Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Combating Cross Cringe

Yesterday I attended a Marriage Equality colloquy across the water, at Temple Beth Or in Everett, and was energized and enivened by the speakers, Dr Lisa Davison of Lexington Theological Seminary, and two same-sex couples who told their stories of coming out, meeting the one they love, creating a family, and the subsequent difficulties that they face because they are unable to be legally married.

I've heard the stories before. I've heard Lisa speak at last year's colloquys. I'm familiar with all the arguments and have made up my mind as a Marriage Equality supporter. So why do I still attend these things? Don't I already know what I think?

Of course I know. But what I find compelling about these events is the opportunity to meet and get to know clergy and laity from other faith traditions, both Christian and Jewish. And it's disappointing to me that most UU laypersons and clergy are uninterested in this opportunity.

Yesterday only one other Unitarian Universalist attended. Though I invited all my colleagues to attend one of the six events around the state, very few have taken me up on it. And the reason given is that they have already made up their minds; they know how they feel, so why should they attend?

I understand that sense of "been there, done that". For me Marriage Equality is a no-brainer and my faith tradition is fully supportive. I've led three congregations through the Welcoming Congregation process and know how valuable that effort can be for a church.

But people in other denominations are struggling and they need us as allies, to help them find ways to deal with the political morass that the Methodists, Presbyterians, Catholics, and others are fighting as they seek to overturn church law that is oppressive and demeaning.

I am uncomfortable with the reluctance of many UUs to engage with clergy and laity of other faiths. It's almost as if they are afraid of being contaminated by Christianity, a fear I find hard to tolerate. It's almost as if they are saying to themselves, "I already know all this stuff, why should I go and hang around and be bored because my knowledge is more advanced and superior". It's almost as if they want to maintain their specialness as the most radical of the Radical Reformers and fear that specialness will be eroded if they rub elbows with the less radical.

I've said it before and I say it again, interfaith work is the antidote to cross cringe in our congregations. When laity work on justice issues with others of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they learn that Christians are concerned about many of the same justice issues as UUs, that liberal Christians are not so different from us, that the cross means something different than they might expect. And when clergy engage with other clergy of differing faiths, particularly Christian, they model for their congregants an openness and understanding that will go a long way toward eradicating cross cringe and contempt for Christian theology.

Having been raised in a Christian home where the cross meant unconditional love, I am fortunate and I understand that others have not had that advantage. But in human life, when we discover something in life that makes us uncomfortable and upset, it behooves us to investigate that unease, to seek its roots, and to deal with it. I have people in one congregation who refuse to go to church because there is a cross visible in the rented sanctuary. Why would someone cut him/herself off from the community over this symbol? There's something dysfunctional about that response.

I often think of myself as a bridge between the UU faith community I love and serve and the Christian faith community which I grew up in. If only we could see ourselves as allies, not as combatants! Perhaps that day will come, as I noticed yesterday that the Disciples and Methodists and Mennonites and UCCs I met are edging ever closer to UUism in their outreach efforts. We are not so special after all!

Sunday, October 29, 2006


Delicious! That is, I learned at the local Apple Day celebration on Saturday that the tree on my property which is so loaded with ripening apples is an original Delicious apple tree, the original tree before they started crosspollinating and creating Red and Golden Delicious apples. They are a lovely oblong shape, with a bumpy bottom, and a greenish-yellow underskin with red freckly shoulders. And they are sweet, crisp and---------yes, DELICIOUS! I love apples, so I am looking forward to some wonderful chomping.

I took a bag of them to church this afternoon, inviting people to sample them and come on over and pick if they want to have more. They are just now getting to the peak of their flavor. I am going to pick a bunch and make apple crisp for a gathering I'm hosting later on this week.

Tomorrow I am part of the RCE team putting on a colloquy on Marriage Equality across the water in Everett at the Jewish temple there. I am carpooling and we have to be on the 7:30 a.m. ferry in order to be there on time. 5:00 a.m. sounds awfully early, but I keep reminding myself that my body will think it's 6 a.m. because we just shifted out of Daylight Savings Time.


I planned to watch the George Clooney movie "Syriana" tonight, but I felt so melancholic as the movie developed that I shut it off and turned to the Harry Potter movie that was on. Now I've shut that off too and am back at the computer.

My ex-husband bears such a resemblance to George Clooney that it makes me sad, even though I think GC is a fine actor, a goodlooking guy, and a fairly admirable character. But watching him on the screen, I notice myself turning his face into L's face, wishing things had been different, wishing we had not grown so far apart and hurt each other so much, wishing we had given our son a better model for marriage, as he heads into his own marriage in a few months.

We got married because we thought we ought to. Each of us was rebounding from another relationship, we had a good time together, and we thought that would be enough. For some people, it might have been, but each of us had different ideas about what makes a good marriage and we couldn't carry it off, couldn't find the common ground, even with the birth of our dear son. And by the time we separated, we had each inflicted a world of hurt on the other, mostly accidentally, unthinkingly, not realizing how seriously we were eroding any foundation we might have had for a good marriage.

I regret our failures frequently, but I also know that had we stuck with it, we likely would not be as happy as we each are today. I certainly would not have gone into the ministry. He would not have found the woman he is now married to. Our son would have grown up in an environment that might well have affected his ability to find happiness. As painful as it was, it was the right thing to do. And our friendship has survived; it did not die when the marriage ended. We managed that, at least.

Talking with my son on the phone this evening has revived a lot of old memories. I know he reads this blog occasionally and I hope he finds hope and encouragement in it. He is the light of my life; he is "my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." And he seems to have the good sense and commitment and understanding that marriage demands of a couple. May he and his darling J. find long life and happiness together.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Interfaith lectionary study

I've been meeting with the South Whidbey lectionary study group for about 6 weeks now and find myself enjoying it more each time. The group is comprised of two Lutheran pastors, one Episcopalian retired rector, one United Methodist pastor, one Catholic priest, one House of Prayer pastor, and me. The HOP pastor and I represent either end of the theological spectrum, though I suspect if we were all standing on a teetertotter in our continuum of belief we'd be tipping to the left, with Rev. HOP somewhere right of center. He is a great guy, though, and represents his religious tradition faithfully but not bombastically.

My colleagues in this group are all male, which I thoroughly enjoy. They are respectful but not overly politically correct and they sometimes hog the conversation, yet I am relishing both the Bible study and the interfaith nature of our association. I feel very welcome in their company; I expect a time will come when they want to know more about my theological stance, but right now I'm contributing to the discussion from my own experience and feelings about the readings and am not challenged by anyone.

I've never been a gungho Bible scholar, though the Hebrew and Christian scripture classes I took in seminary were among my favorites. I find that the larger picture of the development of Judaism and Christianity as represented in the Bible is more compelling than remembering the many dates and kings and minor-seeming events of those centuries.

And there are so many small moments in scripture that say more to me than all the exegesis in the world: Moses seeing God's backside, when God said to him "if you see my face you will die, but wait here and you will see me as I pass by"; the still small voice in the burning bush; and the reminder "what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly" ; the Syro-Phoenician woman who challenges Jesus with her flung-back remark about the puppies getting the crumbs from the rich people's table---and he changes his mind and his mission; the way Jesus must have felt as he failed over and over again to get his message across, even to his disciples; and the most important commandments of all------to love God and to love neighbor as self.

My island colleagues love to tease out meanings from the passages we study and I enjoy hearing their take on each passage. The Methodist guy is very sharp and well-schooled in Bible exegesis and he poses questions and challenges to us all, without looking down his nose at our lesser abilities. The men all tend to interpret the scripture from a "hard" point of view, that is, very intellectual and theologically based. I tend to offer observations that are "soft", that is, from an experiential, feeling place. And I think that's valuable, though they look at me with surprise at times. I don't know what they think about my comments; I haven't been shouted down or disagreed with, but it may yet happen.

So far I haven't seriously disagreed with anyone about an interpretation, though Rev. HOP is quite conservative. They are quite Trinitarian, which is fine, but today we studied the passage in Mark that says "The Lord Our God is One" and I resisted mentioning the apparent Unitarian stance here and nobody else seemed to notice it!

Anyhow, it's fun, it's stimulating, and I'm in a group of colleagues who support each other and share our lives as ministers in this community. That's enough in itself.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

I'm in love with Howard Zinn...

Well, not really, but I watched the documentary "You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train" last night and was struck by Zinn's honesty, long-lived marriage, willingness to examine his past military involvement and change his perspective, courage to speak out on unpopular issues in dangerous times, and his long, lanky, craggy looks. I was both admirous of his character and his cuteness.

And there was a quote I really liked and will include in my upcoming sermon on liberal religious identity which will be the Sunday before Election day and will include a thread on voting our values. The quote is this: "To live as humans should live, with all the bad things happening around us, is a wonderful victory." That's obviously a paraphrase, as I couldn't get to my notebook fast enough to copy it exactly (and it didn't occur to me to replay that segment), so if there's a correct version, I hope I find it.

I've been jotting down thoughts and ideas for this sermon for a couple of days now, even though it's 10 days or so in the future. I always like to include a story from my own experience, or, lacking that, some other anecdote which is illustrative.

As I was thinking about how my own experience intersects with this topic, I was reminded of kitchen table discussions in my childhood, when my mother and father would bemoan the rising of "modernism" and "worldliness" in human lives, because it meant to them estrangement from God, a rejection of God's word, and too much connection with popular culture.

Always an observer of differing opinions rather than a rebeller, I tucked this thinking away in my brain and brought it out later to hold up against the popular culture I was familiar with, to check its validity. It seemed to me that my parents were overly concerned; science didn't seem evil, nor did the effort to understand what the Bible really said in its original language. I didn't mention my opinion to my parents, not wanting to argue, but it fermented and bubbled during my youth and on into college, where I learned things about Christianity and Jesus that were left out of my Sunday School classes!

Needless to say, I have embraced modernism (only now it's post-modernism, I guess) and the worldliness of popular culture, so it was a revelation to me to see the linkage between liberal religious identity and popular culture. It affirmed the connection I had already made in my mind but had not articulated.

I'm looking forward to actually writing the sermon. I mostly enjoy "having written" rather than "writing", but there comes a point when I have done enough jotting and thinking and remembering and need to start putting it together. I feel a growing pressure within me that is only relieved by putting words on paper (or on screen, actually). And I feel that pressure building today.

I've put together the order of service for that Sunday and have decided how to tie in the children's story with the sermon, which gives me a sense of all the things that will flow throughout the service and the sermon. So I'm about to release the growing energy into words.

Wish me luck.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Alone again....whew!

I love the Athena Pals, but it was an exhausting weekend and I was so happy to be able to wish them a fond farewell this morning, go back inside to clean up the detritus, and tell the cats "it's okay, no more company for awhile". I was ready for solitude again.

We did a lot of roaming, visiting Port Townsend by ferry, walking the lavender labyrinth at Lavender Wind Farm, eating out at all my favorite spots (Dungeness crab benedict at Neil's Clover Patch! yum!), exploring the little towns up and down the island, and generally wearing ourselves out, then coming back to my house, drinking a bit of wine and talking, talking, talking.

They are all a year older than I, which was a bigger deal when we were teenagers, but is barely significant these days, except that they are all on Medicare now and I have a few months to go. And there were definite physical concerns beginning to show themselves: one was really suffering from old injuries that cause her a lot of pain; another has just had cataract surgery; another has a swallowing disorder that makes meals difficult at times; another is still so lithe and lovely that we were all envious; and I? My feet hurt after all the tramping around, but that was all.

One thing I found very interesting, and I've noticed it in the past. Our experiences as teenagers were so different. I've alluded to that in previous posts, but this visit made me even more aware. They remember people and events that I've never known because of the greater freedom they enjoyed as kids. I know all the horses and the horse people, but not so much the rogues and the rascals. So I was not always able to join in the conversation and just listened in amazement to the things they knew and laughed about.

This sense of separation bothers me a little bit, but not so much that I would change my relationship with The Pals. It's too important to me to continue the connection with people who knew me when I was raw and unformed, just beginning to learn who I was, and who themselves have changed and grown over the past years. We have known each other for 52 years, longer than almost any other friends I've had, and it feels like a treasure to be carefully tended and guarded, so that we might celebrate our friendship for the rest of our lives, however long that may be.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006


I'm getting ready to host a sleepover this weekend. Remember when we were kids and the big thrill of the weekend was to be allowed to spend the night at a friend's? We'd lie awake for hours talking and giggling under the covers, shushing temporarily when the parents got annoyed and told us to be quiet. One time my friend Marla and I put on her sister's bras and stuffed them with socks and ran around Marla's house shrieking hysterically at our daring.

This sleepover is for five of us who graduated from McEwen High School in eastern Oregon in 1959. We weren't very close then, but in our tiny town everyone knew everyone else rather well, and we have known each other since 1952. In recent years, our small graduating class (only 18 of us) began to diminish, as classmates died too soon, and we five decided to stay in contact. We email almost daily about the events of our lives and we have been meeting at least once a year for a sleepover at someone's house.

This weekend, we are all converging here at Cottontail Acres for three days of sightseeing, shopping, cooking, eating, drinking, and reminiscing. Diann is coming from California, Bonnie from Portland, Mary Alice from Pendleton, and Judy from White Salmon. We will cram all we can into the time we have and when they go home on Monday, we will have relived our lives in Athena, calling up memories of former teachers, classmates, scandals, gossip, deaths, births, and all the trivia that makes life so satisfying.

If you had told me in the 60s that in the new century, I would consider these women some of my best friends, I would have scoffed. We five occupied different realms, even in our small town. I was the Baptist preacher's kid who couldn't dance, drink, go to movies, or play cards. They were daring and did everything I couldn't do. Ironically, they are all still married to their first husbands, while I, the goody-two-shoes, have been divorced for 26 years. And we all have avoided the typical small-town conservatism that generally infects rural areas; they are as open-minded as anyone else I know.

It's a lovely place to be, maintaining a friendship with women who "knew me when". We mourn together the losses of our conjoined lives: our parents, babies who didn't make it, children gone astray, the friends who now are gone---Donna, Audrea, Marilyn, Dorn, Harold, and more. We laugh over the antics recalled; three years ago, we met in Pendleton and played softball as "Donna's Team", when our late friend Donna's grandson needed financial support to beat leukemia.

What an experience! The video that Marilyn's husband made is priceless, capturing all the foolishness of 60 year old women trying to catch fly balls and run the bases. Marilyn was alive then and it's wonderful to see her grin, which helps to wipe out the memory of seeing her comatose in a hospital bed a few months ago. And my son Mike came with us to Pendleton; his long, chestnut hair flying in the wind and his smart mouth almost got him in trouble in cowboy country, but it sure made us laugh. What memories!

They'll be here Friday. I can't wait!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

How to save the planet

Sean over at Ministrare turned me on to this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJCf4VgnkBk

Go see it and spread it far and wide.

Liberal religious identity

I mentioned in an earlier post that our recent UUMA chapter retreat was outstanding and included a presentation by the Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor entitled "Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity".

To begin with, Paul identified the basic commitments and characteristics of liberal religion (LR):
• Liberal Religion must live in the present, using modern knowledge and experience.
• LR must be openminded, prizing free intellectual inquiry.
• LR must be credible and relevant, i.e., religion has to matter and to make sense.

• LR occupies the middle ground between fundamentalism and the secular world, in the real world of contemporary culture.
• LR operates on the belief that reality involves movement and change, interdependence, fluid understandings of truth, no sharp dualisms.
• LR promotes autonomy, thinking for oneself, mistrusting external authority.
• LR bases ethics on humaneness, downplaying doctrinal aspects.

As a minister who is engaged with many other clergy and laity of varying faiths, both Christian and non-Christian, I was struck by what we have in common as liberal religionists. There is not a lot of difference between liberal faiths and their work in the world, if you set aside theological differences. I notice and appreciate this every time I meet with my lectionary group here on the island or with the other members of the Religious Coalition for Equality.

My former minister Robert Latham once described religion as the human expression of a relationship with self, with others, and with the universe or God, in an effort to make life meaningful. I've always liked that definition. I have gone a little further and see religion as a public expression of those relationships and spirituality as the private expression of those relationships. At least, that's how it feels to me.

But I struggle sometimes to express what is my core religious identity as a Unitarian Universalist. I can avow that one piece of that identity for me is our striving for diversity; I know we don't have large numbers of people of color nor uneducated people nor other "Others". But we actively strive for that; we recognize our need for diversity and reach for it, even though we miss the mark a lot and can be very clumsy about it all.

I see us as doing religion in a new way, not focusing on doctrine, but on human behavior. If we have a credo, it is to treat each other and the earth with kindness and respect. We have let go of the supernatural doctrines of Christianity, for the most part, and have focused on what we see as the implicit messages of such prophets as Jesus, Moses, Gandhi, Mohammed, Buddha, and others: love, integrity, nonviolence, beauty, compassion, inclusion.

Out of this credo springs our commitment to social justice work, our concern for the environment, our belief in the democratic process, our abhorrence of war, our passion for spiritual freedom. This I believe is the core of Unitarian Universalist religous identity, not how different we are from other religions or what we don't believe that others do.

Within our congregations we are diverse in many ways----------theology, gender, sexual orientation, age, ability, education, political affiliation. But we all pretty much support the universal Truths of reverence for life, compassion for others, respect for each other, care for the earth, and order in community life.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ms. Kitty's take on the book meme

One reason I'm glad CC tagged me for the book meme is that it helped me get a handle on what a "meme" is. The dictionary doesn't really make it clear, IMHO, but being tagged for it does.

Anyhoo, I had to think kind of hard in some of these categories, but I think I have a candidate for each.

1. One book that changed your life? I think the book that tipped me over into Unitarian Universalism, though I wasn't really aware of it at the time, is an old classic "Heavenly Discourse" by Charles Erskine Scott Wood. I read it in college, both tickled and amazed by the idea of God shmoozing in heaven with a variety of saints, Jesus, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Billy Sunday, and seriously questioning what people on earth were doing with Jesus' message. Somehow my copy of it disappeared when I moved away from home (I think my mother probably took one look and jettisoned it, fearing for my salvation) and it took me years to find another copy, because it has been out of print for a long time. Miraculously, as I was preparing for the ministry, a kind old man at my church gave me all his religious books, and there was a copy, tattered and dusty, but intact. Thank you, Dale Foreman! ADDENDUM: I meant to include "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind" by Julian Jaynes here and forgot. Because of a marriage in which I often felt stupid, my life was changed when I read this book (after the divorce) and realized that I understood it and was illuminated by it. My self esteem rose markedly!

2. One book you have read more than once? Well, "Lord of the Rings", of course, but more importantly, "The Source" by James Michener. I was enthralled by the story he crafted to describe the millennia of human activity in one small area of the world, the human drama and tragedy and loves that took place there. I developed such an admiration for the Hebrew people because of it.

3. One book you would want on a desert island? I would want my great big unabridged dictionary, the one that was discarded by the junior high librarian where I worked partly because it fell open naturally to the word "fuck", after decades of teenage boy use (and, probably girls as well) but also because it was outdated. A dictionary means eternal entertainment. And I might try to sneak in a hymnal, either the latest Quaker or UCC edition. Why not the UU hymnal? because I already know every hymn in it.

4. One book that made you laugh? Patrick Dennis' "Auntie Mame". I reread that many times as well, just to re-savor the school where the little boy fish were fertilizing the little girl fish's eggs ("spread the sperm, Patrick, don't miss that little girl fish there!") and the trustee of Patrick's affairs went bonkers. The language is delicious, if outdated, and as a kid I imagined that my Aunt Hazel or my Aunt Mabel might have Mame-ish tendencies if they just could lighten up a bit.

5. One book that made you cry? I rarely get too choked up by a book, but as I was looking for something on my shelves, I saw the book I'd list here, as I read it at a time in my life when I felt I had been betrayed and cruelly treated by another woman minister. The book is "Woman's Inhumanity to Woman" by Phyllis Chesler. Then, of course, I had to consider whether I had ever been inhumane to another woman myself.

6. One book you wish had been written? I was in my second year of seminary before I learned what "theology" meant. As a UU, we hadn't talked much about theology in terms of what it meant in everyday life. I didn't know what "the great questions" were called, though I had thought about them. So I wish that a layperson's guide to theology had been available to me long ago, so that I knew what to call my ponderings. And, like CC, I had a book of my own in my head at one time which I wish I had gone farther with, but I got some discouraging advice from a writer friend and never completed it. (I think she was right, but it still would have been a thrill to get it done.)

7. One book you wish had never been written? I howl at Janet Evanovich's Stephanie Plum novels, but she really missed the boat with a sort of holiday-themed lightweight mystery series co-written with someone else. I can't think of the name of any of them, but they were awful and I thought she let herself and her readers down. Generally, though, I am not one to discourage any writing, even if it's dangerously inflammatory. Of course, The Protocols were pretty terrible.

8. One book you are currently reading? "A Sudden Country" by Karen Fisher, the story of a settler group on its way to Oregon and the relationships (legal and illicit) that form on that trip. I like it because I am pretty familiar with the Oregon Trail from Nebraska west to the Willamette Valley.

9. One book you have been meaning to read? Karen Armstrong's latest, "The Great Transformation". I have read lots of her other stuff but have not been able to get into this one. It's dense and complicated and less accessible. One book I have been meaning to re-read is Wendell Berry's "Jayber Crow", which is absolutely delicious.

Okay, I'm tagging anyone named Joel.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

This just in.........

I got back a couple of hours ago from a memorable UUMA chapter retreat south of Seattle. The retreat featured one of the best "inservice" programs I've experienced in ministry: Rev. Paul Rasor of Virginia Wesleyan and "Unitarian Universalism and the Challenges of Religious Identity". I haven't talked much about theology with colleagues since I left seminary, and that's been a few years! I'm going to be using some of that experience as future blog entries, so stay tuned.

I did want to report on the Charades experience this time, which was pretty tame. Longtime Charade-ers objected a couple of years ago to my bringing a stack of books with great, awful titles, to get around the rule that 3 people needed to have heard of whatever title was being presented as a Charades item (I thought of it as adding to folks' knowledge base, not as a sneaky way to find impossible titles. Why won't you believe me?). I was operating on the familiar dictum that it is easier to get forgiveness than permission, but I was obviously not operating on the same ethical plane as my teammates, as everyone has given me a lot of flak ever since for what I thought was rather a clever idea. Anyhow, my generosity with resources fell flat that year and I've been careful to color within the lines ever since.

However, my team won, which is a switch. I guess virtue does have its rewards. Some of the better titles presented were "The Origin of Consciousness and the Breakdown of the Bicameral MInd" (this title will appear later in the book meme with which CC has tagged me---you'll have to guess which category) and "Kinky Boots". I lucked out with "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" which Keith Kron got immediately; Keith is a bit of a children's lit expert and he was on our side. "Jamaican Farewell" got a lot of energy aroused, surprisingly, and inspired a bit of a song and dance routine by the colleagues. So tame, but a lot of fun, and an evening of nonstop laughter, which is always a good thing.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Getting ready to go on retreat

Every year at this time, our district ministers' chapter goes to a retreat center for four days of retreat and training. We go this Sunday to Palisades Retreat Center after solemnizing the ordination of a local candidate for UU ministry, always a celebratory occasion. We'll arrive at Palisades about 9 p.m., punchdrunk from a full day of preaching, processing, and then recessing to the sanctuary of a place where there will be no plaintive parishioners, no services to plan, no pastoral visits to make, no administrivia to delegate. Not that any of this will be far from our minds, but for those days, at least, we will not be on call. Except in cases of dire emergency, others will cover for us for this span of time.

Of course, a ministers' retreat is not all play and no work. In the dim dark past, retreats were mostly convivial, in the days when ministry was mostly a good ole boys' vocation. When women became more of a presence in the ordained ministry, things changed! Now a ministers' retreat always has some redeeming social value; we have preaching seminars and social action trainings and creativity modules and lots of worship, plus a lengthy business meeting. In addition, one of our longer-term colleagues presents his or her Odyssey, a recap of the life's journey that led the colleague into ministry and to this point in life.

But what we all look forward to, whether we are players or bystanders, is a cutthroat Charades game, which starts after the Odyssey is properly received and celebrated and lasts until one team of 12 or so players is vanquished (more or less) by the other team. Propriety prevents me from giving details but your imaginations can carry you far. Consider the possibilities: each team carefully plots the titles with which they will challenge the other team and the only firm rule is that at least three people on the presenting team MUST have real knowledge of the work, which could be a book, movie, TV show, song, opera, poem, or other literary or artistic opus. Consider that some of these folks have just come out of their studies, where they encountered things like "The Collected Works of ee cummings" or participated in stagings of The Vagina Monologues or have some inordinate fondness for obscure children's literature or indie films or odd PBS series. You get the picture.

No search committee will ever know what some of their prospective candidates have done in the name of Charades. No colleague will ever spill the beans on who did what when acting out "The Full Monty" or "Birth of a Nation". But it is the fodder of sly and amused glances at formal occasions, when so and so is being quite pompous and overbearing and we remember him or her when..........

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Roots and Wings

This last Sunday's sermon at Vashon, "Roots and Wings", was a look at UU history using those metaphors, roots being our history, wings being what we are doing with that history besides sitting on it.

Not too highbrow nor too casual (IMHO), the sermon presented several examples of Unitarian and Universalist contributions to the world at large (the normal Arius, Origen Priestley, Jefferson, Rush, Fuller, Emerson, Barton stuff), establishing pretty firmly the great roots from which UUism springs. I began my remarks by asking the congregation to tell me about their roots, where did their family come from and what were their religious roots, then segued into the history lesson.

After an aside to remark upon the connection of Unitarians and Universalists to the establishment of American democracy and the sacred texts of our nation, the sermon took a new tack, moving to the challenge of using the wings that UUism gives us to build upon the legacy of our religious ancestors. I liked the final paragraph of this sermon and reprint it here:

"Our roots are great. We can be proud of them. But we also need to exercise and use our wings. Our UU principles and purposes are the wind beneath our wings, but if we don’t use those wings, we are not fulfilling the promise of our faith. It doesn’t do us much good to brag about our roots if we aren’t willing to use the wings they gave us.
"At the beginning of this sermon, I asked you to tell me about your roots. Now I ask you, 'tell me about your wings.'"

And we moved to a time of silent reflection and prayer.

Today, at Whidbey, I met with the new Social Action committee, which has been commissioned to rethink our past SA efforts and consider how we as a congregation can more effectively use those wings (though they haven't even heard the sermon yet!), and I was amazed and delighted by their thinking and where they went with their ideas.

That there is a change in the global winds was evident to all these folks; they saw their challenge as using the change to effect substantive movement in society. The discussion was not about bandaid approaches to social action but systemic change. They came up with ideas that would begin to shift attitudes and behaviors in our corner of the world.

How can we use our congregation members' interest in gardening to address the problem of food security and the local food supply? How can we use our knowhow around energy conservation to increase the effectiveness of the local "Hearts and Hammers" work? Can we partner with anyone to restore local watersheds? How does classism affect our congregation and can we address it through our committee?

Wow! I've never worked with a social action committee/task force that thought in these terms! The Whidbey congregation is going to get the "Roots and Wings" sermon this coming Sunday and, judging from the responses of these volunteers, they have some answers when it comes to wings. I can hardly wait!

Monday, October 02, 2006

Home again, home again, jiggity jog...

After a terrific, busy weekend on Vashon Island with the Fellowship there, I'm home again on Cottontail Acres. I've read the interesting mail and saved the stack of catalogs to browse over breakfast or lunch tomorrow, made a list of what needs to be done tomorrow, paid the rent, and am ensconced at my trusty MacBook with Loosy the Love Cat on my lap purring madly, now that she has forgiven me for being gone four days. Lily is still looking at me askance.

On Friday when I went to Vashon (normally a 2+ hour trip including ferries), morning fog had screwed up the ferry schedule and I was late getting to a worship committee meeting, which they obligingly have on the Friday afternoon of my weekend there. I'm one of those folks who would rather be thirty minutes early than thirty seconds late (it's genetic---my dad was the same way), so it was excruciating, waiting in the endless ferry line for a boat and getting to the meeting an hour late.

The highlight of the weekend was a Friday night performance of Mozart's Magic Flute, abbreviated only slightly and including all the best songs and--get this-----performed by an all-island cast of opera singers. Real Opera Singers! No kidding! This bitsy island has a fabulous arts community and this performance was put on by locals who could have knocked the roof off of the Met! The Queen of the Night rocked the Methodist church, where the performance took place. Papageno was the local associate minister of a conservative community church. The three fairies were elementary school girls in tattered jeans who sang their trios so authoritatively you'd have thought they were pros.

Wow! What an experience! But it's good to be at home once again.