- About Us
Because the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum stands to inherit land that was part of a slave plantation, she pays particular attention to the recent controversy surrounding Ani Difranco and Nottoway Plantation.
It’s pretty tough to see outside one’s own privilege. And often we would like to ignore that it exists. I would like to be able to just inherit this land when my time comes and have it come to me free from the legacy of slavery. But it doesn’t work like that. . . .
I get to live with my legacy, but I do not get to decide alone what the Landrum plantation land means and how or whether it can be “reclaimed.” If I want to truly engage that question, I have to engage in it with the descendants of people who were most affected. That’s going to take more work. (Rev. Cyn, January 2)Kiss me my darling
The Rev. Theresa Novak celebrates marriage equality in Utah.
Kiss me my darling
Let’s dance with our friends
This moment is glory
The miracle real. (Sermons, Poetry and other Musings, December 21)
The Rev. Andy Burnette completes a five-part series, “Queering Jesus and Paul.”
I believe the Bible actually demands the constant questioning of cultural norms, including categories of gender and sexuality. Prejudice is always a misinterpretation of this bold and welcoming, boundary-shattering, norm-destroying text when it is viewed as a whole. (Just Wondering, December 25)Loving the hell out of the world
The Rev. Tom Schade hopes that UU congregations in 2014 will move from service to solidarity with the working poor.
Solidarity does not come easily to people who pride themselves on their education, or their cultural sophistication, or their refined patterns of consumption.
Solidarity is humble. It says to the fast food worker; I may be a locavore vegan, but I will stand with you for a living wage for selling hamburgers, because you have determined that is what you need. (The Lively Tradition, December 27)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein reflects on a “popular Unitarian Universalist slogan right now” that says “Go love the hell out of the world.”
I never thought much about it, taking it as a given that every human being deserves to have their basic human needs for food, shelter and compassion met by the community. Now I think about it all the time –about how radical this sentiment is beginning to seem in my own society, where too many of us waste our time or have it wasted by petty infighting about small doctrinal matters, or by trying to out-clever each other on the stage of public thought and opinion. (PeaceBang, December 28)Collars, Kenosis and Oklahoma
The blogging conversation about clergy collars continues, with the Rev. Tom Schade questioning the collar’s symbolic power.
So while it is useful, perhaps, in the short term to lay claim to the social authority of Christianity by wearing the clerical collar, it is will have diminishing returns. Our ability to inspire others will have to come from some other source: our authenticity, our consistency, our humility, our transparency.
How would we convey what we are trying to communicate with the clerical collar if we did not wear it? (The Lively Tradition, December 20)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak has begun a new project: wearing a clerical collar every day of 2014, except for Sundays.
What I realized during the course of that day was that I had been flying stealth in the community. Because my faith has no standard clerical garb, I have been able to choose when and whether I presented myself as a minister. After 8 years of being nurtured by my church for the whole of who I am, my next most obvious step is to come out as a clergy person. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, January 1)Fear, loathing, and religious difference
The more I think about this encounter, the more I wonder about just how similar I am to this woman. Am I not also by turns a wonderful representative of my own faith and an example of its darkest shadow? . . . If I am honest, I am also intolerant and afraid of others, such as religious fundamentalists whose beliefs differ so enormously from mine. (Sunflower Chalice, December 23)
After the BBC refuses to allow him to present the “Thought for the Day” because he is an atheist, the Rev. Andy Pakula pushes back.
One of the most beautiful things about Unitarianism is that it refused to establish any belief test for members—it is and always has been a non-creedal faith. How ironic that the BBC—a tax-funded corporation dedicated to serving all the public—has established just such a belief test for participation in TFTD. (Throw Yourself Like Seed, December 26)
The Rev. James Ford writes about the “War on Atheists.”
There’s a recent essay making the rounds in my part of the Facebook world, where the author reveals that atheists are educated elites who can afford to indulge their belief, or, probably its more accurate to say non-belief, and are absolute jerks for saying out loud what a lot of people fear might be true: there is no God. (Monkey Mind, December 31)Social media reviews
The Rev. Dan Harper reviews the year in UU social media, and looks forward to 2014.
When I look forward to the coming year, I know what I’d like to see. I’d like to see the quality of UU posts on Facebook increase to the point where I’m never embarrassed by them. I’d like to see more exploration of new approaches to social media, extending the good work CLF is doing. I’d like to see more laypeople writing and producing videos and other online content.
How about you? What do you want to see from UU social media in the new year? And what did I miss in 2013 that deserves mention? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 27)
Peter Bowden responds to Harper’s post, adding more detail about what’s happening in UU social media, including changes happening in blogging.
We’ve discussed the issue of UU clergy vs. lay person blogging in the UU Growth Lab and most agreed that the ease of sharing ideas and engaging in discussion in topical UU groups has taken some of the energy away from public blogging. While it is great to have these forums, there was some worry expressed in having these conversations moved behind closed doors. (UU Planet, December 28)
The Rev. Kent Hemmen-Saleska discusses his experience as a guest on the CLF’s online video show, the VUU.
I admit it—I don’t think I present very well on video. I like writing and creating and giving sermons, and I’ve been on stage, and I’m fine singing in front of people. But I get nervous and more unsure of myself when I have to be spontaneous and off-the-cuff with a recording or with video. But Meg Riley and the Rev. Joanne Fontaine Crawford, and all the others made me feel very welcome. And since it wasn’t Fox News, it was a very friendly crowd, so I felt much more comfortable. All in all, it ended up being a very fun time, and I am grateful to the CLF team for having me on as a guest. (Moving in Faith, December 29)
The Rev. Victoria Weinstein’s church website rant may contain uncomfortable truths for many UU congregations.
I have followed five dead links on your church’s website and nowhere have you informed me when your congregation gathers for worship. I conclude that you don’t want me to join you, so I give up.
I’ll read the NY Times and go to brunch instead. (PeaceBang, December 29)Different forms of ministry
After retiring, the Rev. Kit Ketcham has been serving a tiny congregation, calling it “a mix of fun and frustration.”
In the months since I offered my services to the tiny fellowship near my home, I’ve been blessed by a sense of greater connection to these parishioners and also concerned about whether what I am doing for them is good or hopeless. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, December 29)
The Rev. David Pyle begins a series of posts about professional ministry, congregations, and the search process with a discussion about contract ministry.
I believe the central advantage of contract ministry is that, the more limited-term outlook and the shift in the center of ministerial authority and responsibility allows the contract minister and the congregation to be more experimental and entrepreneurial in how they engage and develop ministry. It allows for change on systemic and cultural issues to be engaged more readily and rapidly, and because the end of the contract is known, it can allow a contract minister and a congregation to be willing to take more risks. (Celestial Lands, January 2)
Unitarian Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, was guest host of a popular British radio program, BBC Radio 4’s “Today,” and sparked a mini-controversy when he invited the Rev. Andy Pakula, a Unitarian minister and atheist, to give the show’s daily thought, a short religious segment. Producers stopped that, saying that the slot is reserved for those who believe in God. Pakula instead was given a different segment, and another Unitarian minister, the Rev. Jim Corrigall, gave the official “Thought for the Day.” (Guardian – 12.16.13, Telegraph – 12.27.13)Congregations support community, sinkholes close church, and more
The Community Harvest Community Garden at Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Plano, Tex., was featured for its work in sustainable, environmentally friendly gardening. Half of the produce grown is given to a local food bank. (Dallas Morning News – 1.2.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colo., and a local Methodist church are working together to host a winter shelter program for homeless families, called Winter Haven. (Durango Herald – 12.31.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs has been forced to move out of its building after sinkholes were discovered beneath it. (tampabay.com – 12.26.13)
The Rev. Jennifer Kelleher will be installed as minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills, N.J., on January 12. (NJ.com – 01.02.14)
The Marietta Times profiled Nahum Ward, who founded what is now the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Ohio, in 1855, among many other accomplishments in his life. (Marietta Times – 12.28.13)
The Rev. James Ford and First Unitarian Church of Providence, R.I., are hot! A local news source named them to the “Who’s Hot” in Rhode Island politics for their efforts in leading a boycott of a local hotel that they say is not providing its workers an adequate wage or other compensation. (Golocalprov – 12.13.13)
More news of politically active UUs:
Shari Pollesch, a member of Community Unitarian Universalists in Brighton, Michigan, announced she will run as a Democrat for state senate. (Hartland Patch – 12.17.13)
Many UUs were among religious leaders in all 50 U.S. states who published op-eds in recent months calling for a government report on torture to be released. Click here to read the pieces published in Alaska, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, North Dakota, Utah, Wisconsin, and a national blog. (Anchorage Daily News – 11.12.13, Daily Camera – 11.4.13, Delaware online – 11.7.13, Honolulu Star Advertiser – 9.25.13, Rockford Register Star – 10.4.13, Kansas City Star – 12.15.13, Nevada Reno Gazette-Journal – 12.4.13, Bismarck Tribune – 11.23.13, Utah Deseret News – 10.16.13, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel – 11.10.13, The Hill – 5.23.13)
The Rev. Aaron Payson, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester, Mass., spoke out to a government committee against the practice of shackling incarcerated women while they are giving birth. (Worcester News Telegram – 12.14.13)
Aetna is being sued over claims that it misled shareholders in an attempt to get resolutions, one of them brought by the Unitarian Universalist Association as part of shareholder advocacy, that it be more transparent about its political contributions. (Courthouse News Service – 12.10.13)Winter snow shoveling, and UU connections to Christmas
Sam Griffith, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Association’s operations staff, was photographed shoveling snow from in front of the UUA’s Boston headquarters. (Boston Globe – 12.16.13)
A piece highlighted Harvard University’s historical connections to popular Christmas songs, many of them also connections to Unitarianism. Harvard Divinity School was once the primary training ground for Unitarian ministers. The Rev. Andrew Millard of Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Virginia, also highlighted Unitarian and Universalist connections to Christmas. (Harvard Gazette – 12.17.13, Daily Press – 12.15.13)Thoughts on Hermione Granger, and more
UU Chris Crass wrote about the importance of Hermione Granger, a lead character in the Harry Potter movies and books, as an example of feminist leadership. (Rabble.ca – 12.17.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Canton, N.Y., opens its kitchen and social hall to a program called “Campus Kitchens,” in which college students provide a meal for those in need. (North Country Public Radio – 12.16.13)Holiday break
Season’s greetings from UU World. Our offices will be closed for the holidays December 24 to January 1. UUs in the Media will return on January 3. See you next year!
The Rev. James Ford remembers the Rev. Gordon McKeeman, who died this week.
Gordon taught that everything was a miracle.
He pointed to the holy.
A Universalism ancient of days, and as bright and new as our most recent breath.
And Gordon told us just exactly where we could find it.
Right here. (Monkey Mind, December 19)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern writes that McKeeman was “a kind of spiritual grandfather to me: a mentor and teacher to many of my mentors and teachers.”
My conviction that ministry (from the Latin for “service”) is not the private domain of a small number of professionals, but something we all do together, clergy and laity, arose from my own experience, but it was McKeeman who gave it words. (Sermons in Stones, December 19)Winter Celebrations
Christine Organ wanted to write a lovely post about the beauties of this season—but instead wrote how she really feels: she hates winter!
[Maybe] Grace isn’t found in pretending the dark and cold times aren’t exactly what they are – hard and difficult. Maybe Grace comes from a simple acknowledgement that “THIS SUCKS,” followed by a deep breath and the inherent understanding that, for better or worse, this too shall pass. (Christine Organ, December 19)
The Rev. Fred Hammond objects to a proposed state law in Alabama that would educate students about “traditional” winter celebrations.
Focusing on the “traditional” elevates the esteem of those who follow the “traditional” faith and it demeans those who do not follow that faith simply by the absence of teaching about them. If on the other hand, all of these winter celebrations were to be taught and not just the Christian celebrations, then this act could be seen as an attempt at teaching multi-cultural appreciation which would strengthen Alabama’s acceptance of people whose cultural and religious backgrounds are different than the “traditional.” But I suspect this is not the case. (A Unitarian Universalist Minister in the South, December 18)
Robin Bartlett writes that Unitarian Universalists should celebrate the incarnational theology of Christmas.
[Christmas] is a Unitarian Universalist holiday because whether or not we believe in a supernatural God, a Godly Jesus, or that God’s banner over us is love, we Unitarian Universalists are humanists, and Jesus was the ultimate humanist. Jesus believed in the human capacity to love the hell out of this world. And if we truly believe that we are alone down here, then we better get at it, ’cause no big man in the sky’s gonna do it for us. (RE at UUAC Sherborn, December 19)
Kristen Coyne tells a charming story about her daughter’s faith in Santa being restored by the gift of a “Christmas Menorah.” (TallahasseeUU, December 16)
Doug Stowe suggests a few Christmas gifts for increasing children’s capacity for creativity. (Wisdom of the Hands, December 15)
On the anniversary of the Newtown shootings, the Rev. Jeff Liebmann urges us to honor the Christ-child by protecting children from gun violence.
So when you go to your church to honor the babe, pray silently for the 20 lost children, who will never know another Christmas with their families. But come home and scream, “Why?” Go forth and demand that America put down the sword and pass sensible gun legislation. Shout until your voice cracks and your throat grows hoarse so that no family must endure this pain again. (uujeff’s muse kennel and pizzatorium, December 14)Conversations
The first generation of UU bloggers often engaged in conversation with each other through their blog posts; while the current UU blogosphere is less interconnected, such conversations do still occur.
Jordinn Nelson Long accepts the season’s invitation to rest and quiet.
For a brief time, I will rest my mind and my feet. For this quiet interval, I will leave those sleeping dragons where they lie.
For a short season, let me be still. (Raising Faith, December 19)
Mandie McGlynn echoes her friend’s words about the season.
Friends, the winter holidays are the season of joy and peace and love! But as Jordinn finally remembered, it’s also the season of darkness and quiet. . . . So when weariness crashes through you, when you are overwhelmed by all there is to do, give yourself permission and space to experience those feelings for which we are so often shamed by the social contract at this time of year. Rather than pushing through or pushing away your sorrow, let it be a reminder to stop a moment and rest. To breathe.
The dawn is breaking soon, I promise you, but it will come in its own time. When that new and glorious morning finally arrives, it will be clear and bright, and you will recognize its beauty all the more because you’ve held your darkness close. (Mandie McGlynn, December 19)
Last week’s post by the Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford prompts the Rev. Kent Hemmen-Saleska to think about his own practices of wearing clerical robes and collars.
There *is* a local coffee shop I go to every Thursday for my “writing and study” day…but I’ve never worn my collar or stole *just* for *those* mundane days. For the past seven years I’ve served this church I’ve worn a robe when I preach – which is something I never thought I’d do – maybe I’ll start wearing a collar to the coffee shop on “mundane” days too? (Moving in Faith, December 13)
The Red Pill Brethren (of which Crawford is a member) had a stimulating conversation about clerical collars. (The Red Pill Brethren, December 19)
Andy Coate writes about another coffeeshop where religion and welcome go hand-in-hand.
[Tonight] I walked in and snagged a table, asking somebody quickly if they’d keep an eye on my stuff while I ordered. I walked to the counter and the barista said “Hey, Andrew. How’s Jesus-school?” and we chatted for a second or two. I sat down, untied the boots I’d been wearing all day, and opened my computer. There was a Queer Polyamorous Womens Meetup happening next to me and the conversation was hilarious and so, so fitting for where I was. (thoughts ON, December 12)
Tim Atkins replies to last week’s post by Christine Slocum. “Yes,” he writes, “the wolf has inherent worth and dignity.”
If a wolf appears in a congregation . . . and the wolf has begun to threaten the safety of the entire community, then we hold them to covenant or respectfully ask them to leave the community, as they can no longer uphold the covenant. . . .
You can acknowledge their inherent worth and dignity while letting go of further interaction. It’s not a contradiction of faith – it’s living up to our covenantal faith. (Spirituality and Sunflowers, December 13)Where do we belong?
The Rev. Dan Harper no longer sees the benefit of membership in the Unitarian Universalist Ministers’ Association—and his congregation’s leadership agrees.
[B]efore taking this step, of course I consulted with the Committee on Ministry and the Board of Trustees of the congregation I serve, as well as my ministerial colleague in the congregation. The Committee on Ministry’s response was instructive: one member of the committee said something to the effect of, why would you want to belong to a professional organization that doesn’t meet your professional needs? The Committee didn’t seem to think the choice was as tough as I did. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 18)
The Rev. Dan Schatz has figured out a key difference between the Sunday Assemblies and Unitarian Universalism.
In the Sunday Assemblies . . . diversity of viewpoints is something that might exist but isn’t talked about, assumptions go unchallenged, and everything is kept very, very safe. . . . But I need a community that will help me make meaning through the tough times of life, that will challenge me to think as well as feel, and that will help me grow as a person. That’s why I’m a Unitarian Universalist. (The Song and the Sigh, December 18)See you next year
The offices of the UUA (including UU World) are closed from Tuesday December 24 through Wednesday, January 1. There will be no Interdependent Web post next Friday. See you on Friday, January 4!
UU World editor Chris Walton—who blogged at Philocrites from 2003 to 2008—joins The VUU’s regular panelists for a discussion about UU blogging, challenging UU bloggers to return to the public conversation that once characterized the UU blogosphere (this part of the conversation starts at about 49 minutes into the video, but the whole video is good!).
Long-time UU blogger “Matt Kinsi” is now able to write under his real name, Tim Atkins.
[T]he initial reasons for writing this blog under a penname have vanished. I originally wrote under a penname for the sole reason of my old job—I couldn’t be out and loud about pretty much anything back then, but now I can. . . . I want to try and live my life with a little more vulnerability and a little less compartmentalization. (Spirituality and Sunflowers, December 10)
There is a Starbucks across the street from my kids’ high school, where they often congregate after school. I decided I’d collar up with a rainbow flag pin on my shirt. I didn’t expect any teen would talk to me—I’m still an adult, after all. But I figured I could sit by the door, just taking care of some work on my computer, and maybe, just maybe, the juxtaposition of the collar and the pin might introduce the idea into some teen’s head that “Hey, maybe religion and gay aren’t enemies.” Maybe even, “Hey. Maybe God doesn’t hate me.” (Boots and Blessings, December 12)Trauma and grace
Some UU bloggers write about non-UU topics. One such blogger was Chris Keith, a member of two UU congregations in Michigan; along with her oldest son, she was murdered last week by her estranged husband.
One week ago today the blogging community lost one of their own. You may not have known her, but Chris Keith was part of our community. She blogged at Adventures of a Thrifty Mama, where she was much loved.
But not so nearly loved as she was by her four children. (Adventures of the Family Pants, December 12)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum serves as the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of East Liberty, where Chris Keith was formerly a member; one of Landrum’s blog posts this week offers pastoral advice to those dealing with trauma.
People naturally search for meaning—what could’ve gone differently, who is to blame. That’s also normal. But it’s not necessarily helpful—trying to make sense out of senselessness is what keeps our minds going in circles and leads to some of those symptoms of sleeplessness, stress, and more. . . . The bottom line right now is take care of yourselves. (Rev. Cyn, December 11)
In another post, Landrum shares “a moment of grace”—encountering photographs from The Real MEN’s Project at a local hospital; each photograph shows a father who has signed a pledge of nonviolence. (Rev. Cyn, December 10)Thinking about UUism
The Rev. Tom Schade suggests that modern Unitarian Universalism emerged from the collision of Liberal Protestantism and Humanism; he calls the latter a purifying fire, and the remnants of the former an “infinite demand.”
Somehow the purifying fire of humanism has left that subjective commitment to living in response to an infinite demand whole, brighter and shinier than ever. If Unitarian Universalism is to respond well to the crises ahead for our communities, our nation and our world, we will have to define ourselves more by what was revealed by the purifying fire, and less by the fire itself. (The Lively Tradition, December 9)
Christine Slocum’s new role as a parent causes a crisis of faith—she cannot embrace a too-sunny view of human nature.
My patience for self-delusion disappeared when my child was born. If I am to teach and protect her, I need to see the world with the sharpest clarity possible by my perception, and filter accordingly for my daughter. . . .
I fear that our teachings of human nature are hyperbolically good. . . . Too many times I have read or heard the first principle being treated as though it means we must tolerate all things and ways of being. (Christine Slocum, December 11)
The Rev. Dan Harper thinks about changes in the meaning of membership.
More and more people care less and less about the meaning of “membership,” and the younger they are the less they care. It’s like a century ago, when gradually people didn’t want to own pews any more, and they came up with this idea of congregational membership instead. Well, just as pew ownership once disappeared, I suspect we’re seeing a time when “membership” is slowly disappearing. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 9)The rigors of congregational membership
When the Rev. Jake Morrill tells his congregation that he plans to learn to swim, they hold him to that commitment.
Maybe how things are for you matches precisely how you intended them to be. All I know is that, when it comes down to me, for a long time, I was only floating. And it was a congregation that finally required me to apply myself to practice, and keep in the struggle of effort, which as it turns out, is what it takes to swim. (Quest for Meaning, December 8)
Becoming a member of a UU congregation helps Angel move beyond armchair activism.
I have traditionally been a classic Hamlet, who reflects and analyzes but does not act. . . . Since I joined my local congregation and started honestly reflecting on what my part can be in improving the world. . . . I finally have the tools to fight the injustices I learn about every day. And for once, I’m not sitting back in my armchair and just watching things happen. I’m acting on my outrage. And it’s wonderful. (Thoughtful Pauses, December 11)Remembering Mandela
Nelson Mandela’s death reminds Karen Johnston of her involvement in anti-Apartheid activism during her college years.
Through this engagement in activism around South Africa and Apartheid, many of us white students began to seriously encounter and engage activism around racism, both institutional and personal, often for the first time in our lives. Not all of us, perhaps not so many of us white students, were so adept at being able to confront our own white privilege and complicity with racism’s oppressive structures and legacies—it was (and is) so much easier when the racism is far away, rather than here at home. But some of us tried and steadily got better at it. (irrevspeckay, December 9)
The Rev. Bill Sinkford notes that Mandela’s death coincided with the 65th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It is natural, I think, to look at South Africa today where reality for most still falls so far short of its constitutional promises of “freedom from want,” it can be easy to stay in criticism or even move toward despair.
I think of the activists I met in South Africa, however, who used that vision as a standard and held that vision up as the goal would disagree. In the midst of on-going need and politics which reach the lowest common denominator with such difficulty, we need a vision to keep our aspirations high. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, December 12)
The Rev. Peter Boullata challenges us to be “bearers of dangerous memory,” when prophetic leaders are “domesticated and drained of [their] radical power.”
This white washing of individuals who spoke out boldly for social justice, economic equity, and an end to war, colonialism, and imperialism dulls our senses and lulls us into accepting the status quo. They become domesticated saints, nonthreatening figures who stood for good things we all believe in. This revisionism is meant to keep us from catching their vision of the world made right. (Held in the Light, December 10)Just for fun
If you’d like a ukelele for Christmas, the Rev. Adam Eliot provides a buyer’s guide. (The Burbania Posts, December 9)
If you’ve got a sweet tooth, Jacqueline Wolven offers a recipe for “Maple Glazed Goodness of Nuts.” (Jacqueline Wolven, December 8)
And the Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg has compiled several “Best of 2013” lists, including podcasts, books, albums and Netflix selections. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, December 8)