Surviving terrible news, Buddhist UUs, and more

Surviving terrible news

This week the Religious Institute, a multi-faith organization dedicated to sexual health and justice, learned that its fiscal agent ceased operations and all its funding had disappeared. Its director, the Rev. Debra Haffner, a UU minister, writes that she is in the fight of her life.

The shock and the betrayal are beyond words. It appears that we are the victims of what may turn out to be a religious Bernie Madoff. . . . The staff of the Religious Institute—Marie, Blanca, and Michael—have been AMAZING. We pray, we cry, we hold each other, we feed each other, and we work incessantly. I have never felt so loved. And I have never known how strong I can really be. We are in the wilderness, but we WILL survive. . . . The kindnesses people have offered demonstrate to me how loved we are, how we can get through anything with enough love and support, and concrete actions. (Sexuality and Religion, March 1; see on Monday for news coverage)

A few weeks ago, the Rev. Christana Wille McNight received a letter from the attorney for the redevelopment congregation she served, notifying her that her contract would not be renewed.

For a short period of time, my vocational path was clouded, and with it, the future of the spiritual community we have been building.  I had felt so sure, you see, that this church, at this location in Norton, was the way to bring about a version of vibrant, transformative, Unitarian Universalist faith.  But as I started to talk to people—people who have been part of the Norton community and the Unitarian Universalist community, and the people who are interested in what we have been doing in Norton—a path opened that I never would have expected a few weeks ago.

Yesterday, I signed a contract to become the full time minister at the First Parish Unitarian Church in Taunton.  (Ordinary Days, February 28)

Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, peace and justice

A few years ago, the Rev. James Ford offered the basics of Zen meditation, and the listening ear of a UU minister, to a young man haunted by nightmares who was returning to Iraq for a second tour.

He said, “I need peace.” He paused. And then added, “I think meditation could help.”

Peace. Two and a half millennia ago the Buddha spoke of our broken hearts, our persisting dis-ease, that sense of anguish, which seems to follow human life no matter what we do, no matter who we are. And he spoke of peace, of a way through to another shore. (Monkey Mind, February 29)

For the Rev. Meredith Garmon, the inner peace of his Zen Buddhist practice supports the outer justice of his Unitarian Univeralist activism.

Meditation, and chanting, and reading the sutras and trying to take them to heart—these are important parts of my spiritual life. For me, they are necessary. They are not sufficient. My faith also needs [the Western] prophetic tradition: the tradition of social critique that includes Amos and Jeremiah and also Socrates and Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Karl Marx, and thousands of muckraking journalists exposing corruption. My faith needs our prophetic tradition reminding me that nothing less than the sacred ground of being, the source of healing and wholeness that we call by many names, the creativity and aliveness of reality, calls out for social justice. (Lake Chalice, February 25)

Justice and General Assembly

At this year’s Justice General Assembly the UUA Board of Trustees will present a resolution repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery.  “Cooking Together,” the UUA’s immigration justice blog, provides helpful background on the topic.

In 1452, a papal doctrine was created endorsing the conquest and exploitation of non-Christian lands and peoples. . . . Centuries later, in 1823, the Doctrine of Discovery was taken up in the U.S. Supreme Court case, Johnson v. M’Intosh, and the resulting opinion adopted the notion of “discovery” into U.S. Law. (Cooking Together, February 29)

Returning from an intensive session at Solexico, a language school in the Yucatan, UUA trustee Linda Laskowski shares her motivation for brushing up on her Spanish skills.

I have no illusions that this will now allow me to function fully as a dual language social justice worker, but it does help create an underlying context and understanding of the issues we are moving into with the influx of Spanish-speaking people into the US, documented or not. . . . Though most of them speak “my” language, the cultural context of knowing more of “theirs” is invaluable. . . . Justice GA is only a beginning. (UUA View from Berkeley, February 29)

Andy Coate has a General Assembly headache, brought on by its financial inaccessibility.

The folks who get to attend GA year after year are the people who can afford it.  The people who get to consistently vote each year on things that are important to them are the people who have the money to go each year.  If we were serious about wanting to bring and KEEP more young people in this faith it seems like there would be a way to let them see what is arguably the best that UUism has to offer. (thoughts ON, March 1)

The costs of standing still

The Rev. Daniel Harper says the excerpt from Eboo Patel’s latest book in UU World (“If we don’t invest in our youth, others will”) should be required reading.

Patel points out that totalitarians and fundamentalists have done a very good job at recruiting teenagers to engage in “targeted assassinations and mass murder” in the name of religious beliefs. Pluralists and religious liberals and moderates, on the other hand, don’t invest in teenagers, and even actively push them away. . . .

The totalitarians and fundamentalists . . . have built thriving youth ministries that produce fanatics. If we poured the kind of energy and effort and money into youth that they do, we could nurture a huge cadre of young people committed to spreading peace and justice and love throughout the world. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, February 27)

Vance Bass asks, “Can we stay right where we are?”

Does our weekly worship practice really offer a pathway of life-giving spiritual experience? Or does it focus entirely on the comfort of current members, while avoiding the challenge of change (which might bring in new faces and ideas)?  (Liberal Religion Gets Loud, February 27)

The Rev. David Owen-O’Quill provides three clues to the mission and myths of contemporary worship.

What is clear to everyone is that the Boomers may be the last generation to reliably connect to traditional worship. . . . The big fear is that if we wait until the millennials are having kids to begin working on worship that speaks to gen-x’ers, well, let’s just say it would  be a very great example of very poor stewardship.

For those of you whose weekly worship experience is not contemporary, but you find yourself struggling with the challenge of updating your church for the 21st century my heart goes out to you.  (News from the spiritual underground, February 29)

Around the blogosphere

Matt Kinsi is frustrated with UU anti-authoritarianism.

The latest round, which inspired this rant this evening, was on the GA Listserv with someone rallying, as per usual, against the Board. . . . Has a prior Board kicked their puppy into a pot of soup and served it to the 1%? What is it? Are so many UUs that jaded where they automatically mistrust first? (Spirituality and Sunflowers, February 25)

“Strange Attractor” learns a lesson in perspective while winter stargazing.

Jupiter is the second-largest thing in the solar system. At two and a half times the mass of all the other planets combined, and 66 moons, it dwarfs everything else we can see from the Earth except the sun. From my perspective it is a small, bright dot in the sky over Cook Inlet. The space between those two ideas is where I find my place in the universe. (Strange Attractor, March 1)

As she recovers from a total knee replacement, Deb Weiner reflects on the sustaining comfort of a community of friends.

Send me your good thoughts, I said; your prayers if you pray; but know that I feel held by all of you. That image, of being held, was the most powerful vision I had, both before the surgery and now. . . . It was, and is, a beautiful and comforting image—and it is not only imagined. . . . As I wrestle with the pain that will not leave me quite yet, I try to think calm and peaceful thoughts at night as I talk to my body, to tell it to relax into sleep.  And each night, lying next to Ben—who has done so much and continues to do so much to support me—I can almost feel the others around me, gently lifting me up, holding me. It is a blessing. (Morning Stars Rising, March 2)

Shawna Foster offers a rewrite of Sophia Lyon Fahs’ “For So the Children Come,” reflecting the increasing complexity of family life.

[Children] do not always come the same way, born of the seed of a man and women. While technically true, it ignores our changing society in which many people adopt, gender identity is becoming diffuse, and pays homage to one type of heterosexual relationship: we got married and then we had kids and lived happily ever after. Human life is far more complicated. (Vessel, February 29)