Thursday, December 19, 2013

Rest in peace, Gordon McKeeman

The Humiliati. Rev. Gordon McKeeman is second from left.
Unitarian Universalist minister (retired) Gordon McKeeman has died.  I never met him, but I've always heard wonderful things about him. You will often find his writings and meditations in UU books and publications.  But perhaps he was best known in his final years as the last living member of the "Humiliati".  The Humiliati were a group of Universalist ministers in the 40s and 50s who had studied at the School of Religion at Tufts University (the Crane Theological School is no longer there).  You can read about the concerns and theological ideas of the Humiliati at this link.

McKeeman was once the minister of All Souls Universalist Church in Worcester, which later became the Unitarian Universalist Church of Worcester (where I am still a member).  These are some of his words:

"Ministry is all that we do – together. Ministry is that quality of being in community that affirms human dignity – beckons forth hidden possibilities, invites us into deeper, more constant, reverent relationships, and carries forward our heritage of hope and liberation.  Ministry is what we do together as we celebrate triumphs of our human spirit.  Miracles of birth and life.  Wonders of devotion and sacrifice.  Ministry is what we do together – with one another – in terror and torment – in grief, in misery and pain, enabling us in the presence of death to say yes to life.  We who minister speak and live the best we know with full knowledge that it is never quite enough, and yet are reassured by lostness found, fragments reunited, wounds healed and joy shared.  Ministry is what we all do – together." 
[From "Ministry is All That We Do -- Together" by Gordon McKeeman, pp. 10-11 from Awakened from the Forest: Meditations on Ministry, ed. Gary E. Smith (Boston: Skinner House Books, 1995)]

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Younger Reader / Young Adult Fiction and Cultural Criticism

I'm sure you've heard about the Harry Potter and Hunger Games books and movies. Both have been wildly popular with younger readers, getting kids and adolescents to read like little else in these times of the Internet and video games and more. But did you know that there's been an effort to mobilize young adults/adolescents to think about societal injustices based on some of the ideas raised in these books?

It started with the Harry Potter Alliance. Straight from their webpage, "The Harry Potter Alliance is a coalition of fandom leaders and members who feel passionate about the power of story to inspire and affect social change. Just as Harry and his friends fought the Dark Arts in JK Rowling's fictional universe, we strive to destroy real-world horcruxes like inequality, illiteracy, and human rights violations." 

As an offshoot of the Harry Potter Alliance, a similar concept is forming based on the Hunger Games series, written by Suzanne Collins. It's known as Odds in Our Favor. According to the Odds in Our Favor website:"Economic inequality knows no boundaries — it is pervasive and persistent, and it affects every city, region, and country across the world. The gap between the wealthy and the poor grows wider every day, while the middle class shrinks and more people find themselves short of what they need to get by. Who controls the narrative? The rich and powerful tell us that if we put our heads down and work hard, we can overcome the odds and join the ranks of the victors — the wealthy and privileged few. However, it’s increasingly clear that the game is rigged, and that we have an important role to play: At best, we are the loyal consumers. At worst, we are the ones who slip through the cracks. And that’s why we’re taking back the narrative. The Hunger Games explores numerous themes that are relevant to the imbalances that exist in our world. In Catching Fire, Katniss Everdeen solidifies her role as a symbol for change and sets the resistance in motion. Thus, the release of the Catching Fire film represents a perfect opportunity to establish a dialogue about our own problems and set the wheels in motion for positive change. Instead, Catching Fire is being used as an opportunity to sell makeup and fast-food sandwiches. And we have a very simple response to that: Not on our watch." 

My take is that the Odds in Our Favor campaign is a little more sophisticated conceptually than the HP Alliance, asking followers to think about economic injustice and, ultimately, Empire itself. Of course, the Harry Potter books (particularly the earlier ones) are for younger readers than the Hunger Games books, so I suppose that makes sense. The Harry Potter books are less overtly about cultural criticism than the Hunger Games, where the cultural criticism is barely disguised. So in that sense, the HP Alliance is more of a stretch; I didn't really think about issues of social change while reading these books any more than I would when reading a super hero comic book. Reading the Hunger Games series, it's impossible not to think about the parallels to our socio-political situation. In that sense, Odds in Our Favor seems like a natural. I suppose my only concern about the Odds in Our Favor is the violence of the Hunger Games series; I hope that it will inspire peaceful responses to questioning Empire. I'm sure that's its intention -- peaceful response to economic injustice and Empire. They are promoting "dialogue" and "positive change".

I think both the HP Alliance and Odds in Our Favor are exciting ways of harnessing the energy that young people feel in reading about heroic fictional characters and wishing they could be like Harry Potter, like Katniss Everdeen. I continue to be impressed by the Millennial Generation and their social awareness. It gives me great hope.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The Totally Tubular Spirituality of the 1980s

This past Sunday, we had a worship service entirely devoted to remembering the 1980s.  Yes, that's right. And we had a lot of fun, too.  I'm a Gen Xer, and I just couldn't help myself.

All the music played during the service was from the 80s.  The congregation sang Cyndi Lauper's "Time after Time" and, with the help of the choir, "We Are the World" (by USA for Africa).  A couple of our talented members did an incredible rendition of "(I've Had) The Time of My Life".  And our wonderful Music Director played "Chariots of Fire", "Don't Worry, Be Happy", and "Footloose" on piano.

Our Director of Religious Education read "The Polar Express" as our story for all ages, which is from the 1980s too.

And my sermon was "The Totally Tubular Spirituality of the 1980s"; If you want to hear a recording of the sermon, you can listen here.

Every Sunday should be this much fun!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

“Thank you for your service”: Why Veterans Day Is So Hard for Me

I made it through another Veterans Day. I always find this day hard. I find it hard because… Wow, it’s complicated.

For the past decade, people who know I used to be in the US Navy (I was on active duty from 1990-94) often thank me for my service. I know they’re trying to be kind; they’re trying to do the right thing. You’re supposed to thank veterans on Veterans Day, right? That’s the thing to do.

Midshipman Hoke, long ago and far away.
But here’s the first odd part. I graduated from high school in 1986, and I decided to do Naval ROTC (NROTC) in college. Not one person thanked me for making the decision to “serve my country” back then. No one said anything positive about it, really. From the teachers and adults in my life who cared about me, I mostly got very concerned comments like, “Are you sure you really want to do that?” Or even, “I’m not so sure I like that you’re joining the military…” From my peers, I got shrugs and the occasional, “Why are you doin’ that?” Bottom line: No one seemed excited about my decision. No one told me they were proud of me. No one thanked me for “serving my country”. 

I think the unspoken stereotype was that “losers” join the military after high school.  It’s like the Bob Dylan lyric: “Join the army if you fail” (from “Subterranean Homesick Blues”).  So I don’t recall my hometown being particularly impressed.  As for NROTC itself while I was in college, I remember once on “drill day” (when you went to classes all day dressed in uniform) that someone (a civilian student) actually did spit on me and say rude things.  I remember often getting funny looks and even hostile looks on those days. I remember a couple of times when someone got up to move away from me when I sat near them in the lecture hall wearing my uniform.  I certainly cannot remember a single professor or student thanking me or saying how wonderful it was… I think a few of my (civilian) friends and dorm mates appreciated  how hard it was to be in NROTC in some ways, and sometimes asked very polite and thoughtful questions about it all. Those were probably the kindest reactions.

And for that matter, no one (other than the USO and other quasi-military entities) thanked me for my service while I was on active duty. And I don’t remember more than a tiny handful of people thanking me for my service after the fact, either. And that’s okay; I don’t expect to be thanked. I wasn’t a “war hero”; I served during the time of the Gulf War, but I was never sent to the Gulf and was never in combat. I wrote the proverbial “blank check with my life” like anyone else who volunteers, but fate didn’t cash it.  

Most of my active duty time was spent as a special agent in the Naval Investigative Service (now known as the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, or NCIS).  I was so young (21-24 years old while a special agent) that I felt immortal; I never worried about my safety. Looking back, I realize there were times that I was in potential danger as a special agent, but I didn’t think much about it at the time.  Some of the things I did then would terrify me now, but I guess that’s part of the advantage of having young people in the military.  

Like just about anyone else in the military, I can tell you stories of harsh treatment and cruelty (mostly observing it – not so much was directed at me); I can tell you stories of absurd things that I did while in the military – things that would strike you as ridiculous if you heard the stories; and I can tell you stories of a few things I did that I didn’t feel good about doing… in some cases, things that still bother me to this day. I wasn’t the world’s best sailor by any means, but I did what I was asked. And I got my honorable discharge.  

Then I went back to graduate school, and almost twenty years later, here I am.

The interesting part is, things changed after 9/11. For the past decade-plus since 9/11, people do thank me for my service on Veterans Day.  I confess that on Facebook, I tend to post an old picture of myself in my uniform on Veterans Day.  And so people see it, and of course sometimes they feel the urge – or obligation – to say thanks. As I say, I know they mean to be kind and thoughtful and so forth.  And I guess I’m asking for it when I post the old picture in uniform; showing a picture of yourself in uniform on Veterans Day is sort of like begging for a compliment. So, I get my “thanks”.

I’m not sure why I post the picture. Somehow it’s irresistible to share these photos on the day. Part of it is, I was young! I was thin! I was much cuter than I am today. Why not show myself from “back in the day”? (Oh heck, I’ll go ahead and share an old picture in this very post!) But I guess part of it is, honestly, I’m a peacenik now… and I feel that serving active duty somehow gives me the right to speak my peacenik mind now and then – speaking out against war.

Back to my original point, I find it fascinating to be thanked for my military service by some folks who knew me when I joined the Navy and seemed to think nothing of it. I see the posts they write about how wonderful the men and women in the armed forces are, and I wonder… why didn’t they join the military back when they were young and fit? I’m sure the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines would have been happy to have them.  But I have to assume that it wasn’t an appealing option at the time.  And times do change, as do people.

It would seem that since 9/11, the militarism of this country has been on overdrive.  Veterans Day is a great opportunity to celebrate militarism and to perpetuate propaganda.  We are told to thank those in the armed forces for protecting our freedom; “freedom isn’t free!”

I have great compassion for the young men and women currently serving in the US military.  They have it much harder than my generation of veterans did in so many ways.  The never-ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan mean that they often have to serve multiple tours of duty in a combat zone, something that used to be virtually unheard of (for good reason). And the post 9/11 propaganda no doubt played into their decisions to join the military in the first place; I’ve heard many young Iraq and Afghanistan veterans say as much – that they joined to “get Osama Bin Laden”.  Their instincts were to be heroic. Their instincts were to do the right thing. But many times they come home and wonder how much of their service really was “in service” to their fellow citizens and freedom.  I will let them tell their own stories…

I cannot honestly say that I did one thing in my years in the US Navy that helped to keep you free. If you’re thanking me for protecting your freedom, really, I don’t deserve it.  I’m not sure what I did to make the world a better or safer place.  I did what I was asked, always. I’m just not sure how much good it did for anyone.

Part of the propaganda in the US is that we call the military “THE service”. It gets the definite article “the” treatment as though it were the most important type of service that an American could ever do.   But there are so many other ways to serve this country; there are so many other ways to serve humanity.

I don’t think I particularly deserve or warrant people thanking me for anything  -- in person or on Facebook, for that matter – but if you felt like thanking me for something, please, don’t thank me for something I did for four years almost twenty years ago… something that, as far as I can ascertain, didn’t do anything to help anyone. It would be more appropriate (again, if you really were kind enough to want to thank me for anything) to thank me for my activism or my efforts to work for social justice.  Not that I delude myself into thinking that I’ve been that successful in “saving the world” as an activist, mind you. But I’d like to think I’ve done more that was “thank you worthy” since my days in the US Navy ended.

The other thing that I find troubling about Veterans Day is that it feels like lip service. All over the TV and Internet and radio you see and hear special “thank you to our veterans” messages and images.  Politicians say how grateful they are for the men and women in the armed forces.  There are even Veterans Day parades and such.

But here’s the thing. First of all, I’ve been to the Boston Veteran’s Day Parade for most of the last several years (I march after it with Veterans For Peace). And I have to tell you, the crowds are very small. Not many people come to watch the Veterans Day Parade in Boston. That’s a fact.

But more importantly, how well do we really treat veterans when they come back from their service? It’s notorious how horribly returning Vietnam veterans were treated; they were called “baby killers” and people threw things at them and all sorts of other inexcusable stuff.  We’ve learned our lesson in this way; I don’t think the young vets coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan get much of this cruel treatment… thank goodness. 

But what about the lasting stuff? What about the benefits? Veterans come back after multiple tours of duty in dangerous places, and sometimes they have PTSD. You should hear some of the stories they tell about how hard it is to get proper treatment for PTSD! It’s a crime, really, to send people into dangerous and even at times “crazy making” situations, and then not give them extensive mental health benefits when they come home.  Meanwhile, a shocking number of these young people are dying by suicide. It is inexcusable that they don’t get more help.

Unemployment is also shockingly high for these young veterans. They come back and have a tough time landing a job.  Yes, it’s a tough job market. But they are faring even worse than their peers who are not veterans. Instead of thanking a vet, I wish more people would hire them.  And education benefits for these vets aren’t what they used to be. My father went to school virtually forever on the G.I. Bill after World War II… today’s vets don’t get anything that extensive.

Older vets (from Vietnam and other earlier wars) don’t always get the best treatment either.  There’s a huge backlog at the VA.  And homeless rates for older veterans are disturbingly high.

If “thank you for your service” sounds odd to my ears, I can only imagine how painful and empty it must sound to some of these people who served in combat – fighting in the wars that we as a nation sent them to fight -- only to be kicked to the curb when they come home.

I wish we would become a nation of peace. I wish we wouldn’t use war as a tool of foreign policy; what happened to diplomacy? War is supposed to be, always, a last resort. It’s supposed to be “defense”, not offense. I wish we let Congress declare wars like the Constitution says they’re supposed to instead of having Presidential Administrations make the call. I wish we wouldn’t let business interests push us into so many wars.  (Yes, it’s all too often about oil and other money-making opportunities.)  I wish we honored and valued humanitarianism and compassion the way we do militarism. I wish, if we must have a military, that we had a draft. With today’s all-volunteer forces, you have a de facto economic draft.  How many wealthy people are veterans? How many wealthy people have adult children in the military? I wish, I wish, I wish…

I wish November 11 would go back to being Armistice Day, which it was from 1918 until 1954 – a day to remember how horrible war is, and a day to work for peace.

And it is true that “freedom isn’t free”. But we ourselves, civilians and military alike, will have to do the work of making sure that we keep our freedom. And most of that work needs to be done right here in the USA, not abroad, and not with bombs.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Ringing bells (gong) for peace...

This year, some folks from the UUCiA rang a gong on our front steps, 11 times at 11:00 a.m., as a prayer for peace.  It was a tradition for houses of worship to ring their bells for Armistice Day after World War I. Sometime after it became Veterans Day in 1954, this tradition largely went away.

Veterans Day | Armistice Day 2013 from Richard Hudak on Vimeo.

Here's hoping the tradition comes back!  Some houses of worship have big bells up in a steeple. But we rang this wonderful gong instead. May there be peace.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why so wishy-washy on war?

I had a strong reaction to Senator Markey's recent "present" vote on the question of war/peace (life/death) in Syria. It outraged me, really. Why become a US Senator only to punt on the most important question(s) to come your way?

But I've been thinking about Unitarian Universalist ministry.  We UUs (and we UU ministers) pride ourselves on being tolerant; on being reasonable; on being able to see different sides of issues; but ultimately we like to "stand on the side of love", as we say. That is where we try to take our stand, "on the side of love" as we see it.

Which brings us to the question of war.

Where do we stand when it comes to war, or to US military intervention in Syria?

We are all horrified at what al-Assad has done. And no one wants to "do nothing". It's an interesting phenomenon that sending missiles feels like "doing something", whereas diplomacy, humanitarian aid, etc. somehow is "doing less". I believe that our Culture of Violence has brainwashed us that "action" is "kicking ass and taking names"; an "action movie" is filled with violence, not people actively using hearts and minds to create a better world, after all. But I digress!

What should people of faith -- what, specifically, should UUs -- suggest that we do in such a case as this? Is military intervention acceptable?

So often Christians (and those among the UUs who are UU Christians) look to Jesus for guidance, understandably.  What would Jesus do, we ask?  And it can be dubious to put 21st century questions to the Jesus test: What would Jesus say about abortion? about homosexuality? He said nothing about these things, so it is dangerous (and questionable) to try to use Jesus to make our abortion and same sex marriage cases (on either side of the issue).  But one thing Jesus said LOTS about is violence. And it was consistent. He was always against violence.  (I think of the words of Normon Solomon who said, "War becomes perpetual when it is used as a rationale for peace"... and then I get cynical and think that we are turning the "Prince of Peace" into the "Prince of Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace".)

But then we think, Jesus lived 2000+ years ago. He couldn't have understood, or been thinking about, modern warfare... modern politics... chemical weapons... etc.

I still think his stance on violence (against it!) is about as clear as any stance he took (according to the gospel accounts of his life).  But it is true that he lived a long, long time ago.

But what about Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr.? Most people of faith I know -- and virtually all the UUs I know -- revere these two men.  Their stances against violence and war -- all violence and war -- could not have been more clear.  And they were men of the 20th century, not so long ago.  They were even contemporaries of some of us (though not quite me; my mother was pregnant with me when Martin Luther King was shot).  These leaders, in their zeal for peace, did not "do nothing". On the contrary, they literally changed the world with non-violence (non-violent resistance).  They both paid for their powerful successes with their lives, tragically.

Why then is war an issue "on which we can reasonably disagree"?  Why do we abandon our faith and moral traditions and get policy-wonky about war? 

We have seven Unitarian Universalist principles, and to me, they all point toward non-violence and the goal of peace. I hope we do not become a people of seven principles and no principle. Let's not punt on the question of war.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

"There is no way to peace; peace is the way." - A.J. Muste

image from
I hope and pray that we do not move forward with military intervention in Syria.  I am very glad that President Obama is pausing to ask Congress for their opinion, as he should. But I hope Congress says "no".

I am not saying we should do nothing, but there are infinite options between "do nothing" and "send the missiles".  Are we really so unimaginative as a people that the only solution we can come up with is "limited" missile strikes?

It is an incredibly complicated, and tragic, situation. I don't have the answers, at all, as I'm sure you know. Yes, I'd love to see Assad out of office/power. But I feel like we keep trying the same thing(s) over and over again, expecting new results -- you know, Einstein's definition of insanity. When's the last time the United States went into another country with our guns ablazin' and made anything better in any lasting way? Doing "limited" strikes and expecting that to do good seems like magical thinking. Also (groan if you must), this feels like what they call in the business "a technical solution to an adaptive problem".  I mean, we got rid of Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden... is Iraq suddenly in great shape? Has terrorism or Al Qaeda gone away? It seems like we continue to create  voids to be filled by other problematic leaders/leadership.  Something more profound is required.

The Religious Society of Friends (the Quakers) have some interesting points and ideas at the FCNL site.  As the Friends say, "War Is Not the Answer". But then, what is? They tackle that, too, on this page.

Here is a page of resources on possible war with Syria created by Andover Newton Theological School's Assistant Professor of Christian Ethics, M.T. Dávila. 

May we find the wisdom to find a better way.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Gearing up for a new "church year", and the news of the day

I am back from my summer study period, and ready to get back to normal -- including occasional updates to this blog.  I had a very good summer, with lots of R&R.  I feel blessed for that.

Some good news... the town of Tewksbury (where some members of the UUCiA live) voted down the slots.  To me, this is wonderful news. From what I have read on the matter, the opening of casinos and other forms of gambling in our communities would bring more human misery than anything else.  Here's hoping that no slot machines or other forms of gambling open up in our cities and towns!

Some recent national news: The "coming out" of Chelsea (née Bradley) Manning as a transgender woman.  Here's a story link from MSNBC.  Manning continues to open important dialogue in this country. I certainly hope and pray that she is treated fairly and humanely.

This is an interesting article from Mother Jones about the "Pentagon's Transgender Problem" (as they put it).  I was surprised to learn that "transgender civilians are twice as likely to enlist" than others... but less surprised, sadly, that "transgender veterans are 20 times as likely to commit suicide" than others.

I am glad that the Chelsea Manning story will get people thinking more about transgender people and rights.  I hope that we can have that dialogue and continue to have the important dialogues about the other parts of the Manning story: The perils of whistleblowing; the war crimes that our government sanctions and/or covers-up; etc.  Unfortunately, in the early online commentary, some complain about the federal government (our tax dollars) paying for sex reassignment surgery for a prisoner and such.  I personally find this ridiculous in light of how little this would cost in comparison to the wars and war crimes in question.  It never ceases to amaze me how easily and often we are distracted as a people from contemplating the vast amount of waste and tragedy caused by most of our tax dollars going directly to fund war.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Ding, dong, DOMA's dead!

Like so many Unitarian Universalists and people of conscience everywhere, I'm so excited that the Supreme Court declared the so-called "Defense of Marriage Act" (DOMA) to be unconstitutional this week. Of course it is unconstitutional! 

Having processed the DOMA ruling a little more, I find myself so grateful to the LGBT pioneers. I see pictures like this one (from the 50s, trying to stop the firing of LGBT federal employees), and I'm in awe of how brave they must have been to hold these signs publicly 50+ years ago! We owe them such a debt of gratitude. And truly, I feel indebted to all the people who "came out" as LGBTQ before me. It was hard enough to do in 1994, when I was 25; I can't imagine how hard it used to be. I'm convinced that it's because so many more people are "out" that we're finally starting to get more civil rights. Thank you all.

To read the statement of the Rev. Peter Morales, President of the UUA, click here.

Friday, June 21, 2013

UU General Assembly, Wendell Berry, Eboo Patel!

This is the first time in a long time that I have missed the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly.  The poet/farmer/activist Wendell Berry read this poem at a public witness event at UUGA (wish I had been there):

(a poem by Wendell Berry)

1. How much poison are you willing
to eat for the success of the free
market and global trade? Please
name your preferred poisons.

2. For the sake of goodness, how much
evil are you willing to do?
Fill in the following blanks
with the names of your favorite
evils and acts of hatred.

3. What sacrifices are you prepared
to make for culture and civilization?
Please list the monuments, shrines,
and works of art you would
most willingly destroy.

4. In the name of patriotism and
the flag, how much of our beloved
land are you willing to desecrate?
List in the following spaces
the mountains, rivers, towns, farms
you could most readily do without.

5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes,
the energy sources, the kinds of security,
for which you would kill a child.
Name, please, the children whom
you would be willing to kill.

I am pleased to be able to live-stream the Ware Lecture tonight (Friday, June 21) at the UUCiA, 7:30 p.m. sharp!  If you want to hear (and watch, live!) this year's lecture by Eboo Patel, please join us! Event details:

The Ware Lecture will be streaming live, online, from the UU General Assembly. We will project it onto our big screen and through our big speakers. Bring a comfortable, portable chair for extra comfort. The Ware Lecture has a distinguished history and has featured some amazing people, including Martin Luther King, Jr., Kurt Vonnegut, May Sarton, and Jane Addams!

This year’s Ware lecturer will be Eboo Patel. From “Dr. Patel is founder and Executive Director of the Interfaith Youth Core, an international nonprofit building the interfaith youth movement. He was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Council of the White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and serves on the Religious Advisory Committee of the Council on Foreign Relations…. He has been featured on a range of media, including CNN Sunday Morning, NPR’s Morning Edition, the PBS documentary Three Faiths, One God, The New Republic, American Public Media, the BBC, and CNN. Patel is a sought-after speaker whose addresses include the keynote speech at the Nobel Peace Prize Forum with President Jimmy Carter. He is the author of Sacred Ground: Pluralism, Prejudice and the Promise of America, and Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, which was the 2011-2012 UUA Common Read and 2010 winner of the prestigious Louisville Grawemeyer award in religion. An Ashoka Fellow, Patel was named by Islamica Magazine as one of ten young Muslim visionaries shaping Islam in America, was chosen by Harvard’s Kennedy School Review as one of five future policy leaders to watch, and was selected to join the Young Global Leaders network of the World Economic Forum. He lives in Chicago, Illinois.”

To see the Facebook event page, click here.

Friday, June 14, 2013

"Feeding Each Other": Cookbook with a Cause!

I'm very excited about our congregational cookbook, "Feeding Each Other". All proceeds will go to Bread & Roses in Lawrence and to the Merrimack Valley Food Bank.  Read a great article about our cookbook project in the Andover Townsman at this link.

This cookbook was the brainchild of UUCiA Board member David Grober. I'm so happy we're doing it!

If you live, work, worship or study in Andover, please submit a recipe to our cookbook at this link!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Burying Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Universalism, and Inherent Worth and Dignity

It has been a few weeks since the Boston Marathon tragedy, and my last post here.  Much has happened in that time, including a surreal "manhunt" for the suspects, the capture of one, and the death of another.  Meanwhile, the victims of the tragedy, and their loved ones, continue to heal.  And we find ourselves feeling like we're in a bit of a new world here in Massachusetts.

The latest controversy has been over the burial of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the older of the brother-suspects.  His body was eventually taken by a brave funeral director in Worcester, known to take difficult burial cases.  You can read about him here.

There have been protests at the funeral home in Worcester, somewhat predictably. Two of my colleagues -- UU ministers who serve congregations in Worcester -- wrote thoughtfully about this matter in the Worcester Telegram & Gazette. See the piece by Rev. Aaron Payson of the UU Church of Worcester (and Rev. Jose Encarnacion of Christian Community Church) at this link.  See the piece by Rev. Gary Kowalski (interim minister of the First Unitarian Church of Worcester) at this link.

I was particularly taken with this blog post by the Rev. Fred Hammond, a UU minister "down south".  You can read it at this link.

I know this is a tender topic. And the pain of the victims and their loved ones is unimaginable.  But this is about a "proper burial", the "measure of a civilized society", as Rev. Kowalski put it.  And as a UU, I believe deeply in the "inherent worth and dignity of EVERY person". There are no exceptions.  Let us bury Tamerlan Tsarnaev's body with dignity and respect, and move on in the spirit of love and peace from this horrific tragedy.