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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
When Sarah MacLeod no longer needs her UU congregation as a stepping stone from theism, or as a safe, supportive place during a personal crisis, she asks, “Why church?”
Church, because supportive community is built over time, not just used when in need.
Church, because working through pain, anger, and disappointment in community deepens understanding. . . .
Church, because it reminds us that community is larger than any one person, idea, or belief. (Finding My Ground, August 5)
The Rev. Tom Schade believes that a consensus is emerging among UUs, including that “the ‘language of reverence’ is now our vocabulary.”
President Sinkford was roundly criticized for suggesting that we needed to break out of the straitjacket of humanist language, but then, we did. We’re all about “calls,” “faith,” “mission,” “prayer,” “spirit,” and “soul.” Admittedly, we are probably sloppy in our usage, but everyone kind of gets what each other is talking about, and goes along with it. (The Lively Tradition, August 1)
Woo, but not woo-woo
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden reclaims the practice of spirituality from superstitious “woo-woo.”
There’s nothing mysterious about the mystical. Spirituality is a feeling. We don’t have to buy what particular religions are selling to access these feelings. It’s all in our heads. (Quest for Meaning, August 7)
Rachel Camille values sacred space, and notices that Unitarian Universalist meeting spaces tend not to feel “special.”
We didn’t talk about anything different from what we talked about at the dinner table. It wasn’t super deep. It didn’t teach me anything epic and huge. I didn’t feel connected to anything bigger than myself, which is kind of insane considering that in UU, I’m connected to the entire interconnected web of existence. It felt like a book club. We went into a room and talked about some interesting things, and that was all. The end. (I Am UU, August 7)
Rebecca Hecking is not Pagan, but does mark the Wheel of the Year.
The simple act of marking the day, noting the change, acknowledging the passing of time in a tangible, physical way, helps to counteract the fast pace of our busy lives. As the seasons turn, as the wheel makes yet another round, we note the passing of time in our own lives. Children grow. Elders pass. We move from stage to stage on our own journey. Bringing this to conscious awareness heightens our appreciation for life and its gifts. (Breath and Water, August 1)
Paying for ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade puts concerns about clergy compensation into a broader context.
The big picture is that most of us need a broad social movement to redirect the wealth of this country downwards. That means raising the minimum wage, building up the infrastructure of the country, forgiving student debt, investing in education, increasing social security benefits, bailing out underwater homeowners, empowering old and new unions, returning the wealth stolen from African Americans. More people should have more money.
And in that context, UU ministers will probably have a better future than it now seems. (The Lively Tradition, August 2)
Katy Schmidt Carpman asks us to remember more than just clergy when we talk about paying for ministry.
And yet in many congregations, ministers have the best compensation package. I would love to see a fuller conversation of compensation and financial wellness for all who work in churches. Yes, as a religious educator, I’ve got an interest here. But it’s also about our music directors, administrative staff, sextons–whatever positions make up each congregation. (Remembering Attention, July 31)
Energy and despair
The Rev. James Ford sees the future in the “mix of energy and despair” in Long Beach’s diverse downtown neighborhood.
Walking around downtown Long Beach I realized this is the future.
A mix of energy and despair, people succeeding and people crushed. And downtown everyone living cheek-by-jowl, the same block with high-end lofts, middle-income condos, and inexpensive apartments. In places trash in the street, and not far away, pocket public gardens. (Monkey Mind, August 2)
Asked to write about yet another tragic news story, the Rev. Lynn Unger shares a poem, encouraging us to “Wake up. Give thanks. Sing.”
What will you do
with the last good days?
Before the seas rise and the skies close in,
before the terrible bill
for all our thoughtless wanting
finally comes due? (Quest for Meaning, August 6)
Photos from the “Humans of New York” project inspire the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum’s thoughts about why we need safety nets.
I’m fortunate—we have family and friends able and willing to help. I’m a minister in a denomination that has some funds for ministers in financial crisis, and knowing that is a piece of sanity, a certain knowledge that there’s a safety net there for me. I’m also insured, which means there’s a cap to the financial trouble that health problems can bring me.
Not everyone has these safety nets. Many people have only the knowledge of a family member’s open door. Some people don’t have even that. (The Lively Tradition, August 6)
Gracia Walker remembers a long-ago encounter, one of many that helped her find her way from fundamentalism to Unitarian Universalism, and encourages us to be the kind strangers other people need.
You never know what seeds you can plant, what a bit of kindness can do to widen the thinking of someone who may be trapped in a worldview that doesn’t meet their needs, or let them grow to their potential. We don’t always have to preach, it may just be the patience we show that can change hearts. (Loved for Who You Are, August 4)
Life in American Christendom
The Rev. Dawn Cooley makes a provocative statement about the relationship between Unitarian Universalism and Christianity.
Unitarian Universalism may or may not be a Christian denomination, depending on who you ask. But we are a part of Christendom, because we have not disassociated ourselves from Christianity. Nor should we—it is an important part of where we come from and who we are today, and, I suspect, an important part of where we are going. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden suggests that UUs not worry about reinventing Christianity, but rather focus on being a big tent, in which each congregation, and each individual “brews” their own faith.
[Mainstream] Christian denominations are scrambling to survive. I don’t doubt that they will do a fine job of brewing the new Christianity. A much better job than can Unitarian Universalism, except in very specific locations and boutiques. . . . I think the future of Unitarian Universalism lies in micro-breweries. Boutique congregations, each with a recipe of their own. (Quest for Meaning, July 31)
Tina Porter wonders if some Christians “opt out” of the concept of grace.
Here’s my dilemma about the concept of grace: . . . . if grace is the gift we did not earn and do not deserve, wouldn’t that, in essence, make us all more tender-hearted toward those in need of that unearned gift?
. . . . I’ll ask in another way: is it possible to follow Jesus, claim him as your Savior, and then be hard-hearted to those who not only don’t have bootstraps but wouldn’t know how to wear a boot if it was handed to them? (Long Thoughts, July 31)
Co-existing with fundamentalist religion
Responding to Operation Save America’s harassment of a UU congregation in New Orleans, the Rev. Tom Schade wonders how progressive and fundamentalist religions can exist together in the same community.
Can the Tolerant and the Intolerant Co-exist?
Yes, but only if the Tolerant have the power to preserve the structural arrangements which protect them.
It is a question, ultimately, of power. (The Lively Tradition, July 29)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum believes that the Operation Save America incident was, indeed, “religious terrorism.”
Terrorism is defined as “the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political aims.” . . . . This act in Louisiana didn’t include violence. So why is it terrorism? Because it’s done by a terrorist group that has included violence in the past. (The Lively Tradition, July 30)
Thank you, Margot Adler
Thalassa expresses her gratitude for the work of Margot Adler, who died this past week.
Margot Adler was my impetus to take the idea of being Pagan seriously. Not just to take myself seriously, but to demand (nicely, of course) that I should expect my religious beliefs to be taken seriously, regardless of how unorthodox they might seem to others.
Margot Adler is the reason that I never thought that I had to live “in the broom closet.” (Musings of a Kitchen Witch, July 29)
Patrick Murfin gives an overview of Margot Adler’s life.
Despite her status as a priestess, Adler never considered herself as a witch or had a particular interest in magic. “Most people, when they think of witches and witchcraft, think of power and magical abilities,” she told a reporter three years ago. “I’m not a particularly occult-oriented person. I’m not into astrology. I’ve never felt I had magical abilities.” Instead, Adler focused on the power of ritual to connect a community and on the spiritual connection to the whole natural world. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, July 29)
This world’s hell
When NFL player Ray Rice gets off easy after committing domestic violence, Colleen Thoele can’t keep silent.
Do you know how hard it is to try and help a person feel safe and take steps to walk free from violence when we know that our system sets her up to fail and is complicit in making her life more dangerous than if she never left the abuse in the first place? (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 30)
After the Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory told Kim Hampton that she had a paranoia-persecution complex, she consulted a friend who works as a psychologist for the Indianapolis Police Department.
[She] said, “They told you you were paranoid, didn’t they?” I said yes. She then told me, “Don’t worry about it. It’s because you’re black.” She then went on to tell me that, without fail, every black person who takes the test as part of the entrance to the IPD academy comes out as paranoid. The funny part of the conversation came a little later when she said, “Of course you’re paranoid. You’ve been followed around in stores. People make assumptions about you just by your very appearance. There would be something wrong with you if you weren’t paranoid.”
. . . . What does it say about this country that paranoia is the way that black and brown people have to think in order to stay reasonably sane? (East of Midnight, July 28)
Answering the question, “Why Universalism?” the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg traces Universalism’s history and shares its current relevance.
So, “Why Universalism?” Well, whereas Unitarianism has sometimes lead down a road to extreme Emersonian individualism (of caring mostly about one’s own isolated spirituality), the Universalism calls us out of ourselves and into the world to love the hell out of this world—into a world filled with far too much hell that desperately needs the life-saving message that we are part of one another, part one human family. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 31)
Attending church helps Justin Almeida combat compassion fatigue.
Religion provides me with a community, sanctuary and covenant that is focused on peacemaking. It reminds me that I am not alone in working to build a more just world. It cures my compassion fatigue because it restores my faith in people. When peace and justice work becomes too heavy, it is my church that lightens the load. In a space filled with atheists, believers, agnostics, questioners and religious refugees, our attendance shouts to the universe: “We will continue the work! We will not give up! We crave peace!” (What’s My Age Again?, July 31)
Water, water everywhere
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum writes about the water crisis in Detroit.
If you scratch below the surface of the call for individual responsibility in this case, it’s easy to see a level of demonization below it, and that demonization has some ugly, racist roots. This water issue isn’t really about self-reliance, it’s about “othering” the people of Detroit, about race, and about class. It’s about making the most basic human need into us-vs.-them. (The Lively Tradition, July 23)
Circle round for freedom
This past Sunday, anti-abortion protesters disrupted the worship service at First UU Church of New Orleans; the Rev. Deanna Vandiver, who was preaching that morning, shares a first-hand perspective on the congregation’s response.
Beloveds, I have never been prouder of my faith community. The youth led the way in circling the congregation together, forming a ring around the sanctuary and singing sustaining songs. Soon it became clear who was choosing to be beloved community and who was trying to destroy it. (Quest for Meaning, July 22)
Bart Frost, the congregation’s DRE, tells how he experienced the incident—and how he calmed his nerves afterward.
I spent the rest of the afternoon as I normally spend my Sunday afternoons, listening to music, writing and reading. The music leaned a little more towards punk sometimes, and Unitarian Universalist hymns at others. I reminded myself that there is good in this world, as I savored the sweetness of ice cream, good that is more powerful than hate and bitterness. (Vive Le Flame, July 22)
The Rev. Krista Taves suggests that other UU congregations can learn from this, and be prepared.
Most of our churches will never face this kind of sacred violation, thank the spirit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen. In fact, given the increasing legal challenges to reproductive justice, and the fact that many Unitarian Universalist leaders are publicly active in the women’s reproductive justice movement, we need to be ready. (And the stones shall cry, July 22)
For the Rev. Marie DeYoung, calling this “religious terrorism” is inflammatory language.
There is no question that the behavior of Operation Save America was outrageous, disrespectful, and a harassing form of public speech.
But, while their behavior as described most certainly was disruptive, it clearly was NOT terroristic. We should not inflate the meaning of fundamentalist intruders’ pesky drama to a level that only improves their odds of achieving media celebrity. (About Our Inherent Worth, July 24)
The Rev. Scott Wells remembers a colleague, the Rev. Jennifer Slade, who died last week of an apparent suicide.
I want to express my sympathy to her family, and to her congregations. I am praying for you and her, and for others—including a number of ministers—shaken and feeling vulnerable by her death. (Boy in the Bands, July 19)
For the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, this tragedy renews her commitment to reach out for help, and to ask her colleagues “Are you OK?”
The work of religious leadership is especially demanding in this time of closing churches and anxious laity. . . . We are “making it up as we go along” in a way that previous generations of ministers may be able to relate to culturally or theologically or organizationally, but not institutionally to this extent. The pressure is fierce. This is to say nothing of other life stresses of health, finance, family, community. (Beauty Tips for Ministers, July 18)
Lessons written in stone
Faced with a vocational setback, Claire Curole gets reacquainted with her rock collection, and relearns needed lessons.
I am being slowly reminded of things I used to know—the complex relationship between purity and perfection and beauty and fragility, how the things which are most interesting are not always the strongest or most flawless—and how those which are strong or flawless are not always the most interesting or beautiful. If I can learn from these stones the admiration of complexity, of fragility, of quirky individuality then perhaps I will eventually learn to apply these lessons more broadly.
The other thing of which I have been reminded is that, given enough time and the proper conditions, even shattered stones can mend, become whole—not that which they were, not exactly, but something more, something different. (The Sand Hill Diary, July 21)
Tim Atkins remembers a similar lesson about imperfection—from his days as a geology student.
One of the early lessons I learned in my first geology course? How minerals get their color. The answer surprised me then, and it gives me hope today. It’s the flaws—the impurities.
Impurities are what make rubies red. Flaws are what make emeralds green. And flaws are what make each of us beautiful, too. (Loved for Who You Are, July 21)
Faith and belief
For Andrew Hidas, skepticism began in childhood.
Believing in a heaven where my mother was denied entrance required suspension of every shred of rationality and native reason my mere 8-year-old brain was already manifesting. I would have had to take it “on faith,” but that was so absurd and impossible given the reality of my actual mom and her actual great big heart that faith didn’t stand a chance.
Notably, anything that has required similar “faith” on my part hasn’t fared too well since. (Traversing, July 21)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg answers the question, “Why Unitarianism?”
Although there are certainly many other vital religious traditions in our world, at least for me, Unitarian Universalism is the path that I have found the most helpful for navigating a 21st-century world in which we humans have been radically de-centered from the exalted position some of our ancestors believed that we held. (Pragmatism, Progressivism, Pluralism, July 24)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden considers falling church attendance.
People today are looking for connection and service. They want to gather together and heal our broken world. The don’t want the same ‘ol same ‘ol.
The building is burning. Even those who remain Christian are fleeing. And those who wish to explore other paths?
Well, I can send you the address of my church . . . (Quest for Meaning, July 24)