The bit of Jewish liturgy hidden in plain sight in the red hymnal

For reasons too long to go into now, I was tracking down threads in the Classic Reform tradition of Reform Jewish liturgics a couple of weeks ago. Suffice it to say that it was in parallel with some of the liturgical developments in Unitarian churches in the late nineteenth century. There were some friendships crossing the divide, or at least cooperative parterships. It’s hard to tell how far or wide without a deep dive.

So, I was reading the Adoration ending sequence from the Sabbath evening service in the Union Prayer Book, in wide use in Reform temples through the early 1970s. This is the Aleinu, for those familiar with the traditional Hebrew name. I thought, “this looks familiar.”

As well it should. Capitalization aside, the first part of the Aleinu was dropped in almost verbatim as the Exhortation — that is, a beginning sequence — of the First Service of the Services of Religion, the services prepended to the 1937 joint Unitarian-Universalist Hymns of the Spirit.

So, it reads:

Let us adore the ever-living God, and render praise unto him who spread out the heavens and established the earth; whose glory is revealed in the heavens above and whose majesty is manifested throughout the earth. He is our God and there is none else; wherefore in awe and wonder we bow the head and magnify the Eternal, the Holy One, the Ever Blest.

That’s the same hymnal that has the Jewish text translated by a Unitarian minister, “Praise to the Living God” as its first hymn.

And if you’ve read this far and are at the UUA General Assembly in New Orleans, you may be interested in Shabbat Worship, presented by Unitarian Universalists for Jewish Awareness on Friday, June 23, 5:00 pm in the Hilton Riverside Windsor Room.

Cross-posted to HymnsoftheSpririt.org

Universalist Christian Initiative at #uuaga

I’m soft-launching my new project, the Universalist Christian Initiative at the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, which begins today in Columbus, Ohio.

It’s mainly about creating resources and finding direction for Universalist Christians, and at this point I’m looking for people interested in this work.

Please join the newsletter list here, and follow our Twitter account (@universalistci) here.

If you’ll be at GA, meet me at the UU Christian Fellowship booth (#115 in the exhibit hall)

  • Thursday, Jun 23 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
  • Friday, June 24 from 11 a.m. to 12 noon

… or send a direct message to the @universalistci Twitter account if you’d like to talk.

UU congregations: three more days to certify

Wednesday, February 3. The deadline was pushed back, so today is the last day to certify, if you’re in one of the 148 remaining congregations!

I’m fond of certification time for the UUA. It’s when I get new data to analyze. But for congregations, it’s an important annual task. Without it, no voting representation at General Assembly. And I’ve noticed that churches that don’t tend to register are often not long for this world. Don’t tempt fate; certify.

All congregations must have filed for certification by 5 p.m. PST on February 1, 2016, in order to be certified for GA. Only certified congregations may send voting delegates to the 2016 General Assembly.

There are 383 uncertified congregations right now. I know many will certify over the weekend. Don’t let yours be left out.

Universalist polity persists today

A couple of weeks ago, I was batting back and forth with an informed Unitarian Universalist friend about our polity, when at one point he zeroed in at the settled clergy vote at General Assembly, at which point I had to stand up for the Universalist contribution to our polity.

This is my side of the discussion, which I admit was a bit of a monologue at that point. I don’t have his permission to share his side, but if commenters want to continue the conversation, I would consider it an honor.

I was wondering what the future holds…

With the one-way push to regions, will there be an opening for devolution of connection authority? — congregational membership, mission planning, ministerial fellowship [at the regional level] — now that there aren’t 19-22 districts.

[After all,] There’s a lot more embedded Universalism in our system than we sometimes credit.

[And then the push about General Assembly votes.]

It’s about fellowship, not credentials per se. Makes more sense in the Universalist sense if the other piece was still in place.

That is, the fellowship of the parishes.

That’s because, from a Universalist frame, the UUA acts (imperfectly) as a national church, something the Unitarians would never have.

[My friend opined that this result is sub-optimal.]

[Today’s system is]neither-nor.

The names tell you all. The American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America.

And why scant resources went to build a Universalist National Memorial Church, but the Unitarians never did.

To finish my thought, the churches were (supposed) to have a parallel relationship to their conventions that the ministers did, supervised by the same committee.

And both ministers and lay persons served on them. Not that I’m all rah-rah retro Universalist.

The half-time service requirement for fellowship renewals — a thorn in my side — is a re-write of a pre-consolidation Universalist rule.

The page turned to GA 2016

I stumbled across the webpage of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, which talks about — in broad terms — next year’s convention.

It’s in Columbus, Ohio.

It’ll certainly be less expensive for more people than last year’s (Portland, Oregon) and possibly than 2017 GA in New Orleans, as Columbus is a lower cost city for hotels and nearer the population centroid for Unitarian Universalists, which is in Illinois.

I hope to be there. So what great plans can we make with the opportunity?

An unlikely word about convention economy

The World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso, or UK) started its meeting this evening in Lille, France.

I’m not there; perhaps next year in Slovakia. But to mark the occasion, I looked up the official World Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, or UEA) and found this page, incongruously written in English, and thus the title of this blog post. It’s meant to explain the UK to “partners” presumably to include local government and tourism authorities, who are more likely to read English than Esperanto.

Now, I’ve found Esperantists to be thrifty in their arrangements, and this passage sums up the reasoning in a dignifed way:

As a non-profit NGO, UEA is a very budget-conscious organization and so is the Congress of the Association. This congress has many special charms, but sober treatment of the financial matter is required. The delegates pay expenses from their own funds and usually are price conscious. Many of the delegates come from developing countries, and there are significant proportions of retired people and students among the participants. This is a people’s congress for ordinary people, not an elaborate meeting of executives financed by corporate funds.

I think you could say much the same about General Assemblies. Ours, and from the #CampbellCon plaints, others, too. Just because you’re clergy doesn’t mean that our basic meetings are affordable, or paid from expense accounts.

In case you wonder about the costs of going to the UK, see this registration cost page. Early registration for a typical member from a rich country is 180 euros; a member with a disability from a poor country would pay 60 euros; and a person under 21 would pay nothing. For some hotel options, see the Dua Bulteno (Second Bulletin; the First is the invitation with registration info) with lodging info, from page 9, including student accomodation, much like the Unitarian Universalist use of college dorms. Or here. I also like the meal ticket (see page 12), for example six dinners — two courses, cheese, dessert and tap water for 54 euros, but this may be an opportunity of meeting in a French college town. (Another Esperantist custom — the amasloĝejo; “mass-dwelling” — is often only BYO sleeping bag crash space; a hard sell for most people. But the Lille local committee did try to find a place, without success. I did have an attendee crash on my apartment floor the one year I lived in a GA town.)

You may also note excursions (from page 13) and a banquet that show that some Esperantists have the means and will to spend more.

And you may also note that the flight from North America would double all of these costs. But there’s something to learn here if we try.

Notes, from the Disciples GA for ours next year

This is less blog post and more notepad, to record on-the-ground observations from attendees of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly. They’re meeting in Columbus, Ohio now, and the Unitarian Universalist Association will meet there next June.

  1. Convention Center seating leaves something to be desired.
  2. In the spirit of ecumenism, I suspect the same will be true of Unitarian Universalists.

  3. And the AC is too cold
  4. Yes, there are watering holes. Some less obvious.
  5. Taking names:

  6. And places to eat.
  7. (@BluetoothTodd is a parody account, so some cheese humor may be in play.)

    • Double Comfort

Following the Disciples General Assembly

As some of you know, I trained for the ministry and received the degree of Master of Divinity at Brite Divinity School, a theological seminary of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) General Assembly began today in Columbus, Ohio under the theme “Soar!” I noticed a bunch of my classmates flying cross country, and then I noticed they were going to the city the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly will be next year: Columbus, Ohio.

And so the Twitter hashtag for the CC(DOC) GA is #DisciplesSoar.

Alexander_Campbell_1788But what keeps my attention is a playful and cheerful parallel hashtag. If #DisciplesSoar is for the serious business, the #CampbellCon is for the fun stuff, for the relationship building and a knowing recognition that our awkward, wonky church conventions bear more that a passing resemblance to comics and sci-fi fandom.  (The hashtag is a reference to Alexander Campbell, a wild-haired founder. It would be as if we had a hashtag #BallouBoatHome. But I’m sure we could do better that that.)

I mean, I wish we could be so playful. There are a few of us, but we’re on the magins.  If we Unitarian Universalists, who suffer from debilitating earnestness, could put up with Twitter accounts like

We have @UUHulk, but rely rather too much on it. (Him?)

So put a pin in it: we could have more fun at General Assembly. It might even make the hard parts more bearable.

And best wishes to the Disciples in convention.