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Books that amplify our voices

This issue of 'UU World' highlights books worth sharing.
By Christopher L. Walton
Winter 2007 11.1.07

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Welcome to the Books Issue. If Unitarian Universalists have a distinctive way of sharing their worldview with others, it’s probably captured in the gesture of handing a book to a friend and saying, “Read this!” This issue of UU World draws from several recent books:

  • So Help Me God, the Rev. Dr. Forrest Church’s latest book, tells the story of how the first five American presidents—each a religious liberal—helped shape the nation’s tradition of separating church and state. It’s a rich and stimulating book, in part because it does not paint a simple picture: John Adams, a Unitarian and the most persistent churchgoer of the early presidents, favored the idea of Christian government but lost his reelection bid in part because his national days of prayer outraged Baptists. (How times have changed!) Thomas Jefferson, reviled by New England clergy for his Deism and other “French” ideas, attended Christian worship services in the House of Represen­tatives; and James Monroe, the least religious president in the early Republic, governed during a period of unprecedented religious fervor—but provoked none of the excoriating sermons his predecessors had. See page 26 for more.

  • The Rev. Kate Braestrup’s memoir, Here If You Need Me, tells the moving story of her decision to become a Maine Forest Service chaplain after her husband, a state police officer who wanted to become a Unitarian Universalist minister himself, was killed in an accident while on duty. UU World profiled Braestrup back in 2005—you can read that article online at uuworld.org—but the publication of her book this year has brought her story into the pages of O, the Oprah Magazine; USA Today; and many other publications. Her story presents Unitarian Universalism in unusually compelling and personal ways. We feature an excerpt in “Reflections” (page 18).

  • The Rev. Robert Fulghum has been a UU minister since 1961, but ever since a collection of his church newsletter columns became the bestselling Everything I Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, he has been what he calls a “UU stealth minister” to millions. His new book, What on Earth Have I Done?, features more of his funny, earthy stories and humane approach to life. We’re pleased to offer a handful in “Sketches of Crete” (page 33).

Speaking of books: UU World is looking for a “Bookshelf” editor who will select books, commission reviews, and edit them for our books section. The ideal candidate will be an experienced editor deeply interested in UU life. Interested?

In my last column I discussed the unfair change in the periodicals postage rate that went into effect in July. We have confirmed that the new rates boost UU World’s postage costs by 21 percent; other independent magazines saw even higher increases. I submitted written testimony to the Congressional subcommittee that was scheduled to hold hearings on the rate change in late October. I’ll keep you posted.

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