I joined First Church in early 2017, but I had been finding my way to this church family for much longer. I have always been a spiritual person, and I have wondered about big spiritual questions since I was a child. My maternal grandparents, who were my closest relatives outside of my nuclear family, identified with different faiths. My grandmother was Jewish and my grandfather was Christian. I loved them both dearly. I would visit Christian churches with friends because I was curious, but often felt a sting of antisemitism in varying degrees. I knew in my soul that this kind of separatist view of humanity was not from God, so I grew to seek spiritual teaching and tools and approach religious institutions warily.

In a single year, my mother, then my maternal grandfather, then my maternal grandmother all died. Several months after the passing of all three of the primary parental figures in my life, weary from grief, but determined to find meaning in living, I asked a friend if I could go with her to church - First Congregational Church of Berkeley. I cried through every service for months, and felt fully present in a community that cared about each other even though I did not speak to anyone for those first few months. I sat and I listened for God. What I found was God showing up in all the people around me and in myself. I found concepts like love, generosity, humility, forgiveness, hospitality, and justice started to come alive more vividly in myself and others from having a spiritual community to connect with regularly.

I decided to attend the new member orientation that was held on the first anniversary of my mother’s death. It felt right that the person who gave me life, home and emotional guidance would find some way to guide me to another kind of home, even after her departing. After I became a member, I had a major health issue and my new church family prayed for me and reached out to me. I was invited into roles within my church family that helped me grow and connect by using my gifts and interests. I teach once a month in the Sunday School program, I make soup for the Sunday Worship After Party sometimes, and I am part of our Welcome Ministry. There are many big questions I still wonder about, but what I know for certain now is that being in community and practicing connection is so much more joyful and wonderful than not.