Showing posts from April, 2014

Building a New Way by Erika Hewitt

Erika Hewitt, my colleague in Maine, published this on Facebook today. I have seen what she describes as "armoring up to proactively protect themselves from" criticism among others who produce projects and programs for Unitarian Universalism. UU's are tough to please. During l'affaire logo, I coined a hashtag #thanklesstask which I think describes much of the working conditions for many who take the lead in organizing UU life. An unnamed staffer of the UUA said that it would make a good tee-shirt.

Let's hear Erika.

Building a New Way
April 30, 2014 at 1:45pm
In December, a colleague and I began collaborating on a Very Large Project for Unitarian Universalists across the country. Eager to partner up and even more eager to bring our imaginations to the UU arena, we were buoyed by love, creativity, playfulness, and a fierce commitment to Unitarian Universalism.
Increasingly, we’ve caught ourselves “armoring up” — consciously and unconsciously — to preemptively protect o…


I have been reading Thomas Piketty's Capital in the 21st Century. It's slow going, but valuable. It's not only about the 21st century, but also about the economic history of the West in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.

One thing that caught my attention is the following fact: during the 1970's the ratio of national capital to the national income (both terms which Piketty has defined by this point in the book) was at its lowest point in decades. In other words, the owners of capital controlled a smaller share of the national income than earlier. The 1979 election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan in the US instituted policies to "correct" this situation. Those policies have not been reversed yet, and the result is inequality that we now see.

One of the concerns that I have about Piketty is that his economic analysis seems (at least as far as I have read) to be divorced from an ecological history. We know that Reagan made a…

The Core Issue of Ministerial Nervousness

The Commission on Appraisal laid it out in their report "Who Is In Charge Here."

UU ministers have very little positional authority: authority that comes to them simply because they are the minister. What authority a particular UU minister will have will come to them through the relationships they have built with congregants over time, usually through pastoral care.  It takes years, in many cases, for ministers to accrue much authority.

Therefore, for a long, long time, UU parish ministers are working to develop authority in the
congregation. That sounds noble, but mostly it means pleasing as many people as possible, and not irritating those with power. It's tap-dancing as fast as you can. And it takes its toll, even if it never shows.

As ministries get shorter, more of our ministers never develop enough authority in the congregation to really go out on a limb. Most never get the authority to turn their attention from the congregation to be an inspirational voice in the…

What Makes Ministers Nervous

I recently posted that the one thing that UU Congregations could do to grow the faith was to stop
making their ministers so nervous.  Nervous preachers preach mush-mouthedly, and religious communities grow when they have a powerful and engaging message that mattered. I've gotten some pushback that tells me that some think that I am against discussion, debate and reasonable differences of opinion. Hardly.

I don't know of any UU minister who is not open to congregants expressing disagreement with them. We know that we preach to opinionated people who know how to speak up for what they believe. Most of us enjoy a little give and take on the content of our sermons, although coffee hour is not often the time for in-depth dialogue: too many other obligations and our own immediate post-performance tenderness.

And I don't know of any UU minister who is not anxious to hear of life experiences that were not included in our sermons. One Mother's Day, I met a man whose mother died…


We are all woven into a complex web of social interconnection. That web is not morally neutral, but a system of interlocking oppressions and privileges, domination and subordination, exploiters and exploited.  Some of this web is visible; some hidden. It is larger than any person's perception; no one sees and understands it all.

In some ways, the social web is a like a vast nervous system, a brain, filled with uncounted connections and neural pathways. It's organized in a particular way. It notices some events, like a sudden shift to colored shoelaces, while being oblivious to others, like child abuse. It values some people and ignores others.
People eat food, and are unaware of the people who grow it, and process it, and move it. There are few neural pathways along which that connection is communicated. How would a strawberry picker in Oxnard, California tell you about her life? The way our social system is structured, it is a violation of the norms for the person who brings th…

The Only weapon against Big Money in Politics

The Supreme Court has been enabling rich people to spend as much money as can be spent in the political system. It now appears that there are really no limits. And the activities of the Koch brothers shows what the wealthy can do, if they choose to be aggressive about promoting their interests and ideology in the political process.

Is there any way to stop this? Is there any way to fight back? After all, if the wealthy can buy the legislature, how can the legislature regulate the wealthy?

But look more closely: what does big money in politics really do? It goes to campaigns who spend it on television commercials, that seem to have a diminishing impact on how people vote. A lot of modern campaigning is a money flow: big donors give money to candidates who give that money over to the campaign consultants who create and place television commercials with media companies. For a media mogul like Jack Welch, owner of GE and NBC, it is a perfect circle.

Is there any series of television comm…

Breaking Out of a Closed Circle

Church planting in Unitarian Universalism has been slow, anemic and pitiful.  In a cultural environment where increasing numbers of people seem to be not interested in the churches that are, planting new churches has to happen.

Congregational systems like the UUA are hamstrung because it is hard to start a church without funds and hard to raise funds without something solid on the ground.

Crowdfunding is one solution. People from throughout Unitarian Universalism give money to help support a church that they don't ever plan on joining.

Can it work? Can it work without lots of institutional fundraising, but with contributions from ordinary people like you and me.

Rev. Ian White Maher and the Original Blessing Congregation in Brooklyn, New York are giving it a try through a crowdfunding platform.  Let's make this work. Take a look at the materials, and I urge you to make a contribution.

A life lived according to love

" In everyone there sleeps    A sense of life lived according to love. "
-- Philip Larkin
"Liberal spirituality" is the awakening of that sense of life lived according to love. "Liberal spirituality" wants to love as a way of life.
It feels like a yearning for a life of compassion, openness, reverence and awe, humility, generosity and appreciation. It's an instinct toward keeping an open heart. 
But growing into a loving life from a yearning to love is a process. It is a learning process, learning about others, learning about the way the world really works, learning about oneself. It is a process of community, practicing and reflecting with others, being witnesses to each others attempts to live a life according to love, supporting each other when it's going well and when it's not. It's thinking about and sharing what makes you afraid to love. It's sharing inspiration.
Unitarian Universalism is religious tradition for whom this question of h…