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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.

Transgender remembrance, UUA politics, congregational matters, and more

Transgender Day of Remembrance

Barb Greve recognizes the importance of a transgender day of remembrance, but wishes for more.

It’s an important act: to memorialize the dead, particularly those killed for being who they are. It’s an act that allows for the public processing of pain, a necessary requirement to social change . . . . [But] I yearn for a time when instead of memorializing transgender and genderqueer individuals who have been killed for living their/our lives authentically, we will take time to celebrate the gifts these individuals offer our communities. (Barb’s Bantering, November 20)

The Rev. Nori Rost asks, “What can we do, besides light candles once a year to create a safer world for our Transgender kin?”

For one thing, we can tell the truth. We can tell the truth to our children who ask us about bodies and genders. We can say there is a wonderful diversity of combinations of bodies and souls and sometimes they match what culture wants to see and sometimes they don’t, but we’re all uniquely wonderful and cherished; we are all of inherent worth and dignity, as we Unitarian Universalists like to say. (sUbteXt, November 20)

Diane Daniel and her spouse Lina have relocated to the Netherlands, and she finds herself struggling with explaining their past to new friends.

I’ve told them I have a Dutch wife, so they’ve categorized me as a lesbian. Most of them haven’t met Lina yet. What happens when they do? Will they figure it out? Even if they don’t, do I share our past? I’m still working through these feelings of caring what people think and of balancing our privacy against wanting to be open and intimate with others, which is my usual way of forming friendships.

I realize my tension surrounding who to tell what and when will be a lifelong challenge, but the more I examine it, the more tolerant I become of other people’s differences and fears – and of my own. All of us are souls, worthy of embracing. (She Was the Man of My Dreams, November 20)

UUA politics

The Rev. Tom Schade tells us what he wants in a UUA president.

What I want from the UUA President is leadership: a skilled effort at persuading by deed and word what is important and what is necessary to do now. I want to see the UU President preach universal salvation in today’s context. Our nation needs visionary leaders and progressive religion is one of the few places where that leadership can grow. (The Lively Tradition, November 17)

The Rev. Dawn Cooley proposes a system of direct democracy in the UUA as a response to some conflicting assumptions.

Assumption #1: That we want to bring more diverse voices to the table of governance at General Assembly.

Assumption #2: What we have been doing is not working.

Assumption #3: Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. (Speaking of, November 20)

Congregational matters

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum concludes her series about UU sermon writing with the radical proposal that perhaps ministers don’t always have to preach their own words.

[The] truth is . . . Sunday morning worship is still the heart of what we church ministers do. It’s appropriate that we throw much of our lives into that work, and while it’s always good to find ways to make that easier, another option is to take that work that we’ve poured our lives into and use it more. . . .

What if instead of always crafting our own sermons we sometimes shared, openly, what we felt was the best writing out there on the subject at hand—even if it was not our own? (Rev. Cyn, November 17)

“A Curious UU” wonders how congregations can be all things to all people.

So, someone said recently that when most African-Americans walk into a UU church service, they immediately feel out of place because most UUs don’t have the same tradition in dressing well for church. . . .

I’m thinking that there are many UUs and perhaps even more youth, who, if they walked into a church service of well-dressed people, would immediately feel out of place. (A Curious UU, November 16)

Finding our way

Catherine Clarenbach writes that momentum can wreak havoc with clear-headed decision-making.

[You] need to lay down the fun of momentum and the delight of enthusiasm.

You’ll get them when you need them, I promise. But at the beginning of figuring out a decision is not the time for them. In general, they obscure wisdom and make it difficult to perceive clearly what our next steps might be. (The Way of the River, November 18)

Colleen Thoelle is outraged by her son’s teachers, who seem unreasonably concerned about his imaginative play.

He seems to have a knack for tilting people slightly off balance and leaving them wondering what winds just blew through. I think, if they are willing, they just might learn a thing or two from him this year. And maybe just maybe, he will open their minds to what is real. Just like he did mine. (The Family Pants, November 18)

For Liz James, Robin Williams’s death prompted soul-searching about her own need for an audience.

I would be that comedian
that preacher

there are days when I want so badly to be
so
funny, so
wise, so
whatever-might-leave-you
breathless

days when I feel addicted to that
gasp
and I can imagine a world where it
could easily become the only moment when I could
fully
exhale (Rebel With A Label Maker, November 19)

Andrew Hidas puts Brittany Maynard’s choice to end her life in the context of other cries for freedom.

Truly, Maynard’s quest to be make an autonomous decision, in a completely rational state of mind, regarding how much suffering she was willing to endure (and put her family through in watching her) strikes at the very core of the freedom and self-determination that we so revere in the free world. (traversing, November 15)

Doing God’s work, peace is complicated, and more UU writing

Doing God’s work

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum is an agnostic doing God’s work.

What, then, is the purpose of religion, if not to spread faith? Why do we have churches, if not to bring people to a faith in God? One answer could be, we don’t need them. My answer is that the purpose of religion is not faiths but works. The purpose of the church is to create the beloved community here on earth. We can’t know for sure what happens after this life. We can know that in this life, people are suffering, the earth is hurting, and justice is denied. And so we engage in this work.

And so it is that I believe I’m an agnostic doing God’s work. Because the work of the church is love. (Loved for Who You Are, November 10)

Peace is complicated

The Rev. Susan Maginn celebrates her acceptance into the Navy Chaplain Corps.

Years ago I would guess I was pretty typical among political and religious liberals who are more comfortable with pitying members of the military than with truly understanding the kind of motivation and commitment it takes to serve in the military. And now, I’m one of them!

I’m excited to count myself among our amazing Unitarian Universalist military chaplains. I’m excited to carry a ministry where I can be devoted to a unit of dynamic young adults who come from a variety of religious, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. I’m excited to serve a ministry that will have variety, likely changing focus and physical location at least every few years, perhaps on another coast, perhaps overseas. I’m excited about a ministry where the special role of the chaplain has high-stakes and is considered an essential component of a unit’s success. I’m excited about a ministry where being in great spiritual and physical health is not just an option, but a requirement. (Quest for Meaning, November 13)

The Rev. Ian White Maher walked out of this past year’s Service of the Living Tradition because it, “mostly through omission, normalized a vision of a nation at war that is inconsistent with who we say we are as a religious movement.”

[Chaplain Rebekah Montgomery’s] sermon did not tell the real story of what happens in war. It was a glorified retelling of America bringing light to the “backward” people, those who held worldviews that did not cohere with modern times. It was absolutely uncritical of our behavior, our motivations, and our responsibilities as people who believe in the sacredness of life.

The standing ovation was incredibly frightening to me. It seemed to mean that thousands of people who I consider faith partners could be swept up in a patriotic fervor that tells only about the glory and nothing about the real horror of what we are doing to people and the propaganda that we spread to diminish the worth of others and justify our own behaviors. (The Lively Tradition, November 13)

The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom remembers, twenty-five years ago, helping dismantle the Berlin Wall.

Those in power took over the project of dismantling the wall, but for a while . . . for a while it was something that dozens, hundreds of average citizens had taken upon themselves to do for themselves. Piece by piece.

Something to think about—and remember. (A Minister’s Musings, November 11)

Patrick Murfin profiles Kurt Vonnegut, a veteran born on Veterans’ Day, whose life was shaped by his experience of war.

Vonnegut was hard to pin down—an idealist and a cynic, a humorist whose satire was tinged with the deepest melancholy of man who had been brought up to believe in human progress “onward and upward forever” only to witness the gravest savageries of the 20th Century. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, November 11)

Rising tensions in Ferguson

The Rev. Krista Taves writes about her congregation’s weekly vigil for racial justice in Chesterfield, MO, amidst rising tensions around the pending Ferguson grand jury announcement.

We knew things were not right in St. Louis, but the increasing boldness of whites to express outright racist ideas and beliefs, with no fear of impunity, has been sobering. The Ferguson situation has exposed a level of racism that has always been there, but more latent and under the surface. This is what our black and brown sisters and brothers have been living with all these years. It saddens and angers me.

This experience has confirmed for me what our primary job is as white allies standing in solidarity with people of color. Our job is to change the hearts and minds of white people because that’s where the institutional power is. (And the stones shall cry, November 12)

The Rev. Tom Schade is preparing his heart for the storm coming to Ferguson, Mo.

[I]f I give myself over to fear, I will drift into being more afraid of the anger of the protestors than the violence of the police. I will end up wanting things to get back to “normal.” I will be motivated by a desire for peace and reconciliation and what I call “love.” . . .

The anger of people of color over police killings is a good thing, not an unfortunate event. The more forcefully, persistently, and insistently it is expressed the better it is. (The Lively Tradition, November 12)

Living with illness

The Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss writes about hospital errors, after a recent scare.

So what really killed Thomas Eric Duncan, depriving his fiancee and their son of the family life of which they long had dreamed? Was it really ebola? Or did he, as my own wife almost did, succumb to hospital error? (Politywonk, November 10)

With insider knowledge of both mental illness and Lewy Body Dementia, The Rev. Katie Farrell Norris discusses recent news about Robin Williams.

I live, every day, seeing the impact Lewy Body Dementia and mental illness have on people. I know death by suicide can be a result of both illnesses. . . . What we really need is more awareness of the different illnesses of the brain. We need to focus on quality of life, worth, and dignity. . . . We can work to make that a reality for people with all kinds of brain illnesses—even dementia and mental illness. We may or may not decrease the numbers of death by suicide, but we will decrease the shame around both of these illnesses and increase the likelihood of a better quality of life and more compassionate care for all. (Bipolar Spirit, November 13)

Integrate this

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum shares the first of a series of posts about practical aspects of bivocational ministry—in this post, talking about the amount of time it takes a UU minister to craft a sermon.

With all the discussion in recent months about bivocational ministry, it’s worth discussion what implications it has for that central role of the minister: the preacher.

My assertion is that Unitarian Universalist preaching for our ministers is a very different thing from preaching in Christian traditions, and from what lay people experience when they preach. And the reasons that this is different are also some of the reasons why many of our full-time ministers don’t preach every Sunday. (Rev. Cyn, November 13)

Jordinn Nelson Long questions the feasibility of so-called “work-life integration.”

There must be limits. We must make choices.

Including the choice of how to respond when “work life integration” is handed to us not as a point of exploration, but as a slippery non-answer to a request for consideration.

When that moment next comes,
We might choose to take what’s offered.
We might choose to view technology as another way to enforce scarcity.

Or we might just hand those shiny words back, raise our voices again, and ask that our real, live, bad mama selves be accommodated. (Raising Faith, November 12)

Post-election commentary, more love somewhere, heroes and holidays

Post-election commentary

The Rev. Diane Dowgiert commits to “loving the hell out of the world,” no matter who wins elections.

To love the hell out of the world means that we need to find our strong and brave heart. . . . We need the heart to stay together and not let ourselves become polarized by issues or by political parties. . . . We need each other if we are to remain strong hearted for the work ahead. Bending the arc of the universe toward justice takes strength. Strong is what we make each other. (Transforming Times, November 5)

The Rev. Dan Harper prepares to vote more thoroughly than many people do—and still feels like it’s not enough.

Democracy takes time, and I did not put in enough time. . . .

Today, I was reading Hannah Arendt’s On Revolution, and came across this quotation from Thomas Jefferson: “If once [our people] become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress and Assemblies, Judges and Governors, shall all become wolves.”

Is that howling I hear in the distance? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, November 5)

The Rev. Tony Lorenzen proposes a series of “technical fixes” to the problem of voter disenfranchisement. (Sunflower Chalice, November 5)

The Rev. Dan Schatz encourages us to keep on loving the world, even when current events discourage us.

Ours is still a world of wonder and beauty no less than hardship and tragedy. Remind yourself of the beauty. Let it feed you. If your soul is dry and parched, return to the well that nourishes you and drink deeply. . . .

There will be a time for the struggle; it has not gone away. There will be a time to dedicate our energies once again to campaign for what we believe in. Our work in that time will be far more effective if we come to it as whole people, spirits strengthened by the goodness around us.

Sometimes, the world can be hard. Love it anyway. (The Song and the Sigh, November 5)

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg asks, “Can you be both a religious liberal and a political conservative?”

Just as Unitarian Universalism and other progressive religious movements intend ourselves to be liberal religious traditions in the best sense of the word liberal—open to new ideas, generous, open-handed, open-hearted, and open-minded—there has been room historically and there is room today within our big tents for those who are conservative in the best sense of the word: caring about conservation of nature, upholding the beauty of traditions and rituals that accrued deep meaning through the test of time, reminding us of the importance not only of individual rights and equality, but also of community, authority, sanctity, and loyalty. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, November 3)

The Rev. Lynn Ungar has learned a lot from her Cub-fan congregants.

The Cubs lose. Everyone knows that. Historically, currently, the Cubs are just not what you would call a winning team. Which doesn’t stop the fans from rooting for their beloved Cubbies, year in and year out.

You love what you love, and you go out and yell on its behalf, following the statistics or the players or whatever markers of success or defeat you might have. You show up and cheer. When your team wins you get a parade. But when your team loses you have the opportunity to gather with your friends and mourn the losses and plot how next year will be better. (Quest for Meaning, November 6)

The Rev. Tom Schade believes that racism played a powerful part in this election.

The power of Obama to frighten people is still potent. It is testament to the power of racism as an semi-conscious ideological force for many white voters. Fear of black power is what makes white voters hate Obama. Increasing African American participation in the political structure, including the development of black political leaders, has precipitated more white backlash.

This has to be confronted and resolved for progressive change to happen in the United States. (The Lively Tradition, November 5)

More love somewhere

The Rev. Peter Boullata objects to UU revisions of the song, “There is More Love, Somewhere.”

Glibly rewriting a slavery-era African American expression of hope and determination should give us all pause.

There’s an air of hubris in this wordsmithing, and a lack of insight.

Joining together to sing “there is more love right here” to me smacks of self-satisfaction and self-centredness. In a world filled with have-nots, the haves glorying in their wealth, their abundance of blessings. We have hymns of thanksgiving. Can’t we sing them, instead of this awkward revision? (Held in the Light, November 1)

The Rev. Meg Riley shares seven ways to prepare for the Ferguson grand jury’s announcement, including this one:

Many perspectives will be vying with one another to dictate the narrative of what’s “really” happened. Pick a perspective that helps you stay present, and stick with it. For me, as a white, middle-class, middle-aged woman, even imagining what it is to be a young black man is virtually impossible. But I am a mother. I can imagine a mother’s grief, even if I don’t know what it means to be an African-American mother. For me, the person to stick with most closely—in my imagination, and in every news account possible—is Michael Brown’s mother, Lesley McSpadden. (HuffPo Religion, November 5)

Heroes and role models

The Rev. Sean Dennison likes having very human heroes—including musician Amanda Palmer.

Is Amanda Palmer perfect? No. And I am happy that she is not. While some want their role models to be perfect, I like mine to be human. Part of what keeps me engaged with Palmer and her art and music is that she is transparent about her mistakes. Like any of us, she tries and fails and tries again to live up to her own ideals. (ministrare, November 3)

As part of her November gratitude practice, Diana McLean honors the clergywomen who have been her role models. (Poetic Justice, November 2)

‘Happy’ ‘holidays’

The Rev. James Ford explains why he’s afraid of Christians—it’s because of their outrage about people who say “Happy Holidays.”

There is something hanging in the back of my mind when living in a country dominated by a group of people who have an ideology that puts me at the moment of my death firmly into the fires of hell for, well, forever. And it’s hard not to be vaguely aware of how easy a step it is from seeing someone as firewood in the future to seeing one as killable in the present tense.

And, frankly, this seasonal outrage sparks that anxiety. (Monkey Mind, November 4)

The Rev. Adam Eliot offers a different perspective, and encourages ministers to make room for uncomplicated expressions of spirituality throughout the extended holiday season.

For many of the people in your community (not necessarily your congregation, but the community at large) this is the only time they think about all those things we think about the rest of the year. I mean in a focused way. This means while we are grinching our way along, we are getting killed by the secular culture and the religious right. They speak the language that others speak rather than speaking their own language slowly, expecting folks to understand.

The season starts (as I mentioned) on Halloween when we think about fear and death. Then there is Thanksgiving which is about gratitude, family and so on. Then there is XMas which is about presents (if you let it be) or about something so much more. (The Burbania Posts, November 5)