Hot and humid at midafternoon, with a sky that threatened thunderstorms later. I drove out of the Ferry Beach Conference Center campground and headed towards Biddeford and Interstate 95. Slow going through Saco and Biddeford, moderately heavy traffic on the interstate. After I turned on to 495, I could see that the northbound side had very heavy traffic, which came to an almost complete stop at the approaches to 95 north, 93 north, and 3 north; presumably vacationers heading north. It was hazy, hot, and humid, and the thick hot air made distant hills look bluish. I made a quick stop in Stow to eat dinner with Carol and her dad, and then got back on the road. Lots of traffic through Worcester, then a little less through the eastern hills of Connecticut, then more traffic around Hartford, along with heavy rain and lightning. The rain ended leaving a faintly pink sky in the dying light, then light traffic through the steep hills of western Connecticut. A maddening construction delay, then at last I made it to the motel feeling frazzled. This morning I was awakened in my tent by the sound of a Wood Thrush singing.
Ferry Beach, Saco, Maine
Sometime after first light this morning, I came partially awake when a Wood Thrush (Hylocichla mustelina) started singing not far from the campground: three or four or five flute-like notes followed by a sort of trill. Birds don’t have larynxes; instead they have syrinxes, which in some species can produce more than one note at a time. Wood Thrushes have an amazingly rich and complex song; the first flute-like notes change in pitch and duration and sometimes seem to include more than one note, and the final trill might incorporate a buzzy sound and flute-like tones and more. The basic structure of the song is always the same, but each iteration of the song is slightly different; I can listen to a Wood Thrush without boredom for a very long time.
I drifted off to sleep, but while sleeping kept listening to the song, which went on and on and on. I had a dream in which I was listening to a Wood Thrush. I kept coming partly awake and marveling at the song, and then telling myself that I had to get some sleep. At last I fell sound asleep, and the alarm awakened me right at 7:00. The Wood Thrush was still singing. I listened as I pulled on my socks and shoes. I kept listening as I walked over to the wash house. I took a quick shower, walked back to my tent, listening to the Wood Thrush, trying to figure out where it was. I thought I might walk over and try to see it. But by the time I got back to my tent, at about 7:15, it stopped singing.
Here at Ferry Beach Conference Center, there’s always singing after dinner, led by the musician of the week. Although I usually duck out before the singing starts because it gets way too loud, tonight the decibel level promised to be bearable so I stayed.
The song leaders had us sing “The Garden Song” by David Mallet. Now, this is Heidi’s favorite song, and Heidi, who has been coming to Religious Education Week for decades, was unable to come this year. So when we started singing, Joyce called Heidi, got her voice mail, and held up her cell phone so we could all sing into it. We all knew Heidi would actually appreciate this gesture.
I started thinking: Do we have a similar sense of attachment to our regular congregations? –would you ever call someone who couldn’t come on Sunday morning, and hold up your phone so that person could hear the congregation singing a favorite hymn? What if we sent notes to a person who couldn’t come some Sunday morning — would that person appreciate those notes?
Here at Ferry Beach Conference Center, the Ferry Beach Ecology School has established an organic garden that also serves as a place to teach children. I’ve uploaded photos of this outdoor classroom to Flickr, with lots of explanatory captions. It’s both attractive, and well-designed for teaching.
Seeing this has really gotten me excited. Now I want to establish something like this for my own congregation!
I just talked with someone around here who wants to explore current Universalism within the Unitarian Universalist Association. I told this person that I thought of myself as a Universalist, but that I have to get outside the Palo Alto church (which has a decidedly Unitarian orientation) to get my Universalism fix. And how exactly do I get my “Universalism fix”? this person wanted to know. Well, by hearing good kick-butt Universalist preaching, and by talking to some real Universalists. And who are the preachers who still deliver kick-butt Universalist sermons? –and who are the “real Universalists”? this person wanted to know. Well, I had to admit that many of the “real Universalists” who have kept me going me are either dead (like Bob Needham), or on the East Coast (like Richard Trudeau). As for kick-butt Universalist preachers, there’s Gordon McKeeman, but he’s not preaching regularly any more, and sometimes I hear some real Universalist preaching at Ferry Beach, the Universalist conference center in Saco, Maine.
These were not very satisfactory answers, I’m afraid. Therefore, I’m going to plug into my online Universalist hivemind. If you’re a Universalist, how and where and from whom do you get your regular Universalism fix? Be specific and name names: Universalist preachers, congregations, persons, places.
I have no shame about promoting Religious Education Week, July 10-16, at Ferry Beach in Maine: we have truly kick-ass programming line up. Not only do we have excellent programs for religious professionals and serious volunteers, we also have an excellent children and youth programming, and a tradition of superb intergenerational community — it’s worth attending just to watch the intergenerational programming in action. We often have people attend from as far away as Illinois and Ohio; I’ve coordinated conferences at Ferry Beach that drew people from as far away as New Mexico and Alaska. If you’re involved in religious education, you should think about attending.
Workshops for religious professionals:
Adult OWL Training — Get trained to lead the Our Whole Lives comprehensive sexuality education program for adults. Our trainers will be Chris and Rev. Bobbie Nelson, both long-term experienced sexuality educators. You simply cannot find better OWL trainers than Chris and Bobbie nelson!
Worship Renaissance Module — The well-known UUA training in how to do worship for all ages. Led by Rev. Liz Strong, recently retired district religious education consultant for Mass. Bay District, and Sadie Kahn-Green, DRE at Chelmsford, Mass., both of whom are experienced at leading worship with all ages.
New DRE workshop — Relentlessly useful introduction to everything you need to know as a new religious educator. For religious educators who have been serving for up to three years. Seminarians also welcome. Led by Rev. Dan Harper.
Social Media and Religious Education — Learn about Facebook, Twitter, blogs, and other social media, and how to integrate them in religious education. Led by Shelby Meyerhoff, Public Witness Specialist at the UUA, and Will Kahn-Green, project manager at the Participatory Culture Foundation.
DRE Credentialing workshop — Join with other DREs pursuing UUA credentialing, for support and study. Led by Rev. Helen Zidowecki
Conference staff include: Continue reading
After William Bell preached his sermon excoriating Christianity in December, 1874, First Universalist Church in New Bedford called an experienced minister. Rev. Jeremy Hoadly Farnsworth had been a Universalist minister for 30 years when he arrived in New Bedford, having served congregations in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Maine, Rhode Island, Virginia, and Iowa. He supported various reform movements, including temperance, women’s rights, and peace; before becoming a minister, he had worked in a cotton mill, and he was said to support workers’ rights. His obituary in the 1900 edition of the Universalist Register stated: “His home was happy. His churches peaceful and prosperous”; but there was no mention of the quality of his preaching.
Farnsworth was followed by Rev. William Curtis Stiles, who preached from 1878 to 1880. After the Pocasset Tragedy of 1879, where two parents murdered their child in an act of religious fanaticism while trying to re-enact the Biblical story of Abraham and Isaac, Stiles had a brief moment of fame. His sermon on the subject was published in a booklet titled History of the Pocasset Tragedy, with Three Sermons Preached in New Bedford. One of the other sermons was by William Potter, the older and better-known minister of the Unitarian church in New Bedford.
After having served two years as the Universalist minister in New Bedford, Stiles renounced Universalism; he was converted to orthodox Congregationalism by Rev. A. H. Heath, the minister of the North Congregational Church. Stiles left New Bedford to become the pastor of the East End Congregational Church in Brooklyn. Stiles apparently left some turmoil behind him in the Universalist church, for the church did not call a new settled minister for two years. During that time, Rev. Charles Rockwell Tenney, the minister of the Mattapoisett Universalist church, traveled each week to New Bedford as a supply preacher. Continue reading
For now, all I’m posting is today’s session plan. Later, I’ll find time to post more, including some feedback from the evaluation I did with program participants.
Older posts on ecojustice activities at Ferry Beach:–
Read the session plan…. Continue reading
We spent the session working on the projects the participants started three days ago. Both groups finished their projects, which are now posted on this blog.
The writing group did a blog post exclusivity at Ferry Beach Conference Center in Saco, Maine: read their post here.
The video group made an online video on the ecological problem unfolding at Ferry Beach: read their post here.
Your comments on their projects are welcomed at those blog posts.