Sunday, September 22, 2019
Our roving UU A Way Of Life reporter, Betsy, asked Chester, the UU of Dismal Seepage board president, what he thought about this investment of effort and energy into cheer leading.
Betsy: "Chester, can I ask you what you think about this welcoming initiative in your UU church?"
Chester: "It's wonderful! Just wonderful! I love being a minister of hospitality and saying 'hello' to everyone as they come into church and hand them the order of service. Everybody seems polite and appreciative and it gives me a warm feeling in my chest."
Betsy: "Do newcomers come back for a second go?"
Chester: "Sometimes, but usually not. The pastor questions if we should try to be even more welcoming."
Betsy: "Like what? How?"
Chester: "I don't know really. Have better coffee hours afterward with fancier deserts, and older members trying to talk up the newcomers and getting the newcomers contact information for follow-up."
Besty: "Sounds kind of like the proselytization of other churches. I thought UUs didn't proselytize."
Chester: "Good point. We don't, but we have to figure out how to market ourselves to better engage newcomers who come to check us out."
Betsy: "Well welcoming is all well and good, but what is it that you are welcoming people to?"
Chester: "Another good point, Betsy. You are a sharp interviewer. We can't decide what it is we are offering to people other than the welcoming part. With UUs it's like herding cats. Everybody wants to believe something different, and nobody can clearly say what it is that we all believe as a congregation."
Betsy: "Maybe that's the problem. You get them in the door but without anything substantial and coherent to offer, there is nothing to hold on to so people don't come back. "
Chester: "Yeah, I think UUs work on the process, but the content is vapid and so ambiguous there is nothing to identify with."
Betsy: "Thank you Chester, for your thoughts."
Chester: "You're welcome, very welcome. If you ever want to join us, we're open for buisness just about every Sunday but major holiday Sundays and two months in the summer when our God, or no God, which ever you prefer is on vacation."
Betsy reported back at UU A Way of Life central and her report brought us to tears and much laughter. Our director said, "We can either laugh or cry, or maybe a little of both."
And that's the way its been this week at UU A Way of Life where the women are all very welcoming, the men are looking for something more substantial in the profession of faith, and the children just want to play games during religious ed and eat their cookies and drink their juice.
Tuesday, September 17, 2019
Calvin went to a discussion group at church about impeachment. The presenter talked about the articles of impeachment in the constitution, the presidents who have been impeached before (there were three: Johnson, Nixon, and Clinton) and the grounds for impeachment of President Trump.
Many people wayed in with ideas about the political, legal, and societal impacts of engaging in the impeachment process, but no one, interestingly in a church sponsored discussion, offered any views on the moral and spiritual aspects. Calvin was disappointed and left the meeting somewhat confused.
Calvin told me he could talk about the pros and cons of impeachment in any number of venues and with any number of groups of people. The cable news shows discuss impeachment ad nauseum. No where, though, is anyone talking about the spiritual aspects and Calvin said he was hoping that at church that would be the one place where this perspective might be considered and reflected on but, disappointingly, that didn't happen. Calvin wanted to know why? Why was the avowed purpose of church, to relect on things through a spiritual lens, so glaringly ignored?
Calvin mentioned this exclusion of the spiritual perspective on impeachment to a few people and told me how his inquiry went.
Frank said, "Well, Jesus said to leave to Caesar the things that are Caesar's and to God the things that God's. So leaving out the spiritual dimension is exactly what Jesus might have suggested."
Betty said, "Well, I think you have a good point, but most people aren't that sophisticated and don't think about mundane things in spiritual terms. A spiritual consideration would have been over most people's heads and probably not anything they would be interested in."
Barry shared, "Even in church people don't think in spiritual terms. They have no mental models within which to consider secular topics in spiritual terms. It is easier to argue politics than to consider the spiritual ramificiations of how we conduct ourselves."
"The metaphysical view," said Suzanne, "is that politics is all a game and that attacking one another is believed to be a path to salvation misguided though it is. Politics for many people has become an idol and people mistakenly think that if their candidate is elected and their preferred policies are chosen and implemented, then happiness will be secured for the nation and the world. This idea and wish is, of course, fool hearty and never happens. Real change comes from within and not in the external world. Attacking one's political enemies will never bring happiness and peace. A tit requires a tat and the mindset of "one or the other" is doomed to creating a hell on earth. We are all in this thing called life together and either we all win or we all lose. Life is not the zero sum game that it appears. We all are part of the interdependent web and everyone will be included in the Universal Oneness eventually."
Calvin didn't know what to say to Suzanne. He was stunned and deeply moved by her ideas. This was what he had been looking for. He wished she had been at the discussion and could have shared her views and that her ideas could have been discussed. Suzanne's views seem to be deeply Universalist.
Calvin reported to us at UU A Way Of Life that he had learned that in the process of holdiing people accountable for the well being of the whole we must join with our perceived enemies and not attack. Jesus said we should love our enemies. This means we draw them in not push them out. It dawned on Calvin that impeaching Donald Trump will accomplish very little in terms of advancing the well being of human kind. However, finding ways of transforming Donald Trump's mistakes into higher levels of awareness so that the overall functioning of our society can be improved starting with ourselves first would be a step in the right director.
Calvin realized that the problem in our society is not Donald Trump. Trumpism is a symptom of deeper problems in our society. Who, after all, are the people who voted for Donald Trump, and support his policies? What are the values of Donald Trump's base? How did the hearts of the people in Donald Trump's base become so cynical and fearful of the other? Where do their hearts hurt? How do we reach out to these brothers and sisters and encourage them to join us in finding a better way to live together in love and peace?
Will impeachment eradicate Trumpism? Trumpism is a problem of the human heart. Trumpism is at its deepest level a spiritual problem. It was this observation which was missed in the discussion which left Calvin wishing for something more.
Sunday, September 15, 2019
Everyone clapped and expressed immense satisfaction at their cleverness, goodness, and benevolence.
Our reporter said she asked members of the congregation at the coffee hour what the vision meant to them.
Jasper said, "It's wonderful that people here are so wonderful and I think their wonderfulness will spread. It's infectious you know."
Linda joined in and said, "We have the most wonderful group of people who are so welcoming to everyone as long as they act right."
Helen agreed, "Yes, our pastor is so wonderful and she encourages everyone to share and be kind to everyone.
Our reported asked why the congregation was so small if it was so wonderful.
Art said, "Well, most people don't get it. The more cynical world calls us liberal do gooders and scoffs. I suppose, in a way, they are right. I was told, 'If you folks don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything.' and we do tend to fall for just about anything because we think it is important to get along and sometimes you have to go along to get along. You know what I mean?"
Betsy said, "Yeah, we're not looking for trouble with anyone. We encourag people to leave their drama at the door. The one thing we don't do well with is conflict."
Jasper said, "Conflict is a deal breaker and UUs are big on schism. They tend to avoid conflict and just walk out the door and don't come back."
Our reporter asked, "Is it realistic to think that people can have loving and welcoming connections all the time?"
Kevin said, "No probably not, but we don't like to talk about it."
So, our reporter reported that the one thing that is not welcome in the First UU vision is conflict and disagreement and if it comes up people damn well better be nice about it or they can leave.
That's the way it has been this past week at UU A Way of Life where all the men are nice, all the women are wonderful, and all the children play quietly with each other sharing their toys generously.