In a courageous, truth-telling series of posts, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum comes out of the fat closet, and calls on UU congregations to examine the ways in which they are less-than-welcoming to those who struggle with their weight.
[Here’s] the vision I hold out—fat people could walk into your sanctuary and know instantly that they are welcomed in your church. What would it take to make that a reality? What signals might be sending the opposite message? How can they be addressed? It’s time for more Unitarian Universalists to take up this question—to preach it, to teach it, and to live it. (Rev. Cyn, June 7)
Preparing for General Assembly
The Rev. Thom Belote outlines eight things to watch out for at this year’s General Assembly in Louisville, including the election of a new moderator.
In the only contested election this year, Jim Key and Tamara Payne-Alex are each vying for the position of head of the UUA Board of Trustees. After perusing the websites of both candidates, Key is leading the way in endorsements from established power players in our movement while Payne-Alex has a young, upstart following. (Rev. Thom, June 13)
During GA that year, the US Supreme Court threw out all the Sodomy laws, declaring them unconstitutional. When the decision was announced in the convention hall, everyone was cheering and crying. Love was no longer illegal.
I don’t know what the Supreme Court will decide on the two cases before them now. Their decision just might be announced during this year’s General Assembly in Louisville. Hopefully, we will be able to cheer again. (Sermons, Poetry and Other Musings, June 12)
At this year’s assembly, the Commission on Appraisal will present its new report, Who’s In Charge Here? The Complex Relationship Between Ministry and Authority; the Rev. Scott Wells wonders the report isn’t available for download.
So where, as a responsible and engaged Unitarian Universalist, do you do download the report to read? Download like all the recent reports? Download, even like some pre-Internet reports which have been subsequently scanned? Even the first, from 1936 from the American Unitarian Association. (Boy in the Bands, June 11)
Mary Benard, editorial director of Skinner House Books, says the report will be available as an ebook soon after GA.
Believing what we must
The Rev. Meredith Garmon remembers saying, thirty years ago, that as Unitarian Universalists, “We can believe whatever we want to.” He also remembers the scolding he received from an older UU.
“You think I believe in what I do because I want to?” she said. “I believe this because I have to. You think here in Waco, Texas my life wouldn’t be a lot easier if I could be a Baptist? But I can’t. My conscience won’t let me. If this were about what I wanted to believe,” Neecie continued, “about what I found it convenient and easy to believe, you wouldn’t see my face here on Sunday morning.” (Lake Chalice, June 12)
After she preaches at an interfaith service during a UCC-sponsored youth music camp, a deacon asks Karen Johnston, “Aren’t you ever going to talk about God?” In this post, Johnston explains what “God” means to her.
I sense a sacred glue that is all-encompassing, within and without, interpenetrating and animating. It is the deep and essential life pulse that is beyond. Beyond what? Human comprehension, to be sure. Time and space: yup. This planet, this universe: I’d bet on it. . . .
I call all this divine, which is where my semi-orthodox Buddhism stops and my polydoxical panentheism starts up. And room for something like God enters in. (Irrevspeckay, June 11)
If I go to the gym and people are sprawled out napping on the floor of the aerobics studio, I will think the gym management is not just remiss, but nuts. It’s no different in church. We’re all there for heart strengthening of a different kind. Leaders should be empowered to be able to say: “Get off the aerobics floor, please. You can nap at home.” (PeaceBang, June 10)
My VUU buddy, Joanna Fontaine Crawford, asked, “At the end of the year, have our congregants gotten anything out of it except being poorer and more tired?”
How can we simplify? How can we focus on what is really important? How can we match our ambitions to our the reach of our grasp? How can we cut down on the administrative work? (The Lively Tradition, June 13)
Fasts and celebrations
Catie Scudera and Jeff Briere collaborate on a graphic celebrating Pride Month, quoting Universalist poet Sarah Edgerton Mayo: “Our hearts are a rainbow of varied dye, blended as softly as that of the sky.” (UU Media Collaborative, June 10)
I am a pragmatist. I am aware that some of these men were probably associated with terrorists. I am aware that things happen in war that sensitive souls like my own find abhorrent. And at the same time, I am aware that each of these prisoners deserve to be treated as human beings with inherent worth and dignity. . . . I am disgusted that my own government has allowed this situation to not only perpetuate, but to collapse into such a moral, ethical and spiritual disaster. (Speaking of, June 9)
Children and families
In a thoughtful guest post, Kelly Mahler responds to the question, ““How can we more effectively reach out to and involve young adults and families with children as fully participating congregants?”
I don’t want every meeting or event I attend to require that I use the church childcare service. I would much rather have my child be a part of it, and have her see adults modeling good behavior. I realize this is not possible a lot of the time, but perhaps we should be thinking specifically on what kinds of events could be scheduled that would create opportunities for our children to participate. (UU Planet, June 13)
Mookie, putting wombat stuffie under her shirt: We’re a wombat family and I’m going to have a baby. . . .
Me: Oh, exciting!
Mookie: You be the daddy.
Me: Can’t we be two mommies? And you be the mama who’s having the baby.
Mookie: But then we’ll be teased.
Me, dropping out of character, but trying to keep it light: Have you had teasing about having two mommies?
Mookie: Yes. People say “that’s weird.”
Me: We can handle that. We know how. (Mookie’s Mama, June 13)
During the gift and advice giving, I told the group, “Liesl and I are introverts. It’s hard for us to be the center of attention like this. But from the beginning of the plans for this party, it’s been my sense that our daughter needs us to get past that. Our daughter needs us to introduce her to her village. Thank you for being her village.”
As she was leaving the party, one of my friends told me, “These people love you. Let them.” (Nagoonberry, June 10)
On the anniversary of her aunt’s murder, the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern writes about her uncle, the “good guy” who shot her; she also tells the story of the attempted murder of her father, who survived because the “good guy” had a knife rather than a gun.
When people talk about how we need to make sure “the good guys” are allowed guns, they are talking about people like my uncle Jimmy. He was a middle-aged, middle-class, white, college-educated English professor and poet. . . . If we had decided to arm the good citizens of Cape Elizabeth, Maine, so that they might protect us from machine-gun-wielding drug dealers and mass murderers, Jimmy could have been first in line, and he would have been handed a lethal weapon with a smile. And taken it home and used it exactly the way he did use it. (Sermons in Stones, June 3)
What do UUs believe?
A 2011 blog post by the Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell sparked a lively conversation in the UU Growth Lab this week; within a few days, more than 250 comments were made, weighing in on whether the article was an accurate representation of UU theology. (The UU Growth Lab is a closed Facebook group with more than 1000 members; it describes itself as “a free space and think tank for Unitarian Universalist change agents.”)
The Rev. Tom Schade notes that many took offense at the traditional religious language in the post.
[The] Rev. Sewell’s piece tries to answer the misconception “you can believe anything you want and be a Unitarian Universalist.” I think that it sometimes it would be more accurate to say “you can’t believe anything and say it out loud as a Unitarian Universalist without offending some other UU, who will let you know.”
It looks like Rev. Sewell just found that out. (The Lively Tradition, June 4)
The Rev. Dan Harper raises a separate theological issue—human nature.
[We] need not feel we have to choose between the unfashionable traditional Christian myth of original sin on the one hand, and on the other hand the combination of two myths, the Romantic myth of natural human goodness and the Enlightenment myth of human rationality. I think it’s time for a new myth. But I don’t yet know what it is. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, June 2)
Sometimes that journey brings them back, for a visit or to stay, and sometimes it doesn’t. But I hold all of them in my heart, lightly. May they be blessed. . . . May they find that which makes them come alive, and then share that with the world. May they be strong, may they find love, may they be whole. (The Children’s Chalice, June 6)
Many evangelical Christians . . . . ask if you are “saved” by which they mean they want to know if you have accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and savior so that an angry God won’t send you hell. This is something at which Unitarian Universalists recoil as a general rule. However, I wonder if our fascination with growth amounts to much the same thing. . . . Both growth and being saved strike me as being more about increasing the number of people in the fold than anything else. (Sunflower Chalice, June 3)
Hearts, minds and hands
June Herold’s initial experiences with Unitarian Universalism were very cerebral, but eventually she found what her heart was seeking.
It seemed that UUism—a faith populated by very educated individuals—asked deep questions that were in many ways philosophical and abstract. I hadn’t yet witnessed questions that wondered what the mystery of life (God’s love, for those who don’t have a problem with the G word) feels like and how to be aware of God’s presence.
Worship services . . . eventually produced that feeling, that awareness. To me, Sunday worship unraveled as a way to experience that which the heart understands and not necessarily what the eye sees and the brain defines. (The New UU, June 1)
Paul Oakley responds to a recent blog post by the Rev. Tom Schade about UU worship.
The service that persons of faith and congregations of faith give to the world is worship. What we do when we come together in our sanctuaries is liturgy. Liturgy enables worship, but it is not worship. Our “place of worship” must be the wide world not our narrow gathering places where we “charge our batteries” and reinforce our sense of oneness before we go live it. (Inner Light, Radiant Life, June 2)
Walking with signs and wonders
For the Rev. Ellen Cooper-Davis, seeing a snake while interval training is a sacred moment in the midst of an ordinary activity.
Whatever you call it, there comes every so often a moment in which there seems more at work than whatever ordinary things our senses are perceiving. These moments are there, simply waiting for us to notice them; we need only be awake and watching. . . . I call them signs and wonders. (Keep the Faith, June 3)
Frankly, there is nothing about the call to ministry that makes sense to me, not on its face. I have another career, one that I believe in and am good at. I have never considered leading a church—and in fact, my initial response to the soul-provocation I have felt in the last year was to consider leaving my church. (Raising Faith, June 3)
Walking in a cemetery, Rebecca Hecking notes that some graves have cut flowers, some planted flowers, and some plastic flowers.
The whole idea of plastic flowers really speaks volumes about contemporary culture. What does it mean when we create a permanent synthetic version (made of stuff that will take centuries to decompose completely) of a symbol of impermanence? And then use that symbol to decorate a grave? I think perhaps the deeper truth here is that we as a society are uncomfortable with not only death, but with the whole idea of the cycle of birth, growth, decay and death. (Breath and Water, June 6)
Sometimes you summon up what is inside of you and do the brave thing, walk the talk. But what about all those other people, the ones who joined the protest once they knew about the water cannons and the pepper spray, once the news spread . . . of the injured and the dead? What about them? What does it take to knowingly walk into that kind of danger and chaos?
It takes, I think, an allegiance to a self that is greater than the self that feels the police batons and the pepper spray—a self that is injured not by physical indignities, but rather by moral ones. (Quest for Meaning, June 5)
Doug Muder writes that profit-making corporations are dangerous because they are amoral, and provides practical suggestions for “starving the corporate beast.”
If you try to be a purist about these kinds of things, you’ll end up living in a Unabomber cabin someplace. So the better question is: What’s the low-hanging fruit? You probably can’t (or don’t want to) disentangle yourself from corporate octopus completely, but how much of your money can you route around it without joining a hippie commune or something?
The answers below are not exhaustive and follow a few simple themes: Join co-ops, which are owned by their customers. Deal with local businesses that are owned by individuals or families. If you have to deal with a corporation (and often you do), pick smaller ones over bigger ones—and look for the occasional corporation that is owned by its employees. (The Weekly Sift, June 3)
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.
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)
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)
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)
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)