Tuesday, January 31, 2012

"There is not a truth existing which I fear, or would wish unknown to the whole world."
Thomas Jefferson

My Life with the Unitarians

My interest in and experience with the Unitarian Universalist Church has been an ongoing and interesting one. While in seminary and pastoring a church one of my members asked me to join her in marriage to a Unitarian man, and to have his pastor share in the ceremony. I found the UU minister quite open and cooperative and cxame from that experience with a postitive felling about the denomination.
In about 2003 one of our PET volunteers, Lee Jones, told me of a forum group in which he participated at his UU church, and mentioned the kinds of speakers they had. I was particularly interested in one and Lee invited me to attend the gathering held each Sunday morning at 9 a.m. I became "hooked" on the Forum and have been there each Sunday since, dropping Barbara off at her church and returning there fo rthe 11 a.m. worship service.
In the seven years I have participated I have sat at the feet of a wide array of speakers from this university town. The presentations have challenged my thinking, enriched my mind, and deepened my spirit. The topics have enabled me to hear from those leading in the political, business, intellectual, spiritual and artistic interests of my town. I can honestly say that there has not been one program that was not well worth hearing. I trust that was also true for the several programs I ahve been askd to present.
The UU church has played a long and admirable place in our world's history, with its members including such as Thomas Jefferson, Charles Darwin, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Susan B. Anthony, Dorothea Dix, P.T. Barnum, Abigail Adams, Whitney Young, Clara Barton, Beatrix Potter, Louisa May Alcott, Dr. Albert Schweitzer, Alexander Graham Bell, Joseph Priestly, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Frank Lloyd Wright and Adlai Stevenson.
Univeraslist churches were first formed around 1790 to counter the widespread belief that only a select few would be saved. Universalists believed in "univeral salvation" because they thought a merciful God would not condemn anyone to eternal punishment.
The UU Church has no creeds or dogma, but share seven basic principles:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations
  3. Acceptance of one another ad encouragement to spiritual gwoth in the congregation
  4. A free and resonsible search for truth and meaning
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within the congregation and society at large
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part
A UU church bulletin contains this message: "If our principles relect your values, we invite you to consider becoming part of our church community."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

"Skins may differ, but affection dwells in white and black the same." - William Cowper

My Two Years as a Tri-Delt

As I ponder 86 years of living I realize that I have had a wide variety of experiences that have my life highly interesting. One of those was the fact that I lived for two years in the Delta Delta Delta sorority house at 901 Richmond in Columbia. In the late summer of 1941, with $250 in the bank and a $250 Sears Roebuck Scholarship, I hitched a ride to Columbia two weeks before school started to find a job to earn living money as a student. I found a rooming house and began to walk the streets asking for work. I wandered into what I came to know as “Greek Town” and the maid at the Tri-Delt Sorority house hired me to mow the lawn and cultivate the shrubs. Apparently I did a good job, for she then had me do som painting and other odd jobs. The housemother came and asked me if I would like to move in as house-boy. I would live in the basement, fire the furnace and water heater, make salads, wash dishes, serve meals, and do whatever needed to be done. That meant free room and board, so I took the job.

The maid, Hattie Miller, and the cook, Beulah Gray, were black persons. I had grown up in an all white area of Southwest Missouri and had seen black persons only at a distance. I will always be grateful to both of them, for they were wonderful persons and treated me with love and respect. It was my privilege to have a close relationship with them and their families for the two years I worked there. This, I think, colored my relationship with persons we now call African American.

Once the girls move in I was told that I was expected to help serve lemonade and pastries at “rush parties.” I had no idea what they were, but I put on my little white monkey coat and followed directions. Another student, Toby, was there to help me. Several parties a day were held and we began to run out of drinking straws. Beulah and Hattie were gone, so Toby and I began to wash the straws between servings. But some had lipstick on them that would not come off, so we took a pair of scissors and cut them off. When they became too short to reach the top of the glass we discarded them. About that time Beulah came back and saw what we were doing. First she rolled with laughter, then cussed us out, and sent Toby off to the drugstore for more straws.

Living with 65 college girls overhead was a very new kind of experience for me. I had one brother and no sisters. I had grown up poor and they were all from affluent homes. But it was not their lifestyle that shocked me so much as the fact that they wasted so much food. They wanted and got the best, but often just nibbled at it and we threw it away. I started taking them the smaller steaks and keeping the big one for myself until Beulah caught me.

Hairpins were in vogue then, and they kept me running in and out of the girls bathrooms. Each of the two dorm floors had one bathroom with a “gang” shower and six laboratories. Hairpins would get into the drains, clog with hair, and Hattie would say, “Melvin, there are two clogged drains on the second floor and three on the third.” After a bit of experience, I had my response down to a routine. I grabbed my bucket and two wrenches, yelled, “Man on second,” and went to work. In a couple of minutes I could remove the catch pipe, dump the hairpins and gunk, and put it all back in order. I did have some interesting times when girls did not hear me call out, “Man on second.”
I had a nice little apartment, the best of food and a four hour a day job at the University
bookstore for spending money, making 35 cents per hour. What more could one want?  

Monday, November 28, 2011

"If a thousand old beliefs were ruined in our march to truth we must still march on." - Stopford A Brooke.

Theological (?) Statements I Decry

I grew up in a very conservative “Bible-Belt” community in southern Missouri. As I matured my common-sense approach to life caused me to begin to rebel against many affirmations I heard about religious views. College education and seminary added to my resistance against statements that are so often rather freely quoted as truth, when they are far from that and are in reality heretical to logical thinking and my understanding of Biblical truths. They can also be spiritually damaging to those who freely accept them as truth. I will list a few such statements:

·         God spared his life because He had something special for him to do. This is frequently heard after some disaster such as a plane wreck, when several or many die, but one or a few remain alive. The logical assumption then is that God has nothing for the others to do, so he caused them to be killed. I reject that.

·         Your little boy was so cute that God wanted him up in heaven so He took his life. A young family with a three year old son joined our church – new Christians and new members. Soon after that they were asphalting the street in front of their home and there was a long pile of gravel in the middle of the street as part of the process. Their little son had great fun running over that gravel, and was doing so when a neighbor came along in his car and ran over and killed the boy. Several well-meaning people used the phrase at the beginning of this paragraph to “comfort” them. They left the church and never returned, nor would I have.

·         This is the Word of God. The way this phrase is used and interpreted seems to imply that God reached down at some time years ago and dictated the words of scripture in some intimate way that gives each word a special and literal meaning. I with the reader would say something like this:  “These are the words of a few dozen persons, written thousands of years ago, by men (no women) who lived in a world they understood to be three-layered, with a heaven above and a hell below. Almost 2,000 years ago they were selected from any such writings by men (no women) who argued for three years about their authenticity. These words are useful to us today as we seek to develop our own understanding of our relationship to the Eternal.”

·         Daddy is up in heaven now looking down on all of us. How often we hear this in a time of death and a funeral. My first reaction is that if that literally so I’ve seen many occasions when Daddy would not be very happy about what he saw the family doing. Whatever the afterlife is like it is not a utopia just avove the fluffy white clouds through which we fly jet airplanes and shoot space ships, with Daddy snooping on us as we prepare to meet him there and explain what he saw. But one does not try to explain that at the graveside.

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

"Got no check books, got no banks. Still I'd like to express my thanks - I got the sun in the morning and the moon at night." Irving Berlin