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All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Okla., was featured on the radio show “State of Belief” for its prominence as a progressive religious voice in a generally conservative area. (State of Belief – 1.4.14)UU ministers in the public eye spark controversy, and more
The Rev. Andy Pakula, minister of New Unity, a Unitarian congregation in London, gave his own thoughts about the recent controversy in which he was barred from giving the “Thought for the Day” on a BBC radio show since that slot is reserved only for those who believe in God. (The Guardian – 1.6.14)
Some readers were upset that a religion column for Christmas in a local paper featured the Rev. Scott Alexander, minister of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Vero Beach, Fla.. (tcpalm.com – 1.4.14)
All Souls Unitarian Church in Washington, D.C., was lifted up as an example of a diverse congregation by a visitor from Wisconsin. (The Cap Times – 1.7.14)
The Rev. Charlie Davis of the Unitarian Universalist Church of West Lafayette, Ind., was one of several religious leaders who contributed to a piece about recommended spiritual reading in the new year. (jconline.com – 1.3.14)
The Unitarian Meeting House in Madison, Wisc., was listed as one of many examples of the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright, himself a Unitarian, in that area. (Times Dispatch – 1.5.14)
Unitarian Universalism continues to come up as a comparison point to new atheist churches like the Sunday Assembly and Godless Revival, a split-off group from Sunday Assembly. (CNN.com – 1.4.14)
A controversy broke out on Facebook while many people were preoccupied with Christmas. As the Rev. Tom Schade describes it, a holiday meme posted on the UUA’s Facebook page came “under a lot of criticism for being classist and ableist. Much commenting has gone on, including the escalation to the argument about who is too easily offended and who is being defensive.” (The Lively Tradition, January 8)
Schade blogs about the controversy through a theological lens.
There is a strain of liberal spirituality which argues that what already is is good enough, and that our spiritual work is to unlearn dissatisfaction— to wake up to the wonder that is, and let ourselves be happy. . . . But in the late 20thC, liberals also asserted that oppression/privilege was pervasive to the human condition. The two thoughts are in contradiction, and it takes very careful wordsmithing to avoid the gap. Our personal disputes over who is legitimately offended and who should lighten up are actually signs of a deeper theological disagreement. (The Lively Tradition, January 8)
The Rev. Dawn Cooley looks at the situation pastorally.
I believe we are exhausted from our attempts to be perfect—perfect as individuals, and perfect as a faith tradition. And since this is a sisyphusian effort, we keep watching that boulder roll back down the hill. I am not sure how much longer we can take it. . . . In our exhaustion from never being good enough, we turn on each other. . . .
If our mission is perfection, we are doomed to fail. But I don’t think that is our mission. . . . Instead, I believe our mission is to love the hell out of the world. (Speaking of, January 9)
The Rev. Robin Bartlett—not writing about the Facebook meme controversy—shares a lesson about getting along that she teaches her daughters.
We have to remind ourselves that we share the world with people, . . . with the same itchy annoyance, fear, acceptance and resignation that my daughter has when it comes to the reality of sharing her world with bugs. . . . And sometimes, the people we share the world with make us doubt the very existence of some sort of divine order to things. So it is our job to restore that sense of divine order for one another. (Religious Education at UUAC Sherborn, January 8)
The Rev. Andrew Weber looks at the ways his neighbors shovel their snow—and draws lessons about how we live with each other.
Our beliefs can—and should—be the basis for all of our actions, even the mundane ones. So get out there and shovel, but do it mindfully of what you are embodying and what sort of reality you are helping to create for those in your community. (How to Drive Like a Minister, January 6)
New-to-me blogger Ricky Cintron offers a prayer for listening to each other.
Everyone has a story, some are more joyful than others, others are more painful. Our stories have common themes of success, failure, love, hope, despair, loneliness. The paths we’ve traveled may have similarities, or perhaps they’ve even merged for short times. Everyone has a story to be told. . . .
Let me be a fire around which others may draw close to keep themselves warm and let them speak and sing their stories into my flames. Let me be a listener. (Jñana-Dipena, January 8)Love, hate, and hard times
Watching her father with his first grandchild, the Rev. Deanna Vandiver wonders, “Who was this man gently hovering over his grandchild with a blissful air of yes, the same man who was forever telling us no as children?”
I think my father has had an epiphany about unconditional love.
The way that child lights up every time her Pop Pop walks into the room. How she reaches for him no matter who is holding her.
It is powerful to be loved that way. It breaks open our hearts. It tells us we are enough and calls us to love others with broken open hearts. Radically inclusive, unjudging hearts. (Quest for Meaning, January 7)
The Rev. Theresa Novak returns to snowy Utah from sunny California, facing the disappointment of marriage equality put on hold.
[As] Unitarian minister Theodore Parker said, . . . the arc of the universe bends toward justice. I hate that the arc is such a long one. Parker worked to end slavery but racism still thrives more than a hundred years later. . . . I do know that the snow will eventually melt and the sun will shine again. In the meantime, we will just have to keep each other warm. (Sermons, Poetry and other Musings, January 7)
Strapped for cash, Colleen Thoele finds almost six hundred dollars during a trip to Walmart—and reluctantly turns it in.
My fantasy self screamed “GIVE IT BACK” and ran for the door. But the real me got some flushed cheeks and smiled. “It’s someone’s rent. It’s not mine. I hope you find them. I hope they come back.”, I said with a truth that I knew and was grateful for but also with a pang in my gut. Because . . . money. It’s the devil.
. . . . Being human. It’s a war with yourself sometimes, right? (Adventures of the Family Pants, January 9)
Teo Drake celebrates the lessons of 23 years sober, and shares a current struggle.
My growing edge at the moment is in learning to be wisely vulnerable. Choosing carefully the people and the spaces that can hold me as I drop my armor, but choosing them nonetheless. I clean up well. I’ve been practicing that deceptive protection for a lifetime, really. But now, at 46 years old, 23 years sober, and nearly 19 years of living with HIV, my back is again up against my own wall. My own spiritual growth is nudging me toward transparency.
I’ve known for a while now that I am serving neither myself nor my community by making things look easy; by only showing the times where I can actually keep all the balls in the air. (Roots Grow the Tree, January 4)
The Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum really dislikes the statement, “God will never give you more than you can bear.”
My answer to how people can get through the unbearable comes down to other people. As a true humanist, that’s all we really have, in my opinion. So sometimes it means the strength of religious community, or other communities, helping you through it. Sometimes it means just family or friends or loved ones who help you through. Sometimes it means the social safety net. Sometimes it’s the medical establishment or other professionals in the area of your struggle. Sometimes it’s still not bearable, and there’s nothing we can do, however much we try. (Rev. Cyn, January 9)Children and sexism
Reading Virginia Woolf helps the Rev. Sarah Stewart to notice “the casual sexism of anthropomorphic dinosaurs” in the children’s movie, Walking with Dinosaurs.
On the one hand, it’s demoralizing to see that the challenges facing creative women in 1928 are still so prevalent today. But on the other hand, I hear [Woolf’s] voice still inspiring me, almost one hundred years later, to continue to practice my art of writing, dinosaurs be damned. . . . I hear her saying: be yourself. Write your words, even if you labor in obscurity and against challenges. (Stereoscope, January 9)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak is glad that her daughter is learning that women can be doctors—and ministers, too.
When I help Beckett get ready in the morning and I am already in my collar for the day, I think about what her life will be like with no gender limitations concerning the ministry. . . . She will grow up seeing women, black and white, robed and official, in the pulpit as well as praying, reading, and leading children’s stories. (Under the Collar, January 8)The UU Bloggers’ Workshop
A month ago in the UU Growth Lab on Facebook I asked, “Where have all the lay UU bloggers gone?” That conversation sparked a blogging-focused episode of The VUU—and a new Facebook group, The UU Bloggers’ Workshop.
The workshop is just getting started, but at least two bloggers have responded to a writing prompt posted there. (Notes from the Far Fringe, January 4, and Adventures in Spiritual Innovation, January 4)
One thing I’ve learned in my years of blogging and posting to Facebook is this: connection is not virtual. The medium may be, but you can love and care for others and send it via electronic means as well as face-to-face and hand-to-hand. Sometimes it has to be heart-to-heart–by any means possible. (Long Thoughts, January 5)
Workshop members have an ambitious first project planned: a blog-a-thon supporting the Standing on the Side of Love “Thirty Days of Love” campaign. If you’re a UU blogger, we’d love to have you join the workshop, contribute to the blog-a-thon—or both.
Because the Rev. Dr. Cynthia Landrum stands to inherit land that was part of a slave plantation, she pays particular attention to the recent controversy surrounding Ani Difranco and Nottoway Plantation.
It’s pretty tough to see outside one’s own privilege. And often we would like to ignore that it exists. I would like to be able to just inherit this land when my time comes and have it come to me free from the legacy of slavery. But it doesn’t work like that. . . .
I get to live with my legacy, but I do not get to decide alone what the Landrum plantation land means and how or whether it can be “reclaimed.” If I want to truly engage that question, I have to engage in it with the descendants of people who were most affected. That’s going to take more work. (Rev. Cyn, January 2)Kiss me my darling
The Rev. Theresa Novak celebrates marriage equality in Utah.
Kiss me my darling
Let’s dance with our friends
This moment is glory
The miracle real. (Sermons, Poetry and other Musings, December 21)
The Rev. Andy Burnette completes a five-part series, “Queering Jesus and Paul.”
I believe the Bible actually demands the constant questioning of cultural norms, including categories of gender and sexuality. Prejudice is always a misinterpretation of this bold and welcoming, boundary-shattering, norm-destroying text when it is viewed as a whole. (Just Wondering, December 25)Loving the hell out of the world
The Rev. Tom Schade hopes that UU congregations in 2014 will move from service to solidarity with the working poor.
Solidarity does not come easily to people who pride themselves on their education, or their cultural sophistication, or their refined patterns of consumption.
Solidarity is humble. It says to the fast food worker; I may be a locavore vegan, but I will stand with you for a living wage for selling hamburgers, because you have determined that is what you need. (The Lively Tradition, December 27)
The Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein reflects on a “popular Unitarian Universalist slogan right now” that says “Go love the hell out of the world.”
I never thought much about it, taking it as a given that every human being deserves to have their basic human needs for food, shelter and compassion met by the community. Now I think about it all the time –about how radical this sentiment is beginning to seem in my own society, where too many of us waste our time or have it wasted by petty infighting about small doctrinal matters, or by trying to out-clever each other on the stage of public thought and opinion. (PeaceBang, December 28)Collars, Kenosis and Oklahoma
The blogging conversation about clergy collars continues, with the Rev. Tom Schade questioning the collar’s symbolic power.
So while it is useful, perhaps, in the short term to lay claim to the social authority of Christianity by wearing the clerical collar, it is will have diminishing returns. Our ability to inspire others will have to come from some other source: our authenticity, our consistency, our humility, our transparency.
How would we convey what we are trying to communicate with the clerical collar if we did not wear it? (The Lively Tradition, December 20)
The Rev. Tamara Lebak has begun a new project: wearing a clerical collar every day of 2014, except for Sundays.
What I realized during the course of that day was that I had been flying stealth in the community. Because my faith has no standard clerical garb, I have been able to choose when and whether I presented myself as a minister. After 8 years of being nurtured by my church for the whole of who I am, my next most obvious step is to come out as a clergy person. (Under the Collar in Oklahoma, January 1)Fear, loathing, and religious difference
The more I think about this encounter, the more I wonder about just how similar I am to this woman. Am I not also by turns a wonderful representative of my own faith and an example of its darkest shadow? . . . If I am honest, I am also intolerant and afraid of others, such as religious fundamentalists whose beliefs differ so enormously from mine. (Sunflower Chalice, December 23)
After the BBC refuses to allow him to present the “Thought for the Day” because he is an atheist, the Rev. Andy Pakula pushes back.
One of the most beautiful things about Unitarianism is that it refused to establish any belief test for members—it is and always has been a non-creedal faith. How ironic that the BBC—a tax-funded corporation dedicated to serving all the public—has established just such a belief test for participation in TFTD. (Throw Yourself Like Seed, December 26)
The Rev. James Ford writes about the “War on Atheists.”
There’s a recent essay making the rounds in my part of the Facebook world, where the author reveals that atheists are educated elites who can afford to indulge their belief, or, probably its more accurate to say non-belief, and are absolute jerks for saying out loud what a lot of people fear might be true: there is no God. (Monkey Mind, December 31)Social media reviews
The Rev. Dan Harper reviews the year in UU social media, and looks forward to 2014.
When I look forward to the coming year, I know what I’d like to see. I’d like to see the quality of UU posts on Facebook increase to the point where I’m never embarrassed by them. I’d like to see more exploration of new approaches to social media, extending the good work CLF is doing. I’d like to see more laypeople writing and producing videos and other online content.
How about you? What do you want to see from UU social media in the new year? And what did I miss in 2013 that deserves mention? (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, December 27)
Peter Bowden responds to Harper’s post, adding more detail about what’s happening in UU social media, including changes happening in blogging.
We’ve discussed the issue of UU clergy vs. lay person blogging in the UU Growth Lab and most agreed that the ease of sharing ideas and engaging in discussion in topical UU groups has taken some of the energy away from public blogging. While it is great to have these forums, there was some worry expressed in having these conversations moved behind closed doors. (UU Planet, December 28)
The Rev. Kent Hemmen-Saleska discusses his experience as a guest on the CLF’s online video show, the VUU.
I admit it—I don’t think I present very well on video. I like writing and creating and giving sermons, and I’ve been on stage, and I’m fine singing in front of people. But I get nervous and more unsure of myself when I have to be spontaneous and off-the-cuff with a recording or with video. But Meg Riley and the Rev. Joanne Fontaine Crawford, and all the others made me feel very welcome. And since it wasn’t Fox News, it was a very friendly crowd, so I felt much more comfortable. All in all, it ended up being a very fun time, and I am grateful to the CLF team for having me on as a guest. (Moving in Faith, December 29)
The Rev. Victoria Weinstein’s church website rant may contain uncomfortable truths for many UU congregations.
I have followed five dead links on your church’s website and nowhere have you informed me when your congregation gathers for worship. I conclude that you don’t want me to join you, so I give up.
I’ll read the NY Times and go to brunch instead. (PeaceBang, December 29)Different forms of ministry
After retiring, the Rev. Kit Ketcham has been serving a tiny congregation, calling it “a mix of fun and frustration.”
In the months since I offered my services to the tiny fellowship near my home, I’ve been blessed by a sense of greater connection to these parishioners and also concerned about whether what I am doing for them is good or hopeless. (Ms. Kitty’s Saloon and Road Show, December 29)
The Rev. David Pyle begins a series of posts about professional ministry, congregations, and the search process with a discussion about contract ministry.
I believe the central advantage of contract ministry is that, the more limited-term outlook and the shift in the center of ministerial authority and responsibility allows the contract minister and the congregation to be more experimental and entrepreneurial in how they engage and develop ministry. It allows for change on systemic and cultural issues to be engaged more readily and rapidly, and because the end of the contract is known, it can allow a contract minister and a congregation to be willing to take more risks. (Celestial Lands, January 2)
Unitarian Tim Berners-Lee, known as the inventor of the World Wide Web, was guest host of a popular British radio program, BBC Radio 4’s “Today,” and sparked a mini-controversy when he invited the Rev. Andy Pakula, a Unitarian minister and atheist, to give the show’s daily thought, a short religious segment. Producers stopped that, saying that the slot is reserved for those who believe in God. Pakula instead was given a different segment, and another Unitarian minister, the Rev. Jim Corrigall, gave the official “Thought for the Day.” (Guardian – 12.16.13, Telegraph – 12.27.13)Congregations support community, sinkholes close church, and more
The Community Harvest Community Garden at Community Unitarian Universalist Church in Plano, Tex., was featured for its work in sustainable, environmentally friendly gardening. Half of the produce grown is given to a local food bank. (Dallas Morning News – 1.2.14)
The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Durango, Colo., and a local Methodist church are working together to host a winter shelter program for homeless families, called Winter Haven. (Durango Herald – 12.31.13)
The Unitarian Universalist Church of Tarpon Springs has been forced to move out of its building after sinkholes were discovered beneath it. (tampabay.com – 12.26.13)
The Rev. Jennifer Kelleher will be installed as minister at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Somerset Hills, N.J., on January 12. (NJ.com – 01.02.14)
The Marietta Times profiled Nahum Ward, who founded what is now the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Marietta, Ohio, in 1855, among many other accomplishments in his life. (Marietta Times – 12.28.13)