Saturday, December 22, 2007

Latest Post from Turley: The Living Room Church/A Third Place Center/Christmas

Hi all.

The ice is gone. The sun is brightly shining. The air, for now, is warm. So we can see clearly all around us practically every tree in every yard, every park, and all across Turley Hill is cut in half, revealing the yellowish inside bark of the broken limbs, standing out against the gray of the trees like grotesque ornaments in this last week of Advent, five days, as the commercials say, until Christmas. Everywhere you look the wounded, gashed trees reminding us, if we care to reflect upon it, of the walking wounded here and everywhere too, especially this close to Christmas. The more the downed limbs and debris are pulled away and hauled to the streets and piled up there, the more readily we see the scarred trees that are still, for now, rooted.

So it is with life, and with this holiday, and the trees we cry over--like the small Christmas tree my wife Bonnie and her family planted forty some years ago after the holiday, out by the road where we now live, which had grown to more than forty feet tall and which we were just about, again, to decorate--these trees remind us of the people we cry for, with, and against.

In one of my favorite recent books called "Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint-by-Number Christianity" by Jim Palmer (2007, Thomas Nelson), author of the earlier "Divine Nobodies," writes this:

"We were at the mall browsing around in stores a couple of days before Christmas when I heard an angry father ripping into his little boy. I looked over and saw the man dragging his son out of the store by his arm. He forced him onto a bench and was unrelenting in his verbal assault as the kid just sat there in a heap of shame. Suddenly a tidal wave of emotion crashed over me. I wanted to cry, I wanted to scream, I wanted to beat the man senseless. Crap. I came so close to making it through Christmas without being tormented by the ghosts of my childhood past. Not this year. Have a freaking merry Christmas! That night, with those feelings still raw, I felt compelled to write the following blog post:

Here's to all the walking wounded...
to those still carrying a little heartbroken boy or girl inside;
to those who feel rejected and lonely;
to those who woke up with a dull ache inside;
to those who are wondering where God is in the midst of their deep pain;
to those whose past wounds have been pulled opened yet again;
to those weary and worn out and longing for some place called home;
to those in the darkness who can't seem to find the light;
to those who wonder if they will ever find love;
to those who feel misunderstood;
to the abandoned and discarded;
to those who feel they are running out of reasons to get out of bed each morning;
to those in the clutches of depression;
to those who are smiling on the outside but dying on the inside;
to those suffering in silence,
Here's to all the walking wounded...
Merry Christmas. "

So the first Christmas came amidst the walking wounded, and so it has been repeated every single year, somewhere, no everywhere, since. And Christmas came.

On Christmas Eve nights, during the services of worship (ours by the way will begin around 11 p.m. and finish at midnight Christmas morning, all invited), it is traditional to read in the beginning of the reading of the story the first verse from Luke 2. All my life I have been hearing or speaking that opening verse on Christmas Eve, and yet it is almost treated as a throw-away verse. It's purpose it seems is just to get the story started, the pageant on the way. This is it: "And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed."

This is a classic case of modern biblical scholarship being helpful and a hindrance. On one hand, most all agree that there wasn't any such decree issued. The Lukan gospel writer, writing some sixty years after the death of Jesus and some ninety years or so after the birth of Jesus, is using it to make story-sense so Jesus' family can get from Nazareth, where Jesus was most likely actually born, to Bethlehem, where it was considered the Messiah would be born. Matthew's gospel just puts the birth in Bethlehem to begin with. All of these infancy stories came about so much later from Paul's witness and the sayings accounts because in those days it wasn't the birth of Jesus that was a big deal; it was about what God had done in resurrecting such a faithful marytred one and was about to do to the whole world in overturning the rule of Caeser with the impending rule of God.

That's all nice to know. If it helps us clear away the debris and see the deeper truth revealed.

Here and now I am drawn back to that opening verse and to the truth that the forces and the powers in the world and in our lives can tax us, oppress us, break us, bend us down, especially at this time of the year, five days before Christmas. Tax us with obligations, with old memories, disillusionment from broken old hopes, yes with financial burdens and expectations, with time itself, and always just out of the corner of our eyes as we pass the television or newspaper with the fates of so many innocents in our world still being slaughtered, and beyond that outside of the omnipresent eye of the media's camera. We are taxed at times even by our wealth and our unwillingness to tax ourselves to participate in the common good.

That opening verse of the Christmas Story in Luke sums it up--the whole world is taxed. That's the way Christmas begins, not with Walmart's decorations the day after Labor Day. We face that or the birth of Christ doesn't come into our lives and world anymore than it would in the pursuit of things. For that's always the way Christmas comes, in and through the walking wounded, an apt description for the strange couple in our story, moving through the night, trying to keep away from bandits and occupying soldiers and the good and respectable people who had rooms in the inn and wouldn't understand.

It is in these such places, and times, and these such people, and this story, that God invests. That is the message and power of the Christmas Story. It is about God's investment. Where, of all the world, God chooses to invest, to be, to risk, to make a difference.

[sidenote: That is a Christmas message I wish all the investors of our wider area and world would get today too; oh you can go where the profits are easily turned up and shown in such a percentage that you get on a treadmill of needing higher and higher percentage of return, putting up restaurants and businesses and hospitals and new homes and apartments where they already exist; but it is in the Nazareths and Turleys of the world, and in the places even more remote and despairing, where miracles will happen that give life its sacred meaning, and I am so thankful for the few who are "inn-vesting" in even subtle and ways of the spirit here with us through A Third Place, and which I try to lift up in my other reports throughout the year. This recent ice storm, as all disasters do, revealed both a willingness of people to help one another, and it hit across economic lines for the most part, but also revealed the inequality of the investment the world has made. Not only even in the wealthier parts of town was it the older parts of the city hit hardest, as compared to the newer suburbs, and the nursing homes for elderly and disabled were hit hard by being abandoned and not planned for, but even when the hospitals and public facilities and major areas around them were attended to first, as they should have been because of the place of greatest vulnerability, it just revealed how none of them were in northern urban Tulsa and surrounding sections to begin with. Utility officials spoke of allocating their resources exactly evenly in each of four quadrants with the midpoint being the area of Promenade Mall and Southroads Mall in south Tulsa, (and lord knows the workers themselves did great work and were out of their way to be helpful especially those coming in from out of state} but that turns out to be a case of separate not being equal when it is the places of greatest poverty where without great effort people can't get to gas stations, if any are found, or once there afford the gas to go in the generators which they can't buy because there aren't stores close by to sell them, or to grocery stores to buy food, especially healthy food. Or can't get to restaurants to eat if restaurants get power restored because there aren't any restaurants, especially not to those on foot or who couldn't get their cars out of their driveways due to fallen trees and debris and damaged homes. And of course, old story for those who have followed my reports from Turley, but if you are one of the tens of thousands who live more than a single mile north of downtown Tulsa you can't even pay to get pizza delivered from a pizza place just on the other side of town that might have its power back on. :). This is the "holy anger" or sacred outrage we were discussing the other Sunday evening as part of our discussion of Shane Claiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution, where we use anger instead of it using us, and when daily around here and on the media I hear angry Christians upset at this or that use of Happy Holidays or Winter Parties in public schools, I know theirs is an unholy anger because it grows out of self-interest instead of the interest of others and the plight of the fragile, the truly suffering, the minorities. Their outrage is the social status quo outrage of Empire Caeser Christians and not the outlawed, truly martyred, still faithful followers of Jesus in the first few centuries who knew that their faith would not or need not be celebrated in public spectacles, and who were dedicated to being in right relationship with those who were not of their faith. In a world of Darfur and the death penalty, it is a sin to be distracted by so-called "cultural wars" especially those related to the birth of Christ.]

And it came to pass in our days, too, that there went out a decree....

And it came to pass in our days, too, that "she should be delivered." Mary, Miriam, whose name in Hebrew means bittersweet. It is through our Miriams Jesus comes.

And it came to pass, in our days too, that a place without praise and from which no good was said to come, received God's investment and the world was changed forever, and a small, vulnerable place where the mighty of many nations destroyed over and over again throughout milennia will nevertheless, because of that investment, be remembered again this Christmas Eve by billions of the walking wounded, in song and silence and prayer and service to others.

blessings and Merry Christmas, Ron,
"And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them."

p.s. we party tonight and sing beginning at 6:30 p.m., Thu. Dec. 20, and this coming Sunday Dec. 23 we eat together and have our fourth Sunday of Advent (Hope) worship circle and watch "The Nativity Story" movie all from 4:30ish to 7ish, and on Monday, Christmas Eve Dec. 24 our midnight service of lessons and carols and candles and communion begins at 11 p.m., all here at our A Third Place community center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave., Turley OK 74126, 918-691-3223 or 918-794-4637, and give thanks for recent gifts of shelves and books to our library and center by Stoner Nesbitt which helps us to triple the size of our public library and spruce up our donation room which is active this season, and to the local Odd Fellows Lodge for donating proceeds from the monthly community pancake breakfast to us ($100), and to the Areawide Aging Agency and Masonic lodge for donating carbon monoxide detectors for us to distribute free to homes where someone is 55 years or older.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

UU Growth: Goal/Outcome: False Dichotomy

For background go to

Good blogging on a recent UU growth consultation. This is one of the blogs on one of the two most important points (growth as goal or outcome; the other most important one is the blog on the purpose of the church).

But it is a false dichotomy. To be a healthy church IS the most important thing for no lasting growth is possible from being unhealthy; healthy DNA will naturally result in growth--but to be healthy IS to grow; to reproduce one's church, multiply it, spread it, in a myriad of ways church planting, mission planting, organic relationship growing, disciple-making IS the characteristic of a healthy church. At least one in the tradition of church as Jesus' disciples should understand it (now that might be a conversation for another blog, and one not just of course aimed at UU growth, but applying equally or moreso to so-called Christian churches, UU or otherwise, who aren't growing, aren't healthy).

The question I think underlying this is not about growth and health, but about TIME, careers, numbers, scale. Are people looking at growth and thinking in terms of three years, ten years, or thirty or three hundred years. We better be casting our nets into the waters of thirty and three hundred years and not the four-year presidential cycle. End.

Reports From Turley

To give you a glimpse of how we are trying to live and create organic Christian "church" here in our "missional incarnational" way I thought I would include some of our recent email reports from here in Turley, Oklahoma. Enjoy. We are. As I have grown fond of saying, we are a terrible "church' organizationally; but we are a great community ministry. We are more and more living into the three characteristics of the emerging church as described in the book by Bolger and Gibbs--we stress the life or way of Jesus over any other creed doctrine model etc.; we are breaking down the barriers of the modern world that put things into sacred and secular realm (as evidenced by how people come and go in our community center and sometimes stay and participate as we have our Sunday afternoon meal, conversation, small group worship time; and right now I forget the third characteristic (it's on this blog somewhere as I discuss their book lol) but we are following it. Here are some reports from our first site in Turley, OK.

Hi all. A quick, I hope, report from the storm disaster in Turley and the Oklahoma area. Deeper theological responses I am sure will follow as we learn the "adventure" in Advent season. First thanks for all prayers, and our prayers go out to all those of you who are in other areas of the country where you too have been or might be about to be hit this weekend with storms and power outages. And a note about the term dunamis in the subject of this email. It is a greek term, often used in the Christian scriptures, and it stands for power, for spirit, for aliveness and inner authority that comes from God, as opposed to all the kinds of power-over and external authority that come from human empires, including the electrical kind.

The power that comes from electrical companies is still off to our home here in Turley where it went out last Sunday, and to much of our area, but each day we hope it will return, and like Christmas, the big orange and white company trucks, many with workers from faraway places, get closer. The power has come back on now to A Third Place Community Center operated by our Living Room Church and where the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship offices are located, and so you are getting this email.

1. For those of you especially in the Turley and surrounding area, we are keeping the Center open now as much as possible for a warming station/shelter for people and workers. Any time you can give just let me know, as well as make coffee, other warm drinks, refreshments, etc. The Alcoholics Anonymous group will meet again here tonight Saturday at 7 p.m. and then we will be open as much as we can during the day, and if possible and needed, some during the night as well. We were just about the open it up as a shelter on this past Monday when the power went off here and the remaining part of the Turley business district. We already today have had a stream of families and people in to get warm, use the computer center, check out books from the library, and watch TV, get clothes from the donation room, use the restroom, etc.

2. We will have our delayed Community Center Christmas Decoration Party and Potluck tomorrow, Sunday, the 16th, from 4 to 7 p.m.ish so bring something for the potluck, bring Christmas CD music, and help us light up the darkness with both decorations and joy. Prayers and communion and singing included. All invited.

3. The Christmas movie The Nativity Story was cancelled last week due to the storm; we will show it and discuss as part of our Sunday meal, worship, Dec. 23, beginning at 5 p.m. Spread the news. All invited.

4. We still have our Christmas Caroling Party planned for Thursday, Dec. 20, at 6:30 p.m. Come and sing and if you know of places we can go to sing close by, let us know.

5. Join with me at one or both events on Christmas Eve, Monday, Dec. 24th. First early in the evening at 5 p.m. at the Turley United Methodist Church, and then here at 11 p.m. at our Community Center for our hosting of our traditional Christmas Eve midnight candle-lighting lessons and carols and communion service.

6. The Second Tuesday of the month Transforming Turley Tuesdays meeting was cancelled due to the storm and will be picked back up in January at 7 p.m. on Jan. 8.

7. We have been chosen to be the center for distributing free carbon monoxide detectors in our area to families where an individual is 55 years or older, sponsored by the Tulsa Area Wide Aging Agency. More information to come and if you'd like to help us distribute these, or know of families in need of one, let me know and thanks to Sandy Sullivan for her work in this area and for thinking of us as a resource center.

8. We had a great turnout for the first visit of the OU medical clinic van to Turley back on Dec. 4. We look forward to hosting this "doctor's office on wheels" very soon two afternoons a week, probably Wednesday and Thursday afternoons, hopefully as soon as January. Begin spreading the news. And it will be focused on primary care with two exam rooms equipped in the mobile clinic; specialty care will be referred to other OU clinics. And we applaud the news that a new super specialty clinic will be built in the next two years near here, about three miles away in north Tulsa. And we applaud the news that OU-Tulsa has adopted our area high school which for years has been on the low-performing list.

9. There will be no meeting of the Turley Community Association in December, but will meet the last Tuesday of January at 7 p.m. in O'Brien Park Rec. Center.

10. At one of our recent church gatherings discussing the latest chapters in our read and discuss book by Shane Claiborne, The Irresistible Revolution, we talked about how he and others had organized an Appreciation Dinner for the cleaning workers at his college. Which got us to thinking and dreaming and to begin planning a Turley Business Appreciation Reception in the new year. All the more important as during the past few weeks and past few months we have had two of our few remaining restaurants close down, most recently Mar-Kay's BBQ and Fish House where we had put in a Let Turley Bloom garden as a welcoming gift a few years ago. Help us put on this appreciation dinner for the remaining businesses, and to help use the event to spur on a Turley Businesses Association.

11. We are also getting closer to having firm dates in February, March and April for our community forums and interviews for the Turley Talks program coordinated with the OU Social Work Department. Stay tuned and begin spreading the news and planning to stop by for a few hours on one of these days to talk about life in Turley and envision the future.

12. Stay tuned for a followup report, coming as soon as events allow, as a special Advent/Christmas Message from our missional, incarnational, relational, organic church in Turley.

This past week, as our center was closed, we still put up these words for those able to get out and pass by: May they apply to you as well---Be Safe, Help One Another, Know God Is With Us. (and on the other side we put up the practical suggestion of the local Helpline number for people in need of resources to dial 211).

In God's dunamis, blessings,

Hi all. To paraphrase Winston Churchill, never have so few given so much for so many. It is a blessing and a privilege to be with you all and to witness it. Welcome to all of you who can do so too; we need your presence, your support, your witness to others about this new adventure of faith touching lives in the here and now with God's love through you.

Tonight: Thursday, Oct. 4, at 5:30 p.m. we will be continuing our work to bring in a medical clinic to Cherokee Elementary School, and partner with the OU social work department.

Tonight Thursday Oct. 4 at 7 p.m. we will be showing the controversial movie "Crash" and offering a discussion of its themes to the community.

Friday, Oct. 5 from 4 to 8 p.m. we will be helping with the Benefit Bean Supper for the Turley Community Association held at the Turley Fire Station, 6400 N. Peoria Ave., all you can eat for $5 donation. Beans cornbread fried potatotes, more. Spread the word. come be a presence.

Saturday, Oct. 6 8 a.m. to Noon. Turley Clean-Up Day. Come help us clean the streets and witness for what people can do in small ordinary ways to create spirit. Free lunch for all volunteers at the Odd Fellows Lodge, 6227 N. Quincy Ave at noon. Come for the full morning's work or just 30 minutes. Change lives. Bags and bottles of water provided. Meet at "a third place" community center, 6514 N. Peoria Ave. there's nothing like getting into the trash people leave in order to build up and demonstrate that no place and no people are beyond reach, and that here where people are supposed to not care about one another and where they live that people do care, and others care about us. It's a spiritual thing. A way or living as an ordinary radical. We have joked before about the power of people in our community seeing volunteers doing this work without being forced to through court-ordered community service; but it's no joke the way the spirit of service and hope can spread like a counter-contagion. You should see it on the faces of people as they drive by while we pick up the trash, a hopeless task because we know more trash will come (especially given the landfill issues in our area and lack of support from the county officials) but a hope-filled opportunity because we do it not so much to change the landscape, right away anyway, as to change people. Spread the word.

Sunday, Oct. 7, 4:30 p.m. common meal, communion the old fashioned way. 5:30 p.m. a discussion of what it means to be a Christian, from Shane Claiborne's book The Irresistible Revolution. Last week we discussed Resurrecting Church, a very topical chapter for our little faith community on our mission here. He shed his old understanding of church as a building and an institution, and discovered church that is a verb, a people who, as he relates his time being with the homeless who had taken sheltered in the abandoned cathedral in Philadelphia, and learning so much about God from them, about community, about hope, and following Jesus. 6:30 p.m. sharing prayers, song, communion.

More to come, blessings, Ron

The Secret Message of Jesus Sermon

Here is a rough draft from which I recently preached two sermons, one in Louisiana and one in Texas, both titled The Secret Message of Jesus, using readings from the parables, from Brandon Scott's book Reimagine the World, and from Brian McLaren's book The Secret Message of Jesus. Both sermons ended up different from this text but I like to use the texts as blog posts. When you google the words Secret and Jesus you get a lot of end-time scenarios and conspiracies, etc. But I am not interested in that kind of secret; rather in why the essential message and way of Jesus has been kept a secret from so many for so long. You don't need a decoder to get Jesus, as you didn't back then (or else he wouldn't have been crucified). But you do need messengers.

The Secret Message of Jesus

I still remember the day I first learned something liberating of Jesus that had had been a secret to me, to my church, my family, and it seemed most of the society and world. It was in 1974 and I was a college English student in Tahlequah, Oklahoma. I had recently moved emotionally and theologically away from the Methodism of my raising. I was hanging out with a few of the Bahai’s on campus, reading a lot of Nietzche, and a lot of 19th century American writers. In my textbook as I read works by William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Theodore Parker, and many more, I kept encountering this word Unitarian in their bios. Now I had grown up in the town where I live again now, Turley, Oklahoma, and it is just eight miles north on the very same street from where one of the largest Unitarian churches in the world, even back in 1974, was located, but the word Unitarian was a secret to me too. (Universalism was even more of a secret word; I didn’t really encounter it until after I had been a member of a few Unitarian churches). I decided to write a term paper on these writers’ religion as a way to find out more about it myself and so I spent most of one day in the college library reading and reading what these and other early Unitarian Christians had to say about Jesus, the Bible, God, church, social justice. I came out of the library into the dark of that evening, and into the light, it felt like, of being a Unitarian. And, having been raised with church in my blood, I went to the yellow pages to find the local Unitarian church, there along with all the other churches in Tahlequah, OK. I didn’t find one. How could that be? It was all through the pages of my textbook. Years later, when I returned to Tahlequah to teach and raise a family and to start a UU congregation there, I discovered why the library had such an extensive collection on Unitarianism. One of the librarians there, for whom my wife had actually worked as a student for a few years, had been a Unitarian. Now he hadn’t planted a church, and one would have been oh so helpful to me and the community at that time, but he at least had done something to sow some seeds where he was and how he could, and in doing so to let out one of the main secrets about Jesus--that you didn’t have to only see him as the creeds saw him in order to follow him, be moved, and changed by him. When we did start the UU church in Tahlequah, in the first meeting in our living room, one of the original eight was the widow of that librarian.
And yet, and yet, when I read books by the new emergent evangelicals like Brian McLaren, or the best-selling works by progressives like Marcus Borg, John Shelby Spong, John Dominic Crossan, and so so many more in recent years, I do wonder---why is all this still a secret? Why is it still so new to so many, and to new generations? Unitarians and Universalists, I say, were the original progressive Christians. Why are we most prominently in textbooks, in history, both of a cultural and theological kind in America? Why did we keep the secret to ourselves? And why are we continuing to do so? As one of my colleagues said, himself not a Christian but a lover of all things from the Jesus Seminar, why was the Jesus Seminar necessary since the UUA has been around for so much longer? There are so many wonderful new DVD curriculums out now exploring all the new work by biblical scholars like Brandon Scott, but they aren’t coming from us. We who were on the cutting edge of all things Jesus are now playing catch up. Now it’s better than it was when I became a Unitarian in 1974 and, as they say, in many many places Jesus Christ was only heard back then in the church when the minister tripped on his robe. But we are still sidelined. I’ll give my answer to some of these questions about us at the end, but now I want to get at the heart of the message of Jesus itself. Because getting that wrong might have something to do with why it’s still considered a secret.

When I was growing up as a Methodist, and for years as a Unitarian when I would hear sermons about Jesus, I rarely heard much about the parables of Jesus. It was all, pro or con, about the birth, death, resurrection, and the miracles. Those parables like the prodigal son and the so-called Good Samaritan, the ones that adorned stained glass windows, even in historic UU Christian churches, were all about conventional wisdom and morality tales of being good, or like the mustard seed they were seen as allegories about the Church. You got their lessons in Sunday School and then were supposed to not need them after that. And we didn’t ever hear much if anything about leaven. But today the parables are seen as the key to Jesus’ message, ministry, mission. These parables about a revolutionary vision of God have themselves gone through a revolution. So much so that for many who write on them today, you can’t deeply understand even the stories of birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus without seeing them as parables about Jesus told in the spirit of the parables he himself told.

The parables show us that before Jesus was considered the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, he first anointed, or Christ-ed the world, especially those parts of it and those people who were treated as objects. And the strangely radical way he did that blessing of the impure and outcast created the climate, the new default mode and re-imagination of God, that then prompted his own followers to see him as a strangely radical, newly imagined Christ, that is a conduit of and to the divine. He showed people the image of God in the image of the poor and powerless, in other words in themselves, in the image of persistent women and foreigners and foreign women, in the image of illegal and wild mustard seed, unholy leaven, emptiness and loss, undisciplined and shamed fathers and sons, employers who upset expectations of workers, and respectable feasts thrown for unrespectable folk. And in living where he did and how he did, as if the world of the parables was the real world, in a time of great scarcity risking all in the spirit of abundance and generosity, he showed the possibilities of the real power that came, as Brandon Scott wrote, from such a re-imagined God. But what kind of sacredness, what kind of God, is that, they asked? And still do. It makes no sense. It won’t work in the world. Caeser’s world, then and now, doesn’t see God or ultimate values of honor and success and justice in those ways. In the parables, Jesus breaks apart the either/or worlds and structured roles and reimagines the world as if Caeser were not in charge. Today, think of the Caesers as affluence, appearance, achievement, addiction, as influence, coolness, consumption, fear, and feelings of scarcity, as if they were not in charge.

Today when I hear the parables of Jesus talk about the kingdom of God I think he would be instead saying here is what God’s Black Friday at the Shopping Malls is really like, or God’s Cyber Monday, here God’s Nielson Ratings, here God’s Gross National Product, here God’s homeland security, here God’s Ph.D., God’s McMansion, and perhaps, most of all, here is what God’s church is like, one that is willing, as the parables call it to do so, to reimagine itself, to get beyond itself, to worry not so much about who is in it and who isn‘t but ultimately Whose it is, one that doesn‘t seek to find a mission but to experience itself as a community formed in response to Mission. The parables challenge us to choose again and again between God and all of our Caesers. No wonder we have through the centuries and cultures found ways to rationalize the parables and hide their message. The hoopla of Church and Holidays can easily distract us from the message instead of feed us with it. Of course ever since the Empire turned Christ into a Caeser, an act that didn’t just happen with Constantine in the fourth century by the way but happens every time the powers that be in all quarters use Christ for their purposes, then the real meaning of the term Christ and Christian is betrayed.

Today, though, in the spirit of the parables, and especially here in the free church, we can turn the tables upside down and the tradition inside out and talk about the kind of King worthy of being called the Christ, one who was himself seen as powerless, roguish, shrewd, criminal, dishonorable, shamed, crucified, a failure, weak, nuisance, a dangerous homeless man who nevertheless was at home wherever he went. And yet just like in his parables, it was this kind of leader, and the ones who followed in his lead, who could change the world by creating community from the ground up, with God’s loving justice and radical inclusion and vulnerabillity, and not from the Empire down with all of the Empire‘s values of the status quo and control. Today, in the twin worlds of fundamentalism and consumerism (including spiritual consumerism) it is the kind of spiritual leadership seen in Jesus that needs to be seen and not kept hidden anymore. Among all its other virtues, this kind of change agent and leader who failed in all the ways of the world is a great antidote for that sin of perfectionism and risk and conflict aversion that so plagues so many of us and our churches.

Well, if for centuries Unitarian and Universalists were the main, if not only, preservers and promoters of the non-creedal radical Jesus, then for the past 63 years the institutional remnant of that particular sanctuary in which we gave shelter and kept alive the revolutionary message of Jesus, has been the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, who first gathered in Boston in December of 1944. Talk about a secret. Our first gathering included some of the most prominent clergy and laity in our movement, and one who would become later the first president of the UUA, and one of our officers for many years was the great UU theologian James Luther Adams. But I was a UU for almost twenty years before I knew about the UUCF, and my story continues to be replicated today. We are as much to blame as anyone for keeping the message of Jesus a secret. UU Christians, and the historic UU Christian churches, should look first to the beam in our own eyes before commenting on the mote in the eye of the UUA. One of my answers to why the UU world has kept the message of Jesus a secret from the wider world for far too long is that we have been too content to think of it as a message, as something for the mind to grasp, as a personal spiritual journey. We are not alone in this; it is a critique for all of the so-called mainstream Christian traditions. But especially we hyper-modernist Enlightenment Era faiths made Jesus and Christianity into an argument full of points and counter-points and focused on our organizations and traditions instead of on the Spirit of the Living God that breaks through all of that to become an organic relationship to be lived, a story to give our hearts and souls and own self stories to, and a path that must be walked with others, particularly others who aren’t like us, or it isn‘t a Jesus kind of path.

Brian McLaren, one of the leaders of the emergent church movement, captures this sentiment well in many of his books, but most succinctly I think in The Secret Message of Jesus where he writes: “Can you see how the secret message of Jesus is meant not just to be heard or read but to be seen in human lives, in radically inclusive reconciling communities, written not on pages in a book but in the lives and hearts of friends? Can you see how the kingdom, originally hidden in parables, began to be hidden in new places--in the stories of real people and real communities across the Roman Empire and eventually around the world? Can you imagine yourself and your community of faith as a living parable where the secret message of Jesus could be hidden today?”

If the original parables of Jesus often left people scratching their heads--God is like what??--and if Unitarian Universalism often does the same today---church is like what?, then the ultimate parable might be in today’s Unitarian Universalist Christianity and our contemporary version of the UUCF. Often other Christians don’t get us; other Uus don’t get us; and, what might surprise a lot of folks, is that we often don’t get each other. This is because we too have grown so diverse since those first years in Boston at the end of the Second World War. We still have in our midst classic Unitarian Christians of the Channing variety, and Emerson and Parker Transcendentalist Christian variety, and still Trinitarian Universalists of the John Murray variety. But we also have UU Christians who follow a humanistic Jesus and don’t call themselves Christians but followers of Jesus, and we have those who follow Jesus in conjunction with their Buddhism or earth-centered faith, and lots of agnostics and atheists who still like to keep up with the latest Jesus and Paul stuff in a familiar setting where their own journeys are respected, and we have Christians who are members of the UUCF but in other traditions who still find connections and resources from us that feed them in ways that their own churches might not, especially for those who are gay, lesbian, bi and transgendered.

When I talk about UU Christianity as a parable, as embodying the radical message of Jesus, I like to talk about the time I worshipped at the First Unitarian Church of Worcester, MA where the weekly Lord’s Prayer is recited but where also the time I was there the minister, a Theist but not a Christian, followed the prayer by preaching a sermon on why Atheists were welcome and needed in the church. Or I like to talk about the time a decade ago when the president of the national UU Christian Fellowship was also on the national board of the Covenant of UU Pagans. Believe me, the Jesus of the leaven and mustard seed and empty jar would get it. UU Christianity might once have been commonplace, the two terms considered one and the same at least by their own adherents, and it hasn’t been that long ago that it was, and there are places where it remains so. And it might once have been considered a contradiction, and there are places where it remains so. And it might be to many a conundrum, too difficult a concept to be worth the time and trouble. But for a growing number it is now a place of convergence--where the spiritual sides of one’s life and one’s community can be enriched--the mystical side, the prophetic side, the liberation side, the ritual-seeking worship side, the thinking exploring side, the healing side. Which only seems natural since all those sides show up in Jesus.

Ultimately the message of Jesus isn’t something you can put on a bumper sticker, in a book, or a sermon--it is an experience of changed lives and relationships and communities of love in the face of the experience of life, all the past lessons and all the experts and all that knowledge, that says change and love is impossible. The message of Jesus through the ages down to us is at its heart a calling more than a concept. We are called, in the arcs of our own lives and the practices that mark and shape our communities, to be both imitators within ourselves and initiators outside of ourselves of what Jesus’ parables pointed to as God‘s spirit--the Holy at work in what the world found unholy, the Sacred in what the world called profane, the Ultimate in the ordinary and the finite.

Back in the Saddle

Sorry for the absence of weeks. First there was the focus on Revival 2007 in Cleveland (great success; soon you will be able to order the DVDs if you couldn't make it yourself; keep checking out and then lots of activity family wise and on the ground here with The Living Room Church and our A Third Place Community Center in Turley (go to for a taste) and then Thanksgiving, recent preaching trips, the holidays, and oh yes our recent ice storm of historic proportions and power outages here in Oklahoma. Feels good to begin coming up for air even during these hectic holy days. End.

Your Christmas/New Year Book Gifts for 2007

Give yourself a Christmas present of a book exploring missional incarnational organic relational Christianity and church planting, or for New Years. Excellent way to begin the year. Here are some recaps and new ones for you.

The latest find---Wide Open Spaces: Beyond Paint by Number Christianity, by Jim Palmer, author of Divine Nobodies. I liked this book better and will try to get a chance to do some excerpt. Google it in the meantime and go there yourself. You won't be disappointed. He has a chapter describing the way the chaordic "church" works in his world organically, and the move he made from organizational church to organic church, and it is wonderful. I will be having everyone here exposed to it. Very detailed and full of examples, which many of my favorite books aren't. Strong sense of passion for the next reformation underway.

Don't forget--Shane Claiborne's The Irresistible Revolution, Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost's books The Shaping of Things to Come, Exiles, Forgotten Ways, or some already getting classic status like Neal Cole's Organic Church, Gibbs and Bolger's Emerging Church. See posts below for more ideas.

Remember, even if you aren't church planting you can be mission planting, relationship spreading, and that's what these books are really all about. End.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Is Church Keeping You From God? That's the question

So the UUA's kickoff campaign in Time magazine asks the question: Is God keeping you from church? What a question for boomers and older; or, more accurately, what a question for people already in UU churches. The question being addressed to a wider culture of folks, being addressed by the emergent organic church movement, is the opposite: Is Church Keeping You From God? But then, that's what many UU churches do, keep people from God, and the new campaign says let's de-emphasize God and raise up Church; that's also the focus of the new DVD campaign though the word God is used, in such a wonderfully cozy inviting way, the "benign grandfather.mother image" as Carl Scovel once described Channing's God. People who think the word or idea of God is keeping them from church should already be attracted to UUism; it's where we have been for forty plus years. We keep looking to grow by appealing to people who "should" be a part of us, we think; if we could just get out the right message to them in the right way; give them credit; they will find us; our churches are full of them now. In the meantime, people who like God, like Jesus, can't imagine church without them, but who are stumbled by the concept and word and practices and stereotypes of church itself, these people are growing in number all the time, especially among milennials. But to go after their concerns might really be misleading, I guess, for then we would be attracting them to a place where God and Jesus et al are absent in transforming meaningful ways, dare I say it, challenging ways. Of course the idea of trying to incarnate new communities for them, rather than attracting them to existing churches not for them, that's something beyond us. End.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Voices of a Liberal Faith: "Sigh" and Mixed Feelings

Just a quick review of the UUA's new DVD and campaign to attract visitors:
Of course no surprise I would love to see the time, talent, resources, etc. put into incarnational mission church planting, or a diverse 1000 new churches in a 1000 new ways approach like the Disciples of Christ are doing, that could be used from this DVD approach and from the Time Magazine and other outreach ads that reflect the old "attrractional" mode of church, but that's not going to happen, so heck I am glad to see that this is being done.

Now I like the visuals, get a good vibe from it, hits the niche markets they are aiming for, has a little bit of substance along with the style, and you come away with a good warm fuzzy glow buzz of spirituality and community and other wonderful words. Nothing scary in it. It seems to evoke everything you would think of from "liberalism." Acceptance. Activism. Idealism.

What I am not drawn to: see paragraph above :).

There were a few places where the word "challenge" was dropped and I was wanting to get a little more of that. I wonder what the challenges of our liberal faith really are: to be accepting of the diversity? well yeah, it can be a strain at times but hey not much I mean that's who we are, right? Challenge to be activists and make the world a better place? Well, yeah, but same thing. Where is the real challenge of our faith? The challenge that says we will be part of the shaking of your foundations. There was so much "it's so good for you, for me, come in the water is fine." Here you won't have to change. Here you won't encounter a transforming Transcendent that stands not only within you but without from you, judging your life, your decisions. I am always a sucker for history, but there was a part of me that said, when I saw his name and face, if John Adams were here and watching that video....:)

It does what it sets out to do. That's something. I do hope people will use it in small groups; to dig into it, not only in how it might resonate with their path, but what it leaves out in what it means to be faithful, to be a part of even "Church, but..." :). What does it say about us? What does it reveal about us?

Of course, getting visitors is one thing and turning visitors into disciples and leaders who make other leaders is another thing. One DVD can't do it all. But there might be a corollary between the expectations that people come in with, that here I won't be challenged and changed, that makes it difficult to go from the one to the other. God I yearn for the DVD of the dark nights of the souls of the UUs and how from the wreckage of their lives and in the wreckage of their faith communities and wider communities they experienced the Holy and their lives have never been the same since. Or how the faith has really challenged them to change their lives in fundamental ways. That I think might really attract visitors and also some hope that might keep them.

Or we can start new organic churches of four and five people all over the world, especially in the zip codes we aren't a part of naturally, and watch the Holy Spirit at work.

So, in conclusion, really mixed feelings. Which is better than you thought, right? I mean if an out of the looper like me can see where it might be useful (mostly if it will be used in small groups, in moving people to dig deeper and go beneath the surfaces presented, which is all you can do anyway in ten minutes, but then surfaces are telling) than surely it will end up helping the movement somehow.

Let's just keep looking at the numbers each year in relationship to the population of the country. And it wouldn't hurt to 1. restart a fellowship movement redux; 2. to do the first, have at least one church in each state commit to doing an organic church mission plant per year; 3. have a system wide discussion so people will know what the heck that might mean and be, and what the real options for growth and planting are (it is both easier than people think, and more challenging than they can imagine and possibly wish to go there). End.

Liberal Theology by Peter C. Hodgson

One of my favorite contemporary theologians, if not the favorite, is Peter C. Hodgson recent of Vanderbilt. He has another new book out, a slim one, geared in most part to general audiences I think without dumbing things down. It is called simply enough Liberal Theology: A Radical Vision. At the heart of his theology is freedom. Here he focuses his constructive theology down to freedom manifest in God, in the universe, and in humanity's struggle for liberation. He should be read by all UUs looking for a unifying vision for our theology--God works in freedom; part of that freedom comes in story form in different ways, for me the story of Jesus for others the story of evolution/science, others the story of Buddha, but it is the committment and challenge of freedom that creates the boundaries of our family, our tradition, our current covenant. So we need to understand the theology of freedom, how it works, what it isn't. Hodgson is so helpful here.

I did my own constructive theological paper in relationship to his and so I am biased, but also chagrined that so few UUs, so few liberal Christians, know of his contribution through the years. I will do some excerpting from it later, just wanted to issue an alert about the book. Especially if you liked Gary Dorrien's trilogy (see my earlier posts on it from 2006) and his historical comments and opinions on liberal theology, you will enjoy see them applied by Hodgson. If there is a caution, it is that Hodgson has an unapologetic philosophical theology, and owes much to Hegel. This can be daunting, but try him anyway; I think his arguements are getting better. Since so much of this blog is aimed at incarnating in new communities new theology, or old theology newly reframed, it is good to pause every so often and reflect on such new theological work, and understand its imperative for our getting new communities planted.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why Other Christians Need To Listen To UU Christians

I have been thinking about this post for some time, but then yesterday the new Christian Century came,, and there was an article that I am sure will be posted on the website there soon about what mainline Protestant Christians can learn from Mormons. Inspired me to get to this post. Actually, UUs can learn from the article and from Mormons too (especially about high expectations and youth and young adult culture, and family emphasis) and some of it I have blogged on in the past. Here are some beginning thoughts about what others can learn from us.

Most of this blog has been composed with the idea that liberals need to engage in and learn from evangelicals, especially those emerging organic Christian communities turning their backs on the mega-church. Now I'd like to reverse it. In my encounters with them, there is 1. ignorance about UUism and UU Christianity; like the main error of all inter-religious dialogue it is often based on old information; 2. certainly ignorance about our rich and diverse UU Christianity too; 3. no understanding that the folks who have been coming and still are coming into the communities of UUism are the very ones they too have been professing to seek to reach, the dechurched, the disaffected, the spiritual but not religious types, the deeds but not creeds type; the ones so desperate for connection and spirituality that they will try on all manner of spiritual hats, neopagan, wiccan, scientific, et al; except for some crucial socio-demographic skewing you will find a reflection of contemporary American spirituality; 4. so, whom best to listen to to understand what it means to be in relationship with the spectrum, to hear their baggage or stories from church or from secularism, and their objections to all things Christian even while they know there is something special, but not too special, about Jesus. 5. I don't mean that what they will learn from UU Christians is all wonderful; they might learn some helpful lessons about balancing apologetic and unapologetic theology, for example, where Christians have gone from one pendulum swing to the other in being forthright or hidden about the scandal of particularity of the Christian story. 6: they might learn about the growing power of ritual and liturgy that is providing a doorway to faith, and especially about the power of living in and embracing diversity along sexual orientation lines.

I will try to revisit this again later. Of course, for anyone seeking to experience UU Christianity, the best way is to be with us. Go to for a great way to do so. Feel free to add your thoughts on what others can learn, and deepen their faith, from being around UU Christians.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Previews of Coming Attractions

I am going to be posting on what Christians can and should learn from Unitarian Universalists, especially UU Christians--hint, we live our lives amidst the mission field, the microcosmic world of the "unChristian." More to come, especially since I spend so much of my time talking with UUs about why they should be hanging out not only with Jesus but with Christians, and learning from them, hence this blog. Speaking of "unChristian" this is the title of the latest book from the Barna group, a kind of follow up to Barna's own Revolution, of which I blogged before and stil recommend most highly (usual caveats regarding conservative Christian theology; I wonder when, O God, when I can feel safe avoiding those caveats?). I will have more to say about their research findings on the "outsiders" etc. Also reading Kimball's latest, "They Like Jesus But Not The Church." I will be blogging about the reversal that seems true in the UU world. They like Church but not Jesus, or maybe they have come around to accept and make peace with the idea of church, by whatever name it might be called, and that struggle was enough. We found religious home finally, or for once, and we don't want to entertain anything that might jeopardize that feeling, that home, and serious diving down into the particulars of a particular faith community tradition practice can seem threatening to that found home, whether it be Christian or otherwise, but i think especially Jesus since in some ways he is all about busting up your homes, your churches, your set lives, in order to let God breathe/break in. Anyway I will be blogging on it later too. End for now.

Type rest of the post here

The Christ of Faith (especially for UUs, unchurched, dechurched)

Here is the text from which I preached my sermon recently in St. Louis. Which means you get more here than was actually delivered, except this time I did an introduction to the reading, and provided a reading on the reading, from Luke 16:1-8, which you don't have here in this post, at least not yet.

The Christ of Faith
First Unitarian Church, St. Louis, Sept. 23, 2007
Rev. Ron Robinson

We begin with the familiar words, words so familiar they risk losing their power, from the poet within your own church family:
With the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling We shall not cease from exploration And the end of all our exploring Will be to arrive where we started And know the place for the first time.
These words of T. S. Eliot, who would be 119 years old this coming Wednesday (whose grandfather William Greenleaf Eliot was the founding minister of this church when it was the Church of the Messiah), these words mark the journey of the Spirit for many whom I encounter through my ministry with the Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship, as they do for me.
We have people in our particular UU movement whose journey began in different world religions than Christianity, or in none, but most started as Christians in other churches, though most became Christian or primarily Jesus-followers as adults after having first been non-Christian UUs.
We were born in the varied waters of Christianity, in this or that church, maybe even in one of our UU Christian Churches, having had this or that experience, some nourished and cared for, some oppressed and exiled; and some, as is the truth of things, with both experiences; but then we crawled from the waters onto the land, so to speak, and began breathing the air, everything seemed new, getting our free legs beneath us, and exploring the world--at some point, for me it was very early on, we settled into Unitarian Universalism because here we could feel at home and continue to feed our wandering souls. After a while, maybe it was from the wanderer’s fate that the only place left to really explore is the place you left too soon to fully know, or maybe it was from a personal crisis that left us feeling too dry, and the land too shaky, but after a while we were drawn to, or pulled to, arguing with ourselves all the way, back to the Christian waters again, to those words and stories again, to those practices and that “cloud of witnesses” through the millennia. And because we were different now, those waters were different too—what had been a shrinking reservoir or toxic pond was now an ocean full of life and energy, and yes, we felt born again, or rather the place was born again for us.

And we found we were not alone. It is why biblical scholar Marcus Borg has titled some of his books as he has—Meeting Jesus Again For The First Time; Reading the Bible Again For the First Time.

The funny thing is, the really shocking and radical thing is to many people who have certain ingrained, default mode worldviews of what church is, both other Christians and other Unitarian Universalists, we found this new water right where we were. We didn’t have to leave so much as look at our place and see it, too, deeper and broader, as if for the first time. It is as if the dry land we had crawled onto, grown up in, been saved by, and explored, after all, had been an island—the original ocean nourishing it, giving it its shape. As we look at the roots of Unitarian Universalism, we find Christianity. As we look at the roots of Christianity, we find unitarian and universalist theology.

And the same kind of journey of re-discovery often continues each time we now come into contact with the words and acts that once upon a time were more like stones, ones that if we held them would have spiritually dragged us down, but now are like the beautiful mysterious flora and fauna and reefs that make up the life of the waters. God. Christ. Holy Spirit. Communion. Faith. Mission. Incarnation. Resurrection. Discipleship. Revival. We know these words better now, for our having been away from them.

The past two years I have been physically living out the idea, the truth, which T.S. Eliot sought to capture in those words from the Little Gidding section of his great work, The Four Quartets. My Little Gidding is Turley, Oklahoma just north of Tulsa, where my paternal grandparents began living soon after the First World War and where my mother and father still live, my father being able to walk into his backyard and see the place where he was born 75 years ago, and where several of my cousins and even their grown children still live. Plus, my wife and I now live in the house and on the land where her parents lived from the time she was six years old until soon after we were married 33 years ago. We volunteer at the elementary school where we met in kindergarten, and scare the parents of the kindergarteners when we tell them that story. The house and land, like the community, had deteriorated quite a bit in the intervening years. The couple we bought the place from, who had let it sit empty for a few years, said if we hadn’t bought it they were going to tear down the rock house and put in a double-wide, to improve its real estate value. They were right, real-estate wise. Our life in it these past two years will be the subject of many other sermons to come. Likewise, Turley is not seen as the kind of place you return to; the poorest zip code, and the lowest life expectancy zipcode in the Tulsa metropolitan area—not especially if you are a couple with 23 years of higher education between us, and a teenage daughter. Turley, we have been told by more than a few, back when we originally lived there and now we live there again, is supposed to be where you are from.

And so that has also been said, during my same 33 years as a Unitarian Universalist, about Christianity. Though not so much lately, or not so bluntly. There were some times and some places, or some people within those places, where bringing up just Jesus or things biblical would not only turn heads but stomachs in UU groups. It was the definite third rail of our religion in those places, not to touch without turning off its power. That’s certainly a reaction that is on the wane as all theologies among us are minority theologies now, and as unchurched join us without the old church baggage, though being who we are and being in the religious culture we are, it will stay with us for some time to come.

Two months ago I guest preached a sermon on the revolutionary changes in the way the Apostle Paul is now being understood, which is causing a shaking of the foundations in some Christian circles unlike what even the Jesus Seminar created, and there was a young man, a new UU, who couldn’t physically be in the sanctuary to hear the sermon, because he had just come out of a fundamentalist Christian church and if he encountered in a sacred way just the words of and about Jesus and Christian faith, it would trigger his wounds, not to mention confounding his definition of who he thought we were, his new-found blessed home. (I often tell UUCF members that being in relationship with those such as him, even as we might be hurting, is part of what it means for us to do UU Christianity. Who better than people who freely follow Jesus to help heal the hurts done in the name of Jesus?)

For others, though, it is not quite that extreme, what is called “cross-cringe” comes at a different point. We UU Christians have usually been there in our journey too. I know I have. That’s in part why, in describing our movement, terms are used like “the Jesus of history but not the Christ of faith” or “we believe in the religion of Jesus but not the religion about Jesus” (which seems to not only negate our own history but the history of Jesus himself whose “religion,” if you have to use that term for it, was very much that of first century Judaism and not like our Protestant Reformed Modern Enlightenment tradition). And though all we have of Jesus we have because of those varied, imperfect, dedicated souls who followed him. The temptation to focus only on the person Jesus as a shadowy historical person, or wise guru, is also fed by our age’s and our tradition’s emphasis on hyper individualism, the Great Man myth. By contrast, to grapple with the word Christ is to grapple with the community which attached it to Jesus, and formed themselves in relation to it. Still it is understandable, this pulling Jesus close but pushing Christianity away. Think of all the real harm done by some powerful Christians, then and now; the stereotypes of Christians held by many today have solid basis.
It’s interesting how many of the growing new emergent evangelical Christian churches, especially those which are anti-megachurch, understand this and are taking up the very same message we honed so well. And are reaching new generations of the unchurched and the dechurched who want to follow the radical way of Jesus, but don’t do it in opposition to or as a contradiction in terms to Christian faith, but as its fulfillment.

People are asking again, in the 21st century in ways not heard since the first century, as the biblical gospels did too, what, who, is this Christ, this Anointed One, this most unusual Messiah, of which people talk, and how is it all related to the one, the son of Miriam, this Jesus of Nazareth?. As one new book title puts it, why from one Jesus, so many Christs? Which is now as it ever has been. Each of the different groups that produced and preserved the accounts of Jesus in the Bible, plus Paul, had a different Christ in mind and heart and soul.

We find that in our midst too, as UU Christian. We talk about the broad categories of those who are a part of us. They fall along the spectrum of how people shape their response to the shape of Jesus in their lives. Many among us don’t call themselves Christian. You don’t have to be Christian to be in the UUCF, nor do you have to be UU to be in the UUCF. We don’t think Jesus, in his radical hospitable way, would have it any differently. These might have Jesus as a moral example, a wise teacher. They follow Jesus as a guide and don’t have much use personally for the word Christ. Many follow Jesus as a social revolutionary leader of the oppressed, and see Christ as the spirit of God opposing the Caesars and Rulers of the Status Quo, now as then. Many follow a Jesus and Christian path and draw strongly or primarily from other religions as their source. Many are a part of us simply because they like our conversation and to keep up with us. Many have left Unitarian Universalism to experience more identified Christian communion and company but don’t want to leave their religious family of origin behind and what it still feeds them. Many are in Christian communities not UU, some happily and some not, but are drawn to our radical ways of being in covenant with people of other faiths than Christian. It’s where Jesus might be. Many are in historic or new Unitarian Universalist Christian churches and hope to help us seed this faith that does not feel like an oxymoron but a redundancy to them, the way the term Methodist Christian might seem. And many follow not just the teachings or social acts of Jesus, but the traditions, disciplines, worship, study, prayer through which Jesus touches their lives. And many may be at different of these points at any given time. I have. One historical Jesus, many faithful responses. We need one another to better reflect the hospitality that is our way. We say we have a particular faithfulness, as UU Christians, but not strictly exclusive faithfulness. One of the gifts of UU Christianity to the ecumenical world is a reminder that our Jesus, our Christ, our God has liberty and freedom at the core. We wouldn’t, couldn’t have one without the other. And to answer the old question of why stay UU, we find UUism to be a great garden of freedom, and a place where we, who follow one who sought out right relations with those different from him, can best follow him, embody him howsoever we refer to him.

Much of the problem with the phrase the Christ of faith is how it has been linked to issues of the divinity of Jesus, and approaching faith as belief, as creeds defined it. We encounter these ancient words and issues by looking back at them through the centuries, in an orderly way. Christ and faith taken to be what they have become, after the Caesers et al corrupted them, instead of letting them speak to us in their own, original voices.
When I speak of Christ I don’t think of a Second Person of the Trinity, at least not as old theologians did, and some still do; instead I think, I feel, about a spirit of anointing, what the Greek word Christ refers to, about a spirit of blessing that is so powerful in its revolutionary vulnerable way, power-with not power-over, cooperation not competition and content and conquest, as we saw in our parable reading and commentary this morning from the lectionary, that this spirit could not be silenced and destroyed by evil and death, but lived on and grew in community more life affirming.
I think of Christ as a parable itself, and believe it is stronger, theologically for it.
And yes, as an aside since I mentioned that old bugaboo, the divinity of Jesus, my own shorthand response is that Jesus was filled with the spirit of God, but God is filled by more than Jesus, and the nature and character of such a God, the key issue, is one of freedom and relationship and imperfection.
Likewise, when I encounter or use the word faith now I don’t think of thought, or belief, of a series of mental affirmations and propositions. I translate it, as new versions of the ancient Greek are being translated, as faithfulness, more active than passive, more about trusting and choosing to follow a special way. As Parable Scholar Brandon Scott writes in our reading today, we have faith not in Jesus as an object, but faith with Jesus as a subject, a living companion.

This topsy-turvy Christology of our century owes itself I think to the rediscovery, coming to know them again for the first time, of the original counter-cultural power of the parables, one of our prime lens to the Jesus of history. It’s why I see the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith as two poles generating, like a Jacob’s ladder, the same energy flowing between them, charging the air.

The parables show us that before Jesus was considered the Anointed One, the Messiah, the Christ, he first anointed, or Christ-ed the world. And the strangely radical way he did that created the climate, the epiphany, the new default mode and re-imagination of God, that prompted his followers to see him as a strangely radical, newly imagined Christ, a conduit of and to the divine. He showed his followers the image of God not only in the image of the poor and powerless, in the image of persistent women and foreigners and foreign women, but in the image of illegal and wild mustard seed, unholy leaven, undisciplined and shamed fathers and sons, employers who upset expectations of workers, respectable feasts thrown for unrespectable folk, and as in today’s parable in untrustworthy managers and selfish owners who still, in their vulnerability, are conduits for good results and the possibility of better relationships and a better world.

But what kind of sacredness is that, they asked? And still do. It makes no sense. It won’t work in the world.

Caeser’s world, then and now, doesn’t see God or ultimate values of honor and success and justice in those ways. In the parables, Jesus breaks apart the either/or worlds and structured roles and reimagines the world as if Caeser were not in charge. Today, think of the Caesers as affluence, appearance, achievement, influence, coolness, consumption, fear, and feelings of scarcity, as if they were not in charge.

It reminds me too that when the first followers of Jesus began to describe him as Christ, and then even later when they themselves were described as Christians, though they still saw themselves for quite some time as part of the covenant between Israel and God, that using the word Christ was their way of differentiating themselves from the values and worldview of the Caesers and those who followed Caeser as the Anointed One, the Son of God, Lord and Master. And I wonder if we stop understanding that difference, if we drop Christ altogether, will we also then drop our contest with the Caesers, the value-makers of our world? This problem of recognizing and responding to evil has been a perennial one for liberal or progressive theology. If this happens it is doubly ironic since our liberal problem with the word Christ is linked to the aftereffects of when centuries after the church was born Christ and the Church were coopted by the Empire and Christ became to many just like another Caeser. One way to defeat Caeser now is to free Christ from Caeser, and create new communities from this transformation, again undoing the Empire.

Given the radical world-upsetting nature of the parables, though, it’s no wonder that the followers who heard them and became leaders, and the followers who just heard the stories from them, and the followers after that have then seen the same image of God, and the same transforming possibilities of the healing spirit of life, most clearly in the one who was himself seen as equally roguish, shrewd, criminal, dishonorable, shamed, crucified, a failure, weak, nuisance, a dangerous homeless man, one still always looking to make connections, relations, build community from the ground up and not from the Empire down. And because of all that they called him God’s Beloved be-lover, Annointed Annointer, Christ

Let’s close, after all these words about words, with where we began, with words about the ineffectiveness of our words. With a humble reminder taken from the same poem by Mr. Eliot. Unfortunately, less familiar words, unlike the first these are not in our hymnal. He wrote this parable:
“You are not here to verify,Instruct yourself, or inform curiosityOr carry report. You are here to kneelWhere prayer has been valid. And prayer is moreThan an order of words, the conscious occupationOf the praying mind, or the sound of the voice praying.”

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Progressive Christians Waking Up Well some are as you can see from that link to a talk at an event sponsored by The Center For Progressive Christianity, The talk doesn't get too missional incarnational organic but is on the right track.

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Friday, August 31, 2007

Organic Camp Turley: A Jesus Thing

So, the Methodist Church here in Turley, OK near Tulsa used to always go off to Camp a few counties away during Labor Day weekend. It was one of those great fun experiences of my life growing up with family in that church. Over the years it would be a way to go and reconnect with the church family even though I had left Methodism. But as the congregation split and aged and the community around it changed more than it did, the attendance at camp dwindled and became a family thing rather than a church thing. Then last year we decided not to try to go off to camp as we always had, good as it had been, but a kind of ghost of what it had been, and decided instead to try to have it here in Turley. I named it Camp Turley. All of a sudden it began to be transformed from a church or single family thing and into a community thing, ecumenical, a Jesus thing.

That is the inversion, the story of what the missional organic church does. Instead of the experience and group being an institutional thing and where people went off to an isolated place to "have a spiritual time" we would bring Camp to the Community. It is still a work in progress. We will look for ways to provide here some of the things missed by not getting off on retreat in a pretty wilderness area, with climbing the camp hill, fishing, etc. But we can develop that nature creation part of God's blessing as we develop up the experience year to year--we have our great Turley Hill, and we are going to be able to do things like service projects that we didn't do off at camp run by other people.

This Saturday is "Camp Turley" at our "a third place" center. Begins with potluck lunch at noon, 1-3 p.m. tye-dye tshirts lessons provided and group games, 3-4 p.m. community service projects, 4-5 p.m. workshop on meditating the Lords Prayer, 5-6 p.m. ecumenical communion service, 6:30 to ? backyard hot dog roast (or what you want to bring) at 6302 N. Quincy Ave. just a few blocks away from the Center.

Lots of possibilities for creating community, reconnecting community, healing, working with other faith communities. A good start. It begins with the mission and grows organically. Stay tuned (or come on by if you are in our area). End.

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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Organic Community

Next good book recommendation is Organic Community: creating a place where people naturally connect, by Joseph R. Myers. A good one about moving away from "master plans" toward "shaping environments where community emerges naturally." This is a good reminder for all of us who tend to try to "manage growth" and control our environments, thinking that if we just get the right programs, i.e. the right kind of small group ministry, and do the right kind of advertising, etc. we will grow.

One of the best chapters, applicable not only to local churches and organizations but also to denominations, is the one on growth and the difference between "large-lump vs. piecemeal growth." Our cultural seduction for large-lump, Myers says, often leaves groups bankrupt. "Our culture has taught us that growth is an expectation...Choosing a large-lump path toward growth over a piece-meal way forward provides outward evidence of growth sooner. The enormous house, the number of active small groups, the increased attendance in our church services--all demonstrate that growth has occurred. In truth, however, large-lump models rob us of what we are hoping to achieve. One reason this is true is because most--sometimes all--resources are marshalled to build the large-lump plan. Once the large-lump plan is in place, the resources are so depleted that the only possible way to maintain any growth at all is through incremental patterns. The patterns have little momentum, and often bankruptcy results.

In a piecemeal growth pattern, growth may not be evident until later in the process, but the growth is sustanable and leads to a healthy, generative whole. The piecemeal patterns are implemented fromt he outset, momentum builds, and sustainable growth results.

"Consider these questions before you launch your next initiative: How much of our future will this one thing control? Will this one thing that I'm planning deplete all or most of our resources? Will this one thing that I'm planning consume all or most of the community's life? if what I'm planning fails, will it devastate the whole? If what I'm planning succeeds, will it devastate the whole?

The overall idea is to move community activists, i.e. church leaders, toward becoming environmentalists instead of planners. One of the deadly questions that we often fall prey to is the "how" question: how can we do X? Myers shows how that question itself grows out of a scarcity model and propels us down the path of master plans. And how and what we "measure" as the bottom line often ends up controlling our mission. He writes: we measure that which we perceive to be important, that which we measure will become important and will guide our process, that which we do not measure will become less important. "We must understand what we are measuring. We are talking about measuring life--community, relationships, health. We are talking about measuring inanimate entities. Reducing living organisms to a census count demeans the way we were created...Story is the universal measurement of life. Story is the measure of community. Story emerges from life."

When was the last time we counted how many, and what kind of, stories were the most important to our communities? And helped people tell those stories (the real meaning of sermons)? And incorporated them into the Board meetings? Story and prayer are the bottom line.

He tells a good story about stories. How Cincinnati's Vineyard Community Church does its servant evangelism on Saturday mornings (what we call random acts of kindness days) and then comes back to share stories about what happened with one another. That is church. People are drawn toward and want to be a part of Story, and through it to the Great Story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Those Unexpected Blessed Encounters

So I was in Denton Texas recently for my nephew's wedding and at the rehearsal party met one of the bridesmaids. Actually I was talking with her mother and used the phrase "missional/incarnational" to describe the church plant here, and I could tell it was only somewhat resonant with her but she said her daughter would know about it. Sure enough her daughter, the bridesmaid, had been involved in urban ministry and mission work in Roxbury, Mass., had attended Andover-Newton, was now at Gordon-Conwell, or actually in Houston but finishing there, and had been involved with a Vineyard church. She mentioned ReImagine in San Francisco and the conversation, brief as it was, clicked. I realized later how rare it is, for me anyway, to be able to get right down to sharing without having to go through the explanations and introductions to this beingness of church. I know there are dangers in those "oh, you are one of those too!" encounters, for we forget our mission is with the others, but the encounters are so sweet and inspirational. end

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The Book Sale--Benefiting Turley Center

Update--Thank you all. I have already arranged to sell some 300 or so of these 371 books. In the list below the books that are still available will have asterisks beside them. Email me if you have questions. This will mean so much to our "a third place" center and to The Living Room Church. Checks made out to The Living Room Church can be sent to 6514 N. Peoria Ave. Turley, OK 74126. blessings and read on...


Please Check out the books for sale listed as this post continues--click below to read the full list--all just for $5; almost all purchased new and since I was graduated from seminary in 2000). Most have authors listed at least by last name so it should be easy to check them out online to learn more about them, or ask me about the ones you are interested in.

Plus you can order by email. Books For Sale taken from my Theological Library---All Sales Benefit “a third place” community center in Turley, OK.

The sale itself will take place at Phillips Theological Seminary, Tulsa, on N. Mingo Ave. between I-244 and Pine, on Tuesday through Thursday Sept. 4-6, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the commons by the student mailboxes. also see See more on the center at or in posts below here on my blog. Get great bargains on books and be a part of a great mission here. Contact me at or 918-691-3223. If you need the list sent by email as an attachment just let me know.

If you would like to order through the mail, contact me re: postage
If you would like to get first chance and come by the community center to buy pre-sale, contact me to arrange time. We are located at 6514 N. Peoria Ave.

Books are in the following categories (but check them all out because the categories are fuzzy and some were tough to slot, figure that :) )--- 1. Emergent/Organic Church; 2. Liberal/Progressive Christianity; 3. Biblical; 4. History; 5. Transformational Church; 6. Theology; 7. of perhaps special value to Unitarian Universalists or those interested in UUism in American Religion; 8. General Church, Religious, and Spiritual.

Emergent/Organic Church
Emerging Worship—Kimball
The Emerging Church—Kimball
The Gospel According to Starbucks—Sweet
Post-Modern Pilgrims—Sweet
The Nomadic Church—Easum
**Planting Missional Churches—Seltzer
**Liquid Church
**The Present Future—Six Tough Questions for the Church, McNeal
Inside the Organic Church—Whitesel
Beyond The Box: innovative churches that work—Easum
Under The Radar: learning from risk-taking churches—Easum
The Secret Message of Jesus, McLaren
**Church Next
**A Generous Orthodoxy, McLaren
**More Ready Than You Realize, McLaren
The Out of Bounds Church, Naylor
**Future Church: ministry in a post-seeker age
**Adventures in Missing the point, McLaren & Compola
**A New Kind of Christian, McLaren
The Church on the Other Side, Mclaren
**A is for Abductive: The Language of the Emerging Church---Sweet
**The Last Word and The Word After That, McLaren
Planting New Churches in a Post-modern age
Planting A Garden: growing the church beyond the traditional methods

Liberal/Progessive Christianity
**Middle Church—Edgar
**Getting On Message—challenging the Christian Right from the Heart of the Gospel
God’s Politics—Jim Wallis
**The Emerging Christian Way, essays, Borg ed.
Why The Christian Right Is Wrong—Meyers
**Big Christianity--Linn
**Thy Kingdom Come--Balmer
**Red and Blue God, Black and Blue Church
**Christianity in the 21st Century—Wuthnow
**Christianity in the 21st Century—D. Brown
The Left Hand of God—Lerner
**Christianity for the Rest of Us—Bass
The Phoenix Affirmations
**Honest To God—John A.T. Robinson
Perfect Freedom: Why Liberal Christianity Might be the Faith you’re looking for?—Mountford
Why Christianity Must Change or Die—Spong
A New Christianity for a new world—Spong
Stealing Jesus—Bawer
Saving Jesus from those who are Right--Heyward

New Testament Fundamentals—Davies
Sowing The Gospel: Mark’s World—Mary Ann Tolbert
A History of Prophecy in Israel
A Commentary on Jeremiah—Brueggeman
**Sacred Discontent: Bible and Western Tradition
Jesus in Contemporary Scholarship, Borg
**Moses and Monotheism, Freud
The Prophets: A Liberation-Critical Reading, Carol Dempsey
**The Hidden Book in the Bible
Jesus at 2000, Borg
The Man from Nazareth—Harry Emerson Fosdick
**John: The Maverick Gospel
The Mythic Past: Biblical Archaeology and The Myth of Israel
Jesus and Buddha, Borg
**Three Gospels—Reynolds Price
Living Buddha/Living Christ—tich nhat hanh
Christology in American Unitarianism—Wintersteen
Humanist Sermons
**Interpretation Journals
**The New Testament Introduction--Perrin
**Incarnation: Contemporary Writers on the New Testament
**God: A biography---Miles
**Jesus: Symbol-Maker for the Kingdom---Brandon Scott
**Biblical Exegesis
**Literary Criticism and the Gospels
**The history of ancient Israel—Grant
**The Book of J—Bloom
Women Like This: New Perspectives on Jewish Women in the Greco-Roman World—Levine
**Communion: Contemporary Writers reveal the Bible in their lives
**Jeremiah: an archaeological companion
**Jeremiah: Interpretation commentary
**Walking on Water: sermons on the miracles of Jesus
The Triumph of Eve and other subversive bible tales
Honest to Jesus---Funk
**Hearing The New Testament
Conflict, Holiness and Politics in the Teachings of Jesus—Borg
Death and Resurrection of the Beloved Son: the transformation of child sacrifice in Judaism and Christianity---levinson
**Putting Jesus in His Place: a radical vision of household and kingdom
**Jesus—michael grant
**Introducing the Uncommon Lectionary—Bandy
Religion in the Bible---A. Powell Davies
**Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul---Hays
**Paul---A.N. Wilson
**The Theology of the First Letter to the Corinthians
**Final Account: Paul’s letter to the Romans—Stendahl
The Letters of Paul---Spong
**Reframing Paul—Strom
**The Paul Quest—Witherington
**Rabbi Paul—Chilton
**Narrative Dynamics in Paul—Longnecker
**Paul and His Letters—Keck
**The Gospel According to Paul—Griffith-Jones

Transformational Church
What Have We Learned—Schaller
Dancing with Dinosaurs—Easum
Growing Spiritual Redwoods—Easum
Summons To Lead—Sweet
Out of the Question, Into the Mystery—Sweet
**11 Genetic Gateways To Spiritual Awakening—Sweet
**Discontinuity and Hope—Schaller
**Jesus Drives Me Crazy—Sweet
Put Your Own Oxygen Mask on First—Easum
The Very Large Church—Schaller
**Next Church Now
The New Context For Ministry—Schaller
A Mainline Turnaround—Schaller
Small Congregation, Big Potential—Schaller
From Cooperation to Competition---Schaller
**Aqua Church—Sweet
The Unlearning Church—Slaughter
Mission Mover—Bandy
UnFreezing Moves—Easum
**Soul Salsa—Sweet
**Carpe Manana—Sweet
Coaching Change—Bandy
Sacred Cows Make Gourmet Burgers—Easum
Soul Tsunami—Sweet
From Geography to Affinity—Schaller
**Real Followers—Slaughter
Leadership on the Other Side—Easum
Christian Chaos: Revolutionizing the congregation—Bandy
Fragile Hope—Bandy
Kicking Habits—Bandy
Moving Off The Map---Bandy
Antagonists in the Church/Plus Study Guide
Healthy Congregations, Steinke
**Death of the Church
Letting Go: transforming congregations for ministry—Phillips
**The purpose-driven church—warren
Leading Change in the Congregation--Rendle
**Worship Evangelism—Morganthaler
**Rocking the church membership boat
All Are Chosen: stories of lay ministry and leadership
Making the small church effective
**The Vital Congregation—Miller
The In-Between Church—Mann
Leading Small Groups
12 Keys to an Effective Church—Callahan
**Growing in Authority, Relinquishing control
Conflict Management in Congregations
**Transforming Liberal Congregations
**The Once and Future Church
More Than Numbers: The Ways Churches Grow
**The Empowering Church
Effective Church Leadership built on the 12 keys—Callahan
12 keys Study Guide—Callahan
**Leadership is the Key—Miller
Transforming Church Boards
Planting Growing Churches for the 21st Century—Malphurs
Discerning Your Congregation’s Future
**Transforming Congregations for the Future
**Five Challenges—mead
**Church Leadership—Weems
Hidden Lives of Congregations
How Your Church Family Works—Steinke
When Not to Build
The Multi-Site Church Revolution
Connecting to God—nurturing spirituality through small groups

Theology of the Reformers
**The Age of Reform: 1250-1550
The Story of Christianity
The Transcendentalist Ministers
The Church Before Christianity
**The New England Way and Vatican II
**Martin Luther—Marius
**The De-Secularization of the World—Berger
**Martin Luther: writings
**America’s God--Noll
**The Reformed Pastor
**The Next Christendom: the coming of global christianity—Jenkins
History and Literature of Early Christianity
The Puritan Dilemma
A History of God—Armstrong
Jefferson and Religion
The Wayward Puritans
The Congregational Way of Life
Literature and Theology in Colonial New England
**The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638
Theodore parker: yankee crusader
The Holy Spirit and Christian Origins
**A History of the English Baptists
**The Puritan Origins of the American Self
**Fire From Heaven—Harvey Cox
**American Congregations—Wind and Lewis
Our Covenant—Alice Blair Wesley
When Jesus Became God—Richardson

Faith Without Certainty—Rasor
**A New Handbook of Christian Theology
Anselm’s Discovery—Charles Hartshorne, process thought
Philosophy of Hans-Georg Gadamer
Teaching To Transgress—bell hooks
Science and the Search for God, Kowalski
Theology Today Journal Issues
Journals of American Theology and Philosophy
Beyond Humanism—Hartshorne
Creativity and God: A Challenge To Process Theology
The Future of Religions—Tillich
Systematic Theology—Tillich
Theology and Culture—Tillich
Dynamics of Faith—Tillich
The Essential Tillich
If Grace Is True—Gulley and Mulholland
**If God is Love—Gulley and Mulholland
World as Lover, World as Self—Joanna Macy
**Beyond Tragedy—Reinhold Niebuhr
Narratives of a Vulnerable God—Placher
**Unapologetic Theology: Chritian Voice in a Pluralistic Conversation
The Zero Fallacy—Hartshorne
**The Religious Imagination: A Study in Psychoanalysis and Jewish Theology
Religious Humanism Journal
**The Responsible Self—Richard Niebuhr
**The Sense of a People—Mudge
**Restoring the Center—Fackre
Facing The Abusive God—Blumenthal
Gaia and God—Reuther
An Essay in Theological Method—Kaufman
A theology of liberation--Guiterrez
**At Home in Creativity: Weiman, process---Southworth
The Spirit of Life--Moltmann
I and Thou—Buber
Christ the Center—Bonhoeffer
With the Grain of the Universe—Hauerwas
Voices of Liberalism 2
Hopeful Realism
**Reinhold Niebuhr: Prophet to Politicians
The Theology of Schleiermacher—Barth
Theology, History, Culture—Richard Niebuhr
Church Dogmatics: A Selection---Barth
**On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers---Schleiermacher
A natural theology for our time—Hartshorne
Parables of Kierkegaard
Channing: selected writings
**Christianity and The Social Crisis—Rauschenbusch
On naming the present: god, hermenutics, and church—Tracy
One Jesus, Many Christs
**The Interpretation of Cultures—Geertz
**Christian Ethics
Life in Abundance: A contemporary spirituality
**The Cosmology of Freedom
Dialogue with the other—Tracy
**Good News for Animals: Christian approaches to animal well-being
Models of God—McFague
From Women’s Experience to Feminist Theology
In This Very Moment: a simple guide to Zen Buddhism
Why Jesus Died—Sloyan
Super, Natural Christians—McFague
**Putting Away Childish Things—ranke-heinemann
**Moral Man and Immoral Society—Reinhold Niebuhr
**Boundaries of our Habitation—Delwin Brown
**The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism—Weber
**In Quest of the Ordinary—Cavell
**God and the Nations—Hall and Reuther
**Message and Existence--Gilkey
Experience and nature—Dewey
**Christ and Culture—Richard Niebuhr
**Professing the Faith—Hall
**A Christian Theology of Religions—Hicks
Religion in the American Experience: The Pluralistic Style
**Culture and Imperialism—Said
**The Metaphor of God Incarnate—Hicks
**The Meaning of Revelation—Richard Niebuhr
The Domestication of Transcendence—Placher
**A layman’s introduction to religious existentialism
The Point of Christology—Ogden
**Wilderness Wanderings—Hauerwas
Process Theology: An Intro---Cobb and Griffin
**Maker of Heaven and Earth—Gilkey
Essays on Faith and Morals--James
**Thinking The Faith—Hall
**Christianity and Culture—T.S. Eliot
The Nature of Doctrine—Lindbeck
**Trinity and Society—Boff
**Consider Jesus—Johnson
After Patriarchy

Of Particular Unitarian Universalist Value
The Almost Church—Durral
UU Christian Journals
Unitarianism in Dallas, 1899-1968
**25 Beacon Street—Greeley
Channing: The Reluctant Radical—Mendolsohn
Thomas Starr King
UUMA Selected Essays
**UUism: A Narrative History
ose Live Tomorrow: UU bios
**UUism and the Quest for Racial Justice
Forward Through the Ages: Greeley
Standing Before Us: UU Women and Social Reform, 1776-1936
The Unitarian Conscience—Howe
American Unitarians, 1805-1865—Wright
**Jones Very, bio
UU History Journals
Interdependence: renewing congregational polity
The Unitarian Controversy—Wright
The use of memory—buehrens
Unitarianism in the antebellum south
Leaping from our spheres: impact of women on UU ministry
Unitarian and Universalist Women Ministers
Black Pioneers in a White Denomination
God and the Commonplace—sermons of john cyrus
Finding Foxes—sermons by Terry Sweetser
The Sense of Life--Patton
**Redeeming Time: (covenant essays)—Hertz
Odysseys: lives of 16 UU ministers—Wesley
Capek—bio by Henry
A Stream of Light: a short history of American Unitarianism—Wright
The beginnings of Unitarianism in America—Wright
Wellsprings: sources in UU feminism
**Moment of Truth—Bartlett
The Devotional Heart: pietism and the renewal of American UUism

General Church and Spirituality
**Communion Services and Sermons
**Scripture on the Silver Screen
**The Three Hardest Words---Sweet
Embodying Forgiveness
Refuge & Buddhist Meditations
The Hungering Dark—Buechner
The Holy Spirit and Preaching---Jim Forbes
**Letters To Young Churches, foreword by C.S. Lewis
Liturgical Language: Keeping it metaphorical, making it inclusive
**Miracles—C.S. Lewis
**The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life—Thomas Moore
**Religions in America—Rosten
**The Western Canon--Bloom
A Brief History of Everything—Wilbur
Love Meets The Dragons: a field guide for ministry—Owen-Towle
**How Shall We Sing The Lord’s Song? An assessment of the New Century hymnal
**Cure for the Common Life—Lucado
*Social Ministry---Hessel
Remembering Well: rituals for celebrating life and mourning death
Ministry and Money—Hotchkiss
People of the Lie—Peck
**A Stay Against confusion: essays on fiction and faith—Ron Hansen
*Celebration of Discipline—Foster
Creating Congregations of Generous People—Durall
To Know as We Are Known—Palmer
**The Celebration of Life—Norman Cousins
**The Great Thanksgiving—Watkins
**A Course in Miracles
Sex in the Parish
**The Prayer of Jabez
Epiphanies: stories for the Christian year
Congregations in Conflict
**Beyond the collection plate: overcoming obstacles to faithful giving
**Baptism, Eucharist, Ministry
An Epidemic of Joy: stories in the spirit of Jesus—Greeley
**Proclaim Jubilee!—Harris
**White Soul—Tex Sample
**Sharing the Word
**Christian Social Ethics in a Global Era
**The Moral Sense—Wilson
Stages of Faith—Fowler
Fashion Me a People—Harris
The Relational Pulpit
Clergy Self-Care
**Models of the Church--Dulles
**The Future of Christianity
Green Mountain Spring and other leaps of faith: meditations
Blessing The Bread: meditations
**Women in Travail and Transitions
**Omens of Millenium—bloom
The Clown in the Belfrey—Buechner
Never Call Them Jerks
Gospel According to the Simpsons
Character Counts: Accountability Groups
Gentle Shepherding: Pastoral Ethics and Leadership--Bush