- About Us
The Rev. James Ford marks Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Divinity School address as the moment when “the ‘new infidelity’ was brought home to the institution of Unitarianism.”
While Unitarianism had rejected the trinity and focused salvation on “character,” on the actions of the individual in her or his life rather than through a vicarious atonement achieved by Jesus’ death, it was nonetheless deeply rooted in biblical Christianity. . . . Emerson . . . explicitly [rejected] the necessity of scripture as divine revelation. Instead he declared that the intuition of the individual was sufficient to find one’s way.
This created a firestorm within Unitarianism. A fire that has not yet burned itself out. (Monkey Mind, July 15)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden explains why he is a “post-theist.”
I bought a new Ford truck, not a Model T. Why? Because a Model T, even though it revolutionized the automobile industry, is no longer an efficient mode of transportation in the contemporary world. . . .
This is how I view “god.” It’s not that I don’t believe in the god concept. It’s that I don’t think the concept is good transportation in our contemporary context. (Quest for Meaning, July 17)Love, love, love
The Rev. Amy Shaw suggests that the word “because” should not follow the words “I love you.”
Loving you because implies that there is an alternate world in which I could not love you, because. Or a world in which my love for you would change as you drew nearer to some select goal that you and I shared. (Loved for Who You Are, July 14)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern objects to the word “bromance.”
In our culture, we don’t need a special name to describe the relationship between two women who love each other, love to spend time together, and are not romantically involved together nor seeking to be. We already have a term: friendship. What disturbs me about the embrace of the “bromance” term is the shunning of the obvious, available word.
Is there something so extraordinary about a close, loving, non-romantic relationship between men that we need a cute, arch term for it? (Sermons in Stones, July 14)
Liz James writes about loving beyond the bounds of committed relationships.
in the complete stretch of history i can see how
every time i felt this pull
to join with someone
it was because there was some part of them that i needed
to learn by heart (Rebel with a Label Maker, July 16)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum criticizes religious language about “brokenness.”
One of the most radical things we can do in the face of oppression is to counter messages of brokenness with proclamations of wholeness: I am whole; I am loved; I am worthy; I have inherent worth and dignity; You are whole; You are loved: You are worthy; You have inherent worth and dignity. You are loved — just as you are.
This doesn’t mean that we are perfect. It doesn’t mean that we never do harm. But we are still loved. We are whole, just as we are. (Loved for Who You Are, July 16)
Katy Schmidt Carpman writes that babies remind us our own interdependence. (Remembering Attention, July 14)Creating new worlds
The Rev. Scott Wells notices that there was only one new congregation welcomed at this year’s UUA General Assembly, and wishes there were more.
To keep from shrinking, we need new congregations, and one isn’t enough. We need leaders with experience to foster new congregations, and one isn’t enough to found them.
So, again, I’m happy for Original Blessing. I only wish it had some cradle mates. (Boy in the Bands, July 15)
The Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss says it’s not too late for the UUA to move to Detroit. “Detroit has replaced Silicon Valley as the place where pioneers will create the real 21st century. Religion is about creating new worlds out of old chaos: let’s pull up our stakes and get busy.” (Politywonk, July 14)
Hobby Lobby opinion is not the opinion of all religious people
The Rev. Emmy Lou Belcher, retired minister of DuPage Unitarian Universalist Church in Naperville, Ill., joined clergy and others for a protest outside a local Hobby Lobby store. The effort, which included handing out condoms, was intended to show that not all religious people support the U.S. Supreme Court’s position in the recent Hobby Lobby case. (Daily Herald - 7.3.14)
Other Hobby Lobby protest stories include:
“Activists Hand Out Condoms at Hobby Lobby to Protest Supreme Court Decision—Their Profession Though Might Surprise You” (The Blaze - 7.4.14)
“Even Clergy Are Against the Hobby Lobby Decision—And They’re Protesting in an Unexpected Way” (News.Mic.com - 7.4.14)
“Culture War Notes From All Over” (The American Conservative - 7.4.14)
“Small protest held outside Naperville Hobby Lobby over Supreme Court decision” (Naperville Sun - 7.2.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) joined over 100 other faith leaders and groups in signing a letter urging President Obama to oppose religious exemptions as he considers anti-discrimination policies in federal contracts. (Religion News Service - 7.8.14)
News from UU congregations
Unity Temple in Oak Park, Ill., named a UUA Breakthrough Congregation in 2008, shares how giving away the money they collect each Sunday has increased their pledge drive by 14 percent. One member said the practice has shifted the congregation’s way of thinking from one of poverty to abundance. (OakPark.com - 7.8.14)
When the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills in Somerville, N.J., moved into their new building, they purposely delayed dedicating it until renovations were completed that made it welcoming and accessible to all people. Each Sunday, they light a candle and acknowledge the progress they have made toward this goal. (centraljersey.com - 7.7.14)
After deciding as a congregation to take steps to be more environmentally sustainable, members of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Bloomington, Ill., learned that they could do even more if they became certified as a Green Sanctuary congregation by the UUA. They are actively completing a number of projects to achieve that goal. (pantagraph.com - 7.9.14)
The Shelter Neck Unitarian Universalist Camp in Burgaw, N.C., is a summer camp and retreat center with a rich historical connection to early Universalism in North Carolina and the Unitarian Universalist faith movement today. (StarNewsOnline.com - 7.4.14)
Justin Almeida’s first attempts to explain UUism to his new classmates were “a big ball of wibbly-wobbly, timey-wimey stuff,” so he worked out a more formal elevator speech.
Unitarian Universalism is rooted in liberal Christianity and developed out of the reformation. It is now a pluralistic, non-creedal religion that believes truth resides in the individual as informed by experience, tradition, family, culture and history. We have seven principles which guide our congregations, all of which boil down to ‘there is one love and nobody is left behind. (What’s My Age Again?, July 9)
For Gracia Walker, simple loving presence is a form of evangelism.
I think to show love doesn’t mean you tell people where to go to church or if they should go to church. It just means you spend the time you have with them in a loving way. (Loved for Who You Are, July 9)
The Rev. Dr. David Breedon reminds us that a culture of loneliness is the context for our evangelism.
As the Beatles knew, denizens of post-industrial countries may exist in utter isolation. We often shop in anonymous supermarkets rather than bustling markets. We buy clothing off a hanger, not from the source of the craft. As Robert D. Putnam pointed out, many of us bowl alone. (Quest for Meaning, July 10)
Katy Schmidt Carpman notices that many programs that support innovation are cropping up within UUism.
It’s a ripe time for innovation.
What’s your big idea?
How will you change the world? (Remembering Attention, July 3)
While shopping in Target, Colleen Thoelle has a flash of insight about accepting the person she is right now, letting go of regrets and fantasies about the past.
Should the goal be to not go back and dig up but to walk forward and look straight ahead? Should I leave “her” behind me and just be who I am right now? What in the hell is wrong with who you are right now?
Bam! Lightbulb. (Adventures of the Family Pants, July 10)
During a stressful summer of “mothering from afar,” Jordinn Nelson Long also struggles with the question of doing and being “enough.”
My faith tells me there is no hell, but amazingly, that doesn’t touch the fear of damnation here, on this earth.
Not by others. . . .
What I’m afraid of is bigger and deeper, a theological matter for our time. The final judge will be the limits of each 24 hour day and the reality of opportunity cost and the truth that to love is on some level to leave your heart lying helpless. (Raising Faith, July 4)Religious freedom, religious bullying
The Rev. Marti Keller, responding to the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, writes that “We need to find ways to talk about the ripples of oppression and harm that may inevitably stem from this ill-considered verdict while not losing focus on the women in this country who were originally targeted.” (Leaping from Our Spheres, July 10)
After a thorough examination of the court’s decision, Doug Muder concludes that Pandora’s box is open.
[Any] clever person can find a link of some sort between whatever they don’t want to do and the commission of some act they consider immoral by someone else. Alito is encouraging Christians to develop hyper-sensitive consciences that will then allow them to control or mistreat others in the name of religious liberty. . . .
I focus on Christians here for a very good reason: Given that this principle will produce complete anarchy if generally applied, it won’t be generally applied. (The Weekly Sift, July 7)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern wants Unitarian Universalists to work for a more substantive conversation about abortion.
We wish to talk with others who struggle with these issues, not in order to concede to intolerable positions nor make peace with every opponent, but because they matter to us, and it is the duty both of a government and a civilization to grapple honestly with such questions. (Sermons in Stones, July 3)
John Beckett believes Americans too often confuse religious freedom and religious bullying.
Religious freedom means you are free to believe, worship, and practice as you see fit. It means you are free to advocate for your religion in the public square. It means you are free to live your life by your values and to encourage others to do the same.
It does not mean you are free to coerce others to believe, practice, or behave as you would prefer, nor does it mean you are free to ignore your obligations to our wider society.
That’s not freedom. That’s bullying. (Under the Ancient Oaks, July 3)Sweetness and love
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reflects on this year’s General Assembly theme.
Perhaps the biggest take away for me from General Assembly was the emphasis that “Love Reaches Out” means partnering to create social change with those whom you may in many ways differ from politically or theologically. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, July 8)
The Rev. Scott Wells objects to overly sentimental views of Universalism.
In the last generation, I’ve seen a revolting amount of ecclesiastic “mansplaining”: condescending depictions of Universalism, out of a Unitarian lens, to re-cast my tradition as something sweet, loving, emotive, poor, rural and homey. The whole thing reeks of Victorian sexual politics. (Boy in the Bands, July 6)
Shareholder activism continues as part of resolution
In an overwhelming vote, UUs at the 2014 General Assembly in Providence, R.I., passed a resolution to divest the UUA’s Common Endowment Fund of shares in fossil fuel companies, while still maintaining ownership of enough shares to continue their work of shareholder advocacy. (Providence Journal – 6.29.14)
A delegate who participated in the vote for divestment during General Assembly noted that this move was one tactic in a larger strategy to work against our overdependence on fossil fuels. Well-known climate activist Bill McKibben also applauded the vote. (MintPressNews.com – 6.30.14)
Other articles on UUA divestment include:
“Unitarians Go Fossil Fuel Free With Divestment Resolution” (EcoWatch - 6.30.14)
“Unitarian Universalists Divest from Fossil Fuels!” (Eden Keeper – 7.2.14)
“Unitarian Universalists divest from fossil fuels” (Fairfield Citizen – 6.30.14)
Hobby Lobby case is politically motivated
In response to the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of the religious freedom of corporations, the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., observes that this ruling now makes it possible for corporations to use religion as a pretext for other political aims. (Tulsa World – 7.1.14)
Even Millennials will eventually need a religious community
Beacon Press author Chris Stedman interviews the Rev. Galen Guengerich, senior minister of All Souls Unitarian Church in New York City, on the necessary balance of science and reason and the importance of belonging to a specifically religious community. (Religion News Service – 7.2.14)
UUs support their local LGBT communities
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, Mich., received the Champion of Pride award from Perceptions Saginaw Valley, a local LGBT rights organization. Liebmann was honored for his active and public support of the LGBT community as a faith leader. (mlive.com – 6.26.14)
Two Unitarian Universalist ministers in Pennsylvania applaud recent legal changes making same-sex marriage legal in the Commonwealth. (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette – 6.30.14)
Members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers, Fla., held a public witness event to show their support for same-sex marriage lawsuits in the state. (Fox 4 – 6.29.14)
Inviting us to draw our own conclusions, the Rev. Meg Riley prays for Dr. Ersula Ore, assaulted by the police for the minor offense of jaywalking.
Dr. Ore, you are in my prayers today. You and the thousands of other people of color who are forced to prove that you have a right to walk home, and upon whom the burden of proof always rests. Please know that you are not alone—that tens of thousands of white people, as well as the people of color who share your experience of being told you don’t matter—are with you and will be with you as you ask for what everyone wants: Respect for your worth and dignity. (Quest for Meaning, June 30)Supreme Court decisions
Patrick Murfin agrees with the Supreme Court’s recent decision about buffer zones around abortion clinics.
To protect our own rights of dissent, we must unfortunately defend someone else’s right to be an asshole.
That does not mean we have to step back and let wolves lose upon the sheep. It means we have to take action to confront the wolves ourselves, to offer our bodies, if necessary, in their protection. It demands a lot from us. Giving up comfort, giving up safety. It means, as the theme of this year’s GA says, Reaching Out in Love. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, June 27)
The Rev. Elz Curtiss suggests that William Ellery Channing’s book, Slavery, is useful for countering the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision.
Much of today’s political breakdown rests on the inability of secular and free-range left wing leaders to articulate a comprehensive philosophical counter to conservative religious arguments. Happily, William Ellery Channing has provided here, in one document, everything we need to lift our stature in current debates. (Politywonk, July 1)Loved for who you are
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum believes that whether or not God exists, we are loved.
If God exists, quite frankly, I am loved. And you are, too.
But if God doesn’t exist, is the world cold and cruel? Is human life meaningless? Is love absent? Is there no reason to do good?
Of course not.
We are still precious and loved. (Loved for Who You Are, June 27)
Suzyn Smitth Webb argues for a mix-and-match approach to finding our life’s purpose.
We are so quick to define ourselves by our jobs alone in this world, when our respective purposes aren’t at all limited by what we do 9 to 5. . . . [What] the world needs . . . is garbage collectors who are great Moms who also lead scout troops and sing in choirs.
That is a life with purpose. (Loved for Who You Are, July 2)Brave souls, thoughtless choices
The Rev. Tom Schade looked for stories of courage at General Assembly—ones that didn’t involve heights, fast-moving rivers, or fire.
I heard of a minister who changed the Christmas Eve order of service.
Another recently settled minister told the largest donor that no, they did not get to veto decisions of the Board.
Someone told a UU Republican that just because no one agreed with them, it didn’t mean they were oppressed. (The Lively Tradition, June 30)
For Adam Dyer, too many UUs at the General Assembly WaterFire event failed to live up to their promise to live “on the side of love.”
I watched yellow shirts push past, walk around and yes, even climb over residents who had been waiting for up to 2 hours to see this event. From my vantage point among the local crowd, what was intended to be a “witness” turned into more of a “display” and somewhat of a distraction. (Spirituwellness, June 29)Religion, spirituality, and philosophy
Andrew Mackay responds to a recent article in Atlantic magazine, which criticizes the casual syncretism of contemporary spirituality.
Mobility in the spiritual realm should not be viewed as intrinsically bad. . . . The dynamic behavior of the newest generation may be a move past the sense of obligation and communal pressure to conform and stay in one religious institution.
To end, it is important to not oversell traditional religious practice, and to dismiss 21st century spirituality. The two have much to teach each other, if they will listen. (Unspoken Politics, June 29)
Alix answers her friends’ skeptical questions about Unitarian Universalism and ministry.
For me, Unitarian Universalism is a philosophy, a way of thinking about and organizing reality, the nature of knowledge, and existence. . . . AND yes, Unitarian Universalism is a religion because it’s not just a way of thinking about the world, but also a way of acting in it. (Doubled Up in Love, July 2)Declaring independence
We’re publishing early this week because of Independence Day. Here’s some advice from Jacqueline Wolven to help you enjoy your weekend.
Get offline and start doing something. Anything. Take walks. Get a hobby that you love. Learn something new. Cook real meals. Dance badly in your living room. Really, anything would work to allow you to experience life in the way that you want to and not transfer all of the millions of emotions that you are experiencing from others online. (Jacqueline Wolven, June 28)
During its annual General Assembly (GA), held this year in Providence, R.I., the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) joined the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee at a rally outside the Renaissance Hotel to show low-wage workers some love. The crowd swelled to 250 people at one point, the majority of whom were GA attendees. (Providence Journal – 6.26.14)
Local Unitarian Universalist ministers, the Rev. Ellen Quadgraas and the Rev. James Ford, spoke at the rally outside the Renaissance Hotel on Thursday. Ford’s leadership on this issue helped guide the UUA to cancel its contract with the Renaissance prior to GA because of the hotel’s refusal to engage with workers over pay and union issues. (rifuture.org – 6.26.14)
The Providence Warwick Convention & Visitors Bureau was happy to report that attendance by 4,600 Unitarian Universalists at their General Assembly in downtown Providence would likely bring more than $4 million dollars in revenue to their city. (Providence Journal – 6.26.14)
The UUA will be the first ever faith sponsor of Providence’s downtown community and arts festival, WaterFire. The event will serve as the public witness component that is included each year at GA. Alex Kapitan, the UUA staff member organizing the event, joined WaterFire spokesperson Brownwyn Dannenfelser to discuss the Love Reaches Out theme. (wpri.com – 6.27.14)
Lena Gardner, a first-time General Assembly attendee, can hardly stop weeping during a worship service.
I wept for my ancestors who didn’t make it, and for the ones who persevered, who escaped, who endured, for the ones whose land was stolen away and who watched—and fought—as genocide and torture was called nation building and progress. . . .
Meg Riley and the rest of the worship committee put together an incredible service that intricately, delicately, and powerfully weaved together the complexity of African American identity, the historical legacy of this place we have gathered with its historical legacy of slave trade and racial justice and UU theology. Somehow grounded in the love of UU theology they delivered a message of hope, endurance, perseverance, and wisdom without sugar coating the past. (Spirit, Self, and Journeying, June 26)
Katy Schmidt Karpman speaks for those of us at home, who would like cheese with our whine! (Remembering Attention, June 23)Open windows
At its best, blogging opens windows into human experience. In this unflinching post, the Rev. Alane Cameron Miles shows us her life with a neurological disorder that is stealing her ability to remember.
I have become Lucy from “50 First Dates” or the scary tattoo-covered dude from “Memento”, two of the most famous memory loss movie characters. I prefer to think I am Lucy. She at least can remember for a whole day. I can’t, but it is something to strive for. I’m realizing that Lucy isn’t played with nearly enough rage. The lack of memory isn’t as upsetting as the times when I have an inkling of everything I am forgetting. (Auspicious Jots, June 22)Known issues
Suzynn Smith Webb compares personal flaws to “known issues”—things known to be broken in a complicated web application, which the developers can’t yet fix.
Treating my flaws as known issues makes the process of self improvement a lot easier. If you know you make everything about you, it makes it a lot easier to catch yourself doing that. You’re looking for the pattern. . . .
[We’re] flawed but functional, and improvement takes ingenuity and work, but is always within reach. . . . We’re all OK, and we’re all loved. Now where will you go from there? (Loved for Who You Are, June 20)
Andrew Hidas asks how we, as privileged Americans, should respond to global inequality.
Should it shame us that so many of our brothers and sisters have it bad? Spur us to give away all that we have, as the Book of Mark urges us, to help the poor? Or live somewhere in between those poles of shame and ultimate charity, in an uneasy truce between the debilitation of shame, the glow of charity, and the satisfaction of creature comforts that are now deeply ingrained in our culture and personal history?
Can we settle into that truce with a sense of integrity, knowing the world is tilted on a strange axis indeed, accepting it as we can, making an honest (if less than total) effort at redress, while knowing that no matter what we do, life, as our parents reminded us so directly, just isn’t fair and never will be? (Traversing, June 26)
Claire points to systemic problems behind an internet hoax.
At the end of the day, there is still a little child with a disfiguring injury that would benefit from continuing care, and she lives—as do we all—in a system whose structure makes that care seem more attainable through deceit and manipulation than through honest vulnerability.
What does that say about the system? What does that say about us? (Sand Hill Diary, June 24)
The Rev. James Ford hopes humanism will focus its energy on engaging the world’s problems.
I hope as we go forward into the Twenty-first century a new humanism will emerge, one that isn’t particularly concerned with disproving a deity, but that is wildly, gloriously, engaged, bringing those most wonderful tools of reason and the scientific method into the great project of life. (Monkey Mind, June 21)
The Rev. Meredith Garmon reminds us that “We must be in touch with the world’s pain, hold it ever in awareness, never grow callous or oblivious.” (The Liberal Pulpit, June 21)How to be alive
Like many parents before her, Christine Leigh Slocum discovers that parenting is teaching her important life lessons.
I am approaching the tasks of parenthood with the orientation that my job is to show her how to be alive. . . .
In order to show my daughter how to love life, I need to be loving life. If I want to teach her to appreciate the nature, or know how to be loving to others, I need to appreciate nature, and be loving to others. (Many Words, June 26)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein remembers a childhood vacation with her workaholic father, and passes along advice to parents.
On behalf of the child I was who remembers how good and right and whole the world felt when I received my parents’ full, sober attention, please consider not answering that phone. Please consider a vacation with your children with no distractions, when you can have lazy days for conversations that unfold in no hurry, when a daughter can pretend to read a book while sitting by the pool, when she is actually not reading at all but only savoring the sound of her father turning pages in the deck chair next to her.
These are the only days we get. Don’t miss one. (PeaceBang, June 26)Bringing in porch cats
After a winter of encouraging a “porch cat” to consider indoor life, the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss sees connections between him and the religiously unaffiliated.
If a majority of potentially religious folk now consider themselves “free range,” then bringing them into covenant with us—making available to them the refuge of our faith messages in hard times—is going to be slow and tedious. It will require sustained membership mentors who themselves require ministerial and personal support. Encouragement. Tactical advice. Money for supplies. And lots of food. (Politywonk, June 20)
The Rev. Heather Rion Starr wishes we were asking bigger questions than, “How do we bring young adults back?”
We all seem to get so focused on our particular setting or context or denomination and how to keep it alive, make it thrive. Too easily it seems we lose sight of the larger purpose that got us wanting to be a part of a community in the first place–to be there for one another, to be challenged and held and transformed ourselves and to be a part of that transformative experience for others. (Quest for Meaning, June 22)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford challenges us to identify our congregation’s implicit mission—and if it’s not what we mean to be doing, kill it. (Boots and Blessings, June 21)