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. Dr. David Breeden notes that the movie Selma changes some of the stories we tell ourselves about the Civil Rights movement.
An old African proverb says it better than 99% of postmodernist writing: “Until lions have historians, tales of the hunt will glorify the hunter.”
Director Ava DuVernay (Paul Webb shares the writing credit) has some incredulity going on, and her film blows apart several sacred metanarratives. One metanarrative is that the “good” federal government swept in and curtailed the power of “bad” state government. Another is that white liberals played a starring role in the struggle. Another is that black men led the struggle. Finally, the lions have a historian. (Quest for Meaning, January 22)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg, drawing on a recent biography of Rosa Parks, writes that Parks was far more complex than most of us know.
Almost universally she was remembered as “quiet,” “humble,” “dignified,” “soft-spoken,” “not angry” and “never raised her voice”—and she was remembered almost exclusively for that one moment in time when she refused to give up her seat.
This romanticized view of Rosa Parks masks the fullness of her life that included “nearly seventy years of activism.” Her refusal on December 1, 1955 to not give up her seat was deeply shaped her previous decade of activism. And she continued social justice work for decades to come. And although she recognized the strategic value of nonviolence—far from being meek and mild—Rosa Park’s “hero was Malcolm X.” (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, January 19)
Like other UUs, the Rev. Gretchen Haley wishes that James Reeb had been identified as a Unitarian minister.
I get it. We have a stake in this story; we want it to feel true. And yet, I worry that these questions about the film’s representation of the past can be a distraction from its urgent message for us today. While it’s not true that James Reeb was a priest—he was a Unitarian minister, and while it’s unlikely that one of the leaders in Selma called him a priest, it is critically important to pay attention to the fact that this African American female director in 2015 doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and to be open to the possibility that not many others do either. (Another Possibility, January 21)
Tradition and innovation
Katy Carpman draws a lesson about tradition and innovation from baking experiments.
Sometimes we go for tradition–using recipes and methods that our great-great-great grandmothers might have used way back when. Other times we try something very new, maybe taking a chance with something even our grandmothers couldn’t have bought in any store. It might be for the sheer novelty of it, or it might be a deliberate choice to be more inclusive to whomever walks in the door.
May it be delicious! (Remembering Attention, January 15)
The Rev. Sharon Wylie continues her “Church 101” series with the first of two posts about giving money.
[Pledging] is an important spiritual practice. I’m not saying that as a minister; I’m saying that as a congregant. My life changed when I began including the church on my list of monthly payments. It feels similar (to me) to making a commitment to regular exercise or healthful eating; it is saying, “this aspect of my life is important enough to me that I am willing to make it a priority.” (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, January 18)
The Rev. Scott Wells wonders, “Perhaps the problem isn’t that we’re too small, but too large.”
I’m half-joking, half-serious. We are institutionally too complex, with structures that are just large enough that they have to invest a high level of resources to keep going, but without the benefit of an economy of scale. (Boy in the Bands, January 19)
The Rev. Fiona Heath describes UU perspectives about Jesus.
UUs do not believe Jesus performed miracles, and not all UUs would even agree that Jesus was a rabble rousing activist. Some see Jesus as a mythic figure, not a real person, pointing to the lack of any contemporary accounts of his life and the story of his cruxification resembling ancient Egyptian and Babylonian tales of death and resurrection. Others believe he may have been a visionary during his life, but his story has been so refracted and amplified by the Gospels, by Paul and church doctrine and systems, that it is impossible to know the truth about Jesus. (The Empty Chalice, January 20)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom remembers scholar Marcus Borg, who died this week, thanking him for “reintroducing me to an old friend.”
Marcus Borg was one of the people who helped me to see a way to bring together my, if you will, post-Christian understanding of the world with my deeply rooted Christian identity. . . . And his invitation to “meet Jesus again for the first time” was incredibly exciting—I had, of course, previous “met” Jesus in the Presbyterian and Methodist churches of my youth, but this would be the “first time” I did so with my more mature perspectives. . . . I was not the same person who’d encountered Jesus before and, as Borg showed me, neither was Jesus. (A Minister’s Musings, January 22)
Prayers and podcasts
Karen Johnston offers a prayer for the nation of Myanmar, where she has been visiting.
May the people stay on the land.
May the land and the peoples be healed and rebuilt.
May I bring home the lessons of hospitality
given so freely and open-heartedly.
May the so much that is right
the so much that is wrong. (Irrevspeckay, January 20)
The Rev. Jude Geiger announces that he’s beginning a podcast about the spirituality of Dr. Who. (RevWho, January 17)
Bending the arc
Kim Hampton, after listening to conversations about the movie Selma, says that “the angry black woman has a question.”
Yes . . . James Reeb and Viola Liuzzo were in Selma and died because of it. And? Does the story always have to be about white people?
But let’s look at this on a larger scale . . . have you, my good UU friends, made so much of the Selma moment because our history—before and since—is just plain awful? (East of Midnight, January 12)
As a white ally, the Rev. Krista Taves finds motivation to persevere in the comments of Martin Luther King, Jr., about white moderates.
I don’t want African Americans in the country to keep paying the price because I’m afraid and resistant. Whenever I get tired or afraid, especially afraid of the reaction of other white people, I think about that. (And the stones shall cry, January 15)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, after attending a community conversation about policing and the African-American community, offers tips for making such discussions healthy and fair.
The practice of community is incredibly challenging and demanding. It can be scary, and especially for leaders. Blessings and gratitude to all those who do the work of creating community. Blessed be those who stand on the dais taking the heat, and blessed be those who show up to support or hold them accountable. If God wants anything of us, it is to come together and care about one another. Good community practice gets easier the more we do it, and makes us better at being human. (PeaceBang, January 9)
Heartfelt words about Starr King
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum calls for resolution of the conflict at Starr King School for the Ministry.
This has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever written, because I know it’s controversial, it’s murky, and I have conflicting loyalties. It pains me to think that speaking up for what I think is right may cost me friendships and be professionally or personally damaging. . . . But my worship theme for this month is “integrity.” I have tried to act with integrity in speaking first to the SKSM Board and President, and now by speaking up for what I think is right. This has gone on too long, and is creating more damage as it goes on to everyone involved. It’s time to change course, to de-escalate, and if that doesn’t happen, for UUs to speak up. (Rev. Cyn, January 12)
Today, UUA President, the Rev. Peter Morales, and UUA Moderator Jim Key issued a joint statement on the Starr King controversy.
The Rev. Dan Harper posts documents related to the situation at Starr King. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 10)
Liz James shares her story of falling in love with an armed robber—and what it says about love and community and connection.
I love those moments when we are coming to understand one another over great differences, learning new norms, gently touching the places of pain. When we cannot see so we reach out into the night and find our way by touch. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, January 11)
Desmond Ravenstones wonders what UUs mean by the word “love.”
The love I grew up with was many things—and not many things. It was not sentimental. It was not overly indulgent. It was not about surface politeness.
The love I grew up with led me to see in the principles and values of Unitarian Universalist how my parents wanted me to live. And yet, when I see other UUs use the word “love,” I sometimes wonder . . . (Ravenstone’s Reflections, January 15)
Children are welcome
The Rev. Sharon Wylie continues her “Church 101” series by answering questions about children in worship.
I understand that parents feel anxious about having children with them in worship. Surely they’ll be bored or misbehave; surely they’d prefer to play outside or be with the other children. And there will certainly be times when all those things are true. But in our very hectic and overscheduled world, sometimes there is value in just being together, in knowing you’re sitting with your family and that you love and care for one another. Worship is one of the places where that kind of closeness can happen. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, January 11)
A commercial that makes light of children’s lack of status makes Katy Carpman gasp out loud.
As a parent and an educator, I’ve spent the majority of my adult life working with children. And yes, in US culture, children are often seen as a low priority. They’re short, can’t vote, and don’t have their own credit cards.
Thank goodness they’re loud and adorable, or they might be overlooked entirely. (Remembering Attention, January 10)
Colleen Thoele’s young son asks her, “Are you gonna die, mama?”
The question that I pretty much knew was coming but it was still a punch to the throat. . . . Because what wanted to come out of my mouth and my brain actually sent was “Nope! Never. We will be together forever always alive and never dead. Amen.”
Thankfully the answer I gave, because they are so young still and fear separation was to ask the question, “Are you worried that I will not be be here to take care of you?” He nodded through tears. I could see the anticipation of my answer scaring him. “I don’t expect to die for a very long time. I expect to take care of you for as long as you need me.” (The Family Pants, January 13)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum welcomes changes to ministry and congregational life.
What if this unknown future Tom Schade is pointing to, the one where individual churches may not be the model that serves liberal religion, doesn’t make ministers irrelevant, but makes us better? What if it frees us up to serve our areas of excellence and rely on the excellence of others better in the areas where we are weak? What if it means that we don’t have to be all things to our people? What if new models can emerge that make us more connected, more interdependent, where we’re using our own strengths and the strengths of others, and the result is a Unitarian Universalism less mediocre, less amateurish, and more prophetic? (The Lively Tradition, January 10)
Shawna Foster is glad to see changes in how candidates for ministry are evaluated.
The answer to an increasingly educated populace is not a more educated clergy. But a clergy that can do things that college can’t. Hence, the emphasis on practice. (Little Lower than the Angels, January 13)
Arrivals and departures
Like many Unitarian Universalists, John Beckett has had a long struggle with his religious history.
Is my inner fundamentalist dead? I hear him every now and then, but he’s not inside me any more. He’s like a ghost—not an active spirit, just the psychic remains of a long traumatic experience. He appears and then fades away, getting weaker and weaker over time.
And he doesn’t interfere in my life any more. (Under the Ancient Oaks, January 13)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern wishes that UUs were better about wishing well those who choose to leave Unitarian Universalism.
Would we be able to let them go to their new spiritual home without criticizing it—“Christianity is just a myth—I prefer reality”? Would we insist on rewriting their life story—“You must not have understood science to begin with”? Would we proclaim our superiority with statements such as “Well, some people need a crutch”. . . ?
“Not all those who wander are lost,” we seekers like to say. And not all who choose a different path than ours are heading in the wrong direction. (Sermons in Stones, January 8)
Lift up your hearts
If the world’s news is getting you down, go and read the Rev. Phil Lund’s poem, “Lauds.” (Phil on the Prairie, January 14)
Patrick Murfin writes a poetic response to this week’s violence in Paris—and to critical voices.
I must, you say, if I love justice,
hold every man, woman, or child
who kneels five times a day
to equal account for these murders
and make them all pay
thousands of times over
with their own blood.
I see and condemn a sliver of fanatics,
you see whole races equally guilty. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, January 8)
The Rev. James Ford fears that the word “fundamentalism” has become almost useless.
Fundamentalism is not conservativism. Fundamentalism is not being a jerk.
Fundamentalism is a religious stance in reaction to modernity. It abhors modernity, and freedom of thought, and freedom of expression. It particularly targets women and sexual minorities and anyone who supports them. It calls us to an imaginary past where people all knew their place. (Monkey Mind, January 7)
Liz James sparks a lively Facebook conversation about the Fellowship Movement. (Facebook, January 6)
That Facebook conversation led to James’ post about the language wars in UUism—wars she wants to stop fighting.
I want to learn to listen to your story until my soul overflows with your memories. I want to tell you my story with gentle truth and unequivocal strength. I want language to be something we create together, understanding that words are made of definitions, yes, but also of shared experience. I want to learn the meaning of words at least in part the way children do—by seeing the pattern in the moments. These are the words we speak during heartbreak. These are the words for joy. (Free Range Seminarian, January 6)
The Rev. Christian Schmidt says it’s time for a new UU hymnal.
Our liturgy is literally the work of the people, and great worship is central to great religious communities. It’s time. It’s time to include more recent music, it’s time to update our readings, it’s time to move into the 21st-century in our technology.
It’s time. (A Free Faith, December 30 and January 4)
This week the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s online show, The VUU, tackled the topic of connections between UU and UCC congregations, talking with the Rev. Robin Bartlett and the Rev. Adam Tierney Eliot.
The future of ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade posts this for debate: “Resolved that the material and professional interests of the UU clergy hamper the development of new ecclesiological models more suitable for UU evangelism.”
If we step back, we don’t know what “church” is now; we don’t know what religious community looks like that isn’t inward, and self-protective, and an escape; we don’t know what “ministry” does beyond tend to those communities. But the material interests of the clergy drives us inexorably toward the maintenance of insular and inward looking religious communities when we know in our bones that we need to be expansive, outward looking, and boundary-crossing. (The Lively Tradition, January 7)
As a millennial minister, the Rev. Robin Tanner has concerns for what the future holds for ministers, and the movements they lead.
And so I see community organizers not being able to pay rent and ministers not being able to pay for childcare, I worry as these economic trends deepen who will lead our revolutions? What will happen when no one is paying the prophet? (Piedmont Preacher, January 8)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley has a suggestion for her colleagues.
Only the Southern region has gained in both adult and children participation over the last 10 years.
In the mid-19th century, Unitarian Horace Greeley is said to have declared “Go west, young man, go west.” Updated for today, let me say “Go south, dear colleague, go south!” (Speaking of, January 8)
The Rev. Jake Morrill collected haikus from his colleagues about their hopes for ministry in 2015.
Thirsty? Take a drink!
Then we irrigate the desert
From our source of love. . . .
Across the prairie
A Prophetic Sisterhood
We will be reborn. . . .
Adapt, ye leaders
from your center bend that arc
justice needs us now (Quest for Meaning, January 4)
The Rev. Sharon Wylie begins a series called “Church 101.” One post answered the question of what to say—and what not to say—to the minister after the service.
What not to say? No interaction with the minister in the receiving line should take longer than 30 seconds (AT MOST). It’s just not the place for a meaningful conversation. Perhaps if no one is behind you, you might linger for a few minutes, but keep in mind that the minister may have other people she needs to speak with or things she needs to do after services. And please, please don’t tell the minister anything you expect him to remember. He’s just spoken with dozens of other people and will likely not remember your request to call or visit or email the link to the thing. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, December 28)
A second post deals with a the two-common occurrence—when something bad happens to a newcomer on their first visit to a congregation.
If something happened on your visit that is off-putting enough that you are considering not returning, then let the minister know. We want to know. We won’t always be able to address it, and it may even be that thing that upset you is a good sign that the religious community you visited isn’t the right fit for you, but the minister can help you assess that. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, January 4)
Happy Anniversary, PeaceBang!
This week we wish a happy anniversary to the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, who recently celebrated ten years of blogging as PeaceBang. (PeaceBang, December 28) “PeaceBang” celebrated by hosting a Google Hangout about social media—looking backward, and looking forward.