Saturday, January 31, 2009

Small Churches

I just returned from a minister's retreat. While we were there, we broke into small groups, and I met with a group of other ministers of small churches. This was an "appreciative inquiry" retreat, so we focused on what the positive things about being ministers of small churches are, and what skills and resources we bring to our larger group. We came up with a wonderful, appreciative list. I don't want to share it with you, because I'm not sure of the confidentiality rules around that, but I want to ask any readers out there to respond with the strengths, as they see them, of small churches. It's time to appreciate ourselves!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Small Churches

At the Heartland UU Minister's Association meeting, a few of us met in a small group to talk about being ministers in small churches. We developed a list of what strengths we bring to the larger group of UU ministers. This same list could also be a list of the strengths that small UU churches bring to the UUA. As my memory serves, these are some things we mentioned:



  • We know how to work collaboratively, because we've had to.

  • We know about

  • We have a proportionally huge impact in our communities, for those small UU churches in small towns.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What You Didn't See

Following the protests against Rev. Rick Warren delivering the invocation at Obama's inauguration, Bishop Gene Robinson, the openly gay Episcopal bishop, was asked to give an invocation at a pre-inauguration event. Well, unfortunately, it had much less coverage. First of all, the event was on HBO, which not everyone has access to. But worse than that, the invocation was cut from HBO's coverage, so no one got to see it then. HBO, by way of apology, played it the next day during the pre-inauguration time, and I think it was played on the screens on the mall in DC. But for the rest of us, we pretty much had to go hunting to actually see it. So, in case you haven't, here is his very worthy invocation.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Principles Proposal Final

The Commission on Appraisal put forward a draft proposal for revision of the UU principles that I wrote about here and then here and here. Having heard all the feedback sent to them on this draft proposal, they've now issued their final proposal. A fine commentary on how the questions raised by the cultural misappropriation section are left unanswered is given by James Ford at Monkeymind here, and so I'll just say I agree with his analysis of this, and say that combined with the passage that states, "When we fall short of living up to this covenant, we will begin again in love, repair the relationship, and recommit to the promises we have made" under the C-23 "Principles" section, but which would seem to apply to the whole Article II "Covenant" section under which the sources fall as well, it seems to propose that there actually be a prescribed process for addressing "misuse of cultural and religious practices" that is troublesome given the lack of clarity around what constitutes "misuse" that I spoke about in my earlier posts.

I don't want to sound like an extremist, but I also want to draw attention to a passage in the proposed principles that concerns me, especially when added to the above concerns. There is a slight but significant change in our last prinicple. The new proposed wording is, "Reverence for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. " The current priniple is, "Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part." One little word, "Respect" has been changed to "Reverence." What does this mean?

Respect: (first two definitions were not the one we're talking about)

3. esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person, a personal quality or ability, or something considered as a manifestation of a personal quality or ability: I have great respect for her judgment.
4. deference to a right, privilege, privileged position, or someone or something considered to have certain rights or privileges; proper acceptance or courtesy; acknowledgment: respect for a suspect's right to counsel; to show respect for the flag; respect for the elderly.
5. the condition of being esteemed or honored: to be held in respect.

Reverence: (again some definitions not useful are omitted)

1. (noun) a feeling or attitude of deep respect tinged with awe; veneration.
2. (noun) the outward manifestation of this feeling: to pay reverence.
3. (noun) a gesture indicative of deep respect; an obeisance, bow, or curtsy.
6. (verb) to regard or treat with reverence; venerate: One should reverence God and His laws.

My personal feeling about this word change is that it brings a creedal nature into the principles that was not there before. While I may personally believe in revereance for the interdependent web, I would oppose this bringing of veneration into our princples. If the meaning of reverence desired is "deep respect," I would go that far but change it to "deep respect" rather than "reverence." I know "reverence" is a particular point of interest for us, and that this clearly goes back to UUA President Bill Sinkford's call for a language of reverence, begun with his 2003 sermon "The Language of Faith" in which he specifically points to the principles as devoid of this language of reverence: "So I went and reread the Principles and Purposes. I know, I know…I'm supposed to know these by heart. But as I re-read them, I realized that we have in our Principles an affirmation of our faith which uses not one single piece of religious language. Not one. Not even one word that would be considered traditionally religious. And that is a wonderment to me; I wonder whether this kind of language can adequately capture who we are and what we're about."

Problem: lack of religious language in principles. Solution: add the word "reverence." Simple? No.

The principles are not meant to serve this kind of role. As Sinkford says, "They frame a broad ethic, but not a theology." Well, that's good. We don't want them to form a theology. They're designed to be an ethic. Making them into a theology makes them into just what people warn about who would like to see us get rid of them altogether: a creed. Yes, if we all "covenant" together to affirm and promote a particular theology, then, well, yes, it starts to become a creedal test for our non-creedal faith.

So, hmm... We've brought theology into the principles, covenanted to uphold them, and then imposed a punishment/correction for those who fail to live up to the principles? And this isn't a creedal religion?

Creed:

1. any system, doctrine, or formula of religious belief, as of a denomination.
2. any system or codification of belief or of opinion.
3. an authoritative, formulated statement of the chief articles of Christian belief, as the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene Creed, or the Athanasian Creed.

Yup. Check. This sounds like one to me.