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Rebuilding taught congregation resiliency
After a fire in 2011 destroyed much of their church, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick, Me., celebrated the completion of their new building last week. Participants were moved by how well the congregation came together throughout the rebuilding process and showed how resilient they really were. (WLBZ2 - 4.7.14)
With more than $1 million dollars donated to the capital campaign after the fire burned their building, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Brunswick was proud to show off their new 21st century church, which includes pieces of the old church and a broader emphasis on accessibility. (The Forecaster - 4.3.14)
Minister dies from injuries in drive-through accident
The Rev. Georgette Wonders, minister of the Bradford Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Kenosha, Wisc., died April 11 from severe head injuries she sustained in a freak accident at a drive-through restaurant earlier in the week. (Kenosha News – 4.11.14)
More news from UU congregations
Current and former members of the Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church in Sanford, Me., will travel from across New England to join together in a reunion celebration. With no particular agenda, the reunion will be an opportunity for guests to share music, memories, and camaraderie. (Weekly Observer - 4.3.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Church in Summit, N.J., will honor Earth Day this year with a free environmental film series that will include a question and answer session following each movie. Members hope the series will help inspire people to care about their food, water, and air. (Independent Press - 4.4.14)
The Rev. John Crestwell Jr. is profiled for his innovative AWAKE Ministries at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, Md. In the interview, Crestwell shares insights on how his early upbringing, seminary education, and the region in which he lives have all shaped his approach to ministry. (CapitalGazette.com - 4.6.14)
In their series on immigration, Public Radio International profiles the Rev. Cheng Imm Tan on her first days in America after emigrating from Malaysia. After overcoming a number of initial cultural shocks and difficulties, Tan eventually moved to Boston and became a UU minister and the founding director of the Office of New Bostonians. (Public Radio International - 4.3.14)
A member of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Baton Rouge, La., reflects on the circular window in her church’s building and how it has helped guide her spiritual journey during Sunday worship services. (The Advocate - 4.9.14)
The Rev. Jeff Liebmann of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Midland, Mich., takes an in-depth look at how the family that owns Hobby Lobby, the recent defendants in the U.S. Supreme Court case regarding insurance coverage for contraception, acts upon their religious values through their business. (Midland Daily News - 4.5.14)
The Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church in East Melbourne, Australia, is speaking out against a shift in national public policy in that country that it sees as undermining public protections in a variety of areas, from health care to consumer protections to labor laws. (The Age - 4.9.14)
Faced with severe financial hardship, Kathleen McGregor has trouble finding the energy to blog; it takes everything she has to not fall through a frayed safety net.
It is not that I cannot find something to write about. There are plenty of things that are important to me, not the least of which is living out my Unitarian Universalist faith in the green and the LGBTQ communities. I write the posts in my head, but am bogged down by the thoughts of more immediate concern.
If one were to look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I have hit bottom. (Both/And, April 4)
The Rev. Megan Lloyd Joiner has started answering honestly when asked the question, “How are you?”
Our family has had more than our fair share of bad news of late, and it has begun to take its toll. Add a new baby and my spouse finishing his graduate program and a dual job search and I had a lot to say to the question that has become a rote greeting. . . .
It’s got me thinking about how we all have the opportunity to minister to people in our lives. It starts so simply, with asking “How are you?” And really wanting to know. (Quest for Meaning, April 7)Saying goodbye
“Plaidshoes” reminds us that the candidating season has another side.
While there is a lot of celebrating during candidating season, there is also a lot of mourning. My congregation received word this week that our Minister is leaving us for another congregation. To say I am upset is an understatement. It caught the majority of our congregation completely by surprise. . . . Do Ministers owe their congregations any sort of warning? I feel a bit betrayed. (Everyday Unitarian, April 9)
The Rev. Theresa Novak expresses sadness about leaving a congregation she loves.
How shall I say goodbye
How can I loosen
That have held us so close
For the last seven years . . . .
I won’t say goodbye
I won’t break my heart
The ties are so deep
The best I can do
Is offer with grace
A fond fare thee well . . . . (Sermons, Poetry and Other Musings, April 4)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley, after reading the materials for the upcoming UUA board meeting, writes that small congregations are “our present, and our future.”
I hope that these numbers mean that there will be more discussion about how the UUA can more effectively support these smaller congregations (who often feel overlooked) and other emerging covenanted communities. (Speaking of, April 9)
The Rev. Mary Wellemeyer recently taught a growth workshop for small congregations during the annual conference of the Mountain Desert District.
It was gratifying that thirty or so hardy souls packed into our little room AFTER the annual meeting to talk about this touchy and tender subject. We were alone—no big congregations were represented! So we could let our hair down. (Open Road, April 6)The Noah stories
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg reviews the new movie, Noah, using his knowledge of biblical scholarship.
[Although] I think the film (though strong in parts) ultimately falls short in significant ways, Aronofsky does fascinatingly translate scripture into screenplay using a very Jewish method of interpretation called midrash,which fills in the gaps of the biblical text with elaborate details and speculation about what might have been the case. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, April 8)
For Andrew Hidas, the Noah stories lose their power when literalists try to make them history.
On virtually every major human rights issue of recent centuries—whether involving race, gender, sexual orientation or religious freedom—literalists of every persuasion have fought bitterly to maintain ancient prejudices.
But beyond even that is the tragedy of essentially devaluing the sweeping power of story and legend to transform lives. By attempting to shoehorn a label of “history” onto fable, the true redemptive power of metaphor is lost. (traversing, April 4)Religion, right and wrong
The Rev. Robin Bartlett responds to a reader’s question: is our UU sense of superiority part of our youth retention problem?
[If] if we say we are a liberal religion that honors all paths to Truth, and then a visitor comes in and asks for a prayer, and we scoff and say “we don’t do that supernatural mumbo jumbo here” . . . we are falsely advertising. . . . We need to recognize, with humility, that we are not better than any other church, nor are we less orthodox. . . .
I think retaining our youth starts with being honest about who we are. And our beautiful, fallible human enterprise of a religion blossoms with that honesty, as well. Now go and be good humans. (Living Faithfully/Parenting Faithfully, April 8)
John Beckett unpacks an earlier blog post about doing religion wrong.
If the primary focus of your religion is on how bad other people are, then you’re doing it wrong. . . . If the primary focus of your religion is pointing out how wrong other people’s religion is, you’re doing it wrong. . . . If your religion tells you human society is fine just the way it is, you’re doing it wrong. . . . If your religion tells you it’s all about you, you’re doing it wrong. (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 6)
The Rev. Scott Wells hopes that within UUism there can be “Room for everyone, and resources for all,” but notes that it doesn’t always feel that way.
There’s the insinuation that anyone who’s a Christian is being obstinate, or that our presence is indulged as some sort of polite inheritance. The same goes for anyone who insists that the processes within our religious institution should be held to a higher standard of democratic and spiritual accountability, using historic models of how Unitarian and Universalists organize. What better way to sideline people than to tell them they don’t belong, or that they belong to another era. (Boy in the Bands, April 7)
Diana McLean objects to a Christian minister’s reference to “believers, nonbelievers, and those whose beliefs are in flux.”
It was clear to me from the context that, like many Christians, this author says “believers” and “nonbelievers” when she means “Christians” and “non-Christians” . . . .
When people who mean “believers in Christ as Lord and Savior” say instead “believers”, it isn’t just shorthand, it’s an implication that one particular belief is belief. That one way is the right way. (Poetic Justice, April 5)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein invites us to join her journey through Holy Week.
I love all kinds of communities and treasure their sacred stories. I’m not interested in making people Christian at all. I’m REALLY interested in helping groups of people become communities. I don’t care who or what we are or what we believe: communities save. (PeaceBang, April 9)
For the Rev. Dr. Fred Muir, the UUA headquarters’ move from Beacon Hill is a promising sign that Unitarian Universalism is becoming less of an elitist, reason-only religion.
What I’m seeking—what the future awaits—is a balanced complete religion. I want us to share what we think and what we feel; I love knowing that you are led by your head and your spirit; I am deepened knowing that we feed the mind and nourish the soul. I want a faith that brings all of me/us together, binds life as one, binds us as a community. In short, I seek a way of faith that is not elitist; I want to share a religion that honors the whole person and welcomes all people. (Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, April 1)
UK Unitarian leader remembers history of support
When same-sex marriage became legal in England and Wales, Derek McAuley, chief officer of the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, took the opportunity to celebrate the many decades of support Unitarians have given to same-sex marriage. (PinkNews.co.uk - 3.29.14)
Other stories of UU justice work
After Michigan’s governor would not recognize same-sex marriages carried out while that state’s ban was ruled unconstitutional, the Rev. Cynthia Landrum, of the Unitarian Universalist Church of East Liberty, announced that she refuses to sign any marriage license until all couples are legally able to wed in her state. (mlive.com - 3.28.14)
Living out their church’s vision of being the change they wish to see in the world, volunteers at the Sanford Unitarian Universalist Church in Sanford, Maine, have run a successful non-food pantry from their church for the past eight years. (Weekly Observer - 3.27.14)
A group of women from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Fullerton, Calif., joined the Fast for Families campaign in support of comprehensive immigration reform. They donned their gold Standing on the Side of Love T-shirts as they rallied outside of their local representative’s office in Brea, Calif. (Orange County Register - 4.1.14)
The Rev. Kierstin Homblette of First Unitarian Society of Denver is one of several Unitarian Universalists across the country who wrote to their local media to show their support as people of faith for widespread access to contraception while the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in the Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores Inc. case. (The Denver Post - 3.28.14)
Other Hobby Lobby letters include:
“Letter to the Editor: Hobby Lobby should provide birth control to employees” (Naperville Sun - 3.14.14)
“Corporations are not churches” (The Record - 3.18.14)
More news from UU congregations
Members of Evergreen Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Marysville, Wash., joined several other area churches in showing their support for those affected by the recent mudslides. They lit candles of concern and remembrance for them during Sunday services. (HeraldNet - 3.28.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin, Ill., is helping to organize an interfaith earth fair in honor of Earth Day this month and to help get their community involved in caring for the earth. One goal of the fair is to show other faith groups how to make their places of worship greener. (The Beacon-News - 3.27.14)
More than 200 quilts have been made for cancer patients this year by the Quilt Project, supported by members of the Unitarian Universalist Area Church at First Parish in Sherborn, Mass. Using donated materials, quilters create brightly colored quilts and send them to area treatment centers. (The Dover Sherborn Press - 3.27.14)
After 100 years in its current building, the Unitarian Church of Quincy, Ill., celebrated its long life as a congregation and a rededication of its building with a special worship service. Elder members honored in the service felt the church was part of their personal heritage. (KHQA - 3.30.14)
Newly installed minister the Rev. Mara Dowdall says that her experience with political work informs her goals as minister of First Unitarian Universalist Society of Burlington, Vt. She hopes to reach out to young adults in her community to provide them the support she knows is needed at this time in their lives. (Burlington Free Press - 3.26.14)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes that UUs need—right now—to stop worrying about what’s wrong with Unitarian Universalism.
We have to tell people what we know; our testimony of reality: that the path to health and healing and planetary salvation is each of us living with reverence and awe, honesty, humility, gratitude and generosity, openness, solidarity and self-possession, in communities of justice and faith.
We will not convince the world until we convince ourselves. (the lively tradition, March 28)
The Rev. Joanna Fontaine Crawford shares the testimony she wishes she’d shared with a woman she met in Starbucks.
Unitarian Universalism says that I—even on my bad days—am worthy to be treated with respect and dignity. And it teaches me that I have both the capability and the responsibility to determine and define my own creed by which I will live. (Boots and Blessings, March 29)
The Rev. Gretchen Haley offers a very thorough “How to Write Your Unitarian Universalist Testimony.” (Another Possibility, March 29)
Robin Slaw and S. Braswell of Central Unitarian Church in Paramus, New Jersey, created this graphic about Unitarian Universalism.
Kelly Bresnahan Doherty’s eight-year-old daughter has only one thing that she wishes were different about her UU congregation.
I wish it wasn’t in the woods. It’s kind of hiding and if we were right next to the road more people would know about us and more people would come because I bet a lot of people actually think that it is okay to believe whatever you want and just be a good person. (Excitement on the Side, March 28)Critiquing ironic racism
Suey Park, [who called] for the cancellation of the Colbert Report . . . . simply provided the theatre for racial rhetoric to play out. She simply provided the stage for us to see examples of how white people, broadly speaking, do not understand racism. (Many Words, April 2)
For Shawna Foster, ironic racism is still racism.
People want to be Colbert. They want to be ironically racist. Cue the kids from my generation using the n*word casually, wearing head dresses made of feathers, and engaging in whatever stereotype they felt like because: yea, it’s wrong. I’m raising awareness, yo, that this is racist, by being racist. (Enterprise, April 1)Practical advice for getting along
The Rev. Tom Schade suggests one thing every congregation could do to grow: stop making their preacher nervous.
Unitarian Universalism needs wise, brave, forthright, prophetic, perceptive, and provocative preaching on a wide variety of subjects. Above all, preaching needs to interesting and memorable.
Does your congregation encourage great and brave preaching, or does it make the minister nervous? (the lively tradition, March 31)
Jordinn Nelson Long asks herself, “What happens if I simply stop acting as a willing hostage to my anger?”
[What] if I do something else because on the whole, it feels better? What if I do something else because I recognize, even in anger, that we are both human, and this is part of what that means? What if I do something else simply because I can?
I am calling this the Happiness Option, and in practice, it can be summed up with one simple phrase: “In the Meantime, Be Nice.” (Raising Faith, March 30)
The Rev. Dr. David Breeden thinks that UU congregations should be Goldilocks Zones, “Where the free exchange of ideas concerning ultimate meaning and purpose flows like life-giving water,” and offers three methods to help get us there.
Hit the pause button on being right.
Hang your inner judge and jury.
Trust everyone’s path. (Quest for Meaning, April 3)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern begins a daunting project—writing about the work of Ursula K. LeGuin.
LeGuin wrote the only Taoist novel I know of, The Lathe of Heaven. . . . Taoism arises in The Left Hand of Darkness, also—most explicitly in the scene from which the title is taken. . . . More broadly, the complex balance, the dance of dualities, that is of such concern to the Taoist sages is clearly one of LeGuin’s abiding concerns as well; we see it in work from Earthsea to Searoad. Still, The Lathe of Heaven engages the question most directly, not because it quotes liberally from Taoist sources (though it does, including in the title), but because it looks at it ethically: when should we act and when should we refrain from action? (Sermons in Stones, April 1)
On the cusp of spring in Maine, Claire gets stuck in “one of the vortices of personal suck.”
[It] is important to me also to acknowledge the darkness, the absence, the limitation and the bleak comprehension that we, that I, am not only incapable of solving all of the world’s problems but in fact inadequate and insufficient to solve any of the world’s problems in any achievable sense, and yet, and yet, deep down and beneath the weight of certain failure, still hope rises like the inexorable unfolding of flowering plants beneath frozen snow-covered earth. (The Sand Hill Diary, April 2)The gift of laughter
Maybe it was the influence of April Fools’ Day, but there was an outbreak of UU silliness this week.
Carol Leonard writes about her ongoing struggle to rid herself of unwanted proselytizers.
The crowning invasion of my privacy came one day when I heard a muffled, “Help” coming from the other side of my front door. I heard it again, a little more insistent this time—“Help!” I swung the door open and there was one of the proselytizers standing stone still with my dog Florence’s teeth firmly embedded in his wrist. Every time he tried to move, Flo would growl ferociously and sink her teeth in a little firmer. I wanted to grin and say, “Good dog!” but instead, I said politely, “I already have a vacuum cleaner, thank you” and I closed the door. (Bad Beaver Tales, March 31)
The Rev. Dan Harper suggests that careful pronunciation is important when talking about adult religious education. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, April 2)
The anonymous creators of the satirical newsletter, The Beacon, published its second edition on April Fools’ Day.
And the Church of the Larger Fellowship introduced “The Squirrel Serenity Prayer.”