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Interdependent Web edited by Heather Christensen; a weekly roundup of blogs about Unitarian Universalism

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org. Find more UU blogs at UUpdates. Contact us at interdependentweb@uua.org.

A roundup of reader suggestions

The Rev. Heather Christensen, in addition to curating the Interdependent Web and blogging at Nagoonberry, is the administrator of a Facebook group for UU bloggers. This week, in Heather’s absence, we invited members of that group to name their favorite posts (by other bloggers). Here are their suggestions. (And there are a few extras at the bottom, as well as a description of the bloggers group.)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum, “Nickel and Dimed in Bivocational Ministry” (Rev. Cyn, 4.12.14, suggested by Jordinn Nelson Long, Raising Faith)

“Seeker of the Flaming Chalice,” “You are the Trolls: Unitarian Universalists in the movie Frozen” (Seeker of the Flaming Chalice, 4.13.14, suggested by Jenn Gray)

The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer, “Easter, Our Problem Holiday” (Open Road, 4.16.14, suggested by the Rev. Theresa Novak, Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musing)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar, “The Joy of Taxes” (Quest for Meaning, 4.16.14, suggested by Karen Johnston, Irrevspeckay)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum named three posts about the Rev. Georgette Wonders, the minister of Bradford Community Church UU in Kenosha, Wisc., who died last week after a car accident:

I was moved this week by the blogs about Georgette Wonders, particularly Theresa Novak’s, but also Sam Trumbore’s and PeaceBang’s.

Of note

The Rev. Naomi King has been a pioneer in UU use of online and social media. This week she shared personal news.

I have lived with a chronic and progressive illness for many years now. I have become progressively weaker.

I have now reached the point where it is a great struggle for me to consistently maintain my public ministry – both the quality and regularity of posts – and to engage in a timely manner with my social media community.

Over the course of the month of April, some of my regular postings will drop out, until posts from me become rare. (RevNaomi Tumblr, 4.12.14)

Peter Bowden and Naomi held a “tweetchat” to discuss the changes in Naomi’s digital ministry. (storify.com/uuplanet, 4.12.14)

Join the conversation

If you are a blogger and have a Facebook account, you’re invited (encouraged, even) to join the conversation in a Facebook group:

The UU Bloggers’ Workshop is a space for encouragement and collaboration, for dreaming and doing. We are beginners and veterans, clergy and laity, insiders and outsiders, a chorus of UU voices.

If you’re UU and you blog, you’re welcome here, whether or not UUism is your blog focus.

If you’d like to join the UU Bloggers’ Workshop, contact Heather at interdependentweb@uua.org.

Truthtelling, saying goodbye, small congregations, and more

How are you, really?

Faced with severe financial hardship, Kathleen McGregor has trouble finding the energy to blog; it takes everything she has to not fall through a frayed safety net.

It is not that I cannot find something to write about. There are plenty of things that are important to me, not the least of which is living out my Unitarian Universalist faith in the green and the LGBTQ communities. I write the posts in my head, but am bogged down by the thoughts of more immediate concern.

If one were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I have hit bottom. (Both/And, April 4)

The Rev. Megan Lloyd Joiner has started answering honestly when asked the question, “How are you?”

Our family has had more than our fair share of bad news of late, and it has begun to take its toll. Add a new baby and my spouse finishing his graduate program and a dual job search and I had a lot to say to the question that has become a rote greeting. . . .

It’s got me thinking about how we all have the opportunity to minister to people in our lives. It starts so simply, with asking “How are you?” And really wanting to know. (Quest for Meaning, April 7)

Saying goodbye

“Plaidshoes” reminds us that the candidating season has another side.

While there is a lot of celebrating during candidating season, there is also a lot of mourning. My congregation received word this week that our Minister is leaving us for another congregation. To say I am upset is an understatement. It caught the majority of our congregation completely by surprise. . . .  Do Ministers owe their congregations any sort of warning? I feel a bit betrayed.  (Everyday Unitarian, April 9)

The Rev. Theresa Novak expresses sadness about leaving a congregation she loves.

How shall I say goodbye
How can I loosen
The heartstrings
That have held us so close
For the last seven years . . . .

I won’t say goodbye
I won’t break my heart
The ties are so deep
The best I can do
Is offer with grace
A fond fare thee well . . . . (Sermons, Poetry and Other Musings, April 4)

Small congregations

The Rev. Dawn Cooley, after reading the materials for the upcoming UUA board meeting, writes that small congregations are “our present, and our future.”

I hope that these numbers mean that there will be more discussion about how the UUA can more effectively support these smaller congregations (who often feel overlooked) and other emerging covenanted communities. (Speaking of, April 9)

The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer recently taught a growth workshop for small congregations during the annual conference of the Mountain Desert District.

It was gratifying that thirty or so hardy souls packed into our little room AFTER the annual meeting to talk about this touchy and tender subject. We were alone—no big congregations were represented! So we could let our hair down. (Open Road, April 6)

The Noah stories

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews the new movie, Noah, using his knowledge of biblical scholarship.

[Although] I think the film (though strong in parts) ultimately falls short in significant ways, Aronofsky does fascinatingly translate scripture into screenplay using a very Jewish method of interpretation called midrash,which fills in the gaps of the biblical text with elaborate details and speculation about what might have been the case. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, April 8)

For Andrew Hidas, the Noah stories lose their power when literalists try to make them history.

On virtually every major human rights issue of recent centuries—whether involving race, gender, sexual orientation or religious freedom—literalists of every persuasion have fought bitterly to maintain ancient prejudices.

But beyond even that is the tragedy of essentially devaluing the sweeping power of story and legend to transform lives. By attempting to shoehorn a label of “history” onto fable, the true redemptive power of metaphor is lost. (traversing, April 4)

Religion, right and wrong

The Rev. Robin Bartlett responds to a reader’s question: is our UU sense of superiority part of our youth retention problem?

[If] if we say we are a liberal religion that honors all paths to Truth, and then a visitor comes in and asks for a prayer, and we scoff and say “we don’t do that supernatural mumbo jumbo here” . . . we are falsely advertising. . . . We need to recognize, with humility, that we are not better than any other church, nor are we less orthodox. . . .

I think retaining our youth starts with being honest about who we are. And our beautiful, fallible human enterprise of a religion blossoms with that honesty, as well. Now go and be good humans. (Living Faithfully/Parenting Faithfully, April 8)

John Beckett unpacks an earlier blog post about doing religion wrong.

If the primary focus of your religion is on how bad other people are, then you’re doing it wrong. . . . If the primary focus of your religion is pointing out how wrong other people’s religion is, you’re doing it wrong. . . . If your religion tells you human society is fine just the way it is, you’re doing it wrong. . . . If your religion tells you it’s all about you, you’re doing it wrong.   (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 6)

The Rev. Scott Wells hopes that within UUism there can be “Room for everyone, and resources for all,” but notes that it doesn’t always feel that way.

There’s the insinuation that anyone who’s a Christian is being obstinate, or that our presence is indulged as some sort of polite inheritance. The same goes for anyone who insists that the processes within our religious institution should be held to a higher standard of democratic and spiritual accountability, using historic models of how Unitarian and Universalists organize. What better way to sideline people than to tell them they don’t belong, or that they belong to another era. (Boy in the Bands, April 7)

Diana McLean objects to a Christian minister’s reference to “believers, nonbelievers, and those whose beliefs are in flux.”

It was clear to me from the context that, like many Christians, this author says “believers” and “nonbelievers” when she means “Christians” and “non-Christians” . . . .

When people who mean “believers in Christ as Lord and Savior” say instead “believers”, it isn’t just shorthand, it’s an implication that one particular belief is belief. That one way is the right way. (Poetic Justice, April 5)

The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein invites us to join her journey through Holy Week.

I love all kinds of communities and treasure their sacred stories. I’m not interested in making people Christian at all. I’m REALLY interested in helping groups of people become communities. I don’t care who or what we are or what we believe: communities save. (PeaceBang, April 9)

For the Rev. Dr. Fred Muir, the UUA headquarters’ move from Beacon Hill is a promising sign that Unitarian Universalism is becoming less of an elitist, reason-only religion.

What I’m seeking—what the future awaits—is a balanced complete religion. I want us to share what we think and what we feel; I love knowing that you are led by your head and your spirit; I am deepened knowing that we feed the mind and nourish the soul. I want a faith that brings all of me/us together, binds life as one, binds us as a community. In short, I seek a way of faith that is not elitist; I want to share a religion that honors the whole person and welcomes all people. (Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, April 1)

Convincing ourselves first, ironic racism, the gift of laughter, and more

Convincing ourselves first

The Rev. Tom Schade writes that UUs need—right now—to stop worrying about what’s wrong with Unitarian Universalism.

We have to tell people what we know; our testimony of reality: that the path to health and healing and planetary salvation is each of us living with reverence and awe, honesty, humility, gratitude and generosity, openness, solidarity and self-possession, in communities of justice and faith.

We will not convince the world until we convince ourselves. (the lively tradition, March 28)

The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford shares the testimony she wishes she’d shared with a woman she met in Starbucks.

Unitarian Universalism says that I—even on my bad days—am worthy to be treated with respect and dignity. And it teaches me that I have both the capability and the responsibility to determine and define my own creed by which I will live. (Boots and Blessings, March 29)

The Rev. Gretchen Haley offers a very thorough “How to Write Your Unitarian Universalist Testimony.” (Another Possibility, March 29)

Robin Slaw and S. Braswell of Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, New Jersey, created this graphic about Unitarian Universalism.

UU hand

Kelly Bresnahan Doherty’s eight-year-old daughter has only one thing that she wishes were different about her UU congregation.

I wish it wasn’t in the woods. It’s kind of hiding and if we were right next to the road more people would know about us and more people would come because I bet a lot of people actually think that it is okay to believe whatever you want and just be a good person. (Excitement on the Side, March 28)

Critiquing ironic racism

Christine Slocum writes an overview of the racial politics behind #CancelColbert, and then, in another post, looks more closely at racism and white people.

Suey Park, [who called] for the cancellation of the Colbert Report . . . . simply provided the theatre for racial rhetoric to play out. She simply provided the stage for us to see examples of how white people, broadly speaking, do not understand racism. (Many Words, April 2)

For Shawna Foster, ironic racism is still racism.

People want to be Colbert. They want to be ironically racist. Cue the kids from my generation using the n*word casually, wearing head dresses made of feathers, and engaging in whatever stereotype they felt like because: yea, it’s wrong. I’m raising awareness, yo, that this is racist, by being racist. (Enterprise, April 1)

Practical advice for getting along

The Rev. Tom Schade suggests one thing every congregation could do to grow: stop making their preacher nervous.

Unitarian Universalism needs wise, brave, forthright, prophetic, perceptive, and provocative preaching on a wide variety of subjects. Above all, preaching needs to interesting and memorable.

Does your congregation encourage great and brave preaching, or does it make the minister nervous? (the lively tradition, March 31)

Jordinn Nelson Long asks herself, “What happens if I simply stop acting as a willing hostage to my anger?”

[What] if I do something else because on the whole, it feels better? What if I do something else because I recognize, even in anger, that we are both human, and this is part of what that means? What if I do something else simply because I can?

I am calling this the Happiness Option, and in practice, it can be summed up with one simple phrase: “In the Meantime, Be Nice.” (Raising Faith, March 30)

The Rev. Dr. David Breeden thinks that UU congregations should be Goldilocks Zones, “Where the free exchange of ideas concerning ultimate meaning and purpose flows like life-giving water,” and offers three methods to help get us there.

Hit the pause button on being right.
Hang your inner judge and jury.
Trust everyone’s path. (Quest for Meaning, April 3)

Light and darkness, winter and spring

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern begins a daunting project—writing about the work of Ursula K. LeGuin.

LeGuin wrote the only Taoist novel I know of, The Lathe of Heaven. . . . Taoism arises in The Left Hand of Darkness, also—most explicitly in the scene from which the title is taken. . . . More broadly, the complex balance, the dance of dualities, that is of such concern to the Taoist sages is clearly one of LeGuin’s abiding concerns as well; we see it in work from Earthsea to Searoad. Still, The Lathe of Heaven engages the question most directly, not because it quotes liberally from Taoist sources (though it does, including in the title), but because it looks at it ethically: when should we act and when should we refrain from action? (Sermons in Stones, April 1)

On the cusp of spring in Maine, Claire gets stuck in “one of the vortices of personal suck.”

[It] is important to me also to acknowledge the darkness, the absence, the limitation and the bleak comprehension that we, that I, am not only incapable of solving all of the world’s problems but in fact inadequate and insufficient to solve any of the world’s problems in any achievable sense, and yet, and yet, deep down and beneath the weight of certain failure, still hope rises like the inexorable unfolding of flowering plants beneath frozen snow-covered earth. (The Sand Hill Diary, April 2)

The gift of laughter

Maybe it was the influence of April Fools’ Day, but there was an outbreak of UU silliness this week.

Carol Leonard writes about her ongoing struggle to rid herself of unwanted proselytizers.

The crowning invasion of my privacy came one day when I heard a muffled, “Help” coming from the other side of my front door. I heard it again, a little more insistent this time—“Help!” I swung the door open and there was one of the proselytizers standing stone still with my dog Florence’s teeth firmly embedded in his wrist. Every time he tried to move, Flo would growl ferociously and sink her teeth in a little firmer. I wanted to grin and say, “Good dog!” but instead, I said politely, “I already have a vacuum cleaner, thank you” and I closed the door. (Bad Beaver Tales, March 31)

The Rev. Dan Harper suggests that careful pronunciation is important when talking about adult religious education. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, April 2)

The anonymous creators of the satirical newsletter, The Beacon, published its second edition on April Fools’ Day.

And the Church of the Larger Fellowship introduced “The Squirrel Serenity Prayer.”