Growing Up UU

Miller Family Finds Unitarian Universalism

Inez Miller receiving the June Gillespie Award from the UU Metro-NY District, 2009
Inez Miller receiving the June Gillespie Award from the UU Metro-NY District, 2009

My parents, Inez and Bill “Hubie” Miller, arrived at the doorstep of the Unitarian Church of All Souls, NYC in the early 1970s. They were searching for a place to get married. It was still controversial for a working class Jewish woman to marry an upper class Protestant man, and they were having difficulty finding clergy who would marry them.

Every rabbi and Christian minister they visited required one of them to convert and wanted a promise that their children would be raised in the same faith. My parents had already surmounted the hurdle of disapproving family members, and they were not about to concede to these demands. Finally, they decided to explore less familiar religious territory and set up a meeting with Rev. Walter Donald Kring at the Unitarian Church of All Souls. To their delight, he was very open to the ability of love to cross differences. He would not require either to convert, and welcomed the chance to officiate at their wedding.

This feeling of radical acceptance intrigued them. They were interested in finding a religious home where they could worship together while holding different beliefs. Could it be that Unitarian Universalism would work out not only for their wedding, but also for their spiritual home? They started attending All Souls, decided to join, and raised their children – my brother, William, and me – as lifelong Unitarian Universalists.

Over time their own identity as Unitarian Universalists grew, and my parents became active and committed lay leaders in the congregation. My mother, Inez, in particular, was a deeply committed volunteer and leader who gave countless hours of her time to All Souls, the Metro-NY District, and the wider denomination.

Growing Up UU

William and Alison playing as children in the courtyard of All Souls, NYC
William and Alison playing as children in the courtyard of All Souls, NYC

My brother and I were dedicated as small children at the front of the sanctuary of All Souls, NYC, and twenty-six years later I was ordained on the very same spot.

I feel so blessed to have been raised in our open-hearted and open-minded faith from the very beginning. I have many fond memories of growing up at All Souls – playing in coffee hour, learning in classrooms, worshipping in children’s chapel and the sanctuary, singing in the choir, sharing reflections in youth group, and more.

All Souls was the first place I was allowed to walk by myself in the city. On Sunday mornings, if the rest of my family decided to stay home, I would attend on my own. I vividly remember a 5th grade RE Class, where we explored different creation myths from around the world as well as the scientific explanations for the beginning of life. I was sure to make it every Sunday, not wanting to miss out on a single story or explanation.

By the time I entered youth group, like my parents, I was deeply committed to our faith. I regularly attended the High School Seminar and volunteered as an assistant teacher for younger children. My first paying job was as the “Church School Sexton” on Sunday mornings. I first became active in the wider denomination serving as a General Assembly delegate from All Souls and an active participant of the Youth Caucus.

Alison Miller, William Miller, and Jinnah Hosein carrying the banner for All Souls at GA
Alison Miller, William Miller, and Jinnah Hosein carrying the banner for All Souls at GA

Youth Group, or as we called it, High School Seminar, was an incredibly important community to me. During high school, my family faced a number of challenging events, including the death of my father and my cancer diagnosis and treatments. Youth Group was a safe and sacred place where I could wrestle with life’s biggest questions, and also be there for others who were wrestling with their own questions. The seeds of ministry were planted in this youth group. I remember a Youth Advisor, Ted, encouraging me to think seriously about becoming a UU minister.