The lonely Christian

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 : —
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.

Model: Ubuntu Open Week — what if churches . . . ?

Fascinating. Announced today:

We are really pleased to announce Ubuntu Open Week!

Ubuntu Open Week is a week of IRC tuition and Q+A sessions all about getting involved in the rock-and-roll world that is the Ubuntu community. We organise this week for the beginning of a new release cycle to help new contributors get involved.

IRC — Internet Relay Chat — is an old (pre-Web) conferencing model, like IM for groups. Chat rooms, if you’re of a certain age. So we’re talking about opt-in lessons at what I’m thinking will be low cost.

Check the calendar. It reminds me of General Assembly in a way, which would be a plus, even if you intend to go to Salt Lake City.

Later. This is post #2500.

Powers of Ten

I remember seeing this film, perhaps when my family took our trip to D.C. in 1978. Thirty years on, its seamless display of the continuity of existence has stuck with me, and has surely influenced my beliefs.

And bonus! It comes from “the office of Charles and Ray Eames” Not just chairs or stamps!

Thanks to bookofjoe for pointing this out.

UU resource featured on tools site

Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools site is one of my favorites for finding the perfect tool that does many jobs.

Normally that’s a physical artifact, but today he recommends a free download — a book and site about games called Deep Fun — that comes from the Unitarian Universalist Association.


Practice now to cope later

Whether you look to the emerging global environmental crisis, the emerging global financial crisis or the spiritual and cultural crisis that may come from the two, I think life is going to be harder for most people as time goes on. Of course, for millions, the hardship may be fatal or at the very least cast them (or us) into unrecoverable decline. Just take the alarming increase in the price of rice as data point, but there are many others. How are we to survive, much less flourish?

I have been very grateful lately for my upbringing which put a practical (perhaps moral) value on thrift, inventiveness and freedom from debt. I grew up thinking it normal to strip off all the buttons on a shirt that’s being reduced to a rag; I still do. Grateful, too, for my faith which buoys me against loud (but not compelling) distractions and appeals to selfishness.

Another concept. I think it’s important to maintain institutions — local farms, American or regional manufacture, rail travel — even if its value isn’t immediately profitable, because without which we won’t have the capacity or experience to make an orderly transition to a more survivable state. There’s been a lot of talk (say, around ethanol as an auto fuel) about “having it all” in a new and green way, but I’m not buying it. I believe the solution come far more from character than technology, and it’s important to maintain and restore capacity there, too.

Blogger and Anglican priest Andii Bowsher (Nouslife) draws the line between (two of) the points about something that’s been bothering me, which he drew from an op-ed in the New York Times.

Do we have the capacity to cope? Perhaps not, or not yet.

But better to stretch and understand what the Times writers call willpower than wait until we need more than we can possible muster.

Tighten Your Belt, Strengthen Your Mind” by Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang. (April 2, 2008)

For flannelgraph: "green" felt

Good news ye crafty types: the Kunin Group makes craft felt from Ecospun-brand fiber, made exclusively from recycled PET bottles. That’s the #1 plastic most associated with soft-drink bottles. The fiber comes from the Foss Manufacturing Company, a United States mill that has remained in business by going after niche markets. (They also make fleece for clothing which might also be popular this time of year.)

A US-made product made of recovered materials? What’s not to love? I’m going to have to get some (JoAnn Fabric sells it) if I ever make a flannelgraph set-up for teaching.

A familiar name speaking to Conservative Friends

The world is too small. For the last couple of weeks, I have been reading Quakers sites, especially the Conservative ones since they have a mix of disciple and witness that seems a bit familiar, a bit provocative and rather underappreciated.

Since the Conservative Friends only have three Yearly Meetings, it didn’t take long to peruse the Ohio Yearly Meeting site and read its newsletters, available from the front page as PDFs. Issues 26 and 27 had a two-part article. I started skimming it . . . interesting . . . look to the top . . . aaaah! F/friends, we have returned to the world of One Degree of Separation.

The author was a friend, the Rev. Nurya Love Parrish, one of the past ministers of the Epiphany Community Church, Fenton, Michigan. (Epiphany was the first Christian church started within the UUA since 1961.)

Do read her article, but what I noticed she made some of the connections I was beginning to make:

God led me to discover church. I discovered the Unitarian Universalist Association, the UUA—a group of congregations whose theology more or less mirrors the current theology of Friends General Conference. A significant aspect of this theology is its lack of clarity and thus its inability to make significant truth claims. On the positive side, the UUs did not ask me to accept confusing theological concepts, but instead accepted me as I was, with all my questions and doubts and concerns.

. . .

Again the Lord was active in my life and led me to discover continuing Christians among the Unitarian Universalists—people who play a part in the UUA much like the part Conservative Friends play in the larger Friends movement.

I think she’s right. The FGC looks like it is making the same moves with respect to Christianity the UUA has already made: I know how that story ends. Being open to new truth also means being open to what was laid down.

Online theological education

Gordon-Conwell, one of the more sensible Evangelical seminaries, has a free online “seminary level” theological education program which can lead to a certificate.  Very interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is that it gives unsure learners a better idea if seminary is the right path. Or it fills a need for higher-level congregational theological education. It doesn’t hurt Gordon-Conwell’s reputation either.

Hattip: Tensegrities, where she goes in more depth into what the mainline hasn’t done with online theological education.

Seed in a cup 2.0

Do kids still grow seeds in cups to see the mystery of new life (and early death)? Some valuable lessons there.

Which made me thought about a project I saw at MAKE Magazine and the MAKE: Blog about making one’s own biosphere in a jar.

If you’ve gotten high-concept, high-priced catalogs, you’ve seen ads for these sealed glass baubles, filled with water, brine shrimp and aquatic plants.  Provided it gets an input of  sunlight, it can remain a closed biosphere.  (But I’ve wondered how long they really last.  Another, perhaps unintended, lesson.)

The MAKE project is the same idea. With a pickle jar.   My inner tween self — a quarter-century past — would have loved this.  The current middle-aged one still thinks it’s neat.

Watch the video podcast!

Read the directions! (PDF)

Look at a biosphere-maker’s photos!