A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism, collected by uuworld.org. Find more UU blogs at UUpdates. Contact us at email@example.com.
Arriving in Birmingham
Many UUs are traveling this week to Alabama to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the March on Selma. (See UU World‘s coverage, “Unitarian Universalists return to Selma.”
Leslie Mills, volunteering with the Living Legacy Project, plans to blog her experiences.
Bob and Peg were lovely companions for our flight to Birmingham. At Peg’s insistence, Bob had come for the march in 1965, and he heard Dr. King’s speech in Montgomery when he said, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” He shared memories with me of how tense the South was during his last visit—how he’d been turned away from buying a Coke by a white shopkeeper because he was one of the marchers; how the national guard had pulled out suddenly after the march, and the risk of violence escalated immensely; how he’d had to have an escort when going to and from the church where he was being housed. He remembered receiving the news of the murder of Unitarian Universalist minister James Reeb, and a few days later the murder of Unitarian Universalist lay leader Viola Liuzzo. It was a different time then, Bob assured me. (Leaping Loon, March 5)
Other UU participants are sharing their journeys via social media, including these photos by the Rev. Linda Hart.
All the messes and imperfections
Jacqueline Wolven, inspired by the movie Wild, asks, “What if we forgave ourselves?”
Decisions and life moments make us who we are and each one of us is different and beautiful. There is no “right way.” There is no “better way.” And as much as we judge each other the judgement that we do to ourselves is way more damaging. So, cheers to being who you are and to who I am. All the messes and imperfections. I hope that my life can help yours someday—that is why it all happened. This I now know. (Jacqueline Wolven, February 28)
Tina Porter wrestles with forgiveness—only to have it “squirm away in a tangle of humanness.”
I ask for forgiveness daily. I ask it of God, I ask it of myself, and sometimes I even ask others to give it to me. Some might see this as a martyr fixation, but I see it as rooting myself in my humanness. I am a human, and so, by definition, I am a mistake-maker. And so are you. Knowing that I need forgiveness reminds me that others may be feeling the same way. Forgiveness is our message to each other (and ourselves) that being human is good, and messy, and can be kind. (Ugly Pies, March 3)
Liz James, a self-described “family toad,” chronicles her determined effort to learn how to sing well enough to be useful as a song leader.
When did we start thinking of music as a thing you get to do when you’re good enough, instead of an inextinguishable part of being a human being? When did I have to get permission from Lynn, from my guitar teacher, from “real musicians” to be able to just start singing? Half of what my guitar teacher does is teach, and half is the bestowing of blessings. “Yes, you may do that. You may do whatever you want. Although some of the things–heads up–will sound really bad. And then nobody will die and we’ll try something else.” (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 27)
Karen Johnston’s friend, Mark Green, died this week.
As someone more intimate with Mark wrote, he “won” his battle with brain cancer.
Clearly, this definition of winning is different than what we usually hear. It is, I believe, a much braver one. . . . Yet winning did not mean staying alive in body. That would have been magnificent, but strangely, secondary.
It meant staying alive in spirit.
Not ceding humor, or kindness, or playfulness, or generosity.
That would have been the more tragic death. (Irrevspeckay, February 28)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern, posting daily for Women’s History Month, writes about Helen Keller.
I imagine that the way I learned about Keller was typical: she was the protagonist of an overcoming-adversity tale, cast as a mixture of victim and heroine. What that story obscures, as such stories tend to do, is the fact that her accomplishments would be remarkable regardless of her ability to see or hear. (Sermons in Stones, March 1)
Tina Porter embraces this world’s messy beauty.
Oh, God. This world.
It brings me to my knees in awe of all the good, weeping with joy at the pink clouds on the horizon as the sun falls slowly, a large glistening orange sphere, calling us all home. And it brings me to my knees deep in despair at what is happening, what we are doing to each other in the name of God.
Oh, God. This world. (Ugly Pies, March 2)
The Rev. Amy Freedman offers a prayer during a trying winter.
In this harsh cold environment,
Our challenges are harder to handle,
Our losses press more heavily on our hearts,
And we are depleted.
Now, in this moment, we center
to rest our bodies and to renew our spirits.
Like our fellow creatures who hibernate,
May we draw on our reserves for strength and comfort. (Amy Freedman, March 4)
UUs and money
The Rev. Tom Schade has a proposal for making General Assembly more financially accessible.
We do not become less class-biased by subsidizing poor and working class people to participate as though they were upper middle class. We become less class-biased by structuring our work so that poor and working class people can participate as they are. Unitarian Universalism should be a democratic faith not because any member can go to General Assembly, but because every member votes for and instructs their delegates to the highest governing body of the Association. (The Lively Tradition, March 3)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg shares reflections based on the book, The Generosity Path.
There are such complex personal experiences and social histories behind the various ways each of us think and behave about money. And too often messages around money are guilt- or fear-based. But the invitation to walk the generosity path is to increasingly approach money from a place of inner freedom and abundance. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, March 5)
The view from outside the UUA
This week’s The Thinking Atheist podcast explores Unitarian Universalism, and includes interviews with UU ministers, the Rev. Rebecca Bijur and the Rev. Dr. David Breeden. (The Thinking Atheist, March 3)
Our whole complicated lives
The Rev. Gretchen Haley writes about “how loving works.”
Some people are really super duper consistent in the type (and biological sex) of the person they fall in love with and desire. And some people truly only fall in love with and find intimacy with one person, for their whole life.
But for many of us, love and desire is a lot more complicated across our lifetimes. There are relationships we just cannot have words for, that mean more to us in many ways than the relationships we do have words for. We surprise ourselves with desire for people that we would’ve never expected at other points in our lives. Some of those desires we act on; many of them, we do not. Love changes and grows and fades and evolves—because we do. Living things change. (Another Possibility, February 23)
Karen Johnston writes about “Sex and life and aging and death [as one] gorgeous, edgy, voluptuous cloth.” (Irrevspeckay, February 24)
Katy Carpman isn’t a fan of hugging.
My body is mine, and I like to keep some space around it. When someone I do not much know is touching me more than incidentally, or wrapping around me, I can deal but I get a little twitchy. It wears me out.
A good friend? Sure, we’ll do a hug. Maybe two. I do not need to do the orbit of hugs when I arrive or before I leave a party. (Remembering Attention, February 25)
Responding to the popular book and movie, 50 Shades of Gray, Desmond Ravenstone prefers relational covenants to transactional covenants.
Too often, our consumer culture reduces sexuality to what we do—from conventional intercourse to role-playing in fetish garb. We forget that what we desire to do is inextricably linked to who we are as unique persons, and how the doing may affect our being. May we remember who we are, and what we have to bring, whenever we come together. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, February 24)
Ravenstone also provides space for a guest blogger to respond to UU World’s recent article about sex offenders in UU congregations.
When you say that those monsters shouldn’t be allowed in the doors of the Church, that you would never shake the hand of someone “like that”, please remember that you are talking about my dad. My dad who started out the same as all of us—feeling attracted to kids because he was one, and who didn’t ever grow out of it. . . .
You are talking about my dad, who lived with urges that most of us cannot judge or understand because we don’t have them. My dad who thought he could be strong enough to overcome it on his own.
My dad, who fought a hard fight. And who mostly succeeded. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, February 21)
Shauna Ahern, a member of the congregation I serve, applies to her own life lessons she learned at a recent memorial service.
We don’t have just one life and then a death. . . . There are, without a doubt, a thousand deaths and births while we’re here. I think the best way to live through them is to talk about it and share it with each other. Why are we so afraid of talking about death? (Gluten-Free-Girl and the Chef, February 25)
Sara Lewis introduces her congregation’s monthly theme for March, “Rhythms.”
There is a time for everything, not just for foods, but for everything. The value of living seasonally is that you attune your life to what is the right thing to be doing right now. As a life-coach once told me, “you can do almost everything you want and need to do, but honey you can’t do it all right now.” (The Children’s Chalice, February 26)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern suggests that we enlarge our definition of compassion.
I tend to think of compassion in the context of empathizing with someone’s suffering, although if asked to define it, I would say it encompasses all feelings, joyful as well as sorrowful. . . .
If we only invite compassion for people when they’re suffering, compassion has a steep hill to climb. It has to conquer our natural desire to avoid pain. . . . Partaking of someone’s feelings becomes a chore. But if we invite compassion for all feelings, . . . feeling others’ feelings, far from being always painful, can be a source of great pleasure. It’s an act of imagination, engaging and fascinating, which sometimes does carry us into experiences we would rather not have, but also brings us happiness that we would not have experienced had we remained shut in our own minds. (Sermons in Stones, February 20)
New humanism, and a new Fellowship Movement
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains some of humanism’s roots—and argues that humanism now has a new context.
In fighting religious dogmas, humanism became dogmatic. Attacks on religious claims; attacks on scriptures; claims and counter-claims became part of humanist practice. This is old fashioned now, at best.
But that was then. Now, humanism has a whole new world to dwell in. A world in which religions are interesting antiques and we humans can finally get around to exploring ways to make life better . . . here and now. (Quest for Meaning, February 26)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum thinks it’s time for a new Fellowship Movement.
I think the answer looks something like multi-site and and something like a Fellowship. The folks that are not attracted to a traditional church and its worship as the central focus might be attracted to something that is Unitarian Universalism in another package, like the Fellowships were. . . . But it needs institutional support, like the Fellowships had through the UUA staff and the mailings from Boston that provided the Fellowships with pre-prepared worship services and programs.
Today, it won’t be an ad in a newspaper, but something spread by social media. And maybe the staff person isn’t from Boston but rather, like the multi-site model, supplied by the nearest congregation. But the model being so fixed and clear and authorized and organized centrally is what made the Fellowship model so successful. We need that clear vision and mandate to grow these new entities, the new Fellowships. (The Lively Tradition, February 20)
Remembering Malcolm X
For the Rev. Dan Harper, reading Malcolm X is “a bracing experience.”
Recently, I’ve been questioning this notion of “white privilege” that we white liberals have been playing around with for twenty-five years or so. In The Ballot or the Bullet, Malcom X writes: “Whenever you’re going after something that belongs to you, anyone who’s depriving you of the right to have it is a criminal. Understand that. Whenever you are going after something that is yours, you are within your legal rights to lay claim to it. And anyone who puts forth any effort to deprive you of that which is yours, is breaking the law, is a criminal.” This simple, clear statement puts the lie to the concept of “white privilege”; what we’re actually talking about is theft, a criminal act, a crime. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, February 21)
Turning toward spring
Fed up with her Facebook friends’ pictures of spring flowers, Maine resident Claire Curole takes matters into her own hands. (The Sand Hill Diary, February 14)
Even though he lives in the relatively balmy Pacific Northwest, the Rev. Bill Sinkford writes, “my heart is ready for spring.”
The news of the world continues to test our spirits. Struggles in our individual lives and even in our church have taken a toll. I find myself ready for new life to burst forth; ready to allow nature’s rebirth to call forth a rebirth in my spirit. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, February 19)
The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt wanders into a Roman Catholic church on Ash Wednesday, and finds, surrounded by her ancestors, a new beginning.
Ash Wednesday is meant to be a solemn day, a reminder of our mortality and of the dust to which we ultimately return. But it wasn’t like that for me today, surrounded by portraits of the ancestors and the God of my understanding. The ashes I wore this Wednesday were a talisman of hope, a reminder for my sometimes weary heart that any day is a good day to repent: that is, to turn myself around, and to give myself over to love’s good news. May all of us get that same chance, in this Lenten season: the chance to turn ourselves around. May all of us find reason to believe in love’s amazing power. (Starr King School for the Ministry, February 19)
Catherine Clarenbach adds a Pagan sparkle to the beginning of Lent.
One year in seminary, one Ash Wednesday, I went to my friends who had ashes on their foreheads and asked them whether I could offer them another blessing. Every one of them said yes. I had a small, carved box full of very fine glitter. I opened the box, and pressed my finger to the glitter just a tiny bit, then pressed that finger onto the backs of my friends’ hands. “Remember,” I said, “you are of the dust of Earth and the dust of stars, a child of Earth and Starry Heaven.” (Nature’s Path, February 18)
Tending the spirit
The Rev. Phil Lund confesses that he is a “spiritual slow learner.”
So, after years of skating along the surface of poetry I’ve finally broken through the intellectual ice and fallen into the spiritual depths. And the best poems are a bit like a splash of cold water, too, waking me up from my slumber and invigorating my spirit. Coffee’s not bad, either. (Phillip Lund, February 14)
Lund also shares a list of questions meant to help small groups “go a little deeper spiritually.” (Phillip Lund, February 18)
Unsatisfied with an online list of spiritual novels, the Rev. James Ford writes, “That set me to thinking about what novels have touched my heart on my path, what set, or reset me along the way at important moments.” (Monkey Mind, February 15)
Nostalgia for inequality
The Rev. Tom Schade wonders if the current fascination with “Fifty Shades” is a kind of nostalgia for inequality.
Why this, at a time when the hidden codes of domination and subordination between people are being interrogated and exposed as never before. Is it like ethnic joking, a seemingly playful subversion of new multicultural sensitivities? Is this nostalgia for the old ways of being human in which unequal power and sexuality were welded together? (The Lively Tradition, February 6)
Doug Muder responds to two arguments that often appeal to middle-of-the-road opponents to marriage equality.
[Whether] it would happen in your ideal world or not, same-sex couples are raising children. Some are adopting children whose biological parents can’t or won’t raise them. Some are working with doctors and friends to conceive children that they will raise from birth. And some are keeping faith with the children they had in a previous opposite-sex relationship that failed.
In the vast majority of those cases, if they gave those children up something worse would happen to them. And if you make life harder for those couples, you can’t avoid making life harder for their children. Who would that benefit? (The Weekly Sift, February 16)
Kim Hampton sees a trend in recent white responses to strong black women.
Black women are supposed to patch up white people’s emotional boo-boos. . . .Yet what is going on in the situations of Starr King, #BlackLivesMatter, and “Selma,” is that black women aren’t doing that. And in all three cases none of the black women involved are apologizing for that fact.
There seems to be a lot of white anxiety when they are not the focus/main driver of the story. In other words, white people don’t like being “the help.” (East of Midnight, February 16)
Dawn Fortune contributes to the February #SexUUality blogging project.
In this day and age, we receive lots of messages about what sex, love and relationships ought to be. I cannot tell you what your love life should look like, nor should I. What I can talk about is healthy boundaries, agency, respect, and consent. Sex should not hurt unless you want it to. What matters is that you are respected, happy and fulfilled, and not attempting to live up to a false standard established by popular culture. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, February 18)
The Rev. Dr. Nori Rost considers a reader’s challenging questions about shame and sexuality.
What happens when we find ourselves in situations where we feel incapable of stopping something that is happening, or when, in the midst of emotional and spiritual pain we allow things to happen to us or actively engage in sexual activities that don’t feel sacred or bring healing to our lives and in fact, mire us in the tar pits of shame and its BFF self-loathing? (sUbteXt, February 16)
Andrew Hidas writes about the sacredness of the physical world, including sexuality.
I believe in the sacramentality of things, the very objects of this world that God, whom I don’t believe in except pertaining to the countless gifts He has placed before us and inside us for our intrigue, feasting and delight. One of those things being skin and its millions of sensational sensate receptors and oh my God the miracle that that is! (Traversing, February 14)