Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog

Last Chance to Register: Spiritual Parenting Monday night—Perspectives & Practices–Ministry Circle for UUSS members/friends begins Monday

“A hundred years from now, it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove…but the world may be different because I was important in the life of a child.”

Please join me in a focused ministry circle, during which we will consider our role as spiritual guide in parenting our children. In this circle will ask ourselves:

What is my definition of spiritual…parenting?
What do I really mean when I say I want my child(ren) to be happy?
What kind of example am I setting?
How do I help turn values into practices, and then fit them into our busy family life?
How can I listen more deeply, speak more wisely?
How are my physical & spiritual health interconnected?
How can I become more aware of my own spiritual experiences, and how do I help my family discover theirs?
As a family, how can we be a force for healing in the world?

The topics will be guided, but we’ll learn from each other’s ideas, successes, and, perhaps most importantly, our failures.

We will meet in in Citrus Heights (off of Greenback and Mariposa). We will meet once a week, for 8 weeks.  We began on Monday, September 26th.

It is still possible to register… if you can make the next 7 sessions and can show up Monday, October 3rd, from 6:45-8:45. This will be a very focused time of adult interaction so that you can go home and have more focus for your little* ones.
*They may not be so little—last time I facilitated this workshop, the age range of children represented was 18 months to 25 years, and everything in between☺

If you have any questions regarding the group, please feel free to contact me, Karen.

Notes From Pastor Cranky (the very grateful Family Minister):

Note: This is not for the general public, but for parents who are members, friends or newcomers to our church.

Flyers will be at Connection Central Table after the services this Sunday. To reach Karen now about next Monday night’s launch of this important Ministry Circle, send Pastor Cranky a note or post a COMMENT here.


Progressives to Challenge Obama in the Primary? A Third-Party Challenge? Don’t Waste Your Time and Money

You can read about this idea at Common Dreams.

Pastor Cranky is a Democrat and is not happy with the Obama administration.  He admits to troubling thoughts… that he erred in giving his money and primary vote to Obama and not Hillary Rodham Clinton.  If she could have won the general election, she might have handled this economic challenge more like a progressive.   Pastor Cranky also admits to fantasizing about a primary challenge to Obama.  But he’s changed his mind.  It’s a bad idea.  So is a third-party challenge.  Let’s count the ways:

1)  Third-party challengers usually have the effect of making a main-party candidate look more middle-of-the-road.   Ralph Nader made Al Gore look more beholden to the moneyed interests and more right-wing than Gore’s campaign rhetoric would have led you to believe, and more beholden to the establishment than Gore publicly has been since losing the 2000 election.  In many ways, Gore has been a social prophet since 2000.

2)  Third-party challengers can weaken a strong main candidate.  This happened to Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush and then Al Gore.  Of course, I respect the right of those who vote for a third party candidate (I voted for John Anderson, have friends who voted for Ross Perot, and have known patriotic Americans who voted for Ralph Nader).  But I accuse Ralph Nader of being disingenuous in his campaign arguments about Gore.  I blame him for George Bush’s becoming president.  Without the Nader distraction, Gore would have won enough electoral votes outright.  Florida would not have been in dispute.  I blame Bush and Cheney for the disasters of their regime from 2001-2008, but I blame Nader for Gore’s loss.

3)  No kind of primary challenger can wrest the nomination from Obama.

4)  The primary is not the time to pressure the President to be progressive.  We should have out-organized both the Democratic conservatives and the Republicans in the past two years; we should have pushed him even harder to be more progressive and bold.  Knowing that many of us did that, or thought we were doing so, I understand the urge to punish him. Yet it’s a waste of effort.

5) Left-wing primary challengers could make Obama look reasonable, middle-of-the-road, agreeable and presidential.  Progressives should not give him that cover.

6)  Left-wing primary challengers could, on the other hand, make Obama look like a weak leader in general, and make him come across as even more unpopular.  The media would be talking non-stop about the horse-race aspects of the Primary, not the arguments a Progressive candidate is making.  The media would not focus as much on Bachmann, Perry, Romney, and Paul.   (This weakening of the incumbent happened when Ted Kennedy ran against Carter and when Ronald Reagan ran against Gerald Ford.  I forget what happened before then.)

7) Left-wing primary challengers would distract Obama’s campaign strategists from winning the 2012 general election.  They would cause him to spend campaign money on a primary challenge as well as time.  They would would draw donations from Progressives who might otherwise put their money into campaigns that could be won in the general election.

So, what to do?

This is what I want to do:  I want to give the lion’s share of my donations–early and often–to Progressive Democratic candidates for U. S. Senate and the U. S. House.  If we can regain a majority in the House, it can either press Obama or hinder a Republican president on issues like economic fairness and environmental protection.  If we can enlarge a progressive Democratic majority in the Senate, it will be able to pass progressive legislation, or if necessary, fight against any Republican president’s terrible nominees for Supreme Court and the many other Federal court seats, as well as nominees for important cabinet positions.

I want to give my campaign contributions to Democratic incumbents and those challengers who have a chance of winning.  I want to give it to those who are not already millionaires.  (Harder to do in Senate campaigns.)   I’ll let Obama vacuum all the money he can from his business and banking friends and those progressives who won’t give up on him.

But I’ll give my money to House and Senate candidates who deserve it, and whom we need in the Capitol, no matter who is President.  Your comments are welcome.  Also, your suggestions of Senate and House candidates who need and merit support.

Week 3 of classes at Pacific School of Religion (PSR)–hymnal amnesty, library research on D. Min. project, cross-cultural classes

Monday morning (September 19) I got to campus at 7:40, before the GTU Library opened, so I went to PSR’s Chapel of the Great Commission to pray and meditate, then I studied for an hour before class.

The six of us in the Doctor or Ministry seminar class met with Prof. Boyung Lee.  We talked about the difference between academic or systematic theology and practical or contextual theology.  Contextual theology is formed in real life, rather than separate from it in the mind of a genius.  It involves research, so we began talking about the various forms of qualitative (vs. quantitative) research, and how those can be applied to the world of religious communities and applied in varied contexts.

Each one of us turned in an 8-page paper giving a “thick” description of the context or setting of our intended research project (mine is the UU Church of the Philippines), with several questions and interests that arise for us about doing work on that context.  We each summarized this with our classmates and heard questions and feedback.

I LOVE the dining hall at PSR.  Chef Andy runs a great staff and provides a variety of options at every meal.  After lunch and some errands I returned to the hall to do some reading for a few hours.  Monday was quite hot in the East Bay, so I sat near an open door.

Tuesday morning I was back in the library, starting research on my term paper for the history of Christianity in the Pacific Region.   Still trying to figure out what further history research I can do on the UU Church of the Philippines, and haven’t found many new primary sources online in books or periodicals.

I left in time to get to the 11:10 AM chapel service.  (The first week we heard from the school’s president, Riess Potterveld.  Last week we heard from the academic dean and professor of New Testament, Bennie Liew.  He gave a great sermon about Jesus’ parable of the man who held a banquet and whose invitees didn’t show, so he punished them and then had his servants invite regular folks from the street.  But one of the guests wasn’t dressed for a fancy occasion, and the host punished him as well.)

This week’s chapel  was a hymn sing.  Eight students or staffers introduced songs that were important to them from their tradition, and then we sang them.  The range included “Gonna Lay Down My Sword and Shield” (an old African American spiritual), “Don’t Be Afraid” (a chantlike song from the  Iona Community of Scotland), “When In Our Music God Is Glorified” (a newer hymn that appears in the United Methodist and UUA hymnals), “O Holy City, Seen of John” (a 1910 Social Gospel text set to a Protestant tune from 1848), and a rocking contemporary evangelical or Pentecostal hymn about being raised by the power of Jesus’ blood (introduced to us by an African American lesbian ministry student from Detroit).

But our opening hymn was “Enter, Rejoice, and Come In,” #361 from the gray UUA hymnal.  It was accompanied by piano, accordion, and two tambourines.  We’ve gotta try that at church!  The woman who introduced it is an African American UU ministry student who has just transferred to PSR from a Methodist School in Washington, D.C.  She told the group that she had been away from church for an extended time after her husband’s death, and this was the first song she sang on her first Sunday back, and she knew she was home.  I thanked her later that day.  She said she had joined the PSR choir to make sure that some UU songs get included in chapel.  During the service we had a prayer of blessing for a stack of new Bibles donated for the chapel’s use by the last graduating class.  The chaplain also said he hoped these would stay put in the chapel, and that over time a number of hymnals had gone walking, probably by innocent but neglectful borrowers.  He proclaimed a “hymnal amnesty”–no questions asked, just bring them back.

Without fail I fall asleep after lunch, so it’s never good to have a class after lunch, but I do.  I was going to skip lunch Tuesday but just couldn’t resist.  It was freshly made Middle Eastern food and I had more than I should have, so I had extra coffee.

At my table was a young history classmate and her husband.  They are from the Asian tribal group (i.e., non-Hindu) called Mizo, from the northeast Indian state of Mizoram, near Bangladesh and Burma.  He is a Presbyterian minister, here getting a Ph. D., and she is taking special courses and maybe pursuing a D. Min., like me.  Their church does not allow women to be ministers, however.  They like their Presbyterian Mission Home housing and classes, and their two kids like the local school, but California life seems distracting.  They are used to having people just drop in the house back home, whereas here folks need to plan a social occasion.  When they learned that I stay over with friends on Monday night, they invited me to stay with them sometime.  They introduced me to a young woman from Korea, also getting a Ph.D.   She mentioned being in a class about Greek philosophy and needing to read Plato in the original, which was a challenge.  The Korean woman asked the Indian man if he could help with the Greek (given its use in his Biblical studies).  He said, “Maybe, but that’s Classical Greek” (and not Koine Greek).  I grabbed more coffee, and the man’s wife and I headed to our history class.

We started by breaking into pairs to do an exegesis (exegetical analysis) of a 1521 account by a Spaniard of Magellan’s preaching about Christianity to a group of Filipinos and inviting them to convert if he could locate his priest.  Most of us agreed that this was part of a colonialist plot.  However, the professor pointed out that Magellan had stumbled on those Islands by accident, as he had been fleeing the Portuguese ships while on a spice-hunting mission and didn’t really know where he was.  He was killed later that year in the Philippines.

Even with only 9 in the class, it’s a communication challenge to have an inter-cultural group.  We have a Korean priest, a Korean evangelical/Weslyean man, a white Pagan woman, a male Samoan ministry student, my Indian friend, and another white guy.  Plus an Asian American woman with us on a laptop computer, through Skype.

After our pairing up for the analysis of the 1521 account, we took a break, and I heard one of the Korean speakers asking the Indian woman about a word he hadn’t understood from the conversation.  It was “exegesis,” which to the ear can sound as if it has something to do with Jesus.  I tried to help by typing it into my laptop’s dictionary.

So…  The linguistic differences take some time in making sure we are all on the same page, and make lectures and discussions a bit slower than they might be with an all-American crowd.  Yet, given this historical topic, these differences add a dimension I rarely had in college days.   And, I might add, that at the start of class, one of our fellows was missing for 15 minutes.  It turns out it was the other white American guy.  He had been sitting in the room right next door to us, mistakenly thinking that’s where the class met and wondering where we were.

So, it’s safe to say, everybody needs you to cut them some slack now and then.

Work back at church has been crazy since I returned from Berkeley, including the break-in of an office of two staff members, with the theft of two PCs and a flat-screen TV/DVD player (all new, since they had been replacements after a similar theft a year earlier).  But this time the crooks sprayed a fire extinguisher all over the place, to cover their tracks and fingerprints.  Looked like a war zone.  So we’ve been moving staff offices around, and preparing to bring on new custodial help as well as restructure our administrative staffing.   Thank goodness I didn’t have to write a sermon for Sunday!

Our Congregation’s Master Planning Crescendo Builds! Meeting this Sunday, Oct. 2

[written by Barbara]

Wow – it seems like all of a sudden there is a lot going on in master planning. Constantly updated drawings and plans are everywhere! With collaborative input from much of the congregation our architect, Jeff Gold, has made great headway in visualizing a “new improved UUSS.”
The main areas of development in this plan are:

  • – Sanctuary/Social Hall – increasing seating capacity, comprehensive remodeling including a new heating and air conditioning system, substantive remodeling of the kitchen, structurally reinforcing the building to current codes, a fire sprinkler system, and adding support spaces (storage, bathrooms, etc.)
  • – Offices – adding and consolidating office space that includes a reception/greeting area
  • – RE – remodeling and expansion
  • – Parking – reconfiguration and renovation of the entire parking/vehicle circulation area
  • – Grounds and Garden – new landscaping and upgrades for the grounds and streetside appearance (includes a shade cover for the patio, a labyrinth, new entry courtyard, and covered walkway between RE and the Social Hall)
  • – New multi-purpose room with seating capacity for 125 and a new ‘welcome hall’ joined to existing Social Hall
  • – ‘Green’ construction methods
  • – Compliance with current codes for the entire campus

You are invited to attend as Jeff gives a presentation of the plan on October 2nd after the 11:15 AM service.  Childcare and food will be available.
A handout of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers will be available at the meeting as well as on the preceding Sunday (and on our website).
This will be a great opportunity for discussion, and will provide an informational foundation for the Congregational Meeting on October 16th, when we will be asking the congregation for a formal ‘vote of confidence’ about the direction the master plan is taking, and for approval to make a lot line adjustment.
Additional information is available on our website. Also, check out the updates on our Master Planning team’s weblog :

Professional Ministry: What’s the Use? — Guest blog post

Rev. Lucas Hergert

Minister, Unitarian Universalist Church in Livermore

Lucas is our guest speaker Sept. 25 for Association Sunday.


A young couple recently requested that I officiate a wedding. I asked details about their ceremony, and gathered that it was going to be a big hairy formal deal. Ten bridesmaids, expensive catering, the works.

Cool, I thought, and agreed to do it. About a week after our conversation, the husband-to-be called to tell me that he and his fiancé had chosen a different option. They had asked an inexperienced friend to officiate. So I pictured this huge traditional wedding with a completely untrained person leading the formalities. Something wasn’t right with that picture.

With instant online ordinations, more and more couples are taking this route. According to the Christian Century, a whopping one third of all weddings are performed by family friends. Clergy, please take your seats in the back.

Such trends beg the question: What’s the use of professional ministry, any way?

I want to go on record saying that I am not anxious to perform additional weddings. I enjoy it, but I do not rely on it for income or validation. And it doesn’t affect my vocation if people choose to go another route. I have a wonderful, growing congregation and plenty to do there.

That said, I offer my doubts that family friends and clergypersons are equivalent.

Malcolm Gladwell wrote that professionals need 10,000 hours to master a skill. It takes years for clergy to reach this threshold by preparing and performing services. When they do, there is a certain confidence and presence that accompanies them to worship leadership.

Your friend who just received her online ordination certificate may be able to read the lines. She may be able to dress the part. But any minister can see it’s just that. Dress up.

All weddings have smiles all around. Nonetheless, I will venture to say that even the family will notice the mispronounced name, skipped hymn, shallow or absent homily, and untested microphone. God save us from the untested microphone.

Public opinion has not shifted so quickly about other professions. Take medicine. I suppose if I really wanted, I could ask my friend to reset my dislocated arm and stitch my forehead. The instructions are online, right? And my friend—well, he’s smart and well intentioned.

And then there’s my other friend who’s a great debater. Perhaps I could use her to represent me in my hypothetical divorce proceedings. She will tell my wife’s attorney what’s what.

In truth I wouldn’t dream of doing either. The reason is because I have something to lose there. So why don’t people think they have something to lose when they ask an amateur to officiate the most important day of their lives? Most people wouldn’t risk amateur hour with a broken arm or court appearance. And yet one third of the American public would consider it in a heartbeat with weddings.

My advice for pastors is that we earn our keep. We have to be persistently, resiliently, uncompromisingly committed to ministerial excellence. This year, the Unitarian Universalist Association is having a special offering that will go in part to the continuing education of clergy. It’s called Association Sunday, and I’m supporting it generously. I believe we all will benefit from new and creative ways of bearing witness to the important moments in people’s lives.

My advice for everyone else is this: Consider your options.




Sept. 25 — Association Sunday at UUSS!

We drink from wells we did not dig.
We eat from fields we did not plant.
We have been warmed by fires we did not kindle.

From the larger Unitarian Universalist Association, our congregation has received new hymnals, R.E. curricula and Green Sanctuary support. We have used the UUA’s creative resources, wise counsel, organizational consulting, and financial support services.
We’ve received the gift of bold public witness by our elected national spokespersons, including UUA presidents. They speak up in the name of our UU Principles and the values of freedom and justice. They lead us in Standing on the Side of Love.

Our UUA network also supports training for ministers, religious educators, and music directors. This not only helps the professionals, it also enriches the lives of our congregations.

Association Sunday is September 25 at UUSS. We invite your financial support of the UUA. My gift this year will be $125. A gift in any amount is welcome. It makes a difference!
Please join Doug and me in supporting Association Sunday. Join us as we affirm that as UUs, we belong to one another.

UUA: President’s Video Message for Association Sunday 2011

UUA: President’s Video Message for Association Sunday 2011.