My very old, long gone Cambridge Platform page, again

I was chatting with some friends about the Cambridge Platform, what it means to us and how we promote it (as one does) and remembered that one of my early web sites was dedicated to it. I have the old files — there’s something alarming about seeing files “last updated 20 years ago” — and may clean them up for a new life on this domain.

Until then, you can see the site as it earlier existed (and not even the earliest!) thanks to the Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

The New England Way

Fixing numbers (that appear as text) in LibreOffice

Time to start cracking Unitarian Universalist Association numbers again. Congregational certification ends at the end of the month, and it’ll be exciting to see this year’s membership and financial numbers.

These days, one can download the certification numbers in a CSV file, which I then open in a LibreOffice spreadsheet. (And thanks to whomever made that improvement.) But anything with a dollar sign is essentially a text item, not a number to be manipulated.

If you find and replace all of the dollar signs, you will find that they were replaced by a single opening quotation mark.

See this page for instructions on how to successfully remove it. (This post is as much a reminder for myself as instruction for others.)

Happy data crunching!

Twelve books for 2018

Like a lot of people, I want to read more. Unlike a lot of people I’m a very slow reader. So I’m making a resolution to read 12 books in 2018; I’ll start with this list but reserve the right to substitute those that don’t keep my attention. (This also shows how theological my bookshelf is, and it’s not like I’m going to put cookbooks on this list.)

Follow me on Goodreads, where I’ll record my progress.

  • Carl Scovel. Never Far from Home: Stories from the Radio Pulpit.
  • Richard Baxter. The Reformed Pastor.
  • A.A. Milne. Winnie-the-Pooh.
  • Von Ogden Vogt. Art and Religion.
  • Massey Hamilton Shepherd. The Liturgical Renewal of the Church.
  • Radcliff Hall. The Well of Loneliness. (The foundational lesbian novel.)
  • James A. Herrick. The History and Theory of Rhetoric: An Introduction.
  • Nathan O. Hatch. The Democratization of American Christianity.
  • Hilarion Alfeyev. The Spiritual World of Isaac the Syrian. (A Christmas gift.)
  • Peter Singer. The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End World Poverty.
  • Gregory McDonald, editor. “All shall be well”: Explorations in Universal Salvation and Christian Theology from Origen to Moltmann.
  • Rene Girard. The Scapegoat.


Sunday-only calendar for 2018

Back in 2008, I put 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 is probably the most popular item I’ve ever posted.

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 the rest of December 2017 and January 2019.

Salvator Mundi is for everyone

This week, a previously-thought lost painting by Leonardo da Vinci, “Salvator Mundi” sold for $450 million, and making news because of it. It shows a serene Christ, holding a crystal sphere — the cosmos — and an upheld right hand in a posture of blessing.

The work is stunning, and the price is eye-watering. But the subject of the painting, Christ, Savior of the World is greatest treasure. We are not lost in this world, or to it. We have a sure and powerful savior, and we do not need the riches of the world to meet him. We carry the image within.

See the painting here; the image is probably in the public domain but was released by Getty, and they’re awfully jealous of their licences, whether or not they have the right to be.

Christ with clear orb and hasd-gesture of blessing
Andrea Previtali’s Salvator Mundi, with the same theme

“All souls, O Lord, are thine”

My apologies for my long silent spell — longer, I think, than any since I began writing in 2003. But I couldn’t let All Souls Day go by unnoted.

The Universalist General Convention commended the Sunday closest to All Souls Day, November 2, “for a special celebration of our distinguishing doctrine, the Scriptural truth that all souls are God’s children, and that finally, by His grace attending them, they will all be saved from the power of sin, and will live and reign with Him forever in holiness and happiness.”

What we have here friends is an ethos, a vision and a plan worth celebrating. But what form shall this take?

For all of you who do not observe the Day of the Dead because you believe (in your case) it is cultural appropriation, know that that All Souls Day is for you. But there’s not a lot of cultural artifacts attached to it, so I can’t help you with those sugar skulls you’ve wanted an excuse to buy.

We do have a hymn, the most popular (not saying much) of writer and journalist Epes Sargent. Judging by his birthplace (Gloucester) and others having that name (Judith Sargent’s grandfather) I’m guessing his ties to Universalism are deep.

Epes Sargent portrait.

It only showed up in a handful of denominational hymnals, the last being the 1937 Hymns of the Spirit, but I consulted the 1917 Hymns of the Church, which I’m now cataloging, for the text.

All souls, O Lord, are thine — assurance blest!
Thine, not our own to rob of help divine;
Not man’s, to doom by any human test,
But thine, O gracious Lord, and only thine.

Thine, by thy various discipline, to lead
To heights where heavenly truths immortal shine, —
Truths none eternally shall fail to heed;
For all, O Lord, are thine, forever thine.

Forgive the thought, that everlasting ill
To any can be part of thy design;
Finite, imperfect, erring, guilty, — still
All souls, great God, are thine — and mercy thine.

Non-subscriber history site up

The Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland is an interesting church of 4,000 or more souls in Ireland (the island), mostly in Northern Ireland (that part of the United Kingdom) but one that’s hard to get a lot of current information about. I’m sure its status contributes to this: “kindred” to Unitarians (as the formula went a century ago) but distinct from the Unitarians found across the Irish Sea. But some good news today.

Davis Steers, a NSPCI minister and writer, has put together a site about the church’s history and I look forward to reading it.

  • The History of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland
  • UniversalistChristian.net down for rebuilding

    My UniversalistChristian.net site — one of the places I stash Universalist Christian documents — got infected and so rather trying to clean it, I have completely take it down.

    I’m really long past giving my documents sites a collective scrub, so I plan on doing that, with other security updates besides. I’ll appreciate your patience.

    Lay centers service book: first thoughts

    Returning to the Service and Hymn Book for the Unitarian League of Lay Centers, I wanted to share my process of understanding it. I think that starts with getting the texts of this hard-to-find book public. A searchable text also makes it easier to annotate, which then gets us closer to understanding how these early twentieth-century Unitarians viewed the liturgy, and from that their religion.

    The “services” are really opening sequences, with a pastoral prayer: in a sense an abbreviated morning prayer before the hymn-framed sermon. It’s a familiar format. There are two forms here: the first two services are more elaborate, and for general use. The last three — Righteousness and Peace, A Service of Thanksgiving and a Commemorative Service — outside the sequence of numbered services are more elaborate, perhaps for use on civil holidays … or civil crisis.

    The ten numbered services in the middle are an exended responsive reading matched to what might be called a “pastoral prayer.” That is, that kind of page-long, non-topical general prayer so often found in print in that era, and which continues as the most common genre of prayer in Unitarian Universalism (and elsewhere I bet.) A good period Universalist source of this genre, is Charles Hall Leonard’s 1915 Light and Peace and I bet many of my readers will also think of Rauschenbusch’s Prayers of the Social Awakening. My point is this: even without composing new prayers, it would have been easy for a local lay leader to match up extra prayers and extra responsive reading (they were commonly published in their own volumes, too) and club together new opening sequences, even if that meant obliging the members to buy a second book, or using a job printer. An appealing thought that.

    Back to our text:

    I thought it would be easier to dictate the text — around 9,500 words — into Google Drive and edit it from there, than to try and straighten all the photos of the pages and OCR them. I’ve included links to the page photos, and the “before” and “after” of the text editing below. (When I publish this page, I will not have started on the editing.)

    Photos of the first (liturgical) part of the Lay Centers book

    Lay Centers book as dictated

    Lay Centers book as it be being edited