By Frank Gargano and Pedro Rodrigues
The Setauket Unitarian Universalist Fellowship inducted 16 new members in a ceremony on Sunday, April 14.
Each person that spoke was a new inductee that signed the membership book and decided to officially commit to the over 200 member Fellowship. As part of the service, the minister passed a microphone around and asked each of them to share why they decided to join. For some, it was because they were new to the area and wanted to meet other people like them. Some joined because of their family and loved ones. For others, it was to find a place where they felt like they truly belonged.
“There are members here who believe in God, who don’t believe in God and who aren’t sure whether there is a God or not,” Elise Nichols-Powell, who has been a member of the Setauket congregation for two years, said. “That’s not important. What is important, is if they do their best to live by the Seven Principles and spread love into the world.”
Once they were officially inducted, they collected three objects of different symbolic meaning. A rose to signify blossoming faith, a name badge to show who they are and a mug as a reminder of why they joined.
The Setauket branch of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship was founded in 1962 and is one of 12 different congregations on Long Island and in Queens.
At the core of the faith itself, is the ideal that personal experiences and reasoning are the key tools for someone to use when they want to try to find an answer to the religious questions like “Is there a God” and “Is this person morally wrong for being different from me.”
“Before I was a Unitarian Universalist, I grew up methodist and my husband was a congregationalist,” Linda Volkersz, the membership chair for the Fellowship, said. “Now, I’m a humanitarian and he’s agnostic, so after we got married we wanted to find a place that would accept us and our beliefs.”
One of the biggest pillars of the faith as a whole, is that people from all walks of life are accepted and welcomed. The fellowship is accepting of the LGBTQ community and welcomes people of all ages, races and sexual orientations.
“My first career was as a cardiac intensive care nurse,” Margie Allen, the minister at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Setauket, said. “I cared for patients that had valve replacements and other similar procedures like that for about 22 years. And midway through 2002, I stopped working part-time. I had known that I wanted to be a minister since I was 19.”
Places and organizations such as these can be a source of community and resources for those who are part of the LGBTQ community and the organizations dedicated to helping them. “They [Unitarian Universalists] have had a strong presence on Long Island and are known for their philanthropy and giving in the areas of social justice,” Fran Karliner, a representative for Crisis Center and Pride for Youth on Long Island, said. “The way they are welcoming to those that identify as LGBTQ and of other religions is something to be admired and a paradigm for all organizations.”