- About Us
For the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss and her wife, living with a progressive illness is like living in the shadow of a volcano.
When I wrote fondly last week about my joy at playing house, did I mention that it sits on a volcano? Like all volcanoes, this one troubles and frightens in various ways, but not all the time, and not in any pattern. Maybe it’s more like living near several volcanoes, each with its own separate pattern. You might have seen one of those documentaries about the various Iceland volcanoes. One blows straight up in the air, one kind of seeps, another threatens to spew forth enough heat to bury the nearby towns and farms with mud from rapid melting of its usually beautiful glacier. . . .
The name of our volcano is Huntington’s Disease. It lives in my wife like a parasite, often resting, but always on the lookout for some way to kidnap her body and turn it against us. (Politywonk, September 20)
The Rev. Robin Tanner and her partner have a covenant that has helped them through the first stages of new parenthood.
If things got tough . . . and one of us was short-tempered with the other one, or said something unkind, then we would apologize, forgive and MOVE ON. . . .
In that first 48 hours home when the twins cried again within 30 minutes of their last feeding and my beloved slept peacefully through it, I said something best not put into print. The next morning as we huddled over our coffee I looked up and said, “I am sorry for what I said.”
“I don’t know what you are talking about,” she responded. (Piedmont Preacher, September 22)All in this together
Claire Curole reports from the People’s Climate March in New York City, where she was unable to join the main group of UUs due to a traffic jam.
I would have liked to be part of the interfaith block, gathered with the other UU’s. I know that some folks from our bus did get there – I saw the pictures later. But what did happen was also delightful and very appropriate – we are everywhere, threading our way through all kinds of things, making connections in unexpected places to work for the greater common good.
Which was, after all, the core message of the Climate March.
We are indeed all in this together. (The Sandhill Diary, September 23)
Hindu UU Ricky Cintron struggles with the Hindu community’s reaction to violent hate crimes.
I do not want your apathetic philosophical diatribes about how I don’t need to march in a pride parade. I do not want your lectures with quotes from scriptures and purports about how sex and gender are material characteristics. . . . What I want, what I need, what my community needs is your compassion and your commitment. What we want to hear is, “I’m sorry this is happening to you and I will do whatever I can to support you, because we are all equal in God’s eyes.” (Jñana-Dipena, September 25)
The Rev. Susan Maginn wonders about what to do with privilege after Ferguson.
It seems a disturbing truth that caring people of privilege like to save non-privileged people. We like the feeling of doing good in the world. We like to be the hero. There could be worse flaws. But here’s what we need to learn: when we put on our shiny superhero costume, we can do real harm. We can disempower people and do so sadly in the name of empowerment. . . .
We need to humbly stay on the sidelines this time, but that does not mean that we need to be ashamed of our privilege and our ignorance and disappear. There is a role for those of us who are privileged, but it is not a starring role. We work hard behind the scenes, not on the stage. We remain in the wings so that those voices with far more wisdom and far less power can be heard loud and clear. (Quest for Meaning, September 23)
Margaret Sequeira grew up in a family that disparaged “welfare queens;” now that she’s known her share of financial stress, she encourages us to ban the word “lazy.”
We must stop judging people by the size of their bank accounts, or lack thereof. We must stop assuming that if you are struggling financially you are more likely to commit crime or try to rip someone off. Shaming people never gets them motivated to do better. Shaming people makes sure they hide even deeper in their shell, keeping their head down and just doing their very best to get through from day to day. Shame strips hope, strips dream, strips motivation. All our punishing of the poor only drives people deeper into despair, deeper into hopelessness and deeper into poverty. (Scattered Revelations, September 23)
The Rev. Tom Schade passes along Tom Hayden’s thoughts on why social movements seem ineffective. (The Lively Tradition, September 21)A side of racism
When her family is treated differently by a restaurant hostess than the African-American man in line behind her, the Rev. Megan Lloyd Joyner wonders how to respond.
We debated leaving. We debated saying something. But I didn’t know what to say, and I am not sure yet what I would have or should have said. I regret, though, not saying something.
I wonder how many people have received a similar unwelcoming “welcome” on a Sunday morning at church. No matter how hospitable we may want to be, it is quite possible that we may greet visitors and long-time members alike with unintentional micro-aggressions. (Quest for Meaning, September 22)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern misreads a bumper sticker—”IMAM AZIZ MUHAMMAD HIGH SCHOOL. Home of the Jihadis.” Click here to find out what it really said! (Sermons in Stones, September 22)Uses of power
The Rev. Meg Riley finds her thoughts focused on “the use of power by authority figures, and how that leads to trust or to brokenness.”
Authority figures have a choice—trust people and set reasonable limits to make the world work for everyone, or create a world of fear and rules and punishment. A TSA world. A world where everyone, known or unknown, is not to be trusted and every student is secretly wanting to wield a weapon. (HuffPo Religion, September 23)
The Rev. Dan Harper revisits “the mess at Starr King,” specifically looking at the ethics of securing electronic communications, the training of new ministers, and the future of Starr King.
[F]rom an ethical standpoint, the SKSM leadership should accept blame for the release of sensitive information, and they should publicly apologize to all three candidates for the SKSM presidency, staff, students, and anyone else affected by the poor security protocols.
. . . . If SKSM leadership works hard at it, my guess is that this mess will take two to five years to clean up—if it is addressed openly and non-defensively, and right now there’s not much evidence of openness or non-defensiveness at SKSM. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 25)
UU church may become national landmark
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, Va., has been named an historic landmark in the Virginia Landmarks Register, and may soon also be named to the National Register of Historic Places. Built and designed in 1964 by architect Charles Goodman, the structure reflects the liberal and progressive beliefs of the congregation. “We’re hoping by it being put on the national registry, people will realize that the physical presence of a group in a community matters,” said the Rev. Linda Olson Peebles. (ARL Now – 9.23.14)
Waging peace in Connecticut
Members of First Unitarian Universalist Church in Bridgewater, Conn., took to the streets last week with signs and slogans to mark their 10th annual Celebration for Peace in conjunction with the United Nations International Day of Peace. The march was accompanied by the support of passers-by who honked car horns and cheered in a show of solidarity. “It’s kind of been a tough year for peace with all of the un-peaceful things going on in the world right now,” said church member Betty Gilson. “We saw a lot of people in the world waging war, so we decided we should wage peace.” (Wicked Local – 9.22.14)
Tufts University creates first humanist staff position
A newly created humanist chaplain staff position at Tufts University has become the first of its kind in the United States. UU minister and Tufts University chaplain, the Rev. Gregory McGonigle, was responsible for developing the trailblazing decision. (Religious News Service – 9.3.14)
Remembering the Sharps
For their efforts in rescuing Jews from Nazi terror during World War II, Martha Sharp and the Rev. Waitstill Sharp are two of only four Americans honored by Israel’s Yad Vashem national museum of the Holocaust. The couple’s humanitarian efforts are the focus of the documentary film Two Who Dared: The Sharps’ War. (Toledo Blade – 9.20.14)
Volunteers construct new rain garden on church grounds
Volunteers from First Unitarian Universalist Church of Rochester, Minn., and others have helped to avoid erosion caused by heavy rains by constructing a rain garden on the church property. Filled with donated and purchased plants, including many native species, the rain garden “fulfills one of our missions, to be environmentally responsible,” said project organizer Key Eberman. (PostBulletin.com – 9.23.14)
See related: Evanston Unitarian church installs rain gardens (uuworld.org – 9.1.14)
More environment news from UUs:
UN Climate Summit prompts People’s Climate March, hundreds block Wall St. (Latin Post – 9.24.14)
Companies to make climate pledges at UN Summit (PNJ.com – 9.22.14)
UUs march for action on climate change
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship Church in Elkhart, Ind., hosted participants in the Great March for Climate Action, a cross-country march to raise awareness for climate justice. Some of the marchers will take a short break from their journey to travel to New York City to take part in the People’s Climate March on September 21. (The Elkhart Truth – 9.12.14)
Other climate march news:
Updates from the People’s Climate Train to New York City (uuworld.org – 9.16.14)
Why we march: Five individuals share their stories (The Indypendent – 9.12.14)
Climate vigil to show solidarity with march in New York City (Daily Record – 9.16.14)
Religious groups mobilize at People’s Climate March (Huffington Post – 9.17.14)
Volunteer group helps children learn to read, write
After funding for kindergarten aides was cut three years ago, Unitarian Universalists volunteered their time to successfully continue mentoring children in their reading and writing skills at the Morris Street School in Danbury, Conn. Now the program is expanding to other district elementary schools. Founded by retired IBM executive and UU Charles Schott, the Morris Street School Project and its volunteers have become an important part in the lives of the students at the school. (News Times – 9.15.15)
Romanian Unitarians strengthen bonds in the U.S.
Earlier this month, Follen Community Church in East Lexington, Mass., welcomed visitors from its partner church in Alsófelsoszentmihály, a rural farming village in the Transylvanian region of Romania, for a ten day tour filled with social and religious events to help form a stronger bond between the two partner congregations. (Wicked Local – 9.16.14)
Church’s potluck for the needy resumes
A weekly potluck picnic for the homeless and needy families will resume early next month after being put on hold since Labor Day. The five-year-old program hosted by the Unitarian Universalist Church of St. Petersburg, Fla., was put on hold due to a broken air conditioner at the church and complaints from neighbors about the increased presence of homeless people in the area. (St. Petersburg Tribune – 9.16.14)
Liz James is outraged by health policy that only offers the HPV vaccine—which prevents cancer—to young girls, and not to young boys.
“Why aren’t we vaccinating the boys?” I asked, when my son was a baby.
“If the girls are all vaccinated,” replied the public health lady patiently, “then it can’t spread.”
I’m sorry, whaaaaat????
. . . .We discovered how to prevent a horrible disease and then used that knowledge to protect only half of the children. (Rebel with a Labelmaker, September 17)Witness on wheels
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum writes that this past General Assembly “missed the mark” for people using wheelchairs and scooters—particularly the Waterfire witness event.
In the end, it just really wasn’t an accessible event. . . . I think it would be more honest for the GA planners to say, “This big cornerstone event of GA just isn’t accessible,” and then for our gathered assembly to wrestle with the honest emotions of what it means to have a major part of GA that all of us don’t have access to. I think we could learn something from that exercise. . . . .
I’m hoping for the GA Planning Committee to learn that choosing a location and events so inaccessible isn’t simply “a necessary trade-off,” it’s an act of oppression. And I’m hoping that for future GAs, we can show real improvement both through stronger planning and through educating our attendees further. (Rev. Cyn, September 12)Ordinary heroism
The Rev. James Ford calls us to the “ordinary heroism” of a committed spiritual life.
An authentic spiritual life is not all beer and skittles. It takes discipline and perseverance. It is definitely counter-cultural, as it demands a constant presence in a culture that is pretty much all about distraction.
A genuine spiritual life is heroic in the sense of those qualities of nobility and perseverance that move us out of the ordinary. And yet, at the very same time, it is something accessible to all of us. Sort of an ordinary heroism. (Monkey Mind, September 16)
The Rev. Theresa Novak writes about spiritual earthquakes that leave us questioning everything.
Sometimes . . .
Beneath you moves
With such sudden violence
It knocks you down
Upon your knees
Around you falls
Shatters in an instant
Your foundation cracked
The ideas you have hung
So carefully on your wall
In ruins on the floor
With the everyday plates,
And holiday platters. (Sermons, Poems, and other Musings, September 18)
The Awakened Introvert is officially religiously unaffiliated, after a long connection to Unitarian Universalism.
I’ve finally reached the point where I am ready to step away from institutional religion completely. . . .
I consider myself a feminist spiritual contemplative naturalist. It’s more accurate, but much more of a mouthful to say, and much less able to fit into society’s boxes. I’m ready to own the process of my spiritual life and growth apart from anyone’s boxes.
So I sent a letter to my minister, gently extricating myself from church membership. I’m on my own now. I’m none of the above. I’m a solitary. A solitary what, I’m not sure. But I am a solitary. And I am gloriously, fabulously, joyfully, ecstatically happy. (The Awakened Introvert, September 18)Motivations toward ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade begins a series of posts examining motivations for ministry.
Ministers often talk about their “call,” the time that they became conscious of the deep motivations which led them to the ministry. You have to recognize that the phrase, “the call” is theologically loaded. It remembers the call stories in the Bible, in which God calls people into His service. But people who are not into that concept of God still have deep motivations toward the ministry, and further, can often recall moments when they became aware of them: an experience which could be named a “call.” (The Lively Tradition, September 14)
The Rev. Cynthia Cain has scaled back her big, beginning dreams for ministry, and found a satisfying sense of purpose.
Twenty years ago, upon entering the ministry, I thought my purpose was to be a stellar UU minister, to do amazing social justice work, to help eliminate racism, to end child abuse . . . I had so many dreams! I had to scale back my big ideas one after one. I’m satisfied now with the work I’ve done, and I’m at a turning point as I enter a new decade and a new form of ministry. Now I’m a little more willing to let my purpose find me, and to be willing to listen when it does. (A Jersey Girl in Kentucky, September 18)Speaking out
The Rev. Diane Dowgiert has suggestions for NFL commissioner Roger Goodell.
Call on the better angels of your owners, managers, coaches, and players that they may be leaders in bringing an end to the abuse of women and children in their most intimate relationships. (Transforming Times, September 17)
The Rev. Kate Lore blogs while riding the Climate Train.
There are many little things we can do to slow global warming. Skipping meat one day a week, for example, can reduce your carbon footprint by as much as not driving your car for an entire month. Using high efficiency appliances and vehicles can also help. But these small and important acts are not enough to counter the rising temperature of our planet. We need to engage entire nations in this work. They, in turn, can write the regulations we need to significantly lower CO2 emissions. (Rev. Lore Blog, September 17) [UU World has a selection of Lore's social media reports from the train.]
The Rev. Elizabeth Stevens urges members of her congregation to “march for survival.”
[Many] of us . . . feel disempowered by a political system where key players on all sides are in bed with big oil. It’s sort of like being on an out of control train, heading toward a deep ravine with no bridge. We know disaster is coming. We don’t know what to do to stop it.
Or at least . . . we didn’t know. Next week, world leaders are meeting at the United Nations for a Climate Summit. These are the folks who have the power to put on the brakes! In advance of the summit . . . . demonstrations are planned around the world. . . . This is the moment when our bodies, our participation in these events, can make a difference. (revehstevens, September 19)
Maine UU state advocacy network pushes for minimum wage increase
The Maine Unitarian Universalist State Advocacy Network and the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee have partnered to push for an increase in the federal minimum wage through a campaign called “Wage Outrage,” that calls on Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins to help resurrect a bill that would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour. “It’s just anti-American to think that a person could work that much—that many hours—and not be able to support their family,” said Dale McCormick, Augusta city council member and co-chair of the Maine UU State Advocacy Network. (MPBN News – 9.4.14)
More on minimum wage:
Las Cruces councilors to decide path for $10.10 minimum wage measure (Las Cruces Dun-News – 9.6.14)
Advocated unveil ‘Living Wage’ proposal for Sonoma County (The Press Democrat – 9.8.14)
Church offers community financial literacy program
The Rev. Ian White Maher of Original Blessing in Greenpoint, N.Y., a new Unitarian Universalist congregation, has partnered with financial planners in his Brooklyn neighborhood to develop a five-part seminar series called “Money Matters.” The seminar addresses important topics such as budgeting and goal setting, and also incorporates the societal and spiritual aspects of money, commerce, and the economy. “We explore the psychology behind money and the economic system that keeps us running in circles and tied to jobs we don’t like because we are afraid of our financial futures,” Maher said. “When earning more money becomes our only goal, it is very hard to feel satisfaction with our lives, particularly when our money habits have us constantly reacting and never really planning.” (CNBC – 9.10.14)
More news from UUs and congregations:
A recent pride rally in the NOTO Arts District of Topeka, Kans., drew about 500 people to celebrate the LGBT community. The event featured speakers from event planners, teens from the local LGBT community, and others, including the Rev. Sarah Oglesby-Dunegan of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Topeka, who praised the growing acceptance in the community and urged the crowd to “stand on the side of love.” (Topeka Capitol Journal - 9.6.14)
A scholarship program from Aiken Unitarian Universalist Church in Aiken, S.C., and Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) recently recognized its first recipients who have demonstrated the PFLAG values of education, support, and advocacy through excellence in their educational achievements and leadership activities. (Aiken Standard – 9.8.14)
When news stories spark conversations about domestic violence, Karen Johnston urges us to “let our voices be a safe haven.”
Let us remember who is in the room.
Let us be mindful of who is in the room when we speak, when we consider how and when to ask our questions. Let us be thoughtful when we speculate.
Let us be guided by facts and real-life testimony of survivors of violence and their allies that in most any public circumstance, in any gathering of people, there are survivors of domestic violence among us. They are us and we are them. (irrevspeckay, September 11)Thirteen years ago
The Rev. James Ford comments that it’s hard to believe it’s been thirteen years since the September 11 attacks.
Today, these thirteen years later, at home we’ve come to be divided even more than we were before, something I’d not thought possible if asked in about it on 9/10.
And in the relentless play of causality even a president who came into office in significant part on the promise to extricate us from the morass looks to be forced into a fight with a truly horrific child birthed out of the whole dirty mess.
Blood poured upon blood. (Monkey Mind, September 11)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar acknowledges that we have responded to the 9/11 attacks by choosing security over freedom.
When the World Trade Center towers came down. . . . everything changed, because we had to come face to face with the reality that loss on such a grand scale really could camp out on our very doorstep.
And then we had to figure out how to respond. Would we build back our personal defenses through going on attack, following the illusion that we could simply exterminate everyone who was a possible threat? . . . . Why yes, we would.
Because anything is better than simply dwelling in the knowledge that we are not safe, that the horrors which befall any one of us could befall all of us, that loss lurks around every corner. (Quest for Meaning, September 11)The just-world fallacy
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum examines the just-world fallacy in the context of leaked celebrity photos and the death of Michael Brown.
What happened to Jennifer Lawrence was a crime. Her privacy was invaded, her digital material stolen, her pictures shared without her consent. What happened to Michael Brown was horribly wrong, and no unarmed person deserves to be shot by the police. We’re pushing back against the bully culture and the rape culture, too, that tell us that the victims deserved what they got.
[Your] disease, your misfortune, crime perpetuated against you—these are not what you deserve. The Just-World perspective is a fallacy. You have inherent worth and dignity, you are worthy of love, you deserve a good and happy life. (Loved for Who You Are, September 8)Effort, engagement, and success
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford wonders, “When did ‘pet project’ become an insult in UU churches?”
What if, rather than trying to get 40 participants for one program, we instead equipped and empowered 40 members to go out and each one follow their own passion? Maybe we gave them meeting space or maybe even a little seed money. Maybe all we did was cheer them on, and offer them the shared wisdom of all the other church members who were changing the world in their own particular calls. (The Lively Tradition, September 11)
The Rev. Dan Harper responds to a blog post about moving beyond the simple congregational metric of average worship attendance.
Odom’s blog post ends with him wishing that he “could go back to the good old days and track a couple of different numbers.” I don’t share his nostalgia—I’m fascinated by the ongoing evolution of congregations, and I love the opportunities for creativity we now have.
How about you? What metrics would you use to figure out how your congregation is doing? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, September 9)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley, drawing on her experience with roller derby, asks, “What are our stinky pads,” the evidence of our hard work?
On the one hand, I see evidence of our liberal religious effort all over the place. . . . Of course, just providing space is not enough—a roller derby team can provide practice times, but if no one shows up, no effort is put in. So then I wonder: Are people attending these events, workshops and opportunities provided by various liberal religious entities? Are they showing up and putting in effort? If so, then I think that this is one way that we can see evidence of “faithful sweat stains.”
But this does not seem sufficient—we need an outward component as well. (The Lively Tradition, September 10)Finding peace
The Rev. Tamara Lebak struggles to be calm when she gets a flat—driving on the highway, with her young daughter in the back seat.
It is nearly impossible to hide an emotion when in cognitive or emotional overload. You will inevitably leak. It seeps out in our voice or in a nearly imperceptible micro-expression that warns others of our emotional world even if they don’t know exactly what they saw. On the one hand I want Beckett to be able to identify and articulate what she is feeling when she is feeling it and I would like to model that. I don’t want her to hide her feelings. On the other hand I do not need her upset when I am trying to dodge oncoming cars. I had a job to do. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, September 9)Using—and protecting—the web
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern encourages us to help protect net neutrality.
I have loved living in this age, seeing the internet grow from nonexistent, to a seldom-used novelty, to the central part of our lives it is now. It’s how I do research, meet new people, share my daughter’s childhood with faraway family and friends; it’s my ongoing university, workshop, and studio; it’s how I met my wife. I hate to picture looking back on this as the long-gone heyday of the internet. I don’t want to tell my daughter, as she works with a much different network of channeled and ranked information, “Let me tell you about 2014, when the internet was still neutral.” (Sermons in Stones, September 10)
Katy Schmidt Carpman uses “the interdependent web” to facilitate a long-distance, surprise donut delivery.
The blessings of a single donut have rippled through the week. Favors and laughter and networking and sugary sweetness—it’s all good. (Remembering Attention, September 10)