The other UCA

UCA will always be first for me the Universalist Church of America. But it can also mean the Uniting Church of Australia.

Link: The anitpodean UCA

I’ve been interested in the Australian church for some time, and this interest has been resparked over the question of distance learning for lay ministers and those on an ordination path. Of course, given the UCA’s significant rural constituency and Australia’s remote settlements, distance learning would be very important.

Their models are rather keen, and I wish there was something like them for the US. The good news is that I don’t see anything in the following two institutions that suggests an American couldn’t enroll in a course by extension, and many would be a good value.

(Ditto the theological faculty at the University of South Africa, which can be found at

Victoria and Tasmania Centre for Theology and Ministry:
Coolamon College:

I would love to see comments from alumni drawn here about the programs.

Lay pastors and their training

This would be “If I were planting . . . . VI” but it is time to call a thing by its name.

If there are going to be more Unitarian or Universalist (or both) Christian churches, some are going to be too small, too poor, or too remote to call a minister in fellowship. Some, if not most, will have to raise up one of their own for service. (I distinguish the traditions because when speaking of them in terms of Christianity, they really have different meanings.)

Of course, this is probably true for new churches in the UUA whatever the theological background, if we got down to encouraging churches of different sizes for differing populations.

Earlier, I mentioned the old Universalist licentiate. But that implies some kind of credentialing and training, and I don’t see clear models in-house for that, Leadership School notwithstanding. (This is an exception and not quite what I’m getting at; as you can see from the bottom of the page, I’ve been interested in this for a while.) It is worth surveying the ecumenical neighborhood for ideas.

Like the Presbyterians (USA) and their Commissioned Lay Pastors or perhaps the American Baptists, who have a patchwork (it seems) of lay ministry training opportunities. (Like this in Michigan.)

Then there is the Lay Ministry Training Program of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches, though there’s little detail on their website.

Have you seen others?

Hymnals for Unitarian and Universalist Christians to watch

For a while, the locally produced Hymns of Truth and Light of First Congregationalist Church (UCC), Houston, Texas has appealed to me as a good alternative for both the ten-year-old UUA produced Singing the Living Tradition and the much older joint Unitarian and Universalist hymnal (Hymns of the Spirit) that we use here in Washington. Indeed, it seems like a blend of the latter hymnal and the Congregationalist Pilgrim Hymnal brought up to date. It is my understanding that a member church of the UUA has adopted Hymns of Truth and Light as its own.

Now there is another hymnal I’m looking towards: the yet-unnamed 2004 hymnal of the National Association of Congregational Christian Churches (NACCC). There’s a good amount of information about this hymnal at their site, including a list of hymns retained from (of course) the Pilgrim Hymnal

Link: NACCC New Hymnal Committee

Blog categories

I am going back and putting the now eighty entries into categories for their easier perusal.

It will take a while to get them all sorted. Please be patient.

If I was planting . . . . V

I have been reading works related to linked house churches to (a) think outside that ever-present box for my own church and (b) get fluent in missional language to help Universalist Christianity move in mission. (Even if I’m not going to be doing it, I would like to be a help to those who are.)

Dick Scoggins makes his group’s case — and he’s clear that this is what worked for them, and that there’s not a single biblical model for the church; I doubt any member church in the Unitarian Universalist Association would qualify in any case — that conventional churches are weighty in time, capital, and energy while leaving “kingdom building” undone and the laity unactivated as the universal priesthood because of a program-driven clergy. Well, ouch.

Cell churches (those with a central worship core, but where much of the “church life” is in small groups, often called “cells”) are (to him) only a half (or less) measure. He advocates house churches in networks because they are best apt to multiply. Part of that is building indigenous leadership into every church, and that’s a very different than what Unitarian Universalists (or much of the rest of the mainline) does.

Amazingly, a church planter’s goal is to raise up plural eldership (or more often one elder and one almost-elder) within at least three churches which are themselves in fellowhship with one another. So here’s the rub: so would I give up my pride of place (and assumed paycheck) to raise up no fewer than six peer-elders who themselves would lead semi-autonomous churches? Exchange “centralized clericalism” for a destributed, plural, consecrated ministry which activates the priesthood of all believers?

The funny thing is I am equally skiddish (“What about the learned ministry! what about my Geneva bands! what about my paycheck!”) and tantilized. But more about that later.

I am trying to think of a way of having it both ways, and not knowing if it can be done.

One idea is to form an area mission with multiple churches where the seminary-trained pastor serves in a role like that of an old Universalist State Superintendant. His or her role would be that of lead missionary and trainer — and the pay would be mission support; not a bad idea, really — to churches led by unordained lay pastors, the old Universalist licentiates, whose nominal existance in the UUA was only axed in the last couple of GAs. (A move I vaguely approved of, since it esentially devolved the right of credentialing licentiates to whomever who would take up the challenge. The UUA, after all, hadn’t done anything with it.)

Back to the neo-Convention model. The Universalist idea of Church works better for this than the Unitarian. Looking over old Universalist polity docs, I see the image of Church penetrating or filling a set of relationships which are themselves not unlike concentric circles. In one sense, every person, by virtue of birth, is a part of the Church; in a more specific sence, all members of the universal Body of Christ. But the Universalist General Convention, as a part of the body of Christ, is also the Church, and this character of Church devolves to the state conventions and the particular company of believers within a parish, the latter being an administrative unit or vessel.

The different “levels” of the Church are responsible to the others through a series of relationships, one of which being that odd usage found in some Universalist-heritage church bylaws (including my church), that we “recognize the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the” — it now say Unitarian Universalist Association — “Universalist Church of America.”

"Manual of the Universalist General Convention" (1891)

Earlier I mentioned I was putting a significant Universalist polity document online — seeing as it is my day off — and what I have online.

See [2009. Moved from original posting. URL correct.]

I’ll finish it when I have a chance, but the “Laws of Organization” piece alone will give you a good insight into how the Universalist General Convention worked.

Hymn list I

In the extended entry I’ve placed my first list of useful hymns, culled from the list of 150 chosen by the Consulation on Ecumenical Hymnody. No Christmas hymns are included, and I’ve picked the ones that look good for unaccompanied singing.

But what do I know? This is an end-of-day wind-down activity. It was either poke over the list or watch Blind Date.

See for yourself in the “continue reading” (extended entry) section.
Continue reading “Hymn list I”

A small Universalist worship book

Watch and Pray (Derek Parker) has followed up on the small congregation (conventional church, house church, worship group, the latter perhaps associated with the UUCF) worship book idea I mentioned earlier.

To his list of four liturgies, I would add a service of welcoming new members (to be used within another service) and a brief service upon hearing of a death, perhaps one flexible enough to be used in times of disaster.

The doxologies he mentions would be nice I assume he means GENEVAN PSALTER 100, but perhaps not and tunes could vary based on the ethnic and social background of the congregation.

Ditto the “easy to sing hymns” which will be the key. I think forty hymns, and another forty psalms and canticles (better and more properly described as “songs from the Bible”) would really help.

Now, from whence the content?

A starting place.

Link: Core Hymnody, including the list of 150 hymns, compiled by the Consultation on Ecumenical Hymnody.

Another link: An Analysis of Traditional Ecumenical Hymnody: Why the Great Hymns of the Past Are Still Being Sung Today