Showing posts from 2015

Review: UUA Wordpress Theme -- A Further Look, Part 3 (UUA Services Plugin, Ideas for the Future, Content)

The really neat thing about the new UUA Wordpress Theme is the UUA Services Plugin.  This solves the problem I didn't even really  know I had, and does it very elegantly.

Sunday Services Plugin

The problem: how to we advertise our Sunday service topics on the website?  And how do we do it such that we don't have to update weekly?  Previously, I had looked at three options.  One was what I ended up with: create posts monthly that list the month's services.  This only has to be updated once per month, and that's the advantage.  The disadvantage is that it doesn't list them individually.  There are other disadvantages, too.  Another option would be to put posts up weekly.  The big disadvantage there is the weekly nature of this for a church with no full-time staff except myself.  Another option would be to create them as "events" with the Events plugin.  This carries with it extraneous information like location as a mandatory part of the posts. 

The UUA Servi…

Review: UUA Wordpress Theme -- A Further Look, Part 2 (Header and Footer)

Continuing my thoughts about the new UUA Wordpress Theme...


I've already talked about my preferences with the logo, but there's more to the header than that.  The theme lets you have the logo and title, social media icons, your Sunday service time (or other text), and a small header menu.  The organization of the header area is aesthetically pleasing, and it's well-sized so that it doesn't take up too much of the screen.  Overall: bravo!


The footer has four areas.  In one area, the UUA logo will appear, and if you set it to, you can also have the Welcoming Congregation logo and the Green Sanctuary logo.  These balance nicely to form a block if you have all three.  We're not a certified Green Sanctuary church, so my footer has a bit of a hole there.  It'd be nice to include things like the AIM logo, but you have three other areas that can go in.
Some other choices that congregations might wish to include are a Standing on the Side of Love logo or a B…

Review: UUA Wordpress Theme -- A Further Look, Part 1 (Aesthetics and Home Page)

Well, it's been two days since the UUA's Wordpress Theme debuted, and in that time I've learned a LOT about it.  It took me one day of frustration, wherein I finally reached out to Christopher Wulff, who created the UUA Theme, about my problems downloading and installing, and he quickly figured out that my PHP version on my website was too old and that my upload size specified by my php.ini file was too small.  I was able to call my hosting provider who quickly fixed those things, and minutes later the UUA theme was installed and operational on my webpage.

It took me about half a day yesterday to get the theme to the point where it all looks nice and proper on my site and many of the new items are functioning nicely.  You can take a look at  What I have NOT done yet is taken all the content they offer and add and change my existing pages.  I've done this on a small handful of key pages, particularly in the "About" section, but overall…

Review: UUA Wordpress Theme -- A First Look

Today the UUA launches its new Wordpress theme.  The official title seems to be "UUA Wordpress Theme for Congregations," but I'm referring to it here as "UUA Theme."  This is something I've been waiting for, and vocally advocating for and blogging about , for some time, so I was anxiously awaiting the debut.  So here are some first impressions based on the demo site and what I've read in the materials, as I wait for the launch to happen.  Overall, I think it's really a fantastic job, and just exactly what I was hoping for.  

Look and Aesthetics:

When I was looking for a Wordpress theme for my site when I converted to Wordpress a year or two ago, I was looking for several things in my theme:
 A theme that let me use my own custom logo along with a title to the site.  This is surprisingly rare -- lots of pages allow only for one or the other, or you have to hack the code, which I don't do.The UUA theme clearly lets you use the UUA logo along with a …

Walking Alongside: Remembering a Friend

My friend the Rev. Laurie Thomas passed away this month. As I've been thinking about her and our times together, one memory that sticks out for a number of reasons is the time we traveled to Boston together for a weekend. I asked Laurie's permission, which she granted, to write up the experience as a blog post, but for some unknown reason I never did.

We encountered in the course of a weekend so many little, and big, accessibility issues and issues of injustice or prejudice, that my head was spinning. I was angry--furious--at the encounters. Laurie just shook her head at me. This was everyday life for her, and not out of the ordinary at all. Besides, she explained, she didn't have the luxury of being angry. If you're angry, people won't want to help you, and in some of these situations she might require help of people who don't know her. "Nobody likes the angry gimp," she said to me.

The first instance we encountered was before we even left …

Blessing the Backpacks -- Backpack Charm Craft Instructions

From my wonderful colleagues I got the idea of doing a "blessing of the backpacks" as the children of the congregation go off to school.  It's not a new idea -- Christian churches have been doing it for years, and apparently some UUs, too -- but I had never heard of it before.  Churches often apparently put some sort of zipper pull tag on the backpacks.  Here's an example found on Pinterest:

A couple of colleagues shared their ideas, and some images, in a closed Facebook group, which started me thinking.  I'm fairly crafty with things like this, so I knew I could come up with something.  I was inspired by Karen G. Johnston's example created by her DRE and a member, but couldn't figure out their fancy knots:
But, on the other hand, I do have some tricks up my own sleeve.
Here's my prototype:

My prototypes cost me over a dollar each to make, but to make in bulk they'll cost less than 30 cents apiece, not counting tools or jump rings.  You start wit…

South Carolina: It's Time to Take It Down

Dear South Carolina Governor & Legislators,

I was born in Charleston.  I'm a daughter of the South.  There's a city in Spartanburg County -- Landrum, SC -- that was named for some distant relatives of mine.  And my direct ancestor fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy.  My family owns land in the South that was passed down for generations, land that once we enslaved other people on. 

I understand heritage. I understand heritage is complicated.  I understand we have to remember the bad of who we were, and the hard times, along with the good of who we are, and the good times.  I understand that lives were lost and lives were changed, and the Confederacy and the Civil War continue to shape us.  I understand that we can't forget the past, nor do I want to.

I understand heritage.  I struggle with mine, celebrate mine, mourn about mine, live with mine.  Heritage is complicated.

But flying the Confederate flag doesn't represent my heritage, which goes back generatio…

"They died... discussing the eternal meaning of love."

In the Civil Rights era, there were churches that were centers for civil rights organizing.  And they were attacked -- bombed, set on fire.  We know best the story of the 16th Street Baptist church where four young girls died.  In his eulogy for them, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would say, "They died between the sacred walls of the church of God, and they were discussing the eternal meaning of love."

In that same eulogy for the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing, the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also said:
"They have something to say to every minister of the gospel who has remained silent behind the safe security of stained-glass windows. They have something to say to every politician who has fed his constituents with the stale bread of hatred and the spoiled meat of racism. They have something to say to a federal government that has compromised with the undemocratic practices of southern Dixiecrats and the blatant hypocrisy of right-wing n…

The Trouble with Truancy - Part 2

As my letter in Part 1 of this series illustrated, it's fairly easy to have a truant child.  Missing two weeks due to illness is quite easy to have happen, and the requirement that many districts have that a doctor's note is the only way to excuse the absence means a classist system of who can and will have absences excused and who will end up with a truant child.  All other things being equal, two children out for two weeks with the same two colds can end up with very different fates, not because of the nature of the child, or the diligence of the parent, but simply for economic reasons.

That income levels and truancy are related is no surprise.  A recent MLive article reported:
"Some districts, including many affluent suburban ones, reported little or no truancy. The Forest Hills schools outside Grand Rapids reported five truant students among 10,147 enrolled, and Bloomfield Hills in suburban Detroit just 32 out of 12,306. But Kentwood, another metropolitan Grand R…

The Trouble with Truancy - Part 1

Two years ago, I wrote our school district about the truancy policy.  At that time, I was told that I had presented a good case, and they were going to change their policy.  I don't know if it actually did change and then changed back, but looking at the policy on my school district's webpage, the policy is the same as the one I complained about.  In this post, I'll share that letter.  In my next post, I'll talk about why it matters, and what the Michigan government has just done that makes this even worse.

Dear JPS School Board,

I’m writing to you because I’ve been disturbed about the JPS elementary school attendance policy for some time.Specifically, I find it disturbing that the only way an absence can be “excused” is with a doctor’s note.My chief issue with this policy is that I think it is, in a word, classist.In addition, I think that it represents a misuse of the medical system and it fails to respect a parent’s reasonable judgment.
The policy as it now stands …

New Legal Religious Discrimination in Michigan

Michigan's Governor Snyder signed a new set of discrimination laws yesterday.  "Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 4188" states:

"Private child placing agencies, including faith-based child placing agencies, have the right to free exercise of religion under both the state and federal constitutions.  Under well-settled principles of constitutional law, this right includes the freedom to abstain from conduct that conflicts with an agency's sincerely held religious beliefs."

Both faith-based and non-faith-based agencies receive government money.  Given the separation of church and state, it should be the case that agencies receiving federal or state money are not allowed to religiously discriminate in who they serve.  However, this separation has been eroded over the years in a multitude of ways, from President Bush's Faith-Based Initiative to the Supreme Court's Hobby Lobby decision. 

Even so, this is a new level of affront to freedom of religion. …

Regarding Starr King: A Heartfelt Call

I began this blog article in late November, and worked it through several drafts and researched it as thoroughly as I was able, and then had it reviewed by several trusted people, and then, after all that, decided not to publish it.  Instead, I wanted to reach out first directly to the Starr King Board, and so on December 15th, 2014, I sent a letter to the Starr King Board and SKSM President Rosemary Bray McNatt.  Since my December drafts, however, a lot has happened.  Two more faculty have resigned from Starr King.  Rev. Kurt Kuhwald's resignation letter and other documents can be read on Dan Harper's blog.  It's also worth noting that Rev. Kurt Kuhwald also asks the UUA Board to conduct an inquiry -- something I don't address in my statement, but worth considering further.  The UU Society for Community Ministries has put out a Statement of Concern, calling on Starr King to reverse the refusal of diplomas and to focus energy on restoring trust.  And a list has been pu…