When I was a young minister, I was schooled by older colleagues about belonging to the community of ministry. They were direct and to the point: “If there is a collegial gathering, GO! Ordination, installation, chapter meeting? Those are the first things you put in your calendar.”

It was an interesting idea. There was no question of whether or not we belonged, or should attend, or had the luxury of waiting for a personal invitation. Rather, it was an implied obligation. Because I had joined that community, I was expected to participate. Period, full stop.

We Unitarians who meet in congregations are a lot more lax than that. No one insists that people must come to church every Sunday (nor would I like to see that change). No one orders us to volunteer for a committee or task. And while we ask people to pledge for the coming year in our annual Canvass, no one shows up at your door demanding payment. Ours is a free religion, so it goes against our nature to demand much of anything from our members.

Except we ask those who choose to join our congregation to think about what it means for them to belong.

To me, it means showing up. I had that drummed into me. And I found that the more I showed up, the stronger my connection to colleagues became. If you want to be part of this community, then step up and be part of it.

Belonging means choosing to actively work on your faith, your spiritual direction, your ethical values. Belonging means committing to keep growing in yourself.

Belonging also means participating in the community. If we don’t choose to step inside, once we feel safe, then we may not ever develop a real sense of belonging to a community. It can be a big step. It can feel risky. But with risk can come some reward.

Decide if you want to belong. It’s really even more important than formally joining.

Come to service when you can, come to social events, help out, step into leadership roles you think might suit your talents and abilities. You don’t need to wait to be asked. Right now our Leadership Team is recruiting some people to serve on a few key committees. Find out about them. Would you fit? Would that kind of volunteerism suit you? If not, is there something else that would seem right? One of the best ways to become more a part of the community is to share tasks with others. They can be small or large, it doesn’t matter. When you say, “I can do that!” then you are stepping more into the circle. It’s the best way to get to know them and to build ties. Not everyone can volunteer at this time in their lives, but most people can help out a little now and then. It’s a step towards belonging.

Maybe I was lucky. I was pretty much ordered to act like I belonged to the community of ministers. In my case, ‘acting like it’ made it real. I have never regretted my decision to step into the circle and claim my belonging.

See you in church!