Congregational resources profiled on uuworld.org

The following articles, which appeared on uuworld.org in recent months, contain information useful to congregational leaders.

Long Strange Trip, a new video history of Unitarian Universalist history has been created by Ron Cordes, UU history buff from Bedford, Mass. The six DVDs of one hour each are available individually or as a boxed set from the UUA Bookstore. The set has high production values and Cordes presents much of the dialogue from the locations in Europe and elsewhere where significant events in our history occurred. The DVD set will be useful for new-member sessions and for adult education courses. The six hours can easily be divided into half-hour segments followed by discussion. As yet there is no study guide. The full uuworld.org article is here.

An article detailing how several congregations are pursuing social justice initiatives related to the Doctrine of Discovery, appeared on October 14. Delegates at General Assembly 2012 voted to repudiate the doctrine, a centuries-old principle of international law that sanctions and promotes the conquest and exploitation of non-Christian territories and peoples.

An article describing how a Florida UU congregation welcomed Boy Scout troops that had been turned out by a Baptist church after the Boy Scouts of America decided to permit gay youth to join troops, appeared on Sept. 16.

The work of the UU Funding Program, which accepts applications from congregations and others for social justice and other projects, was also highlighted Sept. 16. In 2012 the program gave out more than $1 million in grants ranging from $300 for a voter registration volunteer training, to $20,000 to help organize interfaith support for homeless people in California. Grants Administrator Susan Adams noted that many UUs she meets are still “astonished” that money might be available to support their dreams.

The UUA’s Leap of Faith congregational mentoring program was profiled Sept. 2. Now in its third year, the program brings together congregations that want to learn from each other.

Pittsburgh creates congregational history model

The Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, Penn., has a long and storied history and now much of that history is posted on the congregation’s website. With the help of a grant from the Unitarian Universalist Funding Panel, the congregation has posted a collection of letters and sermons dating from 1825. The letters describe the state of religion in western Pennsylvania in that early time and the difficulties encountered by Unitarians.

The letters include some from Martha St. John, wife of a minister, describing church life in the 1890s from her perspective. There are also many sermons from the congregation’s long line of ministers.

Kathleen Parker, coordinator of the project and a member of First Unitarian, said several factors came together to make it happen. “First, there were people in our congregation who knew enough to save valuable records over time. Second, I’m a historian and I was open to a new project.” Parker is editor of the Journal of Unitarian Universalist History.

Parker spent six years writing Here We Have Gathered: The Story of Unitarian Universalism in Western Pennsylvania, 1808-2008. She catalogued the records of the six area congregations. The collection is now housed at the Heinz Regional History Center in Pittsburgh. She also had 65 photos enlarged into photo panels for an exhibit. In addition to the book, the collection of paper records, and the photo exhibit, a fourth part of the project was to put some of the sermons and other documents online.

She explained why her congregation’s history means so much to her. “When I stand in the congregation of my church and we are singing our favorite hymns, or listening to the choir, I often look around at our 110-year-old sanctuary and consider the many generations of congregants who met in the same space and shared the same liberal outlook that we hold today. It’s important to realize that, yes,  they were here––and the photographs and documents that remain remind us of the reality of their presence and the words they wrote speak of their devotion to liberal religion and what it meant to live out that ideal in their time.”

She added, “The documents that church members of the past left behind are precious keys to the vital heritage we have inherited and should preserve––a heritage we cannot know unless we search the lessons found in these valuable records.”

The UU History and Heritage Society invites congregations to contact it for help in collecting their own histories. Its webpage includes the following: Tools for Creating Congregational Histories. An InterConnections article on creating congregational histories is here.

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 www.uua.org/companionresources.

People who made the world better

A new book, Stirring the Nation’s Heart: Eighteen Stories of Prophetic Unitarians and Universalists of the Nineteenth Century, describes how these 18 religious folk, from Julia Ward Howe to Theodore Park and Dorothea Dix, had an idea about how the world could be better, and made that change happen.

Written by Polly Peterson, a freelance writer and member of First Parish in Concord, Mass., Stirring the Nation’s Heart will be useful for religious educators as well as UUs and others wanting to learn more about the big ideas that began with many of our spiritual forbears, including reform of education and treatment of the mentally ill, women’s suffrage, and antiracism work. These were social reformers who played key roles in UU and U.S. history and whose life work made the world a better place. Each chapter includes discussion questions.

Stirring the Nation’s Heart is published by the Unitarian Universalist Association and is available from the UUA Bookstore for $15.