In tough times, it’s important to remember we live in God’s time

I asked a group of friends to review my newsletter post for the Universalist Christian Initiative and they asked me to share it generally, and so I oblige. If you would like to sign up for the twice-monthly newsletter, click here.

Fifteen years ago tomorrow, “the world changed” for many people, and through a particular lens, many people’s understanding of the United States and its position in the world changed, too. The hijackings that lead to the thousands of deaths in New York, suburban Washington, D.C. and in rural Pennsylvania were devastating, and even as I write this remembered how I felt that day. Such a low, grim day. I was the pastor of the Universalist National Memorial Church, in Washington, D.C. then. My apartment was on a hill and I could see a plume of dark smoke rising from the Pentagon. Living within walking distance of the church, I went down to open up the doors and try to support anyone who was confused, lost or upset. But the bewilderment was only planted that day.

While it is tempting to repeat the saying that the world changed on September 11, 2001, it is more correct to say that a large number of Americans began to know better the fear and uncertainty that others know before and since: that violence takes the innocent, that life is fragile and fleeting, and that it is far easier to destroy than construct. We would want the world to change and, in fact, on that day it didn’t. But that’s not to say that we are doomed to a past, present and future of violence and cruelty, whether “senseless” or “sensible,” by which I mean violence and cruelty we would be prone to defend or forget because it serves a stated national interest.

As Universalist Christians, we trust that God sees this and knows us apart from time and away from our biases and prescriptions. Where there is hurt and loss, we trust God is present to heal. And when we give ourselves over in ministry to this healing — “the ministry of reconciliation” as St. Paul put it — we must necessarily surrender ourselves to that part of God’s vision we can see, and do what God would have us do. We cannot, for one, weigh the lives of compatriots higher than other people. Not that everyone is equally little, but rather that each of us is equally great; that is, in the words of a Universalist profession also adopted in Washington, D.C., the “supreme worth of every human personality.” But this new way of living is not for us to build, but create with God’s direction and in God’s time. This last stricture is the more painful, but so much harm has come from those who have presumed to know more that they do, and act in ways that later prove harmful. It is enough to do good where can can, and to cultivate the ability to do more good than we thought possible. That is, we should step back from the a statement later in the Washington Declaration that we could “progressively establish the Kingdom of God.” The greatness in our lives does not extend that far. The change comes not by our own design, but from a force unseen. It will bloom when and where it will; let us be ready for it. Let us show this readiness in our love for one another.

Sources of prayers: Theistic Prayer Book

A single prayer in the services before Hymns of the Spirit beginning “Almighty God grant that the words” comes from a book identified in the index as the Theistic Prayer Book. What is this and where did it come from?

Mw114797_charles_voyseyIt comes from the Theistic Church in London, that lasts from 1870 or 1871 until shortly after the 1912 death of its founder and minister, Charles Vorsey, who was driven out of the Church of England. (He’s the father of the famous architech of the same name, if your mind goes to the Arts and Crafts.) At the church, the book was known as The Revised Prayer Book, and ran through three (1871, 1875, 1892) editions.

In both Hymns of the Spirit (p. 146) and The Revised Prayer Book, the prayer appears in a section for additional prayers (in the third edition); it appears, slightly re-arranged as prayer for the “close of worship” in Hymns of the Spirit.

Cross-posted at Hymns of the Spirit.

Sources of prayers: an English book from 1903

The services before the Hymns of the Spirit include prayers and litanies from various sources, including the 1903 Devotional Services for Public Worship, by John Hunter. He was the minister of King’s Weigh House Church, then a Congregational church, in Mayfair, London.

You can read it at

I’ll see if there’s any commonalities, and if so I’ll note them below.

Crossposted at

Tilden lectures on the ministry online

There’s a shortage of historic works — Unitarian or Universalist — on the preparation and exercise of the ministry. So — while researching — I was happy to see a printed set of lectures by William Phillip Tilden (1811-1890) to the Meadville Theological School, in June 1889. So we can consider these the mature words of a respected pastor.

I’ve not read this, but will put them on the list. Thought you might like to read it, too.

The Work of the Ministry: Lectures Given to the Meadville Theological School is back

I had some site problems this last week. My old main blog,, was badly hacked and in the process of hardening the other sites against attack, I ruined the WordPress install for my homage site to the 1937 “red hymnal”

I had to trash the old system and completely reinstalled it. Easy, but I misplaced the theme (no great loss) in the process. So the site is there, if plain.

Sunday-only calendar for 2017

Back in 2008, I knocked together a Sunday-only calendar as a planning tool for church worship leaders. It has been evergreen at by old blog, Boy in the Bands. And so when I got a request to update it, I couldn’t do other than bring it up to date.

And so I’m crossposting it here. Enjoy.

You can also edit the OSD file in LibreOffice and (so it seems) newer versions of Microsoft Office. I included December 2016 and January 2018.

Esperantists find “parallel” path to regional gatherings

So, on August 20, swarms of Esperantists all over North America will meet for day-long gatherings “enjoying each other’s company while taking part in a celebration of the international language.” (suggested press release language)

It’s called Paralela Universo, which even to non-Esperantists should easily read as “parallel universe.” Parallel to what? Diffrerent places at the same time, sure. But also keep in mind that Esperanto events (especially in Europe) are days-long affairs, bolstered no doubt by long vacations, short travel distances and a critical mass of Esperantists to organize such things. North American Esperantists have none of these; surely an alternative is called for, and so much better if it calls to mind the endless possibilities of science fiction, which I bet appeals to (other) Esperantists.

So far, there are twenty sites, and counting. And what’s noteworthy is that there is no central organizing body, and no tickets. You pay for your transportation to and from the gathering, and your meals. It’s an idea, a format and coordination by Facebook and a Google group. That’s all.

Mi okazos la Paralelan Universon ĉi tie.

Let this be an inspiration for other groups who could benefit by low-effort, low-cost ad-hoc gatherings.

A moment with St. Margaret of Antioch

I know today is the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, equal-to-the-apostles, but you’ll forgive me if Iook back two days to St. Margaret of Antioch, a fourth century virgin-martyr who is reputed to have been disengorged by Satan, in the form of a dragon, or said to have beaten a devil (lye can variety) with hammer.

A hammer.

I hadn’t known much about her until I saw a number of tweets, and was too distracted by the fortieth anniversary of the Viking landing on Mars to make anything of then.

To repeat. Disengorged by a Satan-dragon. Beat a demon with a hammer. And people have problems with women being Ghostbusters.