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Showing posts from November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Here's what I shared at the interfaith Thanksgiving Eve service in Jackson...

In Unitarian Universalism, we’re a blend of loving and embracing tradition, coming out of an American Christian tradition, and a blend of beliefs from different world religions, cultures, and some we’ve come up with on our own. When it comes time for the holidays, therefore, we balance doing the traditional, customary American and Christian rituals with bringing in new ideas, older ideas from other places, and, always, a focus on justice. Thanksgiving is a time when we celebrate togetherness and thankfulness and abundance, but also mourn the brokenness, the brokenness of our connection to the earth, the brokenness of peace, the brokenness of our relationship to the First Nations people on whose land we stand.

I want to share with you a short reading from my colleague the Rev. Chris Buice. He speaks humorously about the dilemma we in a pluralistic faith encounter. He writes:

Ministerial Formation

There's a discussion going on in the blogosphere about the costs of ministerial formation, and I was going to jump right in, but realized it's hard to do so without first describing what goes into becoming a minister in our denomination. So this is a description of that process. The UUA describes the process here. I'll go into some detail in a way that will hopefully be shorter and easier to follow. I may mix things up a bit, because the process has substantially changed since I went through it. You go through three stages with the UUA in becoming a UU minister: Applicant, Aspirant, and Candidate.

As an applicant, one applies to the UUA to be in the process of becoming a minister, and starts theological school. UU ministers may attend any accredited theological school. I went to one of the two UU schools: Meadville Lombard Theological School. The standard path to becoming a UU minister right now is a four-year process, although some manage to do it faster and some t…

Reimagining GA

A popular UU blogger asked recently on Facebook what we think of this preliminary and much-changed GA schedule. Some of the reasons for the changes are explained by the fact that they are working towards some goals outlined in this document from the Fifth Principle Task Force. Here's my response, which I posted on Facebook.

I think the advantages of this schedule are outweighed by the disadvantages. The main advantages I see is that people who are not delegates can leave early and people who are only focused on business can arrive late if they have no pre-GA events to attend. Also, if you're primarily focused on either workshops or plenaries you have big blocks you're not focused on where you can skip out to go sight-seeing.

Disadvantages: ***People really do start leaving early by the droves on Sunday. They have to get to work on Monday, and their flight leaves early, etc. You're going to lose huge amounts of involvement in the plenary Sunday afternoon. Also, I think …
The column "Annie's Mailbox" appears in our daily paper, and the column yesterday got me irritated enough to write a response.

Dear Annie, I usually enjoy your column, but you missed the mark in your 11/18 column in two very significant ways. First, your advice to "Frustrated" urged a parent to talk first to the teacher. I agree. The problem comes with your next piece of advice, which was that this was an opportunity for the son to learn how to deal with difficult people. Annie, the letter said the teacher "is mean and degrading and belittles the children on a daily basis." She also said, the children "are tormented each day." While this may be hyperbole, it's possible it's true. And if it is true, it is absolutely unacceptable, and she needs to remove her child from that atmosphere immediately. Too often we let things that are outrageous pass because they are done by authority figures. Being in a …

Spiral Dynamics

So right now I'm struggling with the concept of Spiral Dynamics. I've encountered this before, but it's interesting to right now consider how it applies to ministry and our movement. Look at Table 1 in this paper for more information. What meme/worldview do you see Unitarian Universalism as operating from? Where do you see yourself? Where do you see your congregation? What are the limitations of the worldview from which you operate? Meme 1 - Beige: SurvivalSense - survival, protection Meme 2 - Purple: KinSpirits - tribalistic Meme 3 - Red: PowerGods - Power, ego Meme 4 - Blue: TruthForce - Authority, one right answer Meme 5 - Orange: StriveDrive - Success Meme 6 - Green: HumanBond - caring, community Meme 7 - Yellow: FlexFlow - flexability, adaptability Meme 8 - Turquoise: WholeView - spirituality, wholeness (And do be polite in your response, even if you struggle with another's worldview.)

Music to My Soul

Today is my last morning at the UUMA Convocation in Ottawa. This morning Meg Barnhouse provided worship. Her song "All Will Be Well," in which she struggles with the words of Julian of Norwich, was amazing. Her storytelling was intimate and funny and deep with meaning as well. What a joy.

The Smallest Thing - It All Comes Together

The other day in a workshop on environmentalism, we heard about how people feel confronted by the overwhelming amount of what needs to be done, so they push it all away and do nothing.

Last night our UUA president was talking about how UUism can become more ethnically and racially diverse. He said that we don't get from here, where we are, to there, the true reflection of the diversity of the world, in one step. What we need to do is take the first step, perhaps the easiest step or perhaps the hardest.

Today Thomas Moore is talking about where we start in soul work, and he said something similar. We need to whittle it down to the smallest thing, the smallest change we can make. That's the change we need to make. That's a big challenge.

All too often in our lives we avoid doing anything because the task is too large. The truth is we need to take the small step. Letting ourselves be overwhelmed by the big picture gives us the luxury to not act at all. What we need to do is much…

The Way of Emptiness

Thomas Moore began his lecture at the UUMA Convo in Ottawa today with a story about emptiness. Nazruddin went to preach to a group of people, and when he got there he asked, "How many of you have heard me preach before?" The excited group of fans all raised their hands. He said, "Very good. You've heard me before, and so you already know what I would say." And he left. The next day he came back and asked the group, "How many of you have heard me preach before?" They'd learned their lesson, so none raised their hands. Then he said, "Well, if you've never heard me preach before, you won't understand what I was going to say." And he left. The next day he came back and asked, "How many of you have heard me preach before?" This time the confused crowd was split, and half raised their hands and half didn't. Nazruddin said, "Good. Those of you who heard me preach before, explain what I said to those who h…

Canadian Concert

Today we had a real treat at the UUMA Convocation. There was a concert of great Canadian performers. I didn't stay until the end, but I think I caught the real highlight: two Inuit throat singers, Becky and Kendra. They did a wonderful job explaining how Inuit throat singing is done in pairs with one person leading and the other person following, copying. It's a contest to see who can make the other person laugh, so it always ends in laughter. (Here's a link to a page with a video of throat singing, and I think it's the two of them. Sorry I couldn't embed it.) They performed a number of songs, explaining each one, and then had all of us try throat singing. If you can imagine a hall full of Unitarian Universalist ministers, paired into two teams, throat singing and trying to make the other team laugh, well, you're likely to laugh yourself at the image. But even funnier was the sight of UU ministers trying to do the dance... Now that I wish I had the video of to …

International Perspective

Here at UUMA Convocation 2009 in Ottawa, we are, necessarily, more aware of our international relations with other Unitarian and Universalist associations. The UUMA is our professional association for ministers serving or affiliated with UUA (Unitarian Universalist Association) congregations, but also for ministers serving or affiliated with CUC (Candadian Unitarian Council) churches. We are not, here, the ministers of one religious organization.

At the ICUU (International Council of Unitarians and Universalists) workshop this afternoon, the point was really brought home that Unitarian Universalism is not a global religion. To paraphrase the ICUU president, we (the association of churches that is the UUA) are a global collection of religions that express liberal religion.

Thomas Moore vs. the New Atheists? Buy Me Tickets!

So I'm here at the UUMA Convocation, and the keynote speaker this morning was Thomas Moore.

What I took from what Thomas Moore shared with us is that there is a divorce in American culture between science and religion, which is the split between mind/intellect and soul. There's nothing surprising in that idea, of course. But Thomas Moore put it simply pointedly, saying (or this is my interpretation of what he said) that most people stop developing their idea of God as children, and the ideas of God put out there the most in our culture are essentially the God we learn at age 6 or 7. Now, reflecting a bit on what he said, imagine if you stopped your understanding of what math is or literature is or science is or medicine is at age 6 or 7. Why do we think that this childhood idea of God is sufficient? My own question is why do even ministers support, uphold, even preach this childish idea of God?

One question that was put to Thomas Moore in the question and answer time was ab…

Convo Stories

Here at the UUMA Convocation in Ottawa, Ontario, a continent-wide gathering of Unitarian Universalist ministers. The last Convo was in 2002 in Birmingham, AL, so it's been seven years since we've had this meeting. Our keynote lecture is from Thomas Moore.Thomas Moore began our lecture today with a Sufi story: Nazruddin asked a couple of men, what do you want people to say about you when you're lying there in the coffin and people are talking about you. The first one said he wanted to remembered as a good man. The second one wanted to be remembered as someone with a big heart. Then they asked Nazruddin what he wanted them to say about him. Nazruddin said, "I'd like them to look at me and say, 'Look! He's moving!'"

Great story. Of course, Thomas Moore tells it better.

To Maine, with Love

Today in the English composition class I teach, we studied Frederick Douglass's 1852 speech, "What, to a Slave, is the Fourth of July?" In it he says he is not going to make an argument, which he proceeds to make:
Must I undertake to prove that the slave is a man? That point is conceded already. Nobody doubts it. and then:
Would you have me argue that man is entitled to liberty? That he is the rightful owner of his own body? You have already declared it. and then:
What, then, remains to be argued? Is it that slavery is not divine; that God did not establish it; that our doctors of divinity are mistaken? There is blasphemy in the thought. That which is inhuman cannot be divine. Who can reason on such a proposition? They that can, may - I cannot. The time for such argument is past.After the vote in Maine this week, I ask:

Would you have me argue that gay and lesbians are people? That their families are families? That their partnerships are true marriages? That their love is lo…

A Prayer

I was asked to give the prayer at the Jackson Democratic Party's annual dinner tonight. What follows is the prayer I gave.
We all pray in different ways, and we often use different words for God—God, Yahweh, Allah, and some of us pray to the Goddess, or to others, and some of us don't pray at all. But here, in this place, we all join in united hope for the needs of the people of our region, and of all of Michigan, this country, and this world, so please join with me in bowing heads or holding hands.

Spirit of Life:

Today, in this hall, we pray for the people of Michigan, this country, and the world. We pray especially for the people of this state of Michigan, whom we are all called to serve in different ways. We pray especially for those among us who are called to service in our government, that they might find the strength, throughout all the pressures they face, to follow their conscience. And we pray for Democrats and Republicans, for the rich and the poor, for gay and …