Best-selling books at General Assembly

The following books were top sellers at General Assembly 2014 held in June in Providence, R.I. All are available at the Unitarian Universalist Association Bookstore.


Resources for congregational governance, leadership, conflict, stewardship

Earlier this year Annette Marquis, district executive for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Southeast District, compiled several lists of books she believes are useful for congregational leaders. She created lists for the following topics:

• Good governance in congregations

• Congregational leadership

• Leadership tools

• Covenant, conflict, and right relationships

• Congregational stewardship

She notes, “Although you probably can’t read them all, engaging your congregation’s board and leadership in a planned course of study of at least one of these books a year will help to build a culture of commitment to best practices in your congregation.”

The lists are on her blog, Vital Congregations. While you’re there, check out some of her other blog posts on Technology Resources for Congregations and Right Relationships in Congregations.

Skinner House resources online

Skinner House Books, a Unitarian Universalist Association imprint that publishes titles on UU history, theology, biography, and worship, has a variety of free resources online at These include discussion questions, small group ministry plans, webinars, videos, related articles, and author interviews—all designed to help congregational leaders deepen their congregation’s engagement with Skinner House books.

Skinner House also invites leaders to share feedback about how these resources are used and suggest ideas for improvement. If your congregation has developed a resource that would be useful to others, share it through Skinner House. Contact Skinner House Editorial Director Mary Benard with comments and suggestions.

UUA’s 2011-12 Common Read is ‘Acts of Faith’

Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, a memoir by Eboo Patel, is the 2011–2012 Unitarian Universalist Common Read. The Common Read project invites Unitarian Universalist youth and adults in all congregations to share a common reading experience, and to engage in reflection and action about that book.

In Acts of Faith, Patel shares his faith journey as an American Muslim who comes to believe in religious pluralism. Patel founded the Interfaith Youth Core (IFYC), a nonprofit focused on building an interfaith youth movement. Patel invites those who believe in religious pluralism to support young people, helping them ground themselves in a faith that can equip them to work across faiths to make the world a better place.

Gail Forsyth-Vail, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Adult Programs director, said the book was chosen with an eye to both the tenth anniversary of September 11 and to the work of building coalitions as UUs prepare for General Assembly 2012, a “Justice GA” focused on immigration issues, in Phoenix.

The discussion guide will be published in October and will offer materials for a single 90-minute session or three 90-minute sessions, each expandable to two hours. The guide will provide the option of splitting the single 90-minute session into two shorter sessions. Download a flyer for Acts of Faith. The UUA Bookstore is offering the book for $14, plus a discount for multiple copies.

The UU Common Read last year was The Death of Josseline, stories about crossing the Mexico-Arizona border.

Top-selling books at General Assembly 2011

Top-selling books at General Assembly 2011, by the UUA Bookstore. Many of these are being promoted by Skinner House as a useful part of congregational programming:

Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life, by Karen Armstrong (Ware lecturer at GA 2011)

Universalists and Unitarians in America: A People’s History, by the Rev. John Buehrens. This book, in honor of the 50th anniversary of consolidation of the Unitarians and Universalists, will be useful to book groups, in lifespan education classes, and as a historical reference.

The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands, by Margaret Regan. As we look toward General Assembly 2012 in Phoenix, this is one of the books that helps explain immigration issues. In 2011 it was recommended to congregations as a “common read.”

Darkening the Doorways: Black Trailblazers and Missed Opportunities in Unitarian Universalism, by the Rev. Mark Morrison-Reed. The story of black UUs in a predominately white faith. Useful for book groups and lifespan classes and in sermon preparation.

What’s Right with Islam: A New Vision for Muslims and the West, by Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf

Broken Buddha, book of essays by the Rev. Meg Barnhouse.

Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History, the Rev. Mark Harris. Tells the story of the privileged founders of Unitarianism and Universalism and describes how we can grow into a more inclusive faith. Discussion guide available online.

Coming Out in Faith: LGBTQ Voices in Unitarian Universalism, by the Rev. Keith Kron and Susan Gore. Testimonials about the lived experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer UUs. Useful for Welcoming Congregation sessions and raising awareness of LGBTQ issues.

From Zip Lines to Hosaphones, Dispatches from the Search for Truth and Meaning, essays by the Rev. Jane Rzepka. Includes introductory material on Unitarian Universalism in an entertaining manner. Ideal for new member classes, gifts for Coming of Age youth or bridging young adults, and small group ministry gatherings.

House for Hope: The Promise of Progressive Religion for the Twenty-First Century, by the Rev. John Buehrens and the Rev. Rebecca Ann Parker.

Skinner House resource, including discussion guides, for some of these books can be found at

New from the UUA Bookstore

A Cup of Light: All About the Flaming Chalice, by Pamela Baxter. A description of where the symbol of Unitarian Universalism originated, why it was adopted, and what it means. (Skinner House, $5)

A Queer History of the United States, by Michael Bronski. Takes the reader from Columbus’s arrival through the American Revolution and the transformative social justice movements of the twentieth century. Available May 10. (Beacon Press, $27.95)

Coming Out in Faith: LGBTQ Voices in Unitarian Universalism, by Keith Kron and Susan Gore. A collection of testimonials illuminating the experience of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender UUs. Raises awareness of Unitarian Universalism’s active role in supporting LGBTQ people and learning from them. Available June 15. (Skinner House, $14)

Promise and Peril: Understanding and Managing Change and Conflict in Congregations, by David Brubaker. The author has more than 20 years of working with congregations in conflict. Promise and Peril is designed to help congregations avoid conflict, instead developing healthy relationships among church staff and members. (Alban Institute, $18)

New book helps in talking about class

We don’t talk much about class in UU circles, says the Rev. Mark W. Harris.

Is that because the stereotypes are true––that we are only educated suburbanites? Or intellectual urbanites? When we look around on Sunday morning, do we see people who are “not like us”?

Not often, says Harris, who has written a book, Elite: Uncovering Classism in Unitarian Universalist History, that will be useful in creating discussions of classism in lifespan religious education classes, small group ministry sessions, book groups, and sermons. The book is available for $10 at the UUA Bookstore.

Harris, minister of the First Parish of Watertown, Mass., takes us on a historical tour of classist behavior by Unitarians and Universalists. One of his first stops is around the time of the American Revolution when Unitarians preached that God had given everyone the gift of reason––but given it in differing amounts. Then there was the “Boston Brahmin” period of the late 1870s when Unitarian “elites” controlled pretty much everything and didn’t consider the “lower classes” qualified to help make the rules or sit beside them in church.

Harris also devotes much of a chapter to eugenics, the belief, supported by many Unitarians in the early 1900s, that some people’s genetics were superior to others and should be managed accordingly. Universalists, says Harris, have generally been more welcoming throughout history, consisting as they did of a broader range of classes, including tradespeople, textile and mill workers, and farmers, as well as ship captains and merchants.

We carry assumptions, says Harris, “that a liberal thinking person’s faith will not appeal to those who are not college-educated, work with their hands, drive pick-up trucks, or live more than twenty miles from an art museum.” He notes that many of us seem more comfortable with gender, race, and sexual differences than with “working class” people. Perhaps, he says, “we are too quick to dismiss the truth that all classes have folks who are smart inquisitive people with inquiring minds and hearts open to all kinds of people. We should not sell our faith short when it comes to what we have to offer and why we want others to join us.”

Now available: Skinner House eBooks

Big news! The UUA Bookstore and Skinner House Books have announced the launch of Skinner House eBooks. Sixteen titles are now available through Google eBooks, with more to come shortly. For a complete list of Skinner House eBooks and purchasing links, visit the UUA Bookstore website and click on the big red eBooks logo on the right side of the page.

Customers who buy Skinner House titles from Google will be able to read them on any eBook reader except the Kindle. The same titles will be available soon through the Amazon Kindle store as well.

UU leaders share tips via Facebook

Here are resources that people have recommended on Facebook that could be useful to leaders of congregations:

  • Kathy Burek, president of the Prairie Star District Board of Trustees, recommends the book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. “It’s been my favorite conflict-resolution book for decades.” UUA Trustee John Blevins recommends a 19-minute video talk on it by Ury.
  • UUA Moderator Gini Courter recommends an online column by Bruce Epperly, author and theology professor, about taking our faith seriously and reclaiming Christian education.

Book helps with youth mission trip planning

Youth leaders responsible for planning social justice trips with youth will want to pick up a new book, Journeys of the Spirit: Planning and Leading Mission Trips with Youth.

The authors are Jennifer McAdoo and Anne Principe, two Unitarian Universalist religious educators from New England who, between them, have organized mission trips to Central America, Romania, Massachusetts, Maine, the Texas border with Mexico, and New Orleans.

The book covers how to determine what type of mission trips to do and why, and goes on to explain team-building and fundraising and how to share the trip upon returning home. It also includes testimonials by veteran UU social justice activists, including the Rev. Richard S. Gilbert, on their various experiences with mission work.

The book, published by the Unitarian Universalist Association, is $15 and is available at the UUA Bookstore.