Up next

Looking back at the last two “what I’ll be writing about next” shows I’ve let some ideas slide. This is as much for me as you, the reader.

I’ll be focusing on

  • Wrapping up (for now) the series on the Independent Sacramental Movement by looking at its historic intersections (plural) with Unitarianism
  • Uncovering themes for those using the Revised Common Lectionary
  • Looking back on Universalist non-geographic churches
  • Revisiting by text workflow
  • Reviewing Allin’s Christ Triumphant, which I have started reading

And, of course, preaching. I have a sermon to preach next week and in one in November. I’ll put those texts here, too.

What you say when you say “all are welcome”

It’s become an article of faith in mainline churches to declare that “all are welcome.” Sometimes there will be a rainbow flag to seal the deal, implying that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people are welcome to attend services, become members and possibly engage in leadership. Maybe. Since it all depends on attitudes and policy, and if and where these differs from actual practice. Sometimes a vague welcome to skirt a denominational policy, or to manage internal conflict. But nothing objectively welcoming LGBT people, and for a long time that’s as good as it got. But it’s not the 90s and that’s not good enough any more.

I’ve disliked the formula “all are welcome” for years. The logic reads to me this way: that LGBT people are so outre, so exceptional, so horrible that everybody else has to be included before their needs are recognized. Um, thanks. In practice, some people are not welcome at any particular church, say, at the very least persons who are an immediate harm to other people should not be welcomed.  (If they’re welcome, their victims aren’t.) Other churches can pick up the slack for that abusive husband, thank you. “All are welcome” gently merges LGBT people and the truly despicable or dangerous.

Also, welcoming assumes an attitude from one group to another, as if LGBT people haven’t been in the churches all along to welcome newcomers.

The initiative Church Clarity provides defined standards for LGBT inclusion and women’s leadership. Churches can self-report, but anyone can ask out loud how clear a church’s policies are.

So, to the churches, liberal or not:  be true to yourself, but be honest with those who are coming to you. (This is especially the case with churches with a progressive aesthetic but conservative morality, particularly among the non-denominational Evangelicals.)

Don’t wink and nod and think that makes progress. State your policies clearly, and stand by them.

Making this site lighter

Three days ago, this site weighed in at about 1.1 megabytes. Not the end of the world, but not keeping with a lighter internet and a shared responsibility for reduced server energy demand. It’s now just under 600 kilobytes, so quicker loading and better for your data plan.

Here’s what I did:

  • I think I have removed all my trackers.
  • Downgraded the “hero image” of the Jersey Universalist Church — though it now has a lot of artifacts (visual static) and it is still 100 kilobytes by itself. I should see if I can find an attractive theme without the hero image feature.
  • Removed the large version of my photo from the bottom of the page.
  • Hid large images below a “more” fold.
  • Disabled the Jetpack plugin. Now I don’t see where people come from or what article drew them in. (Though the answer is almost always, “the United States” and “anything controversial about the UUA.”)
  • Turned off Gravatars in the comments. I’m the only one who uses them, and my picture is already at the top of the page.

So now my site is more private, for you, too. Not sure if I’ll keep to all these reductions, and I might add more because those changes were those I could do quickly.  Though if you really want to see a page fly, visit my Universalist Christian Initiative site, built in Jekyll with no images and a whisper-thin 16 kilobyte download.

 

Favorite gluten-free communion bread?

A request to the readers.

You now have a choice for gluten-free breads for communion, but which are the best to use? The best tasting? Those available from church supply houses are usually wafers. I want to know if there are any communicants or pastors who have experience with these, and can make recommendations by brand.

I’m a bit cautious about commercial gluten-free table bread; many of these contain egg, and that’s another common food allergen. I’m also interested in a homemade option, especially for a soft or sliceable bread without any of the major allergens.

A Universalist Lutheran jurisdiction

Add to the collection of universalist-theology jurisdictions the General Lutherans.

They’re not big (who is?) but claim ministers and ministries in several countries; that’s worth noting. Their polity is congregationalist and they “subcontract” their institutional endorsements through the The Coalition of Spirit-filled Churches, which is one of the go-to endorsers.  Nothing so strange there. They are social conservatives, and even more distinctively, a poor church: it has “no salaried employees, bank accounts, or cash assets.” That’s different, and should temper your expectations. But they do have a free-of-charge training program and a PDF magazine.

Their dean and General Minister, James Clifton, has been in the para-Universalist-sphere for years, so I don’t thinking I’m getting his theology wrong.

I hesitated to post the link, but not because of their traditionalist morality towards (or should I say, against) LGBT people; after all, I take a big tent approach to Universalism. But because when you browse there, you will be audio attacked with Judy Collins singing “Amazing Grace.” Be warned.

Two new Universalist books

We are in a silver age of Universalist Christian writing: new works and reprints, for popular and academic readers and from across the confessional spectrum. I’ll be posting book notices, partly to spread the word and partly to keep a record for myself. (I sometimes forget where I see books.)

Here are two that came on the radar:

With this article, I open the category Universalist literature.

The perfect ordination

I’ve been thinking about my own ordination lately, though from the excitement that day I don’t remember all that much about it. Specific episodes, such as the laying on of hands, but not a complete narrative of the day. (The same is true of my wedding.)

I do remember other people’s, and usually it’s because they were long, self-indulgent, or both. What might have made them better? (This, of course, applies to the free churches, where ordinations are held in the local church and usually one at a time.)

A better ordination is not primarily about taste, though I think there’s something to be said about a more conservative approach, which at least can be appreciated ironically. Being too novel or eccentric in such a ceremony is like putting salt in soup: you can add more (or not), but not take it out once added.

My rubric: the ordination is about the order of the ministry, not the particular ordinand. You, the ordinand, are entering a stream that has carried the pastoral ministry of the church for centuries. That should give you a chill. You will meet challenges, joys, temptations, horrors and accomplishments. Don’t try to go it alone; as a sign of this, don’t make the ordination about you.

A few practical thoughts. Seek first a good and experienced marshal (master of ceremonies) to keep the proceedings in order. Rely on more experienced ministers for your ordination; you will need them later as colleagues. That goes double for local ministers. Again, the ordination should not be long, because if it’s too long that’s all that people will talk about; I think 75 minutes is about right. If you are called to your first church, wait to be ordained there and not at your home or internship church; this is an old tradition too often lost these days (I’m talking to the Unitarian Universalists now) but it’s one of the few ways that small churches (who often call first-timers) celebrate their place in the communion of churches.

How green is your website? Browsing habits?

Is reading this article helping or hurting the environment?

Reducing human imprints on the climate are going to take changes large and small. I’m not too hopeful we will find a workable solution.  Governments who impose one will be voted out, and voluntary measures will appeal to a few, even if that means millions, and to meaningful risks the “sucker factor.” Involuntary measures, whether through environmental, economic or democratic collapse are terrifying. By the time we move it may be too late; it may be too late now.

But if there is an answer, it will probably be one cobbled together. That’s why I don’t overlook legislative changes (where they can happen) or undermine personal choices: we will need them all. I’m a vegetarian with no children and no car. My last long-distance trip was by rail. I wash my relatively small wardrobe in a low-water washer. Yet I know that demand-driven economy I live in is intensely energy intensive. I’m sure I have more clothes that most people in the world, and that washer didn’t spout out of the earth. Apples and broccoli are good, but they are produced, preserved and transported at huge energy cost. My green beans are better traveled than I am. The better choice us rarely the easy choice, so it takes work. And there is one sector that seems ready for conservation attention: internet use.

Using the internet uses an immense amount of electricity, from the servers that store and share files, to the electrical use for devices to the energy embedded in making them. Storing and distributing ever larger amount of data — websites but mainly on-demand video and audio — means that our internet use will require more power. If that power comes from unsustainable sources, it contributes that more to greenhouse gas production and climate change.

So, make your computers and phones last as long as possible, build and use lighter websites (that’s a long term fix; one I’ve begun with my side projects like universalistchristian.org) and cut back on streaming video.

Gauthier Roussilhe writes on this subject, making the case for a lighter internet and more prudent use, and offering concrete suggestions.  Or go to his work at The Shift Project (“Lean ICT: Towards digital sobriety”: Our new report on the environmental impact of ICT) if you want to dive in now.

 

Decline of Universalism: posted works about polity and administration

To continue the preparation towards considering the pre-war decline of Universalism and how Universalists responded to it. Last time, I looked at documents I’d already published about ecumenical overtures; this time, works related to polity and administration.

I need more from the Thirties, and the documents I found a few months ago will help fill the gap.

While slightly post-war:

I think I need to look at the scope of programs and budgets soon.

Twenty years ordained

If you will excuse a moment for me to reflect on my ordination, which took place twenty years ago today with the Canon Universalist Church, Canon, Georgia.

Receiving right hand of fellowship
Receiving right hand of fellowship from the Rev. Roy Reynolds

I’ve spent more of that time out of pastoral ministry than in it, but I have never forgotten the vow I made. I try to fulfill those vows through preaching, writing (here mostly) and prayer.

My heartfelt thanks to those who have supported me over the years; some are still living, others have gone before us.