Showing posts from 2011

The Lowe Moment

Lowe's recently pulled advertising from the show All-American Muslim, bowing to pressure from conservative groups such as the Christian Florida Family Association.  The president of that group, David Katon, said this on NPR:
Our concern with ‘All American Muslim’ is that it does not accurately represent the term Muslim, which is a follower of Islam and a follower of Islam believes in radicalization, the use of Sharia law, which provides for honor killings, mutilation of women and numerous other atrocities to women.Despite how often we hear anti-Muslim rhetoric in our society, this piece of vitriol really shocked me.  His objection to the show is that it portrays moderate, average, peaceful American Muslims.  Apparently a religious extremist like Katon can't believe that moderates within other religions exist.  He paints a caricature of Muslims and then claims that anyone who doesn't look like his caricature isn't Muslim, and that moderate, peaceful Islam doesn't…

Girl Scouting and the UUA

Dashed off a letter to the UUA today.  Leaving off the official's name to whom I addressed it, the text of it was as follows:

I am writing to you as a Unitarian Universalist minister and as a Girl Scout Troop Leader and Girl Scout Troop Organizer. I’ve paid attention over many years to the “continuing struggle for inclusiveness” situation between the UUA and the Boy Scouts, as outlined at

I’m proud as a Girl Scout leader that Girl Scouts do not share the Boy Scouts’ discrimination towards atheist and agnostic scouts and troop leaders nor their discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender scouts and troop leaders. Indeed, I proudly tell my Brownie Girl Scouts on a regular basis that the Girl Scout Promise, which includes the word “God,” can be, according to Girl Scouts USA, replaced by any Girl Scout to reflect her own spiritual beliefs. I model this in my troop meetings by replacing the word “God” in the G…

Random Acts of Kindness

I'd been having a rough day, when I came to the studio with my daughter to wait for an hour while she takes her class. In the last ten minutes, one stranger has offered to buy me a latte, and another has told me that I look really nice in purple.

Random acts of kindness, folks, go a long way. You never know when the person you just reached out to really needed that kind moment from a stranger.

Here's hoping I remember to pay it forward.

Another Thing About GA

This is a shout-out to the GA Planning Committee, I suppose.  I know they're doing a lot of hard work, and I know that criticizing what they've done, when they have so many voices they've been asked to listen to and they've put a ton of thought & effort into things, is not helpful, constructive, or appreciated.  So without criticizing, what I want to say is that I want them to know how much work we, ought here in the non-UUA-committee world have been doing, as well.  We've been asked to prepare ourselves for this General Assembly, and I think we have been.  By the time I get to General Assembly, here's some of what I will have done:
Read the UUA's "Common Read" book for 2010-2011, The Death of Josseline. Read other books on immigration.Read just about everything on the UUA's webpage on immigration.Read countless e-mails and websites from social justice agencies on the subject.   Attended workshops designed to prepare us for "Justice GA…

The Writing Process

I'm pouring out post after post on 9/11 to get out of my system those things which I need to say but which don't belong in my sermon.  This is done in hopes that once these things are out, I can see what is left.  What I know is left right now is the stone of hope that is hewn out of the mountain of despair.  Perhaps it is connected to those five smooth stones.  Or perhaps it is one of them.  What mountains do we hew the other four stones out of, then?  Grief, hope, memory, and even joy are all the tumblers now as I polish the stones up.

09/16/11 - The Stone of Hope

I've been rereading what I wrote in those days after September 11th, 2001.  Here's what I said at our water communion service on September 16th, 2001:

          Like many of you, I have been inundated with the thoughts of millions this week.  I hear speaker after speaker on television and radio, I read comment after comment in the papers and on e-mail.  They blur together--the President, a minister, a fireman, a friend, a teacher, a rabbi, a senator, an imam...  I marvel at their coherence sometimes, their ability to capture the depth of tragedy in a soundbite.  I found myself unable to put pen to paper all week, still soaking it all in, still trying to make sense out of chaos.  What follows here, therefore, is one person’s thoughts--still mutable, still very much in turmoil.            My first thoughts, of course, are for the victims and their families of this week’s horrible events.  I hear phrases like “an end to innocence” and “our world will never be the same,” being exch…

Visiting "Ground Zero"

9/11 had a large impact on my ministry.  About two years later, in 2003, now ministering in New England, my colleague Jennie Barrington and I, were talking often how 9/11 had shaped our ministry.  We also were big Simon and Garfunkel fans, and Simon and Garfunkel were doing their "Old Friends" reunion tour.  We bought two tickets to go see them in New Jersey, and we hit the road.  We went two places: the concert, and Ground Zero.  That was it -- we didn't do a Broadway show or see the Statue of Liberty, or go to the Met.  We had two things we wanted to do: that concert, and see Ground Zero for ourselves.

I had been to New York City only two or three times before -- once to visit a boyfriend in college over the summer, once with my college's Glee Club on a concert trip.  I had driven through it a couple of times on my way to New England, also, but all I can say about that is that the tunnels and bridges are expensive, and that driving through New York City six months …

Do You Remember?

When I was younger, particularly, but really for a lifetime, I can remember instances where people were talking about how they remember where they were when they heard that John F. Kennedy was shot or that Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot.  I was born after both of those instances.  But I could tell that there was something important about sharing those memories.  For my generation, we had a bit of this with the Challenger Space Shuttle explosion.  I remember that I was in science class at school when I heard about it.  But for us, really, it's now 9/11 that holds this strange fixed moment in our cultural consciousness.  I think it's true not just for us, but maybe a bit more so, since we aren't old enough to have experienced those tragic deaths of JFK and MLK, much less the World War II moments that still loom large for that greatest generation.

My story of 9/11/01 is intricately woven with the beginning of my ministry.  I was in my first month of ministry, fresh out of s…

Talking to My Child About 9/11

There are a lot of people who have written a lot of wise words about how to talk to children about 9/11.  I'm not a child psychologist, or a teacher, or an expert on trauma.  I am a parent, though, and ultimately every parent has to handle this themselves, whether or not they are also a a child psychologist, teacher, or trauma expert.

So I talked to my child about 9/11 today on the way to school in the car.  She was born a few years after 9/11/01, so it wasn't something that had really come up before.  But we had switched the radio from NPR to her favorite music station--the one that plays all the pre-teen pop songs--and they were talking about 9/11.  So I just asked her, "Do you know what they're talking about when people are talking about 9-11 or September 11th?"  She didn't.  So I told her, in simple terms, that on September 11th, ten years ago, before she was born, some men, which we call terrorists, had taken over some planes, using knives, and wanted to…

It's No Wonder...

Almost two weeks ago, a blogger going by "Wondertwisted" wrote a blog post titled A 'Dear John' Letter to Unitarian Universalism.  (Her real name appears to be "Cindy" based on the responses to the post, but since I'm a Cindy, that's confusing, so we'll call her "WT.")  In her post, WT outlines the reasons why she's leaving Unitarian Universalism.  The blog post immediately got a lot of my colleagues talking about it, mostly on Facebook as they posted up the piece.  I've been thinking about WT's post since then, and am still not really ready to put out a full response, but here goes for a bit anyway.

I understand what it is my colleagues are saying when they are sympathizing with Wondertwisted.  They see in her post a desire for a deeper spiritual experience in Unitarian Universalism.  It's connected to the "Language of Reverence" discussions that went around a few years ago and the "Whose Are We" di…

Pronoun Usage: Where Grammar and Justice Meet

As many of you may be aware, I have my bachelor's and an M.A. in English literature, and I often teach introduction to composition at the local community college in addition to ministry.  I'm teaching again this fall, and am thinking over my point of view about pronouns, specifically the use of "they" as a singular gender-neutral third-person pronoun.

My previous perspective had been that I was there to teach them to abide by the MLA style, and that the MLA style did not (yet) allow for the singular use of "they."  Therefore, I have been marking this as a pronoun/noun error on papers for years.  As far as I can determine, the MLA, Chicago, and APA style manuals all still recommend "he or she" or "he/she" or making the subject plural.  The Chicago Style Manual states:
A singular antecedent requires a singular referent pronoun. Because he is no longer accepted as a generic pronoun referring to a person of either sex, it has become common in…

The Trouble with Bookstores, Redux

A few months ago, as Borders closed some of its stores, I wrote this blog post.  This week we get the word that Borders is completely liquidating and will be no more. 

When I came to Jackson, Michigan, seven years ago, we had several small bookstores.  None of them were great.  Almost all of them are now out of business.   What's gone?  Best Books in Jackson Crossing, a small bookstore in a strip mall on West Ave., another small bookstore that was on West Ave. (I can't even remember their names), the Nomad Bookstore on Mechanic (which both came and went during these years), and now, we'll see the Waldenbooks in Jackson Crossing close, as well.

Where can you buy a book, other than online, in town?
You can buy textbooks at Baker College and Jackson Community College.You can buy Christian books at Agape in Jackson Crossing.You can buy children's books at the Toy House and a lesser number at Toys R Us.You can buy comic books at Nostalgia, Ink. You can buy used books at the

Two Cents on the Justice GA

For the record, I'm not really opinionated about what is being called the "hot mess" -- the resignation of two members of the GA Planning Committee. I don't know enough about the internal politics of the GAPC or the UUA Board to really weigh in on the issue.  Kim Hampton's post about the roll of worship and the SLT in the Justice GA is informed and informative.  And I think Tom Schade is right on point to say, "It's always useful to remember that the future hasn't happened yet."

I am opinionated about the "Justice GA," on the other hand.  And I know for every person who was sitting in the Plenary Hall when we voted for a "Justice GA" there was a separate opinion, and not all of our expectations can be met.  Half of us probably think that there should be a Service of the Living Tradition, and half of us don't.  Half of us think there should be an exhibit hall, and half of us don't.  And the half that do and the half th…

Design Your Church a Mobile Website! - Maps Addendum

It turns out I was over-thinking the maps option.  I had created a page called "Directions" which had the address and phone number and an embedded customized Google map of  the church in it (200x300 pixels).  This was entirely workable.  Someone could change the size of the map and move it up & down and so forth, to see what they wanted to see.  It was pretty much like this:

View Larger Map

But this wasn't what I really wanted.  I wanted to click on it and have the option pop up of going to my navigation app on the phone.

I discovered that if I clicked on the (plain text--no hyperlink) address itself that I had typed above the embedded map, I would get such a pop-up asking if I wanted to do that.  But this wasn't intuitive enough and some people might not know their phones work this way (and some phones might not do it, for all I know).

Then this weekend someone sent me directions to an event using Mapquest. When I went to print the directions, Mapquest asked me i…

Design Your Church a Mobile Website!


Some time ago I installed a button from Extreme Tracking on the bottom of my church website, inconspicuously, I hoped.  I don't pay for the service, so I only get the free version, which tells me about the last twenty people to visit the website.  At the time, I was noticing the diversity of browsers people were using--the usage had changed from almost exclusively Internet Explorer to a diversity of browsers with Explorer representing the largest percentage, but less than half, and Firefox hot on its heels.  The big question then was how to design a page such that it looked good at different resolutions and through different browsers.  That was just a couple of years ago.  Earlier this week when I looked at data on the last twenty users, six were from mobile phones (one of which I could rule out as mine).  With one-fourth of the users looking at the website from mobiles, I knew I needed a church webpage that was friendlier to mobile usage.  I suspect that mobile phone users a…

Evolving Worship in the Social Networking Age - Part 3: Possibilities & Opportunities

In Part 1 of this series I wrote about a proposal being generated through blog discussion about shorter sermons tied to social media in new ways.  In Part 2 I wrote about some of the limitations as I see it.  The main take-away there is that while some populations of some churches may be ready for this, others are not over the threshold yet.  The problem is that we're on a cusp right now, where some "digital natives" are ready for something different, not everyone is comfortable with the use of it.  As you go up by age/generation, a smaller percentage of people are using social networking. 

Evolving Worship in the Social Networking Age - Part 2: Limitations & Expectations

So in my last post I talked about a proposal being generated to look at worship, particularly the sermon, in a new way in the light of social networking.  I think it's worth noting that the authors of the three posts I cited are all people who are not full-time solo ministers with the corresponding preaching schedule that such demands, and that Dan Harper, who comes the closest to that role in his role as Associate Minister, is in a large church with presumably some staff, and in Silicon Valley, as well.  What he describes seems less doable in a small country church such as I serve.  So here's what I see as the limitations to the model he proposes:

1.  Podcasting/Live streaming/any audio or video component -- Much as I love the idea of it, I don't have the technology for it.  And should I have the technology, I still don't have the tech support that I personally would need.  I could acquire the know-how to do it all on my own, given the technology, but right now that&#…