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Connecting with God

by Susan “Sam” Buchenau, member of United Church of Christ La Mesa

     Since childhood I have been a volunteer.  I come by it honestly.  My parents were both volunteers and set the stage early in my life to follow their example.  Brownies, Girl Scouts, church, civic groups and, eventually, Soroptimist* have all provided channels for my desire to make the world a better place.  I have always felt that the combination of my parents’ example and the values learned at Lemon Grove Congregational United Church of Christ formed the basis for my activism.

     You may have heard me say that as a child of the UCC in the sixties I may not have learned much about the Bible, but I learned how to be subversive.  While it’s true my Bible knowledge is somewhat lacking, I did learn that I had a responsibility through the love of God to work for those in need.  I always felt very fortunate to have grown up in the United Church of Christ, which put such a strong emphasis on peace, social justice, and good works.  I have long felt that my early UCC training informed my view of the world, my political outlook, and my desire to make the world a better place.

     For many years I did not attend church regularly, and convinced myself that my involvement with Soroptimist was a satisfactory substitute for being part of a worship community.  My special interest for many years has been the empowerment of women, and through my involvement with Soroptimist International, I was spending a great deal of my time, talent and treasure doing good works.  I was surrounded by like-minded women, expanding my knowledge of the world, and found deep satisfaction in the work of improving the lives of women and girls locally and internationally.  I didn’t think I needed to also attend church – I felt that I was doing what my childhood faith had called me to do.

     Community involvement is not, however, as I once thought, a substitute for belonging to a worship community.  Only a worship community (such as the one I found at UCCLM) can be a worship community.  Only a worship community allows me the opportunity to improve that knowledge of the Bible that I was lacking.  Only a worship community enables me to expand my understanding of what God is calling me to be and do.  And in my case, my renewed spirituality has given me a deeper commitment to my volunteer work, providing a constant reminder of my true purpose in being a volunteer.

     Community involvement is just that – involvement in the world.  My involvement in Soroptimist has opened the world to me.  It is challenging and satisfying.  There’s not a thing about it that I would change.  And I’m not giving it up.  But being a part of UCCLM has reawakened the spiritual part of my life; has caused me to inquire more deeply what I am being called to do.  Being part of a worship community has caused me to reassess my relationship with God (who was talking to me all along, even if I wasn’t talking back), and perhaps most importantly, has reminded me to give thanks for all that I have been given.

     I am a better person because of my involvement in Soroptimist – I have a clearer picture of how the world treats women and girls, and a path to being a part of their empowerment.  I am better because of my involvement in UCCLM – I am actively seeking a deeper connection to God and a greater appreciation for the ways that God moves through my life.  I like having God back in my life – of course God was always there, I just forgot to say, “Welcome.  Come on in.”  Now like Elizabeth Gilbert says in Eat, Pray, Love, I want God to play in my bloodstream the way sunlight amuses itself on water.”

     May it be so.


*Soroptimist International is an organization of some 95,000 professional and business women in 120 countries committed to a world where women and girls achieve their potential, realize their aspirations and have an equal voice in strong, peaceful communities.  Local Soroptimist clubs work through a worldwide network of members and international partnerships to improve the lives of women and girls locally and globally by inspiring action and creating opportunities to transform their lives.  Soroptimists are committed to human rights for all, peace and international goodwill, advancing the potential of women, integrity and democratic decision making, volunteering, diversity and friendship.  Soroptimist members contribute time and financial support to community-based and international projects that benefit women and girls.  To learn more about the work of Soroptimist International, please visit us on the web at:  www.soroptimist.org, or www.soroptimistinternational.org.

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