|Rebecca Ann Parker|
Rebecca and Rita take turns sharing their stories in this combination of memoir and theology. Rebecca tells this story (on page 34) about her father, who was a Methodist minister.
When I was twelve, we had confirmation class, and my father was our teacher. Just before Palm Sunday, each child was invited to decide whether or not to join the church. I'd thought about it carefully and announced to my father that I was not going to join. My mother had already sewn me a spring-yellow Easter dress to wear for the confirmation service, but I ignored this fact. Nor did I consider that my father might be embarrassed if his own daughter decided to remain a heathen.Rebecca is now an ordained United Methodist minister in dual fellowship with the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is also professor of theology at Starr King School for the Ministry at the Graduate Theological Union.
My father, however, did not show the slightest sign of unhappiness with me. He respectfully said, "You have a perfect right not to join the church. But I would be interested to hear your reasons."
I explained myself. "First of all, I don't believe that God sends people to hell." Nothing in my liberal Methodist upbringing had asserted that God condemned people to hell, but I'd gotten the idea somewhere, and I objected to it. "If there is a God," I continued, "God must be at least as good as you and Mother. Neither of you would ever condemn anyone to eternal damnation." My father nodded, appreciatively.
"Furthermore," I went on, "I don't believe that Jesus was the only son of God. I believe everyone is a child of God."
"A Unitarian," my father said. Then he added, "I'm a Unitarian in my theology. I agree with your ideas. You can be a Unitarian and join the United Methodist Church. There is freedom to believe as you see fit. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, frequently preached on the maxim, 'We need not all think alike to love alike.'"
"Oh!" I said, happy to discover this. "Then I'll join the church."
(Rita's story, Aug 13, 2012)