Category Archives: church life

challenge to the UUA – reinvent UU ministry


There was a tweet I saw come across my time line last week from @Rev_Mother who stated to fellow UU blogger and tweeter @mattkinsi that she wanted to be put in charge of Faith Development. Kins was appointed to the UUA committee on appointments. Or the committee on creating appointments to appointing committees. I don’t know… irony and name aside, Kins has been noticed by some higher-ups in the UUA and it’s pretty cool that I can say I knew him when. In fact, Kinsi is the only one of my blog peeps who I have actually met in person.

Anyway… so a few days ago I woke up with a fuzz of ideas swimming through my head as I meandered from almost awake to drifting back into a dream state. I began thinking about her statement about a ministry on faith development.

Her statement was a tangent off a bigger discussion that had occurred (actually it’s still happening) which was debating the idea of the UUA focusing on it’s cause de jour coupled with the recent Social Justice General Assembly vice focusing on our salvific message. (i learned that word from Rev Mother. I use it all the time now. 🙂 )

I’m assuming this is what brought on this subconscious/dreamlike thinking the other day. So I began thinking what if there was a ministry on Marriage and Family so that we could not only focus on pushing for legalizing same-sex marriage but also from the pulpit deliver a message that strengthened families and those who are married AFTER they have walked down the aisle whether they are gay or straight.  It may seem like semantics but the thing is we work pretty diligently at getting gay people to the alter but do NOTHING for them or other UUs who are married for that matter, AFTER they are married.

I challenge the UUA to develop a broad set of ministries, such as a  Ministry on Marriage and Family, Ministry on the Holy and Sacred, Ministry on Human Dignity, Ministry on the Holistic Human, Ministry on Stewardship  of the Earth. I challenge the UUA to reinvigorate the move Rev. Sinkford had in reclaiming our religious language and pull away from living by-gone days of being a hippy in the 60s.

These are just ideas for names but the concept is to create a small number of core of ministries where our actions and witnessing are sacred, holy work.  And the culture of our congregations would view it as such because that’s what we would hear and learn while sitting in the pews.  Those who are concerned with inhumane conditions at Joe Arpaio’s tent city would be doing holy work… UNDER the auspices of church/religious inspired language such as “ministry” “dignity” “sacred” instead of simply attending a protest to bring attention to a cause of injustice.

There are a million injustices in the world that should be righted simply because we know as a species what is right and wrong. The thing is when we as a religious people take up that cause to right a wrong it should be because we believe in our heart of hearts, it to be a sacred calling. UUism is a religion with a message of salvation… NOT a social club that meets on Sundays for coffee after protesting inhumane conditions the night before.

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My UU church must change


I stumbled over a post by WordPress blogger Wondertwisted yesterday.
I thought of adding this comment to her post, “Dear John letter to UUism” but it began to run so long I figured I’d just use it as a post here for my readers as well.  Her post describes her painful decision to leave UUism and why. I think she is spot on.

***

You know, Cindy I thought of your post all day and much of this morning. And like I said in an earlier comment, I agree with what you say but what I’ve thought most of is the bigger question, that is: where has Unitarian Universalism failed you and others who feel like you do.

Full disclosure: I am a lay leader in my congregation and have been one of those who have side-stepped so many issues for fear of upsetting someone’s delicate sensitivities that I have not stood up against what I believe is a wrong direction for UUism in my congregation and as a whole.

I think there is a systemic problem with UUism.  Its current incarnation is flawed.  In my opinion, it comes down to at least these three things.

1) We have no dogma.  We have nothing that we all collectively say, “we believe  (this)  . And to be part of this religion you must believe    (this)   .”  Sure we have the seven principles but it is not the same as what the Abrahamic religions have in this regard.
Our lack of dogma is what we embrace and vocalize to the mountains, yet just as much as it is a medicine; it is also a poison.  We MUST change our mindset about not having a shared, common belief that we find so sacred that we would die for it, were it trampled or defamed.  If we do not, we are not bound. I believe there will eventually be a schism or at least a significant drop in membership and this faith will fade into nothingness.

2), We have placed social justice / political liberal activism above religion, worship and salvation. The tail is wagging the dog!
Because a person believes gay people should marry doesn’t mean they should be a UU. Because you believe people should earn a fair wage doesn’t mean you should be a UU.  The list could go on.
It should be the other way around. It should be I am a UU and because of that I believe   (this)   about   (this)   social/political issue.

3) We have no identity.  We don’t know what UUism or being a UU is. We have drifted so far from our roots and painted with such a broad stroke the idea of inclusiveness that we have muddied our identity to the point we can’t see who we should or used to be.
Calling the goddess, Buddhist singing bowls, washing of feet.
Really?  [insert eye roll here]
If that’s a personal practice and you feel it is important… that’s awesome. That’s great if it makes you a better person. Leave it at home though.
Spinning dradles or painting ourselves for Diwali is not a UU thing.  Fasting during Ramadan… not a UU thing.  Pick your favorite other-religion-ritual and place it here → [  ___  ]  It isn’t a UU thing.
Let’s be UUs in our sanctuary and leave the snake handling for home practice.

Would you rather: go to church or the football game


My little UU congregation is pretty small, so when our fund raising honcho brought up the idea that we could make some pretty good coin by working at the Houston Texans’ football games we were a little hesitant.  She did some research and said we needed at least 25 people to volunteer to work our stand. Ouch.

Amazingly 25 people signed up and  I was one of them.  I mean, through her research she said we could earn anywhere from ten to twelve thousand dollars over the course of the season.  We’d be fools to pass up the chance.

Well, it didn’t really happen like we planned because like most things at my church, people didn’t show up. We need at a minimum 11 people to be there and most times we’re barely scraping up eight or nine of the 25 volunteers who originally signed up.  It really sucks.  And I hate to admit it but I was one of them who wasn’t showing up.  Seemed like every Sunday we were supposed to be there something was going on with me.  Hell, one time I was scheduled to teach Sunday school.  It’s kinda hard to tell the preacher man I can’t teach our little ones about our UU principles because I have to go pour beer at the Texans game. Ugh. Looks worse to see that actually written out.

So, I finally made it out to the stadium about a month or so ago and have worked two games so far. I was supposed to be there a few nights ago for Monday Night Football against the Ravens.

I couldn’t get off work as early as I needed to be able to get there at 4:30.  With a 45 minute drive from my office, I wound up at the lot where we normally park at 5:15 which was still about 15 minutes until check-in ended. I think I could have made it but Continue reading

can i get a AMEN!


I’ve written here on more than a couple of occasions that I am not a Christian.  Pretty easy to tell from the title of my blog…

Deist. Not a Christian.  I also have Buddhist tendencies and go to a UU Church.

However, [comma… pause]

I loves me some gospel music!  I love it.  I don’t know what it is.  Maybe the blues feel of most gospel music.  Just how loud it is.  Or maybe it’s the feeling it evokes.

I was talking with a friend of mine a couple of weeks ago about favorite music and he felt the same way.  He loves gospel music.  And he too said, it’s the feeling that he gets from listening to it.  And although he isn’t a Christian either and hardly agrees with any of the lyrics, he can get behind the feeling that this kind of music brings to the soul.

So last night Emmie was showing me the video of a very young and very talented Rhema Marvanne.  And hearing this little seven year old girl belt out “Amazing Grace” reminded me of something I ran across last year called “How Sweet the Sound”, which is a gospel choir competition.  So I looked up the website and it turns out last night the competition had three hours of voting left.  I looked at a few of the choirs who were in it this year.

In a word…

Amazing.

The gospel choirs that are participating which come from all over the nation are simply amazing.

And it could be easy as an outsider to make snarky remarks… throw juvenile statements about the faces they make when singing but you know what… the music and the joy and the praise they are displaying simply trumps all that.

So I thought I’d share a video of the winners of last year’s competition(which by the way was not easy. Had to sift through HTML code on their site and locate the embed files).  The videos of the choirs competing this year have been pulled down. I guess since voting is over.  But in a little more than a month, there will be performances all over the country of the choirs who advance to finalist rounds.

You can find out at their website if they’ll be at a city near you:  http://howsweetthesound.com/

Damn those Pentecostal girls can SANG!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

in the pulpit


This was supposed to go out last Friday. I got so nervous I forgot to post it. I’ll follow up, coincidentally with the Honest Scrap Award post in response to Lazy Buddhist, who bestowed it upon me.

~~~~~

some truth in all graphicI’m a little nervous about this weekend at church. Nervous because I’ll be giving the sermon. The title of it is: “The semantics of religious language”

The description of it reads like this in our newsletter:

You say tomato, I say tomahto… should we call the whole thing off? Of course not.

Although we may see the same thing, we might call it by different names. For instance, some languages such as Spanish use the word Dios for God, Arabic uses the word Allah for God and others to describe The Divine or Supreme Being might call it by another name.

Unfortunately it isn’t always as easy in one’s own language. It is our abstract concepts of faith and our attempt to attach words to describe them that can often times create tension, misunderstanding and dismissal of growth opportunities.

Join us as we delve into the different aspects of religious speak and how honing our ability to transcribe the faith language of others will help us grow as UUs.

I’ve given a few sermons before at my church so Continue reading

a UU, Deist and Jew?… in Texas


No… it’s not the beginning of a joke about three guys going into a bar with one leading a donkey to a barstool.  : )

Last Sunday at my UU church our interim minister was preaching about Rosh Hashanah and teaching us about this important holy day of the Jewish faith. Judaism is part of his spiritual practice and it seemed like the first time that I’d seen him get really animated and passionate in the five or six times he’s preached on Sunday. (he’s a part time minister to our church and so only preaches once a month)

It was really cool to see him so… so… I don’t know, like I said, passionate. He even sang chants in Hebrew. very cool.

But the highlight of Sunday service for me was Continue reading

I think Jesus built my UU church


Yep… I said it. I believe with all my heart that Jesus built my UU church. And it’s in this place that Jesus built where I’ve been able to learn about sacrificial love, compassion for all living things and helping those weaker than me.

And a couple of weeks ago I told The Little Man I believed Jesus built our church as we were pulling into the parking lot.

I should back-track a little before going any further in why I think this. I mean it must seem odd for The Deist, especially one of a UU persuasion to be making such statements.

A few weeks ago The Little Man (for new visitors here, The Little Man is my wife’s son… my stepson) and The Deistette were going to check out another church… a Methodist church and so I felt obligated to tell him a little about what he might see there. So Emmie and I naturally began with Jesus. We told him there are some people who believe in a man named Jesus and that they believe he is God.

And he said, “well, what about the real God? Do they believe in God?”

“Well, yes… but they believe Jesus was His son and is God also.”

He couldn’t quite grasp the concept. I have to be honest it perplexes me, too.

So we told him that Continue reading

I used to love this UU annual ritual


UU congregations have very few liturgical traditions. Having come from a Catholic background where there are butt-loads of rituals and traditions I really look forward with much anticipation to our annual water ceremony.

UU flaming chalice w/ holy water in background  photo by julian

UU flaming chalice with holy water in background

For my non-UU readers, the water ceremony summed up is this: It’s a Sunday service held in mid or late August, where everyone in the congregation brings a small amount of water and pours it into a bowl that sets at the front of the sanctuary near the alter. The water has been gathered during the summer (mostly… some gathered throughout the year) while people were away from school obligations, work obligations, kid obligations, parent obligations… just obligations in general. There are readings about the significance of water, a short sermon then everyone goes up to the front, one after another, and as they pour their water in the bowl they describe where the water came from. The bowl has water from last year and from our District water ceremony held earlier in the summer. I could probably write this in a little more detail and try to describe it better but that’s basically it.

I love this ceremony. Always have… ever since I first started attending my church.

But this year, it changed a little for me. Even as I walked up to pour my water in, I kinda had a sick feeling in my throat because Continue reading