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Bigger worship space leads to expanded community programming
As it celebrates its 25th anniversary, the Unitarian Universalist Church in the Pines in Weeki Wachee, Fla., has outgrown two worship spaces and expanded several of its community programs. Members believe their congregation’s success stems from knowing their community and partnering with it as friends and neighbors. (Tampa Bay Times - 1.28.15)
Church pianist battles cancer after years of fighting AIDS
Upon first hearing Scott Whitesell, the pianist at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Charlotte, N.C., play, new member David Lauderbaugh knew they would play music together. They produced an album together in 2013 called “Weight of the World” with music that Whitesell hopes will help others who are coping with AIDS, cancer, and other serious illnesses. (Charlotte Observer – 1.31.15)
Florida church commits to respond
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, Fla., will join the Unitarian Universalist climate justice initiative Commit2Respond. They have committed to organizing a series of workshops and a symposium this year focused on bridging the conversation gap between religion and science about global climate change. (Bradenton Herald – 1.31.15)
Choir celebration blurs demographic lines
To celebrate the life of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., several Pittsburgh-area Unitarian Universalist church choirs joined their voices with other choirs to ‘let freedom sing’ at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Pittsburgh. In its eighth year, the concert is intended to blur the geographic, demographic, and economic lines separating urban and suburban Pittsburgh. (The Pittsburgh Courier – 1.29.15)
Broad opposition to new rules on abortion clinics
When Louisiana’s Department of Health and Hospitals held a public hearing recently on new rules for state abortion clinics, the response was overwhelmingly negative. Unitarian Universalist minister the Rev. Darcy Roake said the new rules dictate reproductive choices and limit a woman’s right to determine what she does with her body. (wrkf.org – 1.30.15)
Other coverage of the hearing includes:
“Abortion rights advocates concerned about new state regulations” (Shreveport Times- 1.29.15)
Unitarian Universalists tend to be reflexively self-critical; this week UUs celebrate the good things we do.
John Beckett, a UU Pagan, applies a lesson he’s learned from UUs to a conflict happening within the Pagan community.
I encourage our most ardent atheists and our most pious polytheists to talk about what they do, what they believe, and why. I encourage them to explain their assumptions, their experiences, and their interpretations. But I encourage them to do so in ways that are honest and respectful and perhaps even friendly.
It’s a good idea this polytheist learned from the Unitarian Universalists. (Under the Ancient Oaks, February 1)
In an era when people increasingly find church irrelevant, Andrew Hidas tells the story of his congregation making a difference in one person’s life—a formerly homeless jazz musician whose concert the church hosted.
“Thanks, friends, on behalf of Vinnie,” our minister had written on our church’s listserv. “Vinnie is a talented musician, but not a talented planner, so we could use a number of volunteers to make sure that the event is a success . . . This event is going to be one of the highlights of his entire life. Really.” (Traversing, February 1)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern thinks too many of us hide the light of Unitarian Universalism under a bushel.
Too many of us, which is why I don’t give in to the temptation to lie about my profession on airplanes, but tell those who ask that I’m a Unitarian Universalist minister. And when they start witnessing to me about their faith, which happens as often as their saying “I’m spiritual but not religious,” I tell them about us: that my congregation welcomes humanists and atheists (including me) as well as theists and Christians, that we encourage people to follow their own spiritual impulses in community, that we see the Bible as a document created by and for humans, that science and our observations of nature are one of the sources of our tradition, and of course, that we unreservedly affirm LGBTQ people (again including me). (Sermons in Stones, February 4)
I am the senior minister of a congregation that has been Humanist for ninety-nine years. (That’s almost a century!) That’s a bit of time to have developed some community, morality, and motivation. All without reference to any gods or supernatural woo-woo. It’s not all that new after all, unless you see Claude Monet is the hottest new trend. (Quest for Meaning, February 5)Debating political correctness
Doug Muder reviews responses to an article by Jonathan Chait about political correctness, before adding his own perspective.
When you belong to a powerful group—say, men or whites or straights or something similarly normative in our culture—you can take for granted that nearly everyone you run into has a general appreciation of your point of view and knows better than to piss you off in obvious ways. Members of marginalized groups can’t assume that. They’re constantly being jostled or hassled or put on the spot; occasionally by haters, but more often by ordinary folks who can’t be bothered to think too hard about them. PC is the attempt to raise the overall level of consideration to the level that powerful groups take for granted. (The Weekly Sift, February 2)Personal stories
Liz James participates in Eating Disorder Awareness Week, sharing strong words of advice from her own experience.
When I was 19, I read The Beauty Myth, and I took it to heart. I decided to fight back, to limit my exposure to media containing those photoshopped cookie cutter perfect bodies. To spend my time and energy looking at real people, connecting with them. I went on a low bullshit diet. None of those stupid women’s magazines, none of those TV shows, very few movies. It took discipline, but not nearly the discipline that bulimia does. . . .
Be as strict with what you let into your eyes as you would be with what you let into your mouth. Reject that way of thinking about your body, and any images that feed it. Go on a strict no-bullshit diet for six months. Or forever. (Rebel With a Labelmaker, February 5)
Theresa Ines Soto responds to ableist language.
Your words are one of the tools at your disposal to make justice.
It is not appropriate for you to use someone else’s condition as a metaphor for your own purposes.
All of the metaphors that we use have the possibility of creating more love and more liberation in the world. When we use metaphors of the bodies of others to say that the conditions they have signify inferiority and weakness, we have both transgressed the boundary of the body of another and have also used our words to devalue their physical home and lived experience. (Theresa Loves You, February 4)
When her father shows up in her dreams, Tina Porter has learned to pay attention.
Why in the world would my dad be in Shell Cottage when there is absolutely nothing connecting him to the Harry Potter world (I don’t think he even watched any of the movies with my daughters on any of his visits). It makes no sense at all except in my head, where I’m putting my father and his wisdom in the bedrooms in Shell Cottage which is where Harry gets the information he needs to finish off Voldemort. (Ugly Pies, February 4)Ask a seminarian
A group of UU seminarians participated in an “Ask Us Anything” discussion this week.
There’s a statistic floating around that there are twice as many ministers entering fellowship every year as their are open parish positions; the exact validity of that is questionable, but many of us will, by necessity, be faithing entrepreneurs. I am called, I believe, to be one of those who embraces this changing reality early and well. (Reddit, February 3)
Jordinn Nelson Long writes about how becoming a seminarian has changed her blogging.
There are things you give up on this journey, and no edits, no take-backs, write-what-you-feel is among the first.
And it should be. Do you want a minister who says, in print, whatever enters her mind at any given moment? As a representative of your congregation? As a representative of Unitarian Universalism, or of people of faith, generally?
Of course you don’t. And so, there are tradeoffs. You learn, in short, to govern yourself. (Raising Faith, February 3)
New Orleans church supports women’s clinic
Despite harassment from pro-life protesters during a worship service earlier this year, members of First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans, La., are providing religious support for the construction of a much-needed Planned Parenthood clinic in that city. (Cosmopolitan - 1.23.15)
More stories of UUs working for reproductive justice:
“Reverend Nathan Ryan speaks during protests against The Response: Louisiana” (The Daily Reveille - 1.24.15)
“Roe v. Wade marked with call to action” (The Courier-Journal - 1.26.15)
UU clergy say religious freedom bills are discriminatory
The Rev. David Messner of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Savannah, Ga., joins other clergy who are voicing opposition to a recent “Religious Freedom Bill” because it would open the door to discrimination against minorities in the workplace or in being refused services. (wsav.com - 1.23.15)
The Rev. Duncan Teague sees recent religious freedom legislation as just an attempt by people who do not like the increasing rights that same-sex couples are achieving nationwide to slow its progress in Georgia. (GA Voice – 1.22.15)
Sustainable renovations, cranes for Ebola victims, and the morality of drones
Living out the Seventh UU Principle and investing in the future of their congregation, the Unitarian Church of Lincoln, Neb., recently completed a $2.5 million renovation to its building that will help reduce the congregation’s carbon footprint and offer a more comfortable space in which to worship. (Lincoln Journal Star - 1.23.15)
To honor the Sixth UU Principle and share a sense of hope with the recipients, the youth group at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colo.. folded 1,000 origami paper cranes and shipped them to Sierra Leone, the African nation that has been hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak. (Durango Herald - 1.23.15)
The Rev. Chris J. Antal of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Rock Tavern, N.Y., participated in the first Interfaith Conference on Drone Warfare, in part because his experience as a military chaplain showed him the moral pain that soldiers experience from harming civilians with drone strikes. (Philadelphia Inquirer - 1.25.15)
Marking Holocaust Remembrance Day, Patrick Murfin recounts the liberation of Auschwitz by the Soviet army.
Coming in the midst of the Yalta Conference and other war news, the liberation received scant news attention at the time. And the Soviets, who were at best ambivalent at the highest levels about what to do with the liberated Jews, did little to publicly celebrate their role in the liberation, at least at first.
It was only after survivors reached the West and eventually Israel as refugees, that Auschwitz emerged as a special, horrific symbol of the whole Holocaust. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, January 27)Black lives matter
The Church of the Larger Fellowship hosts a video conversation about #BlackLivesMatter.
Alex Kapitan asks liberal religious white people to stop using #AllLivesMatter.
It is a deeply spiritual thing to say that despite hundreds of cultural messages every day that teach me a black life is worth less than my white life, despite the actions and impacts of the criminal-legal system on black people, despite extreme disparities in a thousand markers of well-being amongst black communities, despite all this and more—Black Lives Matter. Affirming this truth is one important step toward the day in which we can live the truth that all lives matter—and that we are all different, yet all one. (roots grow the tree, January 25)
Kim Hampton also pushes back against pressure to replace #BlackLivesMatter with #AllLivesMatter.
The killing of unarmed civilians by agents of the state is always tragic. However, let’s be real; if this were happening in any white community every 28 hours on average, there is no way that white people would let racial minorities co-opt their movement by saying—in essence—“Yeah, it’s a shame what’s happening to you, but that’s not as important as these cases where it happened to us too.” I might have been born at night, but it wasn’t last night. (East of Midnight, January 28)Life is complicated
John Beckett rants about our tendency to want simple answers.
And since this is a religious blog, let’s not forget how Christianity is a religion of oppression, unless it’s a religion of love. Islam is a religion of terrorism, unless it’s a religion of peace. Or perhaps Christopher Hitchens was right and “religion poisons everything.”
Simple. Black and white. Good and evil. Just one thing.
Complete and utter bullshit.
The science of life is complicated and the living of life is even more so. (Under the Ancient Oaks, January 25)
Doug Muder investigates the simplistic claim—made by religious fundamentalists and New Atheists—that there is no such thing as liberal Islam.
Plenty of Americans—many of whom are anything but ignorant of the scriptures of their traditions—are liberal Christians or liberal Jews, so it’s not hard to find defenses of the liberal versions of those faiths. But the idea that there is no authentic liberal Islam is fairly widespread in this country.
As a result, while almost everyone acknowledges that some Christians or Jews take their religiosity to crazy extremes, craziness and extremism are often attributed to Islam itself. (The Weekly Sift, January 26)A place in the web
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden denies that humanists promote individualism.
We are all in this together. That’s the wisdom of humanism. We are all in this together because our littleness is huge. Because we [are] primates trying to do better. Because we are on a planet that is like “a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.” And our hope is for a global civilization “in which love is pretty much the only law.” (Quest for Meaning, January 29)
The Rev. Scott Wells asks, “Is there a place for poor Unitarian Universalists?”
I don’t mean one, or two, or a small handful of poor people within a congregation of prosperous people, but a vital presence of Unitarian Universalists in a particularly poor community, or coming out of the experience and responding to the poor people in a mixed community. (Boy in the Bands, January 24)Honest disbelief
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg encourages us to follow the example of “honest heretic” Joseph Priestley.
When faced with secondhand information that we discover to be untrue, may we listen to the still small voice of our conscience and be honest to what we know is true in the crucible of our own firsthand experience.
May the “honest heretics” among our ancestors inspire the legacy that we shall leave to future generations.
May we may choose for ourselves with integrity and authenticity. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, January 28)
For the Rev. James Ford, the line between material and spiritual is a blurry one.
Anything that appears in the world is subject to . . . testing. Everything.
Also all the “truths” we find through this process are provisional, subject to change with more information.
Actually, everything is provisional. And something else. Something very important to notice. Everything is in motion, changing with every encounter in smaller and larger ways. This includes you and me.
So, a question. Should this perspective be called material or spiritual? (Monkey Mind, January 27)Sing out loud
The Rev. Dan Harper acknowledges that most people don’t sing in church anymore, and celebrates the quality of singing in the congregation he serves.
[C]ongregational singing does not need spectators, over-professionalism, blare, or crappy songs. Congregational singing can aim towards joy, towards ecstatic union with the universe through song. Congregational singing can be — should be — cynical kids belting out a favorite hymn at the tops of their voices, completely lost in the moment. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 28)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley brags, just a bit, about the congregation she serves, sharing three videos they made about thriving during her sabbatical. (Speaking of, January 27)
The Rev. Clark Olsen of Asheville, N.C., recalls in vivid detail the fateful evening when, as he walked with clergy colleagues near Walker’s Café in Selma, Ala., they were attacked and the Rev. James Reeb was mortally wounded. (Asheville Citizen-Times - 1.17.15)
Acknowledging his privileged position, retired minister the Rev. Gordon Gibson says he was glad to be of use to his denomination during the civil rights movement in 1965. He traveled to Selma to support voting rights then and observed that new voting requirements in some Southern states are returning to those old ways. (wate.com - 1.19.15)
UU honored at MLK celebration, clergy witness for racial justice
The Rev. Roger Bertschausen of Fox Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Appleton, Wisc., was given a legacy award at the town’s Martin Luther King Jr. celebration, an event he helped found 25 years ago. (post-crescent.com - 1.18.15)
See also: “MLK celebration’s message resonates” (postcrescent.com - 1.21.15)
Unitarian Universalist ministers joined others in the Washington, D.C., area to stage a “die-in” demonstration during lunchtime in the cafeteria of the U.S. House of Representatives. They hoped to bring legislators’ attention to underlying issues of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. (Huffington Post - 1.21.15)
Other stories about the die-in include:
“‘Black Lives Matter’ protesters stage ‘die-in’ in Capitol Hill cafeteria” (The Washington Post - 1.21.15)
“Clergy Stage a Die-in at Congressional Cafeteria for Black Lives Matter” (ColorLines - 1.21.14)
Congregation protects immigrant seeking stay of deportation
First Unitarian Church of Denver, Colo., is one of six faith communities in that state that have come together to provide sanctuary for undocumented immigrants facing deportation. Arturo Hernandez Garcia has been living in the basement of the congregation since October 2014 as he fights deportation proceedings. (Newsweek - 1.21.15)
Other Denver sanctuary stories include:
“Battle Over Deportation as Republicans Try to Roll Back Obama Immigration Policies” (The New York Times - 1.16.15)
“Immigration vote sends chilling message to those facing deportation” (The Denver Post - 1.15.15)