Thursday, November 30, 2006

Bones to Chew On

We recently had a meeting at our church about our midday service. There are some questions about how this service will develop, and even if it will continue at all. The committee that has worked tirelessly making this alternative worship service vibrant and unique is stressed by the demands of the job and the lack of response from the congregation as a whole. I understand exactly where they are coming from. I would like to see the service develop and get more support from other members of our church and bring in new folks from the community, but as so often happens in our congregation, programs that are initially met with enthusiasm are not supported in the long term. The midday service meeting and the meeting of committee chairs last night has caused me to do a lot of thinking. Our congregation is not unique in having difficulty getting members to do the many volunteer tasks it takes to run a church, but we do seem to have more leadership burnout than most churches or organizations to which I have belonged.

I think it was Eric Hoffer who said that the mind needs a bone to chew on, and my mind always has some puzzle to gnaw at as I go about my business. So this is the bone for today, why does our congregation have so much difficulty maintaining and developing programs and why are we burning out our leaders? It isn’t a new bone for me, but one I’ve been gnawing on for quite a while.

Another bone I have been gnawing on is what I want from a worship service. One thought is that when I come to a service, I am as much responsible for making something happen for me as those who have planned the service. I am even wondering if worship is the right word for what I want from the service. The dictionary defines worship as:
“reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred. A formal or ceremonious rendering of such honor and homage.” Most of the time, I do not go to a service to honor or pay homage to a superior entity. One thought is that I go to become connected to the spiritual side of myself and connect with others in a spiritual way. I’m not sure exactly what that means. Well, I am off to work, and to gnaw on my bones.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Charlie Brown and Survival of a Species

Excerpted from the sermon "The First Day and the Rest of Your Life" delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Akron by our Minister Emeritus; Rev. Gordon McKeeman - January 2, 1972

Charlie brown and Linus are walking along and Linus says to Charlie Brown, "I have a theological question. When you die and go to heaven, are you graded on a percentage or on a curve?" And Charlie Brown says, "On a curve naturally;" to which Linus responds, "How can you be so sure?" and Charlie Browns says, "I'm always sure about the things that are a matter of opinion."

perhaps we ought to take a cue from Charlie Brown, that is to say, certainties are a matter of opinion, not a matter of fact. Certainties are our fundamental premises which are, to use another word, our faith. And we are always sure about things that are a matter of opinion, aren't we? Well, what are some of these certainties which are, in fact, only our assertations?

Let's begins with one - the notion, the belief, the certainty, as it where - that there is an ordering process going on in us and about us, and that survival is it's goal, and that process rewards adaption. What does it mean? It means that if we learn how to live within the circumstances, the conditions, the environment, these learnings have survival value. The cockroach managed it and the dinosaur didn't. The question before us, of course, is whether human beings are going to learn it or not, and that is at this point an open question. It is one of the uncertainties.

But the certainty that lies behind it is that this ordering process will reward adaption with survival and non-adaption with extinction. In the the long run, then, morality is based upon survival value - that which is moral enables people to survive, that which is immoral does not enable them to survive. How to apply that is a problem. For example, violence in the form of predation (the praying of one specie upon another specie for purposes of it's survival) does indeed have survival value. So if you happen to be a wolf, to be a good predator is the means of your survival and that involves violence.

The question is whether violence has survival value for human beings. What are we predators upon? Ourselves? One another? While most animals have natural enemies, man apparently has no natural enemies, and violence in the hands of mankind does not insure his survival. It does, in fact, threaten it. Therefore, in trying to find out what things we ought to be embracing, the question of whether or not value is capable of ensuring or enhancing the possibilities of survival is one yardstick to use.

Using this yardstick, one discovers a very interesting thing. Such moral values of love, and honesty, and acceptance are not simply preferences of human beings, they are really imperatives of human beings because mankind is one and violence and hostility do not have survival value but love, and honesty, and acceptance do have survival value. Now you may find many other kinds of values which, by this yardstick, are useful in that they suggest the possibilities of survival of the human species and it's growth toward it's potential which some of us dream to be a world of peace and good will. But these things require changes in human beings. So we go from the rest of your life back to the first part, which is about the first day. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. How are we to start the necessary kinds of change in us, and in others, to enable us to survive as a species?

... to be continued

It's the Most Wonderful Time, of the Year

Saturday, December 9 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sunday, December 10 from 11:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
(for church members)
Purchase many unique holiday gifts from a wide variety of
talented vendors! Please contact Vicki Brown with questions.

Saturday, December 16 at 5:00 p.m.
Be sure to sign up for our traditional Holiday Potluck
dinner gathering at 5:00 p.m.
Dinner will be served at
6:00 p.m.

Friday, December 22, at 7:00 p.m.
The Celtic Wheel of the Year turns to the Winter Solstice,
the shortest day of the year. Yule is the celebration of the
return of the Sun God and longer, brighter days to come.
If you are able, please bring a dessert or snack to share
for "wassailing" in the McKeeman Room after the service.
To help with the service, contact Rebekah Benner.

Sunday, December 24 at 7:00 p.m.
Worship Leaders: Nancy O. Arnold and Rich Roberts
We will gather as families to celebrate the spirit of
Christmas with traditional readings and carols, concluding
with the singing of Silent Night and the lighting of candles.
Please bring a dozen cookies to share during our fellowship time.