Best of UU

“the countless touches of the holy. . .”

Filed under: Creative — Jess at 2:56 pm on Thursday, August 21, 2008

The vast majority, though not all, of our congregations light a flaming chalice before beginning worship, and it is customary to say some words of intention while doing so, to set the mood for the service. It is a way to mark the hour of worship as a time out of time, separate from every day life, and sacred.

These chalice lighting words come from the Rev. Hilary Landau Krivchenia of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lafayette, Indiana.

Chalice Lighting

by Rev. Hilary Landau Krivchenia

As the windows around us glow with a hundred colors of light
So may we feel the countless touches of the holy in our world.
All the names and presences, all the ideas and the persons.
May our shoulders feel the embrace of love
Our eyes feel the gentle brush of vision
Our hands feel the stirring of strength
Our legs feel an infusion of steadiness.
May our houses and this house be cleared with the gentle wind of peace.
May we be renewed in this time together
So that we may set out again
To be the hundred touches of the holy in the world.

Source: Chalice Lighting by Rev. Hilary Landau Krivchenia of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lafayette, Indiana, delivered September 23, 2001.

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“or was it out of the everywhere?”

Filed under: Creative, History — Jess at 12:05 pm on Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Stories and metaphor are essential to any religious language, but perhaps even more so to Unitarian Universalists who are not bound by creed. Stories give us an opportunity to speak about larger things, using a broader vocabulary than we might in our every day conversations.

Religious educator Rev. Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978) understood this importance, particularly in the realm of teaching children about religion. In this introduction to her Beginnings of Earth and Sky: Stories Old and New, she talks about the very evolution of stories of creation, and the human desire to explain the world around us.

Around Campfires

by Sophia Lyon Fahs

Long, long ago around a campfire in the evening twilight, a tribe of shepherds sat talking. They looked out across the valley — and over the hills — at the changing colors of the sky — rose and orange beams spreading overhead — pink, fleecy clouds floating among them — golden light coming from beyond out of the nowhere — or was it out of the everywhere?

There was too much greatness all around for anyone to speak. These shepherds of old felt themselves a part of something very large and high and wonderful.

At last someone asked, “From where has this great beauty come?”

Then another asked, “And how did it all begin at the very beginning?”

(Read on … )

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“to dance across the great void. . .”

Filed under: Reflections — Jess at 1:32 pm on Thursday, May 1, 2008

Today is May Day, Beltane, a celebration of spring for many people, especially including those who choose the path of earth-centered, or pagan, religious traditions. This creation story comes from Lady Abigail, high priestess of the Ravensgrove Coven in Greenfield, Indiana, and was taught to her by her great-grandmother. It strikes me as a story that would be most welcome in our Unitarian Universalist circles as well.

Mother Earth and Sister Moon: A Beltaine Story of Creation

by Lady Abigail, remembered from her great-grandmother

In the beginning, there was no land and no water, no stars and no sky. Only a great void filled with all that could be. Living within the void was creation, not yet by name for no words had yet been spoken. Silence was the void.

Then like a whispering wind gentle on a summer night, a sound crossed the great void. Our Grandmother of the Night called to the Grandfather of the Day. “Grandfather, do you see we are alone and have no children; our sky is empty and our hearts alone.”

Suddenly, Grandfather Day spoke in a deep thundering voice. “Then we shall have Children: daughters, two daughters.”

(Read on … )

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“Something binds them together. . .”

Filed under: History, Reflections — Jess at 12:19 pm on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Last week, we read a passage from Rev. Jabez T. Sunderland’s 1902 book, The Spark in the Clod: A Study in Evolution, in which he approached the scientific theory of evolution from a religious standpoint. Today, an opposite approach, where religious ideals are found from a more scientific point of view, in the writings of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955).

Teilhard was a Jesuit priest, but also a scientist, and his ideas were unsuccessfully quashed by the Roman Catholic Church. His primary work, The Human Phenomenon, was written in the 1930s but published after his death in 1955. While he was not himself officially a Unitarian or Universalist, it can be argued that his theology was very much in line with both forms of liberal religion, and informs liberal theology today. A rather comprehensive chapter on Teilhard from the book God and Science, by Charles P. Henderson, can be found here for further reading.

What I find fascinating in this excerpt, on the nature of matter, is Teilhard’s conclusion of the interdependence of all things, from our very atoms.

from The Human Phenomenon

by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881-1955)

Moving an object back into the past is equivalent to reducing it to its simplest elements. Followed as far as possible in the direction of their origins, the last fibers of the human composite are going to merge in our sight with the very stuff of the universe.

The stuff of the universe–that ultimate residue of the more and more advanced analyses of science. To know how to describe it properly, I have never developed the kind of direct and familiar contact with it that makes all the difference between someone who has read about it and someone who has experimented with it. I also know how dangerous it is to take as material for durable construction hypotheses conceived of as only meant to last a day, even in the minds of those who originate them.

(Read on … )

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“Everyone saw one another’s real faces that morning. . .”

Filed under: Sermons — Jess at 9:07 am on Friday, July 13, 2007

Many people join a church for community, for solidarity, for a place to belong. This sermon by the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, senior minister at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, OK, illustrates just how powerful that belonging can be.

Rev. Lavanhar and his family suffered the terrible loss of their three-year-old daughter, Sienna, last spring. This was the beautiful, heart-felt message he had for his congregation on Homecoming Sunday, four months later:

Finding Our Song

By Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, September 10, 2006

Once upon a time, back when people still had time, back before time was something we put into little circles and carried around on our wrists, there was a time when the world burnt down. There was nothing left on the face of the planet but a thick layer of coal and ash. All that survived was a bird named Ekanchu. And Ekanchu flew all over searching for signs of life. But he found none.

Ekanchu thought that he should try to find the special tree, the one where the holy men (the shamans of the community) went, in order to allow their spirits to rise into the heavens and descend into the dark places. Ekanchu figured if only he could find that tree, then maybe, maybe he could find life.

(Read on … )

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Filed under: Reflections, Site News — Jess at 9:14 am on Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Good News of Unitarian Universalism is too often unshared. This archive seeks to highlight the very best of this religious faith, by collecting inspiring, challenging writings of the Good News of Unitarian Universalism from ministers and lay people of all walks of life.

To start, I will post materials three times a week, with the first on Friday, June 1, 2007.

Submissions and suggestions for resources are highly encouraged! Please use the contact form or the comments to respond to what you read here, and to add to it. I’m only one person and can’t read the whole internet by myself.

And so it begins.

From Rev. Lawrence McGinty come these opening words:

To this house we come bringing our boldest dreams — seeking here the inspiration and strength to make them be! To this house we come hoping to bury broken dreams, to be sustained through their pain and to discover new ones amidst their tears. We come here lonely, isolated from meaningful human contact, searching for warmth and closeness and care. Needing to grow beyond plateaus of the commonplace, we seek here challenges and commitments productive of greater wholeness and deeper meanings.

We come intense and constructed, hoping for encouragement to shed our pretenses and to be ourselves. Filled with despair and self-doubt, we seek affirmations prodding us to say “yes” to ourselves and to life. Somehow, always putting happiness ahead of ourselves, we enter this place trusting that what happens here will enable us to make and to accept a little bit of it now — today!

Strange place, this house — here we cry, sing, laugh, hurt, dance, touch, survive, celebrate, grow, search, doubt, hope, rejoice, pray, trust, care, learn, think, wonder, be, become! Yes, this morning, to this house we come.

Source: “WorshipWeb,” by Rev. Lawrence McGinty, most recently of All Souls Unitarian Church of Indianapolis, IN, before his death in 1996.

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