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.

6/20/14

Comedy, not creeds

Qualifications for membership: Comedy not creeds. A sense of humor. Wit with a funny bone. Guffaws, chortles, titters, grins and smiles most welcome.

I firmly believe that to be a Unitarian Universalist one must absolutely have a sense of humor. Being able to understand the absurdities in most major religions, to be both critical and comical, to take derision from others who don't get it and judge us negatively, to recognize the human condition as fallible and thus prone to mistakes, to understand satire as both a coping mechanism and wisdom... all the many things that our world throws at us require a sense of humor to avoid being emotionally and intellectually crushed.

A really good church will be one filled with laughter, one where a person goes for relief from the worries of the world in order to be recharged and able to leave uplifted in spirit. Art Linkletter used to say, "Laughter is the best medicine" and I say it is a medicine that touches, and heals, the soul.

We are the church that laughs. Of course, we can also be deathly serious at times, but it is laughter that saves the day and keeps us sane. Need a good laugh to help face reality? Come to my church!