- About Us
Rebecca Hecking acknowledges that Thanksgiving, even stripped down to the practice of gratitude, is a complicated holiday.
Thanksgiving? Stuffed with history and myth, basted with family drama, sugar-coated with platitudes, but also seasoned with thoughtfulness, it is what we make of it.
Just like everything else. (Breath and Water, November 21)
Shawna Foster objects to liberal disapproval of retailers open for business on Thanksgiving.
I remember working holidays. Holidays paid a time and a half. It made the extra bills of the season bearable.
Perhaps retail workers themselves would rather be home. At the same time, I am not so sure of outrage on their behalf. (Vessel, November 21)Fifty years later, remembering JFK
For Deb Weiner, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an “end of innocence” for her pre-teen self.
I started peppering my childhood minister, Rev. Wayne Shuttee, with questions about how there could be a loving God in the face of insanity and rage. About why there was a world where such bad things happened. About how people find courage and strength to carry on in the face of such stuff. (Morning Stars Rising, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum points out generational differences in how we think about the anniversary of JFK’s death, and suggests a pastoral approach.
So, Gen X and Millennial friends, we need to get over our cynicism and stop rolling our eyeballs. . . . [We] need to . . . cut through the surface level, the media level, that we’ll be hearing about, and talk to people about what this moment really meant to them, how it changed them, why they continue to focus on it, what its deeper meaning is. We need to get past the nostalgia and into the real work of the grief and fear, and the way it continues to shape our country. (Rev. Cyn, November 21)A wider love
Roy King asks, “What if Pantheism were a middle path between monotheism and humanism, between the One and the Many?”
The great divide in our Unitarian Universalist congregations has historically been between those who are theists, namely those who believe in some sort of personal God, and our humanists/atheists who believe that humankind is the ultimate measure of all things. A monotheistic God is a unifying principle, while humanity is a source of rich diversity. (Mediterranean Wisdom, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden considers the influence of Hinduism on “Transcendental Humanism.”
If the self is Brahman . . . Sounds a bit like American Transcendentalism, doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that. British philologist (and one of the colonizers) William Jones, better known as “Oriental Jones,” made Hindu thought available to early-Nineteenth Century Americans of a particular intellectual persuasion. People such as the Unitarians inclined toward Transcendentalism—including the Peabody sisters, Thoreau, and Emerson.
Vedanta’s third point is direct experience. The Transcendentalist knew what that meant. They put themselves in the way of lived experience. They lived for those moments. (Quest for Meaning, November 21)
The Rev. Jake Morrill remembers being a “playground atheist,” and the support his younger self received from his UU community.
In all the years since, my theology has evolved. I have taken communion, stopped in awe before mountains. I have prayed till tears come, and sat in meditation for long hours in a dark Buddhist Zendo. But, truth be told, it was as an atheist that I first came to see, in a way that was real and has not failed me since, how I am part of a love wider than my own life, and how that spacious embrace makes itself known to me, most often, through a community like the one that first told me, “You are not alone.” (Quest for Meaning, November 18)Gender, memory—and grammar
Teo Drake refuses to live in fear.
They did not like me as a girl—they like me even less as a boy.
I am not a straight white man, my queerness invisible to the naked eye.
They tell me they might let me live if I never speak up. If I sit complicit in my silence, while they shout their misogyny, their homophobia, their transphobia—their ugly hate.
If I keep my mouth shut maybe it won’t be me to die today—maybe it will be you. Can I live with my own deafening silence?
I will not live in fear. (roots grow the tree, November 19)
The Rev. Dan Schatz offers a prayer for the recent Transgender Day of Remembrance.
We remember and honor those who walk proudly,
who love themselves and others,
who teach by their being,
and who reach to help others along the way. . . .
and every day,
may all of us,
transgender and cisgender alike,
dedicate ourselves unflinchingly
to respect for every human being,
and to the transforming power of love. (The Song and the Sigh, November 20)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern boldly declares “‘they’ is a perfectly appropriate gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.”
Whether agender and transgender folk will adopt “they” for themselves is up to them. It’s not up to me, and I will use whatever pronoun a person prefers for themself, but I humbly suggest that it has a huge advantage over “ze,” “hir,” or any of the other neologisms that have been tried. Neologisms do take hold sometimes, but when we already have a word that has worn a path in our linguistic landscape—the way “they” has done for many of us—it’s likely to be the best place to build the road. (Sermons in Stones, November 14)Babies, mamas, and ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade would like UU congregations to go into the baby blessing business.
Our baby blessing should come right out of our core theology. Each baby is a person, unique and irreplaceable. The baby blessing ceremony should challenge parents and families to respect and honor that child’s own soul. A child is not a toy, a pet, a person who can use to fulfill our own needs. A child is not here to bring you glory, or fulfill your dreams. In all likelihood, a child will not turn out as you expect, or hope. (The Lively Tradition, November 16)
The Rev. Parisa Parsa charges her colleague to live in the power of both ministry and motherhood.
The world is rife with terrible tales of both bad ministers and bad mothers, and both vocations are subject to images of goodness idealized to inhuman proportions. Short of setting ourselves on sainthood—which is particularly unrealistic in a tradition that abandoned that notion a couple of centuries ago—we have to find other ways to live in the very large landscape between perfect and terrible. The charge I have to offer you this morning is to live in the power of these roles at least as much as you live in the fretting over each of them. (Pastor Prayers, November 21)Growing—and breaking through
The Rev. Tandi Rogers pulls back the curtain on the process of choosing Breakthrough Congregations.
This is how I want to answer that question:
• Do “religious community” well.
• Be yourself intentionally, joyfully, and impact-fully.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways inside your walls.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways outside your walls. . . .
[But] I know what most people mean by the original question is really, “How are Breakthrough Congregations chosen?” Here’s how. . . . (Growing Unitarian Universalism, November 20)
The Rev. Thom Belote allows us to eavesdrop on his congregation’s decision-making about one service, or two.
If it was our goal to stay at our current size, I would recommend returning to one service. If it is our goal to grow, we should probably stick with the two service format. (Rev. Thom, November 16)Happy Thanksgiving!
The Unitarian Universalist Association will be closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Interdependent Web will return the following week.
UUs, congregations take time to remember transgender victims
UUs and congregations involved in observing Transgender Day of Remembrance this week were featured in several pieces here, here, and here. (Washington Blade – 11.18.13, Fairfield Daily Voice – 11.20.13, Gazette – 11.14.13)
Unitarian Universalists were among those speaking out against a Catholic bishop who planned a ceremony to “exorcise” same-sex marriage as Illinois’ lawmakers moved to legalize the practice. (wics.com – 11.15.13)
Several UU clergy were part of an interfaith group of religious leaders which is opposing a proposed law that would ban same-sex marriage in Indiana. (Wish TV – 11.18.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri, was highlighted for the work of its Green Sanctuary team in implementing environmentally friendly practices at the church and in the community. (KOMU – 11.16.13)
The Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, assistant minister of the UU Congregation of Asheville, N.C., was the subject of a profile that included her work in the Moral Mondays protests in that state. (Urban News – 11.14.13)
An alternative gift, a new minister, and more
The Unitarian Church of Barnstable will host an alternative gift fair, in which people are invited to buy gifts or services from local non-profits that will be given to those in need. It’s modeled after a similar project at the Falmouth Unitarian Fellowship. (Barnstable Patriot – 11.15.13)
The Rev. Karen Brammer is the new minister of the Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society in Mohegan Lake, N.Y. (Putnam County News – 11.13.13)
A piece profiled Unitarian minister Jack Zylman, who was a prominent civil rights activist and anti-Vietnam war protestor. (al.com – 11.15.13)
The Rev. Jeffrey Barz-Snell, minister of the First Church in Salem, Unitarian, co-authored an opinion piece about a plan for a gas-powered electric plant. (Salem News – 11.20.13)
UUs in the Media will not be published next week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Two All Souls and two stories about racial encounters
A radio story last month featured All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., prominently, discussing how the church has succeeded and struggled in its efforts to integrate racially. (State of the Re:Union – 10.15.13) See UU World‘s Fall 2009 story about All Souls here.
All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., is the subject of a story about Eleanor Roosevelt and how she encountered racial diversity in its facilities. (Times Herald – 11.9.13)
The Jericho Road Lawrence project, which was started by members of the North Andover North Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in North Andover, Mass., was highlighted for its work in promoting diversity on non-profit boards in their community. (Boston Globe – 11.14.13) UU World profiled the original Jericho Road partnership in Spring 2010.
Pieces here, here, and here about the Sunday Assembly, a new atheist church, mention Unitarian Universalism as a comparison or alternative, as does UU minister and religion writer Tim Barger in his weekly column. (The American Prospect – 11.8.13, Collegiate Times – 10.11.13, New Republic – 10.11.13, Toledo Blade – 11.9.13)
Supporting a local Muslim group, stolen quilts, and more
The Rev. Carie Johnson, of the Universalist Unitarian church in Augusta, Maine, spoke in support of a Muslim group’s plan to build a mosque in her city. The plan was approved by local officials. (Kennebec Journal – 11.13.13)
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Duluth, Minn., would like to see two quilts that were stolen from inside the church returned. One of the theft victims isn’t even upset about it—she wants the quilts back for sentimental reasons, but offered to make a new quilt for anyone who returns them. (Duluth News Tribune – 11.9.13)
Unitarian Universalists were among a group of people praying outside the Environmental Protection Agency, urging that group to cut the emissions that coal plants are allowed to produce legally. (Daily Caller – 11.8.13)
Judith Zimmerman will become the first minister ever ordained by the UU Church of Washington County, Oregon, tonight. (The Oregonian – 11.10.13)
Karen Johnston discusses how to help when tragedy strikes in distant places—without sending SWEDOW (Stuff We Don’t Want).
Given the increased frequency with which these catastrophes are happening, . . . it is the responsibility of people with financial privilege . . . to find trustworthy agencies who will ensure that the donations serve the people most in need. This is a subjective process. . . . It does require some effort at a discernment process. Yet, there are ways to make it a little easier on yourself. What I do is look to people I respect. (irrevspeckay, November 12)
The Rev. Myke Johnson reminds us of the joy of living in loving community.
So often when we hear that we should love one another, it sounds like hard work, like a task, like a moral imperative that would be good to follow, but not very pleasant. And I admit there is something difficult about loving one another. But somewhere in the middle of it, comes a surprise. There really is divinity within each person—and when we see it, it is beautiful, joyful, mysterious, and wonderful. (Finding Our Way Home, November 9)
Liz James shares a summer adventure—a story about how communities need both upstream thinkers and wave riders.
Wave riders, as I think of myself, are not just deficient up streamers. We are bad at one set of skills and good at another set. We are the authors of surprise vacations and spontaneous river trips. We are the ones who turn the bedbugs into an adventure and co-author the “stuck on airplane songs” of the world. (Rebel with a Label Maker, November 13)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford asks, “Does your church take care of ‘their’ community or ‘the’ community?”
It’s easy . . . to feel the need for “our community,” for a safe place to seek sanctuary for a culture that often feels so foreign, with its emphasis on consumerism, celebrity, and, depending on where you live, fundamentalism.
But it’s not enough for us to make a safe place for “our community.” Our parish goes beyond our walls and we’re called to make that entire parish more loving, more tolerant, more whole. Those other folks out there—they are residents in the Beloved Community, too. (Boots and Blessings, November 11)
Drawing on the words of the Prophet Isaiah, the Rev. Naomi King writes “Hope is ours indeed, when hope is in our deeds.”
My life has changed dramatically in the past few years, and every time I cannot attend a meeting or join friends at a cafe or go some other place because of curbs and steps and crowded narrowed cluttered spaces I have a choice: do I suffer in exile, or do I go ahead and make home, welcoming and meeting others where we can meet, inviting and encouraging my neighbors to want to make our towns accessible to all? (The Wonderment, November 13)
The Rev. Audette Fulbright writes a letter to UU seminarians about the UUMA guidelines as an invitation to spiritual practice.
Guidelines and covenants hold before us high ideals and expectations, but they also are meant to build the bridges necessary for us to reach them. See them as the planks and beams of what helps create good ministers and ministry: relationships of trust and support, some shared expectations, and a system of accountability to hold it all. (Raising Faith, November 7)
Rebecca Hecking asks, “Got baggage?”
Each of us carries the baggage of generations. Each of us does battle with hidden ghosts. Each of us is wounded. Each of us suffers. . . . On a good day, a day when I’m feeling particularly spiritual and enlightenment seems likely, I can see this. I have a namaste moment with all humanity, and those who cross my path. The hidden burden I carry bows to the hidden burden that you carry. (Breath and Water, November 14)Faith and interfaith
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg summarizes a class he’s teaching on alternate Christianities and extracanonical books of the Bible.
The most important point may be that there never was a simple beginning in which all you needed to do was believe in a certain interpretation of the meaning of Jesus’ death. As rediscovered “Lost Christianities” and banned books have shown, in the beginning was diversity, experimentation, and conflict—that has continued to this day—over the meaning of Jesus’ life and teachings. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, November 13)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann is an atheist, non-Christian follower of Jesus.
Whether he actually existed or resides merely in myth, I admire the person who walked humbly, helped everyone without judgment, and stood up to the authorities of the day speaking out for equality, fairness and mercy. If he walked our streets today, I imagine him decrying our cuts to food stamps, calling out business greed that destroys families and demanding an end to our violence against each other. (UUJeff’s Muse Kennel and Pizzatorium, November 9)
Attending an interfaith dinner and celebration, “Plaidshoes” was most touched by a non-verbal interaction after the event.
I went out to get my jacket and ran into one of the women from the table. I didn’t get to talk to her very much as she was seated further away and had a harder time with English. She was also fully covered in a headscarf and reminded me of a sweet grandma. When she saw me in the hallway, she rushed up to me and took my hand, hugged me and kissed me three times. It was one of the most amazing, touching things I have ever experienced. It almost left me in tears. Friendly, open dialogue truly can make the difference. That is why this work is so important. (Everyday Unitarian, November 8)
The Rev. Dr. Miguel A. De La Torre, a guest preacher, gives an altar call at All Souls Unitarian in Tulsa.Conversations about masculinity
Doug Muder comments on the bullying accusations concerning Richie Incognito of the Miami Dolphins.
The resemblance to the keep-it-in-the-family view of child abuse or domestic violence (in my opinion) is more than coincidental. Implicit in the criticism of Martin is the idea that there’s only one acceptable way to be a man, and being shy or non-confrontational is not part of it.
. . . . Hazing and bullying is often about group solidarity. And often the ultimate beneficiary of a solid group isn’t a team or teammate, or even the bully himself, it’s a boss or owner. (The Weekly Sift, November 11)
In his series of conversations about masculinity, Adam Dyer writes about the trauma of “culturally imposed skin hunger.”
[There] is one kind of trauma that men in America experience we should be exploring much more deeply. . . . Starvation by touch or what I would call culturally imposed skin hunger. By forbidding touch, particularly touch between males, men in our culture experience life in a world devoid of unconditional human contact. They are in essence ‘starving’ for physical contact and most of them don’t even realize it. (spirituwellness, November 13)Expanding the Web
The Interdependent Web usually limits itself to explicitly Unitarian Universalist-identified bloggers. This week Jeffrey Lockwood, an entomologist, was featured in Andrew Sullivan’s blog, The Dish. Lockwood was not identified as a UU, but he is a regular contributor to UU World and the UUA has published several of his books; here Lockwood describes a “creepy-crawly” encounter.
Grasshoppers boiled in every direction, ricocheting off my face and chest. Some latched on to my bare arms and a few tangled their spiny legs into my hair. Others began to crawl into my clothing—beneath my shorts, under my collar. They worked their way into the gaps between shirt buttons, pricking my chest, sliding down my sweaty torso. For the first time in my life as an entomologist, I panicked. (The Dish, November 13)
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)Explaining ourselves
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)