Useless Thoughts Running Through My Head

various musings of a generation x kad

Archive for the ‘religion’ Category

Op-Ed on Prop 8 and the Black Community

Posted by thoughtful1 on November 11, 2008

I read this today by Jasmyne A. Cannick.  It provides insight into why blacks did not oppose Proposition 8, and it exposes the disconnect between the black community and the white GLBT community.  My initial reaction was, “white liberals fail to get the race thing (again).”  Maybe later I’ll have a more refined opinion.

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Why I’ve been avoiding church

Posted by thoughtful1 on December 16, 2007

In my last post I mentioned that I haven’t been attending church much this year.  In fact, I think I’ve gone one service in the past 5 weeks, which I suppose is unfortunate.  I like our minister.  She is thoughtful, and gives good sermons.  She brings a centered feel to the worship – it feels solid, not flighty or hippy dippy.  Yet, I haven’t gone to church.

Why?

Because the church members, the church atmosphere, and in some respects, the religion have gotten on my nerves.

Let’s start with the congregational issues.  We’ve had an unstable past few years – problems with a minister, followed by interims, followed by some tensions over the budget and personnel issues.  And I think people have become so focused on keeping the church running that they’ve lost track of what a church is for.  The result is pressure on its members, like me, to do stuff – serve on committees, help out with fundraisers, get involved in social action causes, etc.  Yet, no one seems to stop and ask, “Why?”  Everyone, it seems, is running around like chickens with their heads cut off.  It’s all Do, Do, Do!  And no reflection, no sense of worshipping.  It feels like  there’s no center to anything.  Just a giant swirl of action.

Add to this my usual issues with ageism and married-ism/family-ism.  I am single.  I look 10 years younger than I actually am.  This has led to comments to me along the lines of,  “But you’re too young to worry about that,” or “You’re so young [aren’t you just cute?],” “You’re young and hip, you should be a youth advisor!”  These comments are made infrequently, but enough over the years to grate on my nerves more and more.  My youthful appearance seems to make it OK to talk down to me.  In addition, I know that if I had a child, or was married, I wouldn’t get these remarks.  And that’s not right, either.

I also feel that because of the ageism and married-ism, I don’t get listened to as much as others.  I also believe that my congregation does not handle bad news about itself well.  One of the interims had a session to discuss the general health of the church.  I raised an issue, and immediately I saw heads shaking, “No,” as if I my opinion and observations didn’t count.  I honestly felt that the only person in the room who was listening to me and taking what I had to say seriously was the minister.

In addition, I got sucked into working on a project I had absolutely no interest in.  To make it worse, the people who were interested seemed to leave me to do all the work.  Early in the church year I hit a breaking point and I had a meltdown of sorts.  I said, “No, I’m not doing this anymore.”  (Well, it wasn’t said that nicely or calmly, but you get the idea.)  The other people involved were shocked!  Why?  Because they hadn’t bothered to pick up on the clues I’d been giving for the past two years about how I felt like I needed a break, or when I said at the beginning of the church year, “I’m really not interested in this.”  After my meltdown, I stopped coming.

Another issue I’ve had is that I do not have a good sense of what our theology is.  What is the argument for a Unitarian view of God?  Why do we believe in universal salvation?  What is the center that holds us together?  And why do I fail to feel that sense of gravitas and awe that Anglican/Episcopalian music gives me?  (Note:  UU music, IMO, sucks.  Not completely, but it is pretty lame.)  I’ve been reading The Challenge of a Liberal Faith, but I’m working through it slowly, and it’s a little dated at times.  It has helped, somewhat.  But it’s a shame it’s not as succintly or clearly written as Mere Christianity, which I am also reading, but I suppose that might be an unfair comparison.  Interestingly, while I was reading March I felt a stronger connection to my UU roots than at any other time.  Perhaps because the novel was able to show me something about the religion rather than tell.

So I have been feeling a bit out of it with my church.  And I still sometimes feel the pull of the Episcopalian church.  I cannot explain it – why I want to attend services at Trinity Church in Copley.  I know it has something to do with boarding school and music and my current problems with my church.  But it seems as though there is something more to it, and I cannot put my finger on it.  Is this the beginning of a slow conversion, or just a religious detour for a lifelong UU?

(P.S.  Yes, I have spoken to my current minister about my issues with the church.  She was very understanding, and agreed that the congregation needs to relearn how to worship and meet people where they are instead of pressuring them to serve and do. )

Posted in religion, unitarian, unitarian universalism, universalist | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Life is strange, and sometimes in a good way

Posted by thoughtful1 on November 20, 2007

Thanksgiving is in two days.  Normally, I can’t think of anything to be thankful for beyond the usual good health, good job, good family, roof over my head, blah blah blah.  I know, I know – those are very valuable things.  But I’m usually too busy to think about what I should be truly thankful for.  Sad, but true.

This year is a little different.  I’ve been in a funk  with my church – I’ll save the details for a future post (maybe).  So I’ve been taking a break from church. I’ve spent Sunday mornings in bed and listening to the radio.  This past morning I was listening to WBUR, a local NPR affilitate.  Each Sunday morning at 11, though, WBUR broadcasts the interfaith service at BU’s chapel.  Not surprisingly, the sermon this week was on thankfulness.

I don’t remember all the details of the sermon, but one bit caught my attention.  The minister talked about contemplating how sometimes God sends us things when we most need and when we least expect them.  That got my attention.  This past year, something precious was given to me right when I needed it, and when I least expected it.  And it’s something for which I am very grateful.

We had a major re-org this past spring.  It didn’t affect me too much professionally – I am still doing the same thing I was doing before.  I just  report to someone else.  And they moved me.  They moved me closer to a group of users who can be… needy.  Demanding.  Thorns in my side.

I was apprehensive.

The first month or so I kept a low profile.   I didn’t want to be bothered by them, and I was suddenly surrounded by people I didn’t know well.  When I am in a new situation, I keep quiet, waiting until it’s safe to come out.  I don’t show my true colors until I know what the rules are of the group or situation.

After a month or so, I slowly became friends with one of my new office mates.  Because of this, I ended up joining a professional association.  I had been thinking about becoming a member for a while, but never got around to it.  But my new friend wanted to join, and asked if I was interested.  I said, “Sure.”  He e-mailed someone and told them we wanted to be members, and we became members.  So he served as a catalyst for me joining.

It turned out that being part of this group meant an instant social life.  Suddenly I was meeting people who were open to getting together to do stuff – go out to eat, go dancing, hang out and do nothing, take day trips.   And, even though it’s been a very short time, I’ve made some very good friends.

And right when I needed them.

Right before (or right after?) joining this association, I came to realization that I needed to break-up  with my boyfriend.  It wasn’t working.  I had been slowly getting to the end of my rope, and I finally got there.  Even though I initiated the break-up, it really got to me.  Tears, depression, etc.  But having places to go and people to meet has helped me get through that, and now I am finding myself part of a social group that is giving me something I really haven’t had since college: friends and acquaintances with whom I can just be.  And who make me feel welcome.

And all because of a corporate re-org that stuck me somewhere I didn’t want to be.  Who would have guessed?

Fate is a strange thing.

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Last Sunday morning

Posted by thoughtful1 on August 16, 2007

Last Sunday morning I went to church.  But not my church.  I went to Trinity church in Copley.  And Episcopalian church.  I’m not Episcopalian.  I’m Unitarian.  What was I doing in a church called Trinity?

I don’t know.  I don’t quite know.  A few weeks ago I began to feel that I needed to learn more about Christianity.  It’s a large part of our culture, and I’ve been surrounded by it all my life, yet I suddenly realized that there was very little I knew or understood about it.  I felt this need to know.  I bought Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis.  Word on the street is the book is a good, readable introduction to Christianity.

A little later, I began to feel this pull to go to Trinity.  I can’t quite explain it.  It’s all jumbled up with boarding school and religion.  I felt this desire to hear the music.  Anglican/Episcopalian music kicks ass.  It beats Unitarian Universalist music.  The Anglicans have gravitas.  We UUs have, as my friend put it, “Mary Tyle Moore with a guitar.”  Not that UU music is completely atrocious.  There have been moments in church where I’ve found it comforting.  But it rarely blows me away the way Epsicopalian music does.  Maybe it’s because they have better organs.  Or maybe it’s just the music.

I first heard Episcopalian music in boarding school.  The first two years I was there we had an organist who knew how to rock out the chapel’s pipes.  It was magnificent.  But I hated chapel.  I hated being forced to go to chapel on Mondays, Wednesdays,  Thursdays, and certain Sundays.  I hated saying prayers that referenced the Trinity.  I hated that my Hindu and Jewish friends were forced to go.  It was oppressive.  It gave me a very bad impression of Episcopalianism.

But I loved the music.

So I found myself going to Trinity Church last Sunday because I hated chapel at boarding school but I really, really wanted to hear the music.  And I wanted to make sense of Christianity.  And maybe my past.  I think I’ve been needing some sort of reconciliation with boarding school.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there’s some sort of need there.

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We have a new settled minister!

Posted by thoughtful1 on May 13, 2007

This morning my congregation took on vote on whether to call the candidate for minister that our Search Committee recommended.  Our board president just sent an e-mail out saying that the candidate has accepted our call!

YAY!!

I wanted to jump for joy and do a happy dance.  I didn’t really expect to be so happy about it, but this morning they told us that she could take 24 hours to decide whether to accept our call or not.  I had forgotten that not only do we have to decide if we want her as minister, but she has to decide if she wants us as a congregation.  So I left church this morning worried that she’d say no, and then we’d have to start all over again.  That, and I couldn’t see any reason why she wouldn’t be a good minister to us.  I didn’t get to know her very well during candidating week, and I was unable to engage in lengthy conversations with her.  However, what I did see I liked.  I was impressed by her sermons – she’s thoughtful and inclusive, and that’s important to me.

Right now I am feeling happy and relieved.  My church had a rough a time and we’ve been healing, but after going through a failed ministry and recovering it feels as though the wind was taken our of our sails.  I’m looking forward to next year when we get to know her better, and perhaps things can begin to settle in our congregation as we find our way again.

On the flip side, I will miss our current interim.  I suppose it’s natural, but I also wonder if the sadness I feel over him leaving is some sort of residual adoptee separation anxiety.  It’s hard to tell sometimes.

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God Called Laurie Kendrick

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 28, 2007

In lieu of me actually writing anything today – I’m having a nothing day today – I’m giving you all a link to this.  God and Laurie had a good chat. May not answer all our questions, but it does give me a insight to why things happen the way they do.

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And the church lesson for the day is…?

Posted by thoughtful1 on April 8, 2007

I think God has an ironic sense of humor, and I think He likes to tease me every now and then.

I went to church this morning. I was tempted to sleep in due to being a goob and staying up so late last night, but I didn’t go last week, it’s Easter (not that I’m big into Easter), and I had left over brownies and dolly bars to unload on the coffee hour goodie table.

Blessedly, being UUs, we didn’t have an extra long service. At least I don’t think we did – I didn’t check my watch when it ended, but our current minister is pretty good at ending the service at 11:30. Anyway, in the service we sang two hymns, “Morning Has Broken” and “Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee.”

I love “Joyful Joyful.” It’s one of my favorites, and we don’t sing it very often. However, the joy in singing “Morning Has Broken” was killed in boarding school where we sang it (Hymn #8 in the Episcopal hymnal) ad infinitum, ad nauseaum. I suspect that Hymn #8’s frequent appearances in chapel services was due to some hippy dippy chapel prefect saying, “Dude, let’s sing hymn #8. Cat Stevens sang it… that would sooo cool to sing it in chapel!” So we sang it, and sang it, and sang it some more, until I felt I would be happy to go through the rest of life without ever hearing that song again and be happy. I would even change the radio station if the Cat Stevens version came on. I really grew to hate that song.

But, oh how I loved singing “Joyful Joyful,” especially since for the first few years of boarding school we had a music director who could pull all the stops on the organ. He’d have the organ going full blast, illustrating all the wonder and grandeur and holy gravitas the Anglican musical tradition possesses. It was one of the few things I enjoyed in chapel.

Yet, for some reason, the only times we ever seem to sing “Joyful Joyful” in my little UU church are also the only times we ever seem to sing “Morning Has Broken.” It’s as if in order to enjoy one of my favorite hymns I have to endure one of my least favorite.

And maybe that is what God, the universe, life is trying to tell me. You can’t just have what you enjoy – you have to learn to deal with life’s unpleasantries; accept the good with the bad. Trite, I know. But maybe that is what it is.

Or maybe it is something else. The first time my church sang the dreaded Hymn #8, which is a different number in the UU hymnal, I cringed. I didn’t sing along. I just sighed inwardly and waited for the song to be over. However, since then, over the the three or four years I’ve been attending, my animosity towards the song has waned. This morning I sang along, and I didn’t find it too objectionable. It is still not my first choice of hymns, and I still fail to feel the joy of morning the song is trying to convey. But I did not feel the cringe reflex.

Perhaps enough time has passed since graduating from high school that my negative feelings towards that place have begun to fade. Or maybe I can begin to put them into proper perspective. After all, it really isn’t the song itself that caused me misery. It was whoever picked the song so many times for chapel service. It was my being forced to attend mandatory chapel services done in a religious tradition to which I do not belong. It was my not fitting in, and feeling alienated. And perhaps it is time for me to let go of those teenaged resentments, however valid.

I’m 36 now. It’s been 18 years since graduation. And while there was quite a bit my boarding school did wrong, I still was able to benefit from my experience there, although some benefits I didn’t notice until much later.

I got a good education. I learned, via osmosis, how to better negotiate class, which has helped me to understand different people better. I learned that while some rich people are assholes, there are a good number of rich people who are not. I made friends with people I wouldn’t have met otherwise. Hispanics and Latinos from places like Lawrence and Lowell. First generation Indian Americans. Upper and upper middle class blue bloods. Future socialites of the Upper East Side. Nouveau riche. I learned that you cannot fully judge a person based on their class, income, or clothes. I learned that a person’s true value is based on their sincerity, their respect for others, and their actions.

Which leads me back to the lesson that life is a mixed bag. You have to take the good with the ugly. Or, maybe the more specific point is that few things are purely bad or purely good. And while it is part of our nature to rush to judgment, sometimes it takes time for us to see the larger picture and to be able to put things into perspective.

And part of that step is letting go of past resentments.

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