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The Rev. Josh Pawelek, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Society East in Manchester, Conn., appeared on NPR’s “On Point” to talk about the anniversary of the Sandy Hook shootings. (WBUR – 12.12.13)
Historic quilt discovered, dead honored
A 115-year-old quilt was found in the archives of First Unitarian Church of Omaha, Nebr., when members were looking for items to include in a fundraising auction. The quilt will be going to a local museum. (SFGate – 12.7.13, Journal Star – 12.7.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura, Calif., and its Lift Up Your Voice advocacy ministry held a ceremony to honor homeless people who have died. (Ventura Breeze – 12.9.13)
Christine Keith, who had been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing, Mich., was killed along with her son by her husband, whom she had recently filed for divorce from, police said. (Times Herald – 12.6.13)
Church property destroyed, and more
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Boca Raton, Fla., is looking for a driver who destroyed the church’s sign. A surveillance video shows the driver examining his car for damage and then driving off. (CBS 12 – 12.6.13)
A rainbow flag at the Foxborough, Mass., Universalist Church was vandalized. (Sun Chronicle – 12.11.13)
The Rev. Tim Barger, who works as religion editor of his local newspaper, wrote his weekly column about his ordination to the ministry, which was last weekend. (Toledo Blade – 12.7.13)
The band Mumford used the Unitarian Univeraslist Fellowship of Ames, Iowa, to record its album because “it is acoustically a really beautiful space, and they have a really nice piano in there.” (Iowa State Daily – 12.5.13)
Bennett Rushkoff, a member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockville, Md., is running for state office. (Gazette – 12.9.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Area Church in Sherborn, Mass., and its minister, the Rev. Nathan Detering, were featured in a piece about the church’s “reverse offering,” in which congregants are given money to go do good in the world, something several UU churches have started doing in recent years. (WBUR – 12.3.13)
A number of stories mentioned Unitarian Universalism in reference to the recent passage of legal same-sex marriage in Hawaii. (Washington Times – 12.2.13, Honolulu Civil Beat 12.2.13, The Review – 12.2.13) Those included stories about the wedding of the Rev. Jonipher Kwong, minister of the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and Chris Nelson, which was among the first same-sex weddings in the state. (West Hawaii Today, 12.3.13, Hawaii News Now – 12.2.13)
The First Unitarian Church of Alton, Ill., is one of only a few churches in its area that have publicly welcomed same-sex couples to marry there. (bnd.com – 11.30.13)Churches honor World Aids Day, and teens’ art featured
Art made by teens who are part of U-Night, a youth outreach program of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County in Ephraim, Wisc., will be shown in an exhibit at the church. (Green Bay Press Gazette – 11.26.13)
The Woodinville, Wash., Unitarian Universalist Church allows people experiencing homelessness to camp on their property and provides a fire ring during cold weather. (Seattle Times – 12.4.13)International UUs speak out on social justice, and more
The Rev. Frances Deverell, president of the Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice, spoke in a radio interview about her work. (rabble.ca – 11.27.13)
Methodius Kusumahadi, former chief representative to Indonesia for the Unitarian Service Committee of Canada, spoke out for foreign non-governmental operations doing good work in his country. (Jakarta Post – 12.2.13)
The Rev. Alice Anacheka-Nasemann was installed as minister of the Unitarian Church of Marlborough and Hudson, Mass., where she has previously served as director of religious education and as associate minister. (Community Advocate – 12.2.13)
A piece recounted the Unitarian minister Thomas Starr King’s role in rallying support and money for the United States Sanitary Commission, the forerunner of today’s Red Cross, during the Civil War. (SFGate.com – 11.29.13)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates Nelson Mandela’s long commitment to the work of justice.
One would think that almost 20 years of revolutionary activism, 27 years in prison, and five years as the head of state would entitle him to an honorable retirement, but Mandela never stopped taking on new challenges. In 2005, he went to London before a G8 trade meeting and reminded the leaders and the gathered crowd that the G8 had pledged several years earlier to cut world poverty in half. “Do not look the other way,” he said to them; “Do not hesitate. Recognise that the world is hungry for action, not words. Act with courage and vision.” (Sermons in Stones, December 5)What is compassion?
The Rev. Sean Dennison writes about compassion as a commitment of “Cabaret Church.”
Cabaret Church is a community of people who believe that compassion is powerful and necessary. We are well aware that we are human and that means we make mistakes. We fuck up. We hurt people. In our commitment to art and resistance, we push boundaries and break rules. Sometimes we struggle to live up to our commitments and instead stay silent when we should have spoken up. We need compassion. (ministrare, November 29)
The Rev. Myriam Renaud asks, “Compassion—what the heck is it?”
Suffering brings you to the limit of the ordinary realm of “S/he.” It is at this borderline that compassion and religion arises. Compassion for suffering may then propel you into the “higher pinnacle” of “Thou.” From this place, this summit, you can see more clearly what actions on your part and your community’s could ease the pain. And, upon returning this place, you are spurred to make it so. (The Naked Theologian, December 3)Beloved imperfection
Frustrated by her preschool daughter’s behavior, the Rev. Robin Bartlett turns to Facebook, where her friends remind her that home is where her daughter doesn’t have to be perfect.
I hope you have a place . . . inside your house or inside your heart, where you don’t have to be the best at anything; where you don’t have to try; where you just are. The place where you know yourself beloved. We are beloved just by virtue of our birth, and we forget that truth, or we never learned to know ourselves that way. . . . We succeed, we are loved. We fail, we are loved. (Religious Education at UU Sherborn, December 4)
Jordinn Nelson Long refuses to do it all.
[No] one is waiting at the finish line of your life to give you a cookie for completing all the tasks that no one else cared about. If you choose unhappiness to prove that you’re “good enough” for it, your own resentments will be your reward. (Raising Faith, December 4)Social commentary
With love and grief, the Rev. Jake Morrill recounts the history of Tennessee, where he serves as a minister.
When you can’t any longer get coal out of coal mines, the coal company will start blowing up mountains. When you can’t any longer get your prescription filled, the heroin dealer is just a phone call away. Heroin, they say, will ease your worries a while. But the pain never ends. It runs through everything. It’s there when you’re born. It is there when you die. And your babies (they’re crying) will know it, as well. Given this life, that anybody at all would think to sing is a blessing. (Quest for Meaning, November 24)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum shares her experience with Healthcare.gov, and how the Affordable Care Act will affect ministers who serve small congregations.
So the good news is that the UUA’s plan is very competitive with comparable plans. And the bad news is that “Obamacare” didn’t bring us cheaper, better healthcare. It actually brought us healthcare for the average small business employee that is going up 9.3% this year along with deductible increases. So that’s sad for me, who had held out hope that while it would get all those uninsured people a better situation it might actually take a load off the small church, as well. It seems that is not to be the case. (Rev. Cyn, November 26)
The Rev. Tom Schade looks beyond the church-and-state issues of a recent ruling about clergy tax exemptions.
This ruling will bring new attention to the finances of the grass-roots church of all denominations. But let’s see it for what it is: part of the destruction of autonomous and self-directed voluntary organizations for the poor, the working class and the middle classes. It’s coming close to the clergy, now. We, in the clergy, might want to blame the IRS for this downturn in our personal economies, but the larger picture is growing class divide, and the impoverishment of the majority. (The Lively Tradition, November 25)
Rebecca Hecking acknowledges that Thanksgiving, even stripped down to the practice of gratitude, is a complicated holiday.
Thanksgiving? Stuffed with history and myth, basted with family drama, sugar-coated with platitudes, but also seasoned with thoughtfulness, it is what we make of it.
Just like everything else. (Breath and Water, November 21)
Shawna Foster objects to liberal disapproval of retailers open for business on Thanksgiving.
I remember working holidays. Holidays paid a time and a half. It made the extra bills of the season bearable.
Perhaps retail workers themselves would rather be home. At the same time, I am not so sure of outrage on their behalf. (Vessel, November 21)Fifty years later, remembering JFK
For Deb Weiner, the assassination of President John F. Kennedy was an “end of innocence” for her pre-teen self.
I started peppering my childhood minister, Rev. Wayne Shuttee, with questions about how there could be a loving God in the face of insanity and rage. About why there was a world where such bad things happened. About how people find courage and strength to carry on in the face of such stuff. (Morning Stars Rising, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum points out generational differences in how we think about the anniversary of JFK’s death, and suggests a pastoral approach.
So, Gen X and Millennial friends, we need to get over our cynicism and stop rolling our eyeballs. . . . [We] need to . . . cut through the surface level, the media level, that we’ll be hearing about, and talk to people about what this moment really meant to them, how it changed them, why they continue to focus on it, what its deeper meaning is. We need to get past the nostalgia and into the real work of the grief and fear, and the way it continues to shape our country. (Rev. Cyn, November 21)A wider love
Roy King asks, “What if Pantheism were a middle path between monotheism and humanism, between the One and the Many?”
The great divide in our Unitarian Universalist congregations has historically been between those who are theists, namely those who believe in some sort of personal God, and our humanists/atheists who believe that humankind is the ultimate measure of all things. A monotheistic God is a unifying principle, while humanity is a source of rich diversity. (Mediterranean Wisdom, November 21)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden considers the influence of Hinduism on “Transcendental Humanism.”
If the self is Brahman . . . Sounds a bit like American Transcendentalism, doesn’t it? There’s a reason for that. British philologist (and one of the colonizers) William Jones, better known as “Oriental Jones,” made Hindu thought available to early-Nineteenth Century Americans of a particular intellectual persuasion. People such as the Unitarians inclined toward Transcendentalism—including the Peabody sisters, Thoreau, and Emerson.
Vedanta’s third point is direct experience. The Transcendentalist knew what that meant. They put themselves in the way of lived experience. They lived for those moments. (Quest for Meaning, November 21)
The Rev. Jake Morrill remembers being a “playground atheist,” and the support his younger self received from his UU community.
In all the years since, my theology has evolved. I have taken communion, stopped in awe before mountains. I have prayed till tears come, and sat in meditation for long hours in a dark Buddhist Zendo. But, truth be told, it was as an atheist that I first came to see, in a way that was real and has not failed me since, how I am part of a love wider than my own life, and how that spacious embrace makes itself known to me, most often, through a community like the one that first told me, “You are not alone.” (Quest for Meaning, November 18)Gender, memory—and grammar
Teo Drake refuses to live in fear.
They did not like me as a girl—they like me even less as a boy.
I am not a straight white man, my queerness invisible to the naked eye.
They tell me they might let me live if I never speak up. If I sit complicit in my silence, while they shout their misogyny, their homophobia, their transphobia—their ugly hate.
If I keep my mouth shut maybe it won’t be me to die today—maybe it will be you. Can I live with my own deafening silence?
I will not live in fear. (roots grow the tree, November 19)
The Rev. Dan Schatz offers a prayer for the recent Transgender Day of Remembrance.
We remember and honor those who walk proudly,
who love themselves and others,
who teach by their being,
and who reach to help others along the way. . . .
and every day,
may all of us,
transgender and cisgender alike,
dedicate ourselves unflinchingly
to respect for every human being,
and to the transforming power of love. (The Song and the Sigh, November 20)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern boldly declares “‘they’ is a perfectly appropriate gender-neutral third-person singular pronoun.”
Whether agender and transgender folk will adopt “they” for themselves is up to them. It’s not up to me, and I will use whatever pronoun a person prefers for themself, but I humbly suggest that it has a huge advantage over “ze,” “hir,” or any of the other neologisms that have been tried. Neologisms do take hold sometimes, but when we already have a word that has worn a path in our linguistic landscape—the way “they” has done for many of us—it’s likely to be the best place to build the road. (Sermons in Stones, November 14)Babies, mamas, and ministry
The Rev. Tom Schade would like UU congregations to go into the baby blessing business.
Our baby blessing should come right out of our core theology. Each baby is a person, unique and irreplaceable. The baby blessing ceremony should challenge parents and families to respect and honor that child’s own soul. A child is not a toy, a pet, a person who can use to fulfill our own needs. A child is not here to bring you glory, or fulfill your dreams. In all likelihood, a child will not turn out as you expect, or hope. (The Lively Tradition, November 16)
The Rev. Parisa Parsa charges her colleague to live in the power of both ministry and motherhood.
The world is rife with terrible tales of both bad ministers and bad mothers, and both vocations are subject to images of goodness idealized to inhuman proportions. Short of setting ourselves on sainthood—which is particularly unrealistic in a tradition that abandoned that notion a couple of centuries ago—we have to find other ways to live in the very large landscape between perfect and terrible. The charge I have to offer you this morning is to live in the power of these roles at least as much as you live in the fretting over each of them. (Pastor Prayers, November 21)Growing—and breaking through
The Rev. Tandi Rogers pulls back the curtain on the process of choosing Breakthrough Congregations.
This is how I want to answer that question:
• Do “religious community” well.
• Be yourself intentionally, joyfully, and impact-fully.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways inside your walls.
• Live your saving message in bold, generous, loving ways outside your walls. . . .
[But] I know what most people mean by the original question is really, “How are Breakthrough Congregations chosen?” Here’s how. . . . (Growing Unitarian Universalism, November 20)
The Rev. Thom Belote allows us to eavesdrop on his congregation’s decision-making about one service, or two.
If it was our goal to stay at our current size, I would recommend returning to one service. If it is our goal to grow, we should probably stick with the two service format. (Rev. Thom, November 16)Happy Thanksgiving!
The Unitarian Universalist Association will be closed next Thursday and Friday for Thanksgiving. Interdependent Web will return the following week.
UUs, congregations take time to remember transgender victims
UUs and congregations involved in observing Transgender Day of Remembrance this week were featured in several pieces here, here, and here. (Washington Blade – 11.18.13, Fairfield Daily Voice – 11.20.13, Gazette – 11.14.13)
Unitarian Universalists were among those speaking out against a Catholic bishop who planned a ceremony to “exorcise” same-sex marriage as Illinois’ lawmakers moved to legalize the practice. (wics.com – 11.15.13)
Several UU clergy were part of an interfaith group of religious leaders which is opposing a proposed law that would ban same-sex marriage in Indiana. (Wish TV – 11.18.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Columbia, Missouri, was highlighted for the work of its Green Sanctuary team in implementing environmentally friendly practices at the church and in the community. (KOMU – 11.16.13)
The Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper, assistant minister of the UU Congregation of Asheville, N.C., was the subject of a profile that included her work in the Moral Mondays protests in that state. (Urban News – 11.14.13)
An alternative gift, a new minister, and more
The Unitarian Church of Barnstable will host an alternative gift fair, in which people are invited to buy gifts or services from local non-profits that will be given to those in need. It’s modeled after a similar project at the Falmouth Unitarian Fellowship. (Barnstable Patriot – 11.15.13)
The Rev. Karen Brammer is the new minister of the Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society in Mohegan Lake, N.Y. (Putnam County News – 11.13.13)
A piece profiled Unitarian minister Jack Zylman, who was a prominent civil rights activist and anti-Vietnam war protestor. (al.com – 11.15.13)
The Rev. Jeffrey Barz-Snell, minister of the First Church in Salem, Unitarian, co-authored an opinion piece about a plan for a gas-powered electric plant. (Salem News – 11.20.13)
UUs in the Media will not be published next week. Happy Thanksgiving!
Two All Souls and two stories about racial encounters
A radio story last month featured All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., prominently, discussing how the church has succeeded and struggled in its efforts to integrate racially. (State of the Re:Union – 10.15.13) See UU World‘s Fall 2009 story about All Souls here.
All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., is the subject of a story about Eleanor Roosevelt and how she encountered racial diversity in its facilities. (Times Herald – 11.9.13)
The Jericho Road Lawrence project, which was started by members of the North Andover North Parish Unitarian Universalist Church in North Andover, Mass., was highlighted for its work in promoting diversity on non-profit boards in their community. (Boston Globe – 11.14.13) UU World profiled the original Jericho Road partnership in Spring 2010.
Pieces here, here, and here about the Sunday Assembly, a new atheist church, mention Unitarian Universalism as a comparison or alternative, as does UU minister and religion writer Tim Barger in his weekly column. (The American Prospect – 11.8.13, Collegiate Times – 10.11.13, New Republic – 10.11.13, Toledo Blade – 11.9.13)
Supporting a local Muslim group, stolen quilts, and more
The Rev. Carie Johnson, of the Universalist Unitarian church in Augusta, Maine, spoke in support of a Muslim group’s plan to build a mosque in her city. The plan was approved by local officials. (Kennebec Journal – 11.13.13)
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Duluth, Minn., would like to see two quilts that were stolen from inside the church returned. One of the theft victims isn’t even upset about it—she wants the quilts back for sentimental reasons, but offered to make a new quilt for anyone who returns them. (Duluth News Tribune – 11.9.13)
Unitarian Universalists were among a group of people praying outside the Environmental Protection Agency, urging that group to cut the emissions that coal plants are allowed to produce legally. (Daily Caller – 11.8.13)
Judith Zimmerman will become the first minister ever ordained by the UU Church of Washington County, Oregon, tonight. (The Oregonian – 11.10.13)