So far, this blog has profiled St. George’s Episcopal, Mishkan Torah Synagogue and Greenbelt Bahai’s. Next up? The good folks at the Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in nearby Beltsville. I attended a recent service, and spoke with long-time member and Greenbelter Jeri Holloway to get a feel for the church and its members.
The church’s roughly 170 families represent a wide spectrum of ages and family situations, and a surprising amount of ethnic diversity. (I belonged to a similar religious community years ago – the Washington Ethical Society - and it failed miserably at attracting members who were other than white. I figured it was because nonwhite communities have so many good churches to choose from.) Among the members, there are about 45 families in Greenbelt, according to long-time member Marge Owens, whom I met at the service. No surprise that the closest Unitarian Church has attracted so many Greenbelters, given their common progressive traditions. Also, I learned that members come from a wide variety of religious backgrounds.
Like probably all Unitarian congregations, this one is filled with progressive-minded, inclusive and eco-conscious people – lefties. My kind of church! PBUUC flies the GLBT rainbow flag proudly and everywhere – notice it on the masthead above? – which reflects the national church’s formal commitment to that community dating from 1970. Yeah, THAT long ago.
I found the photo left on their website, showing Rev. Diane Teichert and two members with a marriage equality poster.
But there’s lots more to their social action, including fighting racism and helping the neediest in our community - take a look.
Caring for Each Other
The service I attended drew special attention to the church’s network of support for each other, which is really impressive. There’s a We Care Network, with people to coordinate help like meals and rides to doctors. Another kind of care is given by its “Pastoral Care Associates,” whose job it is to basically listen. Jeri Holloway has undergone training to be a Pastoral Care Associate and is currently helping (listening to) members who’ve lost a member of the family.
Music and the Arts
Jeri’s also a member of the PBUUC’s Arts Council, which sponsors music events at the church throughout the year. Her late husband was the music director at the church for 24 years and Jeri plays clarinet with the Maryland Community Band.
Like other suburban Unitarian Churches I’ve visited, Paint Branch is nestled into the woods, out of view from the road – in this case Powder Mill Road. I’ve only seen it in December, so looked on the web to find this photo of the church when leaves are on the trees, and I promised to come back in the spring – if not sooner.
A Welcome Home
It would be easy for me to feel at home at PBUUC, with its super-friendly members and staff, and openness to all – even the nonbeliever. In fact, it’s a great place for nonbelievers who still want to be part of a spiritual community. That’s why I joined the Washington Ethical Society in D.C. long ago – to meet like-minded people and come together for Sunday services, for births, deaths and weddings, to learn about religions and how to make ethical choices in life, to work for a more humane government, and to help each other when help is needed.
That comes close to explaining why I moved to Greenbelt, too.