Category Archives: church

a church just like mine

Two days ago, a madman walked into a church just like mine (and only four hours away from mine) and opened fire, killing two people and injuring others.

Compared to many religions, Unitarian Universalism is a tiny denomination; we have maybe 100,000 members in the United States. So this tragedy hits extra hard — particularly because the man wielding the weapon didn’t choose a church at random. No, he deliberately planned to attack the Knoxville UU congregation because of its liberal social policies. He hates liberals, says the letter he left in his truck; he hates gays. Apparently, while he was shooting, he was shouting hatred for all to hear.

The banner at my Louisville, KY church reads, Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right.

The banner at my Louisville, KY church reads, "Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right."

High on one of the outer walls of my church hangs a banner that says “Civil Marriage Is a Civil Right.” My congregation of about 300 people are very progressive in our politics: I’d estimate us to be 90% pro choice, 95% Democrats, 100% supportive of gay rights. UUs don’t adhere to a specific creed; rather, my church includes atheists, humanists, pagans, Christians, Buddhists, Jews, and those who create their own spirituality.

Many beliefs, but one congregation. Why do we come together? Because we find truth and meaning in the seven principles that all Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
  • Although we have no common prayers or mantras, we recite a covenant each Sunday. UUs everywhere speak a variation of these words each week:

    Love is the spirit of this church, and service is its law. This is our great covenant: to dwell together in peace, to seek the truth in love, and to help one another.

    We are liberal. We are welcoming to all. And for this, a man decided people just like me deserved to die.

    the joy of cooking evening, after the summer hiatus, I returned to the church kitchen to cook dinner for our Wednesday Chalice Night program. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it.

    I started at about 1:00 p.m., first making the filling for 60 black-bean burritos, and then preparing 4 large pans of banana pudding. I gathered up the ingredients for enchilada sauce, packed my car full of food (and my kids), and headed for church at 4:00. There we were joined by my husband, Jack, and Rita, and we had the usual excellent time as we filled and baked burritos, cooked enchilada sauce and Mexican rice, and dished out pudding. We were ready to serve at 5:30.

    In looking for art to accompany this entry, I found a wonderful cartoon of a church kitchen. It reminds me very much of my church’s kitchen, which has signs everywhere: instructions, warnings, reminders, threats, you name it. My favorite is the brand-new fine print that someone has added to the signs labeling our storage bins full of paper plates and plastic utensils: It goes into detail about the energy and resources used to produce paper/plasticware and the space those items will subsequently take up in landfills, and suggests that people think twice before actually removing anything from the bins and using it. As Jack pointed out, when it comes to things like environmental issues, we UUs can be just the teensiest bit holier-than-thou…

    I love putting together the list of what I need and going on the big shopping trip every week. I love coming to my stopping time for work on Wednesday and moving from computer to kitchen counter to start preparations. I love the cooking, and the serving, and looking out into the church social hall to see tables full of people talking and enjoying themselves over a home-cooked meal. It’s as close to spiritual as I get.

    If you’re near downtown Louisville on a Wednesday from 5:30 – 6:15 p.m., come by and eat dinner for $4.00 ($2.00 for a small portion; kids under 10 are free). You’ll enjoy friendly company and good, homemade food, and it will truly be my pleasure to greet you at the serving window.

    meat muffins

    (How’s that for a subject line?)

    I remain firm in my belief that cooking is therapeutic. Just ask my friend and sous chef, Jack.

    I’ve had a long and stressful week, and yesterday I went to cook my weekly meal at church hopeful that making and serving the meal would, as it usually does, soothe my nerves and my soul.

    It did.

    But this week, I owed much of my enjoyment to the accident of not having sufficient loaf pans to hold all the meatloaf (10 loaves’ worth, to be exact, which can also be expressed as “two huge bowls full of more meatloaf than the average person cares to imagine”). What should we do? We began to make loaf shapes and put them in larger pans; but then inspiration struck. We would make meat muffins! We rounded up 5 pans, to hold 5 dozen muffins, and filled them to overflowing.

    The results were fabulous: The meat muffins finished cooking in less time than a loaf; they were beautifully brown; and they looked, well, cute, like little meaty muppets. We wished we had a way to put little googly eyes on them. (They tasted really good, too.)

    The next time you’re making meatloaf (or vegetable loaf, or whatever variety of entree foodstuff you might normally make in a loaf pan), I recommend the muffin approach. It isn’t just food: It’s fun! đŸ˜€

    song of life

    last night we sang
            be-bop improv
                    cool grooving moves with
                    swaying hips and
                    snapping fingers

    we jumped to the Apollo beat
    confined in a Catholic church
            dead center under the
            gaze of a
                    crucified Christ.

    I opened my door to
    glorious song
            averted my eyes from
            manifested tortured death
                    gave over my
                    whole self to
                that suffused the air with
            infinite patterns

    stranger in a strange land

    I have just returned from an unknown place where I took part in a series of experiences that I didn’t understand. The place was West Virginia; the experiences were an open-casket visitation and a funeral.

    I have not understood, do not understand, and will never understand what has been called “the American way of death” (I’m planning to order the book by that name, to get some insight into the funeral industry). It has to do with being the only child of an only child, and attending no open-casket visitations and darn few funerals when I was growing up. My mother’s parents and my dad were cremated; after they died, we held memorial services at times that were convenient for family travelling from far away, and we celebrated their lives with music, stories, and songs. These were not “funerals”; they were deeply personal memorials to people we loved.

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    my weekend

    8:20 a.m.: Arrive at church; unload car entirely full of groceries

    9:00 a.m. – 12:00 noon: Work with other volunteers to make 30 loaves of Scandinavian Ginger Cake, 59 jars of Brandied Hard Sauce (to go with Plum Pudding), and 12 jars of Smores Bars mix, all for next Saturday’s Yuletide Fare

    12:00 – 1:00 p.m.: Volunteer crews change over; clean up from the morning, set up for the afternoon

    1:00 – 1:30 p.m.: Run to Subway to get lunch for volunteers; sit down for about 10 minutes

    1:30 – 5:30 p.m.: Work with volunteers to make about 24 dozen Buckeyes (peanut butter candy dipped in chocolate, a lot like a homemade Reese’s Cup), about 48 dozen chocolate-dipped Bourbon Balls, and about 8 dozen Gingersnap Bourbon Balls

    5:30 p.m. (and various points earlier in the day): Work with the Guilderoy Byrne sound guy and people doing decorating to help get things set up for our Celtic Christmas concert

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    the Bible and me

    Yesterday I wrote an entry that was meant to be a general commentary on the books I read and enjoy. It was fun to write, and I hoped that it might encourage some visitors to check out a few of my favorite authors and titles.

    Instead, the entire (lengthy) response in the comment section has focused on one short item from the entry: the fact that I listed the Bible as a book I wish had never been written. This response was not my intention, and, whether or not I should have seen it coming, it’s taken me entirely by surprise.

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    what’s the world coming to?

    Go here and here for information about a tremendously frightening documentary coming soon to a theater near you: Jesus Camp. It traces the camp experiences of children who are working to be “God’s army” as they pledge allegiance to the Christian flag and are indoctrinated as to why “science doesn’t prove anything.” Watching the trailer makes me fear for our country and our world.

    The bright spot for me is that my childrens’ youth groups at our Unitarian Universalist church are overflowing with dozens of bright, liberal, humanist kids. We may be far fewer in number than the evangelical hordes, but I can only hope that young people like my daughter and son will grow into adults who can protect society from those who would make us all believe in their God and live by their code.

    the difficult path to a better future

    Last evening, 19 voting members (about 8%) of my church gathered in my living room and decided to take an action that could change the church's future course. We didn't arrive at this decision unanimously, but after 2-1/2 hours of discussion we formed a plan that everyone present could live with and support.

    We focused our gathering by considering how what our church would be like in a year if we did or did not make a change — a change that everyone in the room has been pondering internally and, in some cases, talking about in smaller groups for months. Those present variously expressed anger, happiness, sadness, confidence, worry, and many other emotions as the evening progressed and we discussed elements of the church's past and its turbulent present. In the end, no one was thrilled by what we decided, but we're all hopeful that the difficult thing we'll do this week will lead us to a better future.

    We're taking an action that I've been hoping for; an action I've been talking to people about; an action that I support so completely that I volunteered my home for the gathering and encouraged people to come and talk so that their diffuse energies could join and generate sufficient momentum to push for change. I got what I wanted. And I was awake more than an hour in the middle of the night, thinking about what we're going to do and the tough months ahead.

    If I were a Christian, I suppose I'd be praying, and hoping that this effort is truly God's plan for our congregation. But my atheist/humanist philosophy places the responsibility squarely on me and on the others who were here last evening. 19 people of all ages and backgrounds, new members and old, most of whom have filled leadership roles in the church, gathered and made a plan that we feel will best serve the church we love. I hope we'll succeed; and, if we succeed, I hope the future will be the better place that I envision.