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UU children, holy evolution, and a church reborn

Questions for spiritual reflection and adult group discussion.
By Jane Greer
Spring 2006 2.15.06

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Worshiping youth.

In her essay “A Stranger in My Own Hometown,” the Rev. Barbara Wells ten Hove talks about the importance of integrating children into UU worship so that later they don’t find it an alienating experience. (page 18)

What does your congregation do to involve children in its worship services? What other things could it do? What should children’s roles in worship be?

Exodus story.

Barbara Wells ten Hove talks about feeling alienated as a born and bred UU because so many others find Unitarian Universalism after leaving another religion. “We are made to feel that if we lack an experience of exile, we are not truly UU.” (“A Stranger in My Own Hometown,” page 18)

If you grew up in a UU congregation, how does your experience compare to Wells ten Hove’s? Is there a metaphor other than exodus that might include all UUs?

Religion and evolution.

Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd are evangelists for the idea that evolution is holy. Thomas Berry, one of the developers of the Great Story concept that Barlow and Dowd promote, says, “We are in trouble just now because we do not have a good story. We are in between stories. The old story, the account of how the world came to be and how we fit into it, is no longer effective.” (“Welcome to the Ecozoic Era,” page 26)

What is your understanding of how the world came into being? How do you relate to the myths that have long been used to explain this? Are they still meaningful?

Planting businesses.

Dorothy May Emerson says one way the many community loan funds taking root in the United States help alleviate poverty is by helping people start businesses. “By moving capital into economically underdeveloped communities these relatively new, mostly not-for-profit institutions are sowing seeds of opportunity.” (“Seeds of Opportunity,” page 33)

Have you ever considered a community loan for a project of your own? If so, what? Have you or your congregation ever considered investing in a community loan fund?

Theological diversity.

The worship services at Independent Christian Church Universalist in Gloucester, Massachusetts, the oldest Universalist congregation in the United States, include the Lord’s Prayer, secular poetry, and songs and readings from other religious traditions. Some congregants don’t identify as Christian and don’t say the Lord’s Prayer. The liturgy manages to transcend these differences, says music minister David Bergeron. “Something happens in the celebrating that is electric and palpable.” (“Gloucester’s Revival,” page 39)

How does your congregation address the issue of theological difference? Do you strive for theological consistency in your services?

Ordinary heroes.

The Rev. Waitstill Sharp and Martha Sharp left their comfortable lives at the end of the 1930s to go to Europe to rescue people from the Nazi regime. In commenting on their actions, the Rev. William Schulz said, “The fact that they went meant that anyone else could have done it.” (“Couple Honored for Holocaust Rescues,” page 51)

What motivates someone to choose to go into a dangerous situation to help? What are the pros and cons of such actions? How far would you be willing to go to help in a dangerous situation?

The marrying kind.

In his essay, “Marriage in the Nineteenth Century,” John Buehrens reviews two books detailing the lives of nineteenth-century women and discusses how marriage helped or hindered them. Buehrens quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson, who took a dim view of marriage: “We live amid hallucinations & illusions, & this especial trap is laid for us to trip our feet with & all are tripped up, first or last.” (page 55)

How have our views of marriage changed since the nineteenth century? How have they stayed the same?

Forces of history.

Richard S. Scobie writes in his memoir on the UU Service Committee’s involvement in Central America, “The times in which we live mold us, test us, and define us. Events like the Second World War loom like great shadows over whole eras.” (“Looking Back,” page 64)

What political or social events or circumstances have molded your life? Have there been many? What is impacting it now?

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