9/4/14

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

8/14/14

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.

[UU SATIRE ALERT]

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.

8/7/14

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/

7/29/14

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.

7/8/14

Summer salon: Universalist theology

It's that time again. For our third summer since becoming a full-year church, our popular program of readings and discussion starts this coming Sunday. Like the first year we did this, someone will present a sample of the original writings of a personage of note, and then the audience will respond with their thoughts and ideas based upon what they've heard.

These salons are a return to our Transcendental roots of the early 1800’s, when “Many of the country's smartest thinkers, for example, were calling for the U.S. to finally establish an artistic and philosophical community for the first time -- to start really beefing up our school and university systems, stop automatically shipping off all our children to Europe in order to get a decent education, actually publish literary magazines and hold discussion salons and all the other things that at the time you literally had to sail all the way to London or Paris to find.” [Excerpt from a review by Jason Pettus of the book American Transcendentalism: A History, by Philip Gura.]

We've got an interesting line-up this year so we can hear, in detail, some examples of Universalist thought dating all the way back to Origen Adamantius of Alexander, c. 250 C.E. We'll hear how Clarence Skinner redefined Universalism in terms of the social gospel in the early 1900's; hear about Forrest Church's conversion from Unitarianism to Universalism late in life; and get a taste for the radicalism of Judith Sargent Murray.

Also on tap are readings from two local area preachers: Asa Saxe representing the late 1800's and Richard S. Gilbert from the late 1900's. And as a special treat, we'll have a presentation from the current editor about The Universalist Herald journal - "The Oldest Continuously Published Liberal Religious Periodical in North America."

It's church in the summertime - a more relaxed atmosphere but just as engaging for the mind and the spirit. Why not join us for a Sunday morning? In fact, why not bring along a friend, too? The coffee will be brewing.

7/2/14

The gun cabinet in my office

Subtitled: Long time peace activist installs gun cabinet in the minister's study.

No, I haven't lost it (my mind). Rather, I've found it (my heritage).

I remember the tall pine cabinet from my youth. It lived in the basement and held a variety of long-barrel weapons, including two .22 rifles, a shotgun, and one or two others of unknown caliber. When I was old enough, I was allowed to use the .22 for decreasing the population of woodchucks (groundhogs, whistle pigs) around our property, just as my father had done in the fields of his farm.

My father died before I was three years old. Everything I know about him is hand-me-down knowledge - stories learned from my family, and a few physical items that he constructed in his woodshop, most likely made in the winter when the demands of a farm are somewhat lighter.

Upon my mother's death (more than 40 years ago) I inherited a piano bench and a crudely made chair for dolls (my dad had made for my sister). Just last week, I inherited this gun cabinet. My brother had it for many years, and he'd added interior shelves, turning it into a display cabinet for his collection of smoking pipes and assorted trinkets. Now, in my writing room, it is filling up with Sun, Humanist, and UU World magazines, plus various antiquarian books useful for my sermons.

So this wooden case with glass door, which once housed weapons of destruction, has a new life housing words that I hope will be absorbed into my psyche and regurgitated out in sermons that may hopefully sway others into abandoning their weapons of destruction. Turning an item related to violence into a cache of thoughts and ideas for the betterment of humankind.

Lofty thinking, for sure, but I think my dad would approve.

6/25/14

Encounters of the weird, aka POV

Our church was open for touring and meditation this morning, as it is each Wednesday in the summer. As it happened, a tour bus of Southern Baptists had stopped in town, and several saw our "Open House" sign and came over to look around.

In our gift shop, a gentleman picked up a greeting card and asked, "What does this mean?" The card (illustrated at left) shows two stick figures holding hands with a child inside a heart floating above.*

Before I could answer he asked if it was about divorce and had something to do with custodial visitation rights, or some such thing.

Well that idea completely caught me off guard. In fact, even the idea that someone would have to inquire what the card's message was about caught me off guard because it seemed so obvious to me. My POV - Point of View - just ran smack up against a POV from the South so completely different from my own that each of us was wondering where the other was coming from.

I proceeded to explain it was a "Gay-friendly" card, meant to approve of two men raising a child as a family. His reply, "So it's not about divorce?" indicated he was struggling to grasp the intent, and then a moment later it must have sunk in. Instead of challenging me on selling a greeting card that might indicate divorce was somehow OK, he now wanted to elucidate me on why it would be wrong for gay people to have children.

I'd like to tell you that the headline of this story should read "Southern Baptist meets Unitarian Universalist and Love wins" but I can't. No minds were changed this morning, and no more people from the tour bus came into our church, either (I think he gave his fellow travelers a heads up to stay clear after he left our building).

Still, I can smile about the encounter because for one brief moment I had a bible-thumper in my church who wanted to correct me in my God-forsaken ways while standing in front of our exhibit of Victorian art prints of Jesus. WWJD, I wonder.

* Like the card? It is was created by Sara & Julia of Papersauruscreative and is available on Etsy, or in our gift shop at church.