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Interdependent Web edited by Heather Christensen; a weekly roundup of blogs about Unitarian Universalism

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 interdependentweb@uua.org.

Wild grief, Fred Phelps, dementors, and more

Wild grief

The Rev. Meg Riley experiences “wild grief,” first in her childhood hometown, and then while staying in the UUA’s recently-sold guesthouse in Boston.

I knew that I was grieving the loss of this home away from home, but it wasn’t until I began to see the ubiquitous presence of the people who are purchasing it, measuring and discussing future plans, that irrational grief began to burn in me. “They’re walking around as if they own the place!” I sputtered to a co-worker, who responded kindly, “They do.” (Quest for Meaning, March 20)

When a hater dies

UU bloggers dug deep into their beliefs this week, in response to the death of the Rev. Fred Phelps, leader of the aggressively antigay Westboro Baptist Church.

The Rev. Lynn Ungar reminds us that, as UUs, we try to play on “the Love Team.”

If you are rooting for Phelps to receive the misery that he so richly deserves then you have opted in with the world view that people deserve to be punished for being despicable, which is exactly what Phelps himself had to say. If that’s what you believe, that God hates and punishes, well then, by all means rejoice, but know that you have chosen to play on Phelps’s team.

Or you could go with the team which says that love is without limits, that every one of us is a part of the sacred, that every one of us has worth and dignity, that each of us is tied to the other in an infinite web of love and connection. (Quest for Meaning, March 19)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern feels pity for Phelps.

I think of my most out of control, seething moments and try to imagine feeling like that all the time, and I see a soul in torment. . . .

I believe heaven and hell are what we make here in this life, and as far as I can see, this man has been living in hell, and making every encounter with him hell for others, for decades. I don’t believe that any punishment or reward awaits him, just that soon his pain will stop, and I am glad for him. (Sermons in Stones, March 18)

The Rev. Scott Wells writes from the perspective of a Christian UU, and a gay man.

He set himself up consciously to be my enemy, and perhaps yours. But Jesus taught us to love our enemies and pray for our persecutors. This reminds us, and is our testimony before God, that we regard Fred Phelps as human and not a monster. Redeemable, if not in this world then the next. . . .

I have no answer why he hated with such a perfect hate, but the reason is less important than making clear to the living that we need not live like that, that we need not be silent before it or that he did not represent what faithful people are. (Boy in the Bands, March 20)

The Rev. Cynthia Landrum offers a prayer for the peace of Phelps’ soul. (Rev. Cyn, March 20)

The power of love

Barry Sanders shares a lesson from the Harry Potter books about how to deal with dementors—people who rob us of our courage: “The hope and love in our hearts is what protects us and drives away the Dementors.” (Gathered by the Fire, March 18)

Judy Foster reviews a friend’s memoir about adopting and raising two children from Ukraine.

It took years of patience; the support of church, neighbors, colleagues, friends; the help of therapists and counselors; professional care; sheer endurance; a stubborn refusal to give up; and a seemingly bottomless reservoir of love; but eventually Nancy, Alec, and Alyona became a family, bonded by love, trust, and a sense of pride for having overcome such tremendous odds. (Your Brain on Books, March 18)

Karen Johnston writes that being an adoptive parent has been part of her identity, and a source of her strength.

I have always said that adoptive parenting is different than parenting.  Not better or superior or more noble, but definitely different. I am going to go out on a limb and say more complex. Perhaps this is egocentric of me. Perhaps it is flat out wrong, since I don’t have anything else with which to compare. Yet, today, in this veiled way, I offer it up as my truth. (irrevspeckay, March 17)

The Rev. Robin Bartlett shares a love letter to her infant son, on his baptism day.

I know that a love beyond all knowing is at work in us when I look at smiling, soft little you. . . .You and your father came soon after the deepest sadness our family has experienced: a divorce and a new way of living. You came after a death of an old way of life. And you and your father are my proof that there is life on the other side of heartbreak, that Love conquers even death. You have helped us become whole and healed. (Living Faithfully/Parenting Faithfully, March 18)

Privilege and puppeteers

Doug Muder shares a recent sermon about recovering from privilege.

What if you could treat all your privileges . . . as assets to be used for the common good? If you could do that, then no matter how many privileged groups you belong to, the wound in your identity would be healed. Not painfully, through guilt and penance, but joyfully, through compassion and love and generosity. (Free and Responsible Search, March 18)

Margaret Sequeira does not believe that God is a puppeteer, manipulating the details of people’s lives.

[If] I didn’t earn so many of the things that have brought me joy and love and fulfillment, what makes me think that my suffering is part of some grand plan or big test that will result in great reward? (Scattered Revelations, March 18)

Do church differently

The Rev. Tom Schade believes it’s time for a “once in a century” reorganization of the UUA, beginning with the reorganization of its data.

The organization of our data about Unitarian Universalists is that it is kept in local silos, in different software systems that can’t talk to each other. . . . [It] assumes a country where people don’t move often, where families join a church and stay for generations, where people conduct their religious life in person by showing up at the church building on Sunday morning and where data is shared across the country by sending carbon copies through the mail. OK, maybe I exaggerate, but you get the picture. (thelivelytradition, March 20)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern dreams of a UU day camp for her daughter.

To repeat: wherever you are, there are thousands of children in your area who need some kind of program for as many as 12 weeks a year, and whose parents will pay for it. . . . I’m betting if you made a day camp available, lots of Unitarian Universalists, non-Unitarian-Universalists and not-yet-Unitarian-Universalists would sign up. I know my family would.

Is there a UU day camp near you? Does your child go to it? What’s it like? Or if there isn’t one and you wish there were, what would you like to see? (Mookie’s Mama, March 20)

Katy Carpman thinks churches should give their leaders the option to step away from their roles.

People need to feel that they are still welcome even if they are not carrying a specific load, and there needs to be enough flexibility in the system that each shift is not immediately internalized as a “loss.” (Remembering Attention, March 15)

Thomas Earthman has noticed that UUs using social media often fail to respect intellectual property and the artists who create it.

[Make] sure that you credit the artists whose work you love enough to share. Make sure that they are ok with you sharing their work. Acknowledge that creating art is a valuable thing for that person to do, and that you would like them to keep doing it. Give thanks, and remember that some people live by their art the same way that a carpenter lives by their craft. (I Am UU, March 20)

Fighting hard battles, Cosmos, evangelism, and more

Fighting hard battles

Liz James tells her story of becoming a shoplifter while in foster care—and unlearning the habit.

I thought that the choices I made were solely mine—that I became a thief through my own weakness, and I stopped stealing through my own strength. I know now, that this isn’t true. I was the same person in both stories—what changed was my context and the supports around me. . . .

They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I know what they mean because I was raised by a village. It took a lot of people pulling on my bootstraps along with me—and we shouldn’t leave it up to chance who gets that kind of support and who doesn’t. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, March 10)

Jordinn Nelson Long rejects a sentimental, self-sacrificing model of motherhood.

Yes, somebody needs me. Lots of people, every day.
They need the adult me. The responsible me. The vulnerable me. The honest me.
I have worked too hard, for too long—and standing on the shoulders of my mother and my grandmothers and of their mothers—to deny all that I am.
I contain multitudes. You do, too.
And don’t you dare call me Mommy. (Raising Faith, March 10)

The Rev. Tamara Lebak writes about strength and vulnerability.

Being strong is not about insensitivity. It’s not about being tough. It’s about vulnerability. And we are called in the church to show up for each other over and over again to the degree that we feel we can, as vulnerable as we can muster, so that we can become stronger out there in the world.

Because there are a lot of times out there in the world when all you can do is buckle up and bear down. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, March 13)

No matter who said it, the Rev. Megan Lloyd Joyner loves the quote, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”

We know not the burdens our neighbor or the stranger in the check-out line carry, just as they know not what we bear. It helps to remember that each and all of us are, at one time or another, and more often than not, fighting some sort of great battle. We would do well to be kind, as we pray that others will be kind to us. (Quest for Meaning, March 10)

Jacqueline Wolven learns a valuable lesson about kindness—after answering the phone while tired.

[When] I am tired my kindness goes down the tubes and I become a whiney petulant child. It isn’t pretty and I am not proud of those moments. . . .

The second I hung up I realized that kindness would have been the better answer. Kindness would have built a relationship. Kindness would have moved things forward. (Jacqueline Wolven, March 10)

The Rev. Theresa Novak reminds us that our hands can change the world.

If God is sleeping
I’d like to know
How to wake the Holy up
Most likely God is asking
That same question
Of everyone of us. (Sermons, Poetry, and other Musings, March 10)

Science, faith and the Cosmos series

The Rev. James Ford puts the new Cosmos television series in the context of declining respect for science, at a time when it is desperately needed.

We need some serious thinkers.

And, maybe, just possibly, Dr Tyson will inspire some new youth to think of science, or, at least, to think critically. Maybe even to see how intimately we are all connected, and what a this-worldly concern can birth.

So, I have a small glowing ember of a coal. A wish. A hope. (Monkey Mind, March 9)

John Beckett shares his perspective on the first episode of the series.

Science is a wonderful servant, but it is a soulless master.

The cosmos is amazing and it fills me with wonder and awe. The new Cosmos is beautiful and fascinating and I hope the whole country watches it. We need a greater appreciation for science and a greater respect for the findings of science.

But I remain a polytheist and a pantheist, a Druid and a priest. (Under the Ancient Oaks, March 11)

UU evangelism

The Rev. Bill Sinkford recounts two different congregations’ histories of evangelism, and asks what choices his own congregation will make.

Our liberal religious tradition resists any notion that we might be limited or even trapped by our history. Our theology proclaims that revelation is not sealed, that history must be known but that history is not the final word. . . .

What, in this place and time, recognizing the history from which we come and the reality in which we live, are we called to do? (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, March 13)

Thomas Earthman offers three not-so-easy evangelism steps. (I Am UU, March 10)

Other UU voices

Doug Muder has been critical of the New Atheists, but notes that “divine decrees” can make critical thinking difficult.

Once a mistake [in thinking] gets into the God-says-so citadel, it’s very hard to get it out.
And that’s got to make you wonder if you should have such a citadel at all. (Free and Responsible Search, March 12)

The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern explains why her congregation held a singalong celebration memorial for Pete Seeger.

We UUs clearly aren’t ready to move beyond our brother UU, Pete Seeger. On the contrary, we’d better run if we’re ever going to catch up with him. (Sermons in Stones, March 7)

Curious about Missional Unitarian Universalism? Wondering about the recent Life on Fire gathering? Watch this week’s episode of The VUU.

Observing Lent, winter’s lessons, soul-searching, and more

Observing Lent

The Rev. Tony Lorenzen loves Ash Wednesday’s Universalist message of acceptance.

If there is anything that’s missing sometimes from the contemporary Unitarian Universalist worship tradition it is a ritual of forgiveness of, well, sins; the liturgical and prayerful recognition that I am a mess; that I am mess of anxieties and flaws and contradictions and a jumble of emotions that sometimes make it difficult for me to be my best self, and it’s OK to be such a mess. (Sunflower Chalice, March 5)

“Plaidshoes” needs a more cheerful Lent this year.

Like a lot of the country, we have had a long, cold, bleak winter. I feel like I have been in a dark space and adding 40 more days of somberness just isn’t appealing. . . . I need to find a way to make Lent a time of renewal and hope and break away from seeing it as purely deprivation.  (Everyday Unitarian, March 5)

Sara Lewis explains how her Unitarian Universalist faith informs her Lenten practice.

UUism doesn’t have a tradition of intentional self-denial or a time to intentionally re-focus your life. Why we don’t probably makes perfect sense if you look at the evolution of our traditions (part of the whole point was that both Unitarians and Universalists held up the idea that people were good, as opposed to the Calvinist ideas that are decidedly more pessimistic about human nature), but understanding why this is so doesn’t change the fact that I feel drawn to some sort of fasting as a spiritual practice. (The Curriculum of Love, March 4)

The Rev. Scott McNeill has committed to the UU Practicing Lent photo project.

I love photography and am always frustrated that I take fewer pictures than I’d like. Sure, when I go to the zoo or gardens, I pick up my camera—but creating art feeds my soul in a way nothing else can.

So, I’ve decided to take up this spiritual practice for the next 47 days. At first, I felt resistant to speak up and say I’d try this. Usually, spiritual practices (or resolutions or anything of the sort) last about 6 days for me. (Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, March 5)

Another participant, Katy Carpman, has trouble capturing the image of “connection” she hoped to find at her veggie co-op.

I was excited to see that we were getting vine tomatoes—already connected? Meant to be.

But before I could take a picture, one of the other volunteers had separated all the tomatoes.

Lesson: When you don’t communicate your needs, there can be some real disconnects. (Remembering Attention, March 5)

To participate in the Practicing Lent project, visit the Tumblr created by Mr. Barb Greve, Kristina Hensley, and Karen Bellavance-Grace.

Winter’s lessons

Sarah MacLeod’s Michigan county has run out of funds for road-clearing, leaving two tire-sized ruts as the only safe path down her street.

Driving in these physical ruts led me to think about the metaphorical type, the kind that we say we want out of yet not badly enough to risk the leap; the one that may leave us skidding into the unknown or simply spinning our wheels in frustration. There can be an odd comfort in even our most painful ruts, perhaps because we know the jostling they bring, which can sometimes seem more comforting than whatever road might lay beyond those well-worn grooves. (Finding My Ground, March 2)

As winter lingers in Maine, Claire dreams of spring’s warmth and beauty.

Eventually the forsythia bush will awaken into an explosion of yellow flowers and the annual negotiation for my parking space will recommence. Eventually the tulips will unfurl and the rhododendrons will resume their efforts to engulf the front porch. Eventually the lilacs will bloom.

But not yet. (Sand Hill Diary, March 5)

The work of justice

The Rev. Scott Wells comments on General Assembly housing shortages caused by a last minute labor dispute with two contracted hotels.

I feel bad for the GA office, but the policy is correct. If you had to make a short list of people whose well-being could be improved by ethical spending, hotel workers would be high on the list and they deserve our support.

This puts financially strapped attendees in a bind: do you go to the rejected hotels and side with management? I hope the core labor issues can be resolved, but the least one can do is not cross the picket line early. (Boy in the Bands, March 3)

The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum reports on a visit to the trial that may overturn Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; Harvard professor Dr. Nancy Cott was the day’s lone witness.

Professor Cott . . . deftly covered the history of marriage and explained that those who would uphold “traditional marriage” are aiming at a target that’s always been moving.  She explained three main ways in which marriage has changed in the course of American history: asymmetrical (gender) roles, divorce, and race, and explained how each was relevant. . . . Overall, she nicely laid out that the arc of our nation’s history bends towards marriage equality. (RevCyn, February 28)

UU soul-searching

The Rev. Tom Schade responds to a colleague’s question about a contradiction in Schade’s previous posts.

Because I see Unitarian Universalism as born out of a trend toward Kenosis in Christianity, I am critical of our sectarianism: our constant self-promotion, the assertion that we ourselves are the answer to humanity’s woes. We should not be in the business of shouting to the world that we exist, and that there is a nearby UU congregation. . . .

[And yet, learning] how to communicate love, mercy and justice to those who are afraid that they are worthless, or who suspect that the social order counts them as worthless, is perhaps the most important religious quest of our times. (The Lively Tradition, March 5)

Desmond Ravenstone maintains that polyamorous and kinky people are ignored by the UUA.

I find it hard to recall a single instance of anyone in UUA leadership, and even more painfully the UUA’s multicultural staff, say or write the “K” or “P” words. I’ve heard lots of euphemisms and dancing around these terms, but somehow none of these people who keep telling me I can trust them can even bring themselves to call us what we call ourselves. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, March 4)

The Rev. Tandi Rogers celebrates the maturation of UU humor, as evidenced in the new satirical rag, The Beacon (pdf).

Usually I like my social commentary with names attached. However, I’ve found the inaugural edition to be open-spirited, spiritually mature, and nuanced. I suspect the writer(s) are missional leaders with institutionalist hearts.  In other words, I am certain that the authors are prophetic court jesters who love our faith tradition very much.  I want to hear what they have to say even if it makes me squirm a bit. (Growing Unitarian Universalism, March 3)

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