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UU youth get their congregation involved in random acts of kindness
Youth from the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of La Crosse, Wisc., are leaving handmade gifts around their community as a way to spread kindness, peace, and joy to others. With the help of their congregation, they have “love bombed” their local city hall, nursing homes, and hospitals. (News8000.com - 3.3.14)
Supporting expanded health insurance coverage, and more
As part of ongoing “Truthful Tuesday” protests of South Carolina’s refusal to expand Medicaid, 11 people were arrested for blocking the entrance to a Statehouse parking garage. The Rev. Pat Jobe of the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Greenville, S.C., was among those arrested. (943wsc.com - 3.5.14)
In letters sent to members of the Florida Legislature, the Rev. Wayne Robinson, recently retired from All Faiths Unitarian Congregation in Fort Myers, Fla., urged them to show mercy and provide health coverage to Floridians too poor to qualify for subsidized plans under the Affordable Care Act. (Health News Florida - 3.3.14)
Lyn Betz, an intern minister at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Concord, Ma., shared her experience obtaining affordable health insurance under the new Affordable Care Act after spending years struggling to get coverage on the open market because of a pre-existing condition. (Concord Monitor - 3.2.14)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham of the Pacific Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Astoria, Ore., shares her personal journey in understanding and embracing LGBTQ friends and loved ones and how it inspired her passionate advocacy for helping them attain equal rights. (The Daily Astorian - 2.28.14)
The Rev. Terence Ellen of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Greater Cumberland, in Cumberland, Md., was arrested along with three others during a peaceful protest of a planned liquefied natural gas facility at Cove Point in Southern Maryland. (thebaynet.com - 2.27.14)
Living out their commitment to use their new church building to be of service to the community, the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills, in Somerville, N.J., has partnered with United Way of Northern New Jersey to provide free onsite tax-preparation services. (The Messenger-Gazette - 2.28.14)
UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales helped Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisc., dedicate their new sanctuary, intentionally expanded to seat 350 so that the congregation could welcome more newcomers. (postcrescent.com - 2.28.14)
Gladys Sanchez will be the new director of religious education at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb, Ill. Born in the Philippines, Sanchez will bring a global perspective and an emphasis on youth engagement in social justice to the congregation’s religious education program. (Daily Chronicle - 2.28.14)
For this year’s birthday celebration of early Unitarian pioneer the Rev. Dr. Joseph Priestley, Unitarian Universalists of the Susquehanna Valley in Northumberland, Pa., have invited members from Mount Vernon Unitarian Church in Alexandria, Va., to present a special program on Priestley. (The Daily Item - 3.4.14)
The Rev. Tony Lorenzen loves Ash Wednesday’s Universalist message of acceptance.
If there is anything that’s missing sometimes from the contemporary Unitarian Universalist worship tradition it is a ritual of forgiveness of, well, sins; the liturgical and prayerful recognition that I am a mess; that I am mess of anxieties and flaws and contradictions and a jumble of emotions that sometimes make it difficult for me to be my best self, and it’s OK to be such a mess. (Sunflower Chalice, March 5)
“Plaidshoes” needs a more cheerful Lent this year.
Like a lot of the country, we have had a long, cold, bleak winter. I feel like I have been in a dark space and adding 40 more days of somberness just isn’t appealing. . . . I need to find a way to make Lent a time of renewal and hope and break away from seeing it as purely deprivation. (Everyday Unitarian, March 5)
Sara Lewis explains how her Unitarian Universalist faith informs her Lenten practice.
UUism doesn’t have a tradition of intentional self-denial or a time to intentionally re-focus your life. Why we don’t probably makes perfect sense if you look at the evolution of our traditions (part of the whole point was that both Unitarians and Universalists held up the idea that people were good, as opposed to the Calvinist ideas that are decidedly more pessimistic about human nature), but understanding why this is so doesn’t change the fact that I feel drawn to some sort of fasting as a spiritual practice. (The Curriculum of Love, March 4)
The Rev. Scott McNeill has committed to the UU Practicing Lent photo project.
I love photography and am always frustrated that I take fewer pictures than I’d like. Sure, when I go to the zoo or gardens, I pick up my camera—but creating art feeds my soul in a way nothing else can.
So, I’ve decided to take up this spiritual practice for the next 47 days. At first, I felt resistant to speak up and say I’d try this. Usually, spiritual practices (or resolutions or anything of the sort) last about 6 days for me. (Second Unitarian Church of Omaha, March 5)
Another participant, Katy Carpman, has trouble capturing the image of “connection” she hoped to find at her veggie co-op.
I was excited to see that we were getting vine tomatoes—already connected? Meant to be.
But before I could take a picture, one of the other volunteers had separated all the tomatoes.
Lesson: When you don’t communicate your needs, there can be some real disconnects. (Remembering Attention, March 5)
To participate in the Practicing Lent project, visit the Tumblr created by Mr. Barb Greve, Kristina Hensley, and Karen Bellavance-Grace.Winter’s lessons
Sarah MacLeod’s Michigan county has run out of funds for road-clearing, leaving two tire-sized ruts as the only safe path down her street.
Driving in these physical ruts led me to think about the metaphorical type, the kind that we say we want out of yet not badly enough to risk the leap; the one that may leave us skidding into the unknown or simply spinning our wheels in frustration. There can be an odd comfort in even our most painful ruts, perhaps because we know the jostling they bring, which can sometimes seem more comforting than whatever road might lay beyond those well-worn grooves. (Finding My Ground, March 2)
As winter lingers in Maine, Claire dreams of spring’s warmth and beauty.
Eventually the forsythia bush will awaken into an explosion of yellow flowers and the annual negotiation for my parking space will recommence. Eventually the tulips will unfurl and the rhododendrons will resume their efforts to engulf the front porch. Eventually the lilacs will bloom.
But not yet. (Sand Hill Diary, March 5)The work of justice
The Rev. Scott Wells comments on General Assembly housing shortages caused by a last minute labor dispute with two contracted hotels.
I feel bad for the GA office, but the policy is correct. If you had to make a short list of people whose well-being could be improved by ethical spending, hotel workers would be high on the list and they deserve our support.
This puts financially strapped attendees in a bind: do you go to the rejected hotels and side with management? I hope the core labor issues can be resolved, but the least one can do is not cross the picket line early. (Boy in the Bands, March 3)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum reports on a visit to the trial that may overturn Michigan’s constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage; Harvard professor Dr. Nancy Cott was the day’s lone witness.
Professor Cott . . . deftly covered the history of marriage and explained that those who would uphold “traditional marriage” are aiming at a target that’s always been moving. She explained three main ways in which marriage has changed in the course of American history: asymmetrical (gender) roles, divorce, and race, and explained how each was relevant. . . . Overall, she nicely laid out that the arc of our nation’s history bends towards marriage equality. (RevCyn, February 28)UU soul-searching
The Rev. Tom Schade responds to a colleague’s question about a contradiction in Schade’s previous posts.
Because I see Unitarian Universalism as born out of a trend toward Kenosis in Christianity, I am critical of our sectarianism: our constant self-promotion, the assertion that we ourselves are the answer to humanity’s woes. We should not be in the business of shouting to the world that we exist, and that there is a nearby UU congregation. . . .
[And yet, learning] how to communicate love, mercy and justice to those who are afraid that they are worthless, or who suspect that the social order counts them as worthless, is perhaps the most important religious quest of our times. (The Lively Tradition, March 5)
Desmond Ravenstone maintains that polyamorous and kinky people are ignored by the UUA.
I find it hard to recall a single instance of anyone in UUA leadership, and even more painfully the UUA’s multicultural staff, say or write the “K” or “P” words. I’ve heard lots of euphemisms and dancing around these terms, but somehow none of these people who keep telling me I can trust them can even bring themselves to call us what we call ourselves. (Ravenstone’s Reflections, March 4)
Usually I like my social commentary with names attached. However, I’ve found the inaugural edition to be open-spirited, spiritually mature, and nuanced. I suspect the writer(s) are missional leaders with institutionalist hearts. In other words, I am certain that the authors are prophetic court jesters who love our faith tradition very much. I want to hear what they have to say even if it makes me squirm a bit. (Growing Unitarian Universalism, March 3)
Interested in staying informed about this year’s General Assembly? Join the General Assembly 2014 event on Facebook, and to connect with attendees, get updates, ask questions, share ideas, post pictures, and experience GA—no matter where you are.
People travel from across Illinois for congregation’s film series
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Decatur, Ill., has been showing films on environmental-justice themes for seven years, and their audience continues to grow. Members select films with compelling stories that are timely and highlight aspects of many types of environmentalism. (Herald-Review - 2.22.14)
More news from UU congregations
After reading this year’s UUA Common Read, Behind the Kitchen Door by Saru Jayaraman, members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Mankato, Minn., decided to take what they learned into their community. Visiting a different restaurant each week, members talk with managers about the importance of giving staff the option to take sick leave. (The Free Press - 2.21.14)
In researching a historic candlestick owned by the congregation, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Society in Stamford, Conn., discovered a connection to the Civil Rights Movement. The member found a copy of an open letter sent from the 1963 sixth grade religious education class to the children of Birmingham, Ala., with condolences on violence their city had been experiencing. (Stamford Advocate - 2.26.14)
After members spent a month reflecting on the transformative power of love at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Marblehead, Mass., they felt ready to take their love into the world in each and every one of their words and deeds. (The Marblehead Reporter - 2.24.14)
Religious education students at First Unitarian Universalist Church of Indiana, Pa., helped support a county-run hunger program for children as their social justice project. They created money-collection jars for taking special collections during February and shared their ideas about why this program is so important. (The Indiana Gazette - 2.22.14)
North Shore Unitarian Universalists of Lacombe, La., were profiled in their local news for the labyrinth on their church grounds. A spokesperson from the congregation explained that the labyrinth is a meditational tool they use to help members begin their spiritual journeys. (wgno.com - 2.25.14)
When some members of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio, explained that as humanists, they did not believe in a higher power but in reason and humanity, the interfaith community group of which they are members, called Building Responsibility, Equality and Dignity or BREAD, agreed to change the wording of their materials to acknowledge this perspective. (The Columbus Dispatch - 2.21.14)
First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus, Ohio, is profiled for embracing diverse religious beliefs and practices. As non-theistic members of the church have increasingly found a home there, they are eager to reach the broader community of people they know hunger for a similar connection. (The Columbus Dispatch - 2.21.14)
The Rev. Tricia Hart recently took a position as interim minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, W.Va. In an interview with the city’s newspaper, she discussed her religious background and what she hopes to help the congregation achieve during her time there. (Charleston Daily Mail - 2.25.14)
After initially wanting to decline a request to help shelter some of the local homeless population near the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Salem, Ma., the Rev. Richard Davis changed his mind, remembering the importance of how empty space helps us remain open to possibilities. (Statesman Journal - 2.21.14)
When an unaffiliated congregation with deep Universalist roots reaches out to potential UU guest preachers, seminarian Claire answers the call.
I see in that fledgeling congregation the very future of Unitarian Universalism.
Because while we who think we know what we are talking about sit in classrooms and conference rooms worrying about numerical growth—how to lure in the spiritual seekers and what to do with or for or about the elusive young adults—or bickering over whether we are a denomination or a movement, trying to figure out how to Save The . . . Whatever We Are—while we try to solve the unsolvable problem of how to do liberal religion in a complex ugly world in a top-down systematic way—in this tiny village there are ordinary people who are so deeply drawn to the kind of religious community that we say we want to be in the world that they are making it happen for themselves, where they are, with the resources they have.
This is a holy thing. (Sand Hill Diary, February 24)Wild and precious life
At the end of a long week, Jordinn Nelson Long discovered the limits of her extroversion.
Temporary blindness is one of the less subtle wake up calls I’ve experienced, but today I felt I could see, and in more ways than one: there are many ways to burn the candle at both ends, and they all, ultimately, are unsustainable. In this vein, I have been thinking lots this afternoon about a quote from Rabbi Moses Sofer: No woman is required to build the world by destroying herself. (Raising Faith, February 25)
And if an ocular migraine weren’t enough, a few days later her four-year-old son staged a flying experiment, with the help of the cord from the wooden blinds in his bedroom.
What can we learn from being brought up short by what nearly was, laying out each “but for” as though it were a thing with teeth, a shade poised to lay claim to the breath of a now-sleeping child?
I don’t exactly know what to think, but I can tell you what I feel: sheer, incredulous relief. This day, the sheer boredom and minutiae of it, has been delivered back to me as I blink, confused, stumbling again into the too-bright daylight after escaping the brief horror show behind me. (Raising Faith, February 27)Practicing our faith
Ricky Cintron invites us join him in praying with our whole being.
Lately I have been trying to pray more with my whole being. What I mean by that is that when something troubles me and I feel as if I can contribute some kind of positive action to the situation, I do. Praying with your thoughts and words is beautiful and good, but I have learned that I am often much capable of more than that. (Jñana-Dipena, February 25)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak grieves that her young daughter will one day face betrayal and pain.
Even my beautiful little girl, so innocent and sweet, will have to walk across the valley of the shadow of death. . . . I pray that she finds what she needs to make it to the other side feeling held and without bitterness or resentment. I pray that she can make it through the struggle of this world still able to see the beauty and able to feel the joy. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, February 25)
As part of a series about Unitarian Universalist core beliefs, the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford notes that believing in human goodness takes three minutes to learn, and a lifetime to master.
It’s hard. This is a culture that often urges us to question the motivations of every person. Sometimes that might be prudent, I admit, but I try to hold back. If the action seems deliberately hurtful, well yes, at that point, I need to look closer.
But often there is no need. So often, people exceed my expectations. And if they are so good, then perhaps I should be, too? (Boots and Blessings, February 24)Pink triangles
The Rev. Dan Schatz suggests that the pink triangle is a symbol for our time.
I love the welcoming flag, and fly it proudly—but maybe we need to hold onto the pink triangle as well. Maybe we need a reminder of the cost of hatred, in real human lives and livelihoods. Maybe we need to remember that silence really does equal death, and the worst thing we can do is remain silent in the face of oppression. (The Song and the Sigh, February 25)
The Rev. Debra Haffner writes that “we are all gay Ugandans now.”
I can pray and I can write and I can tweet and Facebook. But others of you have the resources to do more, and I implore you to stand up NOW.
Because we can’t stand by and watch. (Sexuality and Religion, February 27)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar calls bullshit on the so-called “religious freedom bills” introduced by several state legislatures.
If you don’t think gay people should get married, then don’t marry a person of your gender. Who you bake a cake for is not part of your religious practice. Your religious beliefs apply to you, and if your God is going to judge you for standing by while other people live out their own religious lives, then your God needs to get a grip. (Quest for Meaning, February 26)Fun, games, stories, and more
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern shares initial reflections about her new practice of holding office hours in local cafes. (Sermons in Stones, February 28)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum offers tips from her experiences preaching from a tablet. (Rev. Cyn, February 22)
The Rev. Dan Harper posts part two of his retelling of the Demeter and Persephone story. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, February 25)
Three UU Reddit users stepped up to answer questions about Unitarian Universalism in an “ask me anything” session this week.
Barb Greve and Kristina Hensley have created a Lenten Photo Challenge, shared via the UU Media Collaborative. Join in the fun!
Congregation’s civil rights legacy intersects with minister’s personal journey
During her tenure of more than ten years as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Central Nassau in Garden City, N.Y.*, the Rev. Hope Johnson has built a solid relationship with the congregation and continues its legacy of civil rights justice work. (Long Island Newsday – 2.13.14)
Other articles in the profile include:
“The Rev. Hope Johnson: Living a legacy” (Long Island Newsday – 2.13.14)
“Tackling civil rights from the pulpit” (Long Island Newsday – 2.14.14)
Celebrating Valentine’s Day by rallying for marriage equality
Williamsburg Unitarian Universalist Church members gathered at the county courthouse in Williamsburg, Va., to celebrate a recent federal court ruling that lifted Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage and vowed to continue to visit each Valentine’s Day until marriage equality comes to their state. (Virginia Gazette – 2.14.14)
Members of the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Neb., gathered at their state capitol on Valentine’s Day with their Standing on the Side of Love banner to celebrate the holiday by showing their support for marriage equality. (1011now.com – 2.17.14)
Other coverage of the Nebraska event includes:
“Marriage equality rally” (klkntv.com – 2.14.14)
“Unitarian Church of Lincoln shows support for marriage equality through rally” (Daily Nebraskan - 2.17.14)
Congregations get involved with community
Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Olympia, Wa., partnered with other congregations and community members to help shift the homeless population in their community from a temporary, rotating series of camps to permanent homes called Quixote Village. (The New York Times – 2.19.14)
Related: “Washington congregation creates permanent village for homeless” (uuworld.org – 11.11.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., celebrated a decade of providing financial support to students who wish to pursue music education. Their Edward Miller Memorial Scholarship is named for the congregation’s former music director and is funded by their annual “Cabaret at Shelter Rock” event. (Long Island Newsday – 2.19.14)
Newly installed minister, the Rev. Maddie Sifantus, discussed her plans to help First Unitarian Church in Milford, Mass., return to its former vibrancy by bringing together elders, arts, school, and faith communities. (The Milford Daily News – 2.8.14)
Correction 02.25.14: In the original headline and post, the UU Congregation of Central Nassau was identified as being located in Garden City, N.J. It is located in New York. Click here to return to the corrected paragraph.
UU bloggers continue to react to the new UUA logo, announced last week as the first part of a comprehensive brand strategy.
The Rev. Dawn Cooley suggests that early reactive responses happened because “surprised people react poorly.”
The anxiety in our UU system is quite high right now. Just as surprised people who feel left out of the process tend to react poorly, so also is the inverse true: Informed people who are brought along in the process tend to be more invested in the outcome. (Speaking of, February 15)
Shawna Foster disagrees, writing that how people handle surprises is a reflection of their character.
People who can’t roll with the punches, in my experience, are people who’ve always been able to control what’s going on in their little universe, and expect it at all times to be secure. People who can’t afford that kind of security and know they’re not the ones in control of their lives are able to handle surprises, good and bad ones, in a mature way. (Enterprise, February 19)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein explores the differences between a transient logo and a permanent symbol.
Creating a logo is just a way of waving your hand in public to greet the general public. It in no way has to cheapen or commodify what you do in your actual community. The logo gives people an opportunity to connect with you. It doesn’t represent your community’s capitulation to consumer culture. (PeaceBang, February 18)
Chris Walton reflects on the beacon-related images we have embraced throughout our history.
Here’s my modest insight: The flaming chalice is an interior lamp, a flame to light indoors in the particular context of worship. As an emblem, it’s tied to the Service Committee’s public service history, but in our experience, it’s a symbol of our religion as practiced in sanctuaries and homes. But it has a cousin in our symbolic tradition that is a flame lit in the public square: the beacon lit in times of public crisis, the candles held up in vigils, the lantern in the steeple. (Philocrites, February 17)
Paul’s Letter to the Romans gives the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss a framework for thinking about the new brand strategy initiative.
This is what the fight is really about: not whether Unitarian Universalists have a symbol that matters to the small groups who know it, but whether we can establish a symbol that dominates the conversation about the things we believe. (Politywonk, February 17)
Among other reactions, the Rev. Scott Wells dubs the conversation “Logogate,” Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum wonders about a name change, and Thomas Earthman worries about the text. (Boy in the Bands, February 17, RevCyn, February 20, and A Material Sojourn, February 14)
Kim Hampton accuses the UUA of being more interested in style than substance.
The UUA’s treatment of the new logo and its roll-out being more newsworthy/homepage-worthy than 1,500 UUs in Raleigh or a statement about the Jordan Davis murder trial verdict seems to be par-for-the-course to me. (East of Midnight, February 19)
Britton Gildersleeve worries about her cousin’s grandsons.
My cousin Sally is white. Her grandsons are mixed race—their father is black, Sally’s daughter is also white. Each of the culturally sanctioned murders of black men lately is a bludgeon to Sally’s heart. As it should be for all of us. (Beginner’s Heart, February 19)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes about the hastag #NeverLovedUs, which “summarizes the experience of black and brown young people.”
This country never loved black and brown young people, never valued their lives, presumed that they were a menace to society—criminal. As though there were an uncountable surplus of them that could be wasted or misused. . . .
One cannot respond to “#neverlovedus” with a declaration in favor of “equality” or fair law enforcement or a more nuanced doctrine of justifiable self-defense. You have to go deeper, down to the emotional level, to that battle between love and indifference that rages in all of us, and try there to take your place on the side of love. (The Lively Tradition, February 18)A faith that matters
Peter Bowden’s UUTV publishes a series of videos recorded in 2013 by the Rev. Naomi King: “If Unitarian Universalism Is to Be a Faith that Matters,” “On Disability, Social Media, and Digital Ministry,” and “The Challenge of Social Media to Our Established System.”
John Beckett finds spiritual depth in Pagan and Druid practice, but remains a committed Unitarian Universalist.
Unitarian Universalism keeps me connected to this world. It reminds me there are immediate needs that religion and religious people need to address. . . . Like most religious organizations, we talk more than we do, but we do more than any other religious organization I’ve been involved with. (Under the Ancient Oaks, February 16)
The UU Church of Ogden, Utah, receives a rave review from a visiting blogger.
The love and sense of community you feel in it is almost tangible. . . . They approach religion and faith not with simple dogmatic answers that are beyond question, nor with the arrogance of certainty, but with humility and acknowledgment that there are diverse beliefs out there. (52 Weeks in 52 Faiths, February 16)
The Free Range Unitarian Universalists of Indianapolis shared this image, via the UU Media Works Facebook Page.
Justin Almeida asks, “What is the difference between me playing the fool and making good life choices?”
I’ve come to identify that “wisdom” is taking what I know, and letting that knowledge be guided by my heart. However, it’s not just a one way street. It’s also taking the passions of my spirit, and running those intense feelings and emotions through my rational mind. In all the decisions I’ve made that have been positive and constructive, I had taken the time to let my mind and spirit have a conversation about my actions. (What’s My Age Again, February 17)
The Rev. James Ford shares a video of his talk, delivered at the Harvard Divinity School, entitled “Zen and the Art of Liberal Ministry.” (Monkey Mind, February 19)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak rolls three identities into one experience: minister, activist, rock star (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, February 14)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford celebrates the joys of deep friendships.
[Friendship] is a love story of another sort. . . . Friends fight. Friends get disappointed in each other. Friends have each other on a pedestal, the friend drops, and yet still, amazingly, we love each other. Warts and all, we are friends. (Boots and Blessings, February 14)
Congregation has had a 20-year relationship with their new rabbi
Although the decision of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Grand Traverse in Traverse City, Mich., to call the Rabbi Chava Bahle to serve as their new leader raised some concerns in the Jewish and UU communities, both Bahle and the congregation find it to be a natural extension of their long-existing relationship. (Huffington Post – 2.11.14)
Tulsa UUs ready for legalized same-sex marriage
All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., recently held a Standing on the Side of Love engagement party for same-sex couples to show Oklahoma and its residents that there is a religious community in the state that is ready to embrace same-sex marriage. (Tulsa World – 2.13.14)
Other All Souls engagement party stories include:
“Tulsa Church Throws Engagement Party For Same-Sex Couples” (NewsOn6 – 2.12.14)
“Tulsa Unitarian church hosts engagement party for same-sex couples” (Tulsa World – 2.12.14)
UUs join Moral March
Unitarian Universalists joined thousands from North Carolina and across the country to take part in the Moral March in downtown Raleigh, N.C., last weekend. The Rev. Jay Leach of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte walked with members of his congregation to encourage state leadership to do what’s best for all of North Carolina’s children, teachers, and voters. (Charlotte Observer – 2.8.14)
Other Moral March stories include:
“Religion at the Moral March” (Religion Dispatches – 2.10.14)
“‘Forward Together, Not One Step Back’: Moral March Brings Out Tens of Thousands of Progressives” (RH Reality Check – 2.9.14)
“March in Raleigh draws tens of thousands” (Daily Kos – 2.9.14)
More UUs in the media
Prominent local officials and citizens of all ages turned out at the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Mass., to take part in the 14th annual Frederick Douglass read-a-thon. Douglass had a historical connection to the congregation; his first job as a free man was shoveling coal for the church’s minister. (South Coast Today – 2.10.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Birmingham, Ala., celebrated its 60-year history last weekend, including its connection to the Selma, Ala., civil rights marches, and looked to the future to discern the role they hope to play in the larger community. (al.com – 2.07.14)
In commemoration of Darwin Day, the Rev. Jacqueline Luck of the Holston Valley Unitarian Universalist Church in Gray, Tenn., joined a panel discussion on religion and science at East Tennessee State University. She emphasized the importance of embracing mainstream science with her congregation. (Johnson City Press – 2.9.14)
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.
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)Practicing love
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)
Looking back on the history of American race relations
The Rev. Barbara Fast of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Danbury, Conn., shares the powerful experience she had earlier this year when she joined the Living Legacy Pilgrimage through the Deep South visiting historic sites and meeting with veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. (newstimes.com – 1.31.14)
To honor the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, Mich., will hold a Freedom Riders exhibit of films and speakers detailing the struggles of civil rights workers who traveled south to fight racial segregation. (Daily Press & Argus - 1.30.14)
The Unitarian Church of Staten Island, N.Y., will hold a Sunday service in connection with African American History Month that highlights the important role that abolitionists played in founding their church and as an antislavery voice in the region during the 19th century. (Staten Island Advance – 2.1.14)
Connecting with the community through jazz, and more
First Unitarian Church of Salt Lake City celebrates 25 years of their Jazz Vespers music series, which has transformed the congregation’s role in the city into a local institution offering a diverse range of musical styles from the works of Stevie Wonder to Led Zeppelin. (The Salt Lake Tribune - 2.1.14)
The Rev. Andrew Clive Millard of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Va., writes that he will join with other progressive people of faith calling for marriage equality in Virginia because all people, regardless of gender identity or sexual orientation, have equal claim to the same benefits, rights, and privileges. (Daily Press - 2.2.14)
The Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, N.C., reports that over 200 people from Western North Carolina will join the Forward Together Moral Movement protest at the state capitol on February 8th. (Black Mountain News – 2.3.14)
Bennett Rushkoff explained in an interview with local press that a major reason why he is running for state office in Maryland stems from his experience as lay minister for social justice at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Rockville, Md., where he and his congregation lobbied for marriage equality, offshore wind power, and repeal of the death penalty. (The Sentinel – 2.6.14)
As Purdue University considers building gender-neutral restrooms on their campus, the nearby Unitarian Universalist Church in West Lafayette, Ind., offers an example of using gender neutral facilities to welcome all people, regardless of gender identity. (The Exponent – 2.5.14)
The Rev. Galen Guengerich of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City writes on how the growing “selfie” culture keeps individuals from appreciating those who have had a long presence around us and the things we deeply value for their long use. (The Washington Post – 1.31.14)
Among many who weighed in on the death penalty decision in the case of the Boston Marathon bomber, the Rev. Megan Foley of Sugarloaf Congregation of Unitarian Universalists in Germantown, Md., wrote that putting her father’s killer to death brought their family no sense of justice or closure. (The Boston Globe - 2.1.14)
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.Apocalypse never
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)Another plane
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)