— A $10 Million UU Officiated Wedding and Three Must-Reads for New UUs!

June 7, 2013 at 2:48 pm | Posted in Online Ministry | Leave a comment

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.

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