Showing posts from 2014

Tonight's Statement to the Jackson City Council

Earlier this year, Jackson Together, with the support of the HRC, Jackson Area Civil Rights Awareness Association, PFLAG, and more, asked once again for this City Council to take up the issue of a Non-Discrimination ordinance to protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.It was tabled.We were asked to support this tabling of the motion by our mayor and vice mayor and Equality Michigan, the reason being that they thought that the state legislature, at the behest of the governor, would amend Elliott-Larsen to include LGBT people, and that would provide some of the same protections as our NDO at the state level. That change did not occur, as you know.The Mayor and Vice Mayor pledged to us that this issue would be brought back up in December if Elliott-Larsen was not amended. I’m here to hold you to that promise.The people of Jackson have waited too long for equality.
We’ve heard some nonsense about how this is not doable, and we’ve heard some nonsense that it’s bad for business…


I would normally post this on the Lively Tradition, where I've been doing most of my blogging as of late, but posts there get reviewed first by Tom Shade.  Tom was down in Missouri this week, but was headed home today.  He stopped in the middle of Illinois and turned back South again as the Grand Jury results were announced.  

I have no eloquent words to share tonight.  Just a cry of "no more."

My heart is heavy tonight as I hear the Grand Jury's decision.  It's not a surprise, any more than it was a surprise that George Zimmerman was acquitted of Trayvon Martin's death.  And it may be that this decision is what is legally right, but it means no justice for Michael Brown, just as there has been no justice for so many young black men and boys who have been killed by law enforcement, including Tamir Rice, age 12, who died yesterday in Cleveland, shot for playing with a toy gun. 

If Darren Wilson didn't break the law, what we need in this country, I'm f…

UU Sermon Writing - Part 6

This is my final post in this series on UU sermon writing.  I've been trying to establish that sermon-writing for UU ministers is a more time-intensive practice than in many other preaching traditions, that it takes a bigger percentage of time for the new minister, the long-term minister, and the part-time minister.  That being most of us, what I'm saying is it takes a whole lot of time and there are a lot of variables that make it take even longer than some might think, and it's not a one-size-fits-all thing.

So then I've turned to what we can do about it.  In my last post I reviewed the ideas of theme preaching and preaching extemporaneously, both of which I recommend.  The review of Nate Walker's upcoming book Exorcising Preaching: Crafting Intellectually Honest Worship, which he kindly mentioned in the comments of the last post, says, "all of us are smarter than any one of us."  This is why theme-based preaching is so helpful.

So I think finding w…

UU Sermon Writing - Part 5

My interim friends have told me I have overstated the case on interim preaching, and that there are many who always write fresh material or whose rewrites are extensive enough that it's not much of a time-saver to have old material to use.  I believe they're right, and apologize for overstating the case.  I think it's still true, however, that the time when sermon-writing takes the most time is early in ministry in general and after a number of years in a long-term ministry.  The longer you go in any pulpit the more you know you've used your best stories and examples.  Moving to a new church lets you use those pieces again, even if written into new sermons.  Early in ministry, in general, you have a lot of fresh examples, but are unused to the rhythm of regular preaching, which makes it harder.So, turning to the focus of my last parts of this series, I've talked about how preaching in our religious tradition takes up a significant portion of the week, and a higher …

UU Sermon Writing - Part 4

I've talked about why UU sermon writing takes more time, why UU ministers don't preach every Sunday, and why the dynamics are tougher for part-time ministers.  Next I wanted to talk about some models for making this situation more workable, particularly in light of the changing dynamics of church life.  But before I do that, I want to talk about one more thing that really belongs in Part 1 or 2, which is for whom does sermon-writing take the most work?My suspicion is that there are two categories of ministers who need the most time for sermon-writing.  The first is ministers who are new to the ministry.  These ministers don't have a large number of old sermons to draw from, although they have a handful from seminary and internship.  Their advantage is that their seminary learnings are fresh, and that they've had more recent experiences of being regular worshippers at other ministers' worship services, but they have a disadvantage of less experience in the work of w…

UU Sermon Writing - Part 3

In the last couple of posts, I've outlined why it is that the sermon-writing process is different for UU ministers and why it is that we are not in the pulpit every Sunday.  And, of course, this has ramifications.  And the impact of this is different for bi-vocational (part-time) ministers.  It's important to look at this, since bi-vocational ministry is getting a lot of interest these days because of the increasing struggle of churches to afford full-time ministry, particularly in the changing religious landscape with fewer people in younger generations interested in traditional church.  The bi-vocational trend may need to look different in our UU churches than it does in other denominations.Generally in our movement, it seems that half-time ministers preach twice a month for ten months of the year, or a total of 20 sermons.  They don't really get extra Sundays off for denominational leave; those are just scheduled into the half time that they're not working -- even t…

UU Sermon Writing - Part 2

In my last post, I talked about one major reason why UU ministers usually don't preach every Sunday of the year, and why our tradition is different from Christian churches about this.  In addition, there are the following reasons:First, and most importantly, we believe in the prophetic power of the laity.  We're not the only ones with something to say about our faith, about the big questions, about the future of the church, about social justice.  We have amazing lay people, and we believe in sharing our free pulpit with them.  This is a major difference from traditions which believe the ordained have a more direct connection with God, and a difference from traditions that don't let lay people preach without license.  While we often give ministers a quality control responsibility for how their pulpit is shared, we fundamentally believe in the "prophethood of all believers."  Our lay people are amazing, and we want to hear them.Secondly, we have an increasing under…

UU Sermon Writing - Part 1

With all the discussion in recent months about bivocational ministry, it's worth discussion what implications it has for that central role of the minister: the preacher.My assertion is that Unitarian Universalist preaching for our ministers is a very different thing from preaching in Christian traditions, and from what lay people experience when they preach.  And the reasons that this is different are also some of the reasons why many of our full-time ministers don't preach every Sunday.  Here are some of those reasons:First, in many Christian traditions, there's an assumption that all your sermons are going to in some way tie back to that specific faith and its religious text, the Bible.  You've spent much of your seminary career studying that particular text and you know it well.  Your members are not surprised to hear the same stories coming up in worship again and again, and the same Biblical images.  You may have a lectionary that you use that tells you which pas…

A Witness on Wheels: General Assembly Misses the Mark

I wrote the following piece right after General Assembly this year, but left it unpublished for a few months to reflect on it.  Reading the UU World piece on "Fired Up: General Assembly Energized Unitarian Universalists with New Models of Ministry and Outreach" fired me up to finally publish it. 

At General Assembly this year, I was using a scooter. It’s not the first time I’ve been on wheels – I was using a wheel chair for a semester in college, due to broken bones. As for scooters, I’ve been using them there for the last several years, because it helps me with pain management. This year, newly diagnosed with various foot and ankle problems, it was more of a necessity than ever. As someone who is usually about on legs rather than wheels, every time I’ve been in this situation I’ve learned a lot. And I’m aware enough at this point to know there is still a lot more that I’m not aware of about how people on wheels experience the world.

This General Assembly was the most …

The Meaning of #Ferguson

Generally I write about things on my blog that are not the same things as I'm preaching on -- the blog is an outlet for thoughts that aren't about something I will be preaching on, but still want to get out there.  This past week, I threw out my regularly scheduled sermon to write about Ferguson, as many ministers did around the country.  Because I was channeling all my reading and research and thoughts into the sermon, however, it meant a lack of blog writing on the subject.  For those not in my pews, therefore, I realize it can feel like I've been silent on the subject.  So I'm doing what I don't very often do, and posting my entire sermon, lightly edited, to this blog.  The sermon I was to give was a reprise of one I did post to this blog, a sermon entirely in rhyme about Earth Day and The Lorax.  It's the tenth anniversary of my call to the church, and I had asked people to vote on their favorite sermons of ones I have given over the past ten years.  So dur…

O me! O life! of the questions of these recurring

Robin Williams' daughter wrote, "while there are few things I know for certain right now, one of them is that not just my world, but the entire world is forever a little darker, less colorful and less full of laughter in his absence. We’ll just have to work twice as hard to fill it back up again."

What I've noticed in the last few days is that the world is a little more honest, a little more caring, and a little more vulnerable.  I've noticed friends who normally chat about their child's latest achievement or complain about their latest work hassle open up about their own depression.  I've seen people show a vulnerability through honesty about their own struggles.  Among my colleagues, there's been a lot of writing about personal experience.  People are opening up about their own depression among friends on Facebook.  Some are even posting more publicly on blogs.  Rev. Tony Lorenzen writes, "It’s the depression, both his and mine, that makes h…