Interdependent Web: Something vital to bring, holy moments in sacred spaces, defining terms and telling stories

Interdependent Web: Something vital to bring, holy moments in sacred spaces, defining terms and telling stories

A weekly roundup of blogs and other user-generated web content about Unitarian Universalism

Heather Christensen


Something vital to bring

Introducing one of her “painted prayers,” Stefani Etzbach-Dale asks, “Is this country, is this world, not big enough or abundant enough to receive and nurture us all? Have we not all something vital to bring to our common endeavors?” (Facebook, 12.12.18)

illustration of fence with a river and trees in the mid-distance and a lone mountain in the background
© 2018 Stefani Etzbach-Dale

Reflecting on her experiences at the Mexican border, Gretchen Haley reminds us that “it is the work of the religious community to keep alive our moral imagination.”

Climate change and the ever-increasing presence of extreme poverty and violence across the globe will ensure that migration is a constant.

And it’s a constant that doesn’t need to be a problem to be solved. The people arriving at the borders are people. . . . with gifts and skills and drive and imagination and heart. People who can contribute towards solving our shared challenges in ways we have not yet even dreamed. (Another Possibility, 12.12.18)

Holy moments in sacred spaces

Joanna Fontaine Crawford shares a holy moment at the church she serves.

It is dark and rainy outside. An older gentleman stopped in and in a slight accent, asked if he could light a candle in our sanctuary, holding out a small candle he brought with him. . . . It is the anniversary of his father’s death, he would have been 96. . . .

Live Oak, our “parish” includes people we never see on a Sunday. They appreciate us, and see this space as sacred. (Facebook, 12.7.18)

Amy Zucker Morgenstern recognizes the efforts and passion of members of her congregation.

Another member stopped by just to write on the stole I’m bringing to the border. I assured her that I wasn’t leaving until Sunday evening, so she’d have another chance Sunday. She knew—she just wanted to be absolutely sure of sending her blessings along (“Un Fuerte Abrazo” and “Amor, Esperanza y Fe”).

You, my dear people of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, are the salt of the earth, giving life its savor. (Facebook, 12.7.18)

Define your terms

Dan Harper writes that defining what we mean by the word “God” is essential to clear conversation.

[When] using the English-language term “God,” you have to be careful to define in what sense you are using that term. When you argue against God as a thing which is a natural cause, your arguments will have little effect on those for whom God is defined in terms of a personal devotional relationship.

Furthermore, if a modern atheist winds up arguing with a mystic, someone like Henry David Thoreau or me, they might find they’re arguing with a religious naturalist who agrees entirely with their naturalist arguments, but who does not define God as a thing which is a natural cause. If we don’t clarify which definition of God we’re using, the argument is going to get confusing very quickly. (Yet Another Unitarian Universalist, 12.8.18)

David Schwartz says that stories are more useful than definitions.

If you’re in this in good faith, if you also want to meet together as people among people, don’t define your terms. Tell me a story. Tell me a story about that in your life: how did that change you? when did you know? what does that feel like right now? how has it changed over time for you? what did you think it would be like and what’s it been like? what was it like on your worst day?

Me being right and proving you wrong is a lonely road: there’s no one at the end of it but me. So, sure, we want to be right. But we’re called to be in relationship. (Facebook, 12.9.18)

Folk religion

David Breeden asks hard questions about the accessibility of liberal religion.

William James—and liberal religion—got it wrong. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the future of religion in the Americas was theirs to lose, and they lost it. The liberal religious movement embraced individuality to the exclusion of most people—in the US and worldwide. This was to have profound consequences.

Consequences that continue today. How might the liberal, ecumenical, religious tradition attract the poor and oppressed? That’s a good question. And not one much discussed in denominations wringing their hands before the potential collapse of their traditions. (Medium, 12.13.18)

John Becket rants about abusive folk wisdom.

At least a couple times a week I see a meme that says something along the lines of “your problems are nothing compared to what other people are going through—be happy.” And there are always comments that say “yes—people don’t realize how good they have it.”

These memes make me very angry.

Most people who post them mean well (on the surface anyway) but to someone who’s hurting they scream “your pain isn’t real” and “I can’t be bothered with listening to you, much less helping you.” They’re callous and abusive, particularly in a society that has the capacity to do better. (Under the Ancient Oaks, 12.13.18)

Babies and puppies

Lynn Ungar rewrites “Baby It’s Cold Outside” for people and their dogs.

Baby It’s Cold—Dog in the Bed Update

I’ve got to get up (Mama, it's cold outside)
You snuggly pup (Mama it's cold outside)
Though sleeping has been (I’m just pushing in)
So very nice (I’m not sure eight hours will suffice) (Facebook, 12.12.18)

Shelby Meyerhoff recounts her reaction to a fellow congregant who assumes incorrectly that her baby is breastfed.

Earlier in our parenting journey, this stranger’s comment might have sent me into a tailspin. Filled with self-doubt and recrimination, I would have once again recited in my head all the reasons why exclusively formula-feeding turned out to be the right choice for us. And I would have felt the need to offer aloud a public apology, to enumerate my reasons, to elaborate the backstory, and to do so with a somber tone. Instead, I surprised myself. I laughed! I just laughed and shook my head and said, “All formula.”

But, I assured my new acquaintance, “I’ll take it as a compliment.” She saw Moxie looking very happy and healthy (and/or with lots of spit up?) and assumed based on her experience that this must mean I was breastfeeding, and she wanted to cheer me on, to let me know that I was doing a good job. (Facebook, 12.10.18)