- About Us
UUA President Peter Morales took part in a discussion on HuffPostLive about the various reasons nonreligious people still attend church. Morales describes his own reasons for staying away from church for many years and then explains the UU faith’s appeal to non-traditional churchgoers. Check out the comments section as well, which include several UU voices. (Huffington Post – 1.28.13)Congregations celebrate updated spaces
The Gloucester, Mass., UU Church held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion of a $100,000 accessibilities upgrade to its historic 1806 building, including two lifts, an ADA accessible lavatory, widened doorways and hallway, and a ramp. (Wicked Local Essex – 1.31.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Hendersonville, N.C., completed a major renovation of its space and invited the community to an open house to explore the changes. (Times-News – 1.26.13)
The Rev. Bill Sinkford reacts to this week’s news that the Boy Scouts of America is re-thinking its national policy regarding sexual orientation.
I wish I could tell you that our [UU] religious advocacy made all the difference. This decision was apparently forced by two corporate representatives on the BSA Board. It is worth noting that on BGLT issues, many members of the corporate community have moved more rapidly than some religious groups. (Rev. Sinkford’s blog, January 31)
The Rev. Gary Kowalski hopes that the Boy Scouts will go even further, letting go of allegiance to narrow religious viewpoints.
Why don’t the Boy Scouts just drop the theology—where we human beings will never fully agree—and stick to what they do best: building camaraderie, teaching useful life skills, and fostering public service? . . . The Scouts need to get themselves untangled. Let’s hope this is one knot they can untie. (Revolutionary Spirits, January 31)Marriage equality
When her partner proposes marriage, the Rev. Elizabeth Curtiss finds that her joy is tempered by pragmatism.
[Alas], financially, I can only do a non-legal blessing ceremony. Not because we’re both women, but because at low incomes, marriage gets heavily penalized. . . . So yes, do congratulate us, and celebrate our good fortune in so many ways. But if you really want to do something useful, to make this about more than just two women in a struggling once-middle-class household, put these injustices up next to your concerns about DOMA (Defense of Marriage Act) and devote yourself to any couple, straight or gay, who wants to get married—and simply can’t afford to. (Politywonk, January 31)
“Marry in Massachusetts” wonders how his grandmother would have reacted to the news that Jim Nabors (the actor who played Gomer Pyle) had married his partner, Stan, his love of 38 years.
[My] grandmother adored Nabors on The Andy Griffith Show and other TV, particularly where he’d sing—and was befuddled by and hostile to homosexuality. . . . Without the obnoxious aspects, she was a fundy, and I have no doubt she knew same-sex love to be sinful.
Grandmother Mable taught several generations to think for ourselves, to speak up at every lunch and dinner on every subject, to be well read and informed. She had her huge blind spots. I have to wonder whether she would have shifted over the decades. (Marry in Massachusetts, January 31)Past, present, future
We need heroes, we need to embrace our heritage of justice-seeking and honor those who came before us. But we ignore the icky bits of our heritage at our peril. How can we move forward to build the community and the world we dream of if we haven’t dealt with the baggage of the world we inherited? (The Curriculum of Love, January 25)
The Rev. Chip Roush tells the backstory of a famous quote from the Rev. Dr. Howard Thurman, and comments on its meaning.
With all the suffering and chaos in the world, it can be tempting to numb ourselves, or pursue all kinds of activities to distract or amuse ourselves. . . . As much as is possible, let us resist the impulse to escape. Let us rather enter the experience fully, and come so alive that we transform the moment with our own awareness. (So May We Be, January 30)
Attending a workshop on generational differences, the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum considers how those differences affect congregational fundraising.
[I]f the generations are motivated by different things, not only does our membership and outreach efforts need to be targeted differently to each group, our pledge drive might be more effective if targeted differently to each group. (Rev. Cyn, January 30)Spiritual journeys
Participating in an adult religious education class called “Owning Your Religious Past,” Chrystal thinks back to her childhood in the Roman Catholic tradition.
Taking part in this exploration of our religious past is bringing up lots of memories, but I also have realized this week that St. Peter’s is still a part of my present. Seven weeks from today, I will be back in St. Peter’s Church. This time, though, I will be sitting in the front row, listening to my brother eulogize my father. (The Spirit Within, January 31)
John Beckett writes about what works, and what doesn’t, about being an active participant in three religious traditions—Pagan, Druid, and Unitarian Universalist.
If I worried about what the UUs thought about the edgy Pagan stuff or what the Pagans thought about the traditional UU stuff, or if I tried to fit everything I did into that center section where all three circles overlap, I’d miss out on a lot of magic, both literal and metaphorical. More importantly, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m called to do. (Under the Ancient Oaks, January 25)Blogging about blogging
The Rev. Sean Dennison confesses that he has lost the inspiration for his traditional blog, and introduces a new project.
The thought of writing a post here feels like writing essays—so many words—and that just seems dull. I’ve gotten used to the shorter formats and love the challenge of distilling my thoughts into 140 characters or an image. . . . I also have a secret project. It’s secret because some might find it too edgy, even offensive. Mostly because it does not avoid “the F word.” (ministrare, January 30)
Mandie McGlynn shares the evolution of her blog, as well as some of her UU design work.
When I started this blog, I thought it would be a typical photographer’s blog, with samples of my work and my commentary on that work. But then I thought, “why not make this blog that is named after me BE about me?”
This is my art. This is my religion. This is my family. This is my SELF. (Mandie McGlynn’s Blog, January 29)Around the blogosphere
Liz James decides that the Meadville Lombard January term theme of “Crossing Boundaries” means that her fellow students should join her for lessons on the flying trapeze.
Mick’s injury was definitely the most significant. He didn’t know he’d hurt himself, and bounded up, declaring “oops” and proceeded to clamber blithely out of the net, unaware that blood was pouring down his face.
I probably am not going to be the Worst Minister Ever, though, because good Ministry is about knowing what people need in a given moment. And, before the blood had actually stopped flowing, Mick was posting the pictures I’d so thoughtfully taken of him to Facebook. Which practically makes me a great minister already. (Rebel with a Label Maker, January 27)
The Rev. John Cullinan shares a prayer he offered before the New Mexico House of Representatives.
May you open your hearts wide enough to hold every person you serve, remember the common breath and the common dignity we all share—remember our faces today in this chamber, so that you may look us in the eyes when you leave, that we might know our trust has been well placed. (Your Life Is a Gospel, January 30)
Continuing a series on UU theology, the Rev. Dan Harper points to four areas of theological disagreement among Unitarian Universalists. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 28)
The Rev. Thomas Perchlik explores the rejection of Unitarian Universalism by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Barack Obama as a way to gather his thoughts about pressing issues for UUs on matters of race.
In terms of identity, to put it very simply Unitarian Universalists are aligned with an intellectual minorities, but not racial or ethnic ones. . . . In that context we developed a white identity. We have striven against that in the past two decades to some degree or other, but in the end we have not become truly multi-cultural as a community. (Rev. Thomas Perchlik’s Weblog, January 21)
Kim Hampton outlines the theological reasons why King chose not to be a Unitarian.
There is a communal experience of G-d in the African American psyche that liberal religion has a hard time dealing with. It is an experience of G-d borne in slavery, matured through Jim Crow, and is redefining itself in the era of the new Jim Crow. . . .
In other words, this is the G-d of “the least of these.” This is the G-d of the afflicted. The G-d of the Unitarians (and Universalists to a much lesser extent), on the other hand, has mostly been the G-d of the comfortable. (East of Midnight, January 22)
(The Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt wrote about King’s familiarity with Unitarian Universalism for UU World back in 2002. See “To Pray without Apology: Why Martin Luther King Jr. Wasn’t a UU.” The Rev. Dr. Thomas Mikelson wrote about King’s theology for UU World in 2006: “How Big Is Your God?“)
The Rev. Dan Schatz tells a little-known story behind the ending of King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
Dr. King stood up to speak. He must have been exhausted, but he read well from his carefully prepared text. When he reached the end, he paused, and Mahalia Jackson, remembering the words she had heard Dr. King speak at so many churches and rallies across the south, shouted from her seat, “Tell ’em about the dream, Martin!” (The Song and the Sigh, January 20)
Inspired by a day of community service in honor of MLK, Deb Weiner renews her commitment to the struggle for justice.
I walked in the door a few hours ago with hope in my heart and alive with the possibility—the just-maybe feeling that I don’t get all that often anymore—that maybe our country, our world, has a chance to find its goodness and center again. (Morning Stars Rising, January 22)
Christine Organ suggests that one way to honor King is to stop supporting homophobic organizations—including, if necessary, stepping away from one’s religious traditions.
Profound and meaningful actions like these may not be easy. It can be difficult—excruciating, in fact—to leave a religion or congregation that has been a part of your life for as long as you can remember. . . .
But know that your faith, love and Grace will guide you through the challenges. Know that when you act with love by supporting love—authentic, God-given love in all of its forms—you have already received your reward. For it is only when we stop becoming silent and start acting in love that we can begin to really know the love that God intended. (HuffPost Religion, January 21)Forty years after Roe v. Wade
On this 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision, the Rev. Debra Haffner celebrates and laments.
I was 18 when Roe v. Wade was decided. . . . I could never have imagined that 40 years later, as a post-menopausal woman, I’d still be working to assure that abortion would be accessible to all, regardless of age, income, or geography. I think my 18 year old self would have been appalled. (Sexuality and Religion, January 22)
Guest-posting at Raising Faith, Mandie McGlynn recounts an experience as a volunteer escort at a women’s clinic.
“I’m sure this looks really great,” the woman mumbled, “me coming here with my kids.”
My heart nearly burst with sorrow for her—sorrow that she had to make this choice, sorrow that she felt ashamed and unsafe even with me, whose job it is to be supportive of her and protect her from those who would shame her. (Raising Faith, January 22)
The Rev. Meg Riley is grateful for the Unitarian, Universalist, and UU “giants” upon whose shoulders she stands in the struggle for reproductive justice.
I have been asked, “How dare you speak out about this, as if we all agree?” . . . How dare I speak out about reproductive justice? I can honestly say that I have been given this daring by thousands of others upon whose shoulders I stand. (Quest for Meaning, January 20)
My husband and I have the right to determine the size of our family. We have the right to stop having children and to continue to have sex. . . . You don’t have to like it, but until you are here changing diapers, handling middle of the night feedings, and paying for day care, you need to get over it. My body is none of your business. (musings of a kitchen witch, January 23)
The Rev. Tom Schade wishes that a joint statement issued by the presidents of the UUA and the UU Women’s Federation about Roe v. Wade‘s anniversary had been directed at a different audience, and offers a revision. (thelivelytradition, January 24)
Considering UU theological unity
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern and the Rev. Dan Harper, ministers at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, California, plan to co-teach a class there on theological unity within Unitarian Universalism. They have started the class with an online conversation about the topic, beginning with these posts.
Harper lists five areas where he believes UUs have found “some degree of theological unity.”
Women and girls are as good as men and boys. . . . Human beings must take responsibility for the state of the world. . . . Maintaining the sanctity of the Web of Life is a moral ideal. . . . Healthy sexuality is something to enjoy, not something to be ashamed of. . . . Love is the most powerful force in the universe. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, January 18)
Zucker Morgenstern suggests that we need less theological unity, not more.
What I mean by that is that our fear of diversity and difference among us keeps us from talking about our theology/ies. And that dialogue is something we need more of. In fact, when I am afraid that Unitarian Universalism is withering and dying, it’s the lack of this dialogue that I suspect is the cause. (Sermons in Stones, January 22)Around the blogosphere
When a friend asks, “Are you planning to ever come back to church?” Christine Leigh Slocum outlines the context for her absence—pregnancy fatigue, commuting logistics, and uncertainty about getting to church after the baby is born.
I think it would be wise for church leaders to consider that sometimes the factors which inspire one to go to attend Sunday services and participate in the community may have little to do with congregation. It may be as simple as the logistics of getting there, and the context of a person’s life. (Seattleite from Syracuse, January 22)
The Rev. James Ford wonders if young adults are looking for a neo-traditional liberal religion.
I’ve been inundated with a literature of growth that assumes people want pulpits taken down, pews removed, and organs burned. Rather, what it looks like I’m seeing in the actual real people who are coming into church I’m at least tentatively characterizing as neo-traditionals. (Monkey Mind, January 22)
Sarah MacLeod writes about her conversation with one of the “Nones,” a religiously unaffiliated former Hindu.
I’d encourage each Unitarian Universalist to seek out a None and engage him or her in this discussion. Listen with an open mind to criticisms of our current model, ideas about a more appealing model, and the needs that rest behind both. Then go back to your congregations, and when the discussion turns to growth, share what you’ve found. (Finding My Ground, January 21)
Christopher L. Walton contributed to this week’s edition of “The Interdependent Web.”
Unitarians, Quakers, and Liberal Jews in the United Kingdom announced their full support for the government’s same-sex marriage bill for England and Wales, saying they will gladly perform same-sex weddings. (Gay Star News – 1.25.13)
Derek McAuley, the chief officer of Britain’s General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches, explains why he hopes other faith groups will join in agreeing to marry same-sex couples. (PinkNews – 1.25.13)
San Diego lawyer and UU Eric Isaacson will receive an award from the St. Paul’s Foundation on Valentine’s Day for his “tireless volunteer work to ‘Legalize Love for Everyone.’” In 2009, Isaacson received the UUA’s prestigious President’s Award for Volunteer Service for his many years providing pro bono legal services to the UUA and its allies in California court cases related to same-sex marriage. (1.25.13, UU World – Fall 2009)In the congregations
The Ventura County Star has a Q&A with the Rev. David Pyle, assistant minister at the UU Church of Ventura, Calif., and one of the growing number of UU military chaplains. (Ventura County Star – 1.19.13, uuworld.org – 11.12.12)
About 200 people gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Md., to celebrate the recent passage of two state laws expanding the civil rights of LGBT people and undocumented immigrants. (Frederick News Post – 1.20.13)
After eight years serving the UU Congregation of Columbia, S.C., as minister, and having recently completed coursework to earn ministerial standing with the Unitarian Universalist Association, the Rev. Dr. Neal Jones is officially being installed as the congregation’s minister. (The State – 1.19.13)
The Oak Ridge, Tenn., UU Church offers a free community meal on the last Friday of every month, and will have nurses on hand at an upcoming meal to give flu shots to those in need. (Oak Ridge Today – 1.21.13)
NPR’s series this week on “nones”—the growing segment of the United States population that identifies itself as religiously unaffiliated—is not about Unitarian Universalists, but many UUs are actively participating in the comments on the stories, and the UUA is encouraging them to do so. (NPR.org, Facebook.com/TheUUA)
UUA President Peter Morales has spoken on the topic before and wrote about how UUs might engage the “nones” in his Winter 2012 UU World column. Dan Cryer also discussed the “nones” in his 2011 article “A nation of religious changelings.” (UU World – Summer 2011)In the congregations
The damaged steeple of First UU Church of Youngstown, Ohio, was successfully removed this week. The congregation is now considering whether to restore it, replace it with a replica, or install solar panels or a wind turbine in its place. (Youngstown Vindicator – 1.15.13, 1.10.13)
For the fourth year, the Unitarian Church in Summit, N.J., is hosting a reading of one of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s speeches on MLK Day, but for the first time they have invited a guest preacher to do it: the Rev. Ronald Allen, of the Pilgrim Baptist Church. (Independent Press – 1.12.13)
The Rev. Dr. Neal Jones will officially be installed as minister of the UU Congregation of Columbia, S.C., this month, though he has served as the congregation’s minister for the last eight years. (Columbia Star – 1.18.13)
Christopher L. Walton contributed to this week’s blog post.
Crystal St. Marie Lewis decides she cannot “agree to disagree” with her seminary classmates about same-sex relationships.
“Agreeing to disagree” is not the helpful or peaceful thing to do in a situation where oppression is the problem. The helpful and peaceful thing to do is to call oppression what it is: Bigotry. Socially violent. Absolutely and totally wrong. (Crystal St. Marie Lewis, January 17)
Andy Coate remembers PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford, who died recently.
In 1972 she marched in the New York City Pride Parade carrying a sign in support of her gay son, Morty. Morty’s life was cut short, as so many of my queer parents and siblings lives’ were, by AIDS. Jeanne Manford continued to fight for acceptance of LGBTQ people; she evolved with the times, moved with the movements, and was an ally and a presence for her entire life. (thoughts ON, January 12)Raising children in a violent world
Deb, writing at Small House, Big Picture, describes how she talks with her son about rape.
The next ten years of his life could find him in some dicey situations. I’m glad that we’ve talked about some of the possibilities so that he might have the benefit of a little forethought—and the naggy voice of his mother in his ear.
I know I’ve hardly solved the problem, but I’m doing my best to send this one young man out into the world with the idea that women are not toys—even (or especially) when they’ve been drinking. (Small House, Big Picture, January 17)
The Rev. Amy Zucker Morgenstern reflects on what seemed at first like an irrational impulse to leave work early to be with her young daughter the day of the Newtown shootings.
I had just the fraction of a sense of what it would be like to know that I would never see my daughter alive again, and it was that feeling that had made me want to go find her, just to wrap my arms around her and breathe the smell of her hair. The way, after waking from a bad dream in which I’d had a bad conflict with someone I loved, I needed to talk to the person and let something good and sweet rinse away that awful feeling. (Mookie’s Mama, January 16)Thoughts about gun safety
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum begins a series about gun safety with a post about how the issue plays out in the relatively conservative congregation she serves.
[There’s] a lot of room for compromise between the perspectives of our most extreme members on the right and left of the gun debate. I see a willingness among our gun owners and second amendment believers to put in sensible reforms. And I see a willingness among our reform advocates to leave room for gun ownership for our avid hunters. (Rev. Cyn, January 17)
Acknowledging President Obama’s desire to reduce the stigma of mental illness, the Rev. Katie Norris believes that new regulations cannot help but increase that stigma.
[Even] if you do not want a firearm and will never apply for one, you will now be added to the criminal background check database which could seriously affect your ability to get a job if this part of the background check that is accessible to employers. (Bipolar Spirit, January 16)
Deb Weiner writes that we won’t make progress on gun safety without dealing with “the paranoia people.”
When people get caught up in the idea that the government is there to work against them, not for them; when individuals start arguing that this president, or any president, is going to take away their rights and so they have to stock an arsenal of weaponry to defend their homes, we’re into dangerous territory. (Morning Stars Rising, January 16)What’s happening at church?
The Rev. Justin Schroeder shares how the congregation he serves is “growing into Love’s people.”
[Slowly] we began to believe that as a church we were called to “give” out of a sense of gratitude for all we’ve been given, to learn to “receive” the gifts and blessings of this life with an open heart, and to “grow” into Love’s people. (The Well, January 16)
The Rev. David Owen-O’Quill suggests asking the question “What’s happening at Church?” can help congregations adjust to new reasons why people attend.
People won’t go to church to belong to an institution, but they will become of a part of a community where something compelling is “happening.” In the world we live in, the more blatantly obvious and explicit this happening is the more attractive it will become. (news from the underground, January 15)
The Rev. Brian McLaren, an Emergent Christian leader, responds to the question, “What about the Unitarians?” as a home for the religiously unaffiliated.
[The] degree to which a religious community deconstructs without reconstructing will put it at a disadvantage. It not only must remove negatives that other communities have: it must have positives that other communities lack. . . . Unitarians have set an admirable example in promoting an un-hostile faith. . . . Perhaps . . . the best contributions of Unitarians are in their future, and what they can be has not yet been fully manifested. (brian d. mclaren, January 17)Looking back, looking forward
As the nation remembers the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and inaugurates Barack Obama for a second term as president, the Rev. Bill Sinkford asks, “What would Dr. King do?”
Today, Dr. King would be urging support for sensible gun control. He would, I think, be pointing out that, though the face of gun violence in America is overwhelmingly white (just like the face of poverty), African American men are six times as likely to die from gun violence as whites. (Rev. Sinkford’s Blog, January 17)
Also linking King and Obama, UUA President Peter Morales suggests action items for the president’s second term. (HuffPost Religion, January 16)Around the blogosphere
The Rev. Andy Pakula’s newest “wisdom story” tells how a bullfrog learned to make friends.
Alone again in the pond, the bullfrog felt dejected. “I don’t think I’ll ever have a friend at this rate” he thought. He realised that he actually knew nothing at all about how to get a friend or about how to be one.
In desperation, he decided he would try something different. Instead of trying to get a friend, he’d just listen to everyone he could to learn about them and try to see what they wanted. (Throw yourself like seed, January 14)
With the family’s fiercest foodie away at seminary, the remaining farmhands at High Hopes Gardens indulge in Lucky Charms for breakfast—and are rewarded with a miraculous UU symbol.
You never know when the universe will reveal a miracle. Like the image of Jesus in a piece of toast, now Unitarians have their own foodstuff symbol—this image of a chalice made of Lucky Charm marshmallows! (high hopes gardens, January 12)
UUA trustee Linda Laskowski begins a series of posts about the Board of Trustees’s January 2013 meeting. (UUA View from Berkeley, January 16) Also, UUA Moderator candidates Tamara Payne-Alex and Jim Key have created blogs for communicating their vision for the UUA.