If you don’t keep up with the Quaker blogosphere, you might miss two valuable blog posts about mission, ministry and how these speak to generational change, resources and burnout.
Micah, for those counting, is a Quaker minister, with the Capitol Hill Friends worship group I mentioned last time. You can also follow them as micahbales andÂ martin_kelley on Twitter.
Today is Epiphany, the celebration of Christ’s manifestation to the Nations, often represented by the three mages (“kings”). Since Universalist Christianity — it seems to me — is marked by recognizing the ever-widening bands of God’s grace, concern and love, the thrust of Epiphany and the weeks that follow are vitally important.
The light of this understanding — the star — is dim, but grows until typified by the Feast of the Transfiguration, where Christ’s purpose is typified by blinding light and his disciples trembling but resolute knowledge.
According to his brother Erik, he died yesterday (Sunday) morning.
He was a minister (most recently at Portland, Maine) but perhaps known equally as well in Unitarian Universalist circles as a blogger. I think of him in that generation of Christian ministers that immediately preceded my own, and who held on when there didn’t seem much reason for trying. I also think of him in that heady Unitarian tradition that values thought and reasoning more than now commonly seen.
His cancer was a matter of record — and I appreciate him carrying us on his journey — but I had hoped he might recover, or at least have more time.
Victoria Weinstein, knew knew him far better than I, has a few words here.
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 2 Timothy 4.7
After writing the last post, I noted it on Twitter (I’m bitb) where Martin Kelley (martin_kelley) , a force behind QuakerQuaker picked it up.
To make the dialog short, I have an appeal for Unitarian Universalist Christians reading this. Please note in the comments how you have been affected by “anything but Christian” behavior, and (where appropriate) you have confronted it.
Also, I recall a good bit written about this when the UUCF began to reassert itself a few years ago. Does anyone recall which issues of the Good News had articles on the subject?
Unitarian Universalist Christians use a few terms — Christophobia, cross cringe and ABC (“anything but Christian”) — to describe the reception we get in unfriendly settings.
A posting today at QuakerQuaker shows that the problem — or perhaps a like problem — isn’t uniquely Unitarian Universalist. A shame that. Perhaps, too, an opportunity.
“Liberal Quaker Problem” (QuakerQuaker)
Today is Ascension Day, one of my favorites in the church calendar and one the Universalists historically paid especial attention to.
It isn’t about Christ leaving (read: abandoning) us any more than self-satisfied jokers suggest that he was launched like a deep-space probe. Rather, it reflects a spiritual truth. As the bridge between God and humanity, Christ prepares the path for human beings to become more Godlike. More compassionate, creative and free, among other things. And neither is this sanctification the province of a precious and rare set. (I wonder if members of Holiness churches, with their belief in a instant and particular sanctification realize how false and self-righteous they sound. Bad for the Church’s mission and discouraging to the “unsanctified.” My word to them: stop talking about sanctification and start showing it.)
The sacred path is often depicted — in cards, magazine and other visual media — as a lonely stroll around a pond or along a beach, which in a more subtle way is just as selfish and particular as the Holiness member’s forceful self-affirmation. Consider today, instead, that the sacred path might be more thickly peopled than a marathon, and that its end might nothing less than the completion of God’s purposes on earth.
I wrote about Interfaith Worker Justice before. Good stuff.
Now be sure to note and use these resources for congregation.
And pray for those who labor and employ, for those who make their own work, and those who have not enough work to earn their daily bread.
I see that UUCF Executive Directory Ron Robinson has blogged about the UUCF’s Revival Conference in Tulsa.
But I can’t see that anyone else present has. (I don’t know who’s there.) Nor do I know of any so-called hashtags (for example, #uucfrevival09) used to identify photos, microblog posts (like those found on Twitter or Identi.ca) or more conventional blog posts.
Does anyone know of coverage of this event?
On Saturday, Hubby asked where we might go to church the next day. We settled on the farmer’s market — a bit of grim humor; in fact, we didn’t go — because the church options nearby are so unappealing, particularly when compared with the life and energy I see among those looking for organic greens and apples. To recap, we want a Christian church that is institutionally and spiritually healthy, has an identifiably historic liturgy and supports us as a gay couple to the highest level of its own polity. Good luck.
Yet despite our unchurched estate, I think we’re devout Christians, and from that faith make many small and large decisions. The odd or sad fact is that the lack of a church is less of an impediment that I thought it would be.
So it was quite a solace to know that this is hardly a twenty-first century phenomenon, or evidence of selfishness or some defect of loyal churchmanship. Consider this passage from no less a liberal Christian (and Unitarian fellow-traveler) than James Martineau, in his 1869 “The New Affinities of Faith: a Plea for Free Christian Union“:
Persons affected by these influences [of religious controversy] are ill at ease in their ecclesiastical home, and find their love for it tried by many an uncongenial word or usage. . . . They may very possibly have come to no conscious breach with their inherited orthodoxy, or at least have retained enough of it to save them from any direct transfer of allegiance. But it has ceased to be a religious essential, and has descended to the rank of personal opinion . . . .
Those who suffer from this over-legislation in matters of belief, may be divided into three different classes : â€”
1. Some have found the strain put upon their conscience intolerable, and become exiles from all religious association. They remain alone, and tell their deepest thought to none ; or gather into private knots, and whisper the secret of their divinest life as if it were a scandal or a sin. They are wanderers unattached, not from any churlish indifference to fellowship in spiritual things, but because they cannot have it without engagements which they dare not take.
2. Others hope for a reform from within their own church ; and, while labouring towards the hour of relief, endure as they best can what is repugnant to their convictions. . . .
Martineau’s experiment flourished for about a generation and was later absorbed into the General Assembly of Unitarian and Free Christian Churches — the Free Christian part of course — and wonder today what of its spirit speaks to us today.
I’ve been hearing quite a bit lately — in the various spheres of my life — about using case studies to guide a project. Imagine, say, you have a program at church and want to make sure it works for its participants. You might come up with case studies for a few archetypal participants, and imagine how they would benefit — or not — from the project. It would help identify missing stakeholders, or show that while the Gospel can be all things to all people your project cannot be. As you may guess from the title, I’m trying to identify my readers, so see how I might be better able to interact with them.
I first ran into this model in seminary, but one of the more accessible — in part because the text is online — is in the Church of England’s New Patterns for Worship. It is “designed to educate and train those who plan and lead worship” and uses four case studies, carried throughout the book’s examples. (p. x)
The direst example;
St Dodoâ€™s is a church where worship is simply not one of the most important things the church does. It comes low on most peopleâ€™s agenda, though there are occasional heated discussions at the PCC. The demands of
different factions and rival views in the church mean that the worship is very bitty, and there is a different kind of service each Sunday in the month, with very few people going every week. The vicar finds little time for preparation
and feels it is impossible to involve others in preparing or helping to lead because of the need to keep the balance between the different factions.
A resource to bookmark and download, at the bottom of this page.