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Minister recounts harrowing train crash
In a Washington Post article, the Rev. Carol Cissel describes the experience of being on the Amtrak train that derailed on May 12. Though it is not mentioned in the story, Cissel is interim minister at the Unitarian Society of East Brunswick, N.J. (Washington Post – 5.13.15)
Church completes two-year process to go green
Faith leaders on small towns, women ministers, and more
The Rev. Lisa Mobayed, the recently ordained minister of the Unitarian Church in Walpole, N.H., is profiled in an article about the joys and challenges of leading small-town congregations. (Monadnock Ledger-Transcript – 5.11.15)
An article focusing on women ministers points out the success they have had in UU congregations, particularly pointing to High Street Unitarian Universalist Church in Macon, Ga., which has had more women ministers than men, including the currently installed Rev. Cassandra Howe. (GPB News – 5.11.15)
An opinion piece about faith leaders speaking out on climate change includes quotes from the Rev. Michael Brown, minister of the Universalist Unitarian Church of Peoria, Ill. (Pekin Daily Times – 5.7.15)
Quoted in an article about the struggle some churches are still having with same-sex marriage, the Rev. Sean Parker Dennison, minister of Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Church in McHenry, Ill., says, “When religion is used to hurt other people, that’s really hard. That’s really sad.” (mySuburbanLife.com – 5.7.15)
UUs in the community
People in Corvallis, Ore., are exploring options for housing the communities rapidly growing population of seniors. A group formed by the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Corvallis is studying senior housing options, with a focus on the concept of aging in place. (Corvallis Gazette-Times – 5.11.15)
The Rev. Pat Jobe, minister of the Greenville, S.C., Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, and Cathy Jaggars, president, attended a community Meet Your Muslim Neighbor event that drew more than 150 participants. (Greenville Online – 5.7.15)
The Rev. Phillip Baber, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Jacksonville, Fla., explains why UU values inspired his congregation to get involved in efforts to educate the public about the Jacksonville Human Rights Ordinance. (HRC Blog – 5.11.15)
Checking in on our old properties
A short real estate piece offers an update on the properties at 6 and 7 Mt. Vernon Place, formerly the UUA’s Eliot and Pickett Houses B&B, which were sold in 2014 when the UUA moved its headquarters off of Boston’s Beacon Hill. (Boston.Curbed.com – 5.6.15)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden draws connections between the neglected work of building character and the decline of religious affiliation.
[We] too often forget nowadays—that the purpose of inner work, the work of building character, is to accomplish outward work, the work of compassion and social justice. . . . Joy and character. This is what many of those missing from the pews have hit the road searching for. (Quest for Meaning, May 14)
Andrew Hidas is nearing the “bell lap” of his life.
So here I am, right about at that point in my life, coming into the bell lap, the jostling of the crowded early laps done, some of my energy spent but enough left in reserve—absent a sudden bolt of lightning or a stumble—to bring this thing home. And as I sneak a peek behind me, I note that my competitors have all disappeared.
It’s just me out here, on my own, chased only by the half-formed, uncertain dreams of my youth.
How am I going to play it from here? (Traversing, May 13)
The Rev. Robin Tanner has a pet peeve: being told to “have faith.”
In our faith, we believe the doubts are holy spaces too. In our trust of the world, in our faith, we try to open ourselves to the experience of doubt. We hold doubt to be a process that enables creative, cataclysmic and transformative energies to emerge. If you never doubt, then do you have anything but a theoretical faith? (Piedmont Preacher, May 9)UUA conversations
With permission, Claire Curole shares the Rev. Sarah Lammert’s response to her letter about changes to the ministerial credentialing process.
I’ve been concerned for some time about the overall ‘Economy of Ministry.” Seminary tuitions have risen as much as 300% in the past 20 years. Many seminarians are carrying debt forward from their undergraduate years, adding to the burden. At the same time, traditional forms of church are struggling to achieve funding goals and new entrepreneurial forms of religious community haven’t yet produced sustainable financial models that support fair compensation for their clergy leaders. Denominational resources are at best flat or shrinking. (Sand Hill Diary, May 8)
David Pollard reports that CUUPS leaders and UUA staff are talking about changes in how they relate to one another.
The UUA has developed a pilot program called “UUA Recognized Communities” which is a way to help UU organizations grow and prosper. . . . CUUPS would seem to fit into this because we serve UU/Pagan, Nature and Earth-Centered practitioners whose needs and gifts have not found other communities in which to flourish fully. (Nature’s Path, May 8)Questions for congregations
The Rev. Scott Wells suggests that congregations—and the UUA as a whole—might look to their particular gifts as a decision-making guide.
[Among our gifts is] congregational polity, which is not the sell it once was. But it’s easy to underestimate it when there’s no bishop trying to shutter your church. And with it come some skills and resources for self-reliance. (Boy in the Bands, May 13)
Tim Atkins believes congregations shouldn’t pay religious education teachers.
Paying teachers is a sign of not only a religious education program in trouble, but it’s a sign of a dying congregation. . . . If the congregation doesn’t care enough about the spiritual development of their children and youth to volunteer to guide them along their paths then I have trouble seeing why that congregation should continue to have a religious education program. (Tim Atkins, May 7)The work of justice
The Rev. Erik Walker Wikstrom reminds us that emotions are complicated—in this case, for gay and lesbian couples finally able to be legally married.
The (still new) opportunity to “get married” is also a reminder that in the eyes of many, and of the state, they haven’t been. It was one more reminder, one more example, of the way(s) their relationships have been devalued and dismissed. I honestly can’t imagine what that has felt, and still feels, like, but I do imagine that it is a lot more complicated than a simple, “Wee! Now we can get married!” (A Minister’s Musings, May 11)
Karen Johnston considers Julia Ward Howe’s Mother’s Day Proclamation in the shadow of the Baltimore uprising.
What if it a concerned citizens group of mothers, perhaps of all races and colors, walked to the police line, arm in arm, and had said, “No more”? Of course, this happened as part of the peaceful protests that were not widely publicized, but they spoke to the young Black and Brown people resisting.
What if this group was of mothers of the other Baltimore, still claiming as their own these youth, but did so by saying, “Not this way. Not in our name.” to the police officers? (Irrevspeckay, May 10)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann writes that some forms of religion can be abusive.
Just as an abusive partner uses coercion, intimidation, and threats to control another, some people seek to coerce, intimidate, and threaten others with their religious beliefs.
This religious intolerance represents a particularly insidious evil. By robbing us of a pure source of joy and enlightenment, these zealots seek to control our actions, our choices, even our thoughts. Through physical, emotional, and economic routes, religious bullies seek the power to limit our freedoms and cancel our basic human rights. (UUJeff’s Muse Kennel and Pizzatorium, May 9)
Beacon Press grows amid troubled publishing industry
Historic Unitarian Universalist Association publisher Beacon Press is increasing its staff size and diversity at a time when the publishing industry at large is stalling. Beacon director Helene Atwan notes that adding the remote staffers would not have been possible without the technology afforded by the new UUA headquarters buildings. (The Boston Globe – 5.5.15)
Association is known for its shareholder activism
UUA treasurer and chief financial officer, Tim Brennan, advises that being present and speaking up at annual meetings is an essential step to effective shareholder activism. He says giving the company advance notice also helps ensure you will have an opportunity to speak. (The Wall Street Journal – 5.3.15)
UU congregations renovate, celebrate, reflect
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills in Somerville, N.J., delayed their building dedication until the installation of a new elevator was complete. Guided by UU values, it was important to the congregation to hold the celebration only once people of all physical abilities were able to participate. (myCentralJersey.com – 5.4.15)
After relocating to a new building in Oak Ridge, Tenn., Oak Ridge Unitarian Universalist Church has become a new sustainable energy provider in the community. The congregation finished the installation of a 20-kilowatt solar array in time for Earth Day. (Oak Ridge Today – 5.5.15)
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Bowling Green, Ky., are developing grassland near their church using local plants and following a natural growing method. This project is part of their ministry of care in the congregation and in the community. (Bowling Green Daily News – 5.1.15)
As the Rev. Andrew Clive Millard prepares to celebrate the flower communion in his congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of the Peninsula in Newport News, Va., he notes the ritual’s historic roots in World War II Europe and its modern symbolism highlighting the different contributions we each bring to the world. (Daily Press – 5.3.15)
UUA President the Rev. Peter Morales recently helped celebrate the installation of the Rev. Gretchen E. Weis at Murray Unitarian Universalist Church in Attleboro, Mass. The installation was also a celebration of the congregation’s 140-year history as a liberal religious presence in the community. (The Sun Chronicle – 5.4.15)
Members of the largely white Abraham Lincoln Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Springfield, Ill., have been meeting with black members of Calvary Missionary Baptist Church to engage in the complicated issues of race relations. They recently rang bells to signify the work that still needs to be done on the issue of race, 150 years after the death of Abraham Lincoln. (here & Now – 5.4.15)
‘Law & Order’ UU child dedication
In pop culture news, the latest episode of Law & Order: SVU, “Perverted Justice,” featured character Sgt. Olivia Benson having her soon-to-be-adopted child dedicated at a UU church. See a picture here.
The Rev. Theresa Novak’s poem suggests different options for dealing with dirty laundry.
If you hang it on the line
For the whole world to see
The sunlight will bake it clean. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, May 3)
The Rev. Madelyn Campbell is disappointed in her white friends’ judgmental comments about Baltimore residents; sometimes, Campbell says, smashing things is a natural response.
Once my husband and I had a fight and I got really angry at him and I had a bowl of spaghetti in my hands, and I wasn’t going to throw it at him, so I smashed it on the floor. And it broke. And made a huge mess. I knew it was going to break and make a huge mess. And I did it anyway. I really just needed to do that. It startled everyone, it disrupted the moment, and it actually led to a solution. (The Widow’s Mite-y Blog, May 2)
Kim Hampton says we need to ask the right question about Freddie Gray’s death: why did police pursue him in the first place?
According to the BPD, Freddie Gray was neither a wanted person nor posing a threat to the public at the time he turned away from the police and started running. The police officers decided to go after Freddie Gray because he made “eye contact” and then ran. . . .
So in asking the right question . . . we may then begin to take a hard look at the criminalization of blackness and where that stems from. (East of Midnight, May 1)
The Rev. Gary Kowalski writes that “America has a problem.”
First and foremost, we must collectively admit that racism is a societal problem. We cannot just blame the police without also shouldering a portion of the responsibility for overcoming the legacy of discrimination that continues to make inequality the norm in our country. (Revolutionary Spirits, May 2)Ministerial formation
The personal transformative work that is part of the formation process is difficult enough, and looks a little different for every student in formation. We who are called to the work of ministry arrive with diverse strengths and vulnerabilities, gifts and growing edges; the ministries of the 21st century to which we are called demand no less. We need credentialing structures and processes that facilitate the development of the vast resources we bring, not ones that make a difficult process even harder. (The Sand Hill Diary, May 7)
Liz James, a seminarian who is not pursuing fellowship, posted about the credentialing process.
The credentialing process was put in place for good reasons, but it has grown unwieldy over the years and the needs have drastically changed. It is an emperor’s new clothes situation, because it’s hard to stand up and say “this is ridiculous—we are not getting enough out of all this to justify what is being sacrificed” to the people who will (or won’t) be granting you credentialing. (Facebook, May 7)Bending toward justice
Adam Dyer wonders if white, financially comfortable gay and lesbian couples will abandon activism once marriage equality is legal across the United States.
The question is, will the same happy gay and lesbian couples who embrace and celebrate on the steps of the Supreme Court in victory for their ability to marry and share benefits, then be willing to turn around and travel the 29 miles up Interstate 295 to march in the streets of Baltimore to support their black trans* siblings who are targeted and murdered by police? . . . Will the major donors to Equality California also fund safe spaces for Cambodian LGBT youth in Long Beach?
We cannot let the LGBT movement turn into a cultural Detroit, Oakland or Cleveland…abandoned by the people who can now afford to disappear into the suburban mainstream. (Spirituwellness, May 1)
The Rev. Dan Harper has been following marriage equality arguments at the Supreme Court—including Justice Alito’s questions about ancient Greece.
[Legal] marriage today differs radically from legal marriage in ancient Greece. Rather than a contract that was entered into by a prospective spouse on the one hand and the father of a prospective spouse on the other hand, legal marriage today is a contract that is entered into by the two prospective spouses. Furthermore, the ancient Greeks considered marriage a legal agreement between men; by contrast, our conception of marriage allows both women and men to enter into this legal agreement. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, May 4)Saving lives, saving souls
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford hopes to encourage members of her congregation to be like feral cats—free to follow where their hearts lead, as they love the hell out of the world.
I don’t want to corral that energy, I want to stoke it.
They say if you feed them, you’ll never get rid of them. That sounds pretty good, too. Let’s figure out how to feed them, so they keep coming back for the sustenance that will keep them going.
And let’s, all of us, find our own wild side. We can still be good upstanding responsible citizens, paying our taxes, bringing a casserole to the potluck. (Boots and Blessings, May 1)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern describes her congregation’s youth ministry, ending with their core motivation for their work.
All of this is a matter of saving lives and saving souls—not from Hell, since we’re Universalists, but from the earthly hell of fear, pain, and meaninglessness. Since long before Palo Alto’s woes hit the New York Times, our congregation has grappled with the stresses that our local culture puts on teenagers. . . . How can we, as a faith community, ameliorate these problems and offer a counter-cultural alternative to the high-pressure world of Silicon Valley teenagers? . . . That’s what we’re doing when we do youth ministry. (Sermons in Stones, April 30)
Congregations reflect on recent events, consider ways to help
In response to the tragic events in Baltimore, members of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Columbia, Md., gathered in small discussion groups to consider the influences of history, racism, and economic inequality and what people of faith must do to resolve these issues in their own community. (Baltimore Sun – 4.30.15)
The Unitarian Church of Evanston, Ill., installed a large lawn sign with the words “Black Lives Matter” in response to recent violence against black people and to appeal for justice in the American legal system. The decision to place the sign was a result of the first unanimous congregational vote in the church for over 50 years. (Windy City Times – 4.25.15)
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Rockville, Md., held a service of solidarity with the people of Baltimore. People of all faiths were invited to their multigenerational service seeking peace for the children, acknowledging the source of these problems lies in escalating inequality in America. (mymcmedia.org – 4.29.15)
See also: “In Baltimore, Unitarian Universalists look for ways to help” (uuworld.org – 4.30.15)
UUs support marriage equality as U.S. Supreme Court reviews landmark case
William N. Eskridge Jr. observes that there has been a shift in the American religious landscape where the assumption that all religions oppose same-sex marriage is increasingly inaccurate. He highlights the amicus brief to which the Unitarian Universalist Association is signed as evidence. (New York Times – 4.25.15)
The Rev. Lynn Hopkins of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Montgomery, Ala., clarifies how the legal question before the U.S. Supreme Court is different from recent religious freedom bills under review in the states. Religious freedom laws attempt to extend special rights to religious bigots, argues Hopkins. (Montgomery Advertiser – 4.28.15)
At an interfaith service in Columbus, Ohio, the Rev. Mark Belletini of First Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbus acknowledged that, although it has not been legally recognized, he has performed same-sex weddings since 1979. He notes that biblical references opposing such marriages are merely individuals’ interpretations of scripture. (10tv.com – 4.26.15)
Other marriage-equality stories include:
“Marriage supporters hold vigil outside Supreme Court” (Washington Blade – 4.27.15)
“Huntsville vigil signifies LGBT support in approaching Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage” (al.com – 4.27.15)
“Same-sex marriage supporters rally in Flint as U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments” (mlive.com – 4.28.15)
Other UUs in the news
On the question of what groups are best placed to lead efforts to reduce extreme poverty and economic inequality in America, the Rev. Myriam Renaud of Du Page Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Ill., believes that only religious institutions have the scope and moral authority to reverse this dangerous trend. (Al Jazeera America – 4.24.15)
The Rev. Barbara Prose of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., testified in the nonjury trial of Matt Slick, accused of stabbing his mother to death in 2012, that the young man was incoherent the evening of the crime. Both the defendant and his mother worked at the church. (Tulsa World – 5.1.15)
Other coverage of the trial includes:
“Family Says Mental Illness Caused Tulsa Son To Stab Mother To Death” (NewsOn6.com – 4.30.15)
The Rev. Meredith Garman offers a prayer for the suffering in the world this week.
We pause to collectively acknowledge the world’s sadness, which is our own — and to face straightforwardly what is real. As we would be a people of love and compassion, let us open ourselves to take in the pain, and respond with kindness and care. (The Liberal Pulpit, April 25)UU responses to Baltimore
A group of UU religious professionals of color issued a statement about responses to protests in Baltimore.
While we gather in solidarity with the oppressed, we are also deeply troubled by our own Unitarian Universalist Association and any religious body that has little or no response to Baltimore. . . .
We particularly call on the UUA to reevaluate its national prophetic voice after participating in the recent commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the events at Selma. Sanford, Ferguson, New York, Baltimore . . . these are our Selma. The time is past . . . we people of faith must gather with the beaten, the murdered and the oppressed. (A Full Day, April 29)
On this week’s episode of The VUU, the show’s regulars discuss events in Ferguson, Baltimore, and beyond with Leslie Butler MacFadyen and the Rev. David Carl Olson.
Real news, real people
Nepali people dig in the rubble for loved ones
Landslides, avalanche, no way to get supplies
And 2 real family members, a world away, listen
Hoping for a phone call that mama is okay
The ping of an email that the student has been located.
Turn off the analysis
The replaying over and over
To elicit the emotional reaction
That means you’ll keep watching
And paying for them to do it all again
There is real news today
With real people. (Boots and Blessings, April 28)
The Rev. Catherine Clarenbach challenges heterosexist interpretations of Beltaine, and describes a lovely alternate ritual involving a celebration of bees.
So as we enter into the Tide of Beltaine, let us think on the profusion of Earthly delights the holiday has to offer. How delight, joy, love, attraction, flowers, animals, insects, fertility, fruitfulness . . . how all these and more can come together in the holiday that is also the celebration of the Pole and the Wreath. How people of all (not merely “both”) genders can embody the glories of the season. And how therefore, we—all and each—are called into the wonders of the gateway to summer, the beauty that is Beltaine. (Nature’s Path, April 30)
Having watched Diane Sawyer’s recent interview with Bruce Jenner, Andrew Hidas considers “the conundrum of the self.”
Who (or what?) was this female Self that Bruce Jenner claims resided too deeply within his thoroughly male physical Self for that male Self ever to supplant? That male Self could win Olympic gold, but it could not take up residence within the female Self that Jenner claims has always been his emotional core and identity.
All of which begets an even more fundamental question: Just what is a Self anyway? (Traversing, April 30)The entrepreneurial church
The Rev. Tom Schade has a helpful reminder for those who doubt what the UUA can accomplish: “The UUA created a successful, self-sustaining, surplus-creating health insurance company.”
My colleague, Cindy Landrum, calls for a “relentlessly useful UUA.” She and others talk about the UUA providing back office services to congregations: centralized payroll, bookkeeping and accounting, member databases, web services, graphic resources, and more. . . .
But such improvements seem like impossible pipe dreams. . . . But remember, we created a health insurance company that works for us, when no other health insurance company was willing to cover us. And that should give us a model and some confidence that we could do what we need. (The Lively Tradition, April 28)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum has a specific entrepreneurial idea for churches.
So what if we clergy each trained one or two entrepreneurial people to become our wedding chaplains, and to aggressively market our churches for weddings? We train these wedding chaplains, equip them with resources, and set a going rate for the whole wedding package including officiant for the church to charge, out of which the chaplain is paid, on a per wedding basis. Our churches get used, get income, and get hundreds of new faces through the doors. Maybe they’ll see something they like and come back on a Sunday, too. (The Lively Tradition, April 28)