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Stories of Connection and Community

Personal stories

Ron Robertson

I was born and raised in the Southern California desert where the night sky was velvety black with a dazzling array of stars. It was the perfect setting for a child who was something of a contemplative. I knew from church potluck programs that I was exceedingly more fortunate than children in India, China, and Africa. It seemed natural that in my early adulthood I pursued training for the ordained ministry in the United Methodist Church. I served as clergy for several churches and as a hospital chaplain for six years. But in the late 1970’s, as I became more sure that I was gay, the Church became more clear it did not want gay ministers.

I retooled and became trained and licensed as a Marriage and Family Therapist. When my partner, Thomas, and I moved to San Diego we visited the First UU Church of San Diego, because we had seen them joyously marching in the Gay Pride Parade. As it turned out, not only were we tolerated at First Church, we were cherished and welcomed with open arms. After a decade of rejection, it was like fresh water to my parched lips.

In the 15 years that I have been a member of First Church, I have served as chair of the pledge drive, member of the Board of Trustees, chair of the Board Visioning Committee, chair of the Pathways to Participation Task Group, member of the Care Giving Advisory Committee, member of the Ministerial Search Committee, Adult RE teacher and occasional preacher at the Sunday morning service.

When Multiple Sclerosis put me in a wheelchair, this congregation stepped up to the challenge with my partner and me. They make frequent accommodations so I can join the fun; they drive me so I can be a part of the good work of this church.

I’m honored to be able to be a part of this congregation who took us in when others would not, and encircled us with love when life threatened to become unmanageable.

Suzette Southfox

I have always been a spiritual seeker, even before I was aware of it. In the early 1990s, my life partner and I knew we wanted to have a baby and we set about to find a community, where two women could parent with support and acceptance of a larger village. We were seeking a church because, oddly enough, it seemed like to natural place to look.

We tried a Christian LGBT-friendly church and it was wonderful to be accepted as a couple but the pulpit messages of "Jesus" and the "Bible" made me feel lost, awkward, and unwelcome. I had been raised Roman Catholic, but had long since cast off traditional Christian beliefs.

We found out about First Church at an Earth Day celebration in Balboa Park. That in itself is a statement. Words like "liberal", "open," "welcoming", and “spiritual journey” resonated deeply.

When we attended our first Sunday, I was struck by the beauty of the campus, the lack of saints and statues, and mostly by the wholesome, healthy, and functional interactions between the children and adults. There even was a rainbow flag, right there, in the middle of the patio.

Could it be that I was truly welcome to be who I was and join in this community? It almost felt like there was some hidden secret - some weird belief would sideswipe me in the form of "the other shoe dropping." It couldn’t be that Unitarian Universalism had existed all these years without my knowing it. We decided to join and were told to find a smaller group, or, as the minister at the time said, "a tribe within the village," so we would begin to build connections. We were told that because of its size, people sometimes feel less a part of the church without connection and end up leaving. I didn’t want to end up leaving a place I had wanted for so long; so, I jumped right in and picked one activity. I auditioned for a play that Looking Glass Theatre was doing. I had a small part and after three months, I knew 60 people by sight, if not by name.

When I attended on Sundays, I always saw at least one person who greeted me. Needless to say, the "other shoe" never dropped. There weren't any weird secrets or beliefs. And, if anything, I ended up being the weird one here.

My partner and I now have a middle school aged son who is being raised a Unitarian Universalist. Formerly, I worked in the church office as Director of Community Life. If you would have told me that one day I’d become the "church lady" I had always made fun of, I would never have believed you ... but having lived and grown in this faith and this congregation, I can say that it is the most awesome place to live out a meaningful life as a spiritual seeker.

Since 1873, First Unitarian Universalist Church of San Diego has been the spiritual home to a thriving community. Read some of the testimonials of people who have experienced profound changes, joy, or have found a home here. If you would like to add a testimonial, please send it to us via our Contact page.

For more, visit our Vimeo Videos Testimonial Page.