10 January 2010

"Assume Good Faith" --- Choosing A Church

For many young adults, the process of seeking out religious community can be an intimidating one. Questions abound (Where should I start? How do I decide which congregation is the best fit for me?) and guidance may seem to be in short supply. Churches looking to increase the number of 20- and 30-somethings in their pews might be equally daunted: what, they may wonder, do younger people want?

Luckily for both groups, there's Carmen Renee Berry's 2003 book The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church. Written specifically for people ages 18 to 35, this practical, empowering volume encourages those searching for a spiritual home to think deeply about what they want and need out of a church and then educate themselves (using the internet and other sources) about their local congregations in order to figure out which one fits them best.

Though Berry doesn't explore---or, in truth, even mention---Unitarian Universalism, the information she provides can be useful to us. Among the book's most practical sections is the one called "Checking Out a Church," in which she provides sound advice in regard to visiting and "trying out" congregations. Whether you're a young adult looking to get the most out of your time in a new church or a congregation curious to know what young adults might be thinking when they walk through your doors, this book will provide you with valuable insights.

To individuals and churches alike, Berry is equally compassionate, and it is this, in the end, that makes The Unauthorized Guide to Choosing a Church such a unique resource: "Give yourself a chance to get to know what the church is really like," she counsels. "Assume good faith. Be as open minded about the church as you want them to be about you."
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