Universalist National Memorial Church debuts new website

So, I made it to church Sunday, was greeted and then asked: how you seen the new church website. I had seen a preview, but not the release.

Seeing as I was the lead on the last revision a decade ago, I knew it was overdue for a refresh. And a new breeze is blowing…

I’m glad to point to Universalist National Memorial Church’s site at universalist.org.

Churches: merged, disaffiliated and dead

As I wrote yesterday, one of the UUA backends has — if you know how to look — references to churches that are “not constituent[s]” though I suppose they must have all been thus at one time.

Since the larger list includes Canadian congregations (not listed here) that departed around Canadian Unitarian Council autonomy in 2003, this list has to be at least that old.

Which is also to reinforce that not all of these are dead. I see at least one Universalist church (Rockwell, Windsor) that has come and gone over the years. So also I can image a couple of community or federated churches doing fine outside the UUA.

But the rural and small-town Universalist churches and the marginally placed Unitarian fellowships are surely gone. Two were intentionally African-American-focused starts. (T.H.E., Atlanta and Sojourner Truth, Washington, D.C., which was long gome before I moved to D.C. in 2000.) The hardest to see is Epiphany, Fenton: the hoped-for firstfruits of a new age of Christian church planting. Others surely feel the same way about Panthea Pagan, Hoffman Estates. I’ll miss Muttontown’s sheep banner at General Assembly.

But many more are simply mergers. I recall the two in Flushing, Queens continue as one. Two in Minnesota. Saugus recently merged with First Parish, Malden. Oregon City’s merger even has a note online. Perhaps, too, the references to Dayton, San Diego and San Antonio?

Comments (and clarifications) welcome.

“‘Not a Constituent Congregation'”,City,State
Guadalajara Unit. Univ. Fellowship,Guadalajara,Jalisco
Seward UUs,Seward,Alaska
Coronado UU Church,Coronado,California
UU Fellowship of the Mendocino Coast,Mendocino,California
U. U. Fellowship Southern Marin,Mill Valley,California
Aliso Creek Church,Mission Viejo,California
U U Fellowship of the Ojai Valley,Ojai,California
Channing Society of Orange County,Orange County,California
The Chalice Unit. Univ. Church,Poway,California
U. U. Inland North County Fellowship,San Diego,California
Unit. Univ. Fellowship of Friends,San Diego,California
All Souls Unitarian Church,San Juan Capo,California
UU Fellowship of Leisure World,Seal Beach,California
UU Fellowship of Aspen,Aspen,Colorado
Darien-New Canaan Unit. Society,New Canaan,Connecticut
UU Fellowship of the Farmington Valley,Simsbury,Connecticut
Sojourner Truth Congregation of UUs,Washington,D.C.
U. U. Fellowship of South Dade,Homestead,Florida
Eastside UU Church,Miami,Florida
Thurman Hamer Ellington UU Fellowship & Ministry,Atlanta,Georgia
Rockwell Universalist Church,Winder,Georgia
Glenview Unitarian Fellowship,Glenview,Illinois
“Panthea Pagan Fellowship, UUA”,Hoffman Estates,Illinois
Universalist Church,Waltonville,Illinois
Sauk Trail Unit. Univ. Fellowship,Crown Point,Indiana
UUs of Northern Kentucky,Lawrenceburg,Indiana
UU Fellowship Johnson County,Prairie Village,Kansas
UU Church of Hopkinsville,Hopkinsville,Kentucky
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship,Ruston,Louisiana
First Universalist Society,Brownfield,Maine
Seneca Valley U. U. Fellowship,Gaithersburg,Maryland
First Federated Church,Beverly,Massachusetts
First Parish Unitarian Church,East Bridgewater,Massachusetts
UUs of Lowell,Lowell,Massachusetts
First Parish UU Church in Saugus,Saugus,Massachusetts
U U Fellowship Northern Berkshire,N Adams,Massachusetts
Church of the United Community,Roxbury,Massachusetts
First Unitarian Church,Stoneham,Massachusetts
First Unitarian Church,Ware,Massachusetts
U. U. Fellowship of Saginaw,Bridgeport,Michigan
First Universalist Church,Concord,Michigan
Epiphany Community Church UU,Fenton,Michigan
First Unitarian Church,Virginia,Minnesota
Burruss Memorial Universalist Church,Ellisville,Mississippi
Universalist Church of Westbrook,Concord,New Hampshire
Community Church,Dublin,New Hampshire
Dorothea Dix U. U. Community,Groveville,New Jersey
U U Gloucester County Congregation,Turnersville,New Jersey
Unit. Univ. Fellowship of Burlington County,Willingboro,New Jersey
First Universalist Church,Dexter,New York
Hollis UU Congregation,Flushing,New York
Unitarian Universalist Church of Flushing,Flushing,New York
Universalist Church of the Messiah,Fort Plain,New York
First Universalist Church,Henderson,New York
Unitarian Universalist Church,Lockport,New York
Muttontown UU Fellowship,Muttontown,New York
First Univ. Church Schuyler Lake,Schuyler Lake,New York
U. U. Fellowship of Fayetteville,Fayetteville,North Carolina
First Unitarian Church,Dayton,Ohio
Miami Valley Unitarian Fellowship,Dayton,Ohio
U. U. Society Western Reserve,Kirtland,Ohio
Community UU Congregation,Tulsa,Oklahoma
Unit. Univ. Community of Cottage Grove,Cottage Grove,Oregon
Valley Community U. U. Fellowship,Newberg,Oregon
Atkinson Memorial Church (merged),Oregon City,Oregon
Boones Ferry U. U. Congregation,Oregon City,Oregon
Unitarian Fellowship of Bucks County,Fountainville,Pennsylvania
Venango Unit. Univ. Fellowship,Franklin,Pennsylvania
First Universalist Church,Woonsocket,Rhode Island
Brookings Unit. Univ. Fellowship,Brookings,South Dakota
First U U Fellowship Hunt County,Greenville,Texas
Community UU Church,San Antonio,Texas
Unitarian Universalist Fellowship,San Antonio,Texas
The Old Brick Church,East Montpelier,Vermont
Jenkins Unit. Univ. Fellowship,Chesterfield,Virginia
Lewis Clark Unitarian Fellowship,Clarkston,Washington
UU Congregation of Grays Harbor,Hoquiam,Washington
Fork Ridge Universalist Church,Moundsville,West Virginia
UU Fellowship,Buenos Aires,
Tokyo Unitarian Fellowship,Tokyo 106-0032,

Mixed thoughts about memorial wreaths and flowers at momuments

I meant to make this post available well ahead of Memorial Day, but that obviously did not happen. There will always be another occasion for wreaths and tributes at monuments, though.

But it wasn’t a national holiday that made me think about this subject originally. I live in Washington D.C., and live near several memorials to foreign luminaries. Embassies and ex-pats will often leave flowers in tribute, so I see a lot of these. And then there are the wreaths and other flowers left at the military memorials. Florists must do well around here.

But not all choices are equally good. Here are some ideas if you intend to leave a wreath or make a floral  presentation at a public monument.

If I had to pick one action, plan for someone to clean up the wreath-remains within a few days. A pile of compost isn’t a tribute.

After that, choose the backing (and if needed, easel) well. The Ukrainian embassy left a wreath for the Schevchenko bicentennial earlier this year — in the context of a national crisis no less — but the flowers were attached to a plastic (think bread wrapper) covered foam hoop. Worse, it was too heavy for the wire easel, and with a slight breeze it toppled over and broke.

Before it fell apart

…and after

I found it broken I was out walking Daisy the Dog, but it was past re-staging.

Contrast this with a wreath the Slovak embassy left on the birthday of the first Czechoslovak president (and husband of American-born Unitarian, Charlotte Garrigue) Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk. The papier mache is stronger, so the wind did not destroy it, and the wooden easel adds dignity.

Before I put it back up
Before I put it back up


Or do without the easel, and mount the wreath with this tribute to the Madonna of the Trail, in suburban Bethesda. The coated wire provides a backing to hang the wreath. (And now I can imagine where the typical toothmarks of decay on old sandstone monuments comes from…)


Bold experiment in ministry

I’m a member of the Universalist National Memorial Church, and today Sunday the church’s leadership made an exciting announcement at the climax of a congregational meeting: we are moving into the next phase of the church, but it’s not quite like anything I’ve ever seen. In consultation with district and association staff, and after six months’ work from the search commitee, the church is beginning a part-time, shared (but non-spousal) contract ministry by two theologically-trained laypersons. Some of you may know Crystal St. Marie Lewis, M.T.S, from her blogging. David Gatton, M.Div., is a long-time member of the church, but has had a secular career.

So this something new. Neither we nor they know what to call the experiment, or even what titles to use for them. That’s less important than them developing a working partnership, and the congregation providing support. (If all goes well, we hope to increase the percentage to full time within three years.)

Read the outline of the proposal here.

The team ministry begins June 15, and I pray them and the church every success. I’ll return to this subject from time to time.

Archives search: between “Christ will conquer” and the off-center cross

ugc1891_html_m49241d7fWhen the new UUA logo came out recently, quite a few people (myself included) japed about it on Facebook and mused about the past logos, some quite old. I noted the Universalist “Christ Will Conquer” seal and the off-center cross.

Here's a "Christ Will Conquer" use from 1920
Here’s a “Christ Will Conquer” use from 1920

But dang if, in my research at Harvard-Andover Theological Library, I didn’t find a missing link graphically between the two. It should be noted that I have found no official adoption for any of these logos, but it’s not the sort of thing that’s voted upon, so I suppose the most we’re ever likely to find (if anyone looks) is a launch notice, and probably not even that. We live in a branded age today, and I suspect these earlier “logos” were originally corporate seals (as we’ll see evidence below) that later took on an “inked” existance, much as the flaming chalice started on letterhead.

So let me introduce the “All Conquering Love” seal.

all-conquering-loveI’m guessing that it did not predate 1935, when the Washington Avowal was adopted by the Universalist General Convention (UGC) at the still-swank Mayflower Hotel, a short walk from my day job office and a lovely place for drinks.

The version of the image here is from the cover of the 1946 edition of the Laws of Fellowship, and in this context I wonder if its release was associated with the UGC’s 1942/43 re-conception as the Universalist Church of America.

The whole Washington Declaration text is a historical layer cake, and its use was to define the terms of fellowship between the General Convention, the state conventions, the churches and parishes and the members of the ministerial college. The Avowal is its core, with the text in bold type being the part best remembered:

The bond of fellowship in this Convention (church) shall be a common purpose to do the will of God as Jesus revealed it and to co-operate in establishing the kingdom for which he lived and died.

To that end, we avow our faith in God as Eternal and All-conquering Love, in the spiritual leadership of Jesus, in the supreme worth of every human personality, in the authority of truth known or to be known, and in the power of men of good-will and sacrificial spirit to overcome evil and progressively establish the Kingdom of God. Neither this nor any other statement shall be imposed as a creedal test, provided that the faith thus indicated be professed.

And while you can draw a straight line from “the supreme worth of every human personality” through “to affirm, defend and promote the supreme worth of every human personality” (from the 1961 Principles) to “inherent worth and dignity of every person” I think that image of God being Eternal and All-conquering Love is far more evocative, even thrilling.

all-conquering-love_seal_1960Back to the idea that it was a seal: well, I found two cases (1958 and 1960) of the UCA corporate seal with this design, the rings simplified. Here is the easier-to-read 1960 version: a level of officialdom the off-center cross could not claim. (I did see it on the letterhead of the Illinois state convention; Clinton Lee Scott’s influence from his Peoria pastorate?)

Taras Shevchenko bicentennial

Thanks to Stefan Jonasson I learned that today is the 200th birthday of Ukrainian national hero and poet Taras Shevchenko. Since I live very close to the Shevchenko memorial here in Washington D.C. I took our dog Daisy for her morning walk to visit the memorial.

Shevchenko statue, Washinhton, D.C.Schevchenko poetry inscription

After all, the Ukraine is much on our minds now.

We followed up with a visit to the Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk memorial around the corner, whose birthday was March 8. Masaryk was the first president of Czechoslovakia; he was also a religious reformer, ending up as much a Unitarian as Jefferson, no doubt in part to the influence of his American Unitarian wife, Charlotte Garrigue.

2014-03-09 09.57.45

(I’ll be writing more about what makes successful floral tributes closer to Memorial Day.)

Daisy, unimpressed

This is Daisy: it’s not her birthday today, but she is going to go to the groomer.

Later. The goomer did quite a job, but where’s the rest of my dog?

Remembering Nelson Mandela in D.C.

I live about a 20 minute walk from the South African embassy, so I went this afternoon to pay my respects following the death of former SA president Nelson Mandela.

My feelings are hard to put into words; he belongs to the ages. The world is so much better for his life and labor. The proof? Those who once denounced now try to claim him as a friend in death.

Walking up Massachusetts Avenue, a.k.a. Embassy Row, I noted how many embassies had their national flags at half-staff. At least a quarter; perhaps a third. I was not alone; there were enough people in foot — there’s no place to park, even if you have a car — to justify crossing guards.

Irish embassy
Irish embassy
Kenyan embassy
Kenyan embassy

Ongoing construction at the South African embassy made for a tight shrine. I got there just in time to sign the condolance book (inside the lobby) and then joined the small crowd, many of whom took photos or left flowers at the newly-dedicated statue of Mandela out front.

You have to do something when you make what — let’s call it what it is — a pilgrimage. You leave your signature, your thoughts (in the book, or on cards or with gifts) and a tribute of flowers. I brought my prayerbook.

SA embassy lobby, from outside
SA embassy lobby, from outside
Nelson Mandela statue and tributes
Nelson Mandela statue and tributes
Nelson Mandela statue and tributes
Nelson Mandela statue and tributes

I’m left thinking of Mandela’s legacy, but also how churches observe something like the death of a great figure, or a great and lamentable disaster for that matter. And what do you do when there’s no obvious focus of the outpouring? The South African embassy is obvious in Washington, but “how does in play in Peoria?”

Small Universalist tie-in to the Kennedy assassination

The interfaith Thanksgiving service was on its last legs more than a decade ago when I was the pastor at Universalist National Memorial Church (UNMC), in Washington, D.C. It was one of those liberal Jewish-Protestant events that was far more common two generations before, but it’s hard to maintain a tradition when that was your sole surviving point of contact.

I hadn’t thought about it in years when, a few months ago while studying the Classical Reform Jewish tradition I ran across a reference to it in the persan of Washington Hebrew Congregation‘s (WHC) then-senior rabbi Norman Gerstenfeld. WHC was traditionally a participant in the Thanksgiving service with UNMC.

Even in 1963. Six days after President Kennedy was killed, the nation celebrated Thanksgiving.

President Johnston attended the morning interfaith Thanksgiving service at Mount Vernon Place United Methodist Church, which included UNMC (then pastored by the long-tenured Seth Brooks) and WHC.

The other congregations taking place were Congregation Adas Israel, Calvary Baptist Church, and National City Christian Church (Disciples of Christ; President Johnston’s church). All are extant.

For reportage, and notes of Johnston’s participation, see
Johnson’s Thanksgiving Address Asks Nation to ‘Banish Rancor’ and Move On to ‘New Greatness’” by Tom Wicker (New York Times)