Dear Mother Universalism

Scott Wells, a foremost historian of Universalism (writing exclusively on-line), offers a pointed correction to the simplistic and sentimental treatment of Universalism proffered in too many UU sermons, books and stories.

I think it is much to Scott’s credit as a tireless blogger of the Universalist tradition that so many younger UUs are re-claiming Universalism in a serious and fierce way as central to their own theology and ministry. I took special delight in the appearance of two T-shirts at General Assembly this year, both  featuring cool, punk(ish) designs proclaiming Universalist slogans, LOVE THE HELL OUT OF THIS WORLD (a reference to John Murray’s famous saying, “Give them not hell, but hope…”) and DEATH AND GLORY (a reference to snide Restorationist dismissals of ultra-Universalism that claimed the soul went straight from death to heaven, with no remediating time in between).

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YEA, Rev. Ron Robinson, Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship!

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YEA, Paul Sawyer, Universalist Minister in Heartland, Vermont! And his lovely wife whose name I don’t know!

10517607_10204239534373524_5863457808536254464_n YEA, smiling GA conferee whose name I don’t know! Let’s get a closer look at that graphic, which I believe was created or commissioned by the Red Pill Brethren, a group of emergent-style UU clergy.

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Another bit of fabulous Universalist swag that appeared at General Assembly this year was a great button created and distributed by the Rev. Scott Wells himself. Here’s the graphic of what Scott informs us was “the middle part of the Universalist Church of America seal from the early 40s to consolidation in 1961:”

 

 

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I am currently serving a congregation that has very deep Universalist roots as well as Unitarian ones, and I am therefore more grateful than ever for Scott’s research and generosity in posting what he finds on his blog, Boy In The Bands. I am deeply grateful also to the Unitarian Universalists who are lifting up, reviving and living out the message of God’s all-conquering love in the world.

Posted in Unitarian Universalism | 3 Comments

Vacation With Dad

My dad was a major Type A workaholic. He worked in Manhattan at an ad agency, dressing like Don Draper for work everyday. Sometimes I saw him briefly in the morning as he got ready to take the train, and I loved seeing him at night when he would come whistling through the door and give me a big kiss. Sometimes, though, he came home in an inexplicable rage and terrified the entire family. I adored him even though I dreaded his crazy rages.

But I have this one great memory of going on vacation alone with my dad. I’m not sure how that happened, but it may have been the year I was in public school and my siblings were in private school. At any rate, my dad decided to take me to Florida to visit his brother, and the two of us went off to Palm Beach. I had dad all to myself!

For a couple of days we read by the pool, talked for hours, shared meals, and slept late. It was an amazing experience for me to have uninterrupted time alone with my pop, as we were deeply kindred spirits who loved talking philosophy, religion and The Meaning of Life.

I remember feeling so happy (despite my sunburn — my dad had olive skin and I burn easily, and he was terribly guilty that he allowed me to fry) until the third or fourth day when the phone rang with a call from the office in New York. The moment I heard my dad’s voice change from relaxed father and brother (so rare for him!!) to Ad Exec Carl, my heart sank. I was so upset that he had even answered the call. Vacations are supposed to be sacred! And he needed one so badly!

The felt shift in my father’s attention and presence was sad and upsetting and real. The next day he suddenly became snappy and critical, acting as though we were in a rush when we weren’t and not able to concentrate on our conversations. I withdrew into myself and waited the rest of the vacation out. We flew home soon afterwards and life returned to normal, which meant that Dad never took any time really off.

He died soon after that of a heart attack. He was fifty years old.

Today’s parents have so many more distractions than the old fashioned telephone that rang in the other room on that vacation in 1981 or 1982. They have distractions they can carry around with them in their pocket and check at every red light.

On behalf of the child I was who remembers how good and right and whole the world felt when I received my parents’ full, sober attention, please consider not answering that phone. Please consider a vacation with your children with no distractions, when you can have lazy days for conversations that unfold in no hurry, when a daughter can pretend to read a book while sitting by the pool, when she is actually not reading at all but only savoring the sound of her father turning pages in the deck chair next to her.

These are the only days we get. Don’t miss one.

 

 

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Our Mission, Should We Choose To Accept It

 

I (mostly) lurk on a closed Facebook Page for self-identified progressive Christians because reading people’s posts keeps me focused on evangelical UUism. My God, how I pray for a day when we can evangelize for participation in a truly inclusive, vibrant and mature faith. These people are just a few of the many I am convinced are waiting for us to live into what we keep claiming to be.  I have lifted a few testimonials off of Facebook to similarly inspire my fellow UUs who are gathering right now for our annual convention in Providence, RI:

 

This first note came as a post on my personal Wall:

I just found out that because I don’t literally believe in bearded old guy in the sky I’m considered an atheist. Prlprlrlrl! ( Bronx cheer…) Why are there no churches for those of us who experience “God” in all things? I want to go to church! But there are no churches that “get it”. I can’t even begin to follow the concept of the trinity, it seems pointless. Churches are dying because they don’t/can’t/won’t accept that God is apprehended differently now. I am Not an atheist! God is immanent in my life. I want to celebrate this, without the crippling effects of dogma. Soo, thanks for listening.

I’m listening! And I believe that there should be LOTS AND LOTS of churches for those of us who experience God or “God” in all things!! I’m working on it! I believe that Unitarian Universalist churches should be those churches!

Some other testimonials from people who, on paper, should be able to find a community with the Unitarian Universalists:

  • > It never crossed my mind to leave Christianity. However, I have looked into other religions. And I see truth and beauty in all religions. I don’t think Christianity is the only path to God. Just like I don’t believe Christianity is the only religion that has a trademark and Patton on truth. But, for me Christianity is my path. And I can’t see myself going any other way. But, I can appreciate other religions and I can see beauty and inspiration in their beliefs.
    >While I haven’t done any extensive research, FOR ME Christianity teaches the full love of God – although I’m not buying in to the whole “atoning sacrifice” deal. I have my own way of interpreting the events of Jesus’ life and death and the message I get from it is that God neither controls nor abandons us, but loves us relentlessly [sound Universalist to you?]
  •  I have struggled with belief, and still do. I’m actually seriously considering a Pagan path. So far, I’ve just incorporated Pagan spirituality into my Christianity, especially becoming more connected and aware of natural phenomena like moon cycles, animal behavior, seasonal changes. I’ll probably make the switch at some point. [To what, I wonder?]
Posted in Travels and Public Appearances, Unitarian Universalism | 2 Comments