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The Rev. Dr. David Breeden draws connections between the neglected work of building character and the decline of religious affiliation.
[We] too often forget nowadays—that the purpose of inner work, the work of building character, is to accomplish outward work, the work of compassion and social justice. . . . Joy and character. This is what many of those missing from the pews have hit the road searching for. (Quest for Meaning, May 14)
Andrew Hidas is nearing the “bell lap” of his life.
So here I am, right about at that point in my life, coming into the bell lap, the jostling of the crowded early laps done, some of my energy spent but enough left in reserve—absent a sudden bolt of lightning or a stumble—to bring this thing home. And as I sneak a peek behind me, I note that my competitors have all disappeared.
It’s just me out here, on my own, chased only by the half-formed, uncertain dreams of my youth.
How am I going to play it from here? (Traversing, May 13)
The Rev. Robin Tanner has a pet peeve: being told to “have faith.”
In our faith, we believe the doubts are holy spaces too. In our trust of the world, in our faith, we try to open ourselves to the experience of doubt. We hold doubt to be a process that enables creative, cataclysmic and transformative energies to emerge. If you never doubt, then do you have anything but a theoretical faith? (Piedmont Preacher, May 9)
With permission, Claire Curole shares the Rev. Sarah Lammert’s response to her letter about changes to the ministerial credentialing process.
I’ve been concerned for some time about the overall ‘Economy of Ministry.” Seminary tuitions have risen as much as 300% in the past 20 years. Many seminarians are carrying debt forward from their undergraduate years, adding to the burden. At the same time, traditional forms of church are struggling to achieve funding goals and new entrepreneurial forms of religious community haven’t yet produced sustainable financial models that support fair compensation for their clergy leaders. Denominational resources are at best flat or shrinking. (Sand Hill Diary, May 8)
David Pollard reports that CUUPS leaders and UUA staff are talking about changes in how they relate to one another.
The UUA has developed a pilot program called “UUA Recognized Communities” which is a way to help UU organizations grow and prosper. . . . CUUPS would seem to fit into this because we serve UU/Pagan, Nature and Earth-Centered practitioners whose needs and gifts have not found other communities in which to flourish fully. (Nature’s Path, May 8)
The Rev. Scott Wells suggests that congregations—and the UUA as a whole—might look to their particular gifts as a decision-making guide.
[Among our gifts is] congregational polity, which is not the sell it once was. But it’s easy to underestimate it when there’s no bishop trying to shutter your church. And with it come some skills and resources for self-reliance. (Boy in the Bands, May 13)
Tim Atkins believes congregations shouldn’t pay religious education teachers.
Paying teachers is a sign of not only a religious education program in trouble, but it’s a sign of a dying congregation. . . . If the congregation doesn’t care enough about the spiritual development of their children and youth to volunteer to guide them along their paths then I have trouble seeing why that congregation should continue to have a religious education program. (Tim Atkins, May 7)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom reminds us that emotions are complicated—in this case, for gay and lesbian couples finally able to be legally married.
The (still new) opportunity to “get married” is also a reminder that in the eyes of many, and of the state, they haven’t been. It was one more reminder, one more example, of the way(s) their relationships have been devalued and dismissed. I honestly can’t imagine what that has felt, and still feels, like, but I do imagine that it is a lot more complicated than a simple, “Wee! Now we can get married!” (A Minister’s Musings, May 11)
Karen Johnston considers Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in the shadow of the Baltimore uprising.
What if it a concerned citizens group of mothers, perhaps of all races and colors, walked to the police line, arm in arm, and had said, “No more”? Of course, this happened as part of the peaceful protests that were not widely publicized, but they spoke to the young Black and Brown people resisting.
What if this group was of mothers of the other Baltimore, still claiming as their own these youth, but did so by saying, “Not this way. Not in our name.” to the police officers? (Irrevspeckay, May 10)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann writes that some forms of religion can be abusive.
Just as an abusive partner uses coercion, intimidation, and threats to control another, some people seek to coerce, intimidate, and threaten others with their religious beliefs.
This religious intolerance represents a particularly insidious evil. By robbing us of a pure source of joy and enlightenment, these zealots seek to control our actions, our choices, even our thoughts. Through physical, emotional, and economic routes, religious bullies seek the power to limit our freedoms and cancel our basic human rights. (UUJeff’s Muse Kennel and Pizzatorium, May 9)
The Rev. Theresa Novak’s poem suggests different options for dealing with dirty laundry.
If you hang it on the line
For the whole world to see
The sunlight will bake it clean. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, May 3)
The Rev. Madelyn Campbell is disappointed in her white friends’ judgmental comments about Baltimore residents; sometimes, Campbell says, smashing things is a natural response.
Once my husband and I had a fight and I got really angry at him and I had a bowl of spaghetti in my hands, and I wasn’t going to throw it at him, so I smashed it on the floor. And it broke. And made a huge mess. I knew it was going to break and make a huge mess. And I did it anyway. I really just needed to do that. It startled everyone, it disrupted the moment, and it actually led to a solution. (The Widow’s Mite-y Blog, May 2)
Kim Hampton says we need to ask the right question about Freddie Gray’s death: why did police pursue him in the first place?
According to the BPD, Freddie Gray was neither a wanted person nor posing a threat to the public at the time he turned away from the police and started running. The police officers decided to go after Freddie Gray because he made “eye contact” and then ran. . . .
So in asking the right question . . . we may then begin to take a hard look at the criminalization of blackness and where that stems from. (East of Midnight, May 1)
The Rev. Gary Kowalski writes that “America has a problem.”
First and foremost, we must collectively admit that racism is a societal problem. We cannot just blame the police without also shouldering a portion of the responsibility for overcoming the legacy of discrimination that continues to make inequality the norm in our country. (Revolutionary Spirits, May 2)
Seminarian Claire Curole addresses recent changes in the Ministerial Fellowship Committee’s procedures.
The personal transformative work that is part of the formation process is difficult enough, and looks a little different for every student in formation. We who are called to the work of ministry arrive with diverse strengths and vulnerabilities, gifts and growing edges; the ministries of the 21st century to which we are called demand no less. We need credentialing structures and processes that facilitate the development of the vast resources we bring, not ones that make a difficult process even harder. (The Sand Hill Diary, May 7)
Liz James, a seminarian who is not pursuing fellowship, posted about the credentialing process.
The credentialing process was put in place for good reasons, but it has grown unwieldy over the years and the needs have drastically changed. It is an emperor’s new clothes situation, because it’s hard to stand up and say “this is ridiculous—we are not getting enough out of all this to justify what is being sacrificed” to the people who will (or won’t) be granting you credentialing. (Facebook, May 7)
Adam Dyer wonders if white, financially comfortable gay and lesbian couples will abandon activism once marriage equality is legal across the United States.
The question is, will the same happy gay and lesbian couples who embrace and celebrate on the steps of the Supreme Court in victory for their ability to marry and share benefits, then be willing to turn around and travel the 29 miles up Interstate 295 to march in the streets of Baltimore to support their black trans* siblings who are targeted and murdered by police? . . . Will the major donors to Equality California also fund safe spaces for Cambodian LGBT youth in Long Beach?
We cannot let the LGBT movement turn into a cultural Detroit, Oakland or Cleveland…abandoned by the people who can now afford to disappear into the suburban mainstream. (Spirituwellness, May 1)
The Rev. Dan Harper has been following marriage equality arguments at the Supreme Court—including Justice Alito’s questions about ancient Greece.
[Legal] marriage today differs radically from legal marriage in ancient Greece. Rather than a contract that was entered into by a prospective spouse on the one hand and the father of a prospective spouse on the other hand, legal marriage today is a contract that is entered into by the two prospective spouses. Furthermore, the ancient Greeks considered marriage a legal agreement between men; by contrast, our conception of marriage allows both women and men to enter into this legal agreement. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, May 4)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford hopes to encourage members of her congregation to be like feral cats—free to follow where their hearts lead, as they love the hell out of the world.
I don’t want to corral that energy, I want to stoke it.
They say if you feed them, you’ll never get rid of them. That sounds pretty good, too. Let’s figure out how to feed them, so they keep coming back for the sustenance that will keep them going.
And let’s, all of us, find our own wild side. We can still be good upstanding responsible citizens, paying our taxes, bringing a casserole to the potluck. (Boots and Blessings, May 1)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern describes her congregation’s youth ministry, ending with their core motivation for their work.
All of this is a matter of saving lives and saving souls—not from Hell, since we’re Universalists, but from the earthly hell of fear, pain, and meaninglessness. Since long before Palo Alto’s woes hit the New York Times, our congregation has grappled with the stresses that our local culture puts on teenagers. . . . How can we, as a faith community, ameliorate these problems and offer a counter-cultural alternative to the high-pressure world of Silicon Valley teenagers? . . . That’s what we’re doing when we do youth ministry. (Sermons in Stones, April 30)
The Rev. Meredith Garman offers a prayer for the suffering in the world this week.
We pause to collectively acknowledge the world’s sadness, which is our own — and to face straightforwardly what is real. As we would be a people of love and compassion, let us open ourselves to take in the pain, and respond with kindness and care. (The Liberal Pulpit, April 25)
A group of UU religious professionals of color issued a statement about responses to protests in Baltimore.
While we gather in solidarity with the oppressed, we are also deeply troubled by our own Unitarian Universalist Association and any religious body that has little or no response to Baltimore. . . .
We particularly call on the UUA to reevaluate its national prophetic voice after participating in the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the events at Selma. Sanford, Ferguson, New York, Baltimore . . . these are our Selma. The time is past . . . we people of faith must gather with the beaten, the murdered and the oppressed. (A Full Day, April 29)
On this week’s episode of The VUU, the show’s regulars discuss events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond with Leslie Butler MacFadyen and the Rev. David Carl Olson.
Real news, real people
As she awaits word from Nepal about the safety of a longtime family friend, the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford reminds us that “There is real news today, with real people.”
Nepali people dig in the rubble for loved ones
Landslides, avalanche, no way to get supplies
And 2 real family members, a world away, listen
Hoping for a phone call that mama is okay
The ping of an email that the student has been located.
Turn off the analysis
The replaying over and over
To elicit the emotional reaction
That means you’ll keep watching
And paying for them to do it all again
There is real news today
With real people. (Boots and Blessings, April 28)
The Rev. Catherine Clarenbach challenges heterosexist interpretations of Beltaine, and describes a lovely alternate ritual involving a celebration of bees.
So as we enter into the Tide of Beltaine, let us think on the profusion of Earthly delights the holiday has to offer. How delight, joy, love, attraction, flowers, animals, insects, fertility, fruitfulness . . . how all these and more can come together in the holiday that is also the celebration of the Pole and the Wreath. How people of all (not merely “both”) genders can embody the glories of the season. And how therefore, we—all and each—are called into the wonders of the gateway to summer, the beauty that is Beltaine. (Nature’s Path, April 30)
Having watched Diane Sawyer’s recent interview with Bruce Jenner, Andrew Hidas considers “the conundrum of the self.”
Who (or what?) was this female Self that Bruce Jenner claims resided too deeply within his thoroughly male physical Self for that male Self ever to supplant? That male Self could win Olympic gold, but it could not take up residence within the female Self that Jenner claims has always been his emotional core and identity.
All of which begets an even more fundamental question: Just what is a Self anyway? (Traversing, April 30)
The Rev. Tom Schade has a helpful reminder for those who doubt what the UUA can accomplish: “The UUA created a successful, self-sustaining, surplus-creating health insurance company.”
My colleague, Cindy Landrum, calls for a “relentlessly useful UUA.” She and others talk about the UUA providing back office services to congregations: centralized payroll, bookkeeping and accounting, member databases, web services, graphic resources, and more. . . .
But such improvements seem like impossible pipe dreams. . . . But remember, we created a health insurance company that works for us, when no other health insurance company was willing to cover us. And that should give us a model and some confidence that we could do what we need. (The Lively Tradition, April 28)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum has a specific entrepreneurial idea for churches.
So what if we clergy each trained one or two entrepreneurial people to become our wedding chaplains, and to aggressively market our churches for weddings? We train these wedding chaplains, equip them with resources, and set a going rate for the whole wedding package including officiant for the church to charge, out of which the chaplain is paid, on a per wedding basis. Our churches get used, get income, and get hundreds of new faces through the doors. Maybe they’ll see something they like and come back on a Sunday, too. (The Lively Tradition, April 28)
The Rev. Tom Schade has a theory about why pledge giving is declining in UU congregations.
The cause of Unitarian Universalism, as we now understand it, is not sufficiently compelling to generate the resources to continue itself. . . .
We have to look beyond the people who are presently passionate about Unitarian Universalism. There is a much larger group of people we would reach IF they could see that we would directly connect them to the transformation that they are anxious to see in the world. (The Lively Tradition, April 22)
The Rev. Madelyn Campbell received a hand-made stole at her recent ordination, with pieces of her late husband’s clothing woven into it.
[As] I wore it, it felt like a giant hug. A hug from God, and a hug from Don, and a hug from the Stole-Maker and the congregations that assembled to ordain me.
Now every time I wear it, I’ll remember this day. When I put it on, I will say a short prayer for my colleagues who are also preparing for worship and putting on their own vestments. I’ll remember that I’m not alone in this work, for the burden is shared by many. (The Widow’s Mite-y Blog, April 16)
Diana McLean walks a labyrinth, and revisits her grief about her father’s death.
Another turn or two into the labyrinth, I remembered the one thing I always seem to forget about labyrinth walking: it inevitably makes me cry. There’s something about it that opens me up, gets me out of my head and into my body, and thus also into my heart, and always leaves me in tears. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m crying about, only that I’ve tapped into a place of deeper emotion than where I spend most of my time.
This time, I knew. I knew right away, as I found myself saying aloud, “I miss you, Dad.” (Poetic Justice, April 18)
The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell understands why people aren’t doing as much as they could to combat climate change.
People are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, coupled with the lack of political will, worldwide, so they distract themselves from their fear and grief, and just get on with their everyday lives.
But we don’t have the luxury of despair. Global warming has become the vital work, the spiritual call that time and circumstance have placed before us. When the house is on fire, we don’t say, I don’t have time—we get the hell out of there, and take the kids. (HuffPost, April 20)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar recognizes that saying “Happy Earth Day” is a bit odd, given the challenges the planet faces.
There is so much to be done, so much to heal, so many forces pushing against a life that is sustainable. The only way we will be able to find our way through will be through cherishing this holy place where we dwell, which was never given to us as a resource to exploit, but which holds us in sacred interdependence. May that sacred interdependence bring you joy. Happy Earth Day. (Quest for Meaning, April 22)
Karen Johnston acknowledges the limits of what any one of us can do—and yet the necessity of all of us doing what we can.
I fear removing my shoes and walking barefoot because beneath my feet I will find the crusty, sharp edges of my own complicity. . . .
I am still working out what I can do. There might not be enough time for me to keep working out my part, and I am not sure what to do about that except to keep doing what I am doing the best that I can. (Irrevspeckay, April 21)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg weighs in on the “bet” about which will win out—overpopulation or human ingenuity.
Necessity can’t be the mother of invention if one is denying there is any necessity that requires invention!
. . . [Will] we stand up, will we speak up, and will we show up?
And it is not enough for that choice to be made individually, such as whether [or] how extensively we will choose to recycle. We need one another to collectively demand the systematic changes that will be required to return to right relationship with ourselves, with one another, and with this one fragile planet which we humans call home. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, April 22)
The Rev. James Ford remembers the birthday of poet Edwin Markham, best known in Unitarian Universalism for his poem, “Outwitted,” which begins, “He drew a circle that shut me out . . . .”
I am moved at how he saw his spirituality and his political life intertwined, perhaps even in some profound sense, one. And it was that spirituality of inclusion, the great heart of the Universalist way that called him to stand with the poor and the dispossessed. (Monkey Mind, April 23)
The Rev. Chip Roush shares opening words for worship, celebrating the fact that each one of us “is enough.”
The universe is full of love,
showering us with it, every moment,
and that love is not only outside of us.
We, too, are filled with love.
The instant we remember that fact,
we regain access
to the care, courage and compassion
that is our human birthright. (So May We Be, April 20)
Adam Dyer fights back against invisibility—his own, and that of Rekia Boyd, who was killed by an off-duty police officer.
Like too many other black lives, male AND female, she is completely invisible in the eyes of the court, the media, education, health,…until, she is perceived to be a threat or a burden; then for as long as it takes a bullet to travel from the barrel of a gun, she becomes a haphazard target for a testosterone charged index finger that is trained to contract at the sight of black skin.
But you know what? I see you Rekia Boyd…and God willing, many more of us see you too. (Spirituwellness, April 20)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes that, when social movements become more powerful, congregations are likely to push back against ministerial activism.
The minister needs to be keep turning the question back to the congregants: “How are you going to relate to this social movement? This isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the church, and it isn’t about the number of prophetic sermons I preach in a month. This is about how you respond to this social movement. I can tell you how I am responding; I can explain my process, but in the end, this is about how you respond.” (The Lively Tradition, April 13)
Kim Hampton doubts that liberal religion has anything prophetic to say.
What would liberal theology and religion look like if it took into account those who have had to make a way out of no way? Those who have been plundered and pillaged for generations? Those who are condemned and pathologized just because? (East of Midnight, April 13)
Katy Carpman recounts the financial repercussions of her son’s recent hospital stay.
We are so very lucky that my spouse’s insurance covers most of this. The deductible is not painless, but it’s something we can handle. And thankfully I’m salaried (and have understanding employers), so we do not have to worry about lost wages for the days I had to be away from the office.
I recognize my privilege, and realize that the situation is far different for many. (Remembering Attention, April 9)
Kari Kopnick celebrates the return of the light, after a struggle with depression.
Someone asked me a few months ago how I could tell the difference between the grief of losing my dad and depression. . . . Now, some distance out, I know the precise difference—in fact it is more of a Venn diagram with no intersection at all. . . .
Grief is sadness, loss, regret for missed opportunities and a longing for things that will never be again.
Depression is hopelessness, feeling numb about everyday things (oh my God I have to choose what to eat? What to wear? Really?) and wishing the pain of living would just be over. (Chalice Spark, April 13)
Tina Porter shares a similar struggle.
It may not look like hard work from the outside, but I’m telling you right now, sometimes sitting on the couch is the hardest work of all. The work done in dormant times may very well be the work we were meant to do. (Ugly Hats, April 11)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham has a new pacemaker, and is “so happy to be alive.”
So happy to have a regular heartbeat after all this time of enduring the jumping-bean ticker. So happy to feel exhilarated by every new day. Thanks be to the docs and the friends and the power beyond human power, which infuses us with the will to live. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 12)
Thomas Earthman writes that congregational growth depends on having something worth sharing.
Growth requires standing for something, and giving people something worthy of their trust and commitment. . . . [What] makes being in a community powerful and appealing is being able to add your strengths to those of the other members, and coming up with a somewhat stronger effect than you all would have achieved working separately. Success is always attractive. (I Am UU, April 14)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley continues her series on breaking down barriers to congregational participation, with a post about financial barriers.
Some congregations have instituted a fee for service payment method, where activities are broken down and participants pay for them separately. . . . The trouble with this method is that it puts up barriers to participation instead of removing them. Instead, I believe it is time for congregations to get creative. (Speaking of, April 10)
The Rev. Tom Schade responds to Cooley’s series.
[A] question occurs to me. What if we asked ourselves this question: What are the barriers to our congregation participating fully in the life of our wider community? (The Lively Tradition, April 13)
Jacqueline Wolven learns that “love is the absence of judgment.”
Making the change from city snob to simple kindness wasn’t easy, but the lessons are ones that will live with me forever. Having a cool heart isn’t the life I ever wanted, softening into love is a powerful place to be and I am grateful that my neighbors and friends allowed me to stumble into their lives without grace or understanding. (Jacqueline Wolven, April 12)
Valerie Freseman writes about the power of folk tales, folklore, and folk superstitions.
One day my CPE supervisor arranged a tour of the neighborhood our hospital serves. The tour leader brought us to a botánica—a store selling herbs, candles, and folk-magic supplies for the practice of Santeria and other allied spiritual practices—and I was the only person in our team of five trainee chaplains who could explain to everyone exactly what a botánica was because of my own history and practice (if you are a Pagan in New York City, you cannot avoid the botánica!) If, when visiting a patient, I could discern evidence of their beliefs in conversation or at a bedside table, I had gained valuable insights into the other members of that person’s spiritual support team. (Nature’s Path, April 14)
Patrick Murfin values his participation in the UU Bloggers’ Workshop on Facebook, and share the poetry of two of the group’s members.
[One] of the most valuable and engaging groups I belong to is the UU Bloggers’ Workshop which offers support, advice, criticism, ideas, and community to Unitarian Universalist Bloggers. . . .
I actually learn a lot from them. . . . I am goaded into improvement as a human being even when I would rather stew in resentment and anger or cleave to comfortable, but unjust habits. I gotta admit, this group helps me fill my spiritual gas tank about as well as anything this side of one of Rev. Sean Dennison’s Sunday morning Sermons. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, April 12)
If you’re tired of the subtle pressure to create a “bucket list,” read Karen Johnston’s “F*ck Bucket Lists.” You’ll be glad you did. (Irrevspeckay, April 12)]]>
Adam Dyer writes that “Even in addressing racism, black lives have not specifically mattered.”
We cannot continue to speak or act in broad terms. There is no shortcut, no blanket application to address black oppression because black oppression is unique; just as every other oppression that is experienced is unique. What Black Lives Matter challenges us to do is address the specific issues surrounding black oppression without entering into the oppression olympics. The movement tells us that we can look at the unique social location intersection that one group represents, whether that is race, color, nation of origin, sexual preference, gender identity, ability, or relationship status (or any combination thereof) and take the time to appreciate, uplift, uphold and defend each and every one of them. (spirituwellness, April 6)
Kim Hampton thinks the indictment of Michael Slager is not a sign that #BlackLivesMatter protests are making a difference.
There is an assumption in most white communities that the police don’t lie about their encounters with the public. Communities of color (and poor communities) know that lie for what it is. (East of Midnight, April 8)
The Rev. Phil Lund believes that spiritual practice in community is what spiritual seekers are looking for in the 21st century.
Imagine a congregation that looks at all the possibilities for spiritual growth . . . then finds ways to help individuals explore those practices within the context of a nurturing and supportive community.
Without dogma. Or judgment. Or guilt. Just the opportunity to “deepen their relationship with the sacred.” That’s the kind of religious community I see flourishing in the 21st century. (Phillip Lund, April 7)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley begins a series of posts about removing barriers to congregational participation in a changing religious landscape.
[W]e strive to meet people where they are. Not where we wish they would be, not where we thinkthey should be. It means meeting people in the lived reality of where they are.
The more we understand this, the more we realize that it is our calling to confront and seek to do away with whatever it is that prevents people from feeling as though they have a place at the table. This means intentionally looking at what accommodations a congregation can make to remove barriers to participation for all those who might find a home with us. (Speaking of, April 7)
The Rev. Jude Geiger says that Christ was seen in Indiana this week—but not where many Christians thought they saw him.
They thought Jesus was seen in the pizza parlor in Indiana this week; martyred for religious freedom, as a store was “forced” to close after speaking words of hate in the guise of freedom. They were right. Jesus was there. He was flipping the tables and the trays crying out against the money changers of this day, who will cry religion but mean GoFundMe (over $700,000 and counting). (HuffPost Religion, April 3)
John Beckett outlines his approach to building the world to come.
This is where we can make a difference for our descendants: by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come—and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made. (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 9)
Tina Porter resists the urge to rant.
[Instead] of a rant, I will pray for the courage and the focus and the kindness to extend myself beyond my small sphere of influence in order to create the world that is possible when we look to each other not as problems but as shared solutions–when we look to each other as our neighbor who sometimes helps us and who we sometimes help . . .
because . . . we ARE all in this together. (Ugly Pies, April 7)
For the Rev. James Ford, whose beloved Auntie died on Easter Saturday, the Easter story is a fearful, wonderful, mysterious moment of awakening.
Easter as this moment, as this mind, as this heart, filled with all its sadness and all its glory. And with our fully opening ourselves to what is, with that complete disruption of what we thought was the way things are. And with that awakening into something new: mystery piled upon mystery. Wonder, and joy, and, yes, absolutely, fear. . . .
Nothing is missing . . . on this Easter day. We wake up to the whole mess. And we find it really is a blessing. (Monkey Mind, April 5)
Christine Organ has mixed feelings about selling a home where she grieved for a miscarried child.
We leave pieces of ourselves all over the world, and my grief in the dirt in front of that house on Nelson Street. But as I left pieces of myself here and there, I have also carried things with me. And, from that patch of dirt on Nelson Street, I carried hope, gratitude, resilience and courage.
Maybe it isn’t so much about what we leave behind, but what we carry with us that matters. (HuffPost Parents, April 7)
Diana McLean leaves the box of presumed heterosexuality.
For many years, my experience of my sexual orientation was that I was a heterosexual woman. And then, it wasn’t.
I’m not saying that I’ve secretly been a lesbian all this time and my relationships with men were somehow fake or less-than or deceptive. They weren’t. That isn’t what this means, at all.
The bottom line isn’t about past relationships. It’s this: my next partner, should I have one, could be of any gender. (Poetic Justice, April 7)
Kenny Wiley builds a UU Black Lives Matter theology to support his work as an activist.
Right now we are being called—by our ancestors, by our principles, by young black activists across the country—to promote and affirm:
You are young and black, and your life matters just the same.
You stole something, and your life matters just the same.
I have been taught to fear you, and your life matters just the same.
The police are releasing your criminal record, and your life matters just the same.
They are calling you a thug, and your life matters just the same. (A Full Day, March 26)
The Rev. Krista Taves shares her initial thoughts about the DOJ report on the Ferguson police department.
Even as a dedicated white ally, committed to believing the stories of blacks in our city who spoke of feeling preyed upon by law enforcement, I was shocked by what I had read. . . .
When the Ferguson shooting first happened, I was deeply uncomfortable with the slogan “Shut it Down.” I felt it went too far. After reading the Department of Justice Report, I no longer feel this is a radical statement. (And the Stones Shall Cry, March 26)
Last week, the Rev. Tom Schade rejected “building religious community” as a valid congregational purpose; this week he proposes five alternate strategies, each very focused and specific.
The purpose of our congregation is to be your point of deep connection to the global movement for justice. (The Lively Tradition, March 26)
Our church serves the community in which we live. People come to our church in order to work with the people of our community as they struggle to live and survive where they are. (March 27)
Our congregation is where you go if you want your children to grow up to be morally and ethically strong and clear AND open-minded and curious about the world of differences. We are really one big, all ages cooperative Sunday School. (March 28)
We are a theological center of religious liberalism. Our purpose is to challenge all theologies and interpretations that oppress and bind the spirit, especially the dominant religions in our community. (March 29)
We are a church that invites you to make the profound spiritual commitment to the health of the Earth and her people. The planet is in the midst of a catastrophic ecological crisis and she needs people to organize their lives around making a difference in that crisis. (March 30)
The Rev. Chip Roush shares opening words for worship.
Come in and be seated,
all of you with heavy hearts.
Those who have had a difficult morning,
or an exhausting week;
those who are frustrated,
those who are this close to giving up on something,
come in, and sit down,
and loosen the hold of your cares for an hour. (So May We Be, March 30)
After a youth campout, the Rev. Dan Harper has a suggestion for congregations.
More and more, I’m coming to believe that if organized religion is going to help fix global climate weirdness, we have to get out of our buildings more. Not that we should get rid of our buildings—we need our indoor spaces to accommodate a wide range of human person, including elders. But we also need to do more outdoor ministries. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, March 28)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden compares religious belief to cilantro.
[Belief] in a god or gods: It’s a feeling, a taste.
It’s yummy or soapy.
So . . . perhaps, like cilantro, the choice to believe or not is best left up to the individual. For some, it’s yummy. For some, soapy: Nature, nurture.
But fussing over it? Fuhgettaboudit. (Quest for Meaning, April 2)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham doesn’t believe in a personal God who holds the strings of the universe—and yet she prays.
I pray because the universe has proved to be a faithful and reliable yet mysterious friend, which sometimes lashes out—not because I am a bad person but because I have not recognized or prepared for the consequences of non-mindful living. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 2)
Jordinn Nelson Long and her family find “slow church” in a consumer culture that expects immediate gratification.
I hope that in the course of your own religious life there are at least a few sermons that you gratefully carry—the feelings, the moment of awakening—for years after hearing them.
This was one for my family; the moment when we realized that we weren’t satisfied because we cannot consume community. That we were unsure where else to turn because we can’t purchase wisdom and depth. And that we need the flawed, frustrating collective because as humans, we are not wired to individually find our way to gratitude, love, or healing. (Raising Faith, March 22)
Christine Slocum has stopped going to church, because no matter how hard she tries, the only nearby UU congregation isn’t a good fit.
What I am seeking when I go to church is a place that will facilitate living my faith. A consumerist approach, as Jordinn notes, is the wrong one, as my faith requires that I give a lot of time, energy, and love. However, it requires that I give it to the world, not just to other self-identifying UUs. (Christine Slocum, March 22)
The Rev. Tom Schade suggests that a focus on community building hasn’t been an effective strategy for UUs.
Creating covenanted, healthy, spiritually nourishing, genuinely inclusive, peaceful, and safe communities became our evangelical and ecclesiological method. But now, the strategy of community-building has become so pervasive, it is unseeable.
. . . . We believe that there is a deep hunger for community out there, but is that really true?
Building community has its own value, but maybe it’s time to reconsider whether, as a strategy, it is enough to change our anemic growth trends. (The Lively Tradition, March 25)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden is tired of childish squabbles, and wants an adult conversation about truth and meaning.
In matters of religion, the question of who is right and who wrong dims before the fact that so many people are harmed by the wrangling and tribalism around the question. . . .
Who will be the grownups?
What is the practical difference in actions between atheists, agnostics, theists and those who just don’t care? (Quest for Meaning, March 26)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham’s beliefs about “power beyond human power” have evolved.
I have not gone so far as to think of myself as an atheist, or even agnostic, because both these terms do not describe where I am in my thinking. To me it is undeniable that there is power beyond human power. Some people call this power God but grant to the power a state of being that is too human-like to satisfy me. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, March 24)
Elizabeth warns about easy answers.
Don’t be enticed by the promise that things will be okay. . . . It will always be hard, if you are living well you will be struggling, you will be aching, you will be longing and loving and failing and getting up again. It is messy out there, beautifully and excruciatingly messy. (Elizabeth’s Little Blog, March 24)
As he celebrates his 70th birthday, the Rev. Ken Collier thinks about living and dying.
I’ve had my share of disappointment, sorrow, grief, and pain. . . . And I’ve also had my share of joy and success and and love. . . . Accept the one and you get the other. Reject the other, and you lose the one. . . . And so as I love my life, I also love its end. Which will come in its own time. While I wait, I intend to live, as fully, as freely, and as joyful as I can, embracing whatever lot happens to fall to me. And when my death does embrace me, I intend to return the embrace.
Death is just not the big issue. Life is. (The Colliery, March 26)
Working in a congregation with a difficult history, the Rev. Theresa Novak’s direct style “is freaking a few folks out.”
Homophobia will come out, if it exists, during a conflict, just as racism will. Even among liberals and self defined radicals and progressives. It is in our culture and individuals can’t always help it, but it is also important to name it when it happens.
I have been accused of “unwelcome touching.”
I have been called a bully.
I think they were really calling me a bull dyke.
I think they are afraid of me.
I hope I can find a way to walk with them through that fear. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, March 24)
As a climate crisis looms, the Rev. Tom Schade asks, “Who will be saved?”
As it now stands, it is the global elite that will survive. They will migrate to the most habitable places; they will monopolize the resources needed for life; they will deploy the arms to protect themselves from the increasingly desperate masses. Everything we know about the modern arrangements of power tell us that this is true. . . .
Unitarian Universalists. . . . believe in Universal Salvation: all of humanity is a single unit. Our faith is that we share a common fate. For us, the climate crisis is a struggle for global justice and solidarity. (The Lively Tradition, March 24)
Patrick Murfin answers the question, “Why should anyone give a damn about World Water Day?”
With another year in an epic drought under its belt, National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) satellite photos reveal that California has only about one year’s stored capacity in it reservoir system. Strict compulsory rationing may be necessary but is being fought tooth and nail by business interests. One of the nation’s riches agricultural regions may essentially go out of production. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, March 22)
Karen Johnston is uneasy about finally making the move to a smartphone.
Despite its inconsequential heft in the palm of my hand, it is weighing heavily on me.
It weighs heavily because it is yet another way I do not live lightly on the earth. . . .
May I use this device to tap into and strengthen the interconnected web of all existence, rather than to add to its unraveling.
May I demonstrate the discipline to know when to disconnect, that it not lead to my ignoring other people, Nature, or my own heart’s true needs. (Irrevspeckay, March 26)
Karen Johnston tells a story of kids being asked what “We Shall Overcome” means. They said it means, “We shall overcalm.”
Out of the mouth of babes comes such necessary wisdom, the deep meaning of overcalm: to exercise an inner peacefulness that connects us to a great source not of our making, available to all and especially available to those seeking justice on behalf of those treated unjustly, especially for moments and movements like this, especially for those seeking to create the Beloved Community.
Let us listen to children. Let us all cultivate overcalm. Let there be peace, but first let there be justice. (Irrevspeckay, March 14)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates the work of two Irish women, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and founders of the Community of Peace People.
A peace congress probably wouldn’t have made much difference, but thousands of people demanding peace, over and over, in a grassroots movement all over two lands, most certainly did good work for fraternity—and sorority—between those two nations. Both women continue to agitate for peace to this day. (Sermons in Stone, March 18)
With a child seriously ill, Katy Carpman compares herself to raw garlic.
I get to call my own truths.
I’ve no patience for your platitudes . . . (Remembering Attention, March 16)
Grieving her mother’s recent death, the Rev. Amy Beltaine writes that “Unitarian Universalist Pagans have a robust set of tools to carry with us as we face the loss of a loved one.”
Personally I very much like the idea of becoming one with my divinity, for that is how I view the earth. The planet is both sacred and divine. The broccoli I had for dinner is a part of me, I have recycled dinosaur cells in me, larger than that, I have stardust in me. (Nature’s Path, March 19)
The Rev. James Ford proposes an interdependent humanism that might “save the world,” rather than devolving into survival of the fittest.
We see where we are. Arising precious and unique, none of us ever to be replicated.
And fragile. All of us…
And then we can see what we can do.
We see we are all of us and this blessed planet connected.
Connected more deeply than can ever be said.
And, we act from this place.
And then the whole thing will be blessed.
And every action taken, a blessing. (Monkey Mind, March 13)
For the Rev. Dr. David Breeden, everything is transient except for human experience.
So, what are the truths of religions? What’s permanent? You. Your essence. Your human essence. Is that enough? Well . . . it has to be. Because that’s all we get. (Quest for Meaning, March 19)
John Beckett responds to a provocative opinion piece in The New York Times, which argued that schools teach children that there are no moral facts.
We no longer live in a monoculture, if we ever did. It’s no longer sufficient to pretend your culture, your religion, and your morals are objectively better than everyone else’s – you have to demonstrate why your moral standards work better, not just for you and yours but for everyone else as well. (Under the Ancient Oaks, March 19)
For Catherine Clarenbach, being in recovery from mental illness means that she has less direct connection to the sacred.
Do you understand? Do you understand that while I am grateful for health and for stable relationships with friends and family, I also miss that one, great, powerful, and easy relationship? Do you understand that while I still can sometimes touch the fingers of the Goddess in the stars at night, it is not because I walk enveloped in those stars, but because I seek them, yearn for them, slowly do the work to find them within me as powerfully as I see them without? . . .
I . . . practice to catch the slightest ray of the blinding star in whose light the whole world used to shine. (Nature’s Path, March 17)
The Rev. Phil Lund writes about encouraging spiritual growth in lay-led congregations.
After all the time spent figuring out what’s going to happen on Sunday mornings, meeting with committees, and coordinating social justice events, there isn’t a whole lot of time leftover for lay leaders to plan adult faith development experiences on the subject of spirituality.
And just what did they have in mind way back in 1985? What does “encouragement to spiritual growth” entail, anyway? (Phillip Lund, March 17 and 19)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews a new book from Beacon Press, The God that Could Be Real, written by Nancy Abrams—”an atheist married to a famous scientist.”
In constructing a positive theology, the most interesting perspective she proposes is that ‘God’ is not cosmic, but “planetary”—an emergent phenomenon of life on Earth. Note that she means “Emergence” in the technical sense of the field of science that studies how systems (such as the human body) are much greater than the sum of their parts. . . . This evolving, emergent “God that could be real” is akin to Carl Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” in which the sacred is understood less literally than metaphorically and archetypally—but which is still actual, efficacious, and real. (Pluralism, Pragramatism, Progressivism, March 13)