The birdies outside our purple first-floor bedroom chirped “Wake up, wake up it’s the break of day – the day of your 25th anniversary and three-year old legal marriage! Each of us barely opened one eye, the opposite ones, smiled and promptly fell asleep again!
The day breaks between 4:30 a.m. and 5 a.m. on Cape Cod. Outside our windows lupines, irises, coreopsis, astilbe, hydrangeas and newly green oaks appear to be still droopy from the night’s dew.
The month of June holds many celebrations for us, chief among them is our anniversary. Well, actually, our three anniversaries: one on June 10, 12 and 21 – legal, religious and since way back when, respectively.
We woke up again at a decent hour and very happily headed out to Grumpy’s where we always giggle and feel the opposite of the joint’s name. We’re happy and so grateful for each other. The name of the restaurant and the singing birds, however, struck me funny. And for some reason, a poem by Marge Piercy popped into my head.
Sometimes other same-sex couples ask us how we’ve stayed together. We never know whether it’s a query for some advice or a comment on our relationship!
We tend to our relationship quite intentionally and purposefully. We both have our hands and hearts open to each other even through difficult times, and we trust each other implicitly. Also for anyone who knows a little about quatum mechanics, we suspect we have entangled particles, which leads me to Marge Piercy’s poem:
To Have Without Holding
Learning to love differently is hard,
love with the hands wide open, love
with the doors banging on their hinges,
the cupboard unlocked, the wind
roaring and whimpering in the rooms
rustling the sheets and snapping the blinds
that thwack like rubber bands
in an open palm.
It hurts to love wide open
stretching the muscles that feel
as if they are made of wet plaster,
then of blunt knives, then
of sharp knives.
It hurts to thwart the reflexes
of grab, of clutch; to love and let
go again and again. It pesters to remember
the lover who is not in the bed,
to hold back what is owed to the work
that gutters like a candle in a cave
without air, to love consciously,
conscientiously, concretely, constructively.
I can’t do it, you say it’s killing
me, but you thrive, you glow
on the street like a neon raspberry,
You float and sail, a helium balloon
bright bachelor’s button blue and bobbing
on the cold and hot winds of our breath,
as we make and unmake in passionate
diastole and systole the rhythm
of our unbound bonding, to have
and not to hold, to love
with minimized malice, hunger
and anger moment by moment balanced.
A group of religious educators and students, many of them millenials, gathered recently in a Google Chat to discuss how they can make an impact. They are innovators but feel resistance in their UU spheres. Carey McDonald, the director of Youth and Young Adult ministries lead the chat. Watch the video of this chat to hear what they are thinking and also to see how Google Chat works. You’ll likely see how easy it would be to extend your ministries to small group gatherings in real time with people in different locations.
In addition, Carey is one of several creators who also started an online ministry for students on campuses called Blue Boat of Youth and Young Adult Ministries.
Note to millenials in the video: It’s not just your age group that meets resistance when it comes to social media integration into religious education and church life! Sr. Minister Meg Riley of the Church of the Larger Fellowship has found it challenging. I too am frustrated. (See REACH: A UU Digital Ministry Program) Rev. Nate Walker of the UU Church in Philadelphia probably has some stories about his digital ministry. I wanted to click into this chat but was in meetings all day for work. Thanks for recording it and making it available to share. I think we have a chance for multigenerational collaboration. Whaddya think?
Hallelujah, hallelujah — everyone sing the Handel Hallelujah chorus with me: Hallelujah, Hal – le – lu -jah, ha-le-lu-jah! My home church passed a proposed budget at our annual meeting last Sunday. Why the big deal? We’ve had a challenging year working through a myriad of interim issues and living with construction that our capital campaign has been birthing for about a year. The budget’s a biggie because it shows we’re working through important changes and prepping for a new sr. minister search.
I don’t have a front row seat because I’ve been away most of the last year. Dear ones have kept me informed of the good and the ugly. One of my guides, Cynthia, assured me that love lives and is growing in the church. I believe her and hear in the pain of some dissenters the deep, deep love they have for their beloved community. Hopefully it will carry them through disappointments. Meanwhile, the congregation also voted to ordain long-time member Sue Browning in Sept. Sue joins umpteen numbers of former members our church who have become UU clergy over the years. It’s a beautiful privilege to watch a friend and committed UU devote herself professionally to the faith.
Anyhoo: Here are three books for New UUs and Regenerating UUs that I recommend highly.
First, In The Interim: Strategies for Interim Ministers and Congregations, edited by Barbara Child and Keith Kron. It’s a terrific explanation of what happens in interim periods before a senior minister is called. Anecdotal accounts portray all the emotions and uncover realities that are hidden by legacies of problems that interim periods address, heal and renew communities. If you don’t understand the role of an interim minister or how your congregation is trying to work with one, this book is a must read.
If you are a brand New UU with no religious institution upbringing at all, I recommend the two-year old (2010) update to: 100 Questions That Non Members Ask About Unitarian Universalism by John Sias. The book is one I return to every so often to understand ongoing nuances of the religion and also how to discuss it outside of the UU world.
A nit pick: You’ll find in your self studies that UU books haul out well-known UUs to hold up our heritage of great thinkers, innovators and writers. One qualification though for mention often seems to be that you need be dead to hold up alike, so to speak.
The 2010 update of the 1994 original book seems to be in the list of well-known UUs at the back of the book. It cites about 100 names of people who are typically mentioned in other UU history book. About five or so of these names are still living.
It’s not clear if the list is restricted to individuals who were self-declared either as Unitarian or Universalist prior to the 1961 merger or who had our beliefs but weren’t self declared in some way. There’s a paragraph about the four US presidents we claim as members of our faith. But guess what? Prez. Obama ain’t there, and yet from the moment he started running for office, we started pointing to his UU attendance and childhood influences.
Meanwhile, we all know that extraordinary individuals sit in our pews. All too often we find out about them at their memorial services. And of course, many agenda setters sit in the pew but are quiet about it. We respect their privacy and hold them in sanctuaries away from pubic scrutiny.
But y’all: We are a living tradition! Seems to me that we’d show our relevance more if more of us “came out of the closet,” to be living examples that others might understand. Of course we shouldn’t expect this of our noted brethren. There’s no harm in asking or sussing them out is there? Maybe there is. I dunno know.
I’ve written in this blog that I’ve not understood why more innovators in technology don’t step up and help the faith. Maybe they don’t want to come anywhere close to a spotlight. Maybe they don’t want to practice what they do in their secular lives in their religious life. Some may think that the generation gap in their congregation renders there contributions unappreciated. There are many good reasons, to be sure.
Why not keep track of those we know to have been influenced in some way or who have turned to UUism in times of need to help explain our living tradition?
The most recent example: Sean Parker (b. 1979), a billionaire who founded Napster, an Internet company that tectonically changed the music industry worldwide and who was facebook’s first president. He also created Causes, a pioneering web-based non-profit that is a clearinghouse for non-profit fundraising. He was born in Herndon, VA, down the toll road from where I live and attended Oakton High School, which isn’t too far from the Fairfax, VA UU. I don’t know if he was a UU as a kid.
He and his fiancé, however, turned to UU Rev. John A. Buehrens, to officiate his $10 million fairy-tale wedding. Rev. Buehrens is a co-author of an intro UU standard text, A Chosen Faith: An Introduction to Unitarian Universalism, and author of several other UU-based books.
Put aside for a sec thoughts you may have about largesse and our UU Principles. Just the mention of Rev. Buehrens’ name in the news accounts of the event is priceless promotion of our faith. We can’t possibly buy that kind of attention. We can’t possibly afford that kind of passive aggressive spotlight.
We find evangelism distasteful, anyway. So when UUism is associated with a 34-year-old wunderkind, I think, by and large, that’s a goooooood thing – especially when the groom’s put his resources into actions that his heart understood and directed. Idea: How about Sean Parker as a speaker at a future GA?
In the late 1990s, Tim Berners-Lee, the man credited with inventing the Web, was asked if UUism inspired his pionniering work. His long answer indicated he felt there was an alignment of his values to that of UUism. His answer indicated he had first hand knowledge of our faith; yet he didn’t say he was a UU. I’ve been told he attended a church in Massachusetts at one point. I am going to try to track him down to have a chat.
Getting back to the books I’m recommending: Why not work on adding updating our hall-’o fame list of mostly dead well known UUs by:
- Creating lists of living individuals who went through UU religious education and have become noted citizens. There are exponentially more UU religious educated kids than there are of the current 200,000 or so UUs in our churches.
- Looking into our congregations and seeing if living UUs — scientists, authors, politicians, inventors, philosophers, poets, etc. — might be willing to cut videos that talk about UUism in their lives. Seems to me that would be a great way of demonstrating our living tradition.
Okay, on to recommended book #3: Fluent in Faith: A UU Embrace of Religious Language, by Jeanne Harrison Nieuwejaar, with a forward by past UUA prez Rev. William G. Sinkford.
“We are an articulate people, thriving on conversation,” Nieuwejaar writes. “Yet, for a people whose religious lives are so embedded in conversation, too often we grope and grasp for words when we try to talk about our deepest spiritual longings and affirmations.”
This book is a good start to help anyone who struggles to understand UU language, speak it and translate for others.
Multiculturalism, racism and white priviledge are topics that we UUs have been working on in our social justice and Journey Toward Wholeness programs. Now we can help ensure a new movie based on the work of anti-racist activist and author Tim Wise gets shown in this country. The movie, “White Like Me,” is a play on the title of the 1960s film, “Black Like Me,” about a white journalist who dons makeup to pass as black and then writes about the experience.
The screenplay for “Black Like Me” was co-written by Gerda Lerner, a mentor of mine whom I blogged about at her death in January 2013 in the post “When Mentors Die and New Ones Fly High.”
“White Like Me” is the “inside out” version of the 1960s film, causing viewers to reflect on what it means to be white. Many of the films interviewees find they are stumped by the question, having never considered what it means to be in the dominant demographic.
Through Kickstarter.com you can donate money to ensure the film is completed. You do have to register on the kickstarter.com site but it uses the trustworthy amazon.com payment system – a fact that may put more UUs at ease in using a credit card online at a site they’ve probably never transacted at before.
Watch a trailer for it here. Pledge on the project’s Kickstarter page. Let’s learn from Tim Wise’s efforts to get funding by appealing to citizens through a crowd-funding site that makes it easy for all of us to support innovative projects of all kinds. I’ve made a donation. Now it’s your turn and tell your congregation about this.