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Congregation more than willing to provide space for shelter
Recent graduates from Harvard University are working with First Parish UU in Cambridge, Mass., to create an overnight homeless shelter for youth in their area. First Parish in Cambridge sees this work as a natural extension of the congregation’s core values. (The Boston Globe - 4.13.15)
Additional coverage of this story includes:
“Student-Led Shelter for Homeless Young in Works at Harvard” (The Chronicle of Philanthropy - 4.14.15)
New co-ministers are part of a growing trend in ministry
As the Revs. Cathy and Heather Rion Starr prepare to be installed as co-ministers of the Unitarian Society of Hartford, Conn., they become part of a growing trend among religious groups today: that of having married couples leading houses of worship. (The New York Times - 4.17.15)
UU Pagan prayer met with silent protest
Despite the absence of many Iowa state representatives and others who turned their back in silent protest, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans leader Deborah Maynard was humbled and awestruck at the opportunity to give the morning prayer before the Iowa State Legislature. (KCRG.com - 4.9.15)
Additional coverage of this story includes:
“Wiccan prayer at Iowa Legislature draws silent protest, boycott” (WCF Courier - 4.9.15)
Civil rights hero honored posthumously
Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian Universalist activist who lost her life in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, received an honorary doctorate from Wayne State University. Her five children and grandchildren received the award on her behalf. (Detroit Free Press - 4.11.15)
UU congregation hopes to deepen interfaith dialogue
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Owensboro, Ky., was a co-sponsor in the area’s annual Faith Fest, an interfaith event to help their local community become more familiar with the diverse religious groups in their area. In addition to workshops, the co-sponsors have also received a grant to create an interfaith dialogue curriculum. (Messenger-Inquirer - 4.15.15)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes that, when social movements become more powerful, congregations are likely to push back against ministerial activism.
The minister needs to be keep turning the question back to the congregants: “How are you going to relate to this social movement? This isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the church, and it isn’t about the number of prophetic sermons I preach in a month. This is about how you respond to this social movement. I can tell you how I am responding; I can explain my process, but in the end, this is about how you respond.” (The Lively Tradition, April 13)
Kim Hampton doubts that liberal religion has anything prophetic to say.
What would liberal theology and religion look like if it took into account those who have had to make a way out of no way? Those who have been plundered and pillaged for generations? Those who are condemned and pathologized just because? (East of Midnight, April 13)Real stories
Katy Carpman recounts the financial repercussions of her son’s recent hospital stay.
We are so very lucky that my spouse’s insurance covers most of this. The deductible is not painless, but it’s something we can handle. And thankfully I’m salaried (and have understanding employers), so we do not have to worry about lost wages for the days I had to be away from the office.
I recognize my privilege, and realize that the situation is far different for many. (Remembering Attention, April 9)
Kari Kopnick celebrates the return of the light, after a struggle with depression.
Someone asked me a few months ago how I could tell the difference between the grief of losing my dad and depression. . . . Now, some distance out, I know the precise difference—in fact it is more of a Venn diagram with no intersection at all. . . .
Grief is sadness, loss, regret for missed opportunities and a longing for things that will never be again.
Depression is hopelessness, feeling numb about everyday things (oh my God I have to choose what to eat? What to wear? Really?) and wishing the pain of living would just be over. (Chalice Spark, April 13)
Tina Porter shares a similar struggle.
It may not look like hard work from the outside, but I’m telling you right now, sometimes sitting on the couch is the hardest work of all. The work done in dormant times may very well be the work we were meant to do. (Ugly Hats, April 11)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham has a new pacemaker, and is “so happy to be alive.”
So happy to have a regular heartbeat after all this time of enduring the jumping-bean ticker. So happy to feel exhilarated by every new day. Thanks be to the docs and the friends and the power beyond human power, which infuses us with the will to live. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 12)Creative congregations
Thomas Earthman writes that congregational growth depends on having something worth sharing.
Growth requires standing for something, and giving people something worthy of their trust and commitment. . . . [What] makes being in a community powerful and appealing is being able to add your strengths to those of the other members, and coming up with a somewhat stronger effect than you all would have achieved working separately. Success is always attractive. (I Am UU, April 14)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley continues her series on breaking down barriers to congregational participation, with a post about financial barriers.
Some congregations have instituted a fee for service payment method, where activities are broken down and participants pay for them separately. . . . The trouble with this method is that it puts up barriers to participation instead of removing them. Instead, I believe it is time for congregations to get creative. (Speaking of, April 10)
The Rev. Tom Schade responds to Cooley’s series.
[A] question occurs to me. What if we asked ourselves this question: What are the barriers to our congregation participating fully in the life of our wider community? (The Lively Tradition, April 13)Love is the absence of judgment
Jacqueline Wolven learns that “love is the absence of judgment.”
Making the change from city snob to simple kindness wasn’t easy, but the lessons are ones that will live with me forever. Having a cool heart isn’t the life I ever wanted, softening into love is a powerful place to be and I am grateful that my neighbors and friends allowed me to stumble into their lives without grace or understanding. (Jacqueline Wolven, April 12)
Valerie Freseman writes about the power of folk tales, folklore, and folk superstitions.
One day my CPE supervisor arranged a tour of the neighborhood our hospital serves. The tour leader brought us to a botánica—a store selling herbs, candles, and folk-magic supplies for the practice of Santeria and other allied spiritual practices—and I was the only person in our team of five trainee chaplains who could explain to everyone exactly what a botánica was because of my own history and practice (if you are a Pagan in New York City, you cannot avoid the botánica!) If, when visiting a patient, I could discern evidence of their beliefs in conversation or at a bedside table, I had gained valuable insights into the other members of that person’s spiritual support team. (Nature’s Path, April 14)
Patrick Murfin values his participation in the UU Bloggers’ Workshop on Facebook, and share the poetry of two of the group’s members.
[One] of the most valuable and engaging groups I belong to is the UU Bloggers’ Workshop which offers support, advice, criticism, ideas, and community to Unitarian Universalist Bloggers. . . .
I actually learn a lot from them. . . . I am goaded into improvement as a human being even when I would rather stew in resentment and anger or cleave to comfortable, but unjust habits. I gotta admit, this group helps me fill my spiritual gas tank about as well as anything this side of one of Rev. Sean Dennison’s Sunday morning Sermons. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, April 12)
If you’re tired of the subtle pressure to create a “bucket list,” read Karen Johnston’s “F*ck Bucket Lists.” You’ll be glad you did. (Irrevspeckay, April 12)
Calling for climate justice, protecting and preserving natural resources
The Unitarian Universalist initiative Commit2Respond is in the spotlight for calling for spiritual action to fight climate change. UU leaders hope to inspire people of all religions to honor interconnectedness and work for positive change. (EcoWatch.com - 4.10.15)
The Rev. Kate Lehman is interviewed for her work as president of a West Virginia watershed association committed to protecting and preserving the streams and rivers in the state. Lehman describes the difficulty of supporting the watershed without long-range plans for sustainability. (The Star Democrat - 4.8.15)
Members of Towson Unitarian Universalist Church in Lutherville, Md., received a grant to build a rain garden on their property, which will keep most pollutants from going into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The congregation’s Green Sanctuary committee applied for the grant, which includes a public workshop. (The Baltimore Sun - 4.9.15)
Other congregational news
Casas de Luz, a nonprofit based out of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, Calif., is celebrating ten years of building homes for those in need in Tijuana, Mexico. Since it began, Casas de Luz has grown from a project of a single member of the fellowship to a sustainable nonprofit. They will build their 40th home this year. (Del Mar Times - 4.7.15)
United First Parish Church in Quincy, Mass., will install the Rev. Rebecca Froom as senior minister. Froom will be the first female minister to lead the congregation in its long history. The church is known as the Church of the Presidents because Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were members. (The Patriot Ledger - 4.6.15)
Unitarian Universalist connections with Buddhism
The Rev. Doug Traversa of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tullahoma, Tenn., points to the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle to explain the affinity many UUs have with Buddhist practice. He sees Buddhist awakening to be similar to honoring the interconnected web of existence. (Lion’s Roar - 4.8.15)
Adam Dyer writes that “Even in addressing racism, black lives have not specifically mattered.”
We cannot continue to speak or act in broad terms. There is no shortcut, no blanket application to address black oppression because black oppression is unique; just as every other oppression that is experienced is unique. What Black Lives Matter challenges us to do is address the specific issues surrounding black oppression without entering into the oppression olympics. The movement tells us that we can look at the unique social location intersection that one group represents, whether that is race, color, nation of origin, sexual preference, gender identity, ability, or relationship status (or any combination thereof) and take the time to appreciate, uplift, uphold and defend each and every one of them. (spirituwellness, April 6)
Kim Hampton thinks the indictment of Michael Slager is not a sign that #BlackLivesMatter protests are making a difference.
There is an assumption in most white communities that the police don’t lie about their encounters with the public. Communities of color (and poor communities) know that lie for what it is. (East of Midnight, April 8)Imagine a congregation
The Rev. Phil Lund believes that spiritual practice in community is what spiritual seekers are looking for in the 21st century.
Imagine a congregation that looks at all the possibilities for spiritual growth . . . then finds ways to help individuals explore those practices within the context of a nurturing and supportive community.
Without dogma. Or judgment. Or guilt. Just the opportunity to “deepen their relationship with the sacred.” That’s the kind of religious community I see flourishing in the 21st century. (Phillip Lund, April 7)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley begins a series of posts about removing barriers to congregational participation in a changing religious landscape.
[W]e strive to meet people where they are. Not where we wish they would be, not where we thinkthey should be. It means meeting people in the lived reality of where they are.
The more we understand this, the more we realize that it is our calling to confront and seek to do away with whatever it is that prevents people from feeling as though they have a place at the table. This means intentionally looking at what accommodations a congregation can make to remove barriers to participation for all those who might find a home with us. (Speaking of, April 7)Building the world to come
The Rev. Jude Geiger says that Christ was seen in Indiana this week—but not where many Christians thought they saw him.
They thought Jesus was seen in the pizza parlor in Indiana this week; martyred for religious freedom, as a store was “forced” to close after speaking words of hate in the guise of freedom. They were right. Jesus was there. He was flipping the tables and the trays crying out against the money changers of this day, who will cry religion but mean GoFundMe (over $700,000 and counting). (HuffPost Religion, April 3)
John Beckett outlines his approach to building the world to come.
This is where we can make a difference for our descendants: by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come—and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made. (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 9)
Tina Porter resists the urge to rant.
[Instead] of a rant, I will pray for the courage and the focus and the kindness to extend myself beyond my small sphere of influence in order to create the world that is possible when we look to each other not as problems but as shared solutions–when we look to each other as our neighbor who sometimes helps us and who we sometimes help . . .
because . . . we ARE all in this together. (Ugly Pies, April 7)Life, death, and love
For the Rev. James Ford, whose beloved Auntie died on Easter Saturday, the Easter story is a fearful, wonderful, mysterious moment of awakening.
Easter as this moment, as this mind, as this heart, filled with all its sadness and all its glory. And with our fully opening ourselves to what is, with that complete disruption of what we thought was the way things are. And with that awakening into something new: mystery piled upon mystery. Wonder, and joy, and, yes, absolutely, fear. . . .
Nothing is missing . . . on this Easter day. We wake up to the whole mess. And we find it really is a blessing. (Monkey Mind, April 5)
Christine Organ has mixed feelings about selling a home where she grieved for a miscarried child.
We leave pieces of ourselves all over the world, and my grief in the dirt in front of that house on Nelson Street. But as I left pieces of myself here and there, I have also carried things with me. And, from that patch of dirt on Nelson Street, I carried hope, gratitude, resilience and courage.
Maybe it isn’t so much about what we leave behind, but what we carry with us that matters. (HuffPost Parents, April 7)
Diana McLean leaves the box of presumed heterosexuality.
For many years, my experience of my sexual orientation was that I was a heterosexual woman. And then, it wasn’t.
I’m not saying that I’ve secretly been a lesbian all this time and my relationships with men were somehow fake or less-than or deceptive. They weren’t. That isn’t what this means, at all.
The bottom line isn’t about past relationships. It’s this: my next partner, should I have one, could be of any gender. (Poetic Justice, April 7)
UU environmentalist calls on churches to lead
Tim DeChristopher, the UU environmentalist who served time in a federal prison for interfering with a 2008 government oil and gas lease auction, writes about why he thinks churches need to take the moral lead on climate change. (Yes! Magazine – 3.27.15)
See also: “Activism is an act of faith” by Tim DeChristopher (UU World – Winer 2012)
Discrimination not a religious value
The Rev. Debra Haffner, director of the Religious Institute and a community minister with the Unitarian Church in Westport, Conn., responds to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and argues that “discrimination is never a religious value.” (Huffington Post - 3.31.15)
Other stories including UU responses to the Religious Freedom Bill include:
“Gay community protests religious freedom law” (Chicago Tribune – 3.27.15)
“How Illinois’ religious freedom law differs from Indiana’s” (WQAD.com – 3.31.15)
“North Carolina considers Indiana-like religious objection law” (Kentucky.com – 4.1.15)
“Protestors Gather At Capitol Against Religious Freedom Bill” (GPB.org – 3.31.15)
“The Sunday After” (Indiana Student Daily – 3.30.15)
In the congregations
The UU Church in Livermore, Calif., partnered with a local United Methodist church to open a free laundry facility for homeless residents. (San Jose Mercury News – 3.31.15)
The UU Congregation of Atlanta, Ga., helps promote a love of reading by providing free books in English and Spanish to Hispanic youth under 17 as part of its annual Fiesta de Libros. (AJC.com – 3.27.15)
All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., held a service that recreated a 1965 service in support of civil rights marches in Selma, Ala. (Tulsa World – 3.30.15)
A woman was arrested after she intentionally set fire to the foyer of First Parish Church in Plymouth, Mass., Sunday evening, causing damage to the carpet and some furnishings. (South Coast Today – 3.31.15)
The Shreveport Times profiles the Rev. Barbara Jarrell, minister of All Souls UU Church in Shreveport, La., who recently underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer. (The Shreveport Times – 3.31.15)
Kenny Wiley builds a UU Black Lives Matter theology to support his work as an activist.
Right now we are being called—by our ancestors, by our principles, by young black activists across the country—to promote and affirm:
You are young and black, and your life matters just the same.
You stole something, and your life matters just the same.
I have been taught to fear you, and your life matters just the same.
The police are releasing your criminal record, and your life matters just the same.
They are calling you a thug, and your life matters just the same. (A Full Day, March 26)
The Rev. Krista Taves shares her initial thoughts about the DOJ report on the Ferguson police department.
Even as a dedicated white ally, committed to believing the stories of blacks in our city who spoke of feeling preyed upon by law enforcement, I was shocked by what I had read. . . .
When the Ferguson shooting first happened, I was deeply uncomfortable with the slogan “Shut it Down.” I felt it went too far. After reading the Department of Justice Report, I no longer feel this is a radical statement. (And the Stones Shall Cry, March 26)Alternate congregational strategies
Last week, the Rev. Tom Schade rejected “building religious community” as a valid congregational purpose; this week he proposes five alternate strategies, each very focused and specific.
The purpose of our congregation is to be your point of deep connection to the global movement for justice. (The Lively Tradition, March 26)
Our church serves the community in which we live. People come to our church in order to work with the people of our community as they struggle to live and survive where they are. (March 27)
Our congregation is where you go if you want your children to grow up to be morally and ethically strong and clear AND open-minded and curious about the world of differences. We are really one big, all ages cooperative Sunday School. (March 28)
We are a theological center of religious liberalism. Our purpose is to challenge all theologies and interpretations that oppress and bind the spirit, especially the dominant religions in our community. (March 29)
We are a church that invites you to make the profound spiritual commitment to the health of the Earth and her people. The planet is in the midst of a catastrophic ecological crisis and she needs people to organize their lives around making a difference in that crisis. (March 30)Coming in and going out
The Rev. Chip Roush shares opening words for worship.
Come in and be seated,
all of you with heavy hearts.
Those who have had a difficult morning,
or an exhausting week;
those who are frustrated,
those who are this close to giving up on something,
come in, and sit down,
and loosen the hold of your cares for an hour. (So May We Be, March 30)
After a youth campout, the Rev. Dan Harper has a suggestion for congregations.
More and more, I’m coming to believe that if organized religion is going to help fix global climate weirdness, we have to get out of our buildings more. Not that we should get rid of our buildings—we need our indoor spaces to accommodate a wide range of human person, including elders. But we also need to do more outdoor ministries. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, March 28)A matter of taste
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden compares religious belief to cilantro.
[Belief] in a god or gods: It’s a feeling, a taste.
It’s yummy or soapy.
So . . . perhaps, like cilantro, the choice to believe or not is best left up to the individual. For some, it’s yummy. For some, soapy: Nature, nurture.
But fussing over it? Fuhgettaboudit. (Quest for Meaning, April 2)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham doesn’t believe in a personal God who holds the strings of the universe—and yet she prays.
I pray because the universe has proved to be a faithful and reliable yet mysterious friend, which sometimes lashes out—not because I am a bad person but because I have not recognized or prepared for the consequences of non-mindful living. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 2)