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 email@example.com.
The Rev. Tony Lorenzen loves Ash Wednesday’s Universalist message of acceptance.
If there is anything that’s missing sometimes from the contemporary Unitarian Universalist worship tradition it is a ritual of forgiveness of, well, sins; the liturgical and prayerful recognition that I am a mess; that I am mess of anxieties and flaws and contradictions and a jumble of emotions that sometimes make it difficult for me to be my best self, and it’s OK to be such a mess. (Sunflower Chalice, March 5)
“Plaidshoes” needs a more cheerful Lent this year.
Like a lot of the country, we have had a long, cold, bleak winter. I feel like I have been in a dark space and adding 40 more days of somberness just isn’t appealing. . . . I need to find a way to make Lent a time of renewal and hope and break away from seeing it as purely deprivation. (Everyday Unitarian, March 5)
Sara Lewis explains how her Unitarian Universalist faith informs her Lenten practice.
UUism doesn’t have a tradition of intentional self-denial or a time to intentionally re-focus your life. Why we don’t probably makes perfect sense if you look at the evolution of our traditions (part of the whole point was that both Unitarians and Universalists held up the idea that people were good, as opposed to the Calvinist ideas that are decidedly more pessimistic about human nature), but understanding why this is so doesn’t change the fact that I feel drawn to some sort of fasting as a spiritual practice. (The Curriculum of Love, March 4)
The Rev. Scott McNeill has committed to the UU Practicing Lent photo project.
I love photography and am always frustrated that I take fewer pictures than I’d like. Sure, when I go to the zoo or gardens, I pick up my camera—but creating art feeds my soul in a way nothing else can.
So, I’ve decided to take up this spiritual practice for the next 47 days. At first, I felt resistant to speak up and say I’d try this. Usually, spiritual practices (or resolutions or anything of the sort) last about 6 days for me. (Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, March 5)
Another participant, Katy Carpman, has trouble capturing the image of “connection” she hoped to find at her veggie co-op.
I was excited to see that we were getting vine tomatoes—already connected? Meant to be.
But before I could take a picture, one of the other volunteers had separated all the tomatoes.
Lesson: When you don’t communicate your needs, there can be some real disconnects. (Remembering Attention, March 5)
To participate in the Practicing Lent project, visit the Tumblr created by Mr. Barb Greve, Kristina Hensley, and Karen Bellavance-Grace.
Sarah MacLeod’s Michigan county has run out of funds for road-clearing, leaving two tire-sized ruts as the only safe path down her street.
Driving in these physical ruts led me to think about the metaphorical type, the kind that we say we want out of yet not badly enough to risk the leap; the one that may leave us skidding into the unknown or simply spinning our wheels in frustration. There can be an odd comfort in even our most painful ruts, perhaps because we know the jostling they bring, which can sometimes seem more comforting than whatever road might lay beyond those well-worn grooves. (Finding My Ground, March 2)
As winter lingers in Maine, Claire dreams of spring’s warmth and beauty.
Eventually the forsythia bush will awaken into an explosion of yellow flowers and the annual negotiation for my parking space will recommence. Eventually the tulips will unfurl and the rhododendrons will resume their efforts to engulf the front porch. Eventually the lilacs will bloom.
But not yet. (Sand Hill Diary, March 5)
The work of justice
The Rev. Scott Wells comments on General Assembly housing shortages caused by a last minute labor dispute with two contracted hotels.
I feel bad for the GA office, but the policy is correct. If you had to make a short list of people whose well-being could be improved by ethical spending, hotel workers would be high on the list and they deserve our support.
This puts financially strapped attendees in a bind: do you go to the rejected hotels and side with management? I hope the core labor issues can be resolved, but the least one can do is not cross the picket line early. (Boy in the Bands, March 3)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum reports on a visit to the trial that may overturn Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; Harvard professor Dr. Nancy Cott was the day’s lone witness.
Professor Cott . . . deftly covered the history of marriage and explained that those who would uphold “traditional marriage” are aiming at a target that’s always been moving. She explained three main ways in which marriage has changed in the course of American history: asymmetrical (gender) roles, divorce, and race, and explained how each was relevant. . . . Overall, she nicely laid out that the arc of our nation’s history bends towards marriage equality. (RevCyn, February 28)
The Rev. Tom Schade responds to a colleague’s question about a contradiction in Schade’s previous posts.
Because I see Unitarian Universalism as born out of a trend toward Kenosis in Christianity, I am critical of our sectarianism: our constant self-promotion, the assertion that we ourselves are the answer to humanity’s woes. We should not be in the business of shouting to the world that we exist, and that there is a nearby UU congregation. . . .
[And yet, learning] how to communicate love, mercy and justice to those who are afraid that they are worthless, or who suspect that the social order counts them as worthless, is perhaps the most important religious quest of our times. (The Lively Tradition, March 5)
Desmond Ravenstone maintains that polyamorous and kinky people are ignored by the UUA.
I find it hard to recall a single instance of anyone in UUA leadership, and even more painfully the UUA’s multicultural staff, say or write the “K” or “P” words. I’ve heard lots of euphemisms and dancing around these terms, but somehow none of these people who keep telling me I can trust them can even bring themselves to call us what we call ourselves. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, March 4)
The Rev. Tandi Rogers celebrates the maturation of UU humor, as evidenced in the new satirical rag, The Beacon (pdf).
Usually I like my social commentary with names attached. However, I’ve found the inaugural edition to be open-spirited, spiritually mature, and nuanced. I suspect the writer(s) are missional leaders with institutionalist hearts. In other words, I am certain that the authors are prophetic court jesters who love our faith tradition very much. I want to hear what they have to say even if it makes me squirm a bit. (Growing Unitarian Universalism, March 3)
Interested in staying informed about this year’s General Assembly? Join the General Assembly 2014 event on Facebook, and to connect with attendees, get updates, ask questions, share ideas, post pictures, and experience GA—no matter where you are.
Old roots, tender leaves
When an unaffiliated congregation with deep Universalist roots reaches out to potential UU guest preachers, seminarian Claire answers the call.
I see in that fledgeling congregation the very future of Unitarian Universalism.
Because while we who think we know what we are talking about sit in classrooms and conference rooms worrying about numerical growth—how to lure in the spiritual seekers and what to do with or for or about the elusive young adults—or bickering over whether we are a denomination or a movement, trying to figure out how to Save The . . . Whatever We Are—while we try to solve the unsolvable problem of how to do liberal religion in a complex ugly world in a top-down systematic way—in this tiny village there are ordinary people who are so deeply drawn to the kind of religious community that we say we want to be in the world that they are making it happen for themselves, where they are, with the resources they have.
This is a holy thing. (Sand Hill Diary, February 24)
Wild and precious life
At the end of a long week, Jordinn Nelson Long discovered the limits of her extroversion.
Temporary blindness is one of the less subtle wake up calls I’ve experienced, but today I felt I could see, and in more ways than one: there are many ways to burn the candle at both ends, and they all, ultimately, are unsustainable. In this vein, I have been thinking lots this afternoon about a quote from Rabbi Moses Sofer: No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself. (Raising Faith, February 25)
And if an ocular migraine weren’t enough, a few days later her four-year-old son staged a flying experiment, with the help of the cord from the wooden blinds in his bedroom.
What can we learn from being brought up short by what nearly was, laying out each “but for” as though it were a thing with teeth, a shade poised to lay claim to the breath of a now-sleeping child?
I don’t exactly know what to think, but I can tell you what I feel: sheer, incredulous relief. This day, the sheer boredom and minutiae of it, has been delivered back to me as I blink, confused, stumbling again into the too-bright daylight after escaping the brief horror show behind me. (Raising Faith, February 27)
Practicing our faith
Ricky Cintron invites us join him in praying with our whole being.
Lately I have been trying to pray more with my whole being. What I mean by that is that when something troubles me and I feel as if I can contribute some kind of positive action to the situation, I do. Praying with your thoughts and words is beautiful and good, but I have learned that I am often much capable of more than that. (Jñana-Dipena, February 25)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak grieves that her young daughter will one day face betrayal and pain.
Even my beautiful little girl, so innocent and sweet, will have to walk across the valley of the shadow of death. . . . I pray that she finds what she needs to make it to the other side feeling held and without bitterness or resentment. I pray that she can make it through the struggle of this world still able to see the beauty and able to feel the joy. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, February 25)
As part of a series about Unitarian Universalist core beliefs, the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford notes that believing in human goodness takes three minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master.
It’s hard. This is a culture that often urges us to question the motivations of every person. Sometimes that might be prudent, I admit, but I try to hold back. If the action seems deliberately hurtful, well yes, at that point, I need to look closer.
But often there is no need. So often, people exceed my expectations. And if they are so good, then perhaps I should be, too? (Boots and Blessings, February 24)
The Rev. Dan Schatz suggests that the pink triangle is a symbol for our time.
I love the welcoming flag, and fly it proudly—but maybe we need to hold onto the pink triangle as well. Maybe we need a reminder of the cost of hatred, in real human lives and livelihoods. Maybe we need to remember that silence really does equal death, and the worst thing we can do is remain silent in the face of oppression. (The Song and the Sigh, February 25)
The Rev. Debra Haffner writes that “we are all gay Ugandans now.”
I can pray and I can write and I can tweet and Facebook. But others of you have the resources to do more, and I implore you to stand up NOW.
Because we can’t stand by and watch. (Sexuality and Religion, February 27)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar calls bullshit on the so-called “religious freedom bills” introduced by several state legislatures.
If you don’t think gay people should get married, then don’t marry a person of your gender. Who you bake a cake for is not part of your religious practice. Your religious beliefs apply to you, and if your God is going to judge you for standing by while other people live out their own religious lives, then your God needs to get a grip. (Quest for Meaning, February 26)
Fun, games, stories, and more
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern shares initial reflections about her new practice of holding office hours in local cafes. (Sermons in Stones, February 28)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum offers tips from her experiences preaching from a tablet. (Rev. Cyn, February 22)
The Rev. Dan Harper posts part two of his retelling of the Demeter and Persephone story. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, February 25)
The Rev. Scott Wells begins a series about UU congregational websites, and offers an overview of Creative Commons licenses. (Boy in the Bands, February 22 and 26)
Three UU Reddit users stepped up to answer questions about Unitarian Universalism in an “ask me anything” session this week.
Barb Greve and Kristina Hensley have created a Lenten Photo Challenge, shared via the UU Media Collaborative. Join in the fun!
Branding: who we are, what we do, why it matters
UU bloggers continue to react to the new UUA logo, announced last week as the first part of a comprehensive brand strategy.
The Rev. Dawn Cooley suggests that early reactive responses happened because “surprised people react poorly.”
The anxiety in our UU system is quite high right now. Just as surprised people who feel left out of the process tend to react poorly, so also is the inverse true: Informed people who are brought along in the process tend to be more invested in the outcome. (Speaking of, February 15)
Shawna Foster disagrees, writing that how people handle surprises is a reflection of their character.
People who can’t roll with the punches, in my experience, are people who’ve always been able to control what’s going on in their little universe, and expect it at all times to be secure. People who can’t afford that kind of security and know they’re not the ones in control of their lives are able to handle surprises, good and bad ones, in a mature way. (Enterprise, February 19)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein explores the differences between a transient logo and a permanent symbol.
Creating a logo is just a way of waving your hand in public to greet the general public. It in no way has to cheapen or commodify what you do in your actual community. The logo gives people an opportunity to connect with you. It doesn’t represent your community’s capitulation to consumer culture. (PeaceBang, February 18)
Chris Walton reflects on the beacon-related images we have embraced throughout our history.
Here’s my modest insight: The flaming chalice is an interior lamp, a flame to light indoors in the particular context of worship. As an emblem, it’s tied to the Service Committee’s public service history, but in our experience, it’s a symbol of our religion as practiced in sanctuaries and homes. But it has a cousin in our symbolic tradition that is a flame lit in the public square: the beacon lit in times of public crisis, the candles held up in vigils, the lantern in the steeple. (Philocrites, February 17)
Paul’s Letter to the Romans gives the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss a framework for thinking about the new brand strategy initiative.
This is what the fight is really about: not whether Unitarian Universalists have a symbol that matters to the small groups who know it, but whether we can establish a symbol that dominates the conversation about the things we believe. (Politywonk, February 17)
Among other reactions, the Rev. Scott Wells dubs the conversation “Logogate,” Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum wonders about a name change, and Thomas Earthman worries about the text. (Boy in the Bands, February 17, RevCyn, February 20, and A Material Sojourn, February 14)
Visit UUpdates for more blogging about “Logogate.”
Siding with love, against indifference
Kim Hampton accuses the UUA of being more interested in style than substance.
The UUA’s treatment of the new logo and its roll-out being more newsworthy/homepage-worthy than 1,500 UUs in Raleigh or a statement about the Jordan Davis murder trial verdict seems to be par-for-the-course to me. (East of Midnight, February 19)
Britton Gildersleeve worries about her cousin’s grandsons.
My cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race—their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be for all of us. (Beginner’s Heart, February 19)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes about the hastag #NeverLovedUs, which “summarizes the experience of black and brown young people.”
This country never loved black and brown young people, never valued their lives, presumed that they were a menace to society—criminal. As though there were an uncountable surplus of them that could be wasted or misused. . . .
One cannot respond to “#neverlovedus” with a declaration in favor of “equality” or fair law enforcement or a more nuanced doctrine of justifiable self-defense. You have to go deeper, down to the emotional level, to that battle between love and indifference that rages in all of us, and try there to take your place on the side of love. (The Lively Tradition, February 18)
A faith that matters
Peter Bowden’s UUTV publishes a series of videos recorded in 2013 by the Rev. Naomi King: “If Unitarian Universalism Is to Be a Faith that Matters,” “On Disability, Social Media, and Digital Ministry,” and “The Challenge of Social Media to Our Established System.”
John Beckett finds spiritual depth in Pagan and Druid practice, but remains a committed Unitarian Universalist.
Unitarian Universalism keeps me connected to this world. It reminds me there are immediate needs that religion and religious people need to address. . . . Like most religious organizations, we talk more than we do, but we do more than any other religious organization I’ve been involved with. (Under the Ancient Oaks, February 16)
The UU Church of Ogden, Utah, receives a rave review from a visiting blogger.
The love and sense of community you feel in it is almost tangible. . . . They approach religion and faith not with simple dogmatic answers that are beyond question, nor with the arrogance of certainty, but with humility and acknowledgment that there are diverse beliefs out there. (52 Weeks in 52 Faiths, February 16)
The Free Range Unitarian Universalists of Indianapolis shared this image, via the UU Media Works Facebook Page.
Odds and ends
Justin Almeida asks, “What is the difference between me playing the fool and making good life choices?”
I’ve come to identify that “wisdom” is taking what I know, and letting that knowledge be guided by my heart. However, it’s not just a one way street. It’s also taking the passions of my spirit, and running those intense feelings and emotions through my rational mind. In all the decisions I’ve made that have been positive and constructive, I had taken the time to let my mind and spirit have a conversation about my actions. (What’s My Age Again, February 17)
The Rev. James Ford shares a video of his talk, delivered at the Harvard Divinity School, entitled “Zen and the Art of Liberal Ministry.” (Monkey Mind, February 19)
If you’re not already reading Doug Muder’s blog, The Weekly Sift, his posts this week about defining racism and Michael Sam coming out are a good place to start. (The Weekly Sift, February 17)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak rolls three identities into one experience: minister, activist, rock star (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, February 14)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford celebrates the joys of deep friendships.
[Friendship] is a love story of another sort. . . . Friends fight. Friends get disappointed in each other. Friends have each other on a pedestal, the friend drops, and yet still, amazingly, we love each other. Warts and all, we are friends. (Boots and Blessings, February 14)