Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy–article in The Atlantic Monthly magazine July 2011
June 28, 2011, 5:23 am
Filed under: Children and Youth, Family Ministry

Take a look at this and add a comment below if you have any thoughts.

How to Land Your Kid in Therapy

Pastor Cranky’s Report from the 2011 UUA General Assembly in Charlotte

Here are some glimpses of my activities as your ministerial delegate at the 2011 GA of the UU Association of Congregations.  This was a historic GA–our 50th!  It marks the consolidation of the American Unitarian Association with the Universalist Church in America in 1961.  (Of course, the youth organizations of those two denominations had merged in 1954, forming Liberal Religious Youth.)

Meetings and Social Stuff

I attended a lunch meeting with the UU Veatch Program, a grant-making board at our congregation in Manhasset, NY.  I sit on the grants panel for the UU Fund for a Just Society, which is a re-granting arm of the Veatch program.  So we answered questions for staff and board members from our granting organization.  I also spoke as part of a panel at a GA workshop entitled “Get a Grant from the UU Funding Program.”

I attended a fund raising breakfast for my alma mater, Meadville Lombard Theological School.  (Every year I joke that this is a “free” breakfast that costs me $500.)  I also attended the annual alumni dinner, where I saw classmates, recent grads and professors.

My school has sold its 4 historic buildings in Barack Obama’s south-side Hyde Park neighborhood to the nearby University of Chicago, and has entered into a long-term lease with the Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies on Michigan Avenue in downtown.  It’s using the proceeds to beef up its endowment, create scholarships, and to hire a new professor of UU history.  Though I contribute also to the Starr King School for the Ministry in Berkeley (Doug and Carole’s seminary), I decided to sleep in on the day that it had a fund raising breakfast.

Among other chances to socialize and re-connect, I had lunch with the Minister from Livermore, dinner with a college friend and her family, dinner with a family from Florida who used to attend the church I served in the Bay Area, and coffee with our UUSS music director’s partner (who is a student in Georgia), with the Associate Minister from Palo Alto, with Emily (our member who is volunteering as an usher/teller at GA).

I had snacks and drinks with various friends and acquaintances at night.  The other night a hotel bar erupted in cheers and applause.  There were two TV monitors, one of which showed a baseball game.  The other one had CNN’s live coverage of the New York Assembly’s vote to grant marriage equality to same-sex couples.  That was the cause for the cheering!

GA Business:  Changing Governance, Speaking Out on “Ethical Eating” and Other Issues

Yesterday we voted on a major reform of our UUA governance.  After vigorous debate (and years of study) delegates reduced the size of the UUA Board of Trustees from 23 to 11.  Now, all trustees will be elected on an at-large basis.  The UUA Nominating Committee will be charged with presenting slates of candidates to reflect diversity of experience, age, ethnicity, sexual orientation/identity, gender, and geography.  (GA delegates will elect all 11 trustees, but the candidates can include not only those nominated by the Nominating Committee but anyone who runs for election “by petition.”)

Until now, all but 4 trustees were elected by regional districts.  Debate on this change centered on the loss of explicit regional representation versus the addition of other categories of diversity, in particular the voices and presence of persons from historically marginalized communities.  The current board had recommended this change unanimously, even though it meant shrinking their numbers.  They argued that it would make for a more nimble, efficient, effective and potentially more diverse representative Board of Trustees.   The measure clearly passed, and I voted for it.

Following that vote was a vote to change the terms of members of the UUA Nominating Committee.  Previously, those on it served one term of 6 years.  The proposal was to change the terms to 3-year terms, with the possibility of serving for two terms.  Among those favoring this change were youth delegates and young adults, for whom a 6-year term can be daunting.

Earlier this week GA delegates finished study and amendments to a Statement of Conscience: “Ethical Eating:  Food and Environmental Justice.”  This followed a three-year process of study, action and resolution-drafting. Read this article about it on the UU World magazine’s website.   If you are interested in local applications of this resolution, check out the 40-Day Challenge at UUSS, sponsored by our Green Sanctuary team.

Today we vote to suspend the UUA bylaw for “Actions of Immediate Witness” (AIW) at General Assembly.  That’s because next year’s Assembly in Phoenix will be  “Justice GA” and will focus on education, reflection and action for social justice, given Arizona’s passage of SB 1070 last year, which harms immigrant families and promotes racial profiling.  Next year’s GA won’t be “business as usual,” so the idea is that we will save time by skipping the AIW process.  However, to do so it means deleting it altogether from UUA bylaws.  There will be a vote also to reinstate the AIW process for the 2013 GA, but with a smaller number of AIWs possible.  So, we vote on deleting the AIW process and then putting it back in at a reduced level. (Today we will be voting to choose 4 AIWs, though a GA can choose as many as 6 AIWs.  These are the proposals:

AIW-1: Protest Rep. Peter King’s Hearings on Muslim “Radicalization”
AIW-2: Support Southern California Supermarket Workers’ Struggle for Decent Wages and Benefits
AIW-3: Toward Ending the U.S. Military Engagement in Afghanistan
AIW-4: Oppose Citizens United – Support Free Speech for People

AIWs are not binding on congregations and are not the same as the Statements of Conscience, which follow a three-year process of study, action and resolution-drafting.  As noted, this week we adopted the Statement of Conscience on Ethical Eating:  Food and Environmental Justice.

Various Speakers

We heard from the progressive Muslim leader who has been at the center of controversy for plans to build an Islamic center in lower Manhattan.  Read a UU World article about it.

The female president of a 6-million-member Japanese religious organization addressed the Assembly the other day. Read a short article here.

Of course at every GA we hear reports from the UUA President, Moderator, Financial Advisor, and other elected or appointed officials or groups.

The major lecture at General Assembly is called the Ware Lecture, which took place Saturday night.  We heard from the scholar of religions Karen Armstrong, most recently the author of 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life.  Click the Ware Lecture link above to watch it (it’s an hour).

The longest-running lecture series in the United States is the Ministerial Conference in Berry Street, which began in 1820 with a talk by Unitarian forbear William Ellery Channing.  It no longer takes place on Berry Street or in Boston, but during Ministry Days, the meeting of UU ministers that comes just before General Assembly.  This week we heard from the Rev. Deborah Pope Lance.  Her challenging lecture was about the legacy of clergy sexual misconduct in our UU movement, and how misconduct damages congregational systems for generations, promoting cultures of secrecy, mistrust, manipulation, and misplaced anger.  (In our movement most of the misconduct has been male ministers who took advantage of their roles by having sex with women parishioners.)

Pope-Lance is a therapist as well as a minister, and much of her consulting work to helping “after-pastors,” which means ministers of congregations whose earlier ministers committed sexual misconduct.  As I listened to her powerful reflections, I realized that on my right was a colleague who had been an “after-pastor” in a New England church.  On my left was a colleague who had been an “after-pastor” in a Southern California church.

Worship Services

Major worship include the Service of the Living Tradition, honoring our religious professionals as they gain credentialing, enter retirement, or pass from this life. Every year I know fewer of the new ministers and more of those who are retiring!

I also attended the annual service of the on-line Church of the Larger Fellowship.  This year’s service was an installation for CLF’s new senior minister, Meg Riley.  The July/August issue of CLF’s Quest magazine features a sermon that I wrote and gave at UUSS.

If I don’t finish this and get cleaned up, I’ll miss the big Sunday morning worship at the convention center.  Tonight I depart and head to Asheville, where a two weeks of vacation will begin.  The UUSS Office will know how to reach me in an emergency.

My best wishes to all of you!

P.S.–the morning worship was fabulous.  You can watch it at this link.

To watch selected other items from GA, “streaming on demand,” click this link.

Newspaper coverage about General Assembly 2011: 16 Pictures and 2 Good Articles About General Assembly in the Charlotte Observer

We received very good coverage in Saturday’s Charlotte Observer newspaper.

If you are on Facebook and you read one of these articles, be sure to “Like” the article so it appears on your Facebook wall!

Front-page picture and story:

Unitarian Universalists Gather in Charlotte:  Liberal Denomination Stands Up for Its Causes

Imam:  “Dream Still Alive” for Islamic Center in New York City

Slideshow:  16 pictures of General Assembly 2012 in Charlotte Observer newspaper!

BUT… apparently not very good comments from some readers of the Observer.  This appeared at the bottom of one article:

“Editor’s note: Comments have been disabled because of repeated violations of site policies. Please refrain from profanity, obscenity, spam, name-calling or attacking others for their views.”

I’m relieved not to read the comments, and the fact that they were not appropriate only shows that our presence and our public witness in has been important.  Let’s keep our North Carolina UU congregations in our thoughts and prayers!

Help Kids Be More Restaurant-Friendly–7 tips to get through a meal unscathed

an interesting article, maybe helpful for parents, at this link.

Adult Enrichment groups and classes
June 13, 2011, 7:22 am
Filed under: Adult Enrichment and Group Meetings


Soulful Sundown–a mid-week spiritual service on Tuesdays–Soulful Sundown, a Spiritual Service:  6:45 to 8:00 pm on Tuesdays, June 21, 28 & July 5.  This is not a class, but a worship-like group gathering.  Structure is similar to that of many small-group ministry programs, with opening words, chalice lighting, silence, reading, spoken reflection and deep listening on the spiritual topic of the week.  We will provide advance handouts a week in advance, or you can pick it up at Connection Central in the lobby.  Sign up so they know how many chairs we need in the circle!  Stop by this Sunday to find out more information or just show up on Tuesdaya few minutes before 6:45 pm.  We meet outside if the weather permits, in Fahs or another room if not.

Come to be replenished, to listen and to be listened to, bring your journey into sacred community.  (And if you don’t drive after dark, note this will end at 8!)  Open to teens if accompanied by parent/guardian.  No cost or fee, but please sign up.  Offered by Carole Czujko.

Tuesday night Poetry Circle–There’s room for YOU– July 12.  We’ve heard the words of great poets, from Mary Oliver to Maya Angelou, Alexander Pope to Billy Collins, Woody Guthrie to Walter Whitman.  Jerry Hostler hosts members, friends and guests.   Bring two or three favorite poems.  There’s room for even more.  Come join us and make an early evening of it.

UU Readers Book Group July 19, 6:30 PM:

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by journalist Rebecca Skloot.

Please sign up for this group at the Adult Enrichment table so we have enough room!

Have a book to request that we read and discuss?  Interested in facilitating a future session?  Let me know.  Use the COMMENTS function here!

The Spirit of the Living God Fell Fresh on Us Today at the Service–Gay Pride Meets Pentecost

That is the way that someone might describe the experience of our service today, if that someone were in a church that uses more traditional and evocative metaphors. I actually love the phrasing, and sometimes it perfectly fits my experience.

The phrasing would be timely as a description, as today is Pentecost in the liturgical calendar of the Christian tradition.  Pentecost recalls that event in Chapter 2 of Acts of the Apostles when a great wind blows across an international gathering.  Tongues of fire touch the heads of many of the people, and they begin speaking in tongues different from their native ones.  It’s a multi-lingual miracle of the Spirit.  We didn’t observe Pentecost today at UUSS, intentionally.

It was LGBT Pride Sunday for us today.  My senior ministerial colleague and I had very small roles, but we looked good, he in a rainbow lei and I in a more tasteful rainbow-beaded Mardi Gras necklace, which went well with my charcoal gray suit.  Then Doug led a meditation to help us integrate the shocking news that one of our lesbian members had died from a drug overdose this past week, and to help us remember and say goodbye to several other members we recently mourned in memorial services.

We were happy to welcome another colleague, the director and senior minister of the UU Legislative Ministry in California, who was one of the first few openly lesbian ministers when she was appointed to a small church in San Jose in the 1980s when she was 31 and it had barely two dozen members.  (It grew tenfold in her 17 years there.)  For the past 7 years she has directed the Legislative Ministry.  She introduced the Legislative Ministry’s areas of advocacy and its accomplishments to us, and we gave away half of our morning offering to its work.

Eric, our young music director,  sang and accompanied himself on piano to Fred Small’s lovely “Everything Possible,” which is in our hymnal supplement but which works better as a solo.  Very moving.  Mary, a beloved member, played violin, with our accompanist Rachel at the piano, enriching and inspiring us with the music of Fritz Kreisler.

The speakers included four members or friends of the congregation: three women and one man.  Powerful testimony from every single one of them.

An epigram of our ancestor Ralph Waldo Emerson comes to mind:  “Insist on yourself.  Never imitate.”

We heard vignettes from the early years of the AIDS crisis, the early years of the Gay and Lesbian chorus movement around the country and the Gay Games around the world.  We heard a lesbian grandmother recall being counted as one of four parents of her former partner’s son.  We heard a young man who had delayed coming out even as his friends and families asked him and said it would be okay if he were gay.  He also had considered suicide but then resisted it, hearing the call to conscience — and hearing what he calls his God Voice.  Then he came out to himself and others, claiming  life’s gifts and spiritual freedom for himself, and offering his gifts in service to the larger world.

The group members were appreciative, courageous, revealing, celebratory, and quite moving.  Their gratitude for what this congregation has become, and for our church’s intentional and explicit outreach to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, reminds me why it still is important for us to continue to be intentional about our inclusivity.  Because of the enduring effects of the negative messages of so many “religious” institutions and people, and of the ignorance and harm that continues to plague our society, we still need to be an affirming religious voice.  Our voice needs to be heard!

So many people came to me afterward to say how moved they had been by the service, and how inspired.  Yes! I concurred.  It was an hour of testimony, grief, remembrance, confession, comfort, reconciliation, celebration, defiance, gratitude and grace.  It was a day of renewed faith and courage, of connection, unity, and hope.

Heck, I won’t leave it to other churches only to use these words, for they describe what I saw and felt:

The Spirit of the living god fell fresh on us this day.

Blessed be.  Namaste.

Quick Letter about all the Spontaneous Generosity from Members and Friends!
June 9, 2011, 4:49 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Dear Members and Friends,

Thank you all for your help with this year’s budget, including thoughtful participation in the May 22 Congregational Meeting. We will continue the meeting this Sunday after the 10:00 service in order to finalize our congregational budget for 2011-12.

Since the meeting many people have raised their pledges. Several angels have raised their pledges by $250 to $1000. Many more have raised by amounts from $5 a month to $250 a year. And many people have made one-time gifts on top of their pledge. Our total pledges for the coming year are over 2% larger than last year. Thank you all for your generosity! We are much closer to a budget that does not include staff cuts or furloughs.

If you’ve been thinking about raising your pledge or making a one-time donation but haven’t done so yet, it would help if we knew before the weekend. This will help in our final budget considerations in our congregational meeting after church. No amounts are too large. And none are too small as they show you are involved in ways you can. All gifts are valued and appreciated. Please email Michele Ebler with any change in your pledge or any gift you would like to make. Or you may download a pledge revision form at this link.

We know these are difficult times for many people. Your support of our religious community is heartwarming.

Your Board of Trustees,