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Showing posts from 2008

Rick Warren/Obama Inaguration

People are up in arms about Obama's choice for Rick Warren of Purpose Driven Life fame being picked to give the invocation at the inaguration. Seems Rick Warren has made some anti-gay statements. See his remarks for yourself on the controversial Proposition 8 revoking same-sex marriage in California:



I'm disappointed in Obama's choice. Let me say that first. But I'm not surprised. Obama has never come out in favor of same-sex marriage. Obama wants to cozy up to evangelicals still. Obama is still fighting rumors that he's not Christian. Really, given the options of who the famous evangelical pastors are, he probably picked the best of the bunch, and he has some history with Rick Warren. He picked a liberal, pro-same-sex marriage pastor for the benediction, and that will be the final word. One could argue that this is balanced, and that the country is really divided on the issue of same-sex marriage, and to use to pro-lgbt pastors would be too unbalanced for …

Singing Christmas Carols in Church

A popular Christmas carol parody by Christopher Gist Raible goes like this:

Gods rest ye, Unitarians, let nothing you dismay;
Remember there's no evidence there was a Christmas Day;
When Christ was born is just not known, no matter what they say,
O, Tidings of reason and fact, reason and fact,
Glad tidings of reason and fact.It's in good humor and it points to something very real about how we approach Christmas as a religion. For example, our UU hymnal changes a lot of words to Christmas carols. One example is "Joy to the World," which, in our hymnal, reads:Joy to the world!
The word is come:
let earth with praises ring.A far cry from: Joy to the world!
The Lord is come:
let earth receive her King.There are strong reasons for this change, obviously. Unitarians don't believe that Jesus was the Lord or King. That's point one. The second point is that our hymnal did away with a lot of heirarchical language in reference to God. We don't use the whole monarchy metaphor…

If you haven't seen this...

You absolutely must. Funniest video ever.

Prop 8: The Musical

Many of you have already seen it, I'm sure. But I got behind while celebrating "Chalica." Sorry I couldn't embed it, but it was coming out too large to be seen in the blogger format, so I'll have to conquer that one another day.

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Seven

In honor of the somewhat newly created, and not yet fully embraced, holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week. This is my post for Sunday.

Day Seven: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Today's donation goes to the World Wildlife Fund, in honor of my brother-in-law, Cseh Peter.

It's been an interesting week, focusing on the principles. I've enjoyed it, the opportunity to spend a piece of each day reflecting on my faith and how to practice it. It was harder than I expected, too, to think about and write about each principle, and think about how to honor it best.

In the end, I think it's changed my relationship with Christmas and the rest of these December holidays, too. Finally I have taken my gift-giving and connected it to what I believe, in a way that is relevant for me, in this society, rather than honoring Jesus, a long-ago teacher. Although I believe he is still important …

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Six

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In honor of the somewhat newly created, and not yet fully embraced, holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week. This is my post for Saturday.

Day Six: The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

This is one of the largest principles, with arms to cover the whole world. Peace is, after all, the ultimate goal. All the other things--justice, liberty, truth, equity, compassion, inherent worth and dignity, respect for the interdependent web, the democratic process--all these other elements of our principles are steps to peace or results of it. If we can have peace, I think we can have the whole lot of them. It's inconcievable that we might achieve true peace without justice, for example.

How do we get there? My thoughts turn first to Maya Angelou, whose poem "Amazing Peace" I have used at Christmas Eve for the last few years:


Maya Angelou recites her Christmas poem

A brief excerpt:

We, Angels and Mortals,…

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Five

In honor of the somewhat newly created, and not yet fully embraced, holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week. This is my post for Friday.

Day Five: The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.

This year being such an exciting election year, I feel like I've already reflected and written extensively on the democratic process. That being the case, let me point you to some other great words on democracy and this past election that inspired me.

Jim Wallis - "My Personal 'Faith Priorities' for This Election"

Forrest Church - "Religion and the Body Politic"

Where we struggle with democracy is when the vote goes against what we wanted, of course, and the results of a vote can easily go against one of our other principles. However, we must remain true to the idea of democracy, even when we disagree with the results of it.

I'm not going to wri…

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Four

In honor of the created holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week. This is my late night post for Thursday.

Day Four: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.

Tonight we had our community forum/outreach committee meeting. This is the principle we hold before us on the committee the most as we plan our forums. It's also a principle near and dear to my heart. Right now, in particular, I'm trying to instill this principle in others through teaching at the community college.

I was raised with education as a primary value. I come from a long line of educators, with two parents with education degrees, and three out of four grandparents who worked in education. In my family, my husband and I both teach college, as well as my father. My mother and one sister work for the University of Michigan, and one brother-in-law for Michigan State University. My other sister teaches in Detroit public schools, and my other brothe…

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Three

In honor of the created holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week. This is my post for Wednesday, although since it's after midnight it is actually Thursday. Late board meeting--what can I say?

Day Three: Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.

One of the things that I love about our faith is that it doesn't stand still. We're always open to new revelation, always moving forward.

One of the most tragic and moving events of this year for Unitarian Universalists was the shooting at the Tennessee Valley UU Church in Knoxville. One of the things we saw in the aftermath of the event was the third principle in action. The church community responded with grace, dignity, and compassion. And churches all across the community there responded to them. And churches all across the nation responded.

At our church, one member said to me after our vigil how important it was that we had li…

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part Two

In honor of the created holiday "Chalica," I'm doing a series of posts on the Seven Principles this week.

Day Two: Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.

Yesterday I wrote about LBGT issues, and so I won't repeat that today, although there are a lot of justice and equity issues there. However, the agency I'm donating to today is the Human Rights Commission. This donation is in honor of my mother, who has been a consistent advocate for LGBT rights for many years, in church, educational, and workplace settings, and who is an inspiration to me.

But to talk some more about justice, equity, and compassion....

This has been a year when we've talked a lot about equity at our church, particularly about the lack of equity caused by racism. And racism has been a subject in the news a lot this year, too. Obama's winning the presidency is, admittedly, a huge triumph, and a large step towards equity in our society. People are talking about Obama as a "po…

7 Principles in 7 Days: Part One

Someone on Facebook posted a link to a created holiday, "Chalica," and I decided to give it a go. In honor of "Chalica" in which we light a chalice and honor our principles for seven days in December, I'm going to try to write about what each principle means to me each day this week.

Day One: The inherent worth and dignity of every person

The suggestions for honoring this principle included writing a letter of apology or inviting someone to dinner that you disagreed with. That would take more preparation than I've given this, so I thought about the groups of people who have been most devalued in our society: religious minorities, particularly Muslims and Atheists, both of whom are reviled by many but in very different ways; gays and lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people; homeless people; imprisoned people; people with mental disabilities; people with psychological disorders; people with physical disabilities; and many, many more who find themselves o…

Happy Thanksgiving

For those that can't be there, this is the sermon I'm preaching at the Interfaith Thanksgiving Eve Service tonight, along with the scripture readings that were chosen by some of the participants to go with it.

Psalm 100

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
2Worship the Lord with gladness; come into his presence with singing.
3Know that the Lord is God. It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.
4Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him, bless his name.
5For the Lord is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.

Colossians 3:15-17.

15And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. 16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. 17And whatever you do, in word or …

Proposition 8 - And It Gets Worse

One of the ugliest aspects of the fallout around Proposition 8, which struck down same-sex marriage, is how quickly African Americans have become blamed by so many for its passage. For example, here's an article on the subject by Dan Savage, noted sex-advice columnist and himself a gay male. In it he says,

I’m not sure what to do with this. I’m thrilled that we’ve just elected our first African-American president. I wept last night. I wept reading the papers this morning. But I can’t help but feeling hurt that the love and support aren’t mutual.

I do know this, though: I’m done pretending that the handful of racist gay white men out there—and they’re out there, and I think they’re scum—are a bigger problem for African Americans, gay and straight, than the huge numbers of homophobic African Americans are for gay Americans, whatever their color.Now, on one hand, Dan Savage is known for being inflammatory. On the other hand, we have had him speak in a workshop at the UU's General A…

Standing on the Side of Love

I've been struggling to put words together on how I feel about Proposal 8 in California in an eloquent enough way to post publicly. I feel like I'm just too emotionally torn between anger and sorrow to speak rationally, much less eloquently, on the subject. I'll try to do so soon.

Meanwhile, the UUA has produced this lovely video.

Coffee, Coffee, Coffee?

This is a cute video with some good lessons on Membership for any church.

After the Election

With apologies to Howard Thurman for the paraphrasing/plagiarizing:

When the polls have all closed,
When the votes have all been counted,
When the candidates have gone home,
When the crowds have dispersed,
The work of rebuilding our nation begins:
to find the lost,
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the brothers,
to make music in the heart.

Making a Difference

I was experiencing writer's block, so I went over to my livejournal account and looked at their writing starters for writer's block. One, from about a week ago, caught my eye:

"When it comes to making a difference, some people donate money and others volunteer their time. What cause gets your time or money?" Apparently, October 25 was "Make a Difference Day." Well, I'm five days late to write on this, but I'll give it a go.

It's not surprising that our church and related organizations get the largest percentage of my time and my money. My largest charitable contribution is to our church, and I've only just started to increase my other charitable giving. Some of that is to denominational organizations I support: the UUA itself, Chalice Lighters, Meadville Lombard Theological School and Starr King School for the Ministry, and the UUSC. Sometimes I only give to these in little ways, like the "Guest at Your Table" effort that we'll b…

Old Fat Naked Women for Peace

My cousin Wes Weddell was in from Seattle and performed at our church a couple of weeks ago. Now, his parents have e-mailed me another West-Coast music sensation: the Righteous Mothers. Here they are singing "Old Fat Naked Women for Peace."



And if you missed Wes, here's one of the songs he performed for us:

Ballot Proposals

Sorry I haven't posted in a while. I've been at two conferences back-to-back last week and the week before, so I'm catching up from two weeks away. Here's a little something to chew on, though: a preview of November's minister's column in our newsletter, which won't come out for a couple more days.


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I’ve been writing a lot about the boundaries of what we talk about and do not talk about in our churches, such as partisan politics. But it’s important to remember that in November we also talk about ballot issues, and that we as a church can take stands on ballot issues, and have in the past. We have not voted on any of the current ballot issues as a church, but there are many things we can say about the stands that Unitarian Universalism, as a whole, has taken.

Here’s what we have said as part of our larger association on one of the issues that’s before us: stem cell research. In 2006 the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association passed…

Eid, Muslim While Flying

Last night our family attended the annual Eid celebration hosted by the Muslim Association of Jackson County. It's a wonderful event every year, held at the Potter Center at JCC. It includes a wonderful dinner of Pakistani food, and a program to educate people about Islam. It also includes a program which has speakers who explain a little about Islam for the non-Muslims present, and a children and youth presentation, where verses of the Koran are recited , songs sung, and poetry written by the youth is shared. This year, they felt that they wanted to do something a little new, in addition, so they brought out a Muslim comedian from California, Baba Ali. There are a number of videos of him available on YouTube. Here's a clip in which he talks about being "Muslim While Flying."



And another one on the same subject:

Vote Yes on Library Millage!

In all the discussion about what we aren't allowed to say from our pulpits, I've been forgetting to say something I can legally say from the pulpit or anywhere: I hereby endorse the Jackson District Library's operating millage on their November ballot! I, personally (as our church has not taken an official stand on this), encourage people to vote in support of their local libraries!

Whew. Glad to have that off my chest.

Our church is very much blessed by the presence of our district library. We have banded together with the library to co-produce our very successful commUnity forUm series. The library also heads up the "Big Read" initiative with grant money from the NEA Big Read, and we've tapped into the Big Read program for the last couple of years (2009 book: The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck).

This millage is not the same as the last millage for the library. That millage, which failed, would've provided for expansion of the library. We would've be…

Preaching Partisan Politics from the Pulpit?

This past Sunday, a group of 33 pastors preached a partisan message, endorsing a presidential candidate, from their pulpits in defiance of the tax code, which forbids such practice, the penalty for which is loss of tax-exempt status for the church.

Here's what I think.

The reason the average person gives for why this prohibition should be in place is "separation of church and state." However, this is a misunderstanding of what "separation of church and state" means. People often think that our country is founded on the idea that church and state are two totally separate things, therefore the state should say nothing about churches, and vice versa. In fact, what separation of church and state, as I understand it, is about is two-fold: First, there should be no state-sanctioned religion. The state should not endorse, promote, or show preference to any religion. Second, this is about freedom of religion. All religions should be free to practice as they see fit…

White Privilege & Election Fever

The UUBlogosphere has been abuzz with discussion about an article titled "This Is Your Nation on White Privilege" by Tim Wise. To read what other UUs are saying, a brief description of some of the responses can be found at the Interdependent Web, along with links. I will say that I find the article snarky and abrasive, and at a couple of points I took exception with it, but there were a lot of places where I thought it was, sadly, right on in its analysis.

What you think of this article, I believe, comes down to what you believe about the concept of "white privilege." If it's a new concept for you, the classic essay by Peggy McIntosh, "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," is a great place to start reading. White Privilege is a concept we've been discussing at our church in our adult religious education group on "Building the World We Dream About," if you're interested in discussing it more and are in our area.

White priv…

Should We Have a U.S. Flag in Our Sanctuary?

Our worship committee has been thoughtfully discussing this question, "Should we have a U.S. flag in our sanctuary?" for the last few months. And we have not arrived at a final conclusion yet. We have, however, done a few things:


Asked members of the church for their opinions,
Read articles from other denominations and individuals,
Talked to individual churches about their policies,
And talked to UU ministers about their beliefs.
I believe this is an important question, with strong feelings on both sides, and needs to be approached slowly, deliberately, and thorougly.
And I believe that emotions are too strong right now on the issue. I, personally, would like to see any decision delayed until at least a month after the upcoming presidential election, so that the political feelings that have reached a fever-pitch have some time to die down first.
However, we do, in the mean time, intend to do a couple of things:

We'd like to continue to hear feelings and impressions on an indivi…

More Thoughts on Cultural Misappropriation

Since the Interdependent Web quoted my previous post on cultural misappropriation, I've been doing some more thinking on the subject.

It's not that I don't think cultural misappropriation is to be avoided. We all should strive to be as sensitive to other cultures as possible. It's that I think a code of conduct, at this point, on the issue is not really possible. (And putting cultural misappropriation in our bylaws feels close to establishing a code of conduct on this issue and may, indeed, lead to one.) We haven't defined sufficiently what is and what is not cultural misappropriation. I was at a workshop on this issue at our General Assembly a couple of years ago in which it was seriously suggested that, essentially, if something is done well, it's okay, if a piece of music is done poorly, then it's misappropriation. I have significant disagreement with that rule, as one is who is not the greatest musician! Can I never, therefore, be using something from a…

Hurricanes, Reaching Out, and Our Interconnectedness

We spent a rainy weekend here in Michigan this weekend. It was a reminder, every time we stepped outdoors, of what was happening on the other side of the country from us, down in Texas.

Some may remember that I served a congregation in Houston briefly before heading North again. I checked that church's webpage and other church's webpage as we anxiously awaited news of how our fellow UUs were surviving the storm. The Southwestern Unitarian Universalist Conference now has more information posted here. No news of my old congregation, the Northwest UU Community Church, has been posted, but there's a lot to learn about other UU congregations, especially, the UU Fellowship of Galveston, which is presumed flooded.

The UU world is a small one, and the interconnection easy to observe, from the fact that I served a church in this area and a former minister of our church, the Rev. Susan Smith, is now district executive of the Southwestern Conference. Our thoughts and prayers go out to …

Cultural Misappropriation and More on the P&P

UU minister James Ford has written a very thoughtful piece on one piece of the proposed revision of the Principles and Purposes here. It's definitely worth reading. He focuses in on the proposed sentence in the section on "sources":

“Grateful for the traditions that have strengthened our own, we strive to avoid misappropriation of cultural and religious practices and to seek ways of appreciation that are respectful and welcomed.”

I completely skipped this sentence when I gave some of my thoughts a week ago, so let me address this sentence, as well.

James Ford says (I've deleted some, show by the elipses; the entirety is worth reading):

The problem is enshrinement in By-Laws, and therefore raising the possibility of institutionally defining appropriate behaviors and with that the possibility of punishment and expulsion for offenders, particularly ministers.

And this is not paranoia. Already a trial balloon of this sort was raised for the minister’s ethical guidelines. Obje…

Banned Books

Between my sermon series of last month on books that changed my life, and the discussion of banned books happening in the media and blogosphere due to recent political events, it seemed like a good time to remind you that Banned Books Week is coming up later this month.

New Principles and Purposes?

The UUA's Commission on Appraisal (COA), which is an review body independent of the UUA board, takes on a different subject pertinent to the UU association every three years. Recently, they have been studying Article II of the UUA bylaws, better known as our "Principles and Purposes," as Article II was required to be reviewed every 15 years (we're a bit late). The COA has just posted their draft of a proposal for the P&P, including many large changes. If you're interested, they can be found here. It's important to note that the COA can't change the P&P document, which is part of the UUA bylaws. Nor can the UUA board of trustees. It has to be voted on in two subsequent general assemblies by the delegates--that means representatives of churches and their ministers. If you follow the link and read the draft document, you will find a survey there where you can leave your thoughts and feelings. Then the COA will meet again and consider the survey respo…

When Will We See Humanist Religious Leaders at the Conventions?

This week's On Faith (Newsweek/Washtington Post) features an article by Humanist Harvard chaplain Greg M. Epstein on "Don't Exclude Humanists, Atheists from the Melting Pot." In it, he writes:


I've seen several signs that an Obama administration might recognize the single most essential truth of American religion and politics in the 21st century. That is, not only is the U.S. not merely a "Christian Nation," we have become something new entirely: the world's first truly "Interfaith Nation." As my Harvard colleague Diana Eck has eloquently described, the U.S. is now the world's most religiously diverse nation. If we embrace the values of religious pluralism, our diversity will be a rich resource, rather than a source of division.

However, this historic opportunity would become an historic tragedy of prejudice and discrimination if we fail to recognize that an Interfaith Nation must make room for Humanists, atheists, and the non-religious …

About This Blog

The UUA's Best Practices for Unitarian Universalist Blogging report suggests that UU bloggers consider several questions. Here are the questions, along with my own responses.

1. Why do you blog? What goals do you have for your blog?
I've started blogging because I see it as one way to keep in touch with my congregation, to respond to issues that are of interest to UUs that are not appropriate for a full sermon for any reason, and to share thoughts and opinions with a wider audience.

2. Who is your intended audience?
Unitarian Universalists, particularly members of my congregation, but also members of other congregations, colleagues, and UUA staff.

3. Who owns your blog? Does it belong to you as individual or to your congregation
or other organization?

I see blogging as a service to the congregation, but owned by me. Similarly, our church has agreed that I have ownership of my sermons.

4. How frequently do you post?
My goal is to post once to twice a week.

5. What is the tone of your blo…

Politics and Religion

It's tough to stay on my side of the line between politics and religion during this intense campaign season. I personally have never been so caught up in a presidential race as I have been in this one. And there's been so many issues that have been brought up in this race, issues that I am free to comment on, professionally and personally, like race, gender, the economy, war. There have been issues of religion brought up by this presidential race, too, that I have found absolutely fascinating, and sometimes infuriating. For example, there is the fact that a substantial number of U.S. Americans still believe BarackObama is a Muslim, and the anti-Muslim sentiments that have been e-mailed around the company accompanying statements of his supposedly Muslim identity. This campaign has also brought up what I would consider the most religious issue of all: hope.

Our church web page links to this blog, because I am its minister, yet this is not a blog that is run by or owned by the chu…

Marriage

There are a couple of new developments in the same-sex marriage issue in our area. First, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, the Jackson Citizen Patriot has refused to publish a same-sex wedding announcement in their "Milestones" section. They're also refusing to publish letters about the issue, claiming that they don't publish letters criticizing business practices of any business, unless that is already an issue in the news.

Well, now it is. Former Jackson resident Chuck Meade has taken this issue to another level, contacting the state's leading lgbt periodical, Between the Lines. You can read about it at http://www.pridesource.com/article.shtml?article=31586. The CitPat says that Meade's wedding isn't legal in either this state or the state it's happening in, but if they were approached by a Jackson couple getting married in a state that recognizes same-sex weddings, then, well, who knows? They're taking it on a case-by-case basis for now. I noti…