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The Rev. James Ford and First Unitarian Church of Providence, R.I., are hot! A local news source named them to the “Who’s Hot” in Rhode Island politics for their efforts in leading a boycott of a local hotel that they say is not providing its workers an adequate wage or other compensation. (Golocalprov – 12.13.13)
More news of politically active UUs:
Shari Pollesch, a member of Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, Michigan, announced she will run as a Democrat for state senate. (Hartland Patch – 12.17.13)
Many UUs were among religious leaders in all 50 U.S. states who published op-eds in recent months calling for a government report on torture to be released. Click here to read the pieces published in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and a national blog. (Anchorage Daily News – 11.12.13, Daily Camera – 11.4.13, Delaware online – 11.7.13, Honolulu Star Advertiser – 9.25.13, Rockford Register Star – 10.4.13, Kansas City Star – 12.15.13, Nevada Reno Gazette-Journal – 12.4.13, Bismarck Tribune – 11.23.13, Utah Deseret News – 10.16.13, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – 11.10.13, The Hill – 5.23.13)
The Rev. Aaron Payson, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester, Mass., spoke out to a government committee against the practice of shackling incarcerated women while they are giving birth. (Worcester News Telegram – 12.14.13)
Aetna is being sued over claims that it misled shareholders in an attempt to get resolutions, one of them brought by the Unitarian Universalist Association as part of shareholder advocacy, that it be more transparent about its political contributions. (Courthouse News Service – 12.10.13)Winter snow shoveling, and UU connections to Christmas
Sam Griffith, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s operations staff, was photographed shoveling snow from in front of the UUA’s Boston headquarters. (Boston Globe – 12.16.13)
A piece highlighted Harvard University’s historical connections to popular Christmas songs, many of them also connections to Unitarianism. Harvard Divinity School was once the primary training ground for Unitarian ministers. The Rev. Andrew Millard of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia, also highlighted Unitarian and Universalist connections to Christmas. (Harvard Gazette – 12.17.13, Daily Press – 12.15.13)Thoughts on Hermione Granger, and more
UU Chris Crass wrote about the importance of Hermione Granger, a lead character in the Harry Potter movies and books, as an example of feminist leadership. (Rabble.ca – 12.17.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton, N.Y., opens its kitchen and social hall to a program called “Campus Kitchens,” in which college students provide a meal for those in need. (North Country Public Radio – 12.16.13)Holiday break
Season’s greetings from UU World. Our offices will be closed for the holidays December 24 to January 1. UUs in the Media will return on January 3. See you next year!
The Rev. James Ford remembers the Rev. Gordon McKeeman, who died this week.
Gordon taught that everything was a miracle.
He pointed to the holy.
A Universalism ancient of days, and as bright and new as our most recent breath.
And Gordon told us just exactly where we could find it.
Right here. (Monkey Mind, December 19)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern writes that McKeeman was “a kind of spiritual grandfather to me: a mentor and teacher to many of my mentors and teachers.”
My conviction that ministry (from the Latin for “service”) is not the private domain of a small number of professionals, but something we all do together, clergy and laity, arose from my own experience, but it was McKeeman who gave it words. (Sermons in Stones, December 19)Winter Celebrations
Christine Organ wanted to write a lovely post about the beauties of this season—but instead wrote how she really feels: she hates winter!
[Maybe] Grace isn’t found in pretending the dark and cold times aren’t exactly what they are – hard and difficult. Maybe Grace comes from a simple acknowledgement that “THIS SUCKS,” followed by a deep breath and the inherent understanding that, for better or worse, this too shall pass. (Christine Organ, December 19)
The Rev. Fred Hammond objects to a proposed state law in Alabama that would educate students about “traditional” winter celebrations.
Focusing on the “traditional” elevates the esteem of those who follow the “traditional” faith and it demeans those who do not follow that faith simply by the absence of teaching about them. If on the other hand, all of these winter celebrations were to be taught and not just the Christian celebrations, then this act could be seen as an attempt at teaching multi-cultural appreciation which would strengthen Alabama’s acceptance of people whose cultural and religious backgrounds are different than the “traditional.” But I suspect this is not the case. (A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South, December 18)
Robin Bartlett writes that Unitarian Universalists should celebrate the incarnational theology of Christmas.
[Christmas] is a Unitarian Universalist holiday because whether or not we believe in a supernatural God, a Godly Jesus, or that God’s banner over us is love, we Unitarian Universalists are humanists, and Jesus was the ultimate humanist. Jesus believed in the human capacity to love the hell out of this world. And if we truly believe that we are alone down here, then we better get at it, ’cause no big man in the sky’s gonna do it for us. (RE at UUAC Sherborn, December 19)
Kristen Coyne tells a charming story about her daughter’s faith in Santa being restored by the gift of a “Christmas Menorah.” (TallahasseeUU, December 16)
Doug Stowe suggests a few Christmas gifts for increasing children’s capacity for creativity. (Wisdom of the Hands, December 15)
On the anniversary of the Newtown shootings, the Rev. Jeff Liebmann urges us to honor the Christ-child by protecting children from gun violence.
So when you go to your church to honor the babe, pray silently for the 20 lost children, who will never know another Christmas with their families. But come home and scream, “Why?” Go forth and demand that America put down the sword and pass sensible gun legislation. Shout until your voice cracks and your throat grows hoarse so that no family must endure this pain again. (uujeff’s muse kennel and pizzatorium, December 14)Conversations
The first generation of UU bloggers often engaged in conversation with each other through their blog posts; while the current UU blogosphere is less interconnected, such conversations do still occur.
Jordinn Nelson Long accepts the season’s invitation to rest and quiet.
For a brief time, I will rest my mind and my feet. For this quiet interval, I will leave those sleeping dragons where they lie.
For a short season, let me be still. (Raising Faith, December 19)
Mandie McGlynn echoes her friend’s words about the season.
Friends, the winter holidays are the season of joy and peace and love! But as Jordinn finally remembered, it’s also the season of darkness and quiet. . . . So when weariness crashes through you, when you are overwhelmed by all there is to do, give yourself permission and space to experience those feelings for which we are so often shamed by the social contract at this time of year. Rather than pushing through or pushing away your sorrow, let it be a reminder to stop a moment and rest. To breathe.
The dawn is breaking soon, I promise you, but it will come in its own time. When that new and glorious morning finally arrives, it will be clear and bright, and you will recognize its beauty all the more because you’ve held your darkness close. (Mandie McGlynn, December 19)
Last week’s post by the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford prompts the Rev. Kent Hemmen-Saleska to think about his own practices of wearing clerical robes and collars.
There *is* a local coffee shop I go to every Thursday for my “writing and study” day…but I’ve never worn my collar or stole *just* for *those* mundane days. For the past seven years I’ve served this church I’ve worn a robe when I preach – which is something I never thought I’d do – maybe I’ll start wearing a collar to the coffee shop on “mundane” days too? (Moving in Faith, December 13)
The Red Pill Brethren (of which Crawford is a member) had a stimulating conversation about clerical collars. (The Red Pill Brethren, December 19)
Andy Coate writes about another coffeeshop where religion and welcome go hand-in-hand.
[Tonight] I walked in and snagged a table, asking somebody quickly if they’d keep an eye on my stuff while I ordered. I walked to the counter and the barista said “Hey, Andrew. How’s Jesus-school?” and we chatted for a second or two. I sat down, untied the boots I’d been wearing all day, and opened my computer. There was a Queer Polyamorous Womens Meetup happening next to me and the conversation was hilarious and so, so fitting for where I was. (thoughts ON, December 12)
Tim Atkins replies to last week’s post by Christine Slocum. “Yes,” he writes, “the wolf has inherent worth and dignity.”
If a wolf appears in a congregation . . . and the wolf has begun to threaten the safety of the entire community, then we hold them to covenant or respectfully ask them to leave the community, as they can no longer uphold the covenant. . . .
You can acknowledge their inherent worth and dignity while letting go of further interaction. It’s not a contradiction of faith – it’s living up to our covenantal faith. (Spirituality and Sunflowers, December 13)Where do we belong?
The Rev. Dan Harper no longer sees the benefit of membership in the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association—and his congregation’s leadership agrees.
[B]efore taking this step, of course I consulted with the Committee on Ministry and the Board of Trustees of the congregation I serve, as well as my ministerial colleague in the congregation. The Committee on Ministry’s response was instructive: one member of the committee said something to the effect of, why would you want to belong to a professional organization that doesn’t meet your professional needs? The Committee didn’t seem to think the choice was as tough as I did. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 18)
The Rev. Dan Schatz has figured out a key difference between the Sunday Assemblies and Unitarian Universalism.
In the Sunday Assemblies . . . diversity of viewpoints is something that might exist but isn’t talked about, assumptions go unchallenged, and everything is kept very, very safe. . . . But I need a community that will help me make meaning through the tough times of life, that will challenge me to think as well as feel, and that will help me grow as a person. That’s why I’m a Unitarian Universalist. (The Song and the Sigh, December 18)See you next year
The offices of the UUA (including UU World) are closed from Tuesday December 24 through Wednesday, January 1. There will be no Interdependent Web post next Friday. See you on Friday, January 4!
UU World editor Chris Walton—who blogged at Philocrites from 2003 to 2008—joins The VUU’s regular panelists for a discussion about UU blogging, challenging UU bloggers to return to the public conversation that once characterized the UU blogosphere (this part of the conversation starts at about 49 minutes into the video, but the whole video is good!).
Long-time UU blogger “Matt Kinsi” is now able to write under his real name, Tim Atkins.
[T]he initial reasons for writing this blog under a penname have vanished. I originally wrote under a penname for the sole reason of my old job—I couldn’t be out and loud about pretty much anything back then, but now I can. . . . I want to try and live my life with a little more vulnerability and a little less compartmentalization. (Spirituality and Sunflowers, December 10)
There is a Starbucks across the street from my kids’ high school, where they often congregate after school. I decided I’d collar up with a rainbow flag pin on my shirt. I didn’t expect any teen would talk to me—I’m still an adult, after all. But I figured I could sit by the door, just taking care of some work on my computer, and maybe, just maybe, the juxtaposition of the collar and the pin might introduce the idea into some teen’s head that “Hey, maybe religion and gay aren’t enemies.” Maybe even, “Hey. Maybe God doesn’t hate me.” (Boots and Blessings, December 12)Trauma and grace
Some UU bloggers write about non-UU topics. One such blogger was Chris Keith, a member of two UU congregations in Michigan; along with her oldest son, she was murdered last week by her estranged husband.
One week ago today the blogging community lost one of their own. You may not have known her, but Chris Keith was part of our community. She blogged at Adventures of a Thrifty Mama, where she was much loved.
But not so nearly loved as she was by her four children. (Adventures of the Family Pants, December 12)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum serves as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of East Liberty, where Chris Keith was formerly a member; one of Landrum’s blog posts this week offers pastoral advice to those dealing with trauma.
People naturally search for meaning—what could’ve gone differently, who is to blame. That’s also normal. But it’s not necessarily helpful—trying to make sense out of senselessness is what keeps our minds going in circles and leads to some of those symptoms of sleeplessness, stress, and more. . . . The bottom line right now is take care of yourselves. (Rev. Cyn, December 11)
In another post, Landrum shares “a moment of grace”—encountering photographs from The Real MEN’s Project at a local hospital; each photograph shows a father who has signed a pledge of nonviolence. (Rev. Cyn, December 10)Thinking about UUism
The Rev. Tom Schade suggests that modern Unitarian Universalism emerged from the collision of Liberal Protestantism and Humanism; he calls the latter a purifying fire, and the remnants of the former an “infinite demand.”
Somehow the purifying fire of humanism has left that subjective commitment to living in response to an infinite demand whole, brighter and shinier than ever. If Unitarian Universalism is to respond well to the crises ahead for our communities, our nation and our world, we will have to define ourselves more by what was revealed by the purifying fire, and less by the fire itself. (The Lively Tradition, December 9)
Christine Slocum’s new role as a parent causes a crisis of faith—she cannot embrace a too-sunny view of human nature.
My patience for self-delusion disappeared when my child was born. If I am to teach and protect her, I need to see the world with the sharpest clarity possible by my perception, and filter accordingly for my daughter. . . .
I fear that our teachings of human nature are hyperbolically good. . . . Too many times I have read or heard the first principle being treated as though it means we must tolerate all things and ways of being. (Christine Slocum, December 11)
The Rev. Dan Harper thinks about changes in the meaning of membership.
More and more people care less and less about the meaning of “membership,” and the younger they are the less they care. It’s like a century ago, when gradually people didn’t want to own pews any more, and they came up with this idea of congregational membership instead. Well, just as pew ownership once disappeared, I suspect we’re seeing a time when “membership” is slowly disappearing. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 9)The rigors of congregational membership
When the Rev. Jake Morrill tells his congregation that he plans to learn to swim, they hold him to that commitment.
Maybe how things are for you matches precisely how you intended them to be. All I know is that, when it comes down to me, for a long time, I was only floating. And it was a congregation that finally required me to apply myself to practice, and keep in the struggle of effort, which as it turns out, is what it takes to swim. (Quest for Meaning, December 8)
Becoming a member of a UU congregation helps Angel move beyond armchair activism.
I have traditionally been a classic Hamlet, who reflects and analyzes but does not act. . . . Since I joined my local congregation and started honestly reflecting on what my part can be in improving the world. . . . I finally have the tools to fight the injustices I learn about every day. And for once, I’m not sitting back in my armchair and just watching things happen. I’m acting on my outrage. And it’s wonderful. (Thoughtful Pauses, December 11)Remembering Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s death reminds Karen Johnston of her involvement in anti-Apartheid activism during her college years.
Through this engagement in activism around South Africa and Apartheid, many of us white students began to seriously encounter and engage activism around racism, both institutional and personal, often for the first time in our lives. Not all of us, perhaps not so many of us white students, were so adept at being able to confront our own white privilege and complicity with racism’s oppressive structures and legacies—it was (and is) so much easier when the racism is far away, rather than here at home. But some of us tried and steadily got better at it. (irrevspeckay, December 9)
The Rev. Bill Sinkford notes that Mandela’s death coincided with the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is natural, I think, to look at South Africa today where reality for most still falls so far short of its constitutional promises of “freedom from want,” it can be easy to stay in criticism or even move toward despair.
I think of the activists I met in South Africa, however, who used that vision as a standard and held that vision up as the goal would disagree. In the midst of on-going need and politics which reach the lowest common denominator with such difficulty, we need a vision to keep our aspirations high. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, December 12)
The Rev. Peter Boullata challenges us to be “bearers of dangerous memory,” when prophetic leaders are “domesticated and drained of [their] radical power.”
This white washing of individuals who spoke out boldly for social justice, economic equity, and an end to war, colonialism, and imperialism dulls our senses and lulls us into accepting the status quo. They become domesticated saints, nonthreatening figures who stood for good things we all believe in. This revisionism is meant to keep us from catching their vision of the world made right. (Held in the Light, December 10)Just for fun
If you’d like a ukelele for Christmas, the Rev. Adam Eliot provides a buyer’s guide. (The Burbania Posts, December 9)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Jacqueline Wolven offers a recipe for “Maple Glazed Goodness of Nuts.” (Jacqueline Wolven, December 8)
And the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg has compiled several “Best of 2013” lists, including podcasts, books, albums and Netflix selections. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, December 8)
The Rev. Josh Pawelek, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society East in Manchester, Conn., appeared on NPR’s “On Point” to talk about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. (WBUR – 12.12.13)
Historic quilt discovered, dead honored
A 115-year-old quilt was found in the archives of First Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebr., when members were looking for items to include in a fundraising auction. The quilt will be going to a local museum. (SFGate – 12.7.13, Journal Star – 12.7.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura, Calif., and its Lift Up Your Voice advocacy ministry held a ceremony to honor homeless people who have died. (Ventura Breeze – 12.9.13)
Christine Keith, who had been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing, Mich., was killed along with her son by her husband, whom she had recently filed for divorce from, police said. (Times Herald – 12.6.13)
Church property destroyed, and more
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, Fla., is looking for a driver who destroyed the church’s sign. A surveillance video shows the driver examining his car for damage and then driving off. (CBS 12 – 12.6.13)
A rainbow flag at the Foxborough, Mass., Universalist Church was vandalized. (Sun Chronicle – 12.11.13)
The Rev. Tim Barger, who works as religion editor of his local newspaper, wrote his weekly column about his ordination to the ministry, which was last weekend. (Toledo Blade – 12.7.13)
The band Mumford used the Unitarian Univeraslist Fellowship of Ames, Iowa, to record its album because “it is acoustically a really beautiful space, and they have a really nice piano in there.” (Iowa State Daily – 12.5.13)
Bennett Rushkoff, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, Md., is running for state office. (Gazette – 12.9.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Area Church in Sherborn, Mass., and its minister, the Rev. Nathan Detering, were featured in a piece about the church’s “reverse offering,” in which congregants are given money to go do good in the world, something several UU churches have started doing in recent years. (WBUR – 12.3.13)
A number of stories mentioned Unitarian Universalism in reference to the recent passage of legal same-sex marriage in Hawaii. (Washington Times – 12.2.13, Honolulu Civil Beat 12.2.13, The Review – 12.2.13) Those included stories about the wedding of the Rev. Jonipher Kwong, minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and Chris Nelson, which was among the first same-sex weddings in the state. (West Hawaii Today, 12.3.13, Hawaii News Now – 12.2.13)
The First Unitarian Church of Alton, Ill., is one of only a few churches in its area that have publicly welcomed same-sex couples to marry there. (bnd.com – 11.30.13)Churches honor World Aids Day, and teens’ art featured
Art made by teens who are part of U-Night, a youth outreach program of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County in Ephraim, Wisc., will be shown in an exhibit at the church. (Green Bay Press Gazette – 11.26.13)
The Woodinville, Wash., Unitarian Universalist Church allows people experiencing homelessness to camp on their property and provides a fire ring during cold weather. (Seattle Times – 12.4.13)International UUs speak out on social justice, and more
The Rev. Frances Deverell, president of the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, spoke in a radio interview about her work. (rabble.ca – 11.27.13)
Methodius Kusumahadi, former chief representative to Indonesia for the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, spoke out for foreign non-governmental operations doing good work in his country. (Jakarta Post – 12.2.13)
The Rev. Alice Anacheka-Nasemann was installed as minister of the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, Mass., where she has previously served as director of religious education and as associate minister. (Community Advocate – 12.2.13)
A piece recounted the Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King’s role in rallying support and money for the United States Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of today’s Red Cross, during the Civil War. (SFGate.com – 11.29.13)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates Nelson Mandela’s long commitment to the work of justice.
One would think that almost 20 years of revolutionary activism, 27 years in prison, and five years as the head of state would entitle him to an honorable retirement, but Mandela never stopped taking on new challenges. In 2005, he went to London before a G8 trade meeting and reminded the leaders and the gathered crowd that the G8 had pledged several years earlier to cut world poverty in half. “Do not look the other way,” he said to them; “Do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.” (Sermons in Stones, December 5)What is compassion?
The Rev. Sean Dennison writes about compassion as a commitment of “Cabaret Church.”
Cabaret Church is a community of people who believe that compassion is powerful and necessary. We are well aware that we are human and that means we make mistakes. We fuck up. We hurt people. In our commitment to art and resistance, we push boundaries and break rules. Sometimes we struggle to live up to our commitments and instead stay silent when we should have spoken up. We need compassion. (ministrare, November 29)
The Rev. Myriam Renaud asks, “Compassion—what the heck is it?”
Suffering brings you to the limit of the ordinary realm of “S/he.” It is at this borderline that compassion and religion arises. Compassion for suffering may then propel you into the “higher pinnacle” of “Thou.” From this place, this summit, you can see more clearly what actions on your part and your community’s could ease the pain. And, upon returning this place, you are spurred to make it so. (The Naked Theologian, December 3)Beloved imperfection
Frustrated by her preschool daughter’s behavior, the Rev. Robin Bartlett turns to Facebook, where her friends remind her that home is where her daughter doesn’t have to be perfect.
I hope you have a place . . . inside your house or inside your heart, where you don’t have to be the best at anything; where you don’t have to try; where you just are. The place where you know yourself beloved. We are beloved just by virtue of our birth, and we forget that truth, or we never learned to know ourselves that way. . . . We succeed, we are loved. We fail, we are loved. (Religious Education at UU Sherborn, December 4)
Jordinn Nelson Long refuses to do it all.
[No] one is waiting at the finish line of your life to give you a cookie for completing all the tasks that no one else cared about. If you choose unhappiness to prove that you’re “good enough” for it, your own resentments will be your reward. (Raising Faith, December 4)Social commentary
With love and grief, the Rev. Jake Morrill recounts the history of Tennessee, where he serves as a minister.
When you can’t any longer get coal out of coal mines, the coal company will start blowing up mountains. When you can’t any longer get your prescription filled, the heroin dealer is just a phone call away. Heroin, they say, will ease your worries a while. But the pain never ends. It runs through everything. It’s there when you’re born. It is there when you die. And your babies (they’re crying) will know it, as well. Given this life, that anybody at all would think to sing is a blessing. (Quest for Meaning, November 24)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum shares her experience with Healthcare.gov, and how the Affordable Care Act will affect ministers who serve small congregations.
So the good news is that the UUA’s plan is very competitive with comparable plans. And the bad news is that “Obamacare” didn’t bring us cheaper, better healthcare. It actually brought us healthcare for the average small business employee that is going up 9.3% this year along with deductible increases. So that’s sad for me, who had held out hope that while it would get all those uninsured people a better situation it might actually take a load off the small church, as well. It seems that is not to be the case. (Rev. Cyn, November 26)
The Rev. Tom Schade looks beyond the church-and-state issues of a recent ruling about clergy tax exemptions.
This ruling will bring new attention to the finances of the grass-roots church of all denominations. But let’s see it for what it is: part of the destruction of autonomous and self-directed voluntary organizations for the poor, the working class and the middle classes. It’s coming close to the clergy, now. We, in the clergy, might want to blame the IRS for this downturn in our personal economies, but the larger picture is growing class divide, and the impoverishment of the majority. (The Lively Tradition, November 25)