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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.

Peace and calm, truth in hard times, world-saving religion, and more

Peace and calm

Karen Johnston tells a story of kids being asked what “We Shall Overcome” means. They said it means, “We shall overcalm.”

Out of the mouth of babes comes such necessary wisdom, the deep meaning of overcalm: to exercise an inner peacefulness that connects us to a great source not of our making, available to all and especially available to those seeking justice on behalf of those treated unjustly, especially for moments and movements like this, especially for those seeking to create the Beloved Community.

Let us listen to children. Let us all cultivate overcalm. Let there be peace, but first let there be justice. (Irrevspeckay, March 14)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates the work of two Irish women, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and founders of the Community of Peace People.

A peace congress probably wouldn’t have made much difference, but thousands of people demanding peace, over and over, in a grassroots movement all over two lands, most certainly did good work for fraternity—and sorority—between those two nations. Both women continue to agitate for peace to this day. (Sermons in Stone, March 18)

Truth in hard times

With a child seriously ill, Katy Carpman compares herself to raw garlic.

I get to call my own truths.
I’ve no patience for your platitudes . . . (Remembering Attention, March 16)

Grieving her mother’s recent death, the Rev. Amy Beltaine writes that “Unitarian Universalist Pagans have a robust set of tools to carry with us as we face the loss of a loved one.”

Personally I very much like the idea of becoming one with my divinity, for that is how I view the earth. The planet is both sacred and divine. The broccoli I had for dinner is a part of me, I have recycled dinosaur cells in me, larger than that, I have stardust in me. (Nature’s Path, March 19)

World-saving religion

The Rev. James Ford proposes an interdependent humanism that might “save the world,” rather than devolving into survival of the fittest.

We see where we are. Arising precious and unique, none of us ever to be replicated.
And fragile. All of us…
And then we can see what we can do.
We see we are all of us and this blessed planet connected.
Connected more deeply than can ever be said.
And, we act from this place.
And then the whole thing will be blessed.
And every action taken, a blessing. (Monkey Mind, March 13)

For the Rev. Dr. David Breeden, everything is transient except for human experience.

So, what are the truths of religions? What’s permanent? You. Your essence. Your human essence. Is that enough? Well . . . it has to be. Because that’s all we get. (Quest for Meaning, March 19)

John Beckett responds to a provocative opinion piece in The New York Times, which argued that schools teach children that there are no moral facts.

We no longer live in a monoculture, if we ever did. It’s no longer sufficient to pretend your culture, your religion, and your morals are objectively better than everyone else’s – you have to demonstrate why your moral standards work better, not just for you and yours but for everyone else as well. (Under the Ancient Oaks, March 19)

Encouragement to spiritual growth

For Catherine Clarenbach, being in recovery from mental illness means that she has less direct connection to the sacred.

Do you understand? Do you understand that while I am grateful for health and for stable relationships with friends and family, I also miss that one, great, powerful, and easy relationship? Do you understand that while I still can sometimes touch the fingers of the Goddess in the stars at night, it is not because I walk enveloped in those stars, but because I seek them, yearn for them, slowly do the work to find them within me as powerfully as I see them without? . . .

I . . . practice to catch the slightest ray of the blinding star in whose light the whole world used to shine. (Nature’s Path, March 17)

The Rev. Phil Lund writes about encouraging spiritual growth in lay-led congregations.

After all the time spent figuring out what’s going to happen on Sunday mornings, meeting with committees, and coordinating social justice events, there isn’t a whole lot of time leftover for lay leaders to plan adult faith development experiences on the subject of spirituality.

And just what did they have in mind way back in 1985? What does “encouragement to spiritual growth” entail, anyway? (Phillip Lund, March 17 and 19)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews a new book from Beacon Press, The God that Could Be Real, written by Nancy Abrams—”an atheist married to a famous scientist.”

In constructing a positive theology, the most interesting perspective she proposes is that ‘God’ is not cosmic, but “planetary”—an emergent phenomenon of life on Earth. Note that she means “Emergence” in the technical sense of the field of science that studies how systems (such as the human body) are much greater than the sum of their parts. . . . This evolving, emergent “God that could be real” is akin to Carl Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” in which the sacred is understood less literally than metaphorically and archetypally—but which is still actual, efficacious, and real. (Pluralism, Pragramatism, Progressivism, March 13)

Break the ropes, Selma is now, contrary voices, and more

Break the ropes

A question quoted in Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses hits Tina Porter between the eyes: “If you don’t break the ropes while you’re alive, do you think ghosts will do it after?”

What are your visions and what are the ropes that need to be cut? What are the days ahead of you full of and what can they be full of? . . . [If] your soul is straining at invisible ropes, perhaps it is time to follow the line of the rope back and see what is holding you, because maybe you are a visionary, but you’ve never been given permission to be so—by yourself or anyone else. (Ugly Pies, March 12)

Claire Curole wrestles with hard questions about identity and vocation.

Who am I? Whose am I? From what source and by what means and to what end? Sometimes we get clear answers. More often, we don’t, and like a dolphin or a bat navigating by echolocation, we fling questions out into the Mystery and get, from time to time, a ping in response. . . .

I hope, in my bones, that there is a place in this world where I am the missing piece that completes the jigsaw picture—just as I am, where my bumps and angles fit exactly as I am. (Sand Hill Diary, March 12)

Karen Johnston writes a prayer “for someone in deep pain who does not yet pray.”

Let me begin by setting aside my skepticism,
my sarcasm, my doubt, my intellectualized judgment,
my clever snarky attitude that wants to
shut me up and keeps me shut down.

I do not release it completely,
for it serves me well in other circumstances,
but I let go my tight grasp,
leaving room for something more.

Let me say these words:
dear god,
and not choke, not giggle,
nor fill with fear. (Irrevspeckay, March 10)

Selma is now

Leslie Mills shares one of the key questions of the UU Selma experience this past week: “Do you love?”

It’s not enough to reason your way to action, or to argue your way, and you can’t even believe your way to action. You can only act for justice from a place of love. And your actions will have more power if you are able to articulate that, because it connects your humanity to that of the people with whom you are striving for justice. (Leaping Loon, March 7)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern asks, “For what would I risk everything?”

Mostly I would like to give my life by living and working for a cause, not by dying for it. When I think of what I would risk dying for, I think of freedom and fairness, of the earth, but mostly of people: people I know. It’s a principle of community organizing and congregational leadership that what people give to, sacrifice for, go to the wall for, is their connection with other people. When we know someone who is suffering under oppression, abstractions such as freedom and justice take on flesh. They acquire a face, and the face silently asks us to act. Their fight becomes our fight. (Sermons in Stones, March 9)

Doug Muder helps us sort through the mixed news of the Justice Department’s Ferguson report.

In the end, although the Justice Department hasn’t given the black citizens of Ferguson Darren Wilson’s scalp, it has given them what they really need: Exposure of the corrupt and predatory system they live under, and some hope of relief. (The Weekly Sift, March 9)

The Rev. Tom Schade makes a case for reparations for the people of Ferguson.

The people from whom those dollars were taken are owed them. All of the dubious charges, all of the fines, all of the fines levied because the original fines were not paid on time, all the penalties and interest and court fees need to be returned. Not as a matter of “development funds” or “community investment” or “public policy”, but simply because stolen money must be returned from the criminal to the victim, to be used by victims for whatever purpose they choose. It’s their money, end of story. (The Lively Tradition, March 10)

Contrary voices

Kim Hampton is skeptical about UU promises.

So when Peter Morales stands in Brown Chapel last Saturday and says, “We are your partners forever,” is that really true? Our history shows that our partnerships, when it comes to race, are infrequent and easily dropped. But what might be even more telling, our memory is selective; we remember Selma (oh how we remember Selma), but we all but ignore the tumultuous relationship between the AUA and Ethelred Brown. We remember Selma, but skip over the fact that for an organization headquartered in Boston there was almost universal UU silence during the Boston busing riots of the 1970s.

If we are going to be partners, what’s the plan? Talk is cheap and easy; just saying we’re partners doesn’t mean that we are. (East of Midnight, March 11)

The Rev. Scott Wells has mixed feelings about UU participation in the fiftieth anniversary observances in Selma—and a bit of advice.

[To] escape the peril of exoticism, live where you work and work where you live. Be not tourists, but companions. Be present in the place. Show up daily, not every fifty years. (Boy in the Bands, March 9)

What is church?

Leslie Mills meets a woman in Selma who says of Unitarian Universalists, “I think I’ve found my people at last!”

When this woman walks through the doors of her local UU congregation, brimming with this fierce hope that, after years of believing she was alone, she’s finally—finally—found her true home, a faith where the flame of justice burns brightly, how will her fierceness be received?

Will you try to tame her? Will you ask her to conform to your way of doing things? . . . You see, I don’t want us to disappoint her, and I don’t want us to use her up. (Leaping Loon, March 7)

The Rev. Andrew Millard is grateful for a recent workshop that restored his faith in church.

I have been disheartened by the apparently exclusive emphasis on other forms of religious group-making, including the earnest promotion of ministry as a vocation that in the future will require either independent wealth or a submission to poverty. . . . The fact is that it takes hard work for people to actually be in community, particularly religious community. (Life’s Too Short to Sing the Melody, March 6)

Thomas Earthman wishes we would stop thinking of UUism as a halfway house.

Unitarian Universalism has a reputation of being the rehabilitation clinic for people who are leaving religion. That is a sad statement on how we view faith. People don’t come to us because they want to leave religion; they come because they want a religion that speaks to a broader world view and inclusion. . . .

What many are looking for is community, encouragement, hope, and mental or ethical stimulation, and maybe some music or ritual. They are looking for religion when they show up, just one that is liberal and offers them a chance to explore theology, philosophy, and morality safely and as part of a community. (I Am UU, March 6)

Remembering Selma, messes and imperfections, General Assembly, and more

Arriving in Birmingham

Many UUs are traveling this week to Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma. (See UU World‘s coverage, “Unitarian Universalists return to Selma.”

Leslie Mills, volunteering with the Living Legacy Project, plans to blog her experiences.

Bob and Peg were lovely companions for our flight to Birmingham. At Peg’s insistence, Bob had come for the march in 1965, and he heard Dr. King’s speech in Montgomery when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He shared memories with me of how tense the South was during his last visit—how he’d been turned away from buying a Coke by a white shopkeeper because he was one of the marchers; how the national guard had pulled out suddenly after the march, and the risk of violence escalated immensely; how he’d had to have an escort when going to and from the church where he was being housed. He remembered receiving the news of the murder of Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb, and a few days later the murder of Unitarian Universalist lay leader Viola Liuzzo. It was a different time then, Bob assured me. (Leaping Loon, March 5)

Other UU participants are sharing their journeys via social media, including these photos by the Rev. Linda Hart.

brown chapel



All the messes and imperfections

Jacqueline Wolven, inspired by the movie Wild, asks, “What if we forgave ourselves?”

Decisions and life moments make us who we are and each one of us is different and beautiful. There is no “right way.” There is no “better way.” And as much as we judge each other the judgement that we do to ourselves is way more damaging. So, cheers to being who you are and to who I am. All the messes and imperfections. I hope that my life can help yours someday—that is why it all happened. This I now know. (Jacqueline Wolven, February 28)

Tina Porter wrestles with forgiveness—only to have it “squirm away in a tangle of humanness.”

I ask for forgiveness daily. I ask it of God, I ask it of myself, and sometimes I even ask others to give it to me. Some might see this as a martyr fixation, but I see it as rooting myself in my humanness. I am a human, and so, by definition, I am a mistake-maker. And so are you. Knowing that I need forgiveness reminds me that others may be feeling the same way. Forgiveness is our message to each other (and ourselves) that being human is good, and messy, and can be kind. (Ugly Pies, March 3)

Liz James, a self-described “family toad,” chronicles her determined effort to learn how to sing well enough to be useful as a song leader.

When did we start thinking of music as a thing you get to do when you’re good enough, instead of an inextinguishable part of being a human being? When did I have to get permission from Lynn, from my guitar teacher, from “real musicians” to be able to just start singing? Half of what my guitar teacher does is teach, and half is the bestowing of blessings. “Yes, you may do that. You may do whatever you want. Although some of the things–heads up–will sound really bad. And then nobody will die and we’ll try something else.” (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 27)

Good people

Karen Johnston’s friend, Mark Green, died this week.

As someone more intimate with Mark wrote, he “won” his battle with brain cancer.

Clearly, this definition of winning is different than what we usually hear. It is, I believe, a much braver one. . . . Yet winning did not mean staying alive in body. That would have been magnificent, but strangely, secondary.

It meant staying alive in spirit.

Not ceding humor, or kindness, or playfulness, or generosity.

That would have been the more tragic death. (Irrevspeckay, February 28)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, posting daily for Women’s History Month, writes about Helen Keller.

I imagine that the way I learned about Keller was typical: she was the protagonist of an overcoming-adversity tale, cast as a mixture of victim and heroine. What that story obscures, as such stories tend to do, is the fact that her accomplishments would be remarkable regardless of her ability to see or hear. (Sermons in Stones, March 1)

This world

Tina Porter embraces this world’s messy beauty.

Oh, God. This world.

It brings me to my knees in awe of all the good, weeping with joy at the pink clouds on the horizon as the sun falls slowly, a large glistening orange sphere, calling us all home. And it brings me to my knees deep in despair at what is happening, what we are doing to each other in the name of God.

Oh, God. This world. (Ugly Pies, March 2)

The Rev. Amy Freedman offers a prayer during a trying winter.

In this harsh cold environment,
Our challenges are harder to handle,
Our losses press more heavily on our hearts,
And we are depleted.
Now, in this moment, we center
to rest our bodies and to renew our spirits.
Like our fellow creatures who hibernate,
May we draw on our reserves for strength and comfort. (Amy Freedman, March 4)

UUs and money

The Rev. Tom Schade has a proposal for making General Assembly more financially accessible.

We do not become less class-biased by subsidizing poor and working class people to participate as though they were upper middle class. We become less class-biased by structuring our work so that poor and working class people can participate as they are. Unitarian Universalism should be a democratic faith not because any member can go to General Assembly, but because every member votes for and instructs their delegates to the highest governing body of the Association. (The Lively Tradition, March 3)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg shares reflections based on the book, The Generosity Path.

There are such complex personal experiences and social histories behind the various ways each of us think and behave about money. And too often messages around money are guilt- or fear-based. But the invitation to walk the generosity path is to increasingly approach money from a place of inner freedom and abundance. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, March 5)

The view from outside the UUA

This week’s The Thinking Atheist podcast explores Unitarian Universalism, and includes interviews with UU ministers, the Rev. Rebecca Bijur and the Rev. Dr. David Breeden. (The Thinking Atheist, March 3)