MY UU JOURNEY
Rev. Kit Ketcham
I was an innocent young Baptist missionary in Denver’s inner city, back in 1965, when I discovered Unitarians. Among other duties, I taught a tiny preschool class three mornings a week at the Denver Christian Center, and the ladies of the First Unitarian Church of Denver supplied a teacher’s aide, cookies, and juice for my tiny tots. I had never heard of Unitarians before this, but I sure appreciated their willingness to come down into a tough neighborhood to help out. First Baptist Church had not yet shown up.
The die was cast that Unitarian Universalism was in my future when a handsome young Unitarian Universalist fellow asked me out to a movie (I think it was Dr. Zhivago) and subsequently, several months later, asked me to marry him.
With my husband Larry Gilmore, I attended UU churches, marched in protests against the Vietnam War, and began to see the limits of the Baptist faith I’d grown up in.
A few years later, our son Michael was born and we decided we needed to have a church home. I didn’t think of myself as a UU at that point; I was still pretty much a Baptist at heart. But on Christmas Eve of 1972, when Mike was only four months old and screaming his way through the child dedication service at Jefferson Unitarian Church, I decided that I liked the UU approach to welcoming children into their midst, and Larry and I signed the membership book.
At Jefferson Unitarian Church, I began to compare the lessons and challenges offered by Unitarian Universalism with the limited outlook of my Baptist upbringing, and though I could see a great deal of value in those old doctrines of Jesus’ message to serve others, I didn’t see the action I craved.
JUC was active in the larger community, its hymns did not mention “the blood of the Lamb” but rather “the starry firmament on high” as an iconic image, and the UU message of peace and acceptance of all humanity as worthy was balm to my soul after a lifetime of rules which excluded people and ideas. A religion of seven principles focused on how humans treated each other and the earth met my needs and I felt myself begin to blossom into a different person.
When, after 13 years of marriage, Larry and I decided to go our separate ways, our church did not shame us, nor get nosy about our reasons for divorcing. Our fellow congregants gathered us up, nurtured all three of us, recognized that we were all hurting, and our minister, the Rev. Lex Crane, counseled us through those tough times.
In the years that followed, I found JUC and other UU churches in the Denver area to be a source of friendships and inspiration that I had not found anywhere else. I joined the all-church social justice project, refurbishing apartments and clothes closets for local families down on their luck, and began to consider what else I might do to be involved.
One memorable September Sunday in 1992, I was part of the Committee on Ministry’s annual Homecoming service, in which we looked back at the year behind us and forward toward the coming year in our congregation. Because of my experience as a junior high school teacher and counselor who was proficient in the ways of public speaking (or so they thought!), I was asked to give a short homily on our mission as a congregation and what we had done over the past year.
So I got up in the pulpit, spoke for a few minutes about the joys and sorrows of our past year, noticed a few laughs and a few tears in the audience, and sat down feeling relieved that it was over.
Our minister at that time, the Rev. Robert Latham, turned to me as he went to the pulpit and said, in front of the whole congregation and on a microphone, “Kit, you missed your calling. You ought to be a minister.”
It was like a thunderbolt. I could not think of anything else for the rest of the service, but it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I could take any steps toward that goal of ministry, which had overridden every other goal I might have had.
In 1995, the annual General Assembly of the UUA was in Spokane and I decided to go. It was the first time I’d ever attended such an event and I was thrilled by the speakers, the workshops, the worship services.
On the last day of the event, a worship service called the Service of the Living Tradition honored the brand-new ministers just becoming eligible for a parish, the longtime ministers retiring, and the ministers who had died during the past year.
The processional hymn was “For All the Saints”, which we have just sung together. Its theology and language are dated and hark back to the olden days when we were closer to our Christian roots. But there’s a verse in there that spoke to me that day and speaks to me yet: “And when the strife is fierce, the conflict long, steals on the ear the distant triumph song, and hearts are brave again and arms are strong. Alleluia, alleluia.”
Because of that hope that we can make this world a better place by loving each other and the world, I have been a staunch Unitarian Universalist since I first signed that membership book at Jefferson Unitarian Church. It’s been over 40 years of joy and sorrow and striving and accomplishing. I’ve never regretted a moment of it.
Let’s pause for a time of silent reflection and prayer.
As Dave extinguishes our chalice, let’s pause for our benediction.
Our worship service, our time of shaping worth together, is ended, but our service to the world begins again as we leave this place. Let us go in peace, remembering that we have a reason to be here---to be together, to love each other and the world, and to serve those around us. May we find strength together and the commitment that will carry us through to a better world.
Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.