Asking the hard questions

"What one thing will you do differently this year to improve your life?" Tonight our Wednesday discussion group will meet to consider this question.

The easy attempt at an answer is to approach it as a sort of a New Year's resolution kind of thing. You know the typical ones - lose weight, exercise more, stop smoking or drinking, eat more healthy foods. But those are not the answers we seek tonight.

Tonight we go deeper. What might one do to alter his or her life that goes beyond the ordinary self-improvement tropes? Maybe spend more time outside in nature (walking in the woods, gardening, beach strolling, star gazing, etc.). Perhaps commit to helping others in need (volunteer at a pet shelter, work at a food pantry, drive a van for meals-on-wheels, build a house with Habitat for Humanity, etc.).

Other life-changing possibilities: Learn a musical instrument, or Tai Chi, start keeping a daily diary, read a book on a subject that you've always had curiosity about, carve out time each week to be with children or grandchildren - and have memorable fun with them, attend church regularly.

I'm sure there are hundreds of possible answers, hundreds of ways of changing to improve one's life. In letting my mind "brainstorm" for this short blog post I noticed that everything I came up with requires action, movement, participating and engaging with life rather than sitting around and letting life just happen. That is the secret to transformation - doing something - and I invite you to ponder deeply on what one thing you will do differently this year to improve your life.


Go to L !

Learn. Live. Love. Laugh.   (my Unitarian Universalist credo)

and apparently Emerson's, too.
"Live well, 
Learn plenty, 
Laugh often, 
Love much." 

Ralph Waldo Emerson


Do we teach Universalism?

Do we teach Universalism? We teach the power of Love. We teach how to live life. We teach responsibility for our planet. We teach there is no fear in death or dying. We teach the wisdom of generations of philosophers, theologians, scientists, and poets. So yes, we teach Universalism!


A roof over our heads

It's now a proven fact - George Pullman spared no expense in building a memorial to his parents.

The Pullman Memorial Universalist Church - dedicated to Lewis and Emily Caroline Pullman - was designed by famed architect Solon S. Beman. One of the visually outstanding features of the 1895 building (constructed of pink Medina sandstone) was its red "Spanish clay" roofing tiles.

Alas, for reasons now lost to history, those tiles were removed less than forty years later and replaced with ordinary composition shingles. One can only guess there was a problem with water leaks, which likely had more to do with improper flashing details than with the tiles themselves.

So those beautiful terracotta tiles were taken down and disposed of in the 1930's. Now, as we approach our 125 year anniversary the move is on to restore the roof to its original grandeur, ie, to replace the tile roof. But the question has been - what did those tiles look like? There are more variations in tile design than the average person would imagine, and color variations within each design, too.

Well, as of yesterday we have confirmed exactly which tile shape was employed, and samples of the color are available to us - all thanks to some shards found in a pile of rubble in a basement corner.

1893 Celadon Exhibit
As I stated at the lead of this blog - Beeman as architect, and Pullman as financier, spared no expense by specifying one of the most costly designs of roof tile, known as Conosera. Patented in 1880, it was produced by the Celadon Terra Cotta Company at a plant in Alfred, New York. Conosera tiles made quite a splash at the World's Columbian Exposition, aka the Chicago World's Fair, in 1893, receiving an award for their excellent design and quality. Check out the image of their exhibit for a wild, over-the-top house - and note the roof finials which appear to my eye to be the same as the one used to cap off our church's uppermost peak.

Celadon was bought by Ludowici Roofing Tile Company in 1906 and Ludowici is still in existence, still making tiles. A company rep believes the pattern molds still exist and it is still possible to reproduce the Conosera tiles.

Have you heard the expression, "Be careful what you wish for?" It's exciting to finally learn what our roof looked like when first built, and yet if we opt to be historically accurate in restoration and go with the original Conosera pattern tiles then our expenses just skyrocketed. George Pullman - whose net worth at the time of his death was $37 billion in today's money - probably didn't bat an eye at the cost to erect his monument using the finest materials and craftsmanship available. But now, in 2014, it will take more than a single wealthy benefactor to reclaim the lost glory of this tile roof.

Every donation - no matter how small - will help us reach our goal. If you are moved by history and want to see a beautiful building be once again capped in splendor then I invite you to throw some money in the hat at pullman125project.com

Below are some more images of this tile pattern, some of our original "shards," and photos of two existing buildings showing the flexibility of these tiles to handle curves:

Note the tapered flute, and reinforced nailing holes
Not a broken piece, but marked "Hip Left"
Manufacturer's mark on the back
The broken finial
First Presbyterian Church, Dayton, OH
County Courthouse, Syracuse, NY


The Pullman Praise-togethers - praise band

The 120+ year history of Pullman Memorial Universalist Church includes a number of committees and groups, including a ladies-aid group called the "Pull-togethers." Well, after reading our local newspaper's "Church News" column and noting how many nearby congregations highlight the fact they have praise bands, I thought maybe it's time for my church to jump on the "bandwagon" because praise is the new craze.


The Pullman Praise-togethers will be like no other praise band, ever! We'll sing and shout, uplifting The Great Unknown, highlighting the power of questions over answers, and clamoring for more coffee from fair trade farms.

High notes for squeaky wheels who lobby for environmental changes, and low notes for capitalists who prey upon the non-union laborer. There will be harmonies for helpers and syncopation for sinners turned do-gooders. It will be a choir for queers and seers, for long-hairs and short-hairs, for the off-key and off-color. Can't carry a tune? No problem - our equality protocol means that no voice is turned away, nor musical instrument discouraged (play the spoons? accordion? theremin? bagpipes? didgeridoo? whatever floats your boat to get your "praise on").

In true Unitarian Universalist fashion we'll celebrate humanity as well as divinity, praising the spirit in everyone and not just The Spirit. We'll jump for Jesus, bow for Buddha, move for Muhammad, dip for the Dali Lama, sing for Servetus, hum for humanists, and confab for Confucius. No good religious tenet will go unheralded!

Of course, each individual singer will be allowed to exercise their right of conscience, and may sing their lyrics to the tune of their choosing, or sing different lyrics to the democratically chosen tune of the group. It's all part of our respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part, knowing we're all entangled in each others' stuff no matter what we sing.

So let us Praise our Principles! Sing our salutations! Make merry music! The world is our audience, and the ones in the pews are our captive audience! Come, shake your booty, in praise of life and love. So may it be.


Time for some conflict resolution

"Creating harmony in a conflicted world" will examine how to reduce or eliminate conflict on numerous levels, from the international to interpersonal to intra-personal.

Five knowledgeable presenters. 10 workshops. 1 panel discussion. 

Lite lunch included. Lots of time for networking.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

9 am to 2 pm (church will stay open until 3 pm for people who wish to use the time and space for organizing and/or networking)

Register by Sept. 5th.

Admission: $5 for students, $10 for others.

Sponsored by:
Pullman Memorial Universalist Church
10 E. Park St.
Albion, NY 14411

More information at http://pullmantickets.com/


Helping the innocent

One of our younger church members needs help...

Tyler was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at the age of 7. He has what is known as "labile diabetes" which means that he has extreme, volatile fluctuations in his blood sugar on a regular basis, as much as from 35-600 in the course of a day. He uses an insulin pump and CGM device to try to control his diabetes, yet even with these amazing technological advances, he was still found on his bedroom floor in a grand mal seizure that almost took his life. The hope is that through fundraising his family will be able to provide a Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD) that is able to smell and alert for high and low blood sugars and possibly save his life in the future.

More information about Tyler and how a DAD can help, plus how you - the reader - can help may be found at: http://www.youcaring.com/medical-fundraiser/bring-home-kenai-a-diabetic-alert-dog-for-tyler-/210944#sthash.UAhwStog.dpuf

Please, if you can possibly can do so, follow the link and make a contribution for this boy and give him a chance to enjoy life more. As his pastor, I thank you.