A Christian Unitarian on Easter



My relationship to holidays and special occasions has always been a bit fraught. A special day means special planning. Buying gifts. Making food. Doing rituals. Behind all of that lies the prospect of disappointing people I love. Between my low energy, anxiety and OCD/ADD tendencies, holidays feel more like hell than happiness.

But now, there’s a new twist.

Back in November 2016, I started attending a Unitarian Universalist church. I had hoped to find a Christian universalist church, but those are even more rare. The UU church offered me a haven for my hurting heart and tired soul. After everything I had experienced under evangelicalism, I needed a place where I could just BREATHE. No expectations or quid pro quo. And more than two years later, I still find myself there. I’ve gotten “plugged in” (as the jargon goes), serving on the Adult Education Committee and doing presentations at their Sunday morning forum. And though most of the congregation is atheist or agnostic, they have embraced me as one of their own…even encouraging me to speak about my faith.

You can imagine that, with a congregation that’s largely non-theistic, Christian holidays take on a different dimension. Yes, there are Christmas Eve services, Easter egg hunts, and other rituals that you might find at any typical southern church. But there’s also Passover Seder, solstice celebrations, and a few Native American traditions. The Scriptural Reasoning class includes Muslims, Christians and Jews all discussing their particular holy book. So Easter, in particular, tends to be pretty light on the “Jesus died to save us” narrative.

(Honestly, I don’t know what today’s sermon was about, because I was at the Sunday forum talking about the medical discrimination Black Americans endure in our country. If you thought the crucifixion was a heavy topic…whew!)

But I’ve been thinking…what does it mean for me to be a Unitarian Universalist on Easter? I can tell you, going UU has not been my most popular decision. Several of my evangelical friends have lamented that I’m not being actively “shepherded” in the theology of Jesus. My pastor isn’t watching out for my soul to ensure I’m not led astray by some crazy heresy. (Even worse, he’s probably teaching a few.) But you know what? I’ve been led for years by different pastors. It didn’t ensure my spiritual health, especially when one or two of those pastors went completely off the rails. I always thought it was *my* responsibility as a disciple to search out the Scriptures, pray, and be obedient to the Spirit. Jesus is ultimately my shepherd.

Today, as I drove home from church after our community garden dedication and Easter egg hunt, I reflected on Easter Sundays past. Because my family was fundamentalist, there weren’t many egg hunts to speak of. When there were, it was dyed hard-boiled eggs, not plastic shells filled with candy. I wore my whitest, frilliest dress and a hat. My church put on a passion play where the focus was always on the cross. The resurrection seemed like an afterthought.

I need a resurrection. I need it deep in my bones, rising like the sap in the blossoming trees that scream from every corner, “Winter is over! The Light has dawned again!” I need to feel life coursing through my veins. I need to know that the power that raised Jesus is strong enough to raise me, too – no matter where I am on this earth or in my spiritual journey.

I don’t know where I am currently, but I do know that I’m healing, slowly but surely. And that’s more than I’ve been able to say in a long time.

Happy Easter.

6 responses to “A Christian Unitarian on Easter

  1. April, I’m sending virtual (safe) hugs and a smile. I hear the relief and the hope in your post, and I am celebrating with you.

  2. I was missing some of that this year as well. Leaving traditional Christianity was easy. I just woke up one day and was like this doesn’t work for me. I didn’t give up on Jesus or God and my beliefs about them. But it has left me wondering how do I navigate my faith now. I miss collective worship and maybe some unity. thank you for posting it. It made me aware that I need to do some thinking on this again.

  3. I so glad you are finding some peace. I ended up in in Hebron (burial place of the Patriarch and Matriarchs of Jewish Religion) outside of Israel, after my leaving of the Pentecostal Church and God spoke to me and gave me my Jewish name.
    That settled that for me. I attend to Friday night candles and go to my local UU on Sunday. The second Seder Saturday night, showed me the story of leaving Egypt as my own personal story in a way that was so profound I was in tears all the way home. Church was then all about Passover the next morning, with Christ barely mentioned. It is sad that traditional pushy Christianity has hurt so many that the teachings are being eliminated by rational people, when it is a level of consciousness that Jesus showed us we can attain and become his brother, a child of God. Being crucified on our thoughts at Golgotha, “the place of the skull” and breaking through the Corpus Calverium (skull bone) to God is the individual path. Moses, Jesus and Buddha are accessible to my mind, so I have great reverence for the entirety (whole/holy) process, for I truly know that if the definition of God is total, then no one or anything can ever be outside of God, for it would negate his description, and he would be incomplete. All is well. Our journeys sacred.
    I said this to my beloved today.
    “The beginning of wisdom is fear” but the fulfillment of wisdom is love.” That is what there is to come home to. Experiences of love.
    Happy Passover, Happy Easter, Happy Spring renewal!

  4. I’m so glad you’re healing and that you ended up in a safe place. My husband and I left Evangelicalism and ended up in a PCUSA church that has been a sanctuary for us. Thank God for resurrection!

  5. Hi April. This is going to sound really weird—but just know that I am saying this in love. As you know, I am a fellow writer. I just read your above message three times—maybe four. However, I was unable to hear April—you know—April—in what I was reading. Do you know what I was experiencing and why? The feeling it conjures up inside of me is that of a 2-inch solid steel rod wondering what it is moments after being hollowed out down the middle—but it cannot find the word “pipe.” You know I love you. I am just getting a little concerned. I am not suggesting that you do anything in particular—or not do anything in particular.

    Just remember that God made a unique April because this world needs a unique April. No one like you has ever existed before on this Earth, and no one like you will ever exist again on this Earth.

    I know the process you are going through is difficult and change is in the works—and erasing an old whiteboard is necessary to begin a new whiteboard. Both things are just fine to do. Just be careful to not “Erase April” in the process. That New Testament scripture about “losing yourself” to find Jesus does not mean what most fundie churches think it means. I have seen so very many fundies and former fundies who think that scripture is an invitation to erase themselves—erase their personalities—erase their gifted talents—erase everything that they are—become hollow—become a zombie for Jesus. That is not what that item of scripture means. All that scripture asks a person to do is to erase the parts of themselves that want to knock over an all-night liquor store at 3:00 a.m. with a gun in their hand. It does not ask a person to devoid themselves of the unique person and personality that God made them to be from the moment they were born.

    Just be careful not to erase yourself as part of erasing the old whiteboard Only “Unique April” can fill in a new whiteboard.