Friday, December 31, 2010

True Grit - an 8 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Movie Rating Scale

The Coen Brothers are one of the few directors that I will go to see their movies merely because they directed it. Although often over the top, they just make their point and often touch on the moral ambiguities and challenges of living (Barton Fink, A Serious Man, No Country for Old Men, Fargo and the Big Lebowski as a few examples) True Grit is no exception. Although I could point to a few failings in the movie (so why didn’t Matt Damon’s character take one of the dead guys horses at the end for one thing?) as a whole, it delivered. If anything it was a little less over the top than most of their movies but included a few of their usual gratuitous violent acts.

The story is about a girl who wants justice (vengeance?) for her father’s death. She recruits and partners up with two others in her quest. I am glad they made her a strong self directed driven character (as opposed to the girl in Shane or Pale Rider wimpering for the return of the male hero). The movie shows how Grit can come from many backgrounds, but only with risk and sacrifice and loss. And if you have grit it requires bucking the odds and conventional wisdom

I love movies with anti-heroes. Jeff Bridges was great as Rooster Cogburn who shaky past, and questionable moral compass are on display from the very beginning, but who once he commits himself is driven to achieve his goal. He accepts that the world doesn’t always go as planned and just rolls with it. His driven nature is on such visual display at the end that Cogburn rides his horse to death trying to save the young woman Mattie, and then takes over for the horse’s chore of carrying her until he falls as he gets to his goal. Are we no different from the horse, just beasts following the path we have chosen (or has been laid before us) until we fall (die). Not sure I agree with that, but this movie made that point well.

In truth the end was the most poignant for me and raised the question in me, what do we do after the significant, meaningful and traumatic events in life are done. How does it impact us going forward. In the movie, one stays stuck in their hardened shell, one went on to live a life of good times, and one disappears into oblivion. And all the characters had lost track of the people who helped shape their significant experience together. For me the message is that we should try to remain connected with the people who intersect in the important aspects of our lives. At least now compared with the old west, we have Facebook to help with that.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Walking Meditation November 16th 2010

My morning spiritual reading included some passages on driving and walking meditation. One of the questions asked was do we really need to drive somewhere? Well early this morning I had set aside a time to write, and sometimes, I go to Starbucks get a tea put my ear plugs in and write. But after the reading today I decided to make my own cup of tea and walk to the clubhouse in my apartment complex. I remembered that there were some rocking chairs up there and thought I would walk there and write there for a change of pace (Kyle and Helen are sleeping at the apartment, so it also gives them some quiet without me bumbling around) Well as I walked out, I felt a nice cool breeze blow across my face, and at the same time felt the sun heat up my skin. I instinctively looked up to soak in the sun and let it warmth spread throughout my body. And as I walked mindfully, I took notice of all that was around me….the weeping willow tree, the leaves on other trees (unknown type) starting to turn brown, the palm trees, always palm trees….some beautiful blue and pink flowers, an alligator in a pond soaking in the sun as well. Walking over a wood bridge over a creek, a small waterfall and a frog perched on a piece of wood. I come towards my destination and there are two paths….one of which I know leads to my destination and the other an unknown destination. I of course choose the path with the unknown destination. In this case it took me somewhere I had never been before. For that I am grateful, but eventually it came to a dead end. This happens sometimes in life. So I turned around and went back to the other path that led me to clubhouse and the rocking chairs where I sit now writing this. I am surrounded by trees and a pond and plants and I hear the hum of the street in the distance which comes to sound like a meditative chant. There is much richness in life to become aware of that I pass by day in and day out that I miss out on when I just drive on by and don’t take the time to be mindful and observe.


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Movie Review - "The Town" A 7 out of 10 on the JWO scale

The Town directed and starring Ben Affleck. A 7 out of 10 on the JWO scale of movie reviews. In many ways this was a typical bank robbery film. Good action, good chase scenes, and a real funny scene when they are dressed up as nuns.. But this movie strove for more. I of course am very susceptible to liking movies with messages about a person transcending their environment and that is the main message of the story. The barriers that are thrown up that prevent it. The known risks and comforts, and limitations of staying, the unknown risks of transcending. Of course like any film of this genre, formulaically there is always ONE LAST JOB that of course never works as planned. I think there was also an interesting juxtaposition of one person wanting to change but looking for another to tell them how, vs. having to find it within oneself.

The final words in the movie listed below were true though. There is always a price to pay for changing, even if that is pain for the people you leave behind. “for the first time in my life I'm leaving this city. Maybe if I go I could stop looking. No matter how much you change you still have to pay the price for the things you've done. So I got a long road. But I know I'll see you again, this side or the other.” I wont get into the metaphysical question of whether there is an afterlife. I think though this speaks to unresolved issues during our lifetime and our realization that we cannot control all things coupled with our desire for resolution. Well lets keep working at our unresolved issued, so we can resolve them on this side. For all those who didn’t get out…..I’ll see you on the other side. (or on Facebook possibly).

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Movie Review - "As It Is In Heaven"

Movie review “As it is in Heaven”. A rarified 9 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Scale.
I saw this last night. I was moved by it. Surprised that I had never even heard of it before. It is a Sweedish film with American subtitles. Its focus is about sharing your thoughts and feelings and how that can lead to better relationships, or at least more authentic relationships and to community building. It deals with the fears that people have of loving others, and of losing others. Of our yearnings to have our potential fulfilled and the peace we can feel when we open up to our feelings and emotions. There was of course a story of a famous music conductor going back to his childhood home that is interwoven throughout but these are the impressions it left me with. There was some good theological stuff as well about death, sin and coffee. A must see. Some really deep and moving music as well added to the experiance.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Trust Yourself

Trust yourself
The alcohol does not let me forget anymore
My dreams have become reality
My reality makes me face myself
And I have forgotten who I am
This can be good
If one did not like oneself
How far back
Do we have to go
To see who we truly are
How far forward
Do we have to go
To be who we want to be
We are who we are
We are what we do
We are who we choose to be
And now as the days dwindle
And the horizon is closer
I hear the ticking down of the clock
Running out of time
Time to change
Time to be me
Or time to die
Or I’ll have another drink
And hope to forget
What could have been
Or still could be
If I only trusted myself

Friday, September 10, 2010

Quote - Days of Awe

"This is what the Days of Awe Ask Us: What is the core of our life, Are we living by it? Are we moving toward it? …If we seek the answers now, we can act in the coming year to bring ourselves closer to our core. This is the only life we have, and we all will lose it. No one gets out alive, but to lose nobly is a beautiful thing. To know the core of our being is to move beyond winning and losing". From: This is Real and You Are Completely Unprepared by Alan Lew

Friday, September 03, 2010

My Zen Garden

My Zen Garden
I received a small zen garden as a gift. It has a rake, sand, and some stones. As I set it up, first the one of the wooden spikes of the rake fell off. Was this merely poor craftspersonship or was this a sign, that sometimes we have to adapt and make do with less than the perfect tools we would like in life. Then as I poured out the sand into the garden and started to smoothly spread it, some overflowed out of the boxed garden. Was I merely careless or was it a sign that we should realize when we have enough abundance that we should let some things go. Then when I put the rocks in, it made it more difficult to rake the sand. And again, I found as I raked around the rocks more sand overflowed out of the garden. The only way to have enough room to rake was to move the rocks to the center of the garden. Thus the message is to center oneself to prevent losing the inner fabric of our life. Then I decided that I had delayed writing my sermon long enough and needed to get back to it.

Movie Review - "Greenberg" a 7 out of 10 on the jwo scale

Movie Review – Greenberg – a 7 out of 10

My expectations of this movie after seeing the previews was that this was a quirky independent film. This movie fulfilled that expectation. The mikeing of the dialogue could have been better (a common trait among indies – it may be more realistic, but if I don’t understand the dialogue, really what good is it) Ben Stiller is perfect for this role as an anxiety riddled former musician whose life didn’t turn out as he planned. He just makes you completely uncomfortable watching his awkwardness in his relationships. Ultimately that is what the movie is about. How difficult relationships are, or how difficult we make them and the lack of real authenticity in relationships. People are lost and look for anything to hold onto. I really liked the line in the movie when he says “Hurt people, Hurt people". And although the end is a little sudden and somewhat without closure, I really think it is perfect for this movie as it sums up the movie’s point. Anyway if you like quirky independent films, this one is worth.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Invictus – a 7 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Movie Rating Scale

So how can one not like a movie about Nelson Mandela. I mean really he is a personal hero of mine. How someone could come out of imprisonment and forgive his enemies is an amazing act of grace and courage. The movie points to his forgiveness as a path to reconciliation. It also shows how he used the national rugby team to unite all people in his country. I hink it is sad but true that sports are and can be a unifying event, although I would also point out that they can also become a nationalistic event, for better and worse. I wish there could be other ways to unify people, but it is true, sports is something that can do this. Kind of weird…

I thought it poignant when asked why he was trying to placate the whites, Mandela was quoted in the movie, “the whites still control the police, the army, the economy” Mandela was far seeing with a vision of humanity that realized that real inclusive change happens slowly over time. His vision though was one where humanity could control their destiny. Each person by what they do and how they do it, creates the world as we know it. I am glad the world has a Nelson Mandela to point to as a beacon to virtue, as a beacon to what could be.

One other poignant moment for me was when the players went to give a rugby clinic in the poor section of town, and one says, “I thank God I don’t live here”….as if he had never even seen the people living in such poor conditions. It speaks to how we blind ourselves to things we don’t want to see so we don’t have to deal with them….

As far as the movie, at times it was hard at times to understand the accents, of course that could also be because I was playing with my granddaughter at the same time. Also there was a little too much rugby action at the end. They also could have spent more time explaining the rules of the game. To Americans, it really is a foreign game, so I would have liked to have understood the context of it. I really don’t see how Damon received an academy award nomination for this. He was very low key for such transformative life changing events, but maybe that’s the way it happens. It just usually is more dramatic in the movies. If I haven’t said it, Morgan Freeman was Great!! –

Here is the poem Invictus by William Henley - We cant always control events, but we can control ourselves and how we deal with events

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

A Serious Man – The Coen Brothers….an 8 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Scale

I have delayed righting anything on this…..I have been thinking about the movie for a week now….which for me is the sign of great movie…..I have to wonder though if someone who did not grow up in the Jewish faith would appreciate it as much as those who did…..the zen like or sometimes incoherent story from the rabbi, the fear of anti-Semitism, the lack of empathy for non Jews, the preparing for the bar mitvah….If one hasn’t experienced that culture, does the story have as much impact….makes one recognize how we might not fully understand the impact of others cultural upbringings...There is nothing subtle about the Coen brothers….and everything is subtle……questions of whether the morality of our actions, impact our life. Is there a cause and effect. Is there divine judgement that follows us and our descendents….For me the point of the movie is something inside of us dies when we do unethical things…..and we are enriched even if not in a material way, for doing a mitzvah (good deed)….and we are being eternally tested…and then we die….the opening quote as the movie starts with says it all “Receive with simplicity everything that happens to you – Rashi – this says it all…for both good and bad….

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Time Travellers Wife – a 5 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Movie Rating Scale

It was an interesting movie, but I cant say I really liked it. A man who travels in time, but uncontrolled, so he appears and disappears unexpectedly. He travels to similar locations at different times. So of course he runs into the same people. Now I found it a little creepy that as an adult, he kept going back to meet this young girl who would eventually be his wife. Maybe this is some fantasy, but it certainly felt like manipulation of a young mind for his personal needs. Even the girl grown up says “I really didn’t have a choice” Was it inevitable fate that drew them together across time? I guess that is the message of the movie which I didn’t like. We are fated to our destiny with no way to change it. The corresponding positive message is if we know our fate, to accept it, and to therefore appreciate every moment that we do have with the people we love. Of course the movie has some time travel anomalies, like why could he go and meet himself in the past and change how his younger self dealt with the death of his mother, but he could not go to the past and change other events and people. But mostly I objected to the concept of the movie, that we can not change our future, that our life, our destiny is mapped out for us waiting to unfold. That is not my theology, that is not my belief. I will just have to wait and let my life continue to unfold until I find out if I am right :)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

quote from movie Contact

I... had an experience... I can't prove it, I can't even explain it, but everything that I know as a human being, everything that I am tells me that it was real! I was given something wonderful, something that changed me forever... A vision... of the universe, that tells us, undeniably, how tiny, and insignificant and how... rare, and precious we all are! A vision that tells us that we belong to something that is greater then ourselves, that we are *not*, that none of us are alone! I wish... I... could share that... I wish, that everyone, if only for one... moment, could feel... that awe, and humility, and hope - Ellie Arroway (Jodie Foster) - Movie Contact

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli – a 7 out of 10 on the Jay Wolin Scale of Movie Reviews.

When I saw the previews for this movie, I thought, okay, just another apocalyptical movie, with violence from some relics of the old New York City Punk Rock scene. (ok who remembers Max’s Kansas City in Union Square). Then, I thought ok, they have added a biblical twist to the apocalyptical story. But of course the movie had Denzel Washington (still by far the greatest actor of this era or possibly any era), and of course the religious angle caught my curiosity. I have to admit, I really liked the movie. Although the end had a bit of an interesting but improbable twist (I shouldn’t get picky in an apocalyptical movie), the message of the movie was a good one. Faith helps us on the journey of life to get through difficult times. Everything else was commentary that led to that message. But the wait was worth it. It showed the Bible has the ability to be used for good and evil, and how people’s hearts and minds can be twisted in a desperate struggle to survive. It also touched on how we are consumed with our mission that we forget to live our mission. I love that stuff. And Denzel delivered as usual.

Rodin's Thinker

It was a little daunting to realize that Rodin's thinker was also part of Rodin's depiction of Dante's Inferno.
Be without fear in the face of your enemies
Be brave and upright that God may love thee
Speak the truth always even if it leads to your death
Safeguard the helpless and
Do no Wrong
Balian de Ibelin – Kingdom of Heaven

Sunday, January 10, 2010


Doubt is a pain
too lonely to know
that faith is his twin brother.

Kahlil Gibran

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Why UU's hate History, and why we shouldnt

As I am in formation in pursuit of parish ministry, I thought it would be necessary to really delve into how Unitarian Universalist History informs my ministry and how I can develop the use of Unitarian Universalist History in building a beloved community. What does it mean to be a Unitarian Universalist Minister as opposed to being a minister. First I think I need to look at my own experiences with learning Unitarian Universalist History and how it has informed me up until this point.

Before I became a Unitarian Universalist (UU) in the late 1980s, I had never heard of the religion. I had passed by the beautiful 4th Universalist Society on the Upper West Side in New York numerous times on the way to the Ethical Culture Society and Museum of Natural History and remember specifically stopping and admiring its architecture. But I had no idea what went on inside. If anything I probably confused them with the Unification Church that was popular in New York City at that time. When I did find my way to my first UU congregation, it was more due to a need to find religious education for my son, then any personal religious motives. What I found was a warm welcoming community. In truth it was a more social than religious experience for me. It was more humanist focused congregation with a touch of religious ritual (both Christian and Jewish) to satisfy my sentimentality. It was a small congregation, and our involvement rarely extended beyond an hour or two on Sunday. So if there was history discussed I was not ready to hear it. At that point in my religious journey, I just wanted a safe warm welcoming community.

I think this points to a very challenging issue that so many members come from different religious backgrounds. Some either assume that UU is a liberal Christian Church or some sort of Inter-Faith society. Often we have come from a religious history that has been painful or unsatisfying to us. Therefore we are looking to build something new, something unique, something that is not tainted with the history of the failed religion of our upbringing. For me, all I needed to know was that I did not have to accept Jesus as savior, and then the Seder dinner, and Yom Kippur service was just icing on the cake. The Unitarian understanding of God (or lack thereof) and its belief of Jesus as human actually made it very easy for me to theologically slide into the religion. Whereas the Ethical Culture Society was Judaism without theology, UU was the Ethical Culture with some sentimental ritual and enthusiasm. So this brings up another point. The strong Humanist influence in the twentieth century seemed to negate the history of Unitarian Christianity and transcendentalist history that preceded it. I sense the feeling was, if we are humanist, and this is what we believe, why do we need to go back to before we became “enlightened” :) . I think another important aspect is that since our sources have expanded there is less of a focus on the Christianity that we grew out of. The result of our lesser focus on Christianity, seems to have been a lesser need to focus on our history as an association which came from Christianity. There has been a strong tension about limiting Christianity as the source of wisdom and history of theology throughout the history of our association, particularly among the Unitarian side of the family. Certainly the Transcendentalists promoted the use of non Christian scriptures, and a historical critical approach to utilizing the Christian Scriptures.

However I think the first real delineation came when Henry Bellows started organizing the National Conference. Although at that time, different clergy and members of congregations had different opinions about theology and history, the National Conference seemed to force the issue as to which side individuals choose. To create an organization seemed to require that congregations had to come to some agreement as to what they commonly believed. Even though the conference was first congregated by members only, the active or lack thereof of participation by ministers would determine the association’s focus. Prior to this, certainly pressure was put on ministers, but often it came from the ministers’ own congregations such as the incident with John Pierpont and the Hollis St Church. Ministers with support from their congregation such as Theodore Parker, although ostracized by other ministers, could still preach and teach what he pleased.

I think the dawning of an associational organization caused fear for many who were not of a more conservative theological bent. The freethinkers who believed in a universal church stayed, but those who cherished their independence left and formed the Free Religious Association. The Preamble to the National Conference in 1865 included the phrase Lord Jesus Christ. Although there were subsequent informal declarations that were issued without such strong Christian language, until the merger, there were no formal Unitarian affirmations. The Universalists issued certain affirmations throughout the years and were much more comfortable including the language of God, Jesus, and Christ. In 1984, when the Principles were reviewed and re-issued, there was a specific exclusion of anything relating to any UU heritage within the principles and only a passing mention in the sources. The message to members from these exclusion seems to be that our history really doesn’t matter much.

I think another factor in why we have not focused on our history is the alienation we have felt from mainline Christianity. As Charles Howe points out in his book, “The Larger Faith”, the Universalist Church of America had been invited to apply for membership in the organization that was the predecessor organization to the National Council of Churches, and the Universalists were rejected. Although the Universalists had affirmations and praxis had become more similar to the Unitarians, they were without question more Jesus and Christo-centric than the Unitarians. I have to imagine this rejection had to have a negative impact on the movers and shakers in regard to Christianity.

I think the larger challenge in focusing on history which I have experienced is the lone ranger mentality of congregations. Some of this might be intentional, and some unintentional and just a consequence of circumstances. The unintentional would due to the sparsity of congregations within the association. In some areas of the country there are not many congregations near each other. Therefore it is hard to see oneself as part of a bigger organization with a deep history if you have very little engagement with others in the association. The internet has helped reach others, but as it is used now, it is impersonal. The live streaming of General Assembly I think is a good example of how it can be used effectively. However I would go a step further and use the internet or video conferencing to have UUA representatives in Boston or elsewhere communicate directly with congregations that are distant from other congregations. Our current district executive has been having live webinars each month on congregational issues, that I feel have been quite helpful to leaders of our congregation.

Secondly, we as an association, have a history of not remaining with the status quo and in being anti-organizational. In essence, the starting of Unitarianism was to break from traditional organizational protestant teachings. The Transcendentalists, to a degree had an anti-organizational characteristic as part of their tradition. Emerson left the ministry rather than follow traditional ritual (although granted there were probably many other reasons he left). Even Theodore Parker, in starting his 28th Congregational Society, was doing so outside the Unitarian Organization. And of course as mentioned above the creation of the Free Religious Association was in reaction to an attempt to formalize the association with common statement of beliefs. Now in most of these cases, it was felt that the organization was too restricting. I see the association coming to this realization in current times. I believe the development of regional districts and their events, creation of Association Sunday, and other focus’ have been quite helpful in having congregations feel connected to the larger UU world. However I think there should continue to be vigilance to ensure that creativity and diversity are allowed to flourish among congregations. In addition, it would seem to me that there should be an effort to create more smaller satellite congregations in outlying areas that with technology, could meet and be connected with larger congregations for worship.

One last item that creates challenges is the fact, that in some ways our religion is very young. We merged two religions into one almost fifty years ago. So in some respects our history is only fifty years old. And although we can point to many similarities, each of the original religions had its own uniqueness and its own history different from the other. Today, only a small % of members, which is only decreasing each year, were ever a member of either religion prior to the merger. So it makes it a bit more confusing, as we now have three histories to examine, Unitarians, Universalists and UU.

So how did I learn about UU History. In the most unexpected ways. In my membership class there was approximately one hour spent on UU history. This was brief, and was more focused on famous UU’s than on UU itself. It left me with the names (some familiar, most not) of UU in History. By far, my first in depth study of History was when I was I teaching middle school religious education. The curriculum that year was UU History. Of course, I had to do extensive preparation to be able to sound knowledgeable and authoritative to the youth!! I learned much that year. Another way I have learned about it was when our minister did a sermon series on UU Historical events. Our minister also ensured that Adult religious education had one curriculum each year focus on UU History. Also General Assembly included focused workshops on more specific issues. Then of course when the thought of pursuing ministry entered my bloodstream, I started reading the MFC reading list books. The journey continues. Each type of learning I did seemed to build on the previous. The earlier learning was superficial, then it became more intellectual, and finally I was able to add more depth. Perhaps this is a lesson we should consider as we teach history. It starts with the realization that everyone is not at the same point of their religious journey, and there must be different opportunities of education at different levels of depth for different people.

So up until this point I have been discussing why it is so challenging to engage individuals and congregations in the historical depth of our tradition and how I managed to obtain an education on our history. I would now like to discuss why I feel it is important to do so. Although I will go on to pontificate the benefits in a moment There is one simple reason. WE ARE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS. This may seem like an obvious statement. With so many people coming from other religions, and many non church goers shopping for a religion we need to be able to extol who we were, who we are and where we are going or else we are just another commodity. History in and of itself doesn’t create meaningful religious community, but it does add to the depth of the meaning that is currently be realized.

Having grown up Jewish, I can say, history was almost an exclusive focus of my religious life. Who we were is important but should not be the exclusive focus. One cannot gain religious depth just because of its history, but its history can be a guide and a foundation to grow on. My mother (God rest her soul) used to tell me that it didn’t matter what I called myself, I could call myself a UU, but I was born a Jew I would die a Jew. To some degree this is true. Having grown up actively Jewish, it will always be a part of my personal and family history and it helped create who I am today. Therefore it is always part of who I am. And although to some degree it informs me, it doesn’t uniquely define me or my current religious practice and theology. There was a point early in my religious life where I felt I was Jewish attending UU services. Over time though that transformed into being a UU who has a Jewish Heritage. In fact thinking about it, I have now been a practicing UU longer than I had been practicing Judaism. I still respect the religion of birth, its culture and wisdom is still a part of who I am, but it is not my religion today.

So how does my experience inform me. It tells me that although history cannot be exclusive it is an inclusive part of what religion is. The stories, myths, culture, and scriptures of Judaism are still with me as part of my UU religion. I have just added more. I think it is Critical (with a capital bolded C,) that we educate our youth on the history of our religion. Yes we teach them how to think, not what to think, but we want to pass down our values and our culture to them as well. Religious growth doesn’t start in a vacuum. We need a foundation to understand where we have come from and where we are going. What is it that makes us uniquely who we are? What is a UU culture? In Judaism, it was always, because of our past, this is why you must believe this or act in this way. For UU, our history seems to say to me, because of our past, this is why we think this way; this is what led us to this point. Without the history, all we have “this is what we think, what do you think”. What is it that informs our thought process?. There has been an un-linear series of thoughts and events that led us here. For youth, I think we need to create some UU holidays and celebrations into our liturgical calendar, to give them a sense of pride in the uniqueness of who and what we are. I am always in awe of our young people who are active in YRUU (or whatever it is called today) who then go on to leadership roles or become future ministers). I see this as my role as a minister to focus on youth, youth religious education, and youth leadership development. Too often (particularly in Florida where there are less children in the congregation) youth are not integrated into the life of the congregation or given as much support. They are just as much members of the church as the adults and should be ministered to and with the same focus as with the adults. If youth do not see themselves as part of a great history, then they in the future they will just as likely attend another religion where they find like minded people and a welcoming community.

My relationship to the religion and association changed as soon as I started attending district events and General Assembly. I felt empowered, connected and part of a long tradition, singing and worshipping with thousands of other UU’s. Learning more about who we as a religion were, who we are, what we stand for, and what gives meaning to us. It was no longer just what Jay thought about something. It created new questions such as how does my thoughts impact others, or where are my values in relation to the associational values. These experiences provided personal growth but more so provided a bigger vision of what we as a religion could be. I have heard similar emotions shared from others who attended such events. Yet I also realized that I was one of only a handful of people who attended these events from my congregation. Thus access to events of this sort should be eased and increased.

So my experiences have shown me that helping connect people to a congregation makes them feel part of something larger than themselves. Even the historical significance of the congregation itself can help do this. Connecting the congregation to the larger UU vision, makes them feel part of something greater than themselves. I believe that realization that we are part of something larger than ourselves leads to transformative spiritual growth.

So our history informs us of who we were and how we got here. We examine our history with critique, It is important to remember our history in context. History connects us to a long tradition of religious freedom and hope and exploration. It also connects us to a long history and tradition of transformation of self and society. But it also connects us to challenges of a changing society and how quickly we can become irrelevant. It connects us to how we have dealt either positively or negatively with differences. It connects us to what brings us together and what rips us apart. We need to let History inform us how we move forward. What has worked in the past, and what has not? When and how have we reached towards our highest ideals and what has led us to abandon them. One of the chapters in Charles Howe book on Universalism is entitled “We do not Stand, We Move” I agree, we should not be trapped by our history for better or worse. We move with the full realization that we move in uncertainty with wonderful intentions that often have ambiguous outcomes. Knowing this, let us move forward with wisdom gained with knowledge of the past to give us the best chance to create the beloved community in the present and in the future.

We are not just a conglomeration of like minded people from other religions or no religions who have come together to share time on Sunday Mornings to hear a nice sermon. WE ARE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS. We should be proud of that, not dogmatic, but proud. It means something to be a UU versus being part of another religion. Our religion includes a theology of ongoing awareness, Awareness of ourselves, others and the earth itself. We become aware through learning from others, experiential activities, and ongoing revelation from multiple wisdom sources. Ours is a transformational religion, that believes that due to our existence on this world, we can, and have a responsibility to transform ourselves, our communities, and the world itself. WE ARE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS.

This whole thought process informs me as a future UU minister. It has made me consciously think about what I can do to engage our congregation with the core values and principles of the association. Sadly, I imagine many could not repeat our principles, so perhaps there would be a way to insert them into a weekly liturgy. I can encourage bringing UUA and district personnel to visit as a way to connect the congregation to the larger UU community. I can encourage participation in outside District and National events. I can do a sermon series on UU History. I can offer multiple ongoing tracks of UU History adult religious education program. These should all be taped and posted on the web, so guests or new members could watch them over time. There is also a good DVD, “Our American Roots” that could be utilized for the course or for individuals self education. I would encourage our Religious Education to make UU history part of the curriculum for youth. I would engage youth in all aspects of congregational life.

Finally we must act and live out our principles for history is not stagnant. It is being created all the time. We should by the way we live and act, continue to make religious history. WE ARE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS