Some of you may recall that J and I joined Unity Unitarian church a while back. I hardly ever get to go, what with my work schedule and all. But the church’s liturgical year is starting up, and yesterday was the annual Merging of the Waters.
The service is held outside, at a park. Musician Peter Mayer plays a mini-concert, and provides music throughout. The purpose of the service comes when the list is read of places throughout the world from which congregants have brought water for the service.
I find I have a curious internal conflict with the services at Unity. I’m not a Christian, anymore. Not even a theist. And I find that my view of rote liturgical language has been jaded by time. Yet I feel about the folks at Unity like …
… like I do about seeing the members of the IKV Rakehell at CONvergence.
See, I’m not a Klingon. Never been one, never dressed as one. Yet when people outside of fandom ask what conventions are like, “do people dress up like Star Trek” is usually one of the first questions. When I spot the IKV Rakehell at CONvergence I grin, and nod, and emotionally sort of semi-salute the cosplayers as they set up their bar for the evening’s parties.
The Klingons — and the cosplayers, and the Bronies, and Comic Book Guy, and festies, and et cetera — are the more visible manifestations of my community. I may not wear a prosthetic forehead on my real forehead, but these are my ilk. And they take the hits for me — they bear the jokes and mockery and the public examples in vague news-blog features. I stand up for them when I hear people mocking, because the Klingons, without knowing me at all, stand up for me.
So there I was yesterday, on rickety chairs in a field with the Unity congregation.
There were rain sticks. And bodhran and a doumbek. The child care tent was set up a few yards away. Toddlers were playing. People brought their dogs. Kids wandered all over. People danced while Peter Mayer played. Folks stood in the sunlight, clearly engaged in some sort of prayer that bore little relation to the barely-more-organized service going on at the front. Tables promoted social justice causes — clean water in California, Vote NO on the marriage amendment in Minnesota.
These were Unitarians, at a very visibly Unitarian moment.
I … I don’t always think of the Unitarians as my ilk. But … But their sincerity and passion are leavened with snark and anger. The rote language of the prayers is not something blindly spoken, it’s a text fought over vigorously by people who care enormously about their work.
These are kinda my ilk.
We may argue and strive in different realms, me and the clergy at Unity. I argue about fandom, and conventions, and comic books. I work for representation in the geeky fields that own my heart. But I can’t really be disparaging of the congregation yesterday morning. These are people who see a future and have decided to bring it into being. I like the future they describe. It looks similar to the one I see.
It’s a merging, then, just like the liturgy program said on the cover. A merging of waters, of fights, of projects, of plans. Of people who come from all sorts of backgrounds and perspectives. It’s the kind of stupid-stubborn hope that I prize in folks I know.
Unitarians. And Klingons.