church where I was a Trustee (among other positions) but it, too seemed to invoke a higher being for protection and salvation. And then we found the First Parish Church of Groton (FPCOG).  With raising children and work travel on some weekends we stopped attending after a while. Years later we returned to find Elea Kemler preach that there is no God who comes to the rescue but that we must do it ourselves for ourselves and for each other.

It is all summed up by a song that we sang at the offering:

*Offertory Response (Words: Sue Gleason)

Thanks be to all who freely give,
Who guide us in the way to live,
With generosity of heart,
Inspiring us to do our part.

Here is the spirit of community where we help, support, and enjoy each other.  Although we do participate in a more or less formal order of service, it is never a rigorous ceremony which is preordained. We are not powerless in the eyes of a super human being but have the power to make a difference. 

When we decided to winter in Florida we again looked for a UU church in the vicinity.  We went to the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte Count (UUFCC) and never went elsewhere. They, too, did not preach about a supreme being who will save us from our own foibles but promulgated mutual support and service to others. 

I do not believe in an afterlife of eternal bliss nor eternal punishment.  You do what you can or will in this life and when you pass away what is left is what those who knew you remember.  The only thing you have control over is what and how well they think of you.

Photo of Alan Searle

Dr. Alan Searle was raised in the United Kingdom but never felt at home with his parents’ Church of England religion. It wasn’t until 1985 that he started attending a fellowship in Washington State and became a UU. When he, and his wife Jeri, moved to Florida in 2018 they started attending UUFCC. They made the right choice. Alan likes the message, the reassurance, and the challenge of being a UU in Florida, and in the US.

Photo for Stephanie Garrett

Stephanie Garrett – I have been a member of UUFCC for Over 20 yrs and a UU for almost 30. Our Fellowship has offered me a spiritual Home which continues to be diverse racially,  accepting of sexual orientation differences, and has a strong community outreach program. We are open to and embrace various religious teachings and philosophies welcoming even the non-religious into our family.

Photo of Katy Brown

From Katy Brown – I am glad to belong to UUFCC because it gives me friendships with truly open-minded, intelligent people.  I love that UUFCC is involved with the community, and is respectful of the environment.  The many activities give me a chance to channel my energy into helping others, without regard for their race, creed, gender, or sexual orientation, which is meaningful and fulfilling for me.

Cory

From Cory Dowdy – Hi, my name is Cory, I’ve been a member of UUFCC since December 2019. I’m apart of this wonderful eclectic community because I, myself, am a person of an eclectic faith, and you meet many people with like minds and like hearts. I look forward to what the future holds