Friday, August 1, 2014

When being a Chalice Lighter trumps the elevator speech

If you have been a Unitarian Universalist for long, you have heard about the elevator speech.  This is the speech you should always be prepared to make when entering an elevator with a stranger who shows an interest or curiosity about Unitarian Universalism.  You should have at your disposal all the right words to paint a picture of our denomination which will challenge the interest of your captive and motivate him/her to pursue further pathways to share your enthusiasm.  I have always found this difficult!  A few months ago I was starting a new class at the local YMCA.  “Aquatics Blast”, I think it was called.  My new instructor was spending some one-on-one warm up time to become acquainted with me as we paddled about.  She was from the Ukraine, and between her accent and my hearing disability the conversation was doing some stuttering.  “Do you go to this church?,”she asked.  At that time the YMCA was sponsoring the Elevation Church on Sunday mornings.  “No,no, I’m a member of the Piedmont Unitarian Universalist Church, which is very close to here  --  only about a mile down the road”, I said, as I waved my arm in a northerly direction.  My new teacher frowned and repeated the name of my church slowly.  “Well, what does your church believe?”, she asked.  I launched into an overview of the Seven Principles, trying to express our philosophy in an efficient manner.  “You mean you have no book?”, she asked incredulously.  “Well, we build our belief system from studying the important books of many religions”. I explained.  “You mean you are not Christian?”, my teacher asked.  “Well some Unitarian Universalists are Christian and some come from another faith, but we have come together in this denomination  which meets our needs and gives us a church home, I said.  “So, you are a new religion?”  “No,no we have been around for a long time.  We have a lot of congregations in the Northeast; we actually  started in Transylvania”, said I.  “TRANSYLVANIA!!”, exclaimed my instructor.  This was going from bad to worse and I just wanted the conversation to be over, which it soon was.  As I swam away I thought how thankful I was for Chalice Lighters.  I could help introduce other people to all that our faith has to offer and not feel so guilty about another failed elevator speech!

Sandra Woolsey

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