Thursday, December 31, 2009

Without the heart the body dies

I went to the Boston Museum of Science yesterday and the placed was mobbed. Couldn't even walk around it was so crowded. A lot of kids and families because school is out I guess.

Secularism certainly has taken over our society which probably is a good thing. Churches though were empty and stone cold as they say. Most were locked. They appear to be museum pieces themselves and only viewable from the outer shell.

It is hard to believe that at one point in its history every church in Boston was Unitarian even the King's chapel. I was hoping to get my flaming chalice blessed by somebody official but no such luck. I did buy a string of stone beads though in the Museum of Science store which I can use to say the efche with.

Overall, I loved Boston and would highly recommend it as a visitor destination. However, I am more of a pilgrim than a tourist and as a destination for a pilgrimage it was disappointing. I don't know exactly what I was hoping for, but it didn't materialize UU-wise. I do understand better why Unitarian Universalism is a dying religion. It has no presence and makes no witness in our modern world even at its center.

I understand the comments that the UUA is an administrative body and not the church, but a church cannot exist without a structure, and a form, and a tradition kept alive somewhere. It is fine that Unitarian Universalism has a congregational polity but nature loves a hierarchy of some sort for organization, order, stability, and balance. There is no center, no hub of the wheel and so the organism will not hold. What is the human body without a heart? A national organization which cannot maintain itself during the holiest season of the year is in a sad place. I had not expected it, but it is what it is as they say.

Today, I leave Boston, the supposed cradle of American Unitarianism, but I did not find it alive and vibrant. I found it dormant and cold and inactive. It is with a certain sadness and disappointment that I go away, but God is in my heart and I will continue my search without the organizational and traditional guidance I was hoping for.


  1. Both Unitarianism and Universalism have been congregational for hundreds of years. That structure is not perfect, but I don't see that the structure you favor is either. So I'm not sure why you keep saying dramatic things like about UUism being dead and without a heart the body will die when we've had this polity since long before you were born and we ain't dead yet. If you stood in front of those dog tags lovingly hung to honor the dead and you still feel that the heart of UUism is an office building, there's not much I can say.

    We do have a structure and form, just not the one you're used to. I suggest you spend some time listening and learning rather than expending so much energy writing posts about how UUism has disappointed you by not being "Catholicism but without the stuff you don't like." Is it possible that your expectations from Catholicism are the reason you're not getting what you want out of UUism. Maybe if you worked on getting UU expectations rather than Catholic ones, you wouldn't be so unhappy all the time. As it is, you are repeatedly judging oranges by apple standards, then writing about how terrible UUism's oranges are, without giving much consideration to the idea that oranges are delicious for other reasons.

    Freedom as UUs define it does not mean that you can show up in Boston and spritual insights will start landing like commercial aircraft. Freedom means that you are free to build your own spiritual barn. Even if the entire UUA staff had been there to greet you with balloons and a cake, they can't give you that spiritual barn, yo've got to pick your own tools and construct it on your own.

    And seriously, even the Vatican wants you to RSVP before you show up on their doorstep.
    They ain't dead either.


  2. "I was hoping to get my flaming chalice blessed by somebody official but no such luck."

    I didn't realize that you were serious about that David. I honestly thought that your tongue was firmly and quite waggishly embedded in your cheek when you said that. Forgive me for being blunt but the chances of finding "somebody official" to bless your flaming chalice are about as good as finding a snowball in the Hell corpse-cold Unitarians don't believe in. I suppose *some* U*U minister might "bless" you flaming chalice just to accomodate you aka patronize you but I have never heard of a U*U minister "blessing" a flaming chalice ever.

    "If you stood in front of those dog tags lovingly hung to honor the dead and you still feel that the heart of UUism is an office building, there's not much I can say."

    CC a free and *responsible* search for the truth would quickly reveal that those dogtags were hung outside an "active Episcopal congregation", not a "Less Than Welcoming" U*U congregation. FWIW I am not convinced that the dogtags were all that lovingly hung to honor the dead. The posts that they are strung from like so much laundry hung out to dry remind me of the kind of posts that victims of firing squads are often tied to before they are shot. Perhaps this impression is not what Old North Church intended, but the rather crude public display of dogtags in David's photo seems more like a rather goulish anti-war message than a respectful and loving memorial to fallen soldiers AFAIAC.

  3. My bad on the dog tags.

    As for blessing, having one's flaming chalice blessed is not consistent with my personal spirituality, but my wedding and my dog have both been blessed by UU ministers in ceremonies and I've been sent blessings from UU ministers across the country when I mentioned on my blog that I was having a rough time once, so David's request isn't so strange. I don't know why a minister wouldn't be happy to do it.

  4. I can see U*U ministers blessing people and animals, albeit fairly rarely, but I have never heard of a U*U minister blessing an inanimate object like a flaming chalice. Ever.

    Of course I could just be *ignorant* of such practices but I don't recall seeing Water Communion water being "blessed" or Flower Communion flowers being "blessed" or any other such thing being "blessed" by U*U clergy. Blessing non-living *things* just doesn't seem to be done by U*Us. Are you aware of any such blessings of inanimate objects by U*U ministers CC?

  5. Dear my Robin my good friend:

    You read me exactly right. My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek and I am so glad that you read me correctly. Allah be praised!

    The dog tags were outside the Old North Church which is run these days by the Episcopalians. I thought it was odd especially the sign which says to honor all the dead soldiers and CIVILIANS. I don't know what civilians they are referring to - the contractors? If we are really talking about civilians there would have to be a million dog tags up there but I didn't know that Iraqi and Afghani women and children wore dog tags. The memorial I think is pretty offensive as if American lives are worth honoring and the others killed in these crazy wars are not. There is something truly "fucked up" about such a memorial and I can't imagine any UU doing such a thing. We believe in a world community with peace, liberty, and justice for ALL which it seems like our well meaning Episcopalian brethren have overlooked if there were ever aware at all.

    Thank you Robin for your empathy and sensitivity.

    I love you man, you get it.

    Happy New Year and all the best,

    David Markham

  6. We are less like a "Body" and more like a "Hive". Maybe we are the Killer Bees of Religion. The story is not over. Next time you pilgrimage to Boston, take a guide with you to show you were the honey is at.

  7. Dear Joylightning:

    Great metaphor!

    You mean there is honey hidden somewhere?

    Will you be my guide or do you know somebody who will? Seriously, I am looking for a wise elder.

    David Markham

  8. I need one too. The teen trip takes place in my church in 3 years. It is my intention to go along with. I call myself an elder (I've got over 15 years in) but I don't think I will be finished until I spend some time in Boston.