Friday, May 30, 2008

internship interred?

Meadville Lombard's announced plan to move to a three-year program, with several integrated praxis segments, and potentially without an internship requirement, is kicking up some dust around the interwebs. See Celestial Lands, for example, and his link to some current students' opinions in the ML newsletter, "Stairwell Wall."

It should be noted that seminaries must have an annual crisis. Seminary produces a huge amount of anxiety, and it will always find expression, usually around some issue other than the real cause (like many other things in life). Also, Professor David Bumbaugh thrives in the role of "loyal opposition," so it is not surprising that he would term this plan a "trainwreck."

That said, I may agree with David. I have not seen the proposal, so I will not say definitively that Meadville's administration is planning to replace a long-term internship with several short-term praxis (what is the plural of praxis?). I will say that I found my internship to be extraordinarily valuable, and that much of that value came from the experience of relationships over time.

I am eager to hear the actual proposal, and will try to refrain from too-hasty judgment until then. In the mean time, I will follow ML Board President Larry Ladd's suggestion, and pray for the Board members as they deliberate on the best course for the school's (and our UU movement?!)'s future.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

PT for hire

Becky lost her job Friday. Since her vision of physical therapy is larger than most, she has always been a challenge to her managers. Some found ways to celebrate her many gifts, and tolerated her difficulties; some tried to stamp out her individuality; this latest one gave it a good try, but couldn't make it work. Our plan had always been to build a referral base, then strike out on her own. Well, careful what you ask for. We have operated as a one-income family several times, each supporting the needs of the other; we can do it again. And, it sure would be good if we had a second income stream, relatively soon!

Once the shock wore off, Becky has been pretty positive, seeing this as more of an opportunity than a challenge. All prayers and good thoughts welcome, as she finds the next stage of her journey.

Friday, May 23, 2008

prison break

I made it into and out of the prison, my first time visiting someone "inside." It was less horrific than I expected, which was not to say that it was pleasant at all. Commenting on the high recidivism rates, the parishioner whom I was visiting suggested part of the problem is that prison is actually a better environment than many folks can achieve otherwise--even with overcrowding, there is a clean place to sleep, 3 meals a day, and television and basketball. The worst things for him are the lack of privacy (virtually none, ever; a circle of 30 feet with nobody around is rare) and the total inefficiency of the system. He recommended the book An Expensive Way to Make Bad People Worse, which demonstrates the many flaws of our current penal system--not the least of which, it isn't actually making our society more safe. The author of the book, Jens Soering, has also written a book about surviving incarceration through centering prayer.

Friday, May 16, 2008

traditional / creedal

Trustee: “something has changed…I know there are those with more 'traditional' UU values (secular humanists?) who are uncomfortable; seeing UU becoming, or seeming to become, closer in 'spirit' to creedal theologies with which they had previously parted company.”

The “spiritual” values toward which our UUA, and our congregation in specific, seem to be moving are actually more “traditional” than is secular humanism. Our Unitarian ancestors that helped *invent* humanism, including several signers of the original Humanist Manifesto, virtually all believed in something larger than themselves. We would likely call them “religious humanists” today. After several generations of religious humanism, much of our U.S. culture adopted a scientific materialism. The Fellowship Movement proved the perfect soil for such secular humanism; and it flourished for a few generations. Now the pendulum is swinging back, to the “original” religious humanism.

That said, there is a deeper emotional truth here: some secular humanists are feeling abandoned. Regardless of which theology came first, their lived experience is that their secular humanist home is crumbling. We ought not allow this to happen. Perhaps we can offer a lecture series, some philosophical discussions—perhaps, given an expanded building, we could even offer “alternative programming” on Sunday mornings. We cannot be “all things to all people,” but we might be able to provide secular humanist offerings to our older/longer-term members who have helped to create and maintain our congregation.

Finally, another short rant, about the adjective “creedal.” I have a feeling that this word is used out of the same emotional truth as is “traditional secular humanism” above. So, I affirm the experience of those who use it, *and* I wish to offer my understanding of the word. A creedal church is one that requires a person to publicly state a certain set of beliefs, in order to join. There are noncreedal Christian churches and creedal non-Christian churches. We require no such public assertions; we are noncreedal. It might be that some believe our Congregational Vision is a creed—however, it mentions only actions (creating, nurturing, expanding, providing, working), not beliefs. People with very different beliefs can still act together. As our spiritual ancestor, Francis David, said, “we need not think alike, to love alike.”

I hope we can use our language more precisely—and I hope we can provide some kind of programming that nourishes our secular humanists, so that they no longer feel the need to (mis)use words like “traditional” and “creedal.” :-)

Monday, May 12, 2008


I am not sure what it means, but the progressive Christian magazine, Sojourners, has classifieds that advertise opportunities to volunteer in Africa, Brazil and the streets of our USA, while our UU magazine, UUWorld, has classifieds that advertise house rentals in the south of France and Hawaiian eco-tours.

It's not just about class--first of all, I do not think that the majority of UUs are as wealthy as we like to think--but about our disinclination to "submit" to a compelling religious vision.

Or maybe it is about class. I am more and more persuaded by David Bumbaugh's analysis that the thing that best characterizes UUism is our middle-class-ness, which he defines as anxiety that we will lose our middle-class status, or at least appear to lose it. Thus, even a compelling religious call to serve the poor pales in comparison to the fear of *becoming* the poor.

Without condemning the fear, how do we minister to it, and move forward?

Friday, May 02, 2008

target demographic

Last week's service was on cults and mind control. A member shared her story of 19 years in a group that started out spiritual and ended up controlling and vindictive. The scariest thing: learning that UUs are *exactly* the target marget for cult recruiters: creative, out-of-the-box, concerned about doing good in the world, and strong-minded. Yes, strong-minded people make the best cult members.

Among the congregation, I heard several people remark that a previous relationship had exhibited signs of mind control, or they'd been part of a group or an eco-job that was using mind control techniques. We distributed a list of Characteristics of Cults to give to our youth going off to college.

Check out the International Cultic Studies Association for more info, or call them at 239.514.3081