Article on “The Great Dechurching”

At church yesterday, over coffee, we talked about an article in the Washington Post concerning a new book which studied attitudes of those withdrawing from churches. The trajectory is not good, but the news was better than I thought. Some of the measured decline was about convenience and fitting in, and not just theology or anger towards churches. I wasn’t going to mention it here since I assume most of you do not have a Washington Post subscription. But on rereading it, saw that it was a Religion News Service story, and they have it on their site.

The Great Dechurching’ Explores America’s Religious Exodus

I’m thinking about getting the book. Anyone else interested in it?

How big is this communion cup?

So, at church today I saw this communion cup left in the pew rack. It must have been overlooked the last time we had communion.

So I brought it home to measure, wash and return. And since I have a portable kit with similar glasses, I’ll measure those and see if they are a standard size.

Calipers out (don’t you have church calipers?) I see it is

  • 36.7 mm diameter at the rim
  • 26 mm in diameter at the base
  • 47.1 mm tall

On the scales, I see it weighs 22g empty, and can hold about 10ml to the rim. But that’s an impractical amount for a service; 6ml is about right.

But then on sight, I could see the glasses in the portable case and the church set are different. The glasses in the portable set are

  • 39.8 mm diameter at the rim
  • 25.2 mm diameter at the base
  • 37.5 mm tall

It weighs 16g empty, holds about 7ml to the rim, and should be filled with 4 or 5 ml. A smaller, squatter glass makes sense for a portable kit, to be fair.

But why measure? Threes reasons come to mind: finding matching replacement glasses, details for making communion trays (in the wood shop, or perhaps today 3D printed) and to buy and carry the right amount of wine or juice.

Two glass cups on a black surface
The cup from church is one the left.

Connecting the Philadelphia and New England Conventions

Originally there were two Universalist convention bodies, but the Philadelphia Convention died no later than 1809. It was the New England Convention that eventually developed into the Universalist Church of America, and that was what consolidated with the American Unitarian Association to form the Unitarian Universalist Association.

So, if the Philadelphia Convention (1790-1809) was an ecclesiastic dead-end, then why was its Articles of Faith and Plan of Church Government cited and reprinted? Antiquarian interest?

Richard Eddy comes to the rescue in his Universalism in America (vol 2, p. 432).

it’s because the Philadelphia plan was adopted by the New England Convention in 1794, and later adapted or amplified by the meeting at Winchester, N.H. in 1803. That 1794 meeting was the one where Ballou was famously ordained by Elhanan Winchester, with a bible pushed into his chest.

Quickly-made presentations

Some day I’ll go into my document processing workflow, but I have a workshop coming up and that’ll call for a presentation. That’s the theme today. It won’t be a “PowerPoint” — that semi-genericized term for meeting-killing, over-engineered presentation visuals — mind you, but a set of slides that exist as a PDF file, that are much easier to put together.

First, the text, like almost all of my work products, is set down in Markdown, a simple way of marking-up text to use as-is, or to post-process into other formats. (For those in the know, I use Github-flavored Markdown, an extended version.)

For the production of the slides, I use the beamer class within LaTeX. LaTeX is a hoary and rather difficult typesetting engine. commonly used in the hard sciences and mathematics.

But I want something easier, so I use pandoc, a command-line tool that processes a Markdown file through beamer to get the PDF output. Try pandoc through a web interface; beamer tranformations don’t work though.

“The Easiest Way to Make Presentations! (Pandoc + Markdown)” (Luke Smith)

Confused yet? This video should clear it up, and if that doesn’t appeal pandoc has other presentation options. and since it has found a vital place at the core of my document workflow, I’d recommend try it in any case.

Small Universalist churches aren’t new

Reading though Russell Miller’s The Larger Hope I came across these sentence about the Philadelphia Convention, which I’m reading about now.

Universalist societies in fellowship between 1790 and 1809 were small, weak, and lacked financial resources. With the exception of the Philadelphia church, the largest had only fifteen members and one only had six. (vol. 1; p. 79, citing Richard Eddy, Universalism in America, vol 2, p. 122.)

Cleaning up

One of the problems of writing about Universalism so long is that when I search the web about something I don’t know, I often find something old I wrote or transcribed, but had forgotten about. Or sometimes, something I’ve written about but have neglected.

I’ve been thinking about how the Universalists viewed elders (the church office) much like I wondered about deacons last year. That lead me back to the 1790 Philadelphia Convention, its Articles of Faith and its Plan of Church Government. Oh look: the page has typographic and styling errors. I need to work on that.

It and Universalist Christian Initiative ( need a general refresh. I’ve not touched either in three years, and that also means relearning the engine that generated them, Jekyll.

But it’s not just a clean up job, or a polity dive. I’d like to know more about the church building the Philadelphia Universalist had (an interesting story in its own right) and more about a shadowy minister from what are now the far exurbs of Washington, D.C.

So, will I ever blog again? I’ve had some version of this blog for twenty years now and it has had its ups and downs, but I’ve written little in the last few years. My heart’s not been in it. It was a lot more fun when there was cross-talk between blogs, but I don’t expert to see so much of that ever again.

But even if the band got back together, I doubt I would ever go back to blogging the same way with a particular Unitarian Universalist Association beat (it’s hard to muster interest) or a self-imposed writing schedule (as I never had the readership to justify it.) Long form Universalist writing will go first to the Universalist Christian Initiative, which I desperately need to restart or close. But it seems worthwhile, so I’ll put my mind to that.

So let’s see if I can make a proper weblog of it; a place where I can log resources and thoughts that come to mind without getting too caught up in making a presentable article.

Hymns in “Adoru Kantante” (1971)

A few days ago, I got a comment under the Esperanto-language Ordo de Diservo (1907) page asking “Would you have examples of popular hymns which would have been translated in Esperanto?”

Rather conveniently, I just attended the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto (World Congress of Esperanto) in Turin, and there bought a copy of the 1971 Adoru Kantante, published by the majority-Protestant Kristana Esperantista Ligo Internacia, or KELI. I’ve been a member of KELI for years.

I’ve not examined in closely or even read the introduction, but I already like the selection of hymns and the printed format. Bound in a red plastic textured like buckram, loose enough to open, and attractively typeset, it’s easier to hold and use than the brick-like 2001 ecumenical Adoru in wider use today. More than that, the hymns seem suited to smaller congregations — how big will your average Esperanto worshipping community be? — with an assortment of rounds.

The list of hymns is available at, but these are the Esperanto first lines, while the titles in the book are the titles in the original language, with an additional language if it’s well known. Among these are many well-known and well-loved hymns. Some a derived from Psalms. This is the list that follows.

More about this hymnal later.

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