Meet the Family

April 20, 2006

I am not a crazy cat woman. Just to clarify. I love animals. I love my animal companions. I talk to them. They understand. Nothing weird or crazy about it. We hope to have dogs some day, but right now they are too big for our small living quarters and, also, they don’t live as long as cats and somehow I feel like I would be even more traumatized after an animal companion died after 10 years rather than 15 or 18. Someday we hope to rescue pigs (who we will name Fluffy and Dawn), chickens (Henrietta and Roger), and maybe some other former farmed animals who need a home after a rescue. It is amazing how cuddly and sweet animals that we don’t usually think of as pets are/can be when they are loved and treated well. If you are interested, you can visit The Farm Sanctuary (that was their home page) and you can see some cute pictures of some of the animals here. They tell beautiful stories of rescued animals. Because I need to continue to prepare for the service on Sunday and write a case study for a class, today is time to meet Elizabeth and W.’s cat family. Enjoy. Try not to suffer from a cuteness overload. I know they are soooo adorable and sweet. And honestly, there are just so loving and therapeutic. Okay. I’ll stop and move on to the goods.
To the left is Leo sleeping between his sisters Annie and Grace. Grace is black and was found in a mud puddle in Middletown, Ohio when I was an undergraduate. Annie is black and white and I adopted her from a shelter in Cincinnati. Leo is in the middle and was found in a forest in Brownfield, Maine and his mother was found nearby — mauled by a coyote. He was transferred to a cat-woman sort of person in New Hampshire, where we adopted him from. He is very shy and our vet said he was probably traumatized by his mom being eaten. Poor thing.

To the right is a picture of Alex and Zach, our two favorite foster kittens who now live with a nice couple in Atlanta. They were adopted and lived in Cambridge for a year, but then relocated when their human-parents moved. I wanted to include more pictures but because I have (thank goodness!) a new computer to replace my dying old one, I don’t have all my pictures on here. So you’re just going to have to wait. I know, it will be tough. Tomorrow it is supposed to be up to 70! Spring is so much nicer than winter.


Preparing for A Service of Healing

April 16, 2006

So on April 23rd I’ll lead “A Service of Healing” at FUUSM. For some reason, this has excited me more than I thought it would. Maybe excited isn’t the right word — perhaps it has perked up my ministerial aspirations? It has just led me to really put my heart and soul into it. I just feel like there is such a need for healing — for making ourselves whole. I almost wrote “whole again,” but I’m not sure we are whole to begin with. Nothing to do with original sin or anything like that, rather, I don’t think we are born into a world where we can ever be truly whole – we are always already in a world of brokenness, pain, and suffering and it is only our journey of life where we can seek wholeness and healing together in community. It is a journey of wholeness, not a destination. In preparing for this service, I am reminded of those that would criticize UUs for not engaging congregants’ emotions (enough) in worship services or in church life in general. While I think that this can be overdone in any context, and I have seen it wwwaaay overdone in Christian contexts, I agree that perhaps UUs have over-intellectualized and over-emphasized political action at the expense of engaging people’s need for affective spirituality. Of course, I’ve also complained of UUs as being too focused on their own spiritual paths and being all about “feeling better” or “feeling good” rather than making the difficult decisions that need to be made in order to bring about the just world that we envision. So I guess, like all religions, we are always working on this balance. I certainly include myself in this.

UU minster Rev. Dr. Thandeka writes a lot about this, as does Michael Durall in The Almost Church (you can get this here at the UUA bookstore), although I’m not sure I’m sold on either of their positions 100%. Certainly, I have learned a lot from reading both of them and hearing Thandeka speak. She is a visiting lecturer at HDS this semester. She recommends Rick Warren’s very popular book The Purpose-Driven Church in terms of thinking about the way that Unitarian Universalism can better address the needs of more people. She argues that a key reason why Unitarian Universalism lags in numbers and influence and why evangelical and/or fundamentalist churches are bursting at the seams is because they have managed to address the affective needs of people whereas UUs ask people to join committees before we ask them what they need for their own lives and own healing. Thus, I’m thinking about how to invite our congregation and, more broadly, lots of other people who are not in our congregations, into a space of healing while also not turning UUism into a self-centered feel-good fest that is all about making “me” feel better.

One final depressing note is that I heard on NPR that there are over 150,000 people on the East Coast who are members of curling teams. You can read about the sport here Apparently the winter Olympics helped curling to pick up popularity and it is booming. I’m sorry, but please tell me that Unitarian Universalism can beat curling in terms of appeal and numbers. And I know curling teams do not have healing services. Could it be because the “rules” are more defined? Something to think about as I’m off to bed. Easter is in the morning!

Miss Manners

April 14, 2006

My wonderful and dear roommate from college who has remained a close friend is a huge fan of Miss Manners. She was sharing her book with me last time I was visiting and I was thinking that this would be a great gift for a minister, particularly one starting out. She explains graceful ways to handle difficult situations. Maybe you don’t agree with every single suggestion, but it is a great help for ministers who are expected to deal with most things relatively gracefully. Scott Wells who is the man behind the blog Boy in the Bands has pointed out that Miss Manners has recently taken on what is, in my opinion, most obviously a “joys and concerns” time in a UU church. You can go here for the reader’s problem and the and Miss Manners’ advice.

Gnosticism 101

April 13, 2006

Well, I just love it when new early Christian documents are discovered. If you haven’t read about The Gospel of Judas being discovered, you can do so here

Document Is Genuine, but Is Its Story True?

In Ancient Document, Judas, Minus the Betrayal

Excerpts From the Gospel of Judas

Karen King, Winn Professor of Ecclesiastical History at Harvard Divinity School, is quoted in two of the three articles. I’ve taken two of her classes and really really really think she is just a wonderful professor and scholar. I wish I wasn’t language-disabled and I would learn Coptic, Greek, and Hebrew and apply to study early Christianity at Harvard in hopes of studying with her (and Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza who is my advisor and another favorite professor). The Harvard Divinity School website list two places where Prof. King is online talking about the Gospel of Judas. You can find that here

Prof. King’s specialty is early Christianity, and in particular gnosticism. The Gospel of Judas, along with the Gospels of Thomas and Mary (and a bunch of other documents that I know nothing about) are often put into the category of “gnostic gospels.” Since Karen writes a whole book on what gnosticism is, I feel like it isn’t easy to sum up here. Her book is What is Gnosticism? and is a bit of an academic read, but still worth it even if you aren’t in divinity school. I think wikipedia also does a reasonably good job here of offering a short introduction.

Gnosticism is a historical term for various mystical initiatory religions, sects and knowledge schools which were most active in the first few centuries AD around the Mediterranean and extending into central Asia.

These systems typically recommend the pursuit of mysticism or “special knowledge” (gnosis) as the central goal of life. They also commonly depict creation as a mythological struggle between competing forces of light and dark, and posit a marked division between the material realm, typically depicted as under the governance of malign forces, and the higher spiritual realm from which it is divided, governed by God and the Aeons.

I think that Karen’s basic argument is that gnosticism is a modern invention in order to help us better understand and categorize early Christian texts. As I understand her argument, there weren’t a bunch of people running around in antiquity calling themselves gnostics. Rather, from the very start of Christianity there was a struggle to define what “Christianity” was and what it meant. Those who wrote The Gospel of Mary or The Gospel of Thomas, for instance, had one understanding of what “Christianity” meant. Those who wrote Matthew or Mark had another understanding.

The Gospel of Judas (and the other “Gnostic” gospels) are part of a bunch of early Christian writing that didn’t make the cut into what eventually came to be understood as “real” or “authentic” Christianity. There was fighting and arguing and eventually those who “won” portrayed it as if they had been right all along and all along had been “in charge” and that “those others” had obviously been heretics the whole time. But this was not the case. There was never one Christianity from which all other “versions” emerged, but rather, from the beginnings of what we today call Christianity, there were a plurality of visions as to what this meant and how this new way of understanding things should be lived out. The Gospel of Judas is from one way of understanding what “Christianity” meant that did not eventually “win” and was, thus, considered heretical by the “winners.” Of course, I’m sure I’m one of the few people in any divinity school, or in the United States for that matter, that has not read The Da Vinci Code which, although fiction, deals with a lot of these issues.

One more thing while I am on my early Christianity kick. I use quotes around “Christianity” when referring to it in antiquity because the term Christianity took a while to be a word that was used by “Jesus-followers” to refer to themselves or to be referred to by others. There is tons of debate as to when it started being used. For a good while those people who we would today probably call “early Christians” understood themselves as a part of Judaism, not a new religion. The question as to when groups began to either be identified or identify themselves as “Christian” or when it makes sense for scholars to begin to call groups “Christian” continues to be a highly disputed point. For more on the issues involved on understanding when “Christianity cease[d] to be Judaism” or “when and why Christianity and Rabbinic Judaism stopped considering themselves and recognizing the other, as belonging to the same religion,” see Gabriele Boccaccini, “History of Judaism: Its Periods in Antiquity,” in J. Neusner (ed.), Judaism in Late Antiquity 2 Historical Syntheses, Leiden, Netherlands: Brill, 1995: 279-302 (as cited in Judith Lieu, Christian Identity in the Jewish and Graeco-Roman World, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2004: 2. Again, while pretty academic, if you are at all interested in early Christianity (okay if you are really interested) Judith Leiu’s book is just great.). For more on Christian identity formation, particularly as it relates to the term Christian, see Lieu, 1-26, 240-241, 250-259. Anyway, I’m getting off track here but I figure if I learn all of this in school, I might as well try to share it with somebody.

That’s it for Gnosticism 101 today.

Unitarian Universalism

April 10, 2006

I thought I would do a small section on Unitarian Universalism — what’s going on out there in the blogosphere, at the UUA, and in UU congregations.

The UUA Board of Trustees will be meeting in late April. Thier agendas and minutes and all sorts of other interesting stuff is available here.

General Assembly is taking place in St. Louis this year, June 21-25. I’m going. You can find more information about it here.

Another blogger, who calls herself ChaliceChick (lots of bloggers have cool pseudonyms, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it — the best I could think of was CatWoman because I love my kitties, but I thought it either made me sound like Batman’s girlfriend or a very lonely old woman)….But, back to the point, ChaliceChick hosted a “contest” she called “Fix UUism” on her blog in January. I must say that I don’t love the title because it implies that UUism is broken, which I don’t think it is. I mean, all religions have places they can grow and improve. As do we. But I’d say it isn’t broken. I’m not staying on point well, am I? The POINT is that even though I don’t think UUism is broken, there are some great and intersting ideas here about how we can improve. Some I just thought were funny. Some possibly helpful. It also reminded me of all the little political debates and tensions within our Association. Sometimes I feel so niave —
Why can’t we all just get along? Maybe it is also because bloggers (not me of course) are a little harsher than I like sometimes. Anyway, it is enlightening if you have a few moments.

Ever wonder what the greater world is saying about UUs? Unitarian Universalists in the media tracks how UUs are reported on in non-UU media. It describes itself like this: A frequently updated guide to stories about Unitarian Universalists from other sources around the web.

Other sites of interest:

The Unitarian Universalist Ministry for the Earth. This is the organization that designed and monitors The Green Sanctuary Program which First Unitarian Universalist Society of Middleboro is involved in.

Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The group describes themselves as follows: The seventh principle of Unitarian Universalism calls us to “respect the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part.” We of UFETA understand that we human beings are only a single strand in the intricate web of life. Like wolves and whales and hummingbirds, we are fragile and perishable, and each species depends on the earth for our survival. While our Unitarian Universalist principles affirm the “inherent worth and dignity of every human being” and call us to seek “justice, equity and compassion in human relationships,” we extend those principles to include other species who also possess an intrinsic value—whose well-being is vital to the whole—and whose rights should parallel our own. You can visit UFETA here

Gustav and Mary

April 8, 2006

This is a picture of our baby Gustav and our former foster kitten Mary. She was found in the road in Needham and brought to a vet. The man who found her thought she was dead, but she was freezing and starving, poor little thing. She was nursed back to relative health at the vet and then through Second Chance Shelter in Jamaica Plain we were able to foster her until we found her a permanent home. While she was with us, Gustav decided he would take care of her and be her Mommy. They ate together, slept together, and if he couldn’t find her he would walk around and make little noises that I think translated to “Mary! Mary! Where are you? Come ouuuuttt.” and she would come out of hiding and nuzzle him. This is a picture of him giving her a bath, as he did each day. They both loved it. Mary now lives with a forever-home as the “daughter” of Liam and his wife, a couple in Porter Square, and Ginger, their other cat is Mary’s new Mommy.

Sorry, Nothing Uplifting Yet

April 5, 2006

But now that the BBC site is back up we find that the bird flu has been found in German poultry. Not long before it is here in the old USA. How are you preparing for the bird flu? It is always good to have 14 days worth of food and water in your house anyway. If (or perhaps I should say when) the bird flu becomes the human flu, it appears that most people believe that they should not go out. Including to work. Which might be a reasonable thing to think. You won’t find me out and about when the chance of contracting this thing seems to be even a little likely. However, I work at a church and not for the just-in-time system that gets groceries to our store, gas to the gas stations, and all that sort of stuff. But, studies show that many who DO work in these sorts of very important jobs might find it best not to go to work either. And this will mean a serious disruption in our just-in-time system. So even if you would LIKE to go out and get groceries and refuse to be scared into staying in your house (akin to people who refuse to leave their homes even if a hurricane appears to be coming) it may not matter because there may not be food on the shelves. So stock up on those yummy canned foods, pastas, and, my favorite, those thai lemongrass chili soups that you just have to add hot water too. And get some jugs of water too. It can’t hurt and then you won’t have to borrow food from my stockpile.

Read the article about the bird flu coming to Germany here:

p.s. Call me crazy, but with mad cow and the bird flu, it seems like we could solve a lot of problems by not mass-farming animals, ehh? Just an idea. But that is another post.