Ironicschmoozer’s Weblog


Excited about tomorrow’s talk after church
August 8, 2015, 3:12 pm
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So happy to welcome back Rev. Dr. Jay Atkinson to give a talk  about our religious heritage in Poland in the 1500s. A Unitarian movement in exile, the Polish Brethren had no church but had a printing press.  Consequently, liberal religion had spread through Europe before their church in Poland was crushed. Jay’s Powerpoint shows historic sites, current day Unitarians in Poland, and UU pilgrims from here who went on a tour that he and another scholar guided last summer. At noon in Pilgrim Hall at 890 Morse. Jay will be at church with us at 10:15 too.  Freewill donations accepted.  Unitarian Universalist Society of Sacramento (UUSS)​ August 9, 2015

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A SHARED MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT & SENIOR MINISTER: The Annual Pledge Drive Kickoff!

FEBRUARY 3, 2015

Dear Members and Friends,

UUSS IS AT ONE OF THE SHINING MOMENTS OF ITS HISTORY RIGHT NOW.

• We’ve added 50 new members since May. Worship is deep, joyful and lively. Our Greeters welcome new visitors every Sunday—even at our temporary home.

• Our dynamic duo of ministers has yielded new surprises in our worship and programs. We can build on this progress by fully funding Rev. Lucy’s position at UUSS.

• Our music program is blossoming now, with a growing choir and amazing duets and soloists. Next year, we strive to fund a Choir Director position once again.

• The new Spiritual Deepening Circles have 100 participants. Adult Enrichment has brought more than 125 people together. Theater One has staged a great variety of plays—more now than last year, when we had a full stage and auditorium!

Religious Education volunteers and staff give generously of their talents and love to our children and youth. We seek to support UUSS families even better.

• Our talented staff works together with high spirits to support the congregation in pursuit of our UUSS mission: we come together to deepen our lives and be a force for healing in the world.

• Our Earth Justice Ministry, Kids Freedom Club, and other social-action groups have brought people together to learn, organize, serve and give of themselves.

Our pledges of monetary support make it all possible. Starting Sunday, February 8, members and friends will make pledges to the operating fund for the 2015-16 year.

Funding our UUSS goals for success in the new budget year calls for an average pledge increase of 10%. We know that hardship has affected some of our households, so we also appreciate that many others will stretch in order to make an increase larger than 10%.

In shared commitment, both of us will increase our household pledges to UUSS.
Your pledge is your decision. Pledges of all sizes are valued and appreciated.

What we ask is your generosity.

Generous giving makes possible so much within and beyond our congregation. Thank you.

We can keep this congregation shining in the coming year. Let it shine!

Yours in service,

Roger Jones, Senior Minister, and Linda Clear, Board President

PS—Please read the Pledge Form for 2015-16. Fill out your Pledge Form and bring it to the next Sunday service or mail it to the office at 2425 Sierra Blvd., Sacramento 95825.  Your monthly pledge of support will keep UUSS thriving… from month to month, from year to year, and from generation to generation. Thank you!



“Unitarian Universalism” and “Unity” Churches — similarities and differences

Sometimes people will ask me if UUism is the same as Unity.  It’s not the same, but there are several similarities. 

When I began a spiritual search as a young adult in a new city in 1985, I visited both a Unity Church and a UU Fellowship regularly.  I took a night class using the book The Story of Unity.  I liked both congregations, and though I retained a couple of friends in Unity, I was drawn to make a commitment as a member to the UU Fellowship.  At the time the UU congregation had a more explicit and regular mention of social justice and issues of the common good–a more external focus than an inward one.  Since then, I chose to pursue spiritual growth through various avenues, and our UU movement has expanded its embrace of spiritual and theological exploration, while never leaving behind the urge to build a more just world and promote understanding among different religions.   I think local Unity Church congregations may be less socially conservative than some of them used to be, and I know many of them have done good work in community service and interfaith relations.

Here is my take on the differences.  

Unitarian Universalism (UUism) has been more of an institution-based movement from the beginning, while Unity has been more of a message-based movement, with an extensive publishing outreach that touches people beyond its churches.  Of note is Unity’s “Daily Word” devotional booklet.

The Unity School of Practical Christianity was founded by a married couple in the late 1800s, as part of the New Thought Movement, which includes Christian Science.  Unity started as a movement, and became a denomination.  Its Unity Village headquarters is in Kansas City.

Unitarianism was a theological break within congregational churches, rejecting Calvinism, starting in the early 1800s.  While William Ellergy Channing delivered a foundational sermon in 1819, a manifesto of sorts, entitled “Unitarian Christianity,” there were many other founders of this liberal Protestant sect in the Congregational churches in Massachusetts.  The use of reason in studying scriptures, the humanity of Jesus, and the dignity of every person were founding ideas.  Less than 20 years later, the Transcendentalists added more ideas to the tradition.

 Universalism also was a revolt against Calvinism, and it started in the late 1700s.  It spread more like a movement of ideas, though new churches were started along the Connecticut River Valley.  Founding ideas were a denial of hell as a place for the dead and an affirmation of the boundless love of God as a loving, non-condemning parent.  Both denominations grew and spread across the continent, and merged in 1961.  Boston is the location of our denominational headquarters. 

Neither Unity nor UUism are considered orthodox or traditional expressions of Christianity, though both had Christian origins. 

Many conservative Christians explicitly say that both traditions are theologically and spiritually dangerous heresies.

Both UUism and Unity affirm goodness in everyone and divine love for all.  Both have a diversity of concepts of the divine in their literature and in their congregations.  However, there are very few UUs who like terms like Father or Lord, and Unity is often comfortable with it.
UUs include many self-describe Religious Humanists–who are atheists or agnostics and don’t respond to God language.  Most UUs, especially Humanists, disagree with the idea that there is a soul separate from the body. 

Unity, as a modern descendent of Gnostic theology, often includes expressions affirming that a soul exists apart from the body.  UUism does not have an official teaching on this, but I think most are not Gnostics.  Many UUs also are uncomfortable with the Course in Miracles, or would be if they took it.  It is popular in Unity and in Religious Science, another New Thought movement.

Unity and other New Thought churches affirm many of the spiritual ideas of the American Transcendentalists, many of whom were Unitarians, like Margaret Fuller and Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
But the spiritual philosophy of the Transcendentalists is only one thread of our heritage, and many UUs think it is too idealistic or too mystical for them.

Unity strives to be inclusive of the wisdom of all faiths, and so do we.   But Unity’s background and primary connection is Christian, and many of our Humanist atheist or Jewish UUs are uncomfortable with that connection on an explicit and regular basis.  While most UUs do recognize the liberal Christian origins of both sides of our UU heritage, they value our inclusive embrace of the wisdom of diverse traditions.  Humanists and theists and all others who are committed UUs join together in affirming the baseline of humanistic values in the UU faith tradition.

Most people who tried out a UU church and ended up in a Unity church made the move because they sought a more spiritual focus and spiritual practice, and explicit, regular talk about spirituality.  They may have found UUs too “cerebral,” and not “spiritual” enough–that is, with more head and less heart, and they found more heart in Unity.  I’m busy most Sundays, so have no recent eyewitness experience!

Unity affirms human possibility and human goodness, and we UUs strive to affirm that. However, Unity has a more optimistic view of human life which some UUs would find naive.
James Luther Adams (a minister and professor who saw the evils of the Nazi takeover first hand) and other modern UUs have stressed the tragic dimension of the human personality and human life.  In my experience, Unity teachings disavow evil as a real force in human life.

While many UUs would say that every event or accident or phenomenon has causes that can be explained, most of us would not agree that everything happens for a reason or according to a plan, while I often hear “Everything happens for a reason” in Unity and other New Thought traditions. Some things do not happen for a reason–they happen, and sometimes they are terrible.  We are here to reduce harm, ease suffering and help those to whom bad things do happen.

UU process theologians assert that there is an infinite variety of possible outcomes and events, rather than a plan for any person’s life or a plan for the planet as a whole.  Process theology imagines a Divine Lure toward the good, but the outcome is up to human choice, causal relationships in nature, and randomness.

I think the religious landscape is enriched by the presence of Unity churches and Unity publications.  We are not the same but our similarities are important and worth affirming.  Thanks to my Unity colleagues in ministry for all the leadership and care you provide. 



Birth, Breath, and Death — New Book on Lessons of Life as a UU Doula Midwife

I’ve been in conversation with Amy and thought I’d pass this along.  Read an excerpt of her book in the Fall 2013 UU World magazine.

Philosophy, religion and love infuse this thoughtful set of observations. –Kirkus Reviews
Amy Glenn has brought her own great sensitivity and heart to the portals where we enter and leave this life, and to the loving presence that is our source. Filled with a wisdom that touches into the great mystery, “Birth, Breath, and Death” is a poetic and beautiful reading experience. –Tara Brach, Ph.D. Author of Radical Acceptance and True Refuge
I found myself re-reading, lingering, pausing to think and to settle into the peace and love that pervades every word in this little but powerful book. She probably doesn’t begin to consider herself A Teacher, but I would gladly sit at her feet and just soak up her inborn and learned wisdom. — Peggy Vincent, Midwife and Author of Baby Catcher
Amy Wright Glenn sensitively and poetically explores the nature of our most profound experiences. These reflections on life and death are not of dry theory but are informed by the depth and richness of her own life –both personal and professional.  Reading this book, I am brought ever closer to what I call “home” – that place of clear seeing and knowing from within, the place where I deepen my relationship to Self and the world around me.  –Sudha Carolyn Lundeen, Soulful Life Coach and Senior Kripalu Yoga Teacher Trainer
Amy has a poet’s heart and voice.  She integrates this lyric voice into a moving memoir of life experiences: her own and those she has witnessed in her work as mother, wife, doula, teacher, and chaplain.  I resonate with so much of her story, having made my own path out of constrictive religious bonds, and through my own passages of self-exploration and growth.  I also resonate with Amy’s ability to merge head and heart in her reflective process. I recommend Birth, Breath, & Death to any person who appreciates well-crafted narratives of growth and transformation, especially those professionals engaged in the work of spiritual and physical nurture. –Tedford J. Taylor, Clinical Ethicist, Chaplain, Director of Pastoral Care & Training
If you like narrative non-fiction about real women doing real work, their struggles, fears, failures and triumphs her story is for you. The energy of birth crackles on every page. Amy has delivered one amazing book. –Patricia Harman CNM, Author of The Midwife of Hope River, Arms Wide Open; a midwife’s journey and The Blue Cotton Gown
Amy Wright Glenn is a seeker who takes us on an adventurous journey in this compact, insightful and inspiring book. We travel with her into self-discovery and into the healing of wounds from childhood—the destination is an openhearted motherhood. She has written a lovely book. — Kathryn Black, Ph.D. Author of Mothering Without a Map
“Birth, Breath, and Death” is one extraordinary little book. I hope it will find its way into many, many hands: mothers-to-be, midwives, physicians, nurses, educators, doulas and healers of all kinds. Amy Wright Glenn writes about birth and birthing ourselves, as well as our babies. Five stars.” –Suzanne Arms, Director of Birthing The Future and Author of Immaculate Deception New York Times Best Book of the Year


Priceless! Notes from an Outsider’s Perspective — Associate Minister’s February Newsletter Column

            Ah, remember the day you installed me! 

            A member of my doctoral class at Berkeley had something to say about it.  He is Korean and a Protestant minister.  He had come to that ceremony.  He’d brought his mom, also a Korean Christian immigrant. 

            During our seminary course recently, I was talking about Unitarian Universalism to my religiously mixed class.  He said, “I didn’t know much about UU theology, and I still may not understand it all.  But what I felt at Roger’s installation really impressed me.”

            In particular, he said, was the sense of inclusiveness in the service and from our congregation.  Priceless!

            He was struck also that the service had beautiful music, eloquent liturgy, dance and other arts, and a woman’s deep and powerful preaching.   He noted the participation of children and youth in the service and congregation.  The reception food was generously abundant and flavorful.

            Most of all, he said, “I could really feel the love there.”  So could his mother.  She told him that if she lived close to UUSS, she would want to come regularly.  Whatever the theology, he said, the message they felt was deep and impressive—the love.

            It was great to have an outsider’s fresh perspective.  Priceless!

            Isn’t this the reason you are here?  We long to experience the gifts of depth, beauty, love and hope in this place.  This place to belong and be cared for—this is why we keep coming back.  These are priceless gifts.  You could NOT put a price tag on what this community creates. 

            The combined gifts—all that we do here—are indeed priceless.  Yet providing all of this congregation’s component parts every year does call for cold, hard cash. 

            To sustain Religious Education and music, put on services, support our hardworking staff, and reimburse dedicated committee volunteers, we must raise money, year after year.  To pay utility bills, support our denomination, produce newsletters and host the web site, we must raise money. 

            By paying our way year after year, we sustain our vision from generation to generation. 

            That’s why we have the annual Pledge Drive for the operating budget.

            I hope to see you during this year’s brief pledge drive:  February 17 is Kickoff Sunday.  February 24 is a Pep Rally (an Appreciation Reception for all ages).  Then March 17 is Touchdown Sunday.  Thank you for pledging your financial support, year after year.  

 

With gratitude,

 

Roger  

 

P.S.—The pledges we make this month will enable the board to present a budget proposal to the congregation to fund our programs and staff needs in 2013-14.  Our budget year starts July 1 but we need to plan ahead every year.  Thanks again.

 



Fridge Magnets–Unitarian Universalism in a Few Words

Our monthly church newsletter has this cute feature, a graphic of the front of a fridge with words from a variety of sources about what our Unitarian Universalist heritage and identity is.

We have one of the most beautiful monthly newsletters around–our capital campaign consultant praised it–but I am not sure how many folks actually read it, either in printed form via the US Mail or the colorful PDF version on our website. But I like doing the monthly blurb for Fridge Magnets. I’ll post some of the prior ones here in the next few weeks. If you have some to suggest, send them to me or just send as a comment below.
Here’s one.

All souls are sacred and worthy.
There is a unity that makes us one.
Salvation is in this lifetime.
Courageous love will transform the world.
And truth continues to be revealed.

–Rev. Mike Morran & Rev. Nancy Bowen, Denver, CO



Introduction to Unitarian Universalism and UUSS

What is Unitarian Universalism now?

1.         An association of 1,048 autonomous congregations in the US, Canada, & Philippines

2.         A non-creedal religious movement which promotes freedom of conscience, tolerance of differences, respect for diversity, the practices of reasoning together and compassion.

3.         A community of free minds and open hearts who commit generously to the hard work of democratic governance, mutual support, and continuous learning from one another.

4.         An institution dedicated to enhancing individual dignity and promoting spiritual growth.

What was it originally?              Two ancient Christian heresies:  Unitarianism (Arianism, the humanity of Jesus); Universalism (Arminianism, universal salvation).

1.  Major Events in our Liberal Religious Heritage                

1.  European History

1531 Michael Servetus published On the Errors of the Trinity (burned at stake 1553)

1585 Polish Socinians founded Rakow press, the 1st official Unitarian press

1568 King John Sigismund of Transylvania issues Edict of Religious Toleration

1654  John Biddle, founder British Unitarianism, banished to Scilly Islands

1723  Theophilus Lindsey born; 1733 Joseph Priestly born, immigrated to US 1794

1750 British Evangelist James Relly becomes independent Universalist preacher

2.                  New England Origins

a.                   1805 Unitarian vs. Puritan Controversy:  elite, educated, formal

1819 “Unitarian Christianity” sermon preached by Wm. Ellery Channing

1836 Emerson publishes Nature; Theodore Parker, Margaret Fuller, Elizabeth Peabody, transcendentalism:  direct intuition, individualism, social reform

b.                  Universalist movement:  rural, uneducated/self-taught, very pious & spirited

1770 widowed Englander John Murray’s boat ran ashore in NJ, where Thomas Potter awaited a minister to preach a distinctive Christian message;

Anti-Calvinist in theology:  1805 Hosea Ballou’s Treatise on Atonement

3.                  Westward Movement

a.                   1844 Meadville Theological School founded in Western PA; 1926 it moved to Chicago

b.                  1870s-1920s:  Iowa Sisterhood:  liberal women ministers established Unitarian churches in Midwest & plains states (e.g., Mary A. Safford, Eleanor Gordon)

c.                   1834 Wm Greenleaf Eliot took Unitarianism to St. Louis, founded Wash. Univ.

d.                  1860-64 Thomas Starr King, New England Universalist, came to San Fran’s 1st Unitarian; saved CA for the Union, raised $1.5 million for precursor to Red Cross.

e.         1904 Starr King School for the Ministry founded in Berkeley, CA

4.                  Radicals, Conservatives & Religious Humanism

a.                   1857 radical New England Unitarians formed the Free Religious Assn.

b.                  1852 Unitarian missionaries formed Western Unitarian Assn., Chicago;

its anti-creedal leaders made it theologically radical in 1870s-80s

c.                   1894 harmony achieved by unanimous declaration of non-creedalism

d.                  1933   The Humanist Manifesto signed by academics & Unitarian clergy

Over–>

UU Social Action and Congregational Governance

5.                  Social Action—personal crusades or institutional stands, inspired by UU principles

a.         1800s:  leaders of abolitionist, women’s suffrage, and temperance movements

b.         1917:  Prof. Clarence Skinner’s Declaration of Social Principles adopted by Universalist denomination; he calls for “a this-worldly Universalism”

c.         1930s-40s refugee & relief efforts by Service Committees of both denominations

d.         1950-90s activism:  civil liberties, civil rights, Vietnam War protests, conscientious objector help, now more women in ministry than any other denomination, abortion rights, lesbian/gay rights, human rights worldwide. Standing on the Side of Love campaign 2009.

e.         Beacon Press, owned by the UUA, publishes books relevant to UU purposes

f.          UU Legislative Ministry of California founded by local and statewide UUs in 2001.

6.         The UUA Merger, the Statements of Principles and Sources, UU Church of the PhilippinesMajor Events in our Liberal Religious Heritage

a.                   1930s first of many merger talks occur; some denominational programs merge

b.                  1955  f irst contact between a Filipino pastor (Negros Island) and American Universalists

c.                   1961  formal merger of American Unitarian Association & Universalist Church in America

d.                  1984  UUA General Assembly adopts “Principles & Purposes” and “Sources” of UUism

e.                   1988  UUA bylaws change makes UU Church of the Philippines member of the UUA

f.                    1993  an updated UUA hymnal published:  Singing the Living Tradition

e.         1995  a close vote at GA adds “earth-based traditions” to the list of “Sources” of  UUism

7.         History and Organization of the UU Society of Sacramento

a.         1860 first Unitarian meetings held in Sacramento; 1865: $100,000 raised for Unitarian outreach in N. California.  First Unitarian Church of Sacramento founded in 1868 with 17 families.  But from 1873-87 no records of church activity!  In 1892 First Unitarian Society founded.  From 1901-11, there was minimal church activity!

In 1915 church building was built at 1415 27th St., in Midtown.  Stayed there 45 years.

c.  1960: church moved to new, modern campus, buildings designed by John Harvey Carter at 2425 Sierra Blvd.   2008:  Long Range Plan adopted.  2012:  congregation members unanimously an architectural master plan for the building and grounds for the next fifty years.  Capital fund raising campaign in fall 2012.

d.                  From 1971-83:  Rev. Ted Webb served  here, is now minister emeritus.  1976:  church name changed to UU Society.  1982:  world religions/cultures banners were hung.  2000:  Rev. Doug Kraft was called by a congregational vote.  2008:  Board hired Rev. Roger Jones on a yearly contract.  2012:   the congregation voted to call Roger as Associate Minister.

e.                    Budget of revenues/expenses approved at every May congregational meeting; month-to-month business is entrusted to elected volunteer Board of Trustees, meeting monthly.

f.                   Funding for our ministries, staff, programs, and services comes from pledged donations by members & friends, fundraising events, visitors’ offerings, and property rental revenue.

g.                   UUSS is a member of the local UU Pacific Central District (38 congregations) and the national Unitarian Universalist Association (1,048 congregations).  We provide voluntary annual dues to District & UUA (full rate is about $100/member; budgeted amount varies)

h.       Every church sends delegates to UUA General Assembly in late June:  2012 in Phoenix, 2013 in Louisville.  PCD District Assembly is on a weekend every April, usually in the Bay Area.

Revised 05/04/2012