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This week, the Rev. Erika Hewitt issued a challenge to Unitarian Universalists.
[Far] too often, our people respond to leadership—which is to say, an invitation to see, do, or experience something new—with crossed arms, narrowed eyes, and out-loud wondering what gives that person the right to extend such an invitation.
Unitarian Universalists, is this the people we want to be? (The Lively Tradition, April 30)
The Rev. Cynthia Landrum suggests that Hewitt, and other leaders, should invite ongoing participation, rather than springing completed projects on startled audiences.
Rather than preparing for the fight, avoid the fight by bringing people along with you on your journey. You begin by showing us your map, and engaging us in the Very Big Questions that your Very Large Project is addressing. Share the vision. As you say, “Creativity and courage are contagious.” (Rev. Cyn, April 30)
MB Tankersley addresses UU conflict avoidance.
In my experience, Unitarian Universalists often confuse disagreement with disrespect and make confrontation into a negative. It doesn’t have to be! I have seen amazing work done by groups utilizing confrontation and dissent in a positive way to build toward consensus. If we used Erika’s process above, even a shorthand version, I believe we could facilitate reasonable discussion based in Unitarian Universalist values. (I Am UU, April 30)
As she watches her city government conduct public hearings, Katy Carpman notices a similar pattern of mistrusting leadership.
What would it take to really give our leaders permission to lead, to do the jobs we elected/ordained/hired them to do?
As a Unitarian Universalist, I am called to be in covenantal relationship. To respect the people around me, and to work with them. To begin with some assumption of good will. Egad, you mean I need to TRUST them? (Remembering Attention, April 30)
To learn more about Hewitt’s “Very Big Project,” as well as other new endeavors, watch this week’s episode of The VUU:Racist jerks and systemic racism
Responding to this week’s story about LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling, Kim Hampton reminds us that there’s “nothing new to see here.”
America is America because of the labor of black bodies that have been used, abused, and despised all at the same time.
But here’s the dirty little secret nobody really wants to deal with . . . white liberals aided and abetted this. . . . America is constantly creative in its ways to make money off of the fear of, and the talent of, black bodies. (East of Midnight, April 28)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar points out that while Sterling may be a racist jerk, systemic racism is the real problem.
The real trouble with Donald Sterling only comes when those of us who are publicly appalled by his words think that sanctioning his offensive language has anything significant to do with combating racism. (Quest for Meaning, April 30)A broken justice system
Responding to news of a botched execution in Oklahoma, the Rev. Bill Sinkford asks a series of questions.
When is state-imposed killing justified? When do we have the right to take a life?
As punishment for heinous crimes? . . .
Would our consciences be quieter if the execution had not been botched, if the sedatives had worked and the death appeared painless? (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, May1)
Adam Dyer writes about the problem of prison sterilizations.
These sterilization practices reduce prisoners to the value or liability they represent to our economy. In a way, they are no different than slaves who were forced into sex to increase their owners worth with more children or to satisfy their selfish urges. Sterilization is an archaic instrument in the seemingly bottomless toolbox of oppression in the United States. (Spirituuwellness, April 29)And more UU blogging
At the recent Pacific Central District Assembly, the Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern noticed her hotel’s misguided conservation efforts.
The hotel I stayed at last weekend has a sign assuring customers that they conserve water by drawing on their lake and their “private well” for their landscaping needs. (Sermons in Stones, April 30)
The Rev. Dan Harper posts the text of a recent talk about Unitarian Universalism’s mystical tradition.
The Transcendentalists and mystics in our tradition challenge us to think outside the Enlightenment box. They tell us: reasoning is not the only way of knowing the world; intuition is another way of knowing the world. And they tell us: if you wish to know, to really, really know the truth, be careful what you wish for . . . . (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, April 29)
Peter Bowden directs us to a recent paper presented by Larry Ladd about the future of our theological schools. (UU Planet, April 28)
The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer reflects on her experiences in ministry with small, imperfect congregations.
Let us encourage these small congregations. It is not their fault that among us there are grudge-holders and people who believe the world revolves around themselves. The difficult people are ours, too, and the struggle to deal with them in wholesome, loving, ways is our struggle. (Open Road, April 27)
Green Sanctuaries, other environmental justice activities make news
Continuing its longstanding work as a Green Sanctuary, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Chattanooga, Tenn., took the opportunity on Earth Day to install twelve solar panels on the roof of their church building. (The Chattanoogan - 4.22.14)
After three years of planning and implementing earth-friendly practices in their congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lancaster, Pa., was happy to celebrate Easter and Earth Day as a newly certified Green Sanctuary congregation. (LancasterOnline.com - 4.19.14)
Unitarian Universalist churches in Barnstable, Brewster, and Falmouth, Mass., have joined together to reduce the use of environmentally harmful plastic bags in their community. The group has held a film screening about the issue and is now partnering with a local grocery store chain to encourage the use of reusable bags. (Cape Cod Today - 4.18.14)
UUs support Va. marriage equality, and more stories of witnessing for justice
Continuing their work opposing oppression, the First Unitarian Church of Lynchburg, Va., partnered with the group People of Faith for Marriage Equality for a rally to show their support for the rights of same-sex couples to marry in their state. (The News & Advance - 4.16.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Door County in Ephraim, Wisc., showed Robert Reich’s award-winning film Inequality for All, and the former U.S. Secretary of Labor joined the congregation on a conference call panel discussion after the screening. (Green Bay Press Gazette - 4.22.14)
The Rev. Matthew Johnson of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, Ill., joined others in a recent community meeting to voice their support for a progressive system of taxation at the local level and a raise in the minimum wage. (WREX.com - 4.25.14)
As the National Rifle Association prepared to hold its annual convention in downtown Indianapolis, Ind., the Rev. Bruce Russell-Jayne of All Souls Unitarian Church in Indianapolis joined with the group Hoosiers Concerned About Gun Violence to protest the convention. (WIBC.com - 4.24.14)
More news from UU congregations
After an expansion and renovation project nearly doubled the congregation’s size, members of the Unitarian Universalist Society of Amherst, Mass., were excited to move in this week. The new building expands the space for religious education and is fully accessible for people with disabilities. (Daily Hampshire Gazette - 4.24.14)
The historic Unitarian Church in Keokuk has made the Preservation Iowa 2014 list of the top six most endangered properties in the state. The church is the oldest standing church in Keokuk and was the religious home for many prominent early citizens of the city. (Daily Gate City - 4.23.14)
A dozen paintings by George Inness, Jr. were removed from the Unitarian Universalist Church in Tarpon Springs, Fla., after several sink holes were discovered on the church’s property which put the sanctuary at risk and the famous paintings which were housed inside for decades. (Tampa Bay Times - 4.21.14)
Read more about the paintings: “Home of the Inness Jr. paintings” (UU World – Summer 2013)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reexamines what Easter can mean in a UU context.
It’s not about whether there was a resurrection 2,000 years ago, it’s whether the way of Jesus can leads us to a new nonviolent insurrection today as it did in India with Gandhi, in the Civil Rights Movement with Dr. King, and most recently with Occupy Wall Street. . . .
What part might you individually or we collectively play in rising up to ensure the continued blooming of abundant, diverse life on this one planet? (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, April 22)
Justin Almeida experiences Passover as a gentile and Holy Week as a former Christian.
Because of my history, I have no choice but to . . . let myself steep in the spirit of Jesus, the Hebrew prophets, the saints and the apostles. By participating in these Jewish/Christian days, I commemorate where I came from. I mourn for what I have lost. I am reminded of why I changed. I embrace where I have set my spiritual future. (What’s My Age?, April 18)
Events during Holy Week press Claire to remember her fundamentalist upbringing.
I actually had a soft spot for the Jesus in the Gospels–the one who went around healing the sick and blessing the poor and welcoming the outcasts and preaching unpleasant truth to those with power and influence. . . . I was never too sure about the miracles, though, or the resurrection part of the story. . . . But by the time I decided that, I knew better than to say anything. (Sand Hill Diary, April 23)Body and mind
The Rev. Amy Beltaine has been riding the cancer roller coaster.
I’m learning about surrender. I’m learning that my mental acuity and productivity are NOT the most important parts of myself. I’m learning about the journey that we all take, that is if we are lucky, into periods of ill health and challenge and making it through, day by day. (Praise God and Pass the Potatoes, April 20)
A period of mental stability gives Andrew Mackay the space he needs to examine the interplay of anxiety and bipolar disorder.
Anxiety . . . is a symptom. A special sort of symptom, fed by hypomania followed by depression. It is the metaphorical headache that comes with reconciling two wildly different, but very real persons. . . . Each cycle one self creates commitments, strange friendships, debts monetary and not–then the other self must sift through them. A constant reminder of behavior that is both at times shameful and bizarre. Why did my depressive self let all this crap pile up? Why did my hypomanic self blow all that money? (Unspoken Politics, April 20)Common questions
John Beckett wrestles with the frequently-asked question, “Where are you from?”
I haven’t lived in Tennessee in almost 20 years, although I visit there a couple times every year. It will always be where I’m from, and it will always have a special place in my heart. But it’s time to make Texas my home.
So, where are you from? Where do you belong? Are you home? If you aren’t, do you need to go home or do you need to make a home where you are? (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 20)
Diana McLean compares her childhood fears with the dangers her child faces, and asks, “How do we prepare our children without leaving them in a fearful state?”
My son’s school seems to have found a balance, at least in his case. He was matter-of-fact when explaining the differences between lockout and lockdown, not fearful. It’s just part of his school experience, the way practicing for tornado warnings was part of mine. (Poetic Justice, April 19)Letting our light shine
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum shares her strategies for alerting UU and local media about her congregation’s activities.
The moral is, don’t be afraid to be a little shameless about telling your story and getting your word out there. It’s exciting for other Unitarian Universalists to hear what you’ve been doing, particularly when it comes to justice work. We learn from reading the stories of the work done in other congregations, and we feel more connected as a movement. And in your local papers, showing that your congregation is doing justice work is not only important for getting the justice cause heard, it’s important for telling your community what Unitarian Universalism is. It’s okay for justice work to have the side benefit of raising your congregational profile in your community — let your acts shine. (Rev. Cyn, April 17)
The Rev. Sarah Stewart, reminding us that supporting new congregations is one of the UUA’s tasks, outlines different ways congregations start.
Some will organize the way Starr King UU Fellowship did in 1980, when a retired UU minister and interested laypeople gathered in homes and started a new congregation. Some will be satellite locations of existing congregations, like the South Bay campus of the First UU Church of San Diego. Some will be independent projects hosted by existing congregations, like Sanctuary Boston, which is hosted by First Church Boston and First Parish in Cambridge. And some will be a new start-up led by the vision of a minister which then attracts a community, like Original Blessing. (Stereoscope, April 18)
Continuing his series about ministerial nervousness, the Rev. Tom Schade hopes UUs will learn to encourage prophetic preaching.
Our ministers could be a thousand or more clear voices ringing out for a new spirit in these nations of North America. They could be inspiring and empowering tens of thousands of more voices, and moving hundreds of thousands of hearts toward reverence, openness, solidarity, self-possession. We need to stop stifling ourselves, and that starts by encouraging our ministers to be brave and confident. (The Lively Tradition, April 22)Creative turmoil
Jordinn Nelson Long answers questions about the grueling experience of Clinical Pastoral Education—including the question of why do it at all.
That answer is: CPE breaks you open. You hold and hurt for and walk with other people’s pain—and your own—until you break. And then, eventually, with help, you put yourself back together. As a person who can be at peace amid pain. (Raising Faith, April 21)
The Rev. Dan Harper, experiencing a period of spiritual turmoil, examines what it is, and what to do about it.
[Spiritual] turmoil is not an illness; it is not pathological. In my own experience, and in talking with others about their experiences, spiritual turmoil results when you can no longer adequately answer one of the big spiritual questions. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, April 19)
The Rev. Heather Christensen, in addition to curating the Interdependent Web and blogging at Nagoonberry, is the administrator of a Facebook group for UU bloggers. This week, in Heather’s absence, we invited members of that group to name their favorite posts (by other bloggers). Here are their suggestions. (And there are a few extras at the bottom, as well as a description of the bloggers group.)
“Seeker of the Flaming Chalice,” “You are the Trolls: Unitarian Universalists in the movie Frozen” (Seeker of the Flaming Chalice, 4.13.14, suggested by Jenn Gray)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum named three posts about the Rev. Georgette Wonders, the minister of Bradford Community Church UU in Kenosha, Wisc., who died last week after a car accident:
The Rev. Naomi King has been a pioneer in UU use of online and social media. This week she shared personal news.
I have lived with a chronic and progressive illness for many years now. I have become progressively weaker.
I have now reached the point where it is a great struggle for me to consistently maintain my public ministry – both the quality and regularity of posts – and to engage in a timely manner with my social media community.
Over the course of the month of April, some of my regular postings will drop out, until posts from me become rare. (RevNaomi Tumblr, 4.12.14)
Peter Bowden and Naomi held a “tweetchat” to discuss the changes in Naomi’s digital ministry. (storify.com/uuplanet, 4.12.14)Join the conversation
If you are a blogger and have a Facebook account, you’re invited (encouraged, even) to join the conversation in a Facebook group:
The UU Bloggers’ Workshop is a space for encouragement and collaboration, for dreaming and doing. We are beginners and veterans, clergy and laity, insiders and outsiders, a chorus of UU voices.
If you’re UU and you blog, you’re welcome here, whether or not UUism is your blog focus.
If you’d like to join the UU Bloggers’ Workshop, contact Heather at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Humanism is losing ground to ‘anythingism’
In her interview with Religion News Service, Maria Greene of the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association (UUHA) says that an important goal of the UUHA in its future work is to be a bridge between the broader secular movement and Unitarian Universalism. (Religion News Service - 4.10.14)
Remembering the Boston Marathon bombings
Across the city, Bostonians observed a moment of silence to mark the anniversary of last year’s Boston Marathon Bombings. In Dorchester, Mass., the Rev. Arthur Lavoie talked with fourth grade children about understanding and forgiveness as they remembered the tragic events of that day. (The Boston Globe - 4.15.14)
More news from UU congregations
The Rev. Georgette Wonders, who died last week from injuries sustained in a car accident, was honored by her congregation, Bradford Community Church UU in Kenosha, Wisc., as an advocate for the less fortunate and a leader in bringing diverse groups together in the community. (Kenosha News - 4.14.14)
Members of First Parish Church in Taunton, Mass., are filling and giving out “blessing bags” with basic sanitary items, snacks, and personal messages of faith and support as part of their ministry to support homeless members of their community. (Taunton Daily Gazette - 4.13.14)
The United Way awarded the Sanford UU Church in Sanford, Me., a one-year grant of $3,000 to further their work on the Corner Cupboard program, which provides basic necessities to members of the community who are financially struggling. (Sanford News - 4.10.14)
Shea Winterberger attended a recent UUA district youth convention and was moved by how they interpreted their theme of “BeYOUtiful” by practicing radical inclusivity and honoring the inherent worth and dignity of all participants throughout the event. (Juneau Empire - 4.13.14)
For Nebraska college student Schuyler Geery-Zink, her campus ministry group, Unitarian Universalists of UNL, provides a supportive space at her school to explore diverse topics and have open conversations with people of differing beliefs. (Daily Nebraskan - 4.14.14)
Despite a stay on the U.S. District Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage in Michigan, many businesses and other groups in the state are preparing for nuptials to begin. Unitarian Universalist Karen Ryan plans to reopen her wedding chapel and hold services officiated by the Rev. Keven Tarsa. (The Detroit News - 4.12.14)
The Rev. Ann Schranz of the Monte Vista UU Congregation in Montclair, Calif., supports the work of Sister Simone Campbell and NETWORK to raise awareness of the importance of paying taxes as a way of showing how a society funds what matters. (Daily Bulletin - 4.11.14)
Accotink UU Church in Burke, Va., hosted a number of community leaders, from a member of the Sentencing Project to local law enforcement to the executive director of OAR, a group that assists former prisoners, to discuss the pressing issue of mass incarceration. (Connection Newspapers - 4.10.11)