Hi, my name is Anne Whitney, and I’ve been attending this church since 1996.  Unlike many, I did not find my way to Unitarian-Universalism to escape a negative religious experience.  I grew up in a liberal Protestant church.  My Dad was the church treasurer and a deacon.  My Mom directed the bell and children’s choirs.  My sibs and I participated in many things, and sometimes wished we weren’t at church quite so much.

In college, I joined a conservative Christian fellowship and simultaneously took classes in World Religions and The Quest for the Historical Jesus as part of my Religion and Psychology majors.  Talk about cognitive dissonance!  I experienced a new mystical connection to the divine in that fellowship, but railed inwardly on the emphasis on Christ as the only way, evangelism, and subservience of women to men.  Upon graduation, I did not accept an offered job as a campus “minister” and lived my young adult years with little spiritual or religious involvement.

In my late thirties, I entered a time of personal upheaval and spiritual and psychological growth.  I discovered feminine spirituality, read about pre-patriarchal goddess cultures, found a Jungian feminist therapist, joined women’s groups, and began to understand the profound effects living in a patriarchal culture had had on my identity and life choices.  And synchronistically (as Carl Jung would say), through two women friends I came to TVUUC.

Here I have found a friendly, welcoming community where I am not an oddity as a single woman.  Here, many paths to the divine are honored and women are seen as equals. I have met people from different races, religious traditions, sexual orientations, and have been enriched by our diverse congregation.  I have enjoyed participating in a rich and diverse musical program.  Through this community’s example, I have gradually become more socially conscious, making more conscious choices about what I eat, how to recycle, understanding more about racism and LGBT issues, and even, as an introvert, inching my way into social protest actions.  My daughter, Lauren Hulse, through RE and this community, has become aware and practices all of the above at a much younger age than myself.  And I am happy that my grandson, Joseph, is experiencing the enfolding love here.

After being present at the tragedy that occurred here in 2008, I made the conscious decision to more actively engage in this community, initiate conversations with people I didn’t know, volunteer more. I have increased my pledge to reflect the importance of this community in my life. I have offered and participated in auction events, getting to know members in new ways.  It is wonderful to see many new faces in our midst recently.  I encourage everyone to reach out and talk to people you don’t know.  Get involved.  All are welcome here and we are the church.