Why UUs Don’t Sing Gospel (well)

ok, before I get into the main body of this post let’s start with the obvious…..most UUs can’t/couldn’t get over the theology of gospel in order to actually sing it with some gusto.

Some of you know that I am TA-ing a class at Earlham College this semester. The class is History of the African American Religious Experience. (I’m really happy……I’m not the only dark face in the room) Anyway…while in class today watching a documentary, one of the people in the documentary said “hope that comes out of the denial of suffering is false hope.” That got me to thinking.

There’s a reason that UUs don’t sing gospel well….most UUs don’t do suffering. And gospel, at its heart, is about people who have suffered. People who have made a way out of no way. That’s just not something most UUs are comfortable talking about.

So….what kind of hope are UU churches preaching? Is it a false hope? Or is it a real hope that comes from an understanding of suffering?

But…..there’s another reason UUs don’t sing gospel well…..gospel requires one to be truly in touch with their emotions while singing…and that’s something else that UUs aren’t comfortable with. Even with songs that supposedly lots of UUs like, they aren’t sung with gusto. What is it about emotions that scare so many UUs when they cross the church-house door?

oh well…that’s enough for now. back to reading.

What The &%*^# Is UU Identity?!? pt. 3 or What Schools Count? pt. 4, The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt. 5

UU Momma writes:

In response to the question of “What is UU Identity” first, we need to acknowledge this is a term being used right now with regard to institutions, not people.
The issue here is not about the worth and dignity of students being dependent upon where that particular student attends seminary,

Ah. This is where the rubber meets the road. UU Momma, being part of the “professional” class of UUism says that they (the professional class) are talking about “UU identity” in terms of institutions, NOT people. But I think I need to reprint what Patrick Murfin wrote:

Although many ministers get outstanding training at other schools, none of those schools are prepared to offer the resources for in-depth study of UU history, theology, and polity to ground at least some of newest ministers in our specific tradition. Graduates of other schools may be exquisitely educated and are often well trained in pastoral skills. But their UU identity is blurry.

Patrick, being a member of the “lay” class of UUism is NOT talking about institutions. He’s talking about ME. And he’s talking about people like me who don’t go to either Starr King or Meadville.

Much as I respect what UU Momma so kindly commented on, I am asking a specific question: What part of my UU identity is blurry? As I said in a previous post:

1. I’ve been in and around this movement for almost 15 years.

2. I didn’t enter seminary until long after 10 years.

3. I have a really good grasp of U/U/UU history. (I have developed an independent study course for my seminary) And I grew up in a more radical congregationalism than most UUs could ever dream of.

4. I know my theology. And can trace the history of UU theology fairly well.

5. I have been involved in this damn denomination at the district and national level for quite a while.

What part of my UU identity is blurry?

Is my UU identity blurry because I listen to Jay-Z and 50 Cent, T.I. and Kanye West? Gospel music and jazz?  That when I turn on the radio the first station I go to is NOT NPR?That I’m waiting for new episodes of The Boondocks? That I loathe the grey hymnal? And think, that for all our supposed intellectualism, most UU worship services don’t even come up to the standard of college lecture?

What part of my UU identity is blurry? Really. I want to know.

So it seems to me that the professional class and lay class of UUism are talking about different things. And those of us who are studying for the ministry are caught in the middle. And I will keep asking the questions that nobody seems to want to give a direct answer to: do UU ministry students who don’t go to Starr King or Meadville (and to some extent Harvard and Andover Newton) matter to the UUA? If they do, what is the UUA doing to show its concern and care? If not, what should be done? and……….. What the &*%^# is UU identity?

What The %&*^# Is UU Identity?!?! pt.2 or What Schools Count? pt.3, The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt.4

What the %&^*@ is UU identity?

Tuesday’s post posed a question that had been brewing in me for a while and came out because of Patrick Murfin’s comment. Just to let Patrick know, I used his comment because I hoped that he would know that I was talking about a larger issue.

I’ve heard the term “UU identity” for a while now. The reason I asked the question about exactly what IS “UU identity” is because I have a very bad feeling that the term is used as a code to talk about who is “one of us” and who is “not one of us.”

To be perfectly frank, when I hear “UU identity” I hear “uh oh, this person is <place racial group or socio-economic status group here>, they’re not really one of us.”

So what makes up UU identity? Are we confusing UU identity with UU culture?

I’ll keep posing the question ’til I get a direct answer……what the %&*^@ is UU identity? [and by extension….am I less of a UU because I choose to go to a non-UU seminary?]

What The %&#*@ Is UU Identity?!?! or What Schools Count pt. 2, The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt. 3

Patrick Murfin wrote the following:

Although many ministers get outstanding training at other schools, none of those schools are prepared to offer the resources for in-depth study of UU history, theology, and polity to ground at least some of newest ministers in our specific tradition. Graduates of other schools may be exquisitely educated and are often well trained in pastoral skills. But their UU identity is blurry.

This brings up something in me that I just have to ask: What the %*&^# is UU identity? Because I have a feeling that I’m going to have to find a new church if it is what I think it is. So I need to know.

Here’s why I’m asking……

1. I’ve been in and around this movement for almost 15 years.

2. I didn’t enter seminary until long after 10 years.

3. I have a really good grasp of U/U/UU history. (I have developed an independent study course for my seminary) And I grew up in a more radical congregationalism than most UUs could ever dream of.

4. I know my theology. And can trace the history of UU theology fairly well. 

5. I have been involved in this damn denomination at the district and national level for quite a while.

What part of my UU identity is blurry?

Is my UU identity blurry because I listen to Jay-Z and 50 Cent, T.I. and Kanye West? Gospel music and jazz? That when I turn on the radio the first station I go to is NOT NPR?That I’m waiting for new episodes of The Boondocks? That I loathe the grey hymnal? And think, that for all our supposed intellectualism, most UU worship services don’t even come up to the standard of college lecture?

What part of my UU identity is blurry? Really. I want to know.

Now if I had just joined a UU church last year and then entered seminary, I could see why there would be some question about my UU “identity.” But that is not the case for me. And it’s not the case for a lot of UU seminary students. So why should we be looked at as if something is wrong with us because we didn’t go to Starr King or Meadville?

So I’ll ask the question again…….What the &*%^#  is UU identity?

Michael Vick

I’m a pro-football fan. Have been since I was little. And I’ve always paid attention to black quarterbacks. So naturally that means that I’ve followed Michael Vick for a while.

Not to offend those of you who are PETA people, but I’m going to ask this question. Why shouldn’t Michael Vick be able to play football again?

I guess my bigger question is this…..what makes a dog more important than a person? Yes, Michael Vick was convicted of running a dog fighting ring. However, “Big Ben”, Ben Roethlisberger, has been accused of rape and I don’t hear anybody saying that he shouldn’t play pro-football. Kobe Bryant was on trial for rape, and I don’t remember hearing one peep that he shouldn’t be playing pro-basketball. And it’s a routine occurrence to hear of pro-sportsmen beating their partner/spouse/girlfriend/date. Yet nobody says that they should not play the sports that they play.

So explain it to me…..do something to a dog….you are irredeemable and should not be able to earn a living. Rape or beat the woman in your life…..no problem, it was all her fault anyway.

Which Schools Count? or The Swedenborgians Are Coming…The Swedenborgians Are Coming pt. 2

Steven R. asks:

considering the limited interaction that the UUA has with some of their congregations, are you really surprised that they haven’t contacted students at Earlham?

The short answer is NO. The more complicated answer is Yes.

I deliberately did not mention ESR in the list of non-UU seminaries that have a sizable UU population for a reason. ESR’s UU population has skyrocketed in the past couple of years, which would make it more difficult to have a ready response. (although I think it’s fair to point out that the Swedenborgians showed up here at ESR in the last year and there has been quite a bit of contact already)  The schools that I named…..Union…..United-Twin Cities….. Iliff…have enough of a UU contingent every year that it would make sense for there to be some fairly regular contact between Boston and those schools.

The question that I’m asking is…..which seminary students matter to the UUA? Do you matter more if you go to Starr King or Meadville? (and by some extension Harvard and Andover Newton) What about the 70% of us who don’t go to SKSM or Meadville? Does choosing to go to some other seminary mean that I’m less valuable as a UU minister? These are the questions that I’m asking, and why I mentioned the Swedenborgians in the first place.

The Swedenborgians Are Coming…..The Swedenborgians Are Coming

Today started our 2-week August intensive. For those of you who’ve read this blog for a while you will probably remember that I am taking a writing class. That’s not what I’m going to write about tonight.

One of the classes offered during this intensive is “Christian Spirituality Through A Swedenborgian Lens”. This has got me to thinking.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 70 percent of UU ministers do NOT (or did not as the case may be) go to either Starr King or Meadville. Yet there seems to be little acknowledgement or recognition of that fact by people who count. (yes I know they pay attention to those who go to Harvard and Andover Newton)  Here at ESR, we UUs are the second largest group (behind the Quakers of course).

So why am I bringing up the Swedenborgians? Simple. They have a small contingent here at ESR, yet people from their national offices have been in contact with ESR for a while now. I haven’t heard of that same kind of contact between ESR and the UUA. (And me sitting at the ESR booth in the exhibit hall during GA does not count.)  Other than Harvard and Andover, I’ve heard of little contact with any of the other non-UU schools where there are a number of UUs present. (I’m thinking along the lines of Union, United-Twin Cities, Perkins, Iliff, etc.)  Once the number of UU students at a particular school hits a certain number, wouldn’t that show up on somebody’s radar screen???

So the question becomes….do UU ministry students who don’t go to Starr King or Meadville (and to some extent Harvard and Andover Newton) matter to the UUA? If they do, what is the UUA doing to show its concern and care? If not, what should be done?