Readers respond to the Summer 2008 issue.
Kimberly French’s article “The Sources Sing” (Summer 2008) is terrific, well-written, passionate, and really seems to capture the essence of the Rev. Jason Shelton’s and the Rev. Kendyl Gibbons’s goals in writing “The Sources: A Unitarian Universalist Cantata.” I know everyone who attends this year’s General Assembly will be amazed at the fullness and richness of the piece. [The cantata was perfomed in the GA opening ceremony in June.] I was privileged to hear parts of this wonderful creation in St. Louis at GA 2006. For me, the piece is a microcosm of what we UUs are supposed to be about.
I also have a special interest in this musical event: My son, Justice Whitaker, will be bringing the house down during the finale! Thanks to French for accurately portraying his art and his goals in her interview with him. I hope everyone who hears this amazing piece of music will enjoy and appreciate its multifaceted dimensions!
Arroyo Grande, California
I was thrilled to be part of a performance of “The Sources” cantata last August at the UU Musicians’ Network Conference in Clearwater, Florida.
In Clearwater, a choir of nearly 200 UU musical all-stars, a 20-piece orchestra, New York percussion ensemble Heritage O.P., Brother Justice Whitaker, and the striking octagonal sanctuary combined to make some glorious sounds under Dr. Mike Scheibe’s direction.
Jason Shelton’s music and Kendyl Gibbons’s text state with supreme eloquence the many ways in which Unitarian Universalism excites the intellect, the spirit, and yea, even the soul. The five days of rehearsing and performing the cantata made for a breathtaking week that reminded me what a privilege it is to practice one’s liberal faith, and how important it is to defend that privilege in today’s political environment.
David B. Collins
There are a number of interesting comments made in the article “This Present Paradise” (Summer 2008) by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker about how “for almost 1,000 years the Christian church emphasized paradise” and how later interpreters focused on the suffering and death of Jesus. If you use the New Testament as the earliest source of information, one can't get to paradise without the cross, which seems to me to be a major theme in the life and ministry of Jesus. The authors seem to feel that early Universalism highlighted paradise and barely mentioned hell, citing Jane Leade, who at best was part of a wider Pietistic movement. The earliest Universalists, including the founder of American Universalism, the Rev. John Murray, and one of its early proponents, Dr. George de Benneville, not only believed in hell, but, alas, also the Trinity.
It was not that human nature was good and creation generous, as the article seems to indicate, but that God was good and people could be saved in spite of themselves, something de Benneville pointed out in his journal when he wrote that “if God can save me, God can save anyone.”
The Rev. John Morgan
UUA staff have no empathy for the destructive aspects of slashing funding to UU youth and UU young adult conferences (“UU News,” Summer 2008).
My experiences at UU youth conferences, young adult conferences, camps, and GA have been very rich and deep in comparison to my experiences at my local church. Having been raised UU and also going to youth conferences, I am disappointed with congregational worship services and local youth and young adult programming.
The effect on local congregations by youth and young adults returning from continental and district conferences is very strong, but is not noticed by most folks in the same congregation. As a YRUU advisor, I witnessed a repeated pattern that the most active youth leaders at the local church based their sense of empowerment on the district youth cons. In my own experience, it was my involvement at the continental level for UU young adults that gave me the impetus to help start up and develop a local young adult group at our church.
To me, not supporting our district and continental UU cons is like saying that GA has very little effect on our local congregations. This is very true in the sense that GA culture does not pervade our local congregations much. But, individuals energized by GA bring that energy back to the congregations in their own activity on the local board or the local committees. How can we measure that? This is why canceling Con Con for our youth and slashing funding for our youth and young adult continental conferences and councils is anti-growth, in my opinion.
I too was “a young adult in the 1990s,” as Manish K. Mishra described himself in his essay “The Call of Self” (Summer 2008). And though my life specifics may appear far removed from Mishra’s, being of a different social, ethnic, geographic, and religious background, the human condition remains the same. At the age of 18 I entered into marriage, fatherhood, and the U.S. Air Force, young, wild, and completely ill-prepared. My twenties were marked by upheavals in my relationships and ultimately two divorces. Alcohol was the fuel I chose to dowse the fires of discontent. At the age of 30, I dropped out of college, sank into deep depression, and, in the spring of 2000, found myself on my way to prison. It was at this point that I truly began my quest to understand “self.”
Eight years later I have spent much time and effort on this sub-
ject and I find it thus: The self we create will always be a reverberation of our core beliefs and ideals as well as our conditioned experiences throughout life. “Self” will be literally created between these catalysts.
I was glad to see an article on student action against mountaintop removal strip mining of coal (“UU News,” Summer 2008). I am an eighth-generation West Virginian and it enrages me to see the massive destruction that is taking place. It was estimated by a federal study that by 2012, 1.4 million acres of the Appalachian Mountains in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Tennessee will be “impacted” by mountaintop removal strip mining. For “impacted” read obliterated. That is about a mile wide swath from New York to California! So thanks for drawing attention to this Appalachian apocalypse.
Charleston, West Virginia
“Forum” contributor Tad Waddington (Summer 2008) has been a member of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Phoenix, Arizona, but is not now.
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Jane Greer is a former senior editor of UU World magazine.