Painting of the Universalist Church in Gloucester

Over the years, troves of images have been released into the public domain or under liberal licences. The most recent release is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (Search page)

Here is “The Church at Gloucester“by Childe Hassam (1918) and now in the public domain. The church is, of course, the Universalist church — the first in the Americas.  John Murray was its pastor; Judith Murray, a founder, was an author and leading figure in Gloucester.

Thinking about church style

This is a first thought, because it will make my next blog post — about communion ware — make more sense.

When we think about what it means to be “churchy” we’re often — but not exclusively — talking about tastes and norms set by “the Ecclesiologists,” meaning that medieval-focused, Romantic movement that overwhelmed the Church of England in the nineteenth century. For them, there was one correct style appropriate for Christian churches — in a word, Gothic — whether that meant fully expressed in stonework, or vernacularized into the carpenter style. Think of pointed stained-glass windows. Why did this style cross the Atlantic and denominational lines? The prevailing taste, keeping-up-with-the-Joneses and the perhaps nothing so pedestrian as who the church architects and suppiers were. (This isn’t an original thought, and I’ve seen it in a few places, most recently in chapter two, “Capital Ideas: Building American Churches, 1750-1860.” of James Hudnut-Beumler’s In the Pursuit of the Almighty’s Dollar.)

There are noteworthy examples of Gothic Unitarian and Universalist church buildings, but so as not to lose the point: the creation of a common vocabularly of taste that’s hard to buck, save with variations, like the engrossed domestic style the Universalists seemed to favor, or the (later favored) colonial revival the Unitarians of Boston imposed on the Western churches who wanted financial support. And the less said about the post-war community centers hiding in their own private parksor forests — the  newer UU norm — the better.

This clip, from a 1922 issue of the Universalist Leader, shows that advertizers thought we might buy stained glass.
This clip, from a 1922 issue of the Universalist Leader, shows that advertizers thought we might buy stained glass.

Of course, those days may be declining: not a particular style or fashion, but the ability of churches to chose the shape of their buildings at all. I can all to easily imagine borrowed, rented or shared spaces being a part of the survival strategies of Unitarian Universalist (and other) churches in the all-too-soon future. Consider how many newer congregations meet in office parks or retail space.

Is short, design will have to be expressed in ways other than the building, and without the influence of an eccumenical community of tastemakers. It will be interesting what we come up with, and if we appeal to older and more humble models.

Embedding an Archive.org book

I got an aside from a Well-Respected Minister who liked “that little book video insert piece” in my last blog post. It’s the BookReader of Internet Archive, the source of the book.

I think it’s the best desktop or laptop interface for reading books, and since the Internet Archives has a large number of public-domain Universalist and other works, I will sometimes read books this way, even if I have the actual book. But you can’t just drop other books into it.

Now, here’s how to share the books they do have on your site. First, of course you find one, like this 2003 Massachusetts Conference of the UCC directory.

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When you click on the page, not only does it become larger, but you get added controls. I’ve pointed out the “share” link, which looks a bit like a sideways V. Click that.

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Now you have links for sharing and embedding. The fault imbed is one page at a time, and the first page. I usually want it to look like a book open to the title page, so I select that, as in this example.

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Now you might say, surely that directory isn’t it the public domain? True. Some libraries and collections have contributed their own works with permission. And many of them are religious. (And Boston-based for that matter.)

Wouldn’t it be helpful and useful if the Unitarian Universalist Association could host its old Commission on Appraisal reports, Board minutes, classic guides, and pre-consolidation AUA and UCA directories the same way. Our twentieth-century history is hard to access first hand, unless you’re old enough or well-connected enough — or close enough to Boston — to get paper copies of what you want.

How could we make that happen?

Palm crosses: the result

Home and work life will be busy this week, so the blogging will be necessarily light. I hope y’all had a stirring Palm Sunday, and great prayers for Holy Week.

Here are the palm crosses I made yesterday afternoon from the palms I got at church. Typical 30-32 inch strips, once trimmed of the very thin top pieces, made crosses about 4 inches tall. The one on the left came from thinner and — by the time I got to it — dryer material, so it split lengthwise while folding.

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How to make a palm cross

I watched a bunch of palm cross how-to videos, so you don’t have to.

My bias is to make a palm cross out of a single strip, and to have both arms, the head and of the foot of the cross folded back into the central knot. I think they look better, because they’re less flimsy and more evenly shaped crosses.

This video not only show this, but also how to strip and trim the palm.

What I'm reading: March 1, 2015

I’ve not been blogging much lately, and I don’t have much zeal to do so. I’m a little sad that Leonard Nimoy died, but mixed with that hope that I too might live long and prosper. I could walk though the pros and cons of UUA.org, but I don’t know what that would prove, other than it’s not fully rolled out. I could be angry about the destruction of genuine and reproduction antiquities in Mosul, but that’s a feeling shared by most sensible people. I’m just not keen to state the generally obvious.

So, I’ll lean on some interesting things I’ve read lately. I use Newsblur to manage my feeds. I subcribe to dozens of feeds, and subscribe to Religion and Ethics Newsweekly and Pew Research Center Religion & Public Life “Religion in the News” for general religion news.

But I’m interested in other matters,and have been reading about other things. Such as applying the most appropriate level of technology to a given situation. Whether that’s delivering natural gas, improving prosthetic knees or re-capturing ancient lessons about heating homes (and churches).

I’ve also read this challenge to white homogeneity among Anabaptists and also  this informative graphic about what image file standard to use and when. (And you don’t need to use Photoshop.)

Saraswati statue dedicated in D.C.

Daisy the Dog took me out on my evening walk, and we happened upon the aftermath of the dedication, at the Indonesian embassy, of the statue of Saraswati, the Hindu deity of learning.

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I was glad to see the dedication plaque: the right-hand plinth had a rough top for ages, and I thought it might have been vandalized!

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If you are devoted to Saraswati, you can find her statue on Massachusetts Avenue, between 20th and 21st Streets, near the north exit of the Dupont Circle subway station.