I Do Not Like the Term “Church”

I just watched a program on television entitled, “Ten Towns that Changed America.” That was a mistake. Now, I’m absolutely fired up about returning to school to pursue an education in urban planning.  Did I ever tell the blogosphere that I have a deep and abiding interest in urban planning? Probably. But I’ll do it again. Every time I read something about innovative urban planning or watch a program on the topic, like tonight, I can feel the adrenaline rush. When we lived in Chicago, I loved attending Chicago Architecture Foundation programs, many of which concerned urban planning along with architecture.

Ever since moving to Hot Springs Village, I’ve wished I had unlimited financial resources so I could invest in transforming this beautiful, special place into the utopia it could be with proper planning and development. We would integrate commercial and retail with residential space, enhance walkability, build a transportation infrastructure that would minimize the need or desirability of cars, capitalize on an already strong structure of community involvement, and make life here the envy of people worldwide.

Ah, such a dream. Much of my life has been spent awaking from and abandoning dreams. I wish I could live my life over, so I could correct the countless mistakes I’ve made and fix the innumerable missteps. I really believe I could have influenced the way we live our lives if I had pursued my interest in urban planning. But I didn’t. And, at sixty-two and then some, it’s a bit late. Such is life in the fast lane of learning why paying attention to one’s wishes bears attention.

If only. What a miserable approach to life! Tonight, I reject it, outright! I can still write about my ideas and maybe I will. If I don’t, I’ll think about them enough to warrant a diatribe at a later date.

While I’m drifting from topic to topic, I’ll say this: today, my wife and I discussed our (mostly my) surprising interest in the Unitarian Universalist church. The “sermon” I heard this weekend was excellent. I appreciated the minister’s denunciation of the idea of “hell.” But we talked about concerns, too. We are not comfortable with the church-like ceremony on “sermon” days. We view the lighting of the chalice with some suspicion that, maybe, it disguises attachment to a deity that we (at least I) do not believe exists. And I wonder how the character of the organization (I choose not to call it a church any more often than I must) will change if the current search for a minister is successful. So, for the time being, we are not prepared to join UU. As much as I like the people and what they do, I have misgivings.

But scanning the church building with my eyes moves me. The building, the chapel, the way the light strikes the pews, the sound of the choir—they can bring me to tears even when tears are utterly inappropriate! And when I look at the stained glass and the height of the sanctuary, when I see how people are transformed, in some fashion, when they enter, I think architecture is a powerful tool to change minds. Ach! I don’t know what the hell I am saying, do I? But I know I am falling in love with the idea that I could be a part of a group that could change the character of the place I live, if only I could engage them enough to have them adopt or at least appreciate my view of urban planning.

By the way, one of the most difficult things about considering involvement in UU is this: I have a bias against “church.” Can’t we call it something else?

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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2 Responses to I Do Not Like the Term “Church”

  1. You are an inspiration in so many ways, Pauline! You do, indeed, make a difference!

  2. Dream on, John! We are never too old to dream nor are we ever too old to make a difference in the lives of others one way or another. That thought is what motivates me and keeps me going and doing rather than sitting in my rocking chair like many people my age do, See, now you have me going…

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