This I Believe: Andy Spatt (1980-81)

I was at Bob and Jean Stow’s the other evening, for dinner, and I was seeking some ideas from them on the “This I Believe” program. After I finished doing all the talking, Bob finally told me, “Andy, it sounded very good.” So, I wanted to briefly share some of those thoughts that I had spoken to Bob and Jean about with you today.

One thing which immediately comes to my own mind as far as Unitarianism is concerned, or the value that it has for me, is twofold: One, it’s a religion and one, it’s also sort of a guiding force in terms of the way I deal with people, both in the church and with my friends outside of the church.

I feel pretty comfortable coming to a church that doesn’t say to me, unless you believe such and such you’re going to be ostracized. Now, I’ve gone to some other churches in the Twin Cities since I’ve lived here and since July of ’70, where that seemed pretty evident to me. Churches had set beliefs, the people that went there had set beliefs, and it seemed if you deviated from that you were pretty much ostracized and that wasn’t the environment in which I felt particularly comfortable. I stayed friends with the people that belonged to those churches, but I told them very frankly and as diplomatically as I could that I’d just as soon stay Unitarian because that’s where I’m most comfortable.

I think, while each one of us has different personal values, we’re here for some common reasons, per this book which I picked up downstairs in Ted’s office – some of the ideas in there which are common to all of us such as the enjoyment of life, the right to make up our own minds, whether to believe in God or not, and if we do decide to believe in God, what sort of God we believe in, the idea of prayers, so forth and so on. It’s an individual sort of thing, which I think is very nice. You’re not forced into believing a certain thing; you can pretty much believe what you want.

But contingent with that, is also the fact that I don’t feel any one of us tries to impose something upon each other, and I think that’s a very important part of Unitarianism, that we can believe what we want and that’s why we can stay individuals. I think it’s great that we can appreciate each other for differences that we do have as well as our similarities. I like to apply this to my relationships with the friends that I have out of church in business and just in basic socializing. Again, this whole idea of not trying to impose something on them and vice versa keeps the relationships good.

My own religious background is Unitarian. I lived out East for many years. I went to school in Pennsylvania I grew up in New York. My mother was originally Lutheran; she grew up in a Scandinavian family in Denmark, and my father, in his own blunt way, told me that he was never very religious but would suffer through the benefits of a bar mitzvah. He was originally Jewish. (I’m only kidding of course, but that was his way of telling me.)

When I lived in New York, I attended a Unitarian church called the South Nassau Unitarian Church. It’s in Freeport, which is a small town on Long Island and very coincidentally, Derek is talking there today. He had dinner with my parents last night and I spoke to him on the phone to make sure everything was going okay. The only thing I warned my mother about was that he didn’t delete their supply of Scotch- drink half a bottle back here …

Getting a little more serious – I can recall when I first moved here from New York in July of ’79. I really didn’t know anybody, I didn’t know anything, and those of you who have known me since I first did move out here at that time knew I was scared. Everything was totally foreign to me. In essence, it was the first time I was on my own. I had been on my own; I went to school but it was a little different- not only the financial aspect of supporting myself but just moving 1500 odd miles or so away from some place I had been for so long.

When I got out here I did want to join a Unitarian church but I had no idea where to go. So like a salesman who’s doing cold-canvassing when he gets to a new city, I looked in the Yellow Pages under churches and I saw some Unitarian churches. One was in downtown Minneapolis, one was in downtown St. Paul, according to the addresses. I didn’t know anything about them. Then I saw one that was listed out here. So I looked on the map to find where Mahtomedi was. It looked like it was pretty much out in the country, which would be a nice setting for a church, and sure enough, when I drove out here one day it was very much out in the country.

In fact, I thought it was a very pleasant reception from the first day I came in here. Bob Stow, not literally, grabbed me – he subtly grabbed me. He said, “You will be going out to lunch with my wife and I today.” And I didn’t refuse – I didn’t fight it, I just basically said, “Fine.” And when he put my name down in the books, I knew I was marked forever.

No, really, it was a very nice welcome and after attending a few services and getting to know the members, I said to myself quite frankly, “If you’re comfortable here and you like the people that you’ve met, there’s no point in going to any other church, which makes sense. I hadn’t even been to any of the other Unitarian churches. I might go just to see what they’re like, but I’m quite happy here.

It’s been important to me to belong to the church, basically because I’ve gotten to know a lot of my friends through here. I’ve gotten to know a lot of my friends through here. I’ve gotten to know a lot of people who I didn’t know very well much, much better. Now I feel more comfortable with them. It’s very important for a person to have that sort of source – and I think that the church is a good place to get it. For me, it’s been really good. I would like to see a lot more younger people in the church. I understand that some of the other churches in the Twin Cities have single groups that I might participate in, but the people here are really nice. I only wish I had more time for some of the other classes that Jeannie offers on Tuesday night.

Another thing is, as far as the environment in Minnesota is concerned in many ways it was a very sort of sudden change, in many ways a very, traumatic sort of change. But it’s also been a very comfortable kind of change in that, you know, I like being in downtown Minneapolis or being in down St. Paul, and literally within a few minutes you can be in the country. Out East, the metropolitan area stretches forever and ever and ever, and you wonder if it’s ever going to end. Out here, it’s a really peaceful sort of thing. I can remember when, a couple of weeks ago after work one day, I drove out here for a yoga class and I smelled the wood burning from someone’s fireplace in a house- it was just beautiful, it really was. I think that I have found, as far as Minnesota is concerned, pretty much the best of both worlds in terms of geography, and the things that Minnesota has to offer – an integral part of that- people, as well.

People out here have been very friendly. I’m very glad that they like to spend time with one another and give each other the time of day. I feel, if you don’t have that, no matter what you do for a living, that life really isn’t worth living – if you can’t do things for people, and vice versa.

My own attitude towards life in general has become more relaxed and less serious. As a result, I’m happier for it. Those of you who did know me for a while knew that I was very intense and very uncomfortable and very uptight in the beginning. I’m still intense but I can say that I’m very glad to be here and I think I’ll be here for quite a while. I want to thank all of you, especially those who I do know pretty well but those I don’t know very well, I would like to get to know better, and for the church and the things it’s given me.