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The Rev. Tom Schade has a theory about why pledge giving is declining in UU congregations.
The cause of Unitarian Universalism, as we now understand it, is not sufficiently compelling to generate the resources to continue itself. . . .
We have to look beyond the people who are presently passionate about Unitarian Universalism. There is a much larger group of people we would reach IF they could see that we would directly connect them to the transformation that they are anxious to see in the world. (The Lively Tradition, April 22)Grief transformed
The Rev. Madelyn Campbell received a hand-made stole at her recent ordination, with pieces of her late husband’s clothing woven into it.
[As] I wore it, it felt like a giant hug. A hug from God, and a hug from Don, and a hug from the Stole-Maker and the congregations that assembled to ordain me.
Now every time I wear it, I’ll remember this day. When I put it on, I will say a short prayer for my colleagues who are also preparing for worship and putting on their own vestments. I’ll remember that I’m not alone in this work, for the burden is shared by many. (The Widow’s Mite-y Blog, April 16)
Diana McLean walks a labyrinth, and revisits her grief about her father’s death.
Another turn or two into the labyrinth, I remembered the one thing I always seem to forget about labyrinth walking: it inevitably makes me cry. There’s something about it that opens me up, gets me out of my head and into my body, and thus also into my heart, and always leaves me in tears. Sometimes I don’t even know what I’m crying about, only that I’ve tapped into a place of deeper emotion than where I spend most of my time.
This time, I knew. I knew right away, as I found myself saying aloud, “I miss you, Dad.” (Poetic Justice, April 18)Cherishing this holy place
The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell understands why people aren’t doing as much as they could to combat climate change.
People are overwhelmed by the enormity of the problem, coupled with the lack of political will, worldwide, so they distract themselves from their fear and grief, and just get on with their everyday lives.
But we don’t have the luxury of despair. Global warming has become the vital work, the spiritual call that time and circumstance have placed before us. When the house is on fire, we don’t say, I don’t have time—we get the hell out of there, and take the kids. (HuffPost, April 20)
The Rev. Lynn Ungar recognizes that saying “Happy Earth Day” is a bit odd, given the challenges the planet faces.
There is so much to be done, so much to heal, so many forces pushing against a life that is sustainable. The only way we will be able to find our way through will be through cherishing this holy place where we dwell, which was never given to us as a resource to exploit, but which holds us in sacred interdependence. May that sacred interdependence bring you joy. Happy Earth Day. (Quest for Meaning, April 22)
Karen Johnston acknowledges the limits of what any one of us can do—and yet the necessity of all of us doing what we can.
I fear removing my shoes and walking barefoot because beneath my feet I will find the crusty, sharp edges of my own complicity. . . .
I am still working out what I can do. There might not be enough time for me to keep working out my part, and I am not sure what to do about that except to keep doing what I am doing the best that I can. (Irrevspeckay, April 21)
The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg weighs in on the “bet” about which will win out—overpopulation or human ingenuity.
Necessity can’t be the mother of invention if one is denying there is any necessity that requires invention!
. . . [Will] we stand up, will we speak up, and will we show up?
And it is not enough for that choice to be made individually, such as whether [or] how extensively we will choose to recycle. We need one another to collectively demand the systematic changes that will be required to return to right relationship with ourselves, with one another, and with this one fragile planet which we humans call home. (Pluralism, Pragmatism, Progressivism, April 22)Drawing a big circle
The Rev. James Ford remembers the birthday of poet Edwin Markham, best known in Unitarian Universalism for his poem, “Outwitted,” which begins, “He drew a circle that shut me out . . . .”
I am moved at how he saw his spirituality and his political life intertwined, perhaps even in some profound sense, one. And it was that spirituality of inclusion, the great heart of the Universalist way that called him to stand with the poor and the dispossessed. (Monkey Mind, April 23)
The Rev. Chip Roush shares opening words for worship, celebrating the fact that each one of us “is enough.”
The universe is full of love,
showering us with it, every moment,
and that love is not only outside of us.
We, too, are filled with love.
The instant we remember that fact,
we regain access
to the care, courage and compassion
that is our human birthright. (So May We Be, April 20)
Adam Dyer fights back against invisibility—his own, and that of Rekia Boyd, who was killed by an off-duty police officer.
Like too many other black lives, male AND female, she is completely invisible in the eyes of the court, the media, education, health,…until, she is perceived to be a threat or a burden; then for as long as it takes a bullet to travel from the barrel of a gun, she becomes a haphazard target for a testosterone charged index finger that is trained to contract at the sight of black skin.
But you know what? I see you Rekia Boyd…and God willing, many more of us see you too. (Spirituwellness, April 20)
Congregation more than willing to provide space for shelter
Recent graduates from Harvard University are working with First Parish UU in Cambridge, Mass., to create an overnight homeless shelter for youth in their area. First Parish in Cambridge sees this work as a natural extension of the congregation’s core values. (The Boston Globe – 4.13.15)
Additional coverage of this story includes:
“Student-Led Shelter for Homeless Young in Works at Harvard” (The Chronicle of Philanthropy – 4.14.15)
New co-ministers are part of a growing trend in ministry
As the Revs. Cathy and Heather Rion Starr prepare to be installed as co-ministers of the Unitarian Society of Hartford, Conn., they become part of a growing trend among religious groups today: that of having married couples leading houses of worship. (The New York Times – 4.17.15)
UU Pagan prayer met with silent protest
Despite the absence of many Iowa state representatives and others who turned their back in silent protest, Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans leader Deborah Maynard was humbled and awestruck at the opportunity to give the morning prayer before the Iowa State Legislature. (KCRG.com – 4.9.15)
Additional coverage of this story includes:
“Wiccan prayer at Iowa Legislature draws silent protest, boycott” (WCF Courier – 4.9.15)
Civil rights hero honored posthumously
Viola Liuzzo, a Unitarian Universalist activist who lost her life in the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s, received an honorary doctorate from Wayne State University. Her five children and grandchildren received the award on her behalf. (Detroit Free Press – 4.11.15)
UU congregation hopes to deepen interfaith dialogue
The Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Owensboro, Ky., was a co-sponsor in the area’s annual Faith Fest, an interfaith event to help their local community become more familiar with the diverse religious groups in their area. In addition to workshops, the co-sponsors have also received a grant to create an interfaith dialogue curriculum. (Messenger-Inquirer – 4.15.15)
The Rev. Tom Schade writes that, when social movements become more powerful, congregations are likely to push back against ministerial activism.
The minister needs to be keep turning the question back to the congregants: “How are you going to relate to this social movement? This isn’t about me, and it isn’t about the church, and it isn’t about the number of prophetic sermons I preach in a month. This is about how you respond to this social movement. I can tell you how I am responding; I can explain my process, but in the end, this is about how you respond.” (The Lively Tradition, April 13)
Kim Hampton doubts that liberal religion has anything prophetic to say.
What would liberal theology and religion look like if it took into account those who have had to make a way out of no way? Those who have been plundered and pillaged for generations? Those who are condemned and pathologized just because? (East of Midnight, April 13)Real stories
Katy Carpman recounts the financial repercussions of her son’s recent hospital stay.
We are so very lucky that my spouse’s insurance covers most of this. The deductible is not painless, but it’s something we can handle. And thankfully I’m salaried (and have understanding employers), so we do not have to worry about lost wages for the days I had to be away from the office.
I recognize my privilege, and realize that the situation is far different for many. (Remembering Attention, April 9)
Kari Kopnick celebrates the return of the light, after a struggle with depression.
Someone asked me a few months ago how I could tell the difference between the grief of losing my dad and depression. . . . Now, some distance out, I know the precise difference—in fact it is more of a Venn diagram with no intersection at all. . . .
Grief is sadness, loss, regret for missed opportunities and a longing for things that will never be again.
Depression is hopelessness, feeling numb about everyday things (oh my God I have to choose what to eat? What to wear? Really?) and wishing the pain of living would just be over. (Chalice Spark, April 13)
Tina Porter shares a similar struggle.
It may not look like hard work from the outside, but I’m telling you right now, sometimes sitting on the couch is the hardest work of all. The work done in dormant times may very well be the work we were meant to do. (Ugly Hats, April 11)
The Rev. Kit Ketcham has a new pacemaker, and is “so happy to be alive.”
So happy to have a regular heartbeat after all this time of enduring the jumping-bean ticker. So happy to feel exhilarated by every new day. Thanks be to the docs and the friends and the power beyond human power, which infuses us with the will to live. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, April 12)Creative congregations
Thomas Earthman writes that congregational growth depends on having something worth sharing.
Growth requires standing for something, and giving people something worthy of their trust and commitment. . . . [What] makes being in a community powerful and appealing is being able to add your strengths to those of the other members, and coming up with a somewhat stronger effect than you all would have achieved working separately. Success is always attractive. (I Am UU, April 14)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley continues her series on breaking down barriers to congregational participation, with a post about financial barriers.
Some congregations have instituted a fee for service payment method, where activities are broken down and participants pay for them separately. . . . The trouble with this method is that it puts up barriers to participation instead of removing them. Instead, I believe it is time for congregations to get creative. (Speaking of, April 10)
The Rev. Tom Schade responds to Cooley’s series.
[A] question occurs to me. What if we asked ourselves this question: What are the barriers to our congregation participating fully in the life of our wider community? (The Lively Tradition, April 13)Love is the absence of judgment
Jacqueline Wolven learns that “love is the absence of judgment.”
Making the change from city snob to simple kindness wasn’t easy, but the lessons are ones that will live with me forever. Having a cool heart isn’t the life I ever wanted, softening into love is a powerful place to be and I am grateful that my neighbors and friends allowed me to stumble into their lives without grace or understanding. (Jacqueline Wolven, April 12)
Valerie Freseman writes about the power of folk tales, folklore, and folk superstitions.
One day my CPE supervisor arranged a tour of the neighborhood our hospital serves. The tour leader brought us to a botánica—a store selling herbs, candles, and folk-magic supplies for the practice of Santeria and other allied spiritual practices—and I was the only person in our team of five trainee chaplains who could explain to everyone exactly what a botánica was because of my own history and practice (if you are a Pagan in New York City, you cannot avoid the botánica!) If, when visiting a patient, I could discern evidence of their beliefs in conversation or at a bedside table, I had gained valuable insights into the other members of that person’s spiritual support team. (Nature’s Path, April 14)
Patrick Murfin values his participation in the UU Bloggers’ Workshop on Facebook, and share the poetry of two of the group’s members.
[One] of the most valuable and engaging groups I belong to is the UU Bloggers’ Workshop which offers support, advice, criticism, ideas, and community to Unitarian Universalist Bloggers. . . .
I actually learn a lot from them. . . . I am goaded into improvement as a human being even when I would rather stew in resentment and anger or cleave to comfortable, but unjust habits. I gotta admit, this group helps me fill my spiritual gas tank about as well as anything this side of one of Rev. Sean Dennison’s Sunday morning Sermons. (Heretic, Rebel, a Thing to Flout, April 12)
If you’re tired of the subtle pressure to create a “bucket list,” read Karen Johnston’s “F*ck Bucket Lists.” You’ll be glad you did. (Irrevspeckay, April 12)
Calling for climate justice, protecting and preserving natural resources
The Unitarian Universalist initiative Commit2Respond is in the spotlight for calling for spiritual action to fight climate change. UU leaders hope to inspire people of all religions to honor interconnectedness and work for positive change. (EcoWatch.com – 4.10.15)
The Rev. Kate Lehman is interviewed for her work as president of a West Virginia watershed association committed to protecting and preserving the streams and rivers in the state. Lehman describes the difficulty of supporting the watershed without long-range plans for sustainability. (The Star Democrat – 4.8.15)
Members of Towson Unitarian Universalist Church in Lutherville, Md., received a grant to build a rain garden on their property, which will keep most pollutants from going into the Chesapeake Bay watershed. The congregation’s Green Sanctuary committee applied for the grant, which includes a public workshop. (The Baltimore Sun – 4.9.15)
Other congregational news
Casas de Luz, a nonprofit based out of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of San Dieguito in Solana Beach, Calif., is celebrating ten years of building homes for those in need in Tijuana, Mexico. Since it began, Casas de Luz has grown from a project of a single member of the fellowship to a sustainable nonprofit. They will build their 40th home this year. (Del Mar Times – 4.7.15)
United First Parish Church in Quincy, Mass., will install the Rev. Rebecca Froom as senior minister. Froom will be the first female minister to lead the congregation in its long history. The church is known as the Church of the Presidents because Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams were members. (The Patriot Ledger – 4.6.15)
Unitarian Universalist connections with Buddhism
The Rev. Doug Traversa of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tullahoma, Tenn., points to the seventh Unitarian Universalist Principle to explain the affinity many UUs have with Buddhist practice. He sees Buddhist awakening to be similar to honoring the interconnected web of existence. (Lion’s Roar – 4.8.15)
Adam Dyer writes that “Even in addressing racism, black lives have not specifically mattered.”
We cannot continue to speak or act in broad terms. There is no shortcut, no blanket application to address black oppression because black oppression is unique; just as every other oppression that is experienced is unique. What Black Lives Matter challenges us to do is address the specific issues surrounding black oppression without entering into the oppression olympics. The movement tells us that we can look at the unique social location intersection that one group represents, whether that is race, color, nation of origin, sexual preference, gender identity, ability, or relationship status (or any combination thereof) and take the time to appreciate, uplift, uphold and defend each and every one of them. (spirituwellness, April 6)
Kim Hampton thinks the indictment of Michael Slager is not a sign that #BlackLivesMatter protests are making a difference.
There is an assumption in most white communities that the police don’t lie about their encounters with the public. Communities of color (and poor communities) know that lie for what it is. (East of Midnight, April 8)Imagine a congregation
The Rev. Phil Lund believes that spiritual practice in community is what spiritual seekers are looking for in the 21st century.
Imagine a congregation that looks at all the possibilities for spiritual growth . . . then finds ways to help individuals explore those practices within the context of a nurturing and supportive community.
Without dogma. Or judgment. Or guilt. Just the opportunity to “deepen their relationship with the sacred.” That’s the kind of religious community I see flourishing in the 21st century. (Phillip Lund, April 7)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley begins a series of posts about removing barriers to congregational participation in a changing religious landscape.
[W]e strive to meet people where they are. Not where we wish they would be, not where we thinkthey should be. It means meeting people in the lived reality of where they are.
The more we understand this, the more we realize that it is our calling to confront and seek to do away with whatever it is that prevents people from feeling as though they have a place at the table. This means intentionally looking at what accommodations a congregation can make to remove barriers to participation for all those who might find a home with us. (Speaking of, April 7)Building the world to come
The Rev. Jude Geiger says that Christ was seen in Indiana this week—but not where many Christians thought they saw him.
They thought Jesus was seen in the pizza parlor in Indiana this week; martyred for religious freedom, as a store was “forced” to close after speaking words of hate in the guise of freedom. They were right. Jesus was there. He was flipping the tables and the trays crying out against the money changers of this day, who will cry religion but mean GoFundMe (over $700,000 and counting). (HuffPost Religion, April 3)
John Beckett outlines his approach to building the world to come.
This is where we can make a difference for our descendants: by adopting, embodying, and promoting values that will be helpful in the world to come—and that won’t repeat the mistakes our society has made. (Under the Ancient Oaks, April 9)
Tina Porter resists the urge to rant.
[Instead] of a rant, I will pray for the courage and the focus and the kindness to extend myself beyond my small sphere of influence in order to create the world that is possible when we look to each other not as problems but as shared solutions–when we look to each other as our neighbor who sometimes helps us and who we sometimes help . . .
because . . . we ARE all in this together. (Ugly Pies, April 7)Life, death, and love
For the Rev. James Ford, whose beloved Auntie died on Easter Saturday, the Easter story is a fearful, wonderful, mysterious moment of awakening.
Easter as this moment, as this mind, as this heart, filled with all its sadness and all its glory. And with our fully opening ourselves to what is, with that complete disruption of what we thought was the way things are. And with that awakening into something new: mystery piled upon mystery. Wonder, and joy, and, yes, absolutely, fear. . . .
Nothing is missing . . . on this Easter day. We wake up to the whole mess. And we find it really is a blessing. (Monkey Mind, April 5)
Christine Organ has mixed feelings about selling a home where she grieved for a miscarried child.
We leave pieces of ourselves all over the world, and my grief in the dirt in front of that house on Nelson Street. But as I left pieces of myself here and there, I have also carried things with me. And, from that patch of dirt on Nelson Street, I carried hope, gratitude, resilience and courage.
Maybe it isn’t so much about what we leave behind, but what we carry with us that matters. (HuffPost Parents, April 7)
Diana McLean leaves the box of presumed heterosexuality.
For many years, my experience of my sexual orientation was that I was a heterosexual woman. And then, it wasn’t.
I’m not saying that I’ve secretly been a lesbian all this time and my relationships with men were somehow fake or less-than or deceptive. They weren’t. That isn’t what this means, at all.
The bottom line isn’t about past relationships. It’s this: my next partner, should I have one, could be of any gender. (Poetic Justice, April 7)