Your church options in the Antarctic

We had a bit of unexpected warm weather yesterday afternoon in Washington, D.C. but fear not for the cold weather is returning! Which made me think of very cold weather. As in polar.

More than a decade ago, I wrote about the churches of remote northern Greenland, so it’s only fair to go south. Fortunately, others have had the same idea. There are several churches and chapels in the Antarctic. Most are Catholic, two are Orthodox and one (American, in case you wondered, at McMurdo) is multi-faith.

This page reviews the chapels, in English, to plead for a chapel at the Italian base Terra Nova.

This page, in Spanish, has better photos. (“Las iglesias de la Antártida, las más meridionales del mundo.“)

All are fascinating in their own way, but the chapel at Belgrano II — well depicted at the second link — is made of ice and has a special beauty.

A summertime analogy for ministerial formation

Summer is at its peak. It’s hot. And for reasons outside your control, the otherwise-reliable power supply has been cut. No air conditioning, and since you don’t know when it’s going to come back (it will come back, right?) you don’t dare pillage the fridge, so to preserve the chilled food you have left.

What do you do to stay feeling cool? These make my list

  • keep the curtains closed when the sun is up
  • try to draw a breeze by opening two or more windows
  • keep meals light and cold, or at least uncooked
  • keep the lights out, even if modern lights don’t produce much heat any more
  • take frequent, light showers (or at least make good use of a damp wash cloth)
  • drink as much cold water as possible
  • air the bedclothes before sleeping
  • wear modern fibers, which wick sweat, dry quickly and minimize feeling sticky

Of these, all but the last was common in my grandparents’ day, and perhaps their grandparents’.

When we read about — heck, know — about highly educated (and deeply indebted) ministers who are unemployed or under-employed in church work, it’s not hard to sense that times are changing, and are very unlikely to return to the go-go days of postwar Protestantism. The power is going out: short stoppages now, but there may be a day when the grid fails completely. We need to prepare for this risk, and be grateful that we still have choices (if not always happy one) and that these are not fundamentally life and death issues.

And, looking back on that hot weather solutions list, I’d like us to consider the wisdom of an earlier time that faced some of the same problems and had to cope. Relying on a practical ministerial education more, say, than an academic model. Forming more parish yokes. Making ministerial fellowship more flexible for dip in and out of (better paying, one would hope) secular work. Revisiting credentialed lay ministry, an inheritance from the Universalists, was only formally laid down a few years ago. Not to mention making conference attendance and professional development less of a financial burden.

There is surely room for modern technology, but I bet we already know and have known the essential steps to making necessary changes. The will is another matter. Until then, the heat is on.





R&E Newsweekly: Expulsion of Iraqi Christians

It’s been a hard week in the news. Central American children in the borderlands. The deaths in Gaza. The Malaysian flight downing. Frightening news — let’s hope not all true — from ISIS/ISIL. You’d be forgiven for being overwhelmed.

But please spare a prayer for the Christian minority of Iraq, and particularly of Mosul
, an ancient community that’s been extirpated. Remember them, as they take refuge, mainly in Iraqi Kurdistan.

This interview on Religion and Ethics Newsweekly is of Syrian Catholic (that is, in union with Rome) Patriarch Ignatius Youssef III Younan.

Unitarian worship resource for Union soldiers

This small 1865 American Unitarian Association assortment of rousing songs and Bible readings (arranged for unison or responsive reading, and with headings like “Those who turn from Holiness are condemned”) isn’t explicitly for Union soldiers, but songs like “Arise, New-England’s Sons!” and “The Massachusetts Line” weren’t likely to appeal to Johnny Reb.

The Soldier’s Companion: Dedicated to the Defenders of Their Country in the Field by Their Friends at Home.

Let’s review: the British Orthodox Church

Certain churches (as in denominations) attract my attention as an observer. What I suppose each of them has in common in marginality: being on the edge of culture, the edge of a theological spectrum, the edge of extinction or the like. But that’s not to treat them like playthings. Something can be learned from people “on the edge” and particularly if their faith keeps them, not marginalized, but in the middle of things.

I put the British Orthodox Church, a small autonomous Oriental Orthodox jurisdiction under the Coptic OrthodoxPatriarch, of Alexandria, in parallel to the Coptic jurisdiciton in the UK. In its own words,

Our mission is to the people of the British Isles, and whilst being Orthodox in our faith and practice we remain British in our ethos with a deep appreciation of the Orthodox heritage of these islands.

I’m more interested in how they operate, and the ethos they bring to their work, than the specifics of their theology or liturgy. I wrote a bit about them in 2012:

And good news: the Windsor mission I wrote about then in ongoing with prayers once a month.

A visit — heck, let’s call it a pilgrimage — to Mt. Auburn Cemetery

Mt. Auburn Cemetery is well known as the nation’s first “garden cemetery” which, though now the norm, contrasted with the gloomy church yard or burial ground. But Mt. Auburn does it better than any I’ve seen and there lies the mortal remains of many a famous Universalist and Unitarian.

I joined dear friends, also Unitarian Universalist ministers, Hank Peirce and Adam Tierney-Eliot, there on March 17 to visit a just a couple of luminaries and brave the late-winter ice.

Hosea Ballou’s grave

Hosea Ballou's grave, side view

2014-03-17 10.30.18
Fanny Farmer is buried here with family.
John Murray’s grave, protected by ice.
Adam Tierney-Eliot (left) and Hank Peirce with token Unitarian, William Ellery Channing
Adam Tierney-Eliot (left) and Hank Peirce with token Unitarian, William Ellery Channing

Crazy snow coming? Download Pocket

To my dear Southern friends, family and readers:

A once-in-a-generation snow and ice storm is coming in on you. You have plenty of bread and milk (right?) but now face Internet-free boredom.

My suggestion? Put the Pocket app on every mobile device you have. Then add the plug-in for your browser and store as many interesting webpages — might I suggest this blog? — you can. You’ll have them even when the Internet goes down. More entertainment value than the weather-band radio. (Which you should have, too.)

I also use Pocket as a scrapbook to come back to stories I want learn more about, or write on. I also use it for in-flight (and on-train) entertainment.

Also, are your power lines prone to come down? Stay off your laptop. Save the battery to charge your phone instead. Stay safe.

Any Hungarian Unitarian activity in the UK?

Those who follow international news know that Romanians and Bulgarians are now able to enter the United Kingdom legally.

Hateful and xenophobic screeds notwithstanding, little has changed no far, except those who have taken advantage of undocumented labor can no longer abuse workers with impunity. London is not swimming in people from southeastern Europe. But that’s not to say there’s not a critical mass.

Surely my dear readers know that most of the Unitarians in Europe are Hungarian-speaking Transylvanians; that is, Romanian citizens.

So I wonder has there ever been, or has anyone ever intend to (or hoped to) create a ministry to accommodate our religious kindred, should they come to the United Kingdom? And if so is there any plan for the larger community to help?

These are honest questions. I would love to hear from someone who knows.