Bookmark this resource for better print publications

A couple of years ago I ordered a book called Typography for Lawyers in order to improve the quality of office communications. And it really helped, until I misplaced it. (I’m sure I’ll find it which behind a bookcase one day.)


Today I saw this tweet which pointed me to Practical Typography, an abridged version of the book, now as an online publication. This is a wonderful development.

So now I would like you to do two things

  1. Read the section “Typography in ten minutes.”
  2. And give some money to the author. (He recommends $5–$10, so I’ll give $7.50.) It may be the best money you spend all day.

I’ll be referring to this book (and what I do with it) in coming weeks.

Making sense of the last UUA Board meeting

The news about the recent Unitarian Universalist Association Board of Trustees meeting, in UUWorld online magazine (“Consultant to aid impasse between UUA board, administration“) deserves plenty of attention. And you are welcome to leave comments here.

I’m left wondering if the board is micromanaging, if the higher reaches of the management team is incompetent, or (what I think the real issue is) that the Association is governed by a corporate management style that is unsuitable to our policy, tradition and culture. And perhaps even good sense: if you’re given to self-punishment let me recommend you read the Board packets from the last several years. It’s impossible to think anyone not on the Board would have the time or stamina to be able to follow the process, and its product looks more like generating more process than say, new congregations, building loans, print or online publications, a new hymnal, religion education materials, etc. etc. etc. And need I remind anyone that the President is as much an elected official as the Moderator?

Performance metrics, however well-loved in the nonprofit sector today, can lead staff to “work to the test” and (at their worst) can become a kind of performance art which steer the work of the Association staff away from practical work.

Unlike Unitarian Universalist minister and blogger Tom Schade, I think the $100,000 the board reserved for a consultant is a valid point of discussion. (I agree about the high dudgeon, though.) $100,000 is unlikely to go very far in the world of organizational management consulting; and perhaps no do more than a few elections to change the dynamics in the board and administration. Do the remaining staff members, already with constrained budgets, wonder how seriously their work is taken? If I was one of the ten staff members who lost their jobs in the last round of layoffs the idea, that $100,000 worth of consulting would be a bitter bit of news. Congregational leaders, themselves under tight budgets, are asked to make the “fair share” to the Annual Program Fund, and I would wonder if it was being well used.

In short, the UUA acts like the kind of legacy organization or corporation that persons my age and younger than I mock. (TPS reports anyone?) Losing the old headquarters building and the new regional structure — belt-tightening dressed as progress — will lessen long-cultivated emotional warmth to the UUA. This latest performance will convince “the next generation” (younger than me) that the best place to lead, to serve and to share resource may well be some place different than the current structures of the Unitarian Universalist Association. If you don’t like what you see, vote with your feet and support new ways.

Churches are slow

An office-mate — for those who don’t know, I’ve worked for the past decade in the non-profit field, not in churches — pointed out a New York Times article about how hard it is to make congregations green. (“Solar Panels Rare Amid the Steeples” by Kath Galbraith. But what lept out was the management issue, not the technology.

Experts say that churches, like other houses of worship, face particular challenges in going green because of unusual architecture and an often slow decision-making culture.

One of the biggest barriers to going green may be the way churches are run. With many volunteers involved, meetings can be sporadic and budgeting processes slow, according to Ms. Moorhead. “Churches aren’t running on the same kind of cash-flow model as a business,” she said.

So when I saw the fun and quirky promotional video for the tea-positive, London-based “church for atheists” The Sunday Assembly, what lept out was the goal to help others extend their work “as soon as possible…” (1:08) I almost fell out of my chair. God bless ’em (or something like that.)

It’s Lent: the time when Christian churches put the focus on slowing down and reflecting. But I wonder when the speed-up-and-finish-the-job season will come; I have to think glacial behavior scares off good, patience-tested people.

An old order of service at the old church

A little Google-noodling lead me to this order of service from Universalist National Memorial Church in 1939. Yes, the service is on one leaf — very different than the norm (in most any church) today. Indeed,

  • an outline pasted in the hymnal
  • hymns and readings on the hynmboards, and
  • announcements from the lectern would produce a similar outcome.

The difference is what the congregants then expected to receive, which is (I suspect) why today’s order of service idiom is essentially the same, bun only more elaborated. Add color, pictures, the full content of hymns today, say, … but is the printed bulletin any more useful or helpful to newcomers, who surely rely on it more than the old hands.

Best church website?

Church websites come and go, and what’s considered good changes so much. But their value is hard to overstate.

Have you seen (by your own definition) some really good sites lately? Extra credit for pointing out Unitarian Universalist (or Universalist, Unitarian, Free Christian or kindred) ones.

Nineteenth century "new media" social networks: thoughts for Universalist history

I found an article as a link (and example) of the author’s use of plain text to compose complex (in his case, academic) documents. I’m being drawn to this practice as a way to improve my productivity. (I now often use UberWriter, a GUI frontend application to pandoc, but will also use pandoc on the command line directly.)

But that’s not what inspires this post. That example of academic history is about role of personal relationships to build trust in the water cure. There’s something about nineteenth century American fringe movements — like mesmerism, abolitionism and women’s rights — that makes me wonder if there are lessons for Universalist history. And I hadn’t considered personal repute so clearly. (Family ties were, and still are, key in historic Southern Universalist churches.)

A thought.

A Unitarian Universalist wish list

Sometimes it helps to ask: “what would you like to see? what resources do you wish could exist? what connections do you wish existed? what problem would you like to resolve?” Think about issues that might concern many congregations, but may or may not be normally handled by denominational staff. I’m thinking within the Unitarian Universalist milieu, but not exclusively. I’ve got a bias towards “projects” (read that loosely) that others can build upon or modify to suit particular circumstances.

Ideas, anyone?

The twenty-times-a-year church

I have been combing the pages of the Non-Subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland and came across one church – small, remote? – that meets less than weekly but more than monthly in a very sensible pattern:

  • nine months, meeting twice a month (first and third Sunday in this case)
  • two months, meeting once (January and February in this case)
  • one month without worship (here, August)

That’s twenty services a year. While I’d recommend not taking off August in the U.S. experience, to not miss the area newcomers, there’s a logic to putting thin resources where they are needed. In some areas, a preacher may come a very long distance. In other cases, the homegrown worship leadership is hardstretched. Or perhaps capacity is up from a once-a-month service but not so much as to double the activity.

If weekly or oftener worship is an impractical option, and hard weather (icy roads, un-air-conditioned church) makes some seasons more difficult than others, then this structure might be a good steward.

I’ve also written about other schedules: ten times a year, and the liminal case of worship once or twice a year.

New "Union Prayer Book" and old "Parish Practice" arrived today

I’ll keep this brief because I came home feeling not-so-well today. Two books that I had ordered arrived: the hot-off-the-presses new addition of the Union Prayer Book, Sinai Edition, Revised And a used copy of Parish Practice in Universalist Churches, by Robert Cummins.


The first is a modern adaptation of a classic Reform Jewish prayer book and I’m excited to review it since it has many of the same liturgical sensibilities of classic Unitarian liturgy. Indeed the Sinai referred to in the title is Chicago Sinai Congregation, its source. Chicago, as many of my readers know, is also a wellspring of this Unitarian liturgical tradition I referenced.

The other book is what it says on the label, written in 1946 by a well-loved, now-deceased General Superintendent of the Universalist Church of America. Fun fact: This copy was withdrawn from Andover Newton and was last checked out 40 years ago.

More details about these, and the Coptic works I’ve been writing about as soon as I can.