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[Chalice] Our Church Community as a Home [Chalice]
The beginning of the church year, 2006-07

Presented September 10, 2006, by Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

This morning together we celebrate the water communion and think about the various places we have been over the summer. We are as a church community a wandering, traveling people, most of us, eager to journey out to new destinations and explore. I have been doing a lot of that myself lately, and perhaps because of all that traveling I have also been thinking about home, about returning home, about what home means, about this church community as my home.

One of my favorite writers is Jean Amery, who was a Jewish philosopher who survived and wrote about Auschwitz. He wrote about being tortured, about living with resentment, about suicide, but he also wrote an essay he called "How Much Home Does a Person Need?" In the essay he doesn't really answer the question; the essay is not about how much home a person needs. It is about how important it is psychologically for people somehow in some fashion to have a sense of home.

Because I have been out of the country for the last several months I have been asked many times about what people presume to be my home: the United States. I have been explaining frequently to Romanians my own understanding of religion in America, of American politics, of popular culture. I have had to explain several times why Americans seem to have not much knowledge or interest in other cultures and parts of the world or languages. I have been asked to explain several times why America re-elected George Bush or how he got elected in the first place.

In these conversations I have been talking about an America where the religion is predominantly Christian and the Christianity is predominantly conservative. I have been talking about an America where a lot of people watch a lot of TV and may not even read a newspaper, may not even know who Condoleeza Rice or Karl Rove are. I have been trying to explain an America where so many people are so lightly informed that many believe we did attack Iraq because of what they did on 9/11 or that we did find WMD in Iraq.

And as I have been explaining this America that all the Romanians know is my home, I have been asking myself: is this really my home? Is it my home in the sense that Amery is using the concept of home when he says that psychologically everybody needs one? I know as I have been explaining this America where George Bush is president I have been feeling inside myself that this is not really my home.

As I have been explaining this America I have been obligated, have I not, to say also that America is a very big and diverse country and there are many different places and types of people. And this leads me to talking about this place, our church community here. I have explained several times that American society in general might be as I have just described, but there are lots of different communities within America and that I am lucky to live in my town within a liberal, progressive Unitarian community. Of course I have to explain to the Romanians this small, religious minority called Unitarians and what we are all about. They have never heard of Unitarians, but we all know we don't have to travel to Romania to have that experience.

I have had many conversations over the past months about our church community as another part of America, a community where the religion isn't conservative, where we are open and nonjudgmental and open to learn from other religious traditions. I explain that I am lucky enough to live within a community here in America where people do read the newspaper, actually know where Romania is, a community where people travel and journey out and explore, live, and think beyond the boundaries of American popular culture. I live in a community where we can have intelligent and informed discussions about the transition from communism for eastern Europe or the problem of Iran's nuclear weapons program, as we were talking about at First Friday a few days ago. Sometimes as I explain our community to Romanians they express incredulity. They don't think a religious community like ours can actually exist in America. It doesn't fit with how they think of America.

Being so far away from Quincy and from America, being in Romania, has taught me at least one very important thing: this is my home, America is my home, Quincy is my home, to whatever extent they are, largely because of this place here, this Quincy Unitarian Church community. I hope and I am sure you feel as I do, that we are all lucky to have such a rich, rewarding, challenging, and fun home right here in this place.

©2006 Rev. Dr. Rob Manning

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article:
Manning, Rev. Dr. Robert J. S. 2006. Our Church Community as a Home, /talks/20060910.shtml (accessed July 13, 2020).

The Quincy Unitarian Church Home Page.
The list of Selected Sermons.