“Way up north in Marysville.” …

Guest column by Elizabeth Skinner

Michael Nelson suggested I write a piece about how the Fellowship and its progressive faith and voice make a difference “way up north in Marysville.” He may have been thinking of a UU effect on the larger community, but my thoughts on this matter focus more on the individual and personal.
I live in Marysville, 60 miles north of Manhattan. I moved here 20 years ago from the Washington, DC, area. I was ready for a change and my elderly mother needed a family member nearby. I have stayed because I feel a strong connection here in my home county with the land, the history, the many reminders of my forebears.

Back in the Washington suburbs, I had been an active UU, and took it for granted that I would continue. I joined the Manhattan Fellowship because it was the closest UU church to Marysville. I underestimated how important this connection would become.

It took a while to realize how deep religious conservatism runs in this corner of northeastern Kansas. My fellow citizens know that I go to church in Manhattan but rarely ask for details. Occasionally I attend services (when there’s special music) and funerals in Marysville churches, but I keep quiet about my own spiritual views. I don’t have the right personality for proselytizing (and that’s not a UU thing anyway). And there is little interest or curiosity on the other side. When it comes to my spiritual beliefs, “Don’t ask, don’t tell,” pretty much sums up the situation. In 20 years, I have been asked only twice what Unitarians believe. In both instances the responses to my brief “elevator speech” narrowed in immediately on the afterlife. “But you do believe in heaven, don’t you?” “Well, it makes me sad to think that I won’t see you in heaven.”

UUFM’s recent discussions about growing its membership and playing a more important role in the Manhattan community are exciting and I support these goals. But on a more personal level, the very existence of UUFM–just as it is now, even 60 miles away, even when I don’t attend often– sustains me and helps me feel less spiritually isolated. The listserv, the website, the archives of services available for download, the occasional calls and visits from Michael and others–all are sustaining. They connect me with a community of people with wider views of the world–more open, more questioning, and more tolerant.

Elizabeth Skinner is a longtime member of UUFM, combining her special talents and contributions with those of other members and friends, to create a liberal, vibrant, supportive spiritual community for all in northeast Kansas.

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