Like many of the members and friends of this congregation, I was once a first-time visitor. My first visit was with my partner, Suzanne, back around 1998. We had been married as UUs, were former members of a UU congregation in Connecticut, and were from different faith traditions.
In those years, the UUCUV met at the Norwich elementary school, in a dark multipurpose space with acoustics that were unsuited to the level of musicianship we heard that morning. The choir and instrumentalists, and the fellowship with other people of similar values, were wonderful. The space, however, was not wonderful for spiritual purposes.
Fifteen years later, we have moved into our new home, on Route 5 South in Norwich, and it is everything we had dreamed of. We have worship space with excellent acoustics, a functional kitchen, and renovated office space for our team of dedicated staff. We are also welcoming new friends and members every Sunday, and are rapidly growing.
But I still remember my experience as a newcomer. I felt awkward at not knowing anyone. I felt insecure in my level of knowledge about the basics of Unitarian Universalism and the workings of UU congregations, even though I had previously been a member of one. I’ve never been good at small talk, especially when large topics are on the table.
But I soon found that many of the people there that first Sunday, old and new alike, were feeling awkward, too — it seemed so hard to start the conversation with each other when in fact there was so much to share and discuss. What brings you here today? What does it mean to be a UU? What does it mean to be a member? Who are you, and what matters to you?
It turned out that I had a lot in common with the people I met, and continue to meet. Many of us were raised in different faiths; all of us have open minds and a deep seated respect for differing points of view. We do not prescribe credo or require statements of loyalty to any doctrine. Instead, we share a commitment to the Seven Principles. It’s quite different from the Roman Catholicism that I was raised in — especially when it comes to listening to dissenting viewpoints.
My co-president, Joan Nierenberg, and I welcome you to our sanctuary and this web site. We hope you find what you are looking for, and hope to meet you sometime soon.
— Bill Brawley