- About Us
UU environmentalist calls on churches to lead
Tim DeChristopher, the UU environmentalist who served time in a federal prison for interfering with a 2008 government oil and gas lease auction, writes about why he thinks churches need to take the moral lead on climate change. (Yes! Magazine – 3.27.15)
See also: “Activism is an act of faith” by Tim DeChristopher (UU World – Winer 2012)
Discrimination not a religious value
The Rev. Debra Haffner, director of the Religious Institute and a community minister with the Unitarian Church in Westport, Conn., responds to Indiana’s “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and argues that “discrimination is never a religious value.” (Huffington Post – 3.31.15)
Other stories including UU responses to the Religious Freedom Bill include:
“Gay community protests religious freedom law” (Chicago Tribune – 3.27.15)
“How Illinois’ religious freedom law differs from Indiana’s” (WQAD.com – 3.31.15)
“North Carolina considers Indiana-like religious objection law” (Kentucky.com – 4.1.15)
“Protestors Gather At Capitol Against Religious Freedom Bill” (GPB.org – 3.31.15)
“The Sunday After” (Indiana Student Daily – 3.30.15)
In the congregations
The UU Church in Livermore, Calif., partnered with a local United Methodist church to open a free laundry facility for homeless residents. (San Jose Mercury News – 3.31.15)
The UU Congregation of Atlanta, Ga., helps promote a love of reading by providing free books in English and Spanish to Hispanic youth under 17 as part of its annual Fiesta de Libros. (AJC.com – 3.27.15)
All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., held a service that recreated a 1965 service in support of civil rights marches in Selma, Ala. (Tulsa World – 3.30.15)
A woman was arrested after she intentionally set fire to the foyer of First Parish Church in Plymouth, Mass., Sunday evening, causing damage to the carpet and some furnishings. (South Coast Today – 3.31.15)
The Shreveport Times profiles the Rev. Barbara Jarrell, minister of All Souls UU Church in Shreveport, La., who recently underwent a double mastectomy for breast cancer. (The Shreveport Times – 3.31.15)
Kenny Wiley builds a UU Black Lives Matter theology to support his work as an activist.
Right now we are being called—by our ancestors, by our principles, by young black activists across the country—to promote and affirm:
You are young and black, and your life matters just the same.
You stole something, and your life matters just the same.
I have been taught to fear you, and your life matters just the same.
The police are releasing your criminal record, and your life matters just the same.
They are calling you a thug, and your life matters just the same. (A Full Day, March 26)
The Rev. Krista Taves shares her initial thoughts about the DOJ report on the Ferguson police department.
Even as a dedicated white ally, committed to believing the stories of blacks in our city who spoke of feeling preyed upon by law enforcement, I was shocked by what I had read. . . .
When the Ferguson shooting first happened, I was deeply uncomfortable with the slogan “Shut it Down.” I felt it went too far. After reading the Department of Justice Report, I no longer feel this is a radical statement. (And the Stones Shall Cry, March 26)Alternate congregational strategies
Last week, the Rev. Tom Schade rejected “building religious community” as a valid congregational purpose; this week he proposes five alternate strategies, each very focused and specific.
The purpose of our congregation is to be your point of deep connection to the global movement for justice. (The Lively Tradition, March 26)
Our church serves the community in which we live. People come to our church in order to work with the people of our community as they struggle to live and survive where they are. (March 27)
Our congregation is where you go if you want your children to grow up to be morally and ethically strong and clear AND open-minded and curious about the world of differences. We are really one big, all ages cooperative Sunday School. (March 28)
We are a theological center of religious liberalism. Our purpose is to challenge all theologies and interpretations that oppress and bind the spirit, especially the dominant religions in our community. (March 29)
We are a church that invites you to make the profound spiritual commitment to the health of the Earth and her people. The planet is in the midst of a catastrophic ecological crisis and she needs people to organize their lives around making a difference in that crisis. (March 30)Coming in and going out
The Rev. Chip Roush shares opening words for worship.
Come in and be seated,
all of you with heavy hearts.
Those who have had a difficult morning,
or an exhausting week;
those who are frustrated,
those who are this close to giving up on something,
come in, and sit down,
and loosen the hold of your cares for an hour. (So May We Be, March 30)
After a youth campout, the Rev. Dan Harper has a suggestion for congregations.
More and more, I’m coming to believe that if organized religion is going to help fix global climate weirdness, we have to get out of our buildings more. Not that we should get rid of our buildings—we need our indoor spaces to accommodate a wide range of human person, including elders. But we also need to do more outdoor ministries. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, March 28)A matter of taste
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden compares religious belief to cilantro.
[Belief] in a god or gods: It’s a feeling, a taste.
It’s yummy or soapy.
So . . . perhaps, like cilantro, the choice to believe or not is best left up to the individual. For some, it’s yummy. For some, soapy: Nature, nurture.
But fussing over it? Fuhgettaboudit. (Quest for Meaning, April 2)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham doesn’t believe in a personal God who holds the strings of the universe—and yet she prays.
I pray because the universe has proved to be a faithful and reliable yet mysterious friend, which sometimes lashes out—not because I am a bad person but because I have not recognized or prepared for the consequences of non-mindful living. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 2)
Famous church scheduled for $25 million restoration
Members of Unity Temple Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Oak Park, Ill., will begin meeting at a local Lutheran Church as construction begins on their famous Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building. Earlier this year, the church was nominated for consideration as a United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage site. (Chicago Tribune – 3.23.15)
Selma martyr awarded posthumous degree
In the first such act in their 145-year history, Wayne State University will award Viola Liuzzo an honorary doctor of law degree. Liuzzo’s five children have been invited to the awards ceremony. Liuzzo was a nursing student at Wayne State when she joined the civil rights movement. (Christian Science Monitor – 3.21.15)
Construction would make building more accessible
Second Parish in Hingham Unitarian Universalist, in Massachusetts, has been working for more than two years to design an addition to their building that is both historically appropriate and fully accessible for people with mobility issues. (The Patriot Ledger 3.22.15)
More coverage: “Second Parish in Hingham seeking funds for handicap-accessible entrance” (The Hingham Journal – 3.22.15)
A new paradigm for interconnectedness
The Rev. Peggy Clarke writes to urge people to acknowledge that the work of seeking environmental justice is indelibly linked to seeking racial and economic justice and opposing discrimination based on individual identity. What we need is a Beloved Community, argues Clarke. (Huffington Post – 3.18.15)
Selma anniversary inspired Wisconsin march
The Rev. Laurie Bushbaum, interim minister at First Universalist Unitarian Church of Wausau, Wisc., has been instrumental in organizing a march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Other faith groups expressed interest in joining the event after observing the 50th anniversary of the Selma, Ala., march. (Wausau Daily Herald – 3.25.15)
UU recognized for volunteer contributions
A member of First Unitarian Universalist Society in Albany, N.Y., Dawn Dana is interviewed about her volunteer work in the annual CROP Walk, her Unitarian Universalist beliefs, and her daughter, who serves in Unitarian Universalist ministry in Dallas, Tex. (Albany Times Union – 3.20.15)
Jordinn Nelson Long and her family find “slow church” in a consumer culture that expects immediate gratification.
I hope that in the course of your own religious life there are at least a few sermons that you gratefully carry—the feelings, the moment of awakening—for years after hearing them.
This was one for my family; the moment when we realized that we weren’t satisfied because we cannot consume community. That we were unsure where else to turn because we can’t purchase wisdom and depth. And that we need the flawed, frustrating collective because as humans, we are not wired to individually find our way to gratitude, love, or healing. (Raising Faith, March 22)
Christine Slocum has stopped going to church, because no matter how hard she tries, the only nearby UU congregation isn’t a good fit.
What I am seeking when I go to church is a place that will facilitate living my faith. A consumerist approach, as Jordinn notes, is the wrong one, as my faith requires that I give a lot of time, energy, and love. However, it requires that I give it to the world, not just to other self-identifying UUs. (Christine Slocum, March 22)
The Rev. Tom Schade suggests that a focus on community building hasn’t been an effective strategy for UUs.
Creating covenanted, healthy, spiritually nourishing, genuinely inclusive, peaceful, and safe communities became our evangelical and ecclesiological method. But now, the strategy of community-building has become so pervasive, it is unseeable.
. . . . We believe that there is a deep hunger for community out there, but is that really true?
Building community has its own value, but maybe it’s time to reconsider whether, as a strategy, it is enough to change our anemic growth trends. (The Lively Tradition, March 25)Grownup conversations
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden is tired of childish squabbles, and wants an adult conversation about truth and meaning.
In matters of religion, the question of who is right and who wrong dims before the fact that so many people are harmed by the wrangling and tribalism around the question. . . .
Who will be the grownups?
What is the practical difference in actions between atheists, agnostics, theists and those who just don’t care? (Quest for Meaning, March 26)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham’s beliefs about “power beyond human power” have evolved.
I have not gone so far as to think of myself as an atheist, or even agnostic, because both these terms do not describe where I am in my thinking. To me it is undeniable that there is power beyond human power. Some people call this power God but grant to the power a state of being that is too human-like to satisfy me. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, March 24)
Elizabeth warns about easy answers.
Don’t be enticed by the promise that things will be okay. . . . It will always be hard, if you are living well you will be struggling, you will be aching, you will be longing and loving and failing and getting up again. It is messy out there, beautifully and excruciatingly messy. (Elizabeth’s Little Blog, March 24)
As he celebrates his 70th birthday, the Rev. Ken Collier thinks about living and dying.
I’ve had my share of disappointment, sorrow, grief, and pain. . . . And I’ve also had my share of joy and success and and love. . . . Accept the one and you get the other. Reject the other, and you lose the one. . . . And so as I love my life, I also love its end. Which will come in its own time. While I wait, I intend to live, as fully, as freely, and as joyful as I can, embracing whatever lot happens to fall to me. And when my death does embrace me, I intend to return the embrace.
Death is just not the big issue. Life is. (The Colliery, March 26)
Working in a congregation with a difficult history, the Rev. Theresa Novak’s direct style “is freaking a few folks out.”
Homophobia will come out, if it exists, during a conflict, just as racism will. Even among liberals and self defined radicals and progressives. It is in our culture and individuals can’t always help it, but it is also important to name it when it happens.
I have been accused of “unwelcome touching.”
I have been called a bully.
I think they were really calling me a bull dyke.
I think they are afraid of me.
I hope I can find a way to walk with them through that fear. (Sermons, Poetry, and Other Musings, March 24)Living lightly on the earth
As a climate crisis looms, the Rev. Tom Schade asks, “Who will be saved?”
As it now stands, it is the global elite that will survive. They will migrate to the most habitable places; they will monopolize the resources needed for life; they will deploy the arms to protect themselves from the increasingly desperate masses. Everything we know about the modern arrangements of power tell us that this is true. . . .
Unitarian Universalists. . . . believe in Universal Salvation: all of humanity is a single unit. Our faith is that we share a common fate. For us, the climate crisis is a struggle for global justice and solidarity. (The Lively Tradition, March 24)
Patrick Murfin answers the question, “Why should anyone give a damn about World Water Day?”
With another year in an epic drought under its belt, National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA) satellite photos reveal that California has only about one year’s stored capacity in it reservoir system. Strict compulsory rationing may be necessary but is being fought tooth and nail by business interests. One of the nation’s riches agricultural regions may essentially go out of production. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, March 22)
Karen Johnston is uneasy about finally making the move to a smartphone.
Despite its inconsequential heft in the palm of my hand, it is weighing heavily on me.
It weighs heavily because it is yet another way I do not live lightly on the earth. . . .
May I use this device to tap into and strengthen the interconnected web of all existence, rather than to add to its unraveling.
May I demonstrate the discipline to know when to disconnect, that it not lead to my ignoring other people, Nature, or my own heart’s true needs. (Irrevspeckay, March 26)
Karen Johnston tells a story of kids being asked what “We Shall Overcome” means. They said it means, “We shall overcalm.”
Out of the mouth of babes comes such necessary wisdom, the deep meaning of overcalm: to exercise an inner peacefulness that connects us to a great source not of our making, available to all and especially available to those seeking justice on behalf of those treated unjustly, especially for moments and movements like this, especially for those seeking to create the Beloved Community.
Let us listen to children. Let us all cultivate overcalm. Let there be peace, but first let there be justice. (Irrevspeckay, March 14)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern celebrates the work of two Irish women, winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, and founders of the Community of Peace People.
A peace congress probably wouldn’t have made much difference, but thousands of people demanding peace, over and over, in a grassroots movement all over two lands, most certainly did good work for fraternity—and sorority—between those two nations. Both women continue to agitate for peace to this day. (Sermons in Stone, March 18)Truth in hard times
With a child seriously ill, Katy Carpman compares herself to raw garlic.
I get to call my own truths.
I’ve no patience for your platitudes . . . (Remembering Attention, March 16)
Grieving her mother’s recent death, the Rev. Amy Beltaine writes that “Unitarian Universalist Pagans have a robust set of tools to carry with us as we face the loss of a loved one.”
Personally I very much like the idea of becoming one with my divinity, for that is how I view the earth. The planet is both sacred and divine. The broccoli I had for dinner is a part of me, I have recycled dinosaur cells in me, larger than that, I have stardust in me. (Nature’s Path, March 19)World-saving religion
The Rev. James Ford proposes an interdependent humanism that might “save the world,” rather than devolving into survival of the fittest.
We see where we are. Arising precious and unique, none of us ever to be replicated.
And fragile. All of us…
And then we can see what we can do.
We see we are all of us and this blessed planet connected.
Connected more deeply than can ever be said.
And, we act from this place.
And then the whole thing will be blessed.
And every action taken, a blessing. (Monkey Mind, March 13)
For the Rev. Dr. David Breeden, everything is transient except for human experience.
So, what are the truths of religions? What’s permanent? You. Your essence. Your human essence. Is that enough? Well . . . it has to be. Because that’s all we get. (Quest for Meaning, March 19)
John Beckett responds to a provocative opinion piece in The New York Times, which argued that schools teach children that there are no moral facts.
We no longer live in a monoculture, if we ever did. It’s no longer sufficient to pretend your culture, your religion, and your morals are objectively better than everyone else’s – you have to demonstrate why your moral standards work better, not just for you and yours but for everyone else as well. (Under the Ancient Oaks, March 19)Encouragement to spiritual growth
For Catherine Clarenbach, being in recovery from mental illness means that she has less direct connection to the sacred.
Do you understand? Do you understand that while I am grateful for health and for stable relationships with friends and family, I also miss that one, great, powerful, and easy relationship? Do you understand that while I still can sometimes touch the fingers of the Goddess in the stars at night, it is not because I walk enveloped in those stars, but because I seek them, yearn for them, slowly do the work to find them within me as powerfully as I see them without? . . .
I . . . practice to catch the slightest ray of the blinding star in whose light the whole world used to shine. (Nature’s Path, March 17)
The Rev. Phil Lund writes about encouraging spiritual growth in lay-led congregations.
After all the time spent figuring out what’s going to happen on Sunday mornings, meeting with committees, and coordinating social justice events, there isn’t a whole lot of time leftover for lay leaders to plan adult faith development experiences on the subject of spirituality.
And just what did they have in mind way back in 1985? What does “encouragement to spiritual growth” entail, anyway? (Phillip Lund, March 17 and 19)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews a new book from Beacon Press, The God that Could Be Real, written by Nancy Abrams—”an atheist married to a famous scientist.”
In constructing a positive theology, the most interesting perspective she proposes is that ‘God’ is not cosmic, but “planetary”—an emergent phenomenon of life on Earth. Note that she means “Emergence” in the technical sense of the field of science that studies how systems (such as the human body) are much greater than the sum of their parts. . . . This evolving, emergent “God that could be real” is akin to Carl Jung’s “Collective Unconscious” in which the sacred is understood less literally than metaphorically and archetypally—but which is still actual, efficacious, and real. (Pluralism, Pragramatism, Progressivism, March 13)
Fire destroyed church built in 1860
While heartbroken over the loss of a building that was like a second home to many of its members, the congregation of First Universalist Church of Southold, N.Y., is determined to rebuild. The cause of the fire is still unknown, but is not considered to be suspicious. (cbslocal.com – 3.16.15)
The Unitarian Universalist Association’s Central East Regional Group (CERG) is facilitating donations for recovery assistance for First Universalist Church of Southold. Learn more on the CERG website.
Minister is first installed in church’s 177-year history
After leaving the Catholic Church, the Rev. Helen McFadyen found the support she was seeking in the Unitarian Universalist Church in Halifax, Nova Scotia. It helped her come to terms with her deteriorating eyesight and follow a spiritual journey to atheism and Unitarian Universalist ministry. (CBCNews – 3.14.15)
Congregation supports undocumented children in Long Island
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, N.Y., is tapping into its endowment to give $400,000 this year to four Long Island organizations helping immigrant children in their community. The money will help provide legal services for the children. (Newsday – 3.17.15)
Mich. congregation offers reception for weddings held last year
The Rev. Bill Freeman, of Harbor Unitarian Universalist Church in Muskegon, married nearly 50 couples during the brief period of time when same-sex marriage was legal in Michigan. Now the congregation is planning a wedding reception for the couples, in connection with other marriage-equality events across the state. (mlive.com – 3.18.15)
High school students honored for leading peaceful protest
First Parish Cambridge, Unitarian Universalist in Cambridge, Mass., recently gave Courageous Love Awards to Sydney Fisher and Mary Gashaw. The young women led more than 200 of their fellow students in a “Hands Up Walk Out” protest last December in response to the decision not to indict Ferguson, Missouri, police officer Darren Wilson. (Cambridge Chronicle & Tab – 3.20.15)
Anniversary participants link Selma to issues in their communities
Unitarian Universalists and others showed their support for Black Lives Matter protesters during an arraignment hearing in Minnesota. Many had just returned from Selma anniversary events and felt their presence at the court house was a continuation of that racial justice work. (KARE11.com – 3.10.15)
After participating in a Unitarian Universalist conference honoring civil rights activists from 1965 in Selma, Ala., climate justice activist Amelia Shenstone returned to her work at home with a renewed calling to continue working to bring clean energy to the South. (cleanenergy.org – 3.7.15)
The Rev. Phyllis L. Hubbell of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Loudoun in Leesburg, Va., invoked the anniversary of Selma in a town council vote on creating the town’s first-ever Diversity Advisory Commission and urged the town to be a model for inclusion in the region. (Loudoun Times – 3.11.15)
Remembering Selma activists who lost their lives
Amy K. Nelson interviewed the families of Unitarian Universalists Viola Liuzzo and the Rev. James Reeb to get their reflections on the current state of race relations and to consider whether enough progress has been made to make the loss of life worth it. (Medium.com – 3.11.15)
The Rev. Rob Hardies of All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., is interviewed describing the civil rights work of the Rev. James Reeb, a former minister of All Souls. Hardies also described the congregation’s commitment to continuing the work of seeking racial justice. (The Washington Post – 3.6.15)
The Rev. Clark Olsen was with the Rev. James Reeb when he was attacked in Selma, Ala., in 1965, and he offered a powerful retelling of that evening and how it shaped his life and ministry since. (New York Daily News – 3.8.15)
Other remembrance stories include:
“Beaten, bloodied and murdered – Selma 50 years later” (CNN – 3.4.15)
“The unsung American heroes of Selma” (Al Jazeera – 3.6.15)
“Ragland: Don’t forget Selma or the hard-earned right to vote” (The Dallas Morning News – 3.6.15)
“Dying for the Right to Vote: Remembering the Selma Martyrs, From Jimmie Lee Jackson to Viola Liuzzo” (DemocracyNOW! – 3.10.15)
“Rev. James Reeb died in Birmingham 50 years ago today after Selma beating” (al.com – 3.11.15)
Unitarian Universalist Association supports environmental sustainability
The U.S. Green Building Council profiles the Unitarian Universalist Association’s new headquarters building in a list of best organizations that have achieved LEED certification. The UUA was awarded LEED platinum certification in December, which is the highest of four possible certifications. (USGBC.org – 3.13.15)
UUA Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Tim Brennan wrote an op-ed as an organizational shareholder in American Electric Power to urge the company to expand its existing clean-energy offerings and support clean-energy policies in Ohio and throughout the country. (Cleveland Plain Dealer – 3.13.15)
Working toward interfaith understanding
The Rev. Dr. M’ellen Kennedy led an event at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Marietta, Ga., intended to help heal the divide between Muslim and non-Muslim communities. Kennedy is founder of Peace and Unity Bridge, an organization dedicated to this work. (The Marietta Daily Journal – 3.6.15)
The Rev. Lynda Smith, co-chairwoman of Unitarian Universalist Justice Ohio, joined an interfaith conference in Hilliard, Ohio, to show support for a local Muslim congregation that has recently been the target of harassment. (The Columbus Dispatch – 3.11.15)