‘UU exceptionalism and spiritual manifest destiny,’ and other topics

Manifest destiny, the purpose of worship, and digital ministry

Karen Johnston warns us about the risks of UU exceptionalism and spiritual manifest destiny.

When we hear something of resonance enacted or proclaimed by someone of another faith and then call them UU, we are doing our version of making them into “anonymous Christians.”

Not only is it a kind of religious hegemony, it is a kind of spiritual manifest destiny, claiming particular thoughts, values, or beliefs as ours and ours alone, even if others have displayed them for centuries or millennia before the arrival of us latecomers. (Irrevspeckay, May 26)

The Rev. Tom Schade continues his series on “reimagining Unitarian Universalism” by looking at UU worship.

UU Worship now serves our highest purpose; it has become a celebration of the religious community that sponsors it. It exists to please that community, be a pleasurable and meaningful experience for it. For all the changes in our worship, there is a continuity between the old “concert and a book report” to the new “happy, clappy sing-along with a personal message from the minister’s heart”. Worship is designed to please the present congregation, and show it off in a favorable light. The danger is that worship is becoming a show put on by the congregation to attract new people to join the church, so as to balance the budget. And so, the minister is up there tap-dancing and doing card tricks to keep folks entertained. (The Lively Tradition, May 25)

June Herold explains that digital ministry needs not only to attract new members, but also to support sustainable community among those who find their way to our congregations.

Digital ministry is about relating with others—about mutual caring, giving, and witnessing. It serves a higher good not a profit and loss statement. It ministers and doesn’t do traditional “church marketing.” Our digital presence must be an authentic connection with individuals with whom we want to grow; with whom we want to learn; and with whom we can give much to the world.

Our authenticity is real online in digital ministry but it will ring hollow once people visit us if radical hospitality isn’t one of the key premises on which our ministries stand and operate. (The New UU, May 24)

Nurturing ‘sticky’ faith

In this season of bridging ceremonies, the Rev. Daniel Harper explores the challenges of making our faith “sticky” for youth and young adults.

Many ministers are threatened by the thought of integrating teenagers into worship leadership, preferring that teens lead worship at cons rather than in their own congregation. Many youth advisors and youth ministers are convinced that they know what’s best for youth, that they alone can speak for youth, and they want to maintain the status quo of segregated youth groups and con culture in order to maintain their positions of power—in fact, the same can be said for many of our older youth leaders. And many adults really don’t want teenagers fully integrated into the life of the congregation; teens make a good involuntary work force when there’s scut work to be done, but dealing with teenaged exuberance and love of religion is more than some adults want to deal with on Sunday mornings. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, May 28)

Teresa Honey Youngblood created this graphic, celebrating UU Religious Education, quoting Baal Shem Tov: “Everybody is unique. Compare not yourself with anybody else lest you spoil God’s curriculum.” (UU Media Collaborative, May 27)


Observing Memorial Day

Thalassa, who is a veteran, draws our attention away from celebrations of summer, calling us to remember “the honored dead.”

Let their deaths be a solemn reminder on this day, and every day, to treat one another with compassion, to honor and respect our differences as well as our similarities, and to live our lives in a manner that kindles the spirit of peace a little bit stronger and a little bit longer, pushing back the darkness of war for as long as we are able. (Musings of a Kitchen Witch, May 26)

The Rev. Dawn Cooley remembers a young man she knew twenty-five years ago, whose uncontrollable anger about the treatment of veterans pushed him over the edge.

I pause and I remember what made Tim so frustrated. I think about all those who sacrificed so much that we might be here today. I think about their families, and my heart hurts for them. I think about the men and women who come back wounded in body and spirit and the high rate of suicide among returning soldiers. And if, on Memorial Day, I am in the pulpit, I summon my sorrow and my gratitude and I preach it.

How could I not? (Speaking of, May 26)

The Rev. Carl Gregg challenges congregations to imagine remembering all the casualties of war—members of the military, and civilians also.

Many of us make a weekly pilgrimage to a community of faith, to sanctuaries dedicated to reconciliation and peace. We come for many different reasons, seeking comfort and challenge, peace and perspective, insight and inspiration—enough to make it one more week. We also come to confront the problems of the world and to combine our efforts in making this world a better place for all people. And what does it mean that every day for more than a decade soldiers and civilians in faraway lands have been deeply affected by war, yet weeks and months sometimes go by where none of that is explicitly acknowledged in our public worship? (Carl Gregg, May 26)

The Rev. Andy Burnette observes Memorial Day by practicing dissent.

While I appreciate deeply the service of all the brave women and men in our military, I despise the sending of so many of our working class young people to die. So today, I want to spend some time doing the most patriotic, pro-military, pro-veteran thing I can think to do: Criticizing our military policy.

. . . . Since the Civil War, on this weekend we have honored the memory of those who have died in the US Armed Forces. It is right that we do so. But let us not be guilty of the worship of death and destruction. Let the too-short lives of those who have died prod us on toward peace.  (Just Wondering, May 26)

Living complete

The Rev. John Morehouse learns that “living complete” means, among other things, accepting that “our lives will end without being finished.”

If all I did was try to keep working, and made no room for the next generation, when would my ability to share wisdom cease to be more important  than just being in the way? Our living is made complete when we step out of the way to let others finish what we have started. . . . The point is to live and let live and then to steward others behind us to take our place at the hammers and nails of life. (Facing Grace, May 26)

Terri Pahucki asks where God is in a no-good, very-bad day.

Surely, God is present and moving in me. I feel wholeness in the movement toward compassion—in the prayers for a grieving friend, in the awareness of the fragility of life, in the hug of comfort for an overstressed co-worker, in the moment of a conversation when I know to stop laughing and be silent—to be reverent and honor the unspoken pain. It’s in the wave of so many unexpected rushes to deeper meaning and call beneath the chaos, and the moment when I stop steaming with frustration at the long wait and begin to see the people around me as human beings, struggling with their own lives. (Walking the Journey, May 28)

Inspired by the his daughter’s Coming of Age class, Andrew Hidas shares his personal credo, and asks, “What’s yours?”

I do not believe life has any inherent “meaning.” Human beings have always shown great propensity to treat it as throwaway and cheap. We have also treated it as sacred and holy and precious beyond words. As humans, we create our own meaning, in the way we live our lives, in how we spend our time, in the thoughts we entertain, the goals we pursue, the ways and the people we choose to love. (Traversing, May 24)