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.
A new logo for the UUA
The UUA launched a new logo this week as part of a larger outreach effort. Online reactions—particularly in UU Facebook conversations—began rolling in almost immediately. The UUA’s announcement on Facebook provoked vigorous commentary. (Facebook, February 14)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum writes an open letter to the UUA, expressing her gratitude and hope for this new effort.
I’m a minister who has been out in the field for over a decade, and is relatively technologically proficient for someone in the ministry with a liberal arts degree preceding that, but there are ways in which I was unprepared for the way ministry and church would change during my ministry. And as a minister of a relatively small church, I see ways in which my church is unable to respond. There are concrete things that the UUA could do that would make things easier. . . .
Conquer these, and you’ll free us up to do that reaching out to our larger community and to the “nones.” Thank you again for your vision. I look forward to having the tools to address it. (Rev. Cyn, February 13)
Desmond Ravenstone is among the UUs who wondered why a new logo was necessary.
Seriously, folks. Feedback from your own studies indicates that we’re not being consistent in our message, that we’re not that articulate in explaining Unitarian Universalism to younger people in particular and people in general. And this is your response?? (Ravenstone’s Reflections, February 13)
Tim Atkins defends the branding effort against complaints about costs.
I’m all for the UUA spending time and money on branding and a logo. It’s desperately needed, especially in our social media age. I say go forth and ignore the haters UUA and keep doing what you should be doing. (Tim Atkins, February 13)
After a day fielding logo-critiques, the Rev. Tom Schade is amazed by his colleagues’ “willful yahooism.”
I am not often discouraged, but the resistance to the new, to change, among my colleagues, especially among colleagues who think of themselves on the cutting edge, is just too depressing tonight. (The Lively Tradition, February 13)
In an earlier post, Schade writes, “Behold the New Logo!”
The new Logo will be a screen
upon which UU’s will project all of their frustrations
about how we think
we are perceived in the wider world. . . .
Behold the New Logo
You Read It—It Reads You. (The Lively Tradition, February 13)
The Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley shares the history of the initiative in the second half of this week’s episode of The VUU.
Mass Moral March
A sizable contingent of UUs traveled to Raleigh this week for the Mass March, including the Rev. Tom Schade, who reflects on his experience in the first half-hour of this week’s The VUU.
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann attended the march on behalf of those without the freedom to participate.
I went to Raleigh because of the young black man in prison serving time that a white man does not; because of the woman living in a domestic violence shelter with no car, no time off from work and inadequate child care; because of the students in school with no voice and no political influence regarding their future. (uujeff’s muse kennel and pizzatorium, February 10)
The Rev. Scott Wells was not convinced of the march’s effectiveness.
I don’t dispute that tens of thousands of people participated and that many (perhaps most) found it personally meaningful and vitally enriching. . . . But if the Unitarian Universalist part—I’ve heard there were a thousand or so present—is any sign of what Movementarianism might be (or become), we should fold our tents up now and save our heirs the bother. Not only must we be careful to cultivate a sensitive and responsive character, but also cultivate shrewd and effective methods for what we must be. (Boy in the Bands, February 10)
Challenging UU classism
Angel participated in her congregation’s conversation about classism, where she was the only person from a lower class background.
Every time I’m in a situation where someone makes a statement about “us” v. “them,” where “them” refers to the lower-classes, I get uncomfortable, and I get angry.
Because these statements erase my history and my identity. I am fucking proud of where I come from. My parents worked so hard to feed and clothe and educate six kids, and send us all off to really great schools, and also manage to pay off the mortgages of two houses in twenty years and pay down half of another mortgage in just seven years. They are rock stars. (Thoughtful Pauses, February 10; be sure to read the follow-up post on February 14)
Olympics Games in daily life
The Rev. Elz Curtiss writes that for her partner, who has Huntington’s Disease, the tasks of daily living are Olympic Games.
Did a skier’s leg fly out to the side on that turn? Been there, done that. Did the skater fall in a heap before the eyes of the world? Yeah, that happened in the church parking lot. Did the curler have trouble getting the stone on the target? Yep.
But did someone complete a good run on bad ice? Done that, too. Did someone fight back from a deficit, land a spot on the podium with the last run? Did the whole team gather around to console a disappointed competitor? Yes, done those things, too. (Politywonk, February 11)
When the Rev. Tamara Lebak loses her car keys, her inner child throws a tantrum.
My daughter was (fortunately) obsessed in the cartoon of the moment and barely noticed as I alternately riffled beneath and banged my fist on both front seats yelling, “Shit! Shit! Shit!” I knew what was happening. Somewhere inside me was a kinder, gentler, nobler me full of compassion watching a 3-year-old tantrum as expressed by a 41-year-old adult. Three-year-old me and mature-adult me both had on a collar. (Under the Collar, February 11)
The Rev. Robin Bartlett writes that, in our “brutal and beautiful world,” parents need to go to church for themselves, not just for their children.
If church is not a gift for you, it won’t be a gift for your children. You know that old trope that we borrow from plane instructions we hear read by flight attendants–that you have to apply your own oxygen mask first before you apply your child’s, right? Well, you are your child’s religious educator and oxygen mask. Not me. Not our UUA’s religious education curricula. Not our volunteer teachers. Not even our minister. You. (Religious Education at UUAC Sherborn, February 11)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar acknowledges that Valentine’s Day is a difficult holiday for most of us, and suggests embracing the fact that love is hard work.
Just for this one day you could practice love not so much as a feeling but as a choice, a discipline, a practice. You could start with the conviction that everyone certainly needs love, and the possibility that everyone deserves it. Not because they have earned it, not because they are loveable, but because each of us is capable of being an instrument of grace, which is another name for the love that we don’t have to earn or deserve. (Quest for Meaning, February 12)
As part of the Thirty Days of Love campaign, Christine Organ is talking with her kids about “Brave Love.”
We talked about how love isn’t just flowers and hearts and fuzzy feelings, about how Brave Love is doing the right thing even when it’s really, really hard. Jackson told me about how he showed Brave Love when he stood up for a friend who was being picked on a few weeks ago. He talked about how a classmate showed Brave Love when she agreed to go last in the game they were playing at recess. He talked about how another classmate showed Brave Love when he told some kids to stop kicking down their snow fort. (Christine Organ, February 7)
UU World‘s news coverage of the UUA Board of Trustees meeting in San Diego sparked a social media hubbub; UUA staff quoted in the article seemed to be inviting a shift in identity from “an association of congregations” to “a religious movement focused on cultural transformation.” (UU World, February 3)
Much of the blogging conversation took place in comments on the Rev. Tom Schade’s blog, beginning with his post about the role of congregations in cultural transformation.
Transformative cultural energy will not arise easily out of our present congregations, most of which are consumed in the work of institutional maintenance. . . .
This is where UUA Staff, the leadership of larger successful congregations, young adults, and extra-congregational UU activists can be taking the lead, helping people connect to the energy out there. (The Lively Tradition, February 4)
The Rev. Scott Wells writes, “I’ll believe the tales of new, grand design once you can show me you are able to fix the foundation.”
Institution building is hard, often unglamourous work. It’s what we need the UUA for, if anything, but if the leadership decides to follow its own bliss and upend the power relationship of the UUA, the member congregations have a moral right to ignore, substitute and defund it. (Boy in the Bands, February 5)
Much of the online conversation took place on Facebook, most of which is unavailable if you have not joined the site. However, UU World editor Christopher L. Walton’s post about the news story is public and gives a taste of the conversation.
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explores the attraction of apocalyptic thinking.
Why is apocalypse so interesting to so many?
Because long-term solutions are not interesting.
Long-term solutions are difficult. And boring. And require committees and task forces and lots and lots of charts and graphs and talking, talking, talking. (Quest for Meaning, February 6)
The Rev. Meredith Garmon suggests “the Ecospiritual Challenge” as a third way to respond to climate change: “not denying the reality we face, and nor retreating into everyone-for-herself survivalism.”
It is the path of open-eyed and open-eared awareness, and also the path of connection to both nature and neighbor—not afraid to face reality, not avoiding needed knowledge because it’s “depressing” and you’d rather not think about it. And at the same time not bunkering protectively. (The Liberal Pulpit, January 30)
Saints and sinners
The Rev. Gary Kowalski reacts to a recent ranking of U.S. states from most to least religious.
Here are some interesting facts about the “most religious” state. Close behind Louisiana, which is number one, Mississippi boasts the second highest murder rate in the United States. Vermont, the “least religious” state, is number forty-nine in homicides per 100,000 population. Only nearby New Hampshire has fewer murders. If Gallup is right, religion can be dangerous to your health. (Revolutionary Spirits, February 5)
The Rev. Theresa Novak longs for the day when we no longer sort ourselves into sinners and saints.
Pray for the saints
Pray for the sinners
Pray for the day that will come
When we’ll all live our lives
In the best way we can
We won’t cast aspersions
On ourselves or each other (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, February 6)
A visit to Third Unitarian in Chicago leads Claire to think about UU saints.
Who are our saints? I was at Third Unitarian of Chicago last Sunday, whose building houses a series of tile murals depicting a selection of “saints”—or “wise people that we admire” as their literature puts it. Love the art; it is very fitting for this intensely humanist (and wonderfully friendly) congregation. At the same time I wonder what it means to name them saints who are no less human than those of us walking the simple ground today. (The Sand Hill Diary, January 31)
A transformative faith
For Thomas Earthman, Unitarian Universalism has been a truly transformative faith.
My faith has transformed me to be a better person. I firmly believe that. It has made me more accepting. It has made me more patient. It has helped me learn to let go of my frustrations, and to see that all of us humans are just trying to get by, trying to cope with our own desire to be vital in a universe where we are so small. I make my vitality by trying to live up to my faith. (A Material Sojourn, February 2)
The Rev. Sarah Stewart wishes more of her fellow Unitarian Universalists recognized how high the stakes are.
People join congregations because they are trying to orient their lives toward the good and the just. And then, at least in Unitarian Universalism, they also want to debate what the good and the just are, and have a say in determining what action will get them there, often without having to put much of anything on the line. . . .
[It] wouldn’t hurt us, from time to time, to imagine we are charting those paths in the face of existential threat, as though our lives and our salvation depended on making the right choices. (Stereoscope, February 6)
The Rev. James Ford reflects on “the god that is love.”
Today, by most conventions I’m an atheist. That is I do not believe in a human-like consciousness that directs things. . . .
And…within my experience there is something. The best word I can call it is love. I suspect I know the grubby roots of that love, how it arises within my mammalian consciousness. But, it seems to have a larger existence, as well. (Monkey Mind, February 5)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak reads Be Love Now, by Ram Das, on an airplane to Houston.
There are things one can do to prepare to meet the kind of Love that is pervasive in the world and ever-present. Ram Das likens it to the way in which lovers prepare for a first date: pay special attention—be clean and presentable to The Beloved, shower, shave, powder, and perfume. Putting on my collar sometimes feels like preparing myself for a date with The Beloved, reminding me to meet God in the presence of others. (Under the Collar, February 5)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg finishes a three-part review of Anne Lamott’s book about prayer, Help, Thanks, Wow.
In the past few years, another of my most common spiritual practices has been taking photographs with my iPhone using the Instagram app of those moments in life when I come across sights that leave me transfixed in radical amazement. I’ve found that rather than distracting me, photography when done slowly and with intention brings me even more deeply into the present moment, often causing me to notice details, angles, and beauty I likely otherwise would have missed. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, January 31)
Remembering Pete Seeger
For the Rev. Dan Harper, who serves as a minister of religious education, “Pete Seeger’s greatest strength was his ability to sing for children and young people.”
When he sang, he taught about big concepts like justice and human rights and racism and social inequality—he taught all these big concepts in a way that a six year old could understand them. His infectious songs and style of singing ensured that the children and young people who heard him sing would remember the lessons he taught for a long, long time. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 29)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar points to Seeger’s whole-hearted living.
He was extraordinary, but here’s what strikes me. Anybody who really wanted to could do what he did. . . . What was so incredible about Pete Seeger was not any singular gift or talent. What we celebrate, what we remember, was not a man who could do things no other person could, but rather a man who spent his whole very long life walking with a whole heart toward what he believed in. (Quest for Meaning, January 29)
The Rev. Dan Schatz, whose musical mentors were “the children of Pete,” had the privilege of working with Seeger.
Pete was a Unitarian Universalist, and I’m sure he is one of the reasons I went into the UU ministry. It wasn’t anything he ever said to me—instead it was the lessons I learned listening to those records and singing his songs. I learned to care about ordinary people, to value freedom and justice, to work for what is right no matter how daunting it seems, to bring people together, to listen and value the voices of others. (The Song and the Sigh, January 28)
For the Rev. Kit Ketcham, Seeger’s songs gave voice to her changing theology as a young adult.
Pete changed my life. His songs were meaningful without being religious, at least according to my Baptist upbringing, and when I found him, I was looking (mostly subconsciously) for meaning, not doctrine. . . .
His songs were about basics: love of natural things, love of humankind, respect for creation, healing of wounds, peace across the earth, and, most of all, how singing together can create this vision of one world. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, January 28)
The Rev. Peter Boullata points to Seeger as an important vocational influence.
For me, his was the voice that activated something in my soul, something that longed to connect with others in solidarity and community in the struggles for freedom. That called me deeper into a life of activism. And that helped me find my voice. (Held in the Light, January 28)
Seeger’s were the first songs the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford heard as a child, and they carried her through difficult times in adulthood.
I was a grown-up, a mother of 4, and still Rev. Pete provided pastoral care to me. . . . Ultimately, I believed that Love was lord of heaven and earth. No matter what happened, no matter disease, no matter death, no matter the Big Muddy, no matter the hate that swirls around us … ultimately, there is a Greater Hope. (Boots and Blessings, January 29)
Not just Boomers in the pews
Seeger’s death prompted a social media discussion among UUs about “generational mourning,” and the hashtag #NotJustBoomersInPews.
Though she will include remembrances of Seeger in this Sunday’s service in her congregation, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum challenges our assumptions.
What I think we should be careful of, however, is assuming that everybody likes Pete Seeger, that everybody knows who he was and why he’s important to us politically and culturally, and that everybody is mourning his death. (Rev. Cyn, January 30)
For the Rev. Tom Schade, the generational “civil war” about Seeger’s importance reflects UU shame about the failures of progressive activism.
Some of us are adoring Pete Seeger this weekend; some are impatient, and even revulsed, by the nostalgia for the 60′s, folk music and all that foolishness. . . .
The best way to honor Pete Seeger is not by a sentimental tributes, but by a clear-eyed look to the history of the radical, reform and religiously liberal movements of last 50 years. Once in a while, we make history, but most of the time, history makes us. (The Lively Tradition, January 30)
Shawna Foster reminds us that for many in our congregations, Boomers are not parents who spark rebellion, but rather cool, fun-to-be-with grandparents—and even great-grandparents.
I think it surprises people to learn that they could be (and some are) great-grandparents, tearing up over Seeger and wondering what the kids running around now really know what it means to be Waist Deep in the Big Muddy. I didn’t—until I spent some time with my rad, rad, rad, grandparents. People are living longer, and I think my generation should be—and is—taking advantage of it. (Vessel, January 30)
Andrew Mackay reminds us that the horrors of the Syrian civil war have not gone away.
It makes sense to become acclimated, to see this as just more torture, more murder, more war. But that is an injustice to those that suffer and die. Be horrified, be disgusted. It’s how things get changed. (Unspoken Politics, January 28)
The Rev. Meredith Garman, as part of a series on “the Eco-Spiritual Challenge,” paints a sobering picture of a radically changed planet.
Environmental writer Bill McKibben argues that the planet we knew, that our great-grandparents and their great-grandparents knew, is gone. Old Earth was great, but it is gone. Yes, the old Earth had occasional disasters, too. It’s the pace of them now that is the fact of life on our new planet. (The Liberal Pulpit, January 29)
Entrusted with the work of love
The Rev. Dr. Michael Tino and the Rev. Meg Riley shared the pulpit at the ordination of the Rev. Lara Campbell. Their sermons focused on the words of Olympia Brown, who wrote, “Do not demand immediate results but rejoice that we are worthy to be entrusted with this great message.”
Tino’s sermon focused on the work of religious community during a time of increased reliance on social media.
Our modern-day hyper-connectivity requires of us the same bold rethinking of church that the isolation of the Plains inspired in the Iowa Sisterhood. And interestingly, I think that the answers to both problems are similar.
Just as the Iowa sisterhood responded to their physical isolation by creating space for the depth of connection, we can respond to the shallowness of modern connection by creating communities in which people come to know real relationship. (UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester, January 27)
Riley called the congregation to imagine the possibilities of “a Spiritual Union . . . [and] spiritual collective bargaining.”
I love Unitarian Universalism, and I love the way that our congregations are self-determining and unique, but I believe in those old songs that I was raised on, about how “The Union makes us strong.” I take to heart those words in our hymnal from Dr. Martin Luther King, “We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny.” And I say, when do we realize that we are that garment, instead of behaving as if our purpose on the planet is to pull apart the threads?
What might we do if we embodied a place of spiritual union with one another? (Quest for Meaning, January 26)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford urges us to “love the hell out of the world.”
The hell is all around, and we work, in great passionate swoops and in slow, plodding routines, to put that extravagant love into action and remove all the bits of it from the world. Misery, ill health, disease, viciousness of greed in the face of want, voices that shout hate or whisper meanness, soul-eating addiction, humiliation, despair, injustice that curls up nastily, poisoning the spirit of giver and receiver . . . we do not flee.
Bone-chillingly afraid we may be, but we step forward. We are the only form love will take and the work is ours to do. (Boots and Blessings, January 27)
Tim Atkins, responding to Riley’s sermon and Crawford’s blog post, celebrates UU prophetic leaders, but also reminds us that UUism needs faithful followers, living discipleship in their daily lives.
How are we teaching what it means to be a faithful follower? We want to teach our children (and adults) to be leaders, but when leadership also means the first follower—how do we teach essential discipleship? (Tim Atkins, January 27)
Believing what we must
Adrian Hilliard takes on the myths that UUs don’t believe anything, or that we can believe whatever we want.
Being a Unitarian Universalist is a tough job. We have to figure out what we must believe, many of us by learning from what others believe and sifting out the things that don’t evoke in our spirits a sense of the Divine, while retaining those things that do.. (UUXMNR, January 25)
“Buddhagan,” appreciates Hilliard’s comment that “Unitarian Universalists believe what we must.”
Sometimes I think for a millisecond of trying to be a Jehovah’s Witness again. But I can’t. I’ve eaten from the tree of knowledge. I cannot unlearn what I’ve learn. I believe what I must. If my current beliefs have flaws, then I will change them. (Buddhagan, January 27)