Book give-away

I’m spending part of my summer clearing out books. Duplicates. Those I’ll never read, or never read again. Those that hae a marginal interest to me but might mean more to others.

If you read this blog, and live in the U.S., drop me a note through the contact form stating that you’d like to browse the list of books I’m offering, once it’s done. Note if you’re a seminarian (and where) — I’ll give you first dibs.

UniversalistChristian domain updates

I have two closely-named domains that I’m trying to make better use of. Here’s an update.

  1. started out as a mirror of the historical documents I kept at — I’ve been having problem with that domain; to be fixed — and thus is the clearest continuation of the websites I started in 1996. I’ve made it a bit cleaner, and, in time, want to give it a better typographical presence as outlined by Matthew Butterick. I’ll also be cleaning up typos in the worship section and adding new content.
  2. was most recently (and until yesterday) a sandbox for the new UU WordPress theme. But that’s a waste of the domain, so I’ve taken it down and am reserving it for a companion project to, and in so doing, will give them proper names.

Volunteer time is valuable

There are lots of reasons named for why churches are changing, such a more secular culture, wider social options and the rise of the Internet. But reasons related to resources make the most sense to me. Is this thing — an organized religious life — worth money to me? And timeā€¦ is it worth my time? Increasingly, the answer is no.

Time to attend services — and commute to them. That’s a problem for Unitarian Universalists outside Massachusetts, who are usually organized at the municipal or multi-country level. And it means that the volunteer time we ask of people should be valued very highly. Perhaps so highly that some labor-intensive activities need to vanish.

They can be retired, left to starve from disinterest or (worse) be resented for the precious labor they demand. Volunteers deserve to be treated as scarce and valuable resource; if not, others will do a better job tending to them and the churches will really be strapped.

Value of Volunteer Time Up 49 Cents in 2015” (Philanthropy News Digest)

I will attend Columbus GA

Well, the housing block for General Assembly opened this week, and althought there was a false start that allowed some people to register on February 29, I can’t complain because I got a room!

I will attend Columbus, Ohio General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association this year.

It’s long been my opinion that you can get a lot done at General Assembly — so long as you don’t rely on the formal agenda. I treat the experience as an opportunity: the people who are likely to help you get something done are more likely to be in that one place, so here’s an easy way to build the relationships and dream big. I intend to meet a lot of people for coffee and lunch and beer.

But the area around the convention center doesn’t look great for easy dining, so I’ll review by notes from the Disciple of Christ, who had their General Assemly there last year. Posts and maps forthcoming.

And if you’re interested in taking to me at GA, please get in touch.

The Christmas service at different sizes

I’ve been thinking about Christmas Eve and Christmas Day services, as one does at Christmas.

I’ve long thought that a model 40-minute long service could be a helpful resource for churches to have, and have thought about what it might include, but haven’t made the case out loud of why 40 minutes. After all, it made a lot of sense to me but I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of it.

But if 40 minutes, then why not 20 or 10? Well, those could make sense too, but for different reasons, and that made me think of use cases. So before working out what those services might include, I wanted to think of adequate occasions for having them.

The 40-minute service might make sense:

  • For Christmas Day in a congregation wanting to develop a custom, but with few resources or committed attendees.
  • For an additional Christmas eve service: perhaps one more lean and more subdued for an adult audience who does want to be left out of the season, but doesn’t want the full blowout. Or doesn’t want to be left out of dinner reservations!
  • For a smaller church that shares a minister with another congregation, and needs to keep the liturgy short. Or uses borrowed or rented meeting space and can’t run long.

If the 40-minute service is to make the most of the available options, a 20-minute service might be needed when there are no other options.

  • An opt-in service at a workplace where the staff cannot attend a service at a church. In the breakroom, with people eating a meal as it goes on?
  • Before a group sets out on a trip or service project.
  • In very remote places, or in places where the language of worship is a minority language in the community, under the heading “it’s better than nothing at all.”

To those used to “the worship hour” this may seen lean, but morning or evening prayer can certainly be said within 20 minutes, and I attended a minor saint’s day communion service once many years ago that I timed to exactly 17 minutes.

It’s easier to imagine these led by a trained or experienced lay person.

A 10-minute service make sense for the benefit of one person, or a small group of people. Someone sick or near the end of life, for whom not only is there no option of going to church, but may only have a limited capacity to participate. The service may be at bedside; communion comes to mind. This suggests a less casual approach and pastoral direction, or at least pastoral support, and may be some other time than December 24 or 25.

So, dear readers, do these seem like approximately correct use cases?

At Lent: less meat, less Google

Lent begins today, but the Protestant in me has never been very comfortable in the imposition of ashes on Ash Wednesday. I went along in seminary, and followed local practice in my last pastorate, but since that ended haven’t — to coin a phrase — haven’t been imposed upon.

Still, I’ve been reflecting more deeply and now vocally about two things that have bothered me for some time. First, I’m not eating meat, at least nothing I’ve not already bought. I suspect there’ll be a place for the odd anchovy or oyster in my future, but food with feet are right off the menu. (I suspect the fish will be spared in time.) Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals — and its sideways take-down of Michael Pollen’s macho-neurotic The Omnivore’s Dilemma — is the most proximate cause. Foer makes a good case ethically and philosophically, but my faith is why I listen to him and not others. I hear St. Paul in Romans (8:18-25, here NRSV)

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Behind the groans, I hear the moos and bleets and chirping. Is salvation pushed so far future that it can not be tasted now? And if it is known now, how can it be enjoyed from the suffering of others. It is, at least in my setting, needless. And needless suffering must be rejected. (Just labor and trade are other concerns, and I’ve written about these, at my Boy in the Bands blog. And shall continue the practical pieces of this theme there.)

If not eating animals is an experience of realized eschatology, then my concern about Google is about freedom and consumption. I mention it in tandem with vegetarianism because I feel obese with the amount of data I’m consuming, and such a large part coming from and through Google. Or if I was to cite scripture, Google seems a lot like Mammon. It’s like a cheap, convenient and delicious food — but it’s not the world, and recent mistakes — such as Google Buzz — suggests that the clever kids from Mountain View are either testing the waters or are tone-deaf to the privacy concerns of its users. Bad, bad move. Again, practical details at Boy in the Bands. (In a related note, former office-mate Lizzie is giving up Facebook and Twitter for Lent.)

I’m back, but not quite ready for blogging

Scott Wells in front of the Cologne Dom 2009-10-12 14.33.10My “scheduled outage” was a vacation Hubby and I took to Paris, Cologne and Bonn.

We’ve been back almost a week, but I’m not quite ready to blog again. I only have so many observations — church-wise — to make, and besides a project at Day Job is quite consuming right now, and plans there fill my thoughts even at home.

But the real “problem” is that I’m not sure what I have to say, and would rather be silent than try and fill the void. (Vaguer and more frivolous thoughts may go to Boy in the Bands.)

The Or-Sleep Church

Threw my back out today, and on muscle relaxers and prescription pain meds. Not a good formula for blogging, so I’ll make it up tomorrow.

More about Scott Wells

Scott Wells

Age: 38

Blog: Boy in the Bands


1969-07-02 born
1999-09-19 ordained
2003-07-05 married Jonathan Padget

Favourite musicians:

The Smiths
Kate Bush
Talking Heads
Michael Nyman

Favourite food:

Thai tofu red curry
banana pudding