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.
Help, I need somebody
When his two-day-old daughter will not wake to eat and is admitted to the hospital, the Rev. Dr. Michael Tino learns to say, “Help, I need somebody.”
[Interdependence] is, in fact, where the holy resides. The holy resides in our ability to ask for help and receive it. The holy resides in our ability to hear another’s cry for help and respond. The holy resides in our connections of compassion and vulnerability.
In our willingness to fall to our knees and overcome barriers of theology and pride in order to admit we need some help. The holy resides in our admission that we need somebody else. (Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Westchester, November 3)
For the Rev. Robin Bartlett, newly ordained and a new-again mama, being a parent renews her commitment to “destroy hells so that we can help make a world worthy of our kids’ promise”—even when hell is the seemingly idyllic suburbs.
Hell is in our separation from one another, our loneliness and isolation, . . . our SECRETS IN GENERAL. . . . Hell is in our depression and our inauthentic relationships with the people we are trying so hard to impress. Hell is in our lack of trust of our neighbors; the way we cover up the bad things. Hell is here, and we live in it. . . .
Our mission is to start admitting to each other that parenting is hard, and that we need one another to do it. . . . Our mission is to start telling the truth about what’s real in our parenting and marriages, and to ask for help from those around us. (Religious Education at UUAC Sherborn, November 6)
Karen Johnston risks asking a new friend, “Why aren’t you a UU?” Her friend turns the question around and asks Johnston, “Why are you a UU?”
Being explicitly supported on a spiritual path that had no creedal box was surprising at first, then utterly empowering. . . . Coming from an understanding that faith requires an imposed box, this is a freeing understanding, but also an immature, if necessary, one. I know now that understanding myself to be Unitarian Universalist frees me and binds me, enables me to be on a spiritual path of belief and obliges me to be engaged in spiritually responsible actions to and with my fellow creatures. (irrevspeckay, November 4)
The Rev. Ron Robinson shares his answers to frequently asked questions about Missional Church.
Missional comes from the Greek word missio (to be sent). It is about being Sent, being called, to be with and for others, especially those hurting for whom my heart breaks. It is not about having a spiffy mission statement, especially one that is all about one’s own faith community. (Missional Progressives, November 3)
Asking, “How would you drive if everyone knew who you were?” the Rev. Andrew Weber reminds us that actions speak louder than words.
Usually when we go through life—and especially while driving—there is a sense of anonymity. We don’t need to think about how our actions affect others because we don’t know them, they don’t know us and we probably will never meet face to face. . . .
Let go of the anonymity in life. Live as if everyone you interact with is your friend! (How to Drive Like a Minister, November 4)
The nature of the human heart
The festival of Diwali reminds the Rev. Jake Morrill of a lesson learned at the local Hindu Community Center.
In this old world, at all times, dark abides. Wherever you can be found—ancient India, maybe, or else only off an American highway where untold travelers, rapt with fear and desire, purchase sex toys and guns and the dream of new life in a golfing community—wherever it is, the dark will be welling up into the light, and the brightest of lighting will not put it out. Instead, light and dark in a life will at long last forge union. (Quest for Meaning, November 2)
Andew Hidas looks at inconsistent views of human nature held by liberals and conservatives.
[We] need to ask conservatives: Given what you know and espouse about human nature, why would you favor deregulated markets? . . . [We] must ask liberals: By espousing tightly regulated markets, haven’t you essentially bought the darker conservative view of human nature? . . . Liberals want to watch bankers like hawks but often go all soft and sympathetic on welfare fraud. Conservatives watch every food stamp transaction at the checkout stand to make sure the recipient isn’t buying cigarettes with the leftover cash—while imploring regulators to get off capitalists’ backs so the “magic” of the free market can be unleashed. (Traversing, November 3)
Writing at his new blog, The Liberal Pulpit, the Rev. Meredith Garmon begins a new series of posts, “Why Not Evil?”
Unitarian Universalists read the papers more than average. We know what’s going on out there, and we know people aren’t always filled with kindness and compassion. We have a pretty clear sense of human capacity for evil. Just ask a typical UU how much she trusts the board of Monsanto to do what’s best for their workers, their consumers, or the planet. (The Liberal Pulpit, November 5)
Belonging is complicated
Childhood experiences of dislocation make the Rev. Myke Johnson value belonging to community.
We start out in relationship, and our unique individuality grows out of that circle of relatedness. Not the other way around. We all need each other in order to flourish and to thrive in life.
To give Locke and others their due—the philosophy of individualism was created in rebellion against the authoritarian structures of an earlier age, the tyranny of church and monarch. To affirm relationship is not to deny the importance of human dignity and freedom. But we must recognize that relatedness comes first, and within that circle of relatedness, we find our inherent worth and dignity. (Finding Our Way Home, November 6)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern defends people who stay in a religious community, even when they no longer believe all of that community’s tenets.
People may stay for a lifetime in a religion that is not a perfect fit, because it’s the best fit. We don’t get to create religions from scratch, not if we want things like 5,000-year-old roots; we choose from a limited list of options. I’m really no different today than anyone who chooses an imperfect religion (or job or place to live or marriage or . . . ). Unitarian Universalism suits me very well, but not perfectly. Just the same, I’m staying here. Does that make me insincere? Of course not. (Sermons in Stones, November 2)
June Herold struggles with finding a congregational home, and a way to use the gifts she brings to our faith.
The opposite of a famous UU citation seems to be true in many places: We think alike but we don’t love alike. No one seems to be considering whether the reality of what we say in church community is actually the opposite of what is transpiring.
Early on, a minister told me that people go in and out of church communities throughout their lives for many reasons. I understand that now.
I’m a UU but I’m wandering. (The New UU, November 7)
Pirates, peaceniks and radicals
The Rev. Dan Harper disagrees with the idea that we become more conservative with age.
I find myself getting more radical with age. The older I get, the more I realize how foolish and unproductive and morally bankrupt war is; the more I feel we have to protect our kids from war and violence. And increasingly I think most radical thing we can do is turn our kids into peaceniks. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, November 4)
For “UU Clicker,” radicalism began in a childhood commitment to defending a loved one.
I knew I couldn’t convince my father he was mistaken, but I resolved to study hard so when I grew up I would have a comeback. I would be on the side of people like Bernice. People whom my father dubbed “The Great Unwashed.”
You can see that from an early age, I didn’t believe everything I was told. I was a radical, one who looks at the roots of things. In middle age, I became a Unitarian Universalist, hoping to continue as a radical with like-minded people. (Clicking UU Life, November 5)
John Beckett recommends piracy for working within an unfair system, while also working to change that system.
Piracy is playing the game intelligently and exploiting the rules to your advantage. The rules of our mainstream society were developed for the benefit of those with money and power. If we are excluded from the decision making process and denied a fair share of the benefits of the system, we should not feel constrained by the rules of the system. (Under the Ancient Oaks, November 5)
The solace of the Sox
Living far from Boston but a life-long Red Sox fan, the Rev. Tony Lorenzen writes that, “In a world beset by many painful, disruptive, and disorienting events from divorce to terrorism, the Red Sox provide a connection, a home, and some peace.”
I won’t make CD’s of all the music associated with the Red Sox. . . . But I have pulled those songs onto a play-list and will listen to it thinking about how the Sox make my life a little brighter, whether it’s by sending me down memory lane thinking fondly of my grandfather listening to the game on the radio while hunched over the kitchen wastebasket shelling and eating peanuts or reflecting on how the Sox are a commonality that bring me closer to friends who hold opposing, as in polar opposite, political views. . . .
This year the Sox reminded of who I am, where I’m from, and the people who love me. Sometimes that’s as much solace as we get, and possibly as much as we need. (Sunflower Chalice, October 31)
Precious as the stars in heaven
Remembering Martin Luther, the Rev. James Ford pins five theses to the cork board in his kitchen, including one that echoes the first UU Principle.
Its good to remember you are as precious as the stars in heaven. You are absolutely unique. You will never be repeated. And, you’re as passing as the morning dew. Take care of yourself, it’s a sacred obligation to your mother and father and the holy one. (Monkey Mind, October 31)
Christine Slocum’s new UU congregation is a wonderfully baby-friendly church.
It’s the little things: people approaching me to express how much they love hearing a little baby coo in the services, the woman next to me holding open the hymnal while my arms are full, and strangers stopping to smile and talk to my little one. My baby is probably convinced that the standard operating procedure for meeting strangers consists of smiles and declarations of wonderfulness and beauty, because that’s all she experiences. (Christine Slocum, October 28)
The Rev. Jake Morrill tells the story of meeting a Good Samaritan—a tired exotic dancer in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.
A magazine I once read had a feature on “Southern hospitality.” I remember the photos: a big porch with white pillars. A carved wooden pineapple hung by the door. Inside, some plump sofas and delicate curtains. A life of plenty and ease. I’d be willing to be pampered in a setting like that. But, to me, “Southern hospitality” will always look less like that mansion, and more like a one-room apartment in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. (Quest for Meaning, October 26)
The Rev. Diane Dowgiert, echoing another blog post from last week, suggests that we need to re-examine the stereotypes about who Unitarian Universalists are.
I hear the kinds of questions newcomers get asked. For example, “What do you do?” The person answers, “I work at Raytheon.” And the questioner responds, “Oh, so you must be an engineer.” This leaves the newcomer, who is actually a janitor, wondering, “Would you still respect me if you knew what I really do for a living?” (Transforming Times, October 24)
The Rev. Myke Johnson risks talking about her heart’s spiritual hunger.
Today, when I venture inside my own heart, I still experience deep longings, these hungers that feel almost like pain, or sometimes like restlessness. It is difficult to feel this and I am tempted to read a book, or find something else that might fill up that empty place. But instead of escaping or fixing it, I invite myself to try to be present with it. I breathe into the longing and let myself experience the hunger. (Finding Our Way Home, October 27)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom has a spiritual encounter with “holy ground,” but then cannot find its borders.
[As] I began to put my shoes back on I found myself wondering about where the boundary was around this “holy ground.” Was there a circle of some as yet indeterminate diameter that was holy ground with everything beyond being more mundane? . . . Where does “holy ground” end and “unholy ground” begin? I have to say, I’ve still never found that demarcation. (A Minister’s Musings, October 31)
The Rev. Ken Beldon announces the beginning of Wellspring’s annual “Thirty Days of Gratitude,” and invites participation: “Over the month to come, we’ll be working with beginning, intermediate and advanced steps that can help us grow in gratitude.” (Thirty Days of Gratitude, October 30)
Margaret Sequeira compares the intersecting roles of psychotherapy, spiritual direction, and coaching when life calls us to “dive deep.” (Scattered Revelations, October 30)
For John Beckett, Samhain is a time of “the thinning of the veil between the worlds,” when we can hear the spirits of Nature speak—if we listen.
What might they say to us, or at least to those of us inclined to hear with more than physical ears?
Away, come away.
Come away from your antiseptic bubbles and dig in the dirt.
Come away from your high tech glamours and make your own art.
Come away from your isolation and greet your neighbors—all your neighbors.
Come away from your masters and follow your heart.
Come away from your arrogance and revere our Mother.
Come away from your greed and embrace enough.
Away, come away. (Under the Ancient Oaks, October 27)
For guest blogger Irene Jericho, Samhain “speaks to the spark within the darkness.”
The loved ones that exist beyond death. The light within us that shines on the darkest of days. The comfort of a warm hearth on a cold night. This is the gift, and the lesson, of this season. That the Wheel of the Year turns, and we turn with it. That a journey into the night is not something to be feared. It is simply a part of the cycle. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, October 30)
The Rev. Dan Harper shares a reflection by Samuel Erickson about being a Unitarian Universalist and a conscientious objector.
As for this Unitarian Universalist church, I know we do not specifically teach pacifism, but I believe what we do value directs itself to such. . . . [Pacifism] is when we stop and think about any situation, you and I realize that violence will never accomplish anything, death will not solve problems. When we extrapolate our actions from there and to the rest of our lives, that is what means to be a conscientious objector. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 27)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum thinks about whether she will go to see the movie Ender’s Game, based on the novel by Orson Scott Card (who actively opposes marriage equality).
[The] old Orson Scott Card fan in me really wants to see it, and the activist in me wants to boycott it. . . . If I go see Ender’s Game, then I will give the amount of my ticket price directly to an organization working for same-sex marriage or liberal politics to offset the gain in Card’s pocket, much like offsetting a carbon footprint. (Rev. Cyn, October 30)
Sarah, a Unitarian in Scotland, has enjoyed becoming involved with the new atheist Sunday Assembly in Edinburgh.
Church, if you set aside the religious element, is about congregating with others to take a bit of time out from busy lives and reflect on life a bit; to be uplifted together; to reach out and do some good to others. There are many people who want all these things, but are just turned off by the God part. (Meaning and Truth, October 26)
An earlier blog post describes Sarah’s first experience with the Sunday Assembly, and compares it to services in the Unitarian church. (Meaning and Truth, August 18)
In his sermon, “We Already Exist,” the Rev. Stephen Kendrick voices the thoughts of many UUs about the Sunday Assembly and other new freethinkers’ groups.
Around the Web
After a trip to Paris, the Rev. Tom Schade writes that “travel is now the great humanist pilgrimage.”
I am not referring to humanism as atheism, but as the great humanist turn in Western thought when ordinary life was placed at the center of consciousness and thought. . . .
How to illustrate this great turn away from the divine toward the ordinary and human? Consider the Cathedral at Rouen, begun in 1200. It was built to last, a place to worship the everlasting God by His everlasting church. In 1890, Claude Monet painted a series of paintings of the Cathedral’s facade, each one capturing the impression on his eyes made by the ever shifting light shining on the unchanging stones. (The Lively Tradition, October 29)
As Americans struggle to adapt to “Obamacare,” the Rev. Elz Curtiss suggests that we all need a bit of pastoral care.
Now that the Affordable Care Act has provoked the unavoidable controversies, I find myself missing true religious leadership during this process.
You might be liberal or conservative, in either your theology or your politics, but as a clergy-person, you are taught to stand with your people during times of change, and reassure them that, “Yes, change is hard. Yes, change is scary. When familiar things get rearranged, it feels like you’re under attack.” (Politywonk, October 29)
Liberal people of faith
Reminding us that “labels can mislead,” the Rev. Theresa Novak spins out the meaning of the word “liberal.”
Are you lavish
Are you liberal
Generous to a fault?
Is your mind open
Do questions make
You want to sing
Songs of maybe so? (Sermons, Poetry and Other Musing, October 23)
The Rev. Tom Schade links the goals of political liberalism and universalism.
Universalism is not just a Christian doctrine of salvation. . . . Universalism is, I suggest, a concrete historical process, an unfolding process within which we are only in the middle. . . . Universalism is the process by which the subordinated human beings claim their full power, throw off the habits of deference (and entitlements) and see their universality, in all their diversity. (The Lively Tradition, October 23)
Gracia Walker Basham tells her “UU Salvation Story,” of finding in Unitarian Universalism a liberating and empowering message.
Who’s welcome here?
A widely-shared post by Lee Walton calls our liberal credentials into question. Walton conducted a survey, asking one simple question: What are you afraid to admit at a UU church?
I first became aware of this issue when a close friend and committed Christian said to me, “Lee, I wanted it to work. I really tried. I wanted to be a part of Unitarian Universalism, but my faith is just not welcomed there. I couldn’t take the scoffs anymore when I’d talk about my faith nor the pot shots at my beliefs from others in service. It was just too much. I’ve decided to not go anymore, which is real shame because I don’t know where else to go.” (Tallahassee UU, October 22)
Invited to mindfully chew a raisin—a food she detests—Jordinn Nelson Long learns lessons in patience and presence.
Take this thing that you recoil from the mere thought of, and engage with it. Don’t eat around it, or pretend it’s not there, or swallow it whole. Take it on. Do precisely that which makes you uncomfortable, and continue to do it until the feared object disintegrates. (Raising Faith, October 19)
Karen Johnston visits the New England Peace Pagoda, and circumambulates the stupa.
[When] I walked around the stupa, I calmed nearly immediately. It is a meditative act that requires my walking to slow. I make sure each step is a step of intention. I put one step on one cement tile and the next step on another cement tile. (Irrevspeckay, October 19)
The Rev. Alex Holt outlines the mindfulness practices that have helped him lose weight and become more fit.
It began with a friendly pat on the belly—mine, to be exact. . . . Whether that gentle pat was real or just my imagination makes no difference as the karmic law of cause and effect brought me through all the hundreds of miles walking, mindful eating, tracking calories with high tech software, and most of all the support of those who urged me on to this place of better health. (Living Life Well One Day at a Time, October 24)
In his marriage, the Rev. Sam Trumbore has discovered the courage to be wrong.
What has made the most difference . . . is cultivating courage. In the face of . . . disapproval and in the certainty or uncertainty of my own position, sensing the danger to the well-being of our relationship, I take a breath and strive to be present to what is happening. If I feel discouraged, shamed, or threatened, I strive to stay put and not attack or run away. . . . For me, courage requires examining the flood of chemicals being pumped out by the amygdala, honoring their primitive intention to protect my body from harm, and allowing them to calm down before acting. (Rev. Sam Trumbore, October 18)
Around the web
Despite her best intentions, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein sees her younger self in the story of a 24-year-old teacher allegedly murdered by a student.
I don’t like the narcissistic tendency to make tragic stories all about “Wow, that could have been me” or “What would I feel like if that was my kid?” or any other such projection. . . . In my opinion, the only appropriate response is to pray for the victims, to pray for the broader community affected, to reach out where possible to offer support or help. But this time, I indulged myself simply because the memories came back unbidden, fast and full of feeling. I pray for them all, such pain. Lord have mercy. (Facebook page, October 24)
Now that her children are almost grown, Tina Porter looks back at how her home has served her family’s needs.
[This] house has stood and kept us bound to each other with its four small, yet brightly-colored walls. And it has billowed and withered as needed. . . . I see now that it [is] a magical house, an accordion house, that looks small from the outside, but holds—and has held—so very much within. (Long Thoughts, October 20)
Kat Liu objects to the term “fitness privilege.”
When we talk of privilege we need to be moderate in our use of that word lest it come to mean nothing. There is a difference between the privilege that gives you access to the resources to help you succeed at whatever you set out to do, and “privilege” being thrown as a weapon against someone who has succeeded at something. (Reflections on the Jewel Net, October 23)
The Rev. Dan Harper has published a series of reports from UNCO13 West, “a gathering for people who are doing creative innovative things with religion and technology and churches reaching out to people under 40.” One aspect of this “unconference” that he most enjoyed was the welcome extended to children.
The service was not dumbed-down to kid level; there were no “moments for children,” no talking down to children during the sermon. Everyone accepted, with love, the autistic five year old who needed to run around (and occasionally be corralled by his parents) during the services. Yes, it could get a little chaotic, but between the love in the community, and the seriousness of purpose, it all worked out. I want to belong to a church that worships like this every week. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 24)
Advice for prospective seminarians
Jordinn Nelson Long and friends have collected words of wisdom for anyone hearing a call to ministry.
Gather all of the financial resources you have available; if you can liquidate some assets, even better. Place them in the center of a large circle. Light them on fire. Dance around it, singing “We are the flow, we are the ebb,” or other Pagan chant of your choice, while filling out form RSCC-6 detailing financial plans for your future ministry. (Raising Faith, October 22)