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The Rev. Dan Harper acknowledges that religious liberals are skeptical of charismatic leaders, even though they “drive institutions and make things happen.”
If you’re charismatic, your charisma doesn’t belong to you, wretched mortal individual that you are; it is ageless; it belongs to humanity; so don’t take credit for it—this is the religious liberal’s attitude. We religious liberals can tolerate charisma only when it is combined with serious humility. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, October 6)
The Rev. Terry Davis enjoys an opportunity to hear the Dalai Lama speak.
Coupled with his delightful red and yellow robes and a red visor to shield his eyes from the glaring stage lights, the Dalai Lama came across as highly approachable, wise and cool all at the same time. He was, in a word, charismatic. . . .
Whether it was divinely conferred charisma or personality charisma, His Holiness had this gift of grace in spades. He gave my spirits a lift that carried me the rest of the day. (NWUUC, October 9)Haunting churches
Crystal St. Marie Lewis, who identifies as both Christian and UU, wonders if liberal Christians draw a circle that exiles her.
Is our circle wide enough for those who, after careful consideration of all facts and evidence, cannot believe what they once did? . . . Is there a bridge that can lead Christianity’s Jesus-loving doctrine doubters home from exile? (Crystal St. Marie Lewis, October 9)
Barry Sanders tells the story of a young girl who loses her love for baseball, using it as a metaphor for the experience of those hurt by churches.
Some people’s experience with church has been similar to Karen’s experience with baseball. They’ve been yelled at. They’ve been hurt. They’ve been made to feel like they are no good. They’ve given up.
For those of us who have discovered that we can love the game again, how do we share that love? How can we show them that there are coaches who don’t yell and teams where all the kids are nice? How do we let them know that practice can be fun, not hurtful?
How do we convince those who have given up to give it another try? (Gathered by the Fire, October 9)
The Rev. Theresa Novak shares the text and video of her sermon, “Haunting Church.” (Sermons, Poetry and other Musings, October 6)Justice strategies
During the government shutdown, The Rev. Scott Wells examines the differing roles of government and private charitable institutions.
Baked into the conflict is what the proper role of government should be . . . . Which makes me question the natural churchly impulse to private, charitable solutions to social harms, like hunger. Isn’t that just playing into an anti-government script? Especially since churches can barely keep their doors open. . . .
But there’s also the difference between a regularly-operating government and a crisis. Today we have a crisis and so today we have a responsibility to give more to charities that pick up where government initiatives fail. (Our task tomorrow is to push the vandals out of office.) (Boy in the Bands, October 7)
The Rev. Andrew Weber questions a sensationalist focus on UUs who get arrested for their activism.
Do I need to have a criminal record in order to have my voice heard? Is the goal of social justice activity to be handcuffed and carted away? Is this the sort of activity we want to promote to our congregations, members and religious leaders? . . . Our focus is dangerously skewed toward the negative and sensational.
Let us instead focus on the positive of the civil disobedience and what others can do to make a difference. (How to Drive Like a Minister, October 9)Spiritual experiences
Andrew Hidas writes about six life-changing kinds of experiences; as a new parent, I was drawn to his description of how life changes when we have a child:
Unless we completely relinquish all claims and care for our children—and even that decision would haunt all our days and thus not absolve us at all—we are now bound in a new way to the ground of existence itself, to the generativity that is in our very genes and so deeply embedded in our psyches as to be instinctive, driven and whole. Life cannot possibly be the same afterwards. (traversing, October 6)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein writes a “love letter” to Matilda the Musical, addressing in particular Tim Minchin, who wrote the words and music.
Well, excuse me Tim Minchin, but for all your atheistic protestations, I would nevertheless like to thank you for putting a child’s mystical experience to music. I think you have written one of the most deeply spiritual musical numbers I have ever heard on the musical theatre stage. (PeaceBang, October 8)
Waking from a nightmare, Terri Pahucki examines her relationship with fear.
I realized this morning that I have been holding fear larger than life, like some faceless monster. I see the changes I might be moving into, and a part of me panics: Am I up to this? Can I do this? In this sea of change, what holds me and keeps me from falling into the river? Or perhaps I am yearning to fall—as in the words of Mary Oliver—Are you living just a little and calling it a life? . . . Fall In! Fall In! (Walking the Journey, October 7)Odds and ends
Writing to other seminarians facing roadblocks, Shawna Foster shares wisdom gleaned from delays in her journey toward ordained ministry.
Whoever you are, reading this as you have been postponed, I love you. I have been you before. . . . You are not alone on the path, and in time, you will be what you were meant to be. (Writings, October 10)
The Rev. Lee Richards answers the question, “Is UUism a movement or a religion?” by saying, “Neither. And both.”
We are a religion, absolutely, because we are dependent upon forming communities of faith. While it is possible for a lone individual to be Unitarian Universalist in principle, one only blossoms in the company of others. (Pullman Memorial Pastor’s Blog, October 9)
Lori Stone Sirtosky begins a new blog, in which she plans to document the progress of a liberal religious community of “free-range Unitarian Universalists.” (Worthy Now, October 5)
Despite a federal government shutdown, things aren’t quiet in Washington, D.C., where Unitarian Universalist Association President Peter Morales was arrested, along with politicians and others, during a protest for immigration reform. He writes here about his reasons for protesting. (Denver Post – 10.9.13, Washington Post – 10.8.13, Boston Pilot – 10.8.13, & Huffington Post – 10.9.13)
Rev. Fred Small, senior minister of the First Parish in Cambridge, Mass., spoke at a rally urging Boston-area NPR affiliate WGBH to remove conservative billionaire David Koch from its board of trustees, in part for his support of industry that and regulations that encourage climate change. (Boston Herald – 10.10.13)
Jesse Jaeger, executive director of Unitarian Universalist Mass Action, a statewide legislative ministry in Massachusetts, was interviewed about his organization’s work to get the Trust Act, which would keep local law enforcement from sending cases to federal officials, passed. (Fitchburg Sentinel & Enterprise – 10.4.13)Building news and same-sex marriage
The Unitarian Universalists of Central Oregon broke ground on a new building; it currently meets in rented space. (Cascade Business News – 10.1.13)
Gunnison Memorial Chapel at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., was severely damaged by a fire and subsequent winds. The university was founded by Universalists, has as its current president UU minister William Fox, and the chapel was named for Almon Gunnison, a Universalist minister who was the university’s president from 1899-1913. (North Country Now – 10.7.13)
First Unitarian Church of Sioux City, Iowa, dedicated its building’s new accessibility features, including a lift and bathroom. (Sioux City Journal – 10.8.13)
The Rev. Manish Mishra-Marzetti, senior minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Cherry Hill, N.J., was interviewed about his joy after hearing that a judge in New Jersey said same-sex couples must be allowed to marry. (Philly.com – 9.30.13)
Eighty guns were gathered in a gun buyback program sponsored by First Parish Unitarian Universalist of Arlington, Mass., and other organizations. (Wicked Local Arlington – 10.1.13)New building, old building, yellow building, and more
The Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, N.H., will share space with the nearby First Congregational Church while it renovates and rebuilds its meetinghouse. (Daily Hampshire Gazette – 10.2.13)
The building, finished in 1827, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Athens and Sheshequin was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places. (Daily Review – 10.2.13)
A building which used to house a Unitarian church in Southbridge, Mass., is drawing attention and ire after its new owner painted it a bright yellow. (Worcester Telegram & Gazette – 10.1.13)
Homegrown Coffeehouse, a concert series hosted by the First Parish in Needham, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. (Wicked Local Needham – 10.4.13)
As a government shutdown drew near, and became reality, UUs had quite a bit to say about the situation. We’ve selected a few representative posts below, and you can find more with a search on UUpdates using a word like “shutdown.”
The Rev. Dan Schatz, whose parents were federal employees when he was a child, points out the pain a shutdown inflicts on government workers.
We don’t hear very much in the national media about the people who will be directly hurt when the government shuts down. This isn’t just about whether we’ll be able to visit a national park or go to the Smithsonian; it’s about ordinary working people’s lives. Nobody should have to lose their credit rating, or heaven forbid their home, or go hungry, because a group of politicians decide to throw a temper tantrum. (The Song and the Sigh, September 30)
The Rev. Thom Belote, writing from a conservative district, shares the lessons he learns from his representative’s Facebook page.
Let’s face it: Remember those promises about cutting spending and reducing the size of government, about standing up to Obama and working to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Those promises are being fulfilled by the sequester, by the shutdown, and by whatever the House has planned when it comes time to raise the debt ceiling. All those calls for members of congress to go without pay during the shutdown are misguided. The members of congress responsible for the shutdown are simply doing the job they promised they would do when elected. (RevThom, October 2)
The Rev. Jude Geiger offers a prayer for times of economic hostage-taking.
Teach us to be nimble where we are stiff,
Open where are closed,
and to lean toward love when our hearts are hard. (Rev. Who, September 29)
The Rev. Kristin Grassel Schmidt shuts down the myth that some people “don’t need” health insurance, reminding us that we all need help sometimes, and that we are all in this together.
Insured Americans are already subsidizing the system; they are already paying for coverage they “don’t need” because it’s actually money going to cover other people who thought they “didn’t need” it. . . . This inflation of fees and insurance premiums then makes it all the more difficult for the nation’s poor and working classes to afford insurance. (Wanderingfollower, September 30)
Drawing on personal experience, Jonah Eller-Isaacs urges his fellow young adults to get insured.
i find it best to not dwell on it.
but the sad fact is, it’s more than likely that i could have avoided the agony of living with cancer the last five-plus years had i gone to the doctor when i first noticed the unusual mole on my thigh.
but i didn’t. because i didn’t have health insurance. (groinstrong, October 1)
The Rev. Scott Wells asks if participating in the UUA health plan still provides tangible benefits, and the Rev. Richard Nugent explains why continued enrollment with the UUA plan is the best option for most people. (Boy in the Bands, October 1, and PNWD News, October 1)Whine—and be happy
After declaring a “Whining Day” on her Facebook page, the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein celebrates the outpouring of complaint.
You all keep up that whining. Go right ahead. Be my guest. I hope it feels good to get it out somewhere. I hope it feels good to be in such good company. And if anyone tries to make you feel better by saying something like, “Count your blessings!” tell them that every dog needs to put its head back and have a good howl now and then.
And invite them to join you in a nice whine. (PeaceBang, October 2)
Rebecca Hecking suggests an alternative strategy—making a happy list.
Feeling like the world is spinning out of control? Me too.
In response to the current madness, I offer my personal list (in no particular order) of ten simple things that make me happy. . . . Make your own list.
It will bring a moment of sanity and peace in a world gone mad. (Breath and Water, October 3)
As his congregation nears its tenth anniversary in their building, the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg points out the spiritual benefits of stability.
Although I will be the first to admit that some people, communities, and places are more toxic than helpful, there are many good people and places out there. And in our transient, globalized, instant-satisfaction age of designed obsolescence, there is a transformative power of committing to a long time in one good place, among good people—allowing yourself to know and be known. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, October 1)
The Rev. Joseph Santos-Lyons lists some of his spiritual practices related to a sense of place.
One of the rituals I formed as a young adult was to do my best to always consider my physical place and ask about the people who called it their home in the present and past. I always learn something new. Another ethos I developed is around only traveling to places where I have a relationship and invitation. . . . Lastly, I have sought to intentionally be present in places where there have been terrible injustices and great transformations. (Radicalhapa, September 29)
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom asks, “What if the DRE ran the church?” (A Minister’s Musings, October 3)Living with open hearts
Evin C. Ziemer responds to a critic who says that Brene Brown’s approach to shame victimizes those already oppressed.
The double tragedy of the shame that we learn when we live with oppression is that the shame weighs us down and disconnects us from ourselves at the same time it disconnects us from others. There may be those who will never connect with us, but there are many people who will, if we can show up wholehearted, vulnerable, and open. (Wholehearted Spirit, September 28)
Theresa Ines Soto illustrates Ziemer’s point with a tale of two bus drivers.
The biggest challenge ableism presents for me is not whether I am included or excluded, or even whether I am judged. The biggest challenge ableism presents is the temptation to shut the doors of my heart and not open them unless the situation seems safe. (Inexplicable Beauty, October 1)Swimming in Christian waters
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden suggests five options for a non-Christian living in an overwhelmingly Christian country.
I think there are five options: convert, pretend, reinterpret, admit you don’t believe but allow for doubt, resist. (Quest for Meaning, October 3)
Andrew Sullivan posts a response by an unnamed Unitarian Universalist to the question of grieving as an atheist—or, more accurately, providing support to someone who is grieving.
Here’s what you can say: “I hear you.” “I brought you some supper.” “I’ll put it in the refrigerator.” “I’ll help you with the acknowledgement notes” “Yes.” “You’re right.” “Let me give you a hug.” “I know she loved you.” “I know she knew you loved her.” What the bereaved says and the bereaved needs determine what you say, not your religious beliefs. (The Dish, October 1)
Pat Rathmann, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Palouse in Moscow, Idaho, was quoted about her church’s support of Nez Perce Indians who attempted to block oil equipment from being moved through their reservation lands. Members of the church participating in a “friendship dance” were also in a photo accompanying the piece. (New York Times – 9.25.13)
The Our Whole Lives program, a set of sex education curricula developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ, is being used by First United Methodist Church of Madison, Wisc., for the first time. Local UU and UCC congregations, including the First Unitarian Society, have used the curricula for years. (The Cap Times – 9.25.13)Extra security brought in, realistic art, and more
All Souls Unitarian Church of Tulsa, Okla., made the news when extra security was brought in for an event the church hosted for the Tulsa Interfaith Alliance to honor Mikey Weinstein, an outspoken activist against proselytizing in the military. (Tulsa World – 9.21.13 & 9.22.13)
The Northshore Unitarian Universalist Church in Danvers, Mass., is hosting an art exhibit of Andy Calnan’s hyper-realistic photos. (9.25.13)
The Rev. Dr. Frances M. Sink, a licensed psychologist who now serves as minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Stamford, Conn., was profiled about how she balances her scientific and religious backgrounds. (Stamford Patch – 9.23.13)
When the Navy Yard shootings happened too close to home, the Rev. Heather Rion Starr learns a lesson from a Boston Marathon bombing survivor: focus, not on the few seconds of evil, but on the endless seconds of good that follow.
There is goodness, right here, in this apartment that I am tidying up, in the child and parent that are sleeping peacefully in the other room, in the beauty of the fall day that will unfold tomorrow and that has the possibility, still, of being transformative, in a good way, for all of us. (Quest for Meaning, September 20)Things we lost in the fire
Through the lens of her seminary experience, Jordinn Nelson Long explores what transformation feels like, when it seems like everything will be lost in the fire of change.
Here is my family’s answer: we will hold tight to each other, release everything else, and lean into the flames. We will find out what is fireproof. . . .
We see it coming over the horizon, bright, hot, bigger than we imagined. We do not run.
Instead, we take one more step. We crouch low. We hold hands. (Raising Faith, September 24)God talk
Judy C. Foster begins a series of posts reviewing Daniel Dennet’s book about religion, Breaking the Spell.
Why does he define religion so narrowly. . . ? [Dennet] seems to propose to subject fundamentalist, literalistic religious belief . . . to an exhaustive scientific study but not the kind of religion that itself takes into account science and rationality or the kind that resists claims of certainty but simply maintains a mindset that is open to exploring the possibility of a supernatural reality . . . or dimension in the universe. (Your Brain on Books, September 26)
Faced with the question of why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening, Roy King suggests that perhaps God has PTSD.
If God were all-powerful, then he could of course, in principle, intervene; if God were empathic, the she would cry over incomprehensible pain and loss. I choose empathy over power; loving awareness over detached principles. A traumatized God is preferable to an indifferent deity, if we are created in the image of the Divine. (Mediterranean Wisdom, September 23)
Sarah MacLeod responds to the question, “If you don’t believe in God or some greater purpose to the universe, how do you find comfort in times of trouble?”
After the speaker worked away at his answer, I turned to my pew mate who had lost her husband to cancer not too long ago. Before I could form the question, she answered, her eyes wide: “If there had been a purpose, that would have been worse!” (Finding My Ground, September 26)
Rebecca Hecking identifies as a “none of the above” because her religious beliefs don’t fit into any easy boxes.
Without a sanctioned holy book to dictate meaning, and without magic-big-daddy (or mama) in the sky, my search for meaning leads me back to my home ground: Earth. With its rhythms and seasons, its diversity and abundance, there is plenty to draw on for inspiration, even for the scientifically minded secularist. (Breath and Water, September 21)Atheist church
Unitarian Universalist reactions to the Sunday Assembly (the so-called “Atheist Church”) amuse the Rev. Scott Wells.
[The] whiff of impinged ownership I hear from some Unitarian Universalists—that the Assembly should align with us, or that Assembly-goers should go to Unitarian Universalist congregations instead—makes me chuckle. As Unitarian Universalists, I’ve noticed that we lack the capacity to make a grand, new religious expression—Humanist, Christian, Plural, something else—and even create practical and ideological barriers to success, but then get bent out of shape when anyone else does what we could or should be doing. Or simply pretend that the other effort is a clone of what we do (or think we do.) The flourish of theological universalism among Christian Evangelicals comes to mind. (Boy in the Bands, September 24)
The Rev. Tom Schade looks at UU reactions to the Sunday Assembly as mimetic rivalry—“a relationship in which the other party in the relationship is both your rival and your model.”
I’ll be blunt here: I think that our ‘rivals’ succeed when they change lives and equip people to live more connected and responsible lives. I think Unitarian Universalism succeeds and fails on exactly the same grounds.
It is possible that creating a “community of like-minded people” doesn’t help people change, but actually shelters them in a place of resistance to a changing world. . . .
And all of us, the evangelical megachurch, these new Sunday Assemblies and the UU congregation that may be your spiritual home, can easily fall into that temptation. (The Lively Tradition, September 23)Short bits
Liz James jettisons the seven UU principles on a summer road trip with a seminary colleague. (Rebel with a Label Maker, September 20)
The Rev. Dan Harper provides a responsive reading of a text from Unitarian theologian Charles Hartshorne, calling it “a scientific and theological take on nature, humanity, and freedom.” (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 20)
The Rev. Carl Gregg connects the UU Water Communion service with David Foster Wallace’s Kenyon College commencement address, “This is Water.” (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, September 26)