Letters, Fall 2014

Letters, Fall 2014

Readers respond to the Summer 2014 issue.



Bill Dockery (“A Bookshelf for Inclusion,” Summer 2014) does not mention people who are handicapped by deafness. As a deaf person, I often find that ministers and other speakers do not consider how hard it may be for some of the congregation to hear them. Many speakers choose not to use the microphone provided, or they hold it too low to be effective. These practices leave many of us frustrated and completely excluded from what is being said. Ministers should insist on the use of the microphone by all speakers and the proper use of the microphone. Otherwise the presentation is discriminatory.

Some churches have complete sound systems, with headphones, which serve the deaf even better, but they are expensive and not commonly found in our churches.

Isabel Denham
Falmouth, Maine
First Universalist Church of Yarmouth

Seven Principles

Your Summer 2014 issue was, as usual, insightful, provocative, and informative. As a lifelong UU, I found the article by Doug Muder, “I Don’t ‘Believe In’ the Seven Principles,” especially valuable. In it, the author very effectively covered some of the same thoughts I have often entertained as a UU but have never quite been able to resolve, at least to my own satisfaction. That same week at my local church the Rev. Tom Schmidt, in the opening remarks of his invocation, came up with what is to me the perfect response to further elucidate Muder’s article. He quoted another UU minister, the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar of All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma: “UUA Principles are more like seeds to be planted and tended than fruits to be harvested. Like seeds, they hold within them the promise of something larger, but they require nurture and cultivation to achieve their promise.” It may have taken three UUs, but now I think I’ve finally got it. Thanks, guys!

Tom Parks
Midland, Texas
UU Church of Midland

Doug Muder writes, “We’re not committed to beliefs, we’re committed to visions.” It really is no wonder then why Unitarian Universalism isn’t growing or going into places that it has traditionally ignored. Visions only take you so far. To say that Unitarian Universalism is not committed to beliefs completely ignores the fact that our Unitarian and Universalist forebears actually had beliefs; beliefs about the nature of humanity most especially.

The best way to embrace meaningful change is to eschew this idea that being committed to belief (or beliefs) is a bad thing. Because if anybody truly thinks that the affirmation of “the inherent worth and dignity of every person” is not based upon a belief about the nature of humanity, then there really is no purpose for Unitarian Universalism.

Kimberly Hampton
University City, Missouri
First Unitarian Church of St. Louis

Into the beyond

What a wonderful breath of fresh air in the article by the Rev. Dr. Terasa Cooley (“Into the Beyond,” Summer 2014)!

It is time for us to consider the great opportunity open to us in the 18 to 20 percent of the U.S. population who are not now associated with any religious group. Our first step is to ask: What would they gain from joining one of our congregations?

I believe what they would gain matches nicely with what we offer to those leaving creedal denominations. Given that we come from many places—from Catholic to Jewish to none—what we could offer is a medium for learning from each other about each other’s spiritual life and perceptions of what matters, in whatever language it is expressed.

The focus of Unitarian Univer­salism should not continue as an adaptation of a lecture hall. We need to offer, in various forms, the excitement of interactive learning about spiritual issues.

Gabriel M. Gelb
Houston, Texas
Emerson Unitarian Universalist Church

I agree it is important to find new ways to “do church.” And I understand that millennials are fed up with institutions. However, there is profound magic and transformation in being in congregational, covenantal relationships. I can’t find this central and founding principle of Unitarian Universalism in Terasa Cooley’s article. What am I missing?

Sarah Thole Fischell
Fairhaven, New Jersey
UU Congregation of Monmouth County
Posted on facebook.com/uuworld, June 4

Pastoral care is absent in Cooley’s vision, a critical failure, in my opinion. She claims “now people have deep and meaningful interactions online.” I have never experienced that. Being a caring community is the essential nature of church, in my experience. And her vision of church is alien to me: she says it is all about “social transformation,” which “can also happen in a second on the Web.” I disagree. I am all for social justice work. My vision of the whole person necessarily includes a spiritual practice of giving one’s self in service. However, social justice work comes from the fruits of the caring community, and is not the core experience of church.

Perhaps I am old-fashioned and lacking in imagination. I know that the church I know and love is a caring community, where we are led by trained ministers in spiritual uplift and practices in a web of giving and receiving. I can’t imagine that podcasts, YouTube videos, Facebook pages, or volunteer-led book groups could take the place of this.

Orval Osborne
Ojai, California
Unitarian Universalist Church of Ventura

Every year family farms fold because the kids don’t want to inherit the hard task of working the land. Should we abandon farms and all start playing Farmville instead? No, because farming and healthy land stewardship are fundamental relations necessary for society to flourish.

Congregations are necessary to Unitarian Universalism in the same way that farms are necessary to healthy eating. They are the essential setting in which our principles become operational and are given concrete form.

The Rev. Gary Kowalski
Burlington, Vermont
Posted on uuworld.org, May 29

UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 24 Farnsworth St., Boston MA 02210-1409, or world@uua.org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, daytime phone number, and congregation on all correspondence. Published letters with author’s name, city, and state will appear on www.uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

This article appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of UU World (pages 58-59).

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