• Tag Archives UU
  • The Beloved Community

    Samhain                                                   Waning Harvest Moon

    Spent lunch with Leslie.  She’s progressing in her work at Groveland.  We had a very interesting conversation about a UU ecclesiology, not an easy topic since the notion loses something in importing it from Christianity.  UU’s insist on calling their congregations churches, but that is accurate only historically for almost all Midwest UU’s who are overwhelmingly humanist.  No one cares outside the UU community of course, and even most of those inside it don’t care either, except the clergy, for whom the nature of the communities they serve is all important.

    Leslie began feeling her way toward an ecclesiology based on love.  It got me going, too.  There may be a way to define a humanist ecclesiology focused on something like the beloved community.  In this case congregants might gather to participate in a community where intimacy might happen, happen outside the familial or marital or partner bond.  No one has too much love in their lives and a community committed to vulnerability, safety, depth and confidentiality might increase the possibilities.  There is no need here to posit a ground for love transcendent to the community, that is, a God.  We seek and find love here in this immanent plane, mundane and profane creatures we might be, so seeking it in community is in our capacity.

    I think this has real promise, might be groundbreaking.  I hope she follows through with it.

    Going into the Black Forest to dine with my Woolly brothers.  Listening to a new book.

    Here’s a thought about the beloved community:

    “The Beloved Community has three dimensions: self-love, neighbor-love, and universal love, according to Rev. Owen-Towle. “You can’t send forth what you haven’t claimed,” he said of the importance of self-love. “What you don’t own in your own heart you can’t give away.”

    Rev. Owen-Towle pointed out, however, that self-love is not sufficient. “Unitarian Universalism at its most authentic is never only about self-fulfillment – either everybody is saved or nobody is,” he said. “As UU’s we know that there lies an indisputable oneness at bottom.” We must demonstrate an alternative way of being religious, he added, in order to furnish a large, spacious household rather than a snug, comfortable collective.

    Rev. Owen-Towle urged his audience to seek the challenge of the Beloved Community. “Beloved Community transcends our own convictions, ever widening its embrace to include outsiders,” he said. “It’s always bigger than the imaginable.””

  • How Do We Open Ourselves to Mystery?

    Lughnasa                                      Waxing Back to School Moon

    A very busy three days with something in the evening each night plus events during the day, too.  Glad to get a chance to get back to the bees and the garden.

    Some autumn blooming bulbs came in the mail today, so I’ll get a chance to plant them over the weekend.  I need to get outdoors.  Fall bulb planting is one of my favorite garden chores.  Crisp weather and Folk Alley radio, sometimes the Andover Marching Band can be heard in the background.

    I’m still trying to come to grips with the unsettling experience I had at the seminary tonight.  I have no patience for the God talk, less for the elaborate hermeneutical dance that goes on in such settings.  I put myself in the room as a favor to Groveland and to Leslie, but I no longer feel like I belong there, a strange feeling after 15 years in the ministry.  These used to be my people; it is my seminary; but, I feel more like an outsider now than I did when I began back in 1970 and I was very outside the norm then.

    I hope I’ve not done Leslie a disservice by agreeing to do this.  I still respect the faith journey, the attempt to wrest some purpose out of life, to read the palimpsest of history and of nature, scraping away the latest scribbles to look even deeper, to find a way into the world of divinity, a trace of the sacred on the wind.  These represent the sweetest and the best of human endeavor, those moments when the human vessel becomes a vehicle for discernment.

    The institutional expressions of religion, the rationalization of charisma as Max Weber said, do little or nothing, indeed often obfuscate the journey with the insistent demands of institutional maintenance:  credentialing of clergy, fund raising, dogma protecting, seeking new members, building buildings, routinized worship.  Where is the ecstatic?  The mystic?  The awe-some?  Where is the deep calling unto deep?  Where is the fearless acceptance of the human condition?  Dangerous, lovely, cloying, sensual, heady, brutal, wild and untamed, even in the most civilized.  The Methodists and the Presbyterians and the United Church of Christ and the Baptists and even, for no God’s sake, the UU’s have fashioned clay towers with bright windows but no doors and no way outside.

    The journey happens at night as sleep comes, when a dream grabs you by the throat and won’t let go.  The journey proceeds as you walk to work, hold hands with a lover, dance in the rain, smile at the gorilla and the lion fish.  It goes forward along the ancientrails of art, literature, dance, music, theater.  Meditation?  Sure.  Quiet moments with fellow travelers?  Yes.  Finance committee meetings?  Don’t think so. Evangelism?  Nope.  The journey deepens when we become vulnerable to ourselves, to the world around us and I’m sorry, but I don’t see the support for that in the pews of any church I’ve ever attended.  Perhaps the monastery holds an echo of it.  The solitary parishioner at prayer.  The Jews at the wailing wall.  Muslims at the Kabah.  Maybe.

    But the weak tea I experienced tonight? Unlikely.  And I feel bad about that, sad.

  • Lapsed Unitarian

    Lughnasa                     Waxing Artemis Moon

    Oh, boy.  Just got myself into another situation.  Promising things I’m not sure I know how to accomplish.  I hope this goes with do one thing you fear every day, month, year–whatever time frame you can stand.  Cannot reveal details right now, but this could be a lot of fun for a lot of people or a complete bust.  Feels like the old days when I used to do this kind of stuff all the time.  Dream up something, contact a few folks, make it happen.

    Still fatigued.  Kate says it’s my body still healing itself.  I hope so, because it feels like I’m still sick.

    A friend the other day referred to herself as a lapsed Unitarian.  Lapsed Unitarian.  That made me wonder.  What are the spiritual and metaphysical consequences of falling away from the only faith named for two doctrines, Unitarianism and Universalism, in which none of its members believe?

    I have come to see UU as a way station of sorts, a caravan serai for the pilgrim lost in the desert or high on a mountain and in need of refreshment, companionship.  Maybe a spiritual decompression chamber where individuals are brought safely back to their spiritual sea level.  It’s clear to me that my decompression is complete, has been complete for several years now.

    Now, this is probably idiosyncratic, but I’m pretty sure it’s not unusual.  When we step away from a long time, culturally supported faith tradition like Christianity or Judaism, the lag time for decompression can be lengthy.  Not only do we have to unlearn one faith identity, we have to find or create another.  The UU movement is perfect for that time, for the initial time of confusion and disorientation and for the development, the constructing of a new faith.  Once that work is done however it most often results in a person anchored no longer in institutional faith, but in a place more like the world, the world of the human and the animals and the rock and the lake, a place where the spiritual moment is every moment and where the faith commitment may have an introspective, interpersonal, natural, and/or political expression, but not an institutional one.

    So.  Perhaps lapsed Unitarian is the destiny of most of us no longer inside the Christian hermeneutical circle.  It still helps to have a place to rest along the way.

  • Forgiving. Not Being Able to Forget.

    Summer                                        Full Grandchildren Moon

    Over the last year, with seeming increased speed in the last three months, the nattering nabobs of negativism (thank you, Spiro), have problems with the internet.  The Web Means the End of Forgetting in this week’s NYT magazine recounts the many issues that self-revelation and innuendo can raise in an environment of perfect memory.  The issue of privacy in an age of electronic elephants has many folks concerned.  A second area of concern involves reading, attention spans and even our ability to think deep thoughts.  The rapid pace of information dissemination and consumption on the Web, the theory goes, makes us unable to read long books, think in arguments that have more than two moves.

    Paul Revere has lots of company.  Endless memory is coming.  Endless memory is coming.  Loss of focus is coming.  Loss of focus is coming.  Balderdash.

    I use the web with frequency.  I just finished, for example, a 2,340 page book, The Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  I regularly write essay length pieces for Unitarian-Universalist congregations.  The quality of my arguments you may question, but their length and number of  moves you may not.  Also, Steve Pinker, whom I respect as a neurologist and psychologist said all this is silly.

    In my brief life as a blogger, a bit over 6 years if you count my regular posts during the year the Woolly’s had a pilgrimage theme, I’ve had three difficult incidents as a result of the Web’s reach.  The first was with material I wrote about my sister.  Material I regretted, but there it was.  Out there.  And she found it while I was in Southeast Asia. I found out in Bangkok in a China town internet cafe.  An unpleasant incident which still has reverberations.

    Not long after that I went after a job in a small UU congregation.  I posted only that I had had an interview, but the search committee viewed that as a serious breach of trust, definitely not the kind of impact you hope to have when hoping to become someone’s minister.   Result:  no job.  Finally, and the least serious of the three, but still significant; I wrote my reactions to a political event I attended.  It was an insider’s deal, at least as the convener’s saw it, and I got a mild reprimand through the channels of an organization for which I volunteer.

    Even with these situations in my recent past I still say, “Geez, folks.  Get over yourselves.  We are who we are regardless of our capacity to hide it.”  If more of our selves becomes subject to scrutiny, why shouldn’t we be held accountable?  Yes, I know the argument about slander and unintentional posting of that silly photo from Spring Break.  Even so, I think the larger question is, can we as a human community accept people as they are, not only as the carefully edited version of them we may get at work or in the bowling league or at church or at the bar?

    We are an inconsistent, irrational, exuberant species with so much behavior to think about, wouldn’t it be easier if we all got our undies unbunched and realized the flawed creatures we all are?  It’s a thought.

  • Writing Makes Its Own Space

    66  bar steady 29.79  3mph NNW dew-point 63  Summer night, rainy day

    Full Thunder Moon

    We had rain and storm, tornado warning and tornado watch.  A full thunder moon day.  The rain poured down, drenching the lily blooms, forming small rivers on the wide leaves of the acorn squash.  While I read the first chapter of the book on the Western Unitarian Conference, the rain drained from the sky and onto the azalea, the begonia, the several amarylis and a bed full of hosta.  Reading a good book while it rains or snows pleases me, makes me feel at home, in place.

    Kate harvested beans tonight, a few onions, too.  I used the onions with some beets I bought at Festival, delicious.  We also had a few early sugar snap peas and wax beans.  Some fish.  Some pasta with pesto made from hydroponic basil.  An evening meal.

    Kate works this weekend, as she does every other weekend.  Ten days in a row, a long stretch, but she likes the four days off it gives her.  We pretend she’s retired on those days.

    The Minnesota UU history piece has begun to take shape, get bones.  When there is a subject matter to master before I write, it usually takes me a while before I get a gestalt, a feel for the whole.  Once I have that I know where I need more information, or that I do not.  At that point I can sit down and write, usually in one setting.  A few days later, after its cold, I go back, reread and edit, revise.  Then I’ll put it away until I need to present it.

    This one has been a bit unusual in that history requires a certain precision and accuracy with details, chronological sequence, names and places.  This means the material that I use to illustrate and make my points must get reordered to fit my needs, yet remain accurate and true.   It’s part of what I love about this kind of work.

    When I have this kind of work, it pushes out everything else.  The writing work makes its own space in my life, creates openings and time for itself.  Just like this blog.  It happens each day, two to three times a day and often I do not recall having written here.  The breadcrumbs, though, are there, laid down in words and postings.

  • Deeply Skeptical of Industrializaton and Technology

    42  bar falls 30.10 3mph WNW dewpoint 22 Spring

                 Last quarter Moon of Growing

    Into St. Paul today.  Preached (sort 0f) at Groveland.  I say sort of because the presentation consisted of me telling jokes about Unitarian-Universalists and the group discussing their meaning as it relates to UU identity.  This comes from a technique dredged up from those long ago years in anthropology.  Joking behavior, according to anthropologists, helps determine group boundaries.  And so it did.

    The discussion that ensued was better than I could have hoped.  It was heartfelt, honest, sometimes bordering on painful.  The latter emerged during a discussion of UU discomfort with faith, with the act of vulnerability.  This leaves UU’s, as the discussion went, with a blank spot when confronted with grief, crisis. 

    On the way home I stopped at Cheapo on Snelling and loaded up on mindless action films, the kind I prefer to watch when I’m working out. 

    During lunch I finished Princess Mononoke again.  It is a wonderful, complex and beautiful work that gives pause.  It would be perfect to show at the same as Lord of the Rings because both Tolkein and Mizasashi are deeply skeptical of industrialization and technology, yet also unflinching in representing the contradictions and trade-offs as not black or white.  Tolkein seems more either/or than Mizasashi, so I prefer Mizasashi’s take on thing.

  • Double Checking Enlightenment

    38  bar falls 30.06 5mph NNE dewpoint 9 Spring

                Waning Gibbous Moon of Winds

    a clip from the Groveland e-wire 

    E-Wire, Vol. 13, March 27, 2008    Last Sunday’s Service    Groveland UU:  St. Paul 

    It’s always a treat to hear our old friend, the Rev. Charles Ellis. Last Sunday, Charlie offered a wide-ranging, in-depth presentation on transcendentalism.

    While focusing on Emerson, Charlie interwove threads from Des Cartes, Kant, Freud, Jung, Thoreau, Channing, Parker, and other intellectual and spiritual leaders who have influenced Unitarian-Universalism.

    The discussion that followed touched on important topics of interest such as the interplay between individualism and community.

    We’re grateful to Charlie for deepening our understanding of both transcendentalism and our UU heritage.

    Continue to knock items off my list.  The generator folks will come out on Tuesday at 10:00 AM to give us a bid on a natural gas generator.  Finalized information for the Headwater’s UU bulletin.  Reviewed my tour outline for the two Weber public tours I have tomorrow.  I also read the relevant chapters in the Tale of Genji, the one’s that relate to the two screen painting that I will use.  In addition I double-checked on the meaning of enlightenment and found that I had it right after all.  Never hurts to look one more time.

    Tonight I’m going into the Walker for a movie, “The Mourning.”  I made a pledge to myself a year ago that I would get to more of the Walker events since that’s a place where they shine.  Got tickets to 4 movies this month and April. It’s a start.