30 December 2005

Adrastos -- Friend's Blog About Post-Katrina New Orleans

A New Orleans family friend has started blogging about his family's post-Katrina experiences as the city rebuilds:

Adrastos -- Politics, Life & Culture (or what passes for it) in Post-Katrina New Orleans

Implicit and Explicit Theologies - Part II

This post is in response to the discussion on Philocrites about Unitarian Universalist theology ("A religion still seeking definition").

As a religious educator who is familiar with Maria Harris' book Fashion Me a People and the related UU essays on current and future trends in religious education found in The Essex Conversations, I really think we need to look at our "implicit curriculum" if we are serious about theology in our congregations.

Our "implicit" or "hidden" curriculum is very close to the unstated theological assumptions behind the way that Unitarian Universalists currently "do church." While complaining about the lack of theology in UU churches, we overlook the existing "theology" that's currently in use every day in our congregations.

The complaints about modern-day Unitarian Universalism lacking a well-formed and articulated theology may be really be complaints about an explicit theology. To me, this is related to the concept of "explicit curriculum":
"Explicit curriculum refers to what is consciously and intentionally presented. It is the official curriculum, or written curriculum, which gives the basic lesson plan to be followed, including objectives, sequence, and materials, what is taught by the teacher, methods used and the learning outcomes for the student."
Contrast this idea with the concepts of "implict curriculum" and "null curriculum":

"Implicit (hidden) curriculum includes the norms and values of the surrounding society, the setting in which the learning occurs (including the decoration and set-up of the area), and the broader environment in which education occurs."

"Null curriculum consists of what is not taught. Consideration must be given to the reasons behind why things are not included in the explicit curriculum or recognized in examination of the implicit curriculum."
Extending these concepts of "explicit," "implicit," and "null" to our theologies, I think we can find some theological questions. We may find some theological history and even some current-day theology being practiced in how we run our churches.
  1. What topics fall into our "null theology" (topics that we avoid in our pulpits and religious education settings)? What does this "null theology" say about us?
  2. In terms of implicit theology, what is our implicit theology (or theologies) in how we view the nature of god and humanity and the relationship between god and humanity?
  3. As an implicit theology, what is our "ecclesiology"? How do we define who is and isn't a member? How do we decide matters in our governance? Where does authority reside in our tradition?
  4. What is our implicit theology of "soteriology"? Do we even have a theology of salvation in modern-day Unitarian Universalism? What does salvation mean for those Unitarian Universalists who are not Christian and are non-theists?
  5. What is our implicit "missiology"? How do we interact with folks who are currently not in our faith tradition?
  6. What is our implicit "eschatology"? What do expect to find as the "final destiny" or "end state" in our tradition?
  7. Finally, what is our implicit "pneumatology"?
Well ... that's plenty for now. Go discuss.

29 December 2005

A Religion Still Seeking Definition -- Explicit and Implicit Theology

On Chris Walton's Philocrites blog (commentary on "Unitarian Universalism, liberal Christianity, American religion, and liberal culture"), there's been an extensive discussion on whether Untarian Universalism has a "religious definition" or "theological core." This discussion can be found here:

A religion still seeking definition

One part of this discussion that is missing is the role of implicit theology. We may not have a shared creed or a shared confession of faith, but we may have an implicit theology that is defined by shared assumptions.

In 2002, Rev. Rebecca Parker spoke at the Liberal Religious Educators' Fall Conference on "theology of religious education." Two useful summaries of Rebecca's theme talk can be found online here:
  • Unitarian Universalist Identity (UU Young Adult Curriculum - see pages 19 - 28 of this PDF document written by Katie Erslev, UU Religious Educator, UU Fellowship of Lafayette CO)
  • The Theology of Religious Education (Summary notes from 2002 Fall Conference - PDF file written by Laurel Amabile, Lifespan RE Consultant, Thomas Jefferson District - UUA)
And you may be able to borrow a copy of the audiotapes of this theme talk from your congregation's religious educator if you want more than just the summary information.

One other online writer has commented on what we share in common in terms of theology and culture:

Children of a Different Tribe (Sharon Hwang Colligan's observations on UU young adult developmental issues)

One section of Sharon's paper talks about Unitarian Univeralists as a "recognizable people" with a shared culture (and perhaps a shared implicit theology):

A recognizable people

Until we acknowledge, describe, and make explicit our implicit theology and shared culture, we will have a very hard time seeking and finding our religious definition.

Unitarian Universalists and Theology - Layperson Responsibilities?

Recently, I've read a bunch of blog and other online commentary on Unitarian Universalist theology:
The question I would ask about all of this: What responsibility do laypersons living in local UU congregations and other UU religious communities have in developing a shared UU theology?

Should we expect professional "public theologians" do this work for laypeople?

Should we expect the religious professionals in our congregations (ministers and non-ordained professional religious educators) to do this work for laypeople?

Writing as a "mostly layperson" (who is a "paid religious professional" for 1-2 training weekend workshops each year), I think we should we be asking ourselves about what our responsibility as laypeople is in jump-starting a theological dialogue.

We can't realistically expecting our over-worked and under-paid congregational ministers and religious educators to jump-start this dialogue for us. Otherwise, we will find ourselves sliding into a consumer's attitude where we expect our paid professionals to provide us with our theology pre-chewed and pre-digested for us in this passive consumer role.

If we want to move ourselves out of this role as passive consumers of religious services, we need to acknowledge that laypeople have an essential role in this theological discussion if we want the discussion to be "deeper and wider" than the current discussion currently is.

We need to do more than passively waiting for "someone" to deliver better preaching and better academic theology to us.

Rather than expecting us to be a passive consumer of religion where the minister delivering the sermon is a form of Sunday morning "entertainment," we need to re-image how we view our clergy where the communication between clergy and layperson is much more interactive.

Instead of the commonly experienced metaphor of "minister = Sunday religious entertainment" and "layperson = passive consumer of religious services," we need a different metaphor. I have some suggestions:
  • "minister = coach or trainer" and "layperson = theological athlete"
  • "minister = ballet teacher" and "layperson = dance student"
  • "minister = writing teacher or editor" and "layperson = writer"
Perhaps you have some suggestions for how we should re-image this interaction between clergy and laity as well?

12 November 2005

Pathways Church Funding Cutbacks

Today, while checking out UU blogs, I read that the Unitarian Universalist Association's large church startup project in the Dallas-Ft. Worth TX area (Pathways UU Church) is experiencing financial difficulties and has not met the planned growth goals.

Details about this can be found online here in this 21 October 2005 letter from Rev. Laurel Hallman (Senior Minister, First Unitarian Church of Dallas TX). The letter requires Adobe Acrobat or other PDF viewer software. Some excerpts from Laurel's letter are printed below:
The church was formed in the recognition that our usual methods of starting churches have been self-limiting. We had a vision of planting a church which would have the resources to grow quickly as many other denominations (and non-denominational churches) have done.

The DFW area had all the right elements: entrepreneurial UU donors in the First Unitarian Church of Dallas who were willing to underwrite most of the projected $1 million budget; NTAUUS, the North Texas Association of UU Societies which was willing to purchase and hold land for the future of the congregation; the willingness of the UUA Administration to contribute the remainder of the money needed from the UUA Capital Campaign monies; the conservative religious climate in Texas which challenged us as religious progressives to come out, gather together, and to be bold in our faith.

Since this had never been done before within our denomination, we knew that much of the wisdom and practical skills for such a project would have to come from sources outside our usual circles. A donor in First Church gave money to provide for training in "planting" such a large church start. UUA and Pathways staff attended a United Methodist conference on large church life that included visits to the six large United Methodist congregations in the Houston area to observe and analyze best practices. We contracted with the Texas-based Easum, Bandy Associates, a consulting firm specializing in church growth, that included extensive on-site consultations with Tom Bandy at Pathways.

We formed a local search committee that carefully researched many of the large churches in the DFW area to glean the qualities necessary for the minister of such a church. After interviewing several very good candidates, the committee was excited to choose Anthony David, who had the tenacity, entrepreneurial spirit, and excitement we believed would make this experiment a success. He accepted the challenge and moved to Keller with his family to plunge into the process of learning "church planting."

The plan was to spend a year preparing the staff and programs for the church and provide enough publicity to gather 300 people at the first service. While the first public Sunday worship service on September 19, 2004 had an attendance of 140, we knew that the UUA Media Campaign that was being tested in Kansas City and Houston would be coming to Dallas/Ft. Worth within the year, and so missing that first goal did not seem as important as the enthusiasm generated on that Sunday.

Despite this planning and enthusiasm, however, we must regrettably report that Pathways has not grown as rapidly as we all had hoped. After more than a year of public worship, Pathways has 71 members. At current spending levels, the UUA's financial commitment to Pathways would be completed in a matter of months.

Due to these circumstances, Pathways leadership needs to adjust staffing and expenditures to match the reality of their current size in the near term. This adjustment will not be easy, but the Pathways vision is strong, and the church will continue to bring Unitarian Universalism to an unserved part of the Dallas/Ft.Worth region. With 71 members and 110 average attendance at worship, Pathways has a pledge base of $110,000, with an average pledge of $2,600 per pledge unit. They have a strong membership and a committed board, and they remain undaunted. It is our sincere hope that Pathways will continue to grow even if at a less strenuous pace. The Dallas/Ft. Worth UU Churches have just enjoyed a significant media campaign as part of the Metroplex Growth Strategy which was funded by NTAUUS and the UUA Capital Campaign. All the UU Churches in the DFW Metroplex area are "coming out" in significant ways and we hope that Pathways, in spite of their current task of reorganization, will also be able to enjoy the benefits of that campaign.

We are disappointed that we could not achieve our goals for a large church at Pathways. But we have learned much from the Pathways experiment, learnings that we are already using. We have learned that we need to have more experience embedded in the new congregation and available to church leadership right from the start; that the new congregation needs to have a close and clear relationship with a mentor congregation for guidance; that all understandings, financial and otherwise, between the new congregation and the UUA must be in writing; and that there must be clear benchmarks for progress reported to and analyzed by the mentor congregation and the UUA. At the same time, Pathways has much to teach the rest of us about the process of planting a church, including "start small and slow to grow big fast." These lessons were hard-learned, but they will serve us well in the future.

The UUA Board of Trustees has requested an independent review of the Pathways effort, and an independent committee will submit a report by April, 2006. We did not want to wait, however, until that report was received to inform you of the situation at Pathways.

Our disappointment that the Pathways experiment did not result in the outcome we dreamed of must not distract us from our mission to grow Unitarian Universalism. Pathways has been a bold undertaking by some brave and generous UUs who have done the best they could. Pathways will continue to do good ministry where our voice so desperately needs to be heard. In addition, the skills and experience gained at Pathways are being applied as we support the next large church plant which has emerged from the Mainline UU Congregation in Devon, Pennsylvania. We may have fallen short of our immediate goals with Pathways, but what we have learned will be invaluable as we continue our efforts to grow Unitarian Universalist churches.
So ... it appears that we have some feedback on the "church planting" process and metroplex growth strategies for Unitarian Universalism.

Last June, Mary McIntosh and I trained several members from Pathways to be Our Whole Lives (OWL) Grades 7-9/10-12 facilitators (OWL is the lifespan comprehensive sexuality education program jointly developed by the UUA and the United Church of Christ). Pathways wanted to use OWL as a way to provide outreach and ministry to the wider DFW community. I hope that they still have the resources to provide OWL as part of their ministry.

Good luck to Pathways as they plan they future with these cutbacks to funding and paid ministry.

More information on UUA metroplex growth strategies can be found online here:

Growing UUism: Regional Strategies and New Congregation Formation - Overview: Regional/Metro Strategies 1999-2005 (October 2005)

08 November 2005

Does Roe v. Wade Still Matter?

Check out the excellent PBS Frontline documentary, The Last Abortion Clinic (Tuesday - 8 November 2005 - 9:00 PM EST/8:00 PM CST - check your local listings for confirmation).

Here's a quote from the PBS Frontline web site:
"Recent news coverage has focused on the new Roberts Supreme Court and how its decisions might affect abortion -- an issue that has divided the country for decades. Later this month, the Court will take up its first major abortion case in five years: Ayotte v. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.

But while the spotlight has been on Washington, there is an equally significant story playing out in local communities. Pro-life advocates have been successfully spearheading campaigns in states throughout the country to pass laws that regulate and limit access to abortion.

According to one abortion provider in the South, who prefers to remain anonymous: 'The assault on abortion rights is very clever. It's very smart. And we are losing.'"
This documentary is freely available as streaming video on the PBS web site tomorrow afternoon at 5:00 PM EST.

It's also available for purchase on VHS or DVD as well.

13 September 2005

Reinforcing Feedback Between Racism and Classism - "The Other America" (Newsweek Article)

The following quote comes from the 19 September 2005 issue of Newsweek in the cover article titled "The Other America." It may be one possible explanation for incidents where interactions between different races and economic classes end up producing unintended outcomes:
Harvard's [Glenn C.] Loury argued in a 2002 book, The Anatomy of Racial Inequality, that it's this stereotyping and "racial stigma," more than overt racism, that helps hold blacks in poverty. Loury explains a destructive cycle of "self-reinforcing stereotypes" at school and work. A white employer, for instance, may make a judgment based on prior experience that the young black men he hires are likely to be absent or late for work. So he supervises them more closely. Resenting the scrutiny, the African-Americans figure that they're being disrespected for no good reason, so they might as well act out, which in turn reinforces their boss's stereotype. Everybody goes away angry.
This is just speculation on my part, but this "cycle of self-reinforcing stereotypes" may have been a factor in the closing ceremony incident and other race relations incidents at the 2005 Ft. Worth General Assembly.

02 September 2005

Hurricane Katrina Updates - Southwest District (UUA)

Updates from the Southwest District (UUA) Hurricane Katrina update web page through 2 September 2005, 1250 CDT:
[Message from David Wadleigh, Board Member - Community Church UU in New Orleans, 2 September 2005]
Thanks for the web resource pages to help us communicate.

CCUU has also set up a page at www.communitychurchuu.org/katrina.htm to help our members communicate and has an active emailing list
CCUU-NOLA-Members-Friends@yahoo.com set up as well. We are in touch with a number of our members by email, but of course many more are not known about.

Personally, I am in Dallas for the moment, and contemplating a return to Prairieville between Baton Rouge and New Orleans over the weekend. If the current news from New Orleans is reliable, it seems we may need donations of guns in order to go back near there.

message from First Church New Orleans President:

Thank you so much for reaching out. My heart is so heavy. I just watched a video of our mayor's report and have been surfing the blogs looking for info on specific neighborhoods, mine and those of me peoples. I had my first meltdown cry my eyes out of the day.

For those who don't know I was already out of down in the DC area doing a training with a UU church in Arlington VA when the threat became real and personal to New Orleans. During the weekend most of my immediate kinfolk and many friends and neighbors and extended family members also evacuated. Eric Paul, nephew Josh, and sister Karen drove my car to sister Veleja's house in Newark, TX near Ft Worth. Kendra is up here at school in DC. As I am she is very concerned for home and friends and family but she is going to all of her classes and doing what her people want her to do..staying focused. I am proud of her as you already know if you know us. Also, Ann and Amelia, our Casa Panola housemates are in Memphis

Two immediate family members stayed behind..We still dont know where my father in law Bernard and brother in law Kermit are. The superdome? the high school? We cant reach sis in law Jerry who did evacuate because she only has a new orleans cell phone. none of them are working right now. I do have a california cell phone.. (email the team if you need it)... so I can be reached.

Our Reverend Marta has been using email to minister to our Church, First UU of NEw Orleans, to those of us who are able to connect. This is a comfort and gives me hope for being part of a collective effort to help and to heal.

The mayor is telling evacuees not to even attempt to come back yet. The airport is still under water and the only to roads into the city, which cross bodies of water to get there, are structurally questionable now..there may be no safe way to drive back in for sometime to come. At minimum it will be a week. But it could be more. much more time before we see home again, whatever shape it is in.

I am sitting so comfortably at the breakfast table ...I can only imagine what so many of my nieghbors throughout new orleans are going through. They are only just beginning to set up a temporary morgue for the dead, so many of whom are still in the waters that have not gone down...it seems that the pumps that do work pump the water back into the same body that it is spilling out of ...so it is more of a circulation system than a drainage system at this point. This seeing the devastation without any way to find out about our home or reach out and help those who are really suffering...It is hard. Tomorrow I am going to go to California to be with my sister LAurie. She could use some help with her small business and that will give me something to do to avoid this helpless feeling. The texas side of the family house is pretty full right with evacuees now so I will take shelter elswhere although I am missing Eric Paul and all the rest of them very seriously.

We suspect that my neice Jen and her hubby Jimmy's new house is completely under water. We suspect the same for my sis Karen's rented house. Our neighborhood is apparently spared that kind of flooding but we hear that there is much structural damage in our area from the winds...I live on a street canaped by magnificent live oaks and magnolas. Those beautiful trees may have wound up in side our houses, maybe not. There is no way to know yet.

please keep your thoughts and prayers with all of us who have been affected. much love

David Ord is heading back to LaCombe in a few hours – he feels he needs to be there at the parsonage on the church property to keep an eye on things and help his church members as they return. They have no electricity and no phone. David says he will only be able to communicate with us every few days when he heads back to Baton Rouge for a break. The only congregants that he knows the status of are those who were with him in his home as they rode out the storm. He appreciates our trying to help locate the displaced UU’s. David reports that Slidell , where half of his membership lives, is still underwater but the other areas are not, although they still have no electricity and may not have any for months. David hopes there is a good response to his request for help in covering the church building and clearing the property. He fears they will lose the entire building if something isn’t done soon. David also said to remind everyone who comes to help to bring fuel for their chainsaws – there is no gasoline available anywhere in the area. David is in good-spirits, although concerned, and will stay in touch as best he can.

Dick Harris of the North Shore church left Mandeville on Sunday and is safe in Chattanooga.

Baton Rouge
The news is reporting that Covington is without phone or cell service, as well as without electricity, water, etc. Steve Crump has tried and been unable to reach Jane Mauldin and family, who live in Covington.

North Shore (from Steve Crump)
NorthShore congregants took a direct hit --Mandeville, Madisonville, and Slidell. Slidell looks devastated from arial views---it's under water. I just spoke with Rev. David Ord's son who lives in Baton Rouge and is a student at LSU. David and his son survived the storm in the parish house and watched all the trees go down on the church yard and also saw most of the roof of the church blow off. Their immediate need will be to pull a tarp over their church somehow to secure it from more water damage.

From Jim V., minister at Community in New Orleans: At this time, I am in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. I am working with the local Red Cross relief effort. Many refugees are here. I plan to return to NOLA, under Red Cross auspices, as quickly as this is possible. I have had limited contact with congregants. My assumption is the church is under water, and can only be reached by boat.

From Rev. Steve Crump, minister in Baton Rouge: Rev. Jim VanderWeele of New Orleans Community Chruch is in Arkansas and is trying to get into New Orleans via the Red Cross. The Community Church building was probably hit the worse, though First Church members and North Shore members may be most affected individually. Marta Chase is safe in Dallas with her partner, trying to reach parishioners, her new residence is in a low part of the city. It will be some time before we hear anything.

From Penny Ramsdell, Baton Rouge president: Thanks so much to all of your for your concern and offers of help. Our power went out about 5:30 a.m. and was just restored about half an hour ago. A huge tree came down and took out our back fence, and our place is literally blanketed with layers of branches and leaves--a massive cleanup job--but we're among the lucky. The church lost five big trees and has part of the parking lot blocked, but as far as we know no damage to the building, the circle window, the new electronic sign. No word about New Orleans and Northshore congregations.

Susan Besse UU Fellowship of Lafayette: Thanks for inquiring about our safety during Hurricane Katrina - fortunately the storm did not come as far as our area of Louisiana, so we have sustained no damage - This Time! We still have a couple more months to weather our the hurricane season this year.

There are many refugees from the eastern part of the state that are abiding in our area in centers that we hope to be able to give some assistance to.

Steve Crump tells us the church in Baton Rouge had a tree fall on the playground, but everything else there is fine. He is currently checking on members of the congregation.


Hurricane Katrina Information - Southwest District (UUA)

The Southwest Unitarian Universalist Conference (aka "Southwest District" or "SWUUC") has set up a web page with information and links from Southwest District congregations.

You can find this page online here:


27 August 2005

"Sex education helps save the world" (UU World Magazine Article)

In the Fall 2005 Issue of UU World, there's an article titled "Sex education helps save the world" by Cynthia Kuhn (a professor of pharmacology and cancer biology at Duke University, and co-author of Buzzed: The Straight Facts about the Most Used and Abused Drugs from Alcohol to Ecstasy. Cynthia is also an Our Whole Lives Grades 7-9 facilitator in her congregation).

Here's a short passage from Cynthia's article:
This year one of my owl students brought to class a book the public school had passed out. One of its "top ten reasons" why teens have sex was participation in sex-education classes. Another section stated that condoms do not halt the spread of HIV/AIDS or even effectively prevent pregnancy! In fact, as I had just been teaching my medical students, condoms are 99 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and significantly decrease the transmission of HIV when they are used properly, according to well-designed, peer-reviewed research studies. A colleague and I tried to get the local newspaper to address these falsehoods being taught in our schools but failed to spark any interest. We live in frightening times when scientific truth is suppressed in our public schools and forums.

Abstinence-only programs do not accomplish their goal of delaying sexual intercourse until marriage, According to a review of such programs in eleven states conducted by Advocates for Youth. Eighty-eight percent of young people in such programs have sex by the time they leave high school. And when they do have sex, they are less likely to use contraception and more likely to engage in dangerous sexual practices than children in programs that teach about contraception. The majority of scientists who specialize in children's health, as well as the American Medical Association, Planned Parenthood, and the U.S. Surgeon General, have all endorsed comprehensive sexuality-education program -- programs that advocate abstinence for teens but also provide complete and accurate information about contraception and STDs. The OWL program epitomizes that approach.

UU parents should certainly feel proud that their kids, by participating in OWL, are the smartest kids on the block about these issues. But our responsibility doesn't stop at our church doors. Those of us with the expertise need to advocate for all kids, especially the ones who get only the little book about the ten reasons that teens have sex. We need to show up at school board meetings and talk to teachers, principals, and superintendents about curriculum, armed with facts. (Planned Parenthood, the National Institutes of Health, and Advocates for Youth all have excellent, up-to-date, and scientifically accurate information.) We need to bombard our state legislatures so that they can have the courage, as the state of California did, to turn down federal "abstinence-only" money and develop effective programs instead.

In our religious-education program we have a slogan: "Nothing less than saving the world." I believe that is exactly what we do with OWL. Our children can grow up to enjoy healthy relationships, have a sexual life without contracting disease, and bear their children when they are adults and not children themselves. Teaching our kids about safe, mutually respectful sexual behavior in the context of our value system, I believe, is indeed nothing less than saving the world.
And this is why Our Whole Lives and supporting other comprehensive sexuality education are so important in our congregations and our wider communities. We are offering salvation from those things that deny life or make life less whole. This is just one example of how Unitarian Universalism offers salvation to a world in need of salvation.

Closing Ceremony Incident Mentioned in Latest UU World Magazine

From the Fall 2005 issue of UU World magazine -- coverage of the closing ceremony incident at the 2005 Ft. Worth TX General Assembly:
While many of the injustices delegates considered this year could be thought to take place "out there," the Assembly ended in a way that reminded the UUA's Board of Trustees of unfinished business within the Association.

The morning after the Assembly adjourned, several youth leaders reported to the Board of Trustees that young people of color had experienced a series of demeaning and upsetting incidents throughout the week, including a heated confrontation with several white adults outside the arena during the closing ceremony. The Youth Caucus cancelled its intergenerational dance, which was scheduled to follow the closing ceremony, because many youth of color were meeting to discuss the incidents; Moderator Courter met with them.

In response to the youth report and other inquiries, the Board issued a letter on July 6 that said, "At General Assembly in Fort Worth, there were several incidents that reminded us that we have much work to do in our journey to becoming an antiracist, antioppressive, and multicultural association." The Board expressed "deep sadness and regret" for incidents involving "apparently disrespectful and racist treatment of our youth by Fort Worth officials," other incidents in which "white UUs assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars," and an altercation during the Closing Ceremony in which "some UU youth of color were made to feel that they were not welcome."

The exact circumstances of some of the incidents are still unclear. The Board has formed a Special Review Commission, which expects to offer a more complete report on the incidents at its October meeting and a complete report in January. The Board vowed to provide "safe space to process issues and concerns around oppression and racism" at future General Assemblies.

24 August 2005

Blogger Spam, Part II

This morning Jesus Reyes suggested turning on the "word verification" feature provided by Blogger. This sounds like a good compromise between keeping spammers out and allowing folks to easily post to Blogger sites. Thanks for the suggestion.

This should allow folks to post without creating a Blogger account and still keep the "machine spammers" out (until the someone figures out how to create software with pattern recognition abilities).

21 August 2005

Blogger Spam

We are taking a brief break due to technical difficulties.

I just got my first Blogger Spam today ... and I've just changed my settings to require that folks replying to my posts must have a Blogger user identity (freely available).

I'm sorry for any inconvenience this may cause you. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

Thank you.

Anti-Racism Sermon by Dr. James T. Brown

While googling for Unitarian Universalist anti-racism resources, I found this sermon on anti-racism that was written by Dr. Brown back in July 1999. Dr. Brown was the Southwest District Executive for the UUA before his retirement.

A large part of his sermon revolves around difficulties that many have with the word "racism" and the multiple definitions being used. Here's a short section of his sermon commenting on denial surrounding the topic of racism:
The UUA's definition of racism: "racial prejudice plus power and privilege" unnecessarily complicates our understanding of U.S. racism.

Simply put, racism is the unquestioned, deeply held group belief that one "race" - in the U.S. it is the White race - is superior to all other races, and (this is vitally important) all the People of Color "races" are inferior. The second part is vital to our understanding, because the belief in white superiority is more than egocentric chauvinism (we are the best), it is inextricably coupled with the deeply held belief that people of color, as a group, (not necessarily as individuals) are inferior (they are not up to acceptable standards). This (superiority/inferiority beliefs) definition of racism is used by most social scientists currently involved in these discussions. These beliefs are inculcated in the psychics and souls of Americans from the day they are born, and for immigrant Americans, from their first exposure to American culture and media of all types.

I have only found two reactions to the above definition from American Whites. The first group fully agrees with the definition - the great majority. The second agrees that it is true "for some white people" but they, themselves, "don't see skin color" - everybody is equal. The evidence of denial on the part of those holding the second position is easily discernible. Their neighborhood, their friends, their doctor/lawyer, their spouse or partner, their church, their heroes or role models, their favorite performers, etc, etc, are all white. Since all white people more or less agree, in words or deeds, that they, as a group, share the superior/inferior belief, and that belief according to most social scientists, defines racism, then it is not untrue or unfair to say all whites are racist (I will accept 99.9% if you simply cannot accept absolutes).

I must add that being a racist, that is, a believer in the white/POC superiority/inferiority dichotomy, is not a "sin"; original or otherwise. I call it an American cultural phenomenon. The "sins" of racism are the negative and oppressive behaviors and disparate acts perpetrated against people of color, by Whites, sometimes unwittingly, based upon their racism belief. It is the behaviors and acts committed that violate moral law and the UU's first principle, not just the existence of the belief. The evil of racism (the superior/inferior belief) is that it shapes all of America's institutions and their policies, and either consciously or unconsciously determines the behaviors of whites and POC's (POC internalized racism). The disparate treatment of POC's in the workplace, in financial institutions, in churches, in schools and colleges, in social and service organizations, in health care, in the insurance industry, and in retail establishments provide all the evidence one needs of institutional racism.
And here's one final comment from me about this ... I remember hearing Dr. Brown comment at the 2000 Spring District Meeting before his retirement. He commented on how troubling it was for him that it required the lynching of James Byrd for our district's ministers to engage in anti-racism work with their district colleagues. The more subtle types of racism including institutional racism existing both before and after James Byrd's death were not a sufficient reason for engaging in anti-racism work.

Cindy Sheehan on DVD

I received information on this video from the "yruusj" email list (the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists Social Justice email list). This may be a useful resource for youth and adult religious education discussions.

Here is the email announcement that was sent out by Margot Smith (filmmaker from Off Center Video):
We have a 21 minute video of Cindy Sheehan giving a speech at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarians on DVD, if anyone wants one, we charge $10 to cover costs. She is really remarkable!! ... Margot Smith

Cindy Sheehan - Military Families Speak Out Against the War in Iraq! Speech at the Berkeley Fellowship of Unitarian/Universalists (November 2004)

"At this crucial moment in history we must support Americans like Cindy Sheehan who have stood up and are telling the truth. We support Gold Star Families for Peace and the movement which is turning the tide to end this illegal war based on lies and deception." -- Hal Carstad

Here is DVD of Cindy Sheehan made when she first was speaking out against the war. She reads her open letter to George Bush. This video has been shown in the Berkeley area and was enthusiastically received. It encourages discussion. In includes pictures of her family and protests.

The DVD is 21 minutes long and is available for $10.00 which includes shipping. All money above costs will go to support Gold Star Families for Peace campaign.

The video was made by Ralph Stein and Margot Smith.

Please send your name, address and check for $10 to:

Off Center Video
1300 A Shattuck Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94709
FAX 510-644-2139

Poem About Homophobia

I received a poem about homophobia a few days ago from Lara Campbell, the Director of Religious Education from the Community Unitarian Church of White Plains NY.

The author listed for this poem is "Unknown" (who is nearly as prolific as "Anonymous") ... and I googled looking for an author. The poem is popping up on tons of blogs and livejournals with the "Unknown" author attribution and the last line of the poem is a request to repost the poem.

I am the girl kicked out of her home because I confided in my mother that I am a lesbian.

I am the prostitute working the streets because nobody will hire a transsexual woman.

I am the sister who holds her gay brother tight through the painful, tear-filled nights.

We are the parents who buried our daughter long before her time.

I am the man who died alone in the hospital because they would not let my partner of twenty-seven years into the room.

I am the foster child who wakes up with nightmares of being taken away from the two fathers who are the only loving family I have ever had. I wish they could adopt me.

I am one of the lucky ones, I guess. I survived the attack that left me in a coma for three weeks, and in another year I will probably be able to walk again.

I am not one of the lucky ones. I killed myself just weeks before graduating high school. It was simply too much to bear.

We are the couple who had the realtor hang up on us when she found out we wanted to rent a one-bedroom for two men.

I am the person who never knows which bathroom I should use if I want to avoid getting the management called on me.

I am the mother who is not allowed to even visit the children I bore, nursed, and raised. The court says I am an unfit mother because I now live with another woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who found the support system grow suddenly cold and distant when they found out my abusive partner is also a woman.

I am the domestic-violence survivor who has no support system to turn to because I am male.

I am the father who has never hugged his son because I grew up afraid to show affection to other men.

I am the home-economics teacher who always wanted to teach gym until someone told me that only lesbians do that.

I am the man who died when the paramedics stopped treating me as soon as they realized I was transsexual.

I am the person who feels guilty because I think I could be a much better person if I didn't have to always deal with society hating me.

I am the man who stopped attending church, not because I don't believe, but because they closed their doors to my kind.

I am the person who has to hide what this world needs most, love.

Repost this, homophobia is wrong.

Author - Unknown
Does anyone know the name of the author for this poem?

31 July 2005

"It's like deja-vu all over again." -- UU Youth Ministry History Resources

With the upcoming "Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth" happening within the UUA between Fall 2005 and Fall 2007, I thought it would be useful to review the history about where our youth ministry has been in the past and where we might find ourselves in the future.

The Yogi Berra quote seemed appropriate ... especially in light of the recurring issues that have come up in UU youth and young adult ministry since the early 20th century (e.g. how much autonomy is appropriate, non-congregational vs. congregational expressions of Unitarian Universalism, substance use and sexuality issues in conference settings, etc).

These issues predate Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) and even the earlier Liberal Religious Youth (LRY). It seems that UU adult and youth developmental needs keep bringing us back to a re-invention of youth ministry every 25 to 30 years.

Here are some suggested history resources for a starting point on a discussion of UU Youth Ministry:
From the UUA Youth Office: 7.20.2005 - All past issues of Synapse are now online!! Thanks to some new technology (and some help from our fabulous interns!) we have been able to scan and post on our website all of the back issues of the YRUU magazine / newspaper Synapse and it's predecessor, the Liberal Religious Youth publication People Soup. It's hours of history and browsing pleasure!

From Rick Roehlk's online collection of LRY and YRUU historical documents - UU Youth History

From Skinner House Books and the UUA Bookstore - We Would Be One: A History of Unitarian Universalist Youth Movements by Wayne Arnason and Rebecca Scott - Documents the challenges, triumphs and far-reaching effects of the UU youth movement. Compelling personal stories capture how important UU youth groups, conferences and organizations have been in peoples' lives from the late 19th-century to the present. Arnason was the UUA's director of youth programs from 1980 to 1984 during the creation of YRUU. Scott was a youth programs specialist in the UUA Youth Office from 1989 to 1990. Revised and updated from Follow the Gleam, published in 1980.

Unitarian Universalists Speak Out for Reality-Based Sexuality Education Legislation

From the UUA's web site ...
Unitarian Universalists Speak Out for Reality-Based Sexuality Education Legislation
(July 28, 2005) At a meeting held with Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) yesterday, the Rev. William G. Sinkford, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, and Rob Keithan, director of the UUA's Washington Office for Advocacy, presented Senator Lautenberg with more than 2,000 affirmations of support signed by Unitarian Universalists from around the country in support of S.368, and H.R. 768, the Responsible Education About Life (REAL) Act.

The REAL Act is endorsed by Advocates for Youth, with whom the UUA is a partner, and would provide funding to states for medically accurate, age appropriate, comprehensive sexuality education in the schools—education that includes information about both abstinence and contraception, from both a values and public health perspective. The effort is consistent with the approach taken by Our Whole Lives (OWL), the UUA's reality-based sexuality education lifespan curriculum developed with the United Church of Christ and now in use in congregational and secular settings. More than 125 national and state and organizations are supporting the REAL Act, including medical, civil rights, family planning, educational, public health, reproductive rights, and HIV/AIDS organizations.

The UUA launched an effort to build support for the REAL Act as part of an outreach effort from the Rev. Sinkford to Unitarian Universalists across the country. Sinkford wrote to UUA members in late April, "The voices of the religious right have been largely successful in drowning out other people of faith. This has allowed them to dominate the current debate on moral values and assert themselves as the religious voice on crucial matters including civil rights, health and the family, international peace and justice, and religious liberty. You and I cannot allow the religious right to speak for us."
The rest of this article can be read online here.

Other Resources About This Issue

22 July 2005

New Worship Planning Resource Online

The UUA Young Adult and Campus Ministry (YACM) Office has a new worship planning resource online. It's called "Unitarian Universalist Contemporary Worship" and can be found online here:


Here's a brief description about this resource copied from the YACM web site:
"This site is designed as a resource for congregations seeking to design more contemporary worship services to attract young adults and others who are largely absent from our communities of faith. It includes articles, resources and links for UU Contemporary Worship. Soon to come are pieces on the theology of contemporary worship (and why it fits better with Unitarian Universalism than more traditional worship styles) and more resources for designing and implementing contemporary worship."
This worship resource and other UUA worship resources can be found online in a previous post to my blog listing available UU worship resources (originally posted on 22 January 2005 - updated on 22 July 2005).

These worship planning resources are provided to our congregation through the generous financial contributions that our congregation and other UU congregations make to the UUA each year.

These worship resources reflect the cooperative and interdependent spirit of Unitarian Universalism. They are freely available to all who need them.

20 July 2005

UUA Youth Office Response to the Concerns Raised About The Decision to Withdraw Support for Con Con

The following article was posted on fuuse.com:
March-July 2005
To: Young Religious Unitarian Universalists and their Allies and Supporters
From: The UUA Youth Office

Note: This response was originally drafted in March of 2005. Because of other issues taking up a considerable amount of staff time, we were not able to finalize and post this response until July. We are sorry for any inconvenience this delay may have caused.
Responses to the Con Con Decision

After the Youth Office's decision to withdraw support from Con Con, we invited feedback from the wider community about the decision. The response was noticeably positive; people echoed many of the same concerns about Con Con we had shared. To be specific, yruu@uua.org received 47 emails directly praising the decision, as well as 25 people who wrote simply "to support the Youth Office" without commenting either way on the decision. Positive comments primarily came from former Youth Office staff, youth advisors, and religious educators, though 7 youth also wrote to us agreeing with the decision. We sincerely appreciate that support. We also received email from 11 people criticizing the decision, 5 of whom were youth. We also learned of a number of conversations going on in online communities about the decision (though we could not possibly have followed all such conversations).
The rest of the response can be read here or here.

17 July 2005

GeoURLs on Church Web Sites

Here's a geeky but cool web site feature that I learned about on the "Websters" UUA-sponsored email list for congregational webmasters:
"GeoURL is a location-to-URL reverse directory. This will allow you to find URLs by their proximity to a given location."
Using hand-held GPS coordinates in WGS-84 format that were recorded with a Garmin eTrex, I updated our church home page with the appropriate meta-tags, indexed our site on the GeoURL web database, and added a link to our congregation's GeoURL data on our home page.

From page that shows the GeoURL data, go to the Google Map page and view our congregation location using the "satellite" map feature.

16 July 2005

The Consultation on Ministry To and With Youth

The following announcement comes from the UUA Youth Office Web Site:
7.13.2005 - The Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth -- The UUA Board of Trustees has approved the process recommendation of the Consultation on Ministry to and With Youth. This is an exciting process by which the UUA and its member districts and congregations will revision the way we do youth ministry over the next two years. Learn about the process here!
On the UUA Board of Trustees "Youth Consultation" web page, you will find a link to the following document:

UUA Consultation on Ministry to and with Youth: Process Recommendation (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader or other compatible software).

14 July 2005

Different Religions Week Announcement - 15-22 July 2005

I received this in my email today from Nathan Black and I thought this idea might be a useful project for Unitarian Universalists to support ... either in the form of Different Religions Week celebrations in their communities or in cooperation with other existing multi-faith celebrations like World Religion Day. Nathan's email is posted below ...
Dear Steve,

I am a student at Rice University in Houston and the founder of Different Religions Week, a week during which people are encouraged to attend services of faiths different from their own. I read your blog this January and determined that, based on the blog's subject matter, you might be interested in posting a comment regarding the week -- either agreeing or disagreeing with its concept or simply announcing that it is taking place.

Different Religions Week 2005 is July 15-22. I started the movement in 2003 to help curb people's widespread ignorance of other faiths, which often leads to intolerance and which sometimes ultimately results in -- or is used to justify -- violence (consider, for example, 9/11 or the Bosnian conflict). More information about the how and why of the movement is available at http://www.differentreligionsweek.org.

There is no one "event" around which Different Religions Week is based; rather, people are simply encouraged to find and attend an unfamiliar religious service at their convenience during the week. (Atheist and agnostic meetings count too.) The movement's Web site has links under "World Religions" to directories where people can get started finding a service.

Please consider posting a comment on or announcement of Different Religions Week 2005 on your blog, and e-mail me if you do so I can keep track of the Web presence of the movement. Thank you for your consideration and your time.

Nathan Black

School e-mail: nwblack@rice.edu
Movement e-mail: differentreligionsweek@yahoo.com

10 July 2005

Another Apology ...

In regards to the recent discussion on my blog and other online communities such as fuuse.com about recent events at GA, I want to apologize.

If I hurt you, I'm sorry. Hurting others was not my intent.

Please let me know if there is anything I can do to fix the mistakes I've made.

Rather than contacting me by blog for this, I would request email being sent to the following address:

stevecaldwell at bellsouth.net (replace the "at" with "@" or use the HTML link).

I've said too much already on my blog and fuuse.com on this subject and I will be taking a vacation from blogging.

If anyone is still interested in discussing this issue, there are two threads on fuuse.com ... one discussing the UUA Board letter and one proposing a possible action that may prevent or reduce future incidents at GA.

Thank you.

09 July 2005

An Open Apology ...

... to anyone who feels that I called them a racist.

I'm sorry that I wrote anything that might have implied you were a "racist" as the term is commonly used (e.g. a person like David Duke and other overt white supremacists).

That was not my intent. I did not say anything remotely equivalent to stating "you are a racist."

But I did ask a question on my blog.

Is a tendency that I've observed in some online posts to minimize the role of race as a major factor in the GA incidents due to unconscious racism or ageism?

An unconscious response that comes in part from racist influences in North American culture could be happening here.

Suggesting this possibility arising out of involuntary and unconscious cultural influences isn't the same as calling a person a "racist." I just want to suggest that we need to be mindful of influences in our society that encourage us to discount racism.

Again ... my apologies for any misunderstanding my blog words have created here.

Dangers Inherent in Discounting Racism in Unitarian Universalist Communities

In case you're curious why I think any liberal religious and Unitarian Universalist tendency to discount racism as a current-day problem that exists in our UU communities, here's a brief snippet from the UUA's Lifespan Faith Development resource archives that addresses how discounting of racism can cause racism to thrive:
"Racism is a particularly sensitive topic for religious liberals because we pride ourselves on our perceived lack of racism. However, we often fail to differentiate between traditional or overt racism and neo-racism. Traditional racism is direct, institutionalized racial discrimination/oppression, using strategies of direct even legal exclusion and/or hierarchical domination. Slave laws and Jim Crow are examples.

Neo-racism is indirect, institutionalized racial discrimination such as calls to eliminate affirmative action, redlining of neighborhoods, denial of small business loans to persons of color, immigration policies that exclude Africans and other persons of color, and the social and economic abandonment of inner city schools. Because neo-racism thrives on the denial of the existence of racism, it is a particularly perplexing problem for religious liberals who deny their own role in a racist society and therefore so easily succumb to neo racism's insulating effects."
This may seem like a harsh message, but it's one that I think we need to seriously consider in how we react to incidents like the recent one at General Assembly.

Racism and Racial Profiling of UU Youth of Color at GA -- Summary of Events

Here's a summary of the recent racist events at the 2005 Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) General Assembly (GA) in Ft. Worth TX. I've collected this information from the following sources:

UUA Board of Trustees Open Letter (uua.org web site)
UUA Board of Trustees Open Letter and Reader Commentary (fuuse.com web site)
Reader Comments on the "Boy in the Bands" Blog

And here's what I found out:
  1. Some white Unitarian Universalists (UUs) assumed that UU youth of color were hotel service people and asked them to carry luggage or park cars.
  2. There was a "racial profiling" incident outside the hall where the GA Closing Ceremony was happening. A group of UU youth of color were stopped from entering because they were not wearing nametags. White adult UUs without their nametags were not stopped even though they were violating the same requirement on page 3 of the GA Program Book.
  3. The initial verbal dispute involved several UU youth of color and a UU adult who questioned their right to be there. This questioning provoked an angry response.
  4. This verbal dispute caused a UU minister to intervene in support of the UU adult.
  5. Another white UU youth intervened in support of the UU youth of color and verbally attacked the minister and she responded in kind -- escalating this conflict.
  6. During the GA Youth Caucus discussions after the Closing Ceremony incident, the Youth Caucus staff met and decided through consensus process to cancel the Monday night dance they had sponsored.
Canceling the dance was apparently a controversial decision for some GA attendees. Here's a bit of blog commentary from a young adult worked on the Youth Caucus staff:
" ... and i'm not sure what the sway the 'institutional youth of the UUA' means, but i'll guess is has to do with the canceling of the YOUTH sponsored dance. and the youth (and adults who were there in support, including myself) who cancelled it were white volunteer GA youth caucus staff, not youth office staff. it was a hard decision for the youth, but consensus was reached, we did not want to be a bunch of white people partying it up while all of their friends of color were spilling their guts about the crappy thing that had happened to them over the course of GA. that would be adding insult to injury."
And ... as you may have noticed in my earlier post, there's also a lot of denial that racism could be an issue for Unitarian Univeraslists. Denial won't make this problem any easier.

Racism and Racist Incidents at 2005 UUA General Assembly

In case you haven't heard about this yet, some disturbing things happened at the 2005 General Assembly in Ft. Worth TX.

The UUA Board of Trustees has published an open letter to UU youth of color and UU people of color who attended Fort Worth General Assembly and to the broader UU community.

Rev. Eric Posa was an on-scene Chaplain for the event and his very useful analysis can be found online here.

Commentary from fuuse.com can be found online here.

The surprising thing about this incident is the tendency of some to minimize the impact of what has happened. I don't know if this comes from unconscious racism, ageism, or a combination of the two. Examples of this tendency for some Unitarian Universalists to dismiss racism as a possible cause for some incidents at GA can be found online here, here, and here.

29 May 2005

Update on YRUU Steering Committee - UUA Administration Dispute

Here's the latest news that I have on the dispute between the current YRUU Steering Committee membership and the UUA Staff. This info comes from Joseph Santos-Lyon's blog:

Chalice Revolution (YRUU)
This resolution was drafted by a collective of youth concerned about the current state of affairs in continental YRUU. At this point I'm wondering about the impact of all these activities long term on the nature of UU campus ministry growth and deepening.

In extraordinary times we must take extraordinary action:

The Chalice Revolution

Sponsors: Nora Lindsey, Current YRUU Steering Committee member; Siri Larsen, Current YRUU Steering Committee member; Trevor Moomaw, Saint Lawrence District Youth Council Representative; Dale Brydon, Quebec, Ontario and Martimes Region Youth Council Representative; Sean Jones, YRUU Co-Continental Social Action Coordinator; Paul Phillips, Canadian At-Large; Naomi Rice Moir, 2004 Youth Council People of Color Caucus; Jessica Akhavein, Thomas Jefferson District Youth Council Representative; Kelsey Campbell, Pacific Northwest District Youth Council Representative; Erin Dunn, Ballou Channing District Youth Council Representative; Al Jensen, YRUU Co-Continental Social Action Coordinator; Kate Philipson, Metro New York Youth Council Representative

Point People: Tony Carpenter, Mountain Desert District Youth Council Representative; Emily Brunts, Central Mid-West District Youth Council Representative; Ian Moore, Mid-South District Youth Council Representative; Winters Geimer, Joseph Priestley District Youth Council Representative;

Primary aides: Julian Sharp, Youth Observer to the UUA Board; Westin Miller, Ohio-Meadville District Youth Council Representative

UU Principles: A free and responsible search for truth and meaning; The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large; The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.

Specific problem being addressed: The dysfunction and unhealthy dynamics at play in the current YRUU Steering Committee. The manipulation of steering committee members and the YRUU movement. The fact that Steering Committee is no longer in right relationship with the UUA.

Hope to achieve: The health and wellbeing of YRUU during the current Youth Ministry consultation process.

Short term goals: A safe, productive, and effective Youth Council 2005.

Steps to achieve: Steering Committee, the executive body of youth who lead the YRUU movement are no longer in right relationship with the UUA Youth Office. They cannot plan and run Youth Council. We strongly recommend the following action be taken:

Steering Committee relinquish authority over the planning and running of Youth Council to the following group, who shall be referred to as the Youth Council Leadership Team:

1. Three Youth Council members. One should be a person of color.

2. Two People of Color Caucus members.

3. Three adults. One should be a minister. At minimum one should be a person of color.

4. The UUA Youth Office

Evaluation: The Youth Office, including the June YPS Lilly Sparks should fill all positions. Current Steering Committee members are not excluded. We welcomingly encourage current Steering Committee members who are interested to join the team, but as individuals working with a team and not steering committee members.

Long term goals: To make sure YRUU is at a healthy place during the renewing and revisioning of Youth Ministry. To make sure YRUU has a voice in the process and outcome.

Local and district/regional resources: Leaders.

Resources YRUU has that will be used: Leaders/People Power.

Financial impact: The team should have access to phone conferences and one face to face meeting. Possibly before, during or after GA and/or two days before Youth Council.

Point of Clarification: The Youth Council Leadership Team is specific to the 2005 Youth Council, and will disband thereafter.

We expect to have a response by Tuesday May 10, 2005. We hope Steering Committee makes a responsible decision with the best interest of YRUU in mind.

Please direct your written response to: Trevor Moomaw at DJNinja312@aol.com.

21 May 2005

New Interim Southwest District Executive

The following news tidbit comes from Joseph Santos-Lyons on his blog site (Joseph is the Campus Ministry & Field Director for the UUA Young Adult and Campus Ministry Office):
"The Reverend Anne Odin Heller will continue serving the UUA as interim district executive in the Southwest district. Anne will fill the position vacated by the Reverend Bob Hill whom we earlier announced will be moving to Australia with his wife, Kristi. Anne is currently interim DE in the Mass Bay district and was the DE in the Pacific Northwest district for ten years before that."
Bob and Kristi ... best wishes with your Australian adventure.

I haven't met Anne yet, but I thought her Churchworks book would be an outstanding resource for my congregation to use.

02 May 2005

Classism and Language - UU Online Discussions

Some very interesting blog discussions on classism and dialects can be found online here:

need advice on UU classism

classism, intellectualism, and dialects

Class isn't just a matter of how much money you have ... it's also a fetish with having the "correct" trappings. To better understand this, you should take this quiz:

THE LIVING-ROOM SCALE (With minor revisions by Robert Keel, 1999) -- From: Paul Fussell, Class: A Guide Through the American Class System, 1983, Summit Books, pp. 194-197

26 April 2005

Statement about Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter to the YRUU Steering Committee

Statement about Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter to the YRUU Steering Committee About the Hiring of YRUU Program Specialists (forwarded from the YRUU-L email list, posted to the YRUU-L email list by Ethan Field, Youth Office Assistant).

On April 11th, the Rev. Bill Sinkford sent a letter to the YRUU Steering Committee in response to a series of events at the March 31st to April 3rd Steering Committee meeting. A full text of the letter is at the end of this statement. (Note from Steve ... the letter can be found online here.)

One of the responsibilities of the YRUU Steering Committee is to make recommendations to the UUA President regarding the hiring of YRUU Programs Specialists. This hiring process, which should be a partnership of shared responsibility between YRUU and the UUA, has not in recent years been as healthy and respectful as it needs to be for those involved.

At their recent meeting, the Steering Committee asked the Youth Office Staff to leave the meeting during the selection process. It is the established policy and practice for Youth Office staff to facilitate the selection process and to give input at key times. The Youth Office staff will train, supervise, and work with YPSers, and they represent the UUA in the partnership. They need to be part of the process.

The Steering Committee's stated reason for asking the Youth Office staff to leave was that they did not feel comfortable with the Youth Office staff's response to the Steering Committee's behavior in Pickett & Eliot House (the UUA's Bed and Breakfast) the night before. The Steering Committee also stated that they were uncomfortable with the overall relationship between the Youth Office and Steering Committee.

Youth Office staff asked that those issues causing discomfort be discussed and addressed at that time before proceeding with the YPS selection process, but Steering Committee insisted that YO staff leave.

The UUA Administration feels that asking the Youth Office to leave the YRUU Program Specialist selection process violated the agreed upon policy and practice. The Administration feels that this violation was a significant move out of right relationship between the UUA and YRUU Leadership that had to be addressed. The Administration decided to fulfill its responsibility to UU youth ministry by hiring a Youth Ministry Associate to fill the position that was formerly held by a YRUU Program Specialist. Youth Ministry Associates work for the UUA. They will not be in dual accountability with YRUU, and YRUU is not formally a part of their selection process. Until the UUA and YRUU Leadership are back in right relationship, the UUA will hire Youth Ministry Associates so that the Youth Office can continue to serve youth. The Youth Ministry Associate will perform many of the same services for congregations and district youth programming that the YPS now performs. However, this position will not be as involved with supporting continental YRUU Leadership.

For the 05-06 church year there will be one YRUU Program Specialist on staff: Lily Sparks, the June YPSer. Lily was selected in January before this incident happened. She will probably take on more support for the YRUU Leadership. However, the Youth Office will work to make sure that work loads are balanced so that she is not over-burdened. The Youth Office Assistant and the Youth Programs Director will remain in relationship with the YRUU Leadership as they have in the past. Beth Dana and Marissa Gutierrez will serve as Youth Ministry Associates for one year terms.

It is not known when right relationship will be restored, but the YRUU Steering Committee and President Sinkford are in conversation about the situation. It is likely that the current Consultation on Ministry With and For Youth process will address and resolve the issues. It is also possible that the hiring process could be resolved sooner. We don't know right now, and therefore cannot say with certainty how and when new youth staff - whether Youth Ministry Associates or YRUU Program Specialists - will be hired. The UUA Administration is committed to staffing the Youth Office and will move to clarify the personnel situation for next year as soon as practicable.

If you have further questions, you can direct them to Jesse Jaeger, Youth Programs Director or Judith Frediani, Director of Lifespan Faith Development.

Note: The 11 April 2005 letter from Bill Sinkford can be found here. Additional commentary on this can be found in this location:

The End Times of YRUU by Tim Fitz

17 April 2005

UPDATE: Troubles in Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry

More blog commentary on recent UUA Staff - Young Religious Unitarian Universalist (YRUU) Youth Council (YC) dispute originally reported by Joseph Santos-Lyons last week:
I'm really curious about other views which are not being reported on this story yet.

13 April 2005

Troubles in Unitarian Universalist Youth Ministry

There seems to be more trouble between Continental Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) and the rest of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Thanks to Chris Walton ("Philocrites") and Joseph Santos-Lyons ("Radical Hapa") for posting this on their respective blogs:

More Change in YRUU (Philocrites)

Youth Ministry Associate (Radical Hapa)

Here's the text of Rev. Bill Sinkford's letter documenting a disagreement between YRUU Steering Committee and the UUA Staff over the discussions surrounding the hiring of the next staff person in the UUA Youth Office:
April 11, 2005

Dear YRUU Steering Committee,

The events of the recent Steering Committee meeting may very well reflect anxiety about change and uncertainty about power as we engage in a process of examining our ministry to and with youth.

Whatever the reasons, the Steering Committee’s demand that UUA staff leave the meeting so that SC alone could decide on the September YPS recommendation was clearly outside the boundaries of established procedures. Excluding the people who would work with and be responsible for the YPS staff, and refusing to discuss the issues interfering with collaboration, moved SC outside of right relationship with UUA staff to an extent that needs to be acknowledged. At this point, proceeding with “business as usual” is not possible.

SC’s behavior was particularly disappointing and hurtful following the special consultation on relationship conducted at the January SC meeting. That work sought to keep communication open when conflict arises. It is likely that right relations, and the structures of authority that support it, cannot be fully established until the Youth Ministry Consultation process addresses this fundamental issue.

It would not be fair, however, for others to take the consequences for the Steering Committee’s actions. We would not penalize the committed youth applicants, the Youth Office staff, or our congregations by reducing or delaying staffing. Therefore, until a productive, respectful relationship is restored between SC and UUA staff, we will hire youth for the position of Youth Ministry Associate rather than YRUU Program Specialist. This means that the UUA will hire the Youth Ministry Associate without the current form of consulting with the SC. Youth Ministry Associates work for the UUA, serving youth in congregations throughout our Association.

Finally, Steering Committee will be asked to sign a covenant regarding appropriate behavior while staying at Eliot and Pickett Houses. Right relationship needs to be re-established with UUA staff there as well.

In Faith,
Rev. William G. Sinkford
For things to get to this stage, apparently something is broken with the youth-adult relationships in this part of our Association ... right now, there is nothing on the UUA-sponsored youth ministry email lists like YRUU-L or Advisor-L, the YRUU LiveJournal area, or the fuuse.com message boards discussing this recent decision.

29 March 2005

Christian and Non-Christian Unitarian Universalists -- Anti-Oppression Implications

On 23 March 2005, Paul Wilczynski wrote the following:
"As Unitarian Universalists we do get nervous around Jesus. One church member recently said to me that whenever I mention Jesus, he 'winces.' I expect that he is not alone. Why is that? If I were talk about Buddha, you would be interested, at worst puzzled, but I doubt that you would wince."

I suspect that part of the reason for the "wincing" isn't theology, but may be better understood using anti-oppression work that we've done in other contexts.

Even with the increased visibility and vitality of UU Christianity within the UUA and growth of UU congregations with UU Christian emphasis, I don't think anyone would think that Christianity gains you much power or privilege in many UU congregations. It's quite the opposite ... saying you're a Christian in many UU congregation will bring you puzzled curiosity at best, scorn at worst.

These attitudes towards Christianity within UU congregations are a reversal of the attitudes one would find outside UU congregations where Christianity is privileged with respect to other religions.

Non-Christian folks in our congregations who hear about the non-UU versions of Jesus and are immersed in a Christian-centric culture for the 166 hours each week that they are not in a UU church may instinctively "wince" when they hear "Jesus" mentioned in a UU pulpit (even if the "Jesus" is a UU version of Jesus and not Jerry Falwell's Jesus).

UU Non-Christians who are prone to "wincing" need to remember that our UU Christian friends (and liberal Christian friends like our UCC cousins) didn't create this world where Christianity has unearned power and privilege. Like everyone else in North America, we are all inheritors of a situation that was around before we were born. The responsibility that we non-Christian UUs have is to acknowledge this situation in the spirit of love and not blame our UU Christian (and other liberal Christian) friends for a situation they did not create nor desire.

UU Christians need to remember that they are walking in the door of a church wearing a garment of "power and privilege" that was not freely accepted but rather forced on them by our wider North American culture. UU Christians joining a predominantly non-Christian UU congregation are (unknowingly?) engaging in anti-oppression work by giving up unearned power and privilege granted to them by the wider culture. This is the theological equivalent of an adult advisor working with youth where the advisor gives up some of the unearned privilege that comes with being an adult.

The 2005 Consultation on Ministry To and With Youth

So ... when did "youth empowerment" become a dirty word in Unitarian Universalist circles?

My question is prompted by the thread on Philocrites blog ("Consultation on UU youth ministry") and I also posted a link to my comments there.

Why is it a bad thing to create youth groups where youth and adults work in partnership to learn, worship, share and celebrate joys, share and comfort sorrows, and work to make this world a better place?

Perhaps the problems we are having with youth ministry and our not raising our youth to be Unitarian Universalist when they grow up are partly congregational problems.

What would a congregation that valued youth involvement, youth contributions, and youth leadership in wider congregational life look like?

What would youth-friendly and adult-friendly worship look?

How would board meetings and committee meetings look if we truly wanted youth and adult participation?

In short ... what would a "youth-friendly congregation" look like?

Well ... I don't think a youth-friendly congregation that was also welcoming to older adult would look like a YRUU con.

But it wouldn't look like the typical UU congregation either.

One of the secular partners that helped the UUA and UCC develop the "Our Whole Lives" comprehensive sexuality education program is the organization Advocates for Youth. You really need to check out the October 2001 edition of their Transitions quarterly journal:

This edition is dedicated to creating effective youth-adult partnerships and there are plenty of resources in this journal edition that could be adapted for UU congregations so youth have a greater role in wider congregational life and leadership. This resource dovetails nicely with the UUA Youth Office resource created to promote awareness of youth opportunities for wider congregational life.

Instead of complaining about a congregation having a "paid but non-theologically-trained youth 'advisor'", why don't you lobby that the congregation spend the money for workshop fees and hourly wages for your youth advisor to attend 1 or 2 "renaissance modules" (professional education for DREs and others interested in lifespan faith development)? The "UU History" and "UU Identity" modules would provide some of the theological grounding that you want (I'm assuming here that your congregation has already sent your paid youth staff person to UU Youth Advisor Training and the "Leadership Development Conference" as these provide the basics for creating a safe youth-empowering community).

Or perhaps you could lobby to send your youth advisor to your district's leadership school for some UU theological education?

The hard part about all these suggestions is they cost money and too many UU congregations are unwilling to fund well-funded youth ministries at the congregational, cluster, or district levels.

The open secret that everyone seems to be overlooking here is that continental and district UU youth ministry reflect the UUA in microcosm (based on my experiences in the two congregations and the two UUA districts I've lived in) since 1992.

Most UU youth and most UU adults are not involved in Unitarian Univeralism beyond their congregational walls.

In my district, a complaint that district UU youth programming is flawed because only a small percentage of our district's youth participate is often voiced. It's often said that district youth programming needs to meet the needs of all youth.

What I think we overlook here is the same observation and the same complaint could be made about district programming for adults. In an 8000+ person district, our summer institute is lucky to get a 500 person enrollment. Our fall leadership conference and spring district business meeting are lucky to get 200-300 participants.

We don't say that this adult programming is a failure because most adults don't participate. Rather we acknowledge that the adults are looking for faith development enrichment opportunities for themselves personally and for their local UU congregations.

I suspect that the same may be true for many youth who attend UU youth events away from their congregation. Rather than punish youth for seeking these enrichment opportunities, why not acknowledge that they exist while simultaneously develop the best UU youth ministry materials we can for use in our local congregations?

Good night,
[The theologically "untrained" youth advisor who has read Conrad Wright's Congregational Polity, The Essex Conversations, the Commission on Appraisal's reports on congregational polity and membership issues, Rev. Bob Hill's book on small group ministry, and ... once or twice in the past ... has been able to use words like "soteriology" and "eschatology" correctly in a sentence.]

25 March 2005

Online Resources for Lay Leaders

Let's say that you've just stepped into a lay leadership role such as committee member, committee chair, or even board member. You want to learn as much as you can so you will be an effective leader. Where do you go for information for your new role? Luckily, there are plenty of online resources available to help you.
InterConnections Web Site - Starting point for finding the wide variety of congregational lay leader resources. This web page contains four major sections:
"Leadership Quick Start" Web Site - By selecting the appropriate choices on this web page (congregation size, leadership role, and area of responsibility), you can quickly find recommended book titles, web sites, and online UU magazine articles to assist you as a lay leader.

"Events for Leadership" Link - By selecting the appropriate web site for your location (for example, this would be the Southwest District for my congregation), you will be taken to your district's web site. On your district's web site, you will find information on upcoming conferences, training workshops, youth events, young adult events, and more.

InterConnections Online Magazine Web Site - This web page will allow you to browse by subject category or search the current and back issues of the "InterConnections" magazine for lay leaders.

Lay Leadership FAQ - This section of the InterConnections web site provides useful knowledge and resources that covers A to nearly Z in congregational life (Administration to Youth). It's available on the InterConnnections web site.

UUA-Sponsored Email Lists - The UUA hosts over 225 Email Lists on subjects ranging from district leadership discussions, to covenant group ministry, to large congregation leadership tips and discussions for religious professionals. The main list information page provides a complete listing of all available UUA lists.

Here's a very short sampler of email lists that would be useful for the UU lay leader:

UU-Leaders -- Sharing information & support among UU lay leaders

Memb-l -- Discussion of UU membership and growth issues

UU-Money -- Information Sharing among Society Finance Leaders

Covenant_group_ministry -- For congregations who are interested in or engaged in Covenant Group or Small Group Ministry

ChurchMgmtSoftware -- Discussion of Software for Membership, Contributions and Finances.

UU-editors -- A mailing list for UU Newsletter Editors

UU-plannedgiving -- Information and resource sharing about planned giving

The Congregational Handbook - How to Develop and Sustain Your Unitarian Universalist Congregation - This is the online version of The UUA Congregational Handbook resource available in many church offices. The advantage to this online edition is you can find it at 3 AM without waking up the church staff, leaving the house, or even getting dressed.

"Small Group Ministry Network" (An independent affiliate of the Unitarian Universalist Association) - According to their web site, their purpose is " ... to support small group ministry and related shared ministry models in Unitarian Universalist congregations through the development of new resources, networking and training opportunities. This site contains a growing library of UU small group resources. We hope you find it helpful in designing, launching and nurturing your shared ministry." This web resource will be very useful for UU lay leaders involved in "covenant group" ministry and other forms of small group ministry. The Southwest District Executive, Rev. Bob Hill, is on the advisory board for this group.

UUA Lifespan Faith Development Web Site - According to their web site, they " ... provide lifespan resources for education, worship, advocacy, and social action that nurture UU identity, spiritual growth, a transforming faith, and vital communities of justice and love" for UU congregations and other UU groups. Resources for children, youth, and adult religious education are available here.

Young Religious Unitarian Universalists (YRUU) - YRUU and the UUA Youth Office serve UU youth between the ages of 14 and 20 by providing resources, consultation, training, and advocacy. These YRUU resources online can be adapted for older and younger Unitarian Universalists.

Continental Unitarian Universalist Young Adult Network (C*UUYAN) and the UU Young Adult and Campus Ministry (YACM) Office - C*UUYAN and the UU YACM Office serve UU young adults between the ages of 18 and 35 by providing resources, consultation, training, and advocacy. These young adult resources online can be adapted for older and younger Unitarian Universalists.
These lay leadership resources are provided to our congregation through the generous financial contributions that our congregation and other UU congregations make to the Unitarian Universalist Association and the Southwest District of the UUA.

These resources reflect the cooperative - interdependent spirit of Unitarian Universalism and are freely available to all who need them.