I attended a Sunday Service and Naming Ceremony at the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Clearwater last weekend.
It was an interesting experience. At the door, they give you a little program of what the service will contain. Below you will see the front and back page. I include it here because it gives some idea about the beliefs and practices of the “UU’s” (which is how they refer to themselves).
Here is what struck me:
- It was their normal Sunday Service. About 250 people were there.
- Their church was built from scratch, funded by donations from members. It is functional. Unassuming. Certainly NOT opulent. Though I would bet they are generally well respected and loved by their neighbors and the local community.
- They go to great lengths to make newcomers welcome. You really get a sense that they are happy to see you and are genuinely interested in you.
- They are completely non-judgmental. People of any faith, color and sexual orientation really are welcome. It is not just a platitude not born out in reality.
- Their “pitch” for money is to let you know that contributions are welcome to help them with their programs, currently focused on supporting refugee families from Syria and Afghanistan they are sponsoring.
- No hard sell for anything at all, just very interested, caring people who want the world to be a happier, kinder and more harmonious place and believe that by encouraging people to act that way they can bring about a bettering of the state of things.
- They sing nice hymns, have a piano player and violinist and a choir, but everyone in the congregation heartily sings along. No “We Stand Tall.” Messages of hope for the world. Something that really makes a gathering place feel like a religion.
- Things remain light-hearted. A lot of laughter and humor is incorporated into their service.
- They socialize afterwards — coffee and snacks. Everyone participates with a lot of social interaction. Nobody trying to get your money. Nobody standing at the door refusing to let you leave. No “pass the pen.” No Big League Sales. No big display of books you are supposed to buy.
This is what a church of scientology SHOULD be like. It should, like this place, have an atmosphere of tranquility, happiness and shared purposes and experiences. Rather than take, take, take and the stress and pressure that is felt in every aspect of a scientology org today. The drive for stats. The demand for money. The certainty that they are the only way. Scientologists would say the UU’s are “ineffective,” “have a low confront of evil,” “have no tech” and “don’t really understand the plight of man.”
But somehow, they are doing a better job of attracting followers than scientology is. I am certain it is because people are made to feel welcome, not feel like “marks.” I guarantee the two missions in Clearwater combined didn’t have 1/10th the number of people at their Sunday Services. And the UU’s don’t buy national TV ads, or spend millions on internet sites and PR videos and PR press releases and click farms.
I am no doubt biased, but I am pretty certain that if Oh No Ross and Carrie went into the UU church for a while they would have little to comment about. Unlike their experience in scientology.
And that about sums up the difference: humanity. Scientology has lost any sense of it. And though they like to announce loudly and often what great humanitarians they are (and try to do so to the world until they are prevented from continuing to lie about their accomplishments), a simple exercise such as this exposes scientology for what it really is. A scheme motivated by the desire to extract maximum dollars from anyone it can get its hands on.
For ex-scientologists, I believe it is a valuable exercise to visit such congregations. I understand the Unity church is very similar. And for some it might even open the door to a group you would enjoy participating in (as the loss of “community” when everyone in scientology disconnects from you can sometimes be difficult). I am not promoting anyone to join up, just sharing my experience. I suspect many, like me, are done with any form of organized religion. But this is where I would head if I felt the need for some sort of group experience.