The past two Sunday mornings at Heritage have been simply incredible. On the Sunday after the election, 199 people wedged themselves into the sanctuary (where was that one last person to make an even 200?!). All ages, from 1 to 91, came seeking the comfort of community and the assurance of inclusive Love that is the Spirit of this church. Our regulars warmly welcomed every person—including many first-time churchgoers (one woman told me she hadn’t been to a church in more than 25 years) as well as others who were returning to Heritage specifically, after years away.
A palpable sense of the Spirit filled our sanctuary that morning—as did a record number of worshipers. Some quick research yielded this inspiring fact: Not only did Sunday, November 13, 2016, bring more people into our sanctuary than have ever attended a worship service here (our current building opened in 1985)—it marked the highest attendance this historic congregation has had on a Sunday morning in roughly a century.
What’s more, the following Sunday—our traditional Thanksgiving Sunday worship service—drew the second highest attendance we’ve seen since we moved into this building. More people came to church on November 20 than did on the Sunday after September 11, 2001. And there was even (or should I say, “of course there was”) enough food to feed everyone at the potluck lunch that followed!
In short, the first two Sundays after the election brought more people to Heritage than have worshipped in our congregation in generations. I do not expect that to change, any time soon. In the days of darkness and uncertainty that lie ahead, this beloved congregation—our spiritual home—will continue to be an important place of welcoming, of sanctuary, and of sanity. As we open our doors—and our arms—to newcomers each week, let us remember that now, more than ever before, people are longing for a religious community that dares to speak truth. They need a faith community that stands on the side of love. They want to be part of a congregation that believes in the inherent worth and dignity of every person.
All over Cincinnati, and all over the country, Unitarian Universalist churches are experiencing surges in worship attendance, and dramatic increases in participation levels in justice work. It may sound strange, but my friends—this is our time! Heritage Church—and the Unitarian Universalist faith in which we stand—are American religious institutions with a centuries-old tradition of fighting against ignorance and intolerance, bigotry and hate. Once again, America needs us. Our neighbors and fellow citizens need us. We need one another.
I look forward to seeing you at church this Sunday.