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One year after a chemical spill in the Elk River created a water crisis in West Virginia, members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Charleston, W. Va., have distributed more than $21,000 to local organizations that work to support clean water. The congregation raised $24,000 from donors nationwide. (The Charleston Gazette 1.3.15)
See also “West Virginia chemical spill reaches one-year anniversary” (The Register-Herald 1.9.15) and “One Year Later: Events Held to Remember Elk River Chemical Spill” (West Virginia Public Broadcasting 1.8.15).Sexuality, marriage equality, and gender justice
The Rev. Meg Riley, minister of the Church of the Larger Fellowship, talks about her concerns about the safety of her gender-nonconforming child when using public facilities like restrooms and how this spurred her to raise funds to make a restroom at her child’s school welcoming to all genders. (The Seattle Times 1.4.15)
The Rev. Dee Graham, minister of Manatee Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Bradenton, Fla., was on hand at City Hall to offer religious wedding services to any same-sex couple who wished to have one now that marriage equality has come to Florida. (mysuncoast.com 1.4.15)
An article about sexuality among senior citizens quotes Melanie Davis, a UUA program associate for the Our Whole Lives sexuality education curricula, on the difficulties of maintaining sexually healthy relationships in one’s later years. The story notes that a new OWL curriculum for senior citizens is in development. (RHRealityCheck.org 12.17.14)
The Rev. Debra Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and Marie Alford-Harkey, both of the Religious Institute, are featured in The Advocate’s list of “The Religious People Who Give Us Hope for Religion” for their work on lifting up the role of bisexual people in religious communities. (The Advocate 12.24.14)Congregation expresses grief over victims of police violence
Members of the Unitarian Universalists of Southern Delaware braved cold weather to hold a public healing circle and peaceful march in solidarity with people in Ferguson, Mo., Staten Island, N.Y., and Cleveland, Ohio, and express their hope for an end to racism. (CapeGazette.com 1.4.15)UUA headquarters purchase completed; branding was fun
The UUA completed the purchase of its 24 Farnsworth Street headquarters building, where it has been leasing three floors, on January 9. The UUA purchased the six-story building for $25.5 million. (Boston Business Journal 1.12.15)
The head of branding agency Quicksilver Foundry, Will Novy-Hildesley, discusses the pleasure he got from his work with fifty Unitarian Universalists and UUA staff in the early stages of their rebranding efforts and how this led to the memorable slogan: “Wanted: Brave Souls.” (Portland Monthly 1.5.15)
Patrick Murfin writes a poetic response to this week’s violence in Paris—and to critical voices.
I must, you say, if I love justice,
hold every man, woman, or child
who kneels five times a day
to equal account for these murders
and make them all pay
thousands of times over
with their own blood.
I see and condemn a sliver of fanatics,
you see whole races equally guilty. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, January 8)
The Rev. James Ford fears that the word “fundamentalism” has become almost useless.
Fundamentalism is not conservativism. Fundamentalism is not being a jerk.
Fundamentalism is a religious stance in reaction to modernity. It abhors modernity, and freedom of thought, and freedom of expression. It particularly targets women and sexual minorities and anyone who supports them. It calls us to an imaginary past where people all knew their place. (Monkey Mind, January 7)Hot topics
Liz James sparks a lively Facebook conversation about the Fellowship Movement. (Facebook, January 6)
That Facebook conversation led to James’ post about the language wars in UUism—wars she wants to stop fighting.
I want to learn to listen to your story until my soul overflows with your memories. I want to tell you my story with gentle truth and unequivocal strength. I want language to be something we create together, understanding that words are made of definitions, yes, but also of shared experience. I want to learn the meaning of words at least in part the way children do—by seeing the pattern in the moments. These are the words we speak during heartbreak. These are the words for joy. (Free Range Seminarian, January 6)
Our liturgy is literally the work of the people, and great worship is central to great religious communities. It’s time. It’s time to include more recent music, it’s time to update our readings, it’s time to move into the 21st-century in our technology.
It’s time. (A Free Faith, December 30 and January 4)
This week the Church of the Larger Fellowship’s online show, The VUU, tackled the topic of connections between UU and UCC congregations, talking with the Rev. Robin Bartlett and the Rev. Adam Tierney Eliot.The future of ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade posts this for debate: “Resolved that the material and professional interests of the UU clergy hamper the development of new ecclesiological models more suitable for UU evangelism.”
If we step back, we don’t know what “church” is now; we don’t know what religious community looks like that isn’t inward, and self-protective, and an escape; we don’t know what “ministry” does beyond tend to those communities. But the material interests of the clergy drives us inexorably toward the maintenance of insular and inward looking religious communities when we know in our bones that we need to be expansive, outward looking, and boundary-crossing. (The Lively Tradition, January 7)
As a millennial minister, the Rev. Robin Tanner has concerns for what the future holds for ministers, and the movements they lead.
And so I see community organizers not being able to pay rent and ministers not being able to pay for childcare, I worry as these economic trends deepen who will lead our revolutions? What will happen when no one is paying the prophet? (Piedmont Preacher, January 8)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley has a suggestion for her colleagues.
Only the Southern region has gained in both adult and children participation over the last 10 years.
In the mid-19th century, Unitarian Horace Greeley is said to have declared “Go west, young man, go west.” Updated for today, let me say “Go south, dear colleague, go south!” (Speaking of, January 8)
The Rev. Jake Morrill collected haikus from his colleagues about their hopes for ministry in 2015.
Thirsty? Take a drink!
Then we irrigate the desert
From our source of love. . . .
Across the prairie
A Prophetic Sisterhood
We will be reborn. . . .
Adapt, ye leaders
from your center bend that arc
justice needs us now (Quest for Meaning, January 4)
The Rev. Sharon Wylie begins a series called “Church 101.” One post answered the question of what to say—and what not to say—to the minister after the service.
What not to say? No interaction with the minister in the receiving line should take longer than 30 seconds (AT MOST). It’s just not the place for a meaningful conversation. Perhaps if no one is behind you, you might linger for a few minutes, but keep in mind that the minister may have other people she needs to speak with or things she needs to do after services. And please, please don’t tell the minister anything you expect him to remember. He’s just spoken with dozens of other people and will likely not remember your request to call or visit or email the link to the thing. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, December 28)
A second post deals with a the two-common occurrence—when something bad happens to a newcomer on their first visit to a congregation.
If something happened on your visit that is off-putting enough that you are considering not returning, then let the minister know. We want to know. We won’t always be able to address it, and it may even be that thing that upset you is a good sign that the religious community you visited isn’t the right fit for you, but the minister can help you assess that. (Ministry in Steel Toe Shoes, January 4)Happy Anniversary, PeaceBang!
This week we wish a happy anniversary to the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein, who recently celebrated ten years of blogging as PeaceBang. (PeaceBang, December 28) “PeaceBang” celebrated by hosting a Google Hangout about social media—looking backward, and looking forward.
Jim Foti challenges us to live up the the American ideal—extending to all the unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
We are a country of mass distraction, a country where the comfortable can decide not to look or see or do anything. But our country must look and see and listen, and acknowledge its realities.
That is where our work has begun, by looking, by seeing, by bringing reason and reality into the public square and onto the streets. By embodying love and making it visible. By listening with humility to those whose lives are different from our own. By finding ways to move from sympathy to solidarity. By knowing when to follow. (Quest for Meaning, December 18)
The Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons writes that the “forces of fear and ignorance are alive in Portland.”
The Portland State University Board has authorized arming security forces with weapons that can kill. . . . As our children of color face persistently experience threats of violence and disproportionately pay the ultimate price of #whitesupremacy, the choice to put more guns into our education learning environment demonstrates the corruption of leadership. (Radicalhapa, December 12)
Doug Muder lists five things to understand about the Senate’s report on torture.
When something this long and detailed comes out and says things a lot of people don’t want to hear, it’s easy to get drawn off into arguments that miss the point. So here are my “findings”, the main things that I think the average American needs to understand:
(The Weekly Sift, December 15)Sometimes it’s a Blue Christmas
The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer admits that some of us are having a Blue Christmas.
Maybe this is the first Winter Holiday season since a dear one in your family has died, when all the old traditions bring back memories of times when you were all together, sharing the special joys of the season. Or maybe there has been a separation, estrangement, divorce from someone living—a partner, a child, someone else—with whom you used to share these times. Or maybe you are living in a different place, at loose ends when the holiday comes around, missing everyone who used to be around to share the holidays. (Open Road, December 16)
John Beckett agrees that this has been a difficult season.
These seven weeks between Samhain and Yule have been the most difficult season I can remember. There have been great conflicts abroad and gross injustices at home. There have been natural disasters, untimely deaths, and personal misfortunes. . . .
The dark times we are experiencing now will not disappear when we light our Solstice candles. I cannot promise you a bright new calendar year. Yet we light our Solstice candles anyway. We do what we do not because it will make everything nice and easy but because this is who we are. (Under the Ancient Oaks, December 18)
The Rev. Nori Rost encourages us to embrace the beauty of darkness.
[It] is only when we can learn to love the beauty of the darkness that we can be fully alive and centered in our light. (sUbteXt, December 18)
At this time of year, many people find the ancient symbols of darkness and light meaningful. As Kenny Wiley notes, however, that language can be problematic: “I’ve long struggled, as a black man, with our society & world’s language around darkness as bad and light as good.” (Facebook, December 12) Wiley’s comments took place as part of a long conversation about a UU winter solstice event, in which participants wrestled honestly with these issues.Human connections
Instead of being a homebody, Katy Carpman ventures out, and two encounters remind her that “We are all connected and have so very much in common.” (Remembering Attention, December 11)
Diana McLean is grateful for people who push her to be her best self.
Sometimes being pushed to be my best self feels a little like having my feet off the ground while someone asks me to trust them while they run me off a cliff.
But oh my goodness, when you realize that the push you just got launched you toward your goal faster than you’d have gotten there alone, that’s worth it. And maybe the push actually sends you flying right past a goal that you thought was pretty lofty, but in hindsight, it was settling for good enough. And then you thank God or the Universe or fate for bringing someone a little pushy into your life. (Poetic Justice, December 14)
The Interdependent Web will return January 9, after a break for the holidays. We hope your celebrations are joyful!
D.C.-area UUs join giant ‘Justice for All’ march
Washington, D.C.-area Unitarian Universalists joined thousands of people in a ‘Justice for All’ march organized by the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network. The UUs carried a large Standing on the Side of Love banner and told reporters that they were at the rally, in part, to say that killing minority teenagers has to stop. (The Washington Post - 12.13.14)
Another ‘Justice for All’ march story:
“Marc Morial: Michael Brown, Eric Garner protesters want accountability” (Face the Nation - 12.14.14)
UUs demonstrate for racial justice
In a show a solidarity, local police in Arlington, Mass., brought demonstrators at a Black Lives Matter event outside First Parish Unitarian Universalist in Arlington coffee and muffins as they gathered for their peaceful rally. (The Arlington Advocate - 12.15.14)
The Rev. Kathleen Rolenz, a minister at West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church in Cleveland, Ohio, joined members of her congregation to protest the shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice. (Cleveland.com - 12.12.14)
Minister killed in Selma portrayed in upcoming film
A recent screening of the new film Selma triggered memories for one reporter of the first time she wrote about Unitarian Universalist minister the Rev. James Reeb’s tragic death in March 1965, when she was a reporter for her college paper. (Boston Herald - 12.12.14)
An early review of the film Selma takes issue with the way the filmmakers chose to gloss over the negative depictions of whites, including residents of Selma, Ala., who violently attacked the Rev. James Reeb (misidentified in the article as a priest) after he left a local restaurant with fellow clergy. (The Boston Globe - 12.18.14)
Boxing helps minister ‘recalibrate’
The Rev. Ann Schranz, minister of the Monte Vista Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Montclair, Cal., finds spiritual meaning and growth in boxing because it helps her reframe pain and let go of an attachment to outcomes. (LA Times - 12.17.14)
NGO reports on thefts by U.S. border patrol
A recent report released by the humanitarian organization No More Deaths, a ministry of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, Ariz., highlights the common occurrence of undocumented migrants losing their money or belongings during deportation due to negligence or outright theft by U.S. authorities. (PanAm Post - 12.15.14)
More holidays, UU style
In addition to lighting a menorah to acknowledge Jewish holiday traditions, and setting up a nativity scene for Christian traditions, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Farmington in Farmington Hills, Mich., will perform a solstice ritual. (hometownlife.com - 12.12.14)
As a way of reaching out beyond their congregation’s walls, members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Wellesley Hills, Mass., undecorated a Christmas tree and collected more than 60 gifts for local homeless people. (The Wellesley Townsman - 12.17.14)
We will take the next two weeks off from posting UUs in the Media to take time to enjoy the winter holidays. We will be back in full swing in the new year.