Thanksgiving Dinner 2014

A memento of yesterday’s dinner. Also some evidence that a vegetarian Thanksgiving dinner is possible and (I hope you’ll agree) attractive.

cauliflower, sweet potato and wedges of kabocha squash, oiled and ready for the oven.
cauliflower, sweet potato and wedges of kabocha squash, oiled and ready for the oven.
cornbread cubes
cornbread cubed and ready to be made into pan dressing.

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dinner set out
(clockwise from upper left) roasted photograph, Brussels sprouts, yeast gravy, pan dressing, cranberry sauce, apple and sage vegetarian sausages

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Today is Universalist Memorial Day

As we lope to church, let’s recall that the Universalist General Convention commended so many years ago

that the first Sunday of October, in each year, be set apart as Memorial Sunday, for commemorating those friends who, during the year, have been taken away by death.

I think it’s place there to anticipate the great and general thanksgiving and memorial — All Souls Day — a month later. Few, if anyone observes the day (also called the Sunday of the Commemoration) today, and some of the Universalist Christians who might chose it would rather observe the ecumenical World Communion Sunday, which is also today.

This service, from the extinct Church of the Redeemer, Chelsea, Mass. — a fountainhead of liturgical innovation — offers hints for its observance, and the date makes me suspect that many of the dead remembered died in the Civil War.

On Ascension Day 2014

Ascension Day, which marks Jesus’ return to God in the heavens, should be more dear to Universalists.

Jesus’ disciples, at his departure, returned to Jerusalem, to the Temple, and praised God. Though hard labor, trials of discipline and persecution would follow, they — and we — have in Jesus’ ascension an idea of our future: not a divinized rocket launch, as so often depicted in art, but a return to the source which made us, and a path that calls us to be a blessing to others, even those who would curse us.

“A little Easter message of hope”


Written to the young people of the Universalist Church by Dr Charles Hall Leonard, Dean Emeritus of Crane Theological School, Tufts College Mass.

An Easter Message — that is what the Easter message ought to be amid the world’s darkness and doubts. How dark soever, Hope ought to shine bright as out of a wide sky.

Easter is a culmination, both in history and in experience. Perhaps the day and what it stands for come as a surprise. We do not find our living Lord amid any early seeking. He has risen, and has gone before. So it is, therefore, that all Christian longing is satisfied, and all Christian need is met. He has gone before. The way is marked by personal leadership, and by recurring power. The wonderful revelation is of the Person; the wonderful growth is personal.

The Easter message is therefore one of light and peace, a word of new intelligence and the comfort of a recurring need.

“Oh day of days: Thou art the Sun of other day.”

I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me.

[Paul] had a broad vision and a comprehensive grasp, and his thirty years’ ministry as an ambassador of Christ attests his intelligence not less than his zeal. He was grandly equipped for his work, not alone by his exalted faith and consecration, but also by his rare intellectual skill and strength, and his acquisition of wisdom gathered from various sources. But with all his genius and learning he held to one straight course. He preached Christ crucified He believed that the Crucified One would come again to earth, that he would incorporate himself in believing hearts, becoming their inspiration and blessedness. If at the first he seemed to look for this second coming of Christ as an outward manifestation, he soon came to realize its spiritual import and to dwell upon its vitalizing presence within the soul. “Christ liveth in me,” said Paul, “and the life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God.” * * * “I can do all things through Christ who strengthened me .”

From “The Fullness of Christianity,” by the Rev. Henry W. Rugg: the occasional sermon delivered before the Universalist General Convention, held in Washington, D. C. on October 24, 1883.

It is like a dear home meal…

It is like a dear home-meal, a family supper, where the Elder and the younger brothers meet around their Father’s table. It is like a farewell meal just before a dear one goes away from home on a perilous journey. The breaking of bread together, the cup of wine together, the beautiful words of remembrance that will stay in their hearts all their lives that will stay in the heart of the world forever.

Wonderful words follow. The promise[of] “many mansions”, the new commandment of love, the new name of friend, the gift of his own peace, the prayer for the “little children’s” safe keeping. Under the sorrow of parting is the joy of returning; with his going away the spirit of truth will come. “It is better tor you that I go.”

The uplifted face seems to smile back into God’s face the voice is tremulous with joy as it whispers, “I go to my Father.”

Maria L. Drew , The Sunday School Helper (1896)

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.

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(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?

Use Universalist celebrations to flesh out your church year

Even though you occasionally hear about Unitarian or Universalist preachers using a lectionary — indeed, a handful of churches have a well-established lectionary tradition — most UU preaching is topical, with the sermon and other observances hanging off of a holiday. If there is one to be had. Otherwise it’s Preacher’s Choice: which can be magical from a great pulpiteer, but too often the effect is uneven or eccentric.

In which case, it makes sense to rehabilitate the observances commended by the Universalist General Convention generations ago. In any case, it provides an excuse to put an idea on the calendar, and that can be one less blessed thing to think about.

Links refer to prior blog posts on the subject; for Japan Sunday, you might read ICUU or IARF. Presented here are set opportunities for new member welcome or recognition; religious education; child dedication or baptism; remembering the dead in our circles from the last year; the common origins and destiny of humanity; our foreign work; and (well) Christmas.

The observances:

  • Easter Sunday: a Service of Recognition be held, “at which time persons baptized in childhood, and others, may be welcomed by suitable rites to membership of the Church.”
  • Educational Sunday: the third Sunday of May,  “for the presentation to the people of the educational interests of our Church…”
  • Children’s Sunday: the second Sunday in June, “that parents and guardians be encouraged and invited to bring their children to the altar on that day for baptism or dedication to the service of the Lord.”
  • Memorial Sunday: the first Sunday of October, “for commemorating those friends who, during the year, have been taken away by death.”
  • All-Souls Sunday: the first Sunday of November, “for a special celebration of our distinguishing doctrine, the Scriptural truth that all souls are God’s children, and that finally, by His grace attending them, they will all be saved from the power of sin, and will live and reign with Him forever in holiness and happiness.”
  • Japan Sunday: the fourth Sunday in November, “for the presentation of the claims of our Foreign Work and for soliciting pecuniary aid therefor.”
  • Christmas Sunday: Sunday nearest Christmas, be “observed by appropriate services”