Tag Archives: worship

Announcing the release of my “Unitarian Universalist Christian Community – Prospectus”

I recently released previews of my “Unitarian Universalist Christian Community – Prospectus” right on this blog Realmdee here and here. Now I am pleased to announce its official release. If you are interested in reading it click here.

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Truly Deep UUism – A Lifelong UU’s Vision

(Here’s the download link to the audio recording of the the below sermon of mine. This recording is of me giving it at my home church the Universalist Unitarian Church of Halifax on March 18, 2012)

If the members of Unitarian Universalism were to engage with it in a truly deep manner, I believe this would change its very nature for the better. This changed nature would become visible in the shifted emphasis and different style that this truly deep engagement would bring about. This shifted emphasis and different style would be most apparently felt in what I believe is the central activity of its communities, its Sunday morning worship. This change of style and focus would not just affect UU Sunday morning worship, but all the community building undertaken by the varying UU communities, be they national organization or local church.

What do I mean when I say “engaging with it in a truly deep manner”? I mean not being afraid to delve into theological concepts such as God, heaven, hell and savour. We as UUs, I believe, would do well to rid ourselves of the need to have any sacred cows, i.e. things we will not touch for the fear of offending others. Some of the things we have avoided engaging with have been things like Christ and Jesus. Other things we have been afraid to really engage with have been our UU heritage of Unitarian and Universalist Christianity. We as UUs I belive would do well to heed these words from the Rev. Dr. Victoria Weinstein;

“We have thus far in our post-merger existence as Unitarian Universalists treated our theological legacy with white gloves: as fragile, faded archival material to be handled as lightly as possible and then filed respectfully away in an attic or basement file cabinet, or as historical curiosities to be peered at curiously over the top of our spectacles, smiled fondly over, and left in the church library to be studied by the few UUs who ask for a key to the locked stacks.”

I am not saying we UUs need to believe all the teaching and doctrines of the ancestors of our religious tradition, but to cut ourselves off from them, or only get them out when we want to smugly pat ourselves on the back and say to ourselves, “few thank goodness we have moved past these silly old no longer relevant beliefs and have become more diverse and open”, will serve us no good. Neither is I believe cutting ourselves off from the teachings of our ancestral religious heritage, which in my case is Anglicanism and Christian Science on my mom’s side and on my dad’s side it is Catholicism. I acknowledge that many of us have come here from other churches of the Christian variety and are in the process of healing. But what I am saying is this avoidance has become something that is crippling. Crippling us from learning from the past and from being open to seeing the truths that I feel are to be found in these heritages. Truths that I believe are still relevant here for us in the 21st centry.

I believe it is this renewed engagement with theological concepts and with our religious heritage that will become the new focus for us. That is, if we will have the courage to make it so. I pray we will find the courage to make it so. This new focus on theology in general and the theology of our ancestors, more specifically, will lead us to needing to embrace a new style or way of doing things. This new style of doing things I feel will be needed because this engagement with theology will awaken in many of us feelings and desires that won’t be well served by intellectually reasoned discussion alone. To further these points of mine let me tell you two storys.

This first story happened at the young adult pre-con that took place last May at Neighbourhood Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Toronto, just prior to the Canadian Unitarian Council’s Annual Conference & Meeting. We had all gone off to partake in our varying workshops. One group was a planning and information group for a young adult camp taking place later this summer, one was a knitting and light discussion group and the other one was a play group. It was this play group I opted to join. All of us in this play group went to the congregation’s playground to play on the play structure. But it didn’t take long for us to find ourselves sitting on the play structure instead and talking. What were we talking about? Well we ended up talking about theology, ritual and communion, more specifically Holy Communion. We were recounting our experiences with Holy Communion and how wonderfully spiritual and moving they had been for us. And for those of us that had grown up attending a UU congregation, which was most of us in the group, we were expressing how we wished we had learned more about these things in our childhood congregations. We all thought it would be wonderful if our churches did Holy Communion and actually discussed theology instead of avoiding it most of the time. I should note that most of us in this workshop were raised UU and we had nearly all the raised UUs at the pre-con, say for a few others.

Now here is the second story. This story took place in Montreal durning the 2011 Christmas session. It centres around the young adult group at the Unitarian Church of Montreal that was just getting going again after a period of downturn. As I was living in Montreal at the time I was a member of this group. We were all sitting in the youth room in the downstairs of the church. After we had decided on which days and how often we wanted to meet, we set about deciding what we ought to do for our first meeting and who should host it. As it was approaching the Christmas season we thought; wouldn’t it be nice if we had a holiday party. That is when one of our members eagerly offered to host the first meeting at her apartment. She had grown up with Jewish traditions along with attending a UU church and was eager to share here tradition of Hanukkah with her fellow UU young adults. She was going to make the traditional Hanukkah food of latkes and the rest of us were to bring drinks and snacks to share. On the day of the party we all trickled into here place staring at 6:30. The earlier arrivals helped her to make the latkes. Once we all had arrived and most of the latkes had been cooked we sat dawn to eat. After we had finished our meal of latkes topped with apple sauce we listened to a recording of one of the traditional Hanukkah prayers she had on her computer and we lit the menorah. We lit all the candles of the menorah as if it was the last day of Hanukkah and this would be the last time we would see most of us until the new year. After she had explained abit more about this holiday we all went and sat on comfy furniture for conversation. We talked about all kinds of things including how sharing of tradition like we had just done was something we would all like to do more of. After a little while our host got out a children’s picture book she had grownup being read to her by her parents durning her Christmas celebrations. It was a French book about Saint Nicholas’ evil brother Pere Fouetchard who punished the noughty children on Christmas be stealing their gifts and whipping them. She read it to us just like she would regularly read books to the young children she taught religious education at the church to. After the story we had a little more conversation. And when it was time for us to go, we all left knowing we had partaken in something really special.

What are these storys telling us? The first one has in it an expressed desire by my fellow UU Young adults and I for more engagement with theology and ritual in our local UU churches. The second indicates a wish again by my fellow UU Young adults and I to celebrate and explore our ancestral religious traditions more with our fellow UUs. These stories are, I feel, an indication, if only anecdotally, that this new focus on theology and our religious heritage that I am calling us to undertake will be first embraced by my fellow UU young adults and I as we are already expressing a desire and I would say a need for this in our churches and UUism more broadly. I also believe if this new focus on theology, our religious heritages, and their accompanying rituals is to be fully embraced, we as individual UUs and collectively as local churches, will need to embrace a new style or way of doing things within our local churches and more broadly at a national organizational level within groups like the CUC here in Canada.

What will this new style look like? It will be one that encourages and makes room for moments designed to stir the soul, move the heart and invigour the body, as much, but not more so than the mind. It will be a style that continues to value intellectually reasoned discussion as part of its offerings while, at the same time striving to offer more opportunity for us to add components geared towards experiential experiences into the mix. Where will we find what we need to help us shape and mold this style into being? I think we have to look no further than to our UU youth community and its more than fifty years of history. What are some of the things this community has to offer us that will help in this endeavour? The major thing I feel it has to offer us is what it has to say on worship. The style of worship that is most commonly done by our UU youth at their youth conferences and sleepovers is one that is known as “UU Circle Worship”. UU Circle Worship has at its core, feeling. Its aim is to get its worship attendees, through the use of ritual, to feel a topic, idea or theme, rather than to think on or analyze it, which is what is usually the goal we have for our Sunday morning worship. It has also been described as a kind of communion by longtime UU Sharon Hwang Colligan. And it is this communion that we need to embrace if this new focus on theology and the theology of our religious ancestors is to take hold and be come our saving grace. I will leave you with this poem of mine called Finally Time, that I wrote earlier this year.

Finally Time

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its finally time
For us to mature
This thing we’ve now
In this sacred space
We’re just being spiritual
Spiritually oh so adolescent

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its time for
Us to be able
To say this thing
In this sacred space
It’s our own spiritualities
That are now maturing

Going to unleash the
Big one this time
‘Cause its finally time
For us to mature

Finally time
For us
To mature
This thing
In our
Sacred spaces
And it’s
Our spiritualities

Five things I would implement if I was in charge of starting a new UU church

This is not the post I promised about how my beliefs in God are moving my spiritual beliefs inline with Christian beliefs. That post will come next week.

I have already left a comment on the post Say no five times (sure to irritate everyone) over on fellow Unitarian Universalist Scott Wells’ blog Boy In The Band but I thought I would also come up with a list of the five things I would implement if I was in charge of starting a new Unitarian Universalist (UU) church. Here is my list just keep in mind that this list only reflects what I would ideal like to see in my dream UU church if I had complete control over things. This is a list of the five things in addition to what you could most likely expect to be included in a UU church. So here is my list.

  • It would have Sunday worship services that would be experientially focused rather than head centred. This would mean the form that the worship cervices would take would be one that resembles greatly the one that is used by UU youth at their youth conferences and young adults at their camp weekends. These would be ones that are facilitated by the minister but put on by members of the church community interested in worship and its elements (ritual, music and readings ect). This worship service would be one that would leave the worshipers with a sense that their souls had been touched and that they had been moved spiritually.
  • We would have an environment that encouraged lots of exploration of God. This exploration of God would happen in the Sunday worship services, the children’s RE classes, the youth group and the adult learning classes just to name a few. The mane porpoise of this exploration of God would be to bring the church goers closer to God as well as to make the church a place were his love over flows.
  • Music would be a key part of the church. Not just through a church choir and the singing of a few hymns every Sunday in the worship service but, through music being a part of the full religious life of the church by being a central part of each of it’s attendees own spiritual lives. Loud and emotionally focused stiles of music would also be come part of the everyday mix including rock and modern country music songs plus other song don in thees styles, yes ones with lyrics that call the worshipper to be closer with God and be remind of his ever available love for them.
  • The church would have church goers that put their religious life at the centre of their lives. That means ahead of spurts and other extracurricular activity like Scots ect.
  • The church would be a central hub for the wider community it is located in. Yes the wider local community members would feel comfortable coming and hanging out at the church.

I will summarize what my church will be all about. It will be a God centred church. One with church goers who’s lives are centred on religion, their religious home and the spiritual growth and spiritual maturity of their fellow spiritual seekers. Thy will use ecstatic worship and loud emotional music to help them get closer to God and to help have his love pore all over them and their church. They will work at making their church a safe and loving place for them to hang with their fellow humans from the surrounding community.

About “The Rockin Lock-in”

I meant to post this a long time ago but it took me until now to finish it. So here it is:

On Friday February the 9th I along with a friend and fellow Ottawa Unitarian Universalist young adult (Rod ESQ) went by VIA Rail, playing a good game of travel Scrabble along the way, to the first of what looks like now will be, a series of regional over night events for Unitarian Universalist young adults. It was an event called “The Rockin Lock-in” which was hosted be the McGill University affiliated Unitarian Universalist group simply known as “The UU Crew”, and it was held at the Unitarian Church of Montreal. It went dawn from Friday evening starting with a late super of veggie chilli, backed potato and salad. In attendance was Unitarian Universalist youth mostly aged 18-25ish from Vermont, of cores Montreal and yes us two from Ottawa. It was open to Unitarian Universalists young adults (18-35) from all across Ontario, Quebec, and the northern United States, but do to it being the first of it’s kind in the aria it had only a small but cozy number of people. We where greeted by my brother a member of The UU Crew and a former member of our group “The Young Adults (AKA The Noble Birds)”. After the meal and a casual overview of the rules we did an icebreaker game. Then we all went out on to the churches front steps to start a little worship service which was on the them of “rock”, and it ended downstairs in the carpeted room called The Children’s Chapel. The worship it included the singing of a few hymns and all of us telling what we considered to be our rocks. And wen it was over a bunch of us went and looked at the Religious Education games. Their was of cores, Monopoly, Risk, and this vary cool quapertive game which I fawned called “Hugs And Tickles”. So a bunch of us went back into The Children’s Chapel and set about paying it. It was fun, but at first we ware all mocking it because we realized we ware all brought up only playing adversarial games like chess. But after a bit we all started liking it. It was a game which consisted of a series of payers which we would all tack terns moving around the bored, by rolling a pear of dice. The dice had on opposite sides a picture of a person and one the other sides, the image of The Blues. The Blues was a scary looking blue cloud creature. And if we rolled two blues, we would move the blues two spaces. And if we rolled two people, we would move any combination of the people pieces forward the equivalent of two spaces, but if the people landed on the a cared square, we got to pickup a cared which would allow us to do something god for our selves. They ware things like a motivational cheer or a love squeeze. But we could only use them wen we thought that the blue was getting to close. And after using one The Blues would be sent back to it’s starting square. And ones we had gotten all the people pieces around the board we would win the game and The Blues would have lost but till this day we have still not one. Well that is because we got a blank cared, and a blank cared allows you to do something good you come up with yourselves. So we decided to go have a brake and drink some tee and socialize. And as fare as I now we are still on brake. Well following the game we went and had some random fun, which consisted of hopping races and then a spontaneous workshop that consisted of us tacking turns staring lovingly into each others eyes. So following the workshop we went and joined the rest of the conferees for our night of sleep. In the morning we gout up and had fresh Montreal still bagels and orange juice or coffee and discussed the possibilities of having another event like this one, and then we did a closing activity. The closing activity was a big group hug and by the time we had all finished hugging it was noon and time for everyone to go. Me and my friend headed of with my brother to his small apartment to which we ware staying over at until Sunday. We got to me bro’s place we had something to eat then we went out to a bar. And at the bar we played a great game of travel Scrabble. Later that evening we had an enthralling discussion all about Unitarian Universalist young adult programming. The next morning we went back to the church to attend the Sunday service which was on the seven Unitarian Universalist principles wen we went out for lunch with some of the young adults. Following the lunch we went to the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. It was so cool in fact they had this short video, which was a re-enactment this artist did with, is daughter of Moby Dick set in a kitchen. Following the museum we went back to my brother palace and packed up and went home again by VIA Rail train.

The fourth principle

This past summer, I along with many of the other members of my church’s young adult group, The Young Adults(AKA The Noble Birds), put on a Sunday morning worship service. It was on the seven Unitarian Universalist principles and their sources,

The Principles and Sources of Our Religious Faith

Principals

We, the member congregations of the Canadian Unitarian Council, covenant to 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.

Sources

The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:

· direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
· words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
· wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
· Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbours as ourselves;
· Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
· spiritual teachings of Earth-centred traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.”

and was called “The Passion of The Principles”a play one the name of the Mel Gibson film “The Passion of The Christ”. I spoke on the fourth principal “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning”. And this is what I said:
“Erroll J Bailey’s elderly character “Junior” from his novel “Mr. Dream Merchant” said it best when speaking to his young teenage student “Chase”, and I quot “You see, in this world, all of us are born human beings. Yet unless we are also deeply rooted in spirituality, our gift is lost. We then fall into the state that I chose to call human doing.” He was referring to a relationship with God and his holy work but I think this can be said for all things to which one may encounter in life to which they may find to bring them a feeling of spiritual, ah, reevaluation or incite. But I would also advise that people watch out fore how they go about this being spiritually aware because if not careful they can inhibit others from folly exploring what they may derive spiritual benefit from, whether that is a physical place, a phenomenon or object, like a mountain, hosing subdivision, a sunset, or even a piece of writing. Junior also gos on to say to his young teenage student, “Tomorrow, you must observe-watch people. Listen. Be aware of how many people are occupied with doing, doing, doing. People are obsessed with the doing of the journey, not the being of the journey. They have all forgotten how to be.” I Would like you all here today to try over the next few days to watch the folks around you and I think you will find this to be trow. And further Chase responds by saying “Mane, this is some deep stuff”. Yes this is some deep stuff, but listen to how Junior responds to Chase. Yes he instructs Chase to. “Listen and observe. You will find that most people think that growth in life is acquiring material possessions. It is sad that they are controlled with such an obsession. As well if you would as you observe people doing instead of being also try to be aware to the fact that many are also in a rush to have the next big fiscal item like a flat panel plasma TV, thus giving them little time, to be spiritual beings, and thereby casing the world to be filed with many more unsatisfied, as Junior would say “human doings”. So I will end with this poem I have written, one entitled “Life, Death And Living”, which is all about the act of living life and its eventual end.

People are born with the inevitable fact that they will die hanging over their head
Some of them try to prolong life
Others seem to have no respect for those living it
Still others go throw it with out even experiencing its full potential
And wen the time comes for death people die whether their willing or not
Some are remembered but must are slowly forgotten
People are born with the inevitable fact that they will die hanging over their heads