Visit to another congregation

Written on Sunday, March 25, but not posted right away due to press of events.

Carol and I went to the Sunday service this morning at the Open Circle Unitarian Universalist (UU) Fellowship in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. Carol’s dad went to services there before he died, and was warmly welcomed, so it seemed like a good place to go.

I was impressed by the congregation, and by some of the innovative things they’re doing. So here’s a quick summary of my impressions.

Open Circle share a minister with the UU fellowships in Green Bay and Stevens Point. The minister was present in person in Fond du Lac this week, while the Stevens Point and Green Bay folks watched him via livestream. In addition, several Fond du Lac members joined the service via Zoom. (Presumably some Green Bay and Stevens Point folks joined their congregations via Zoom as well, but I only happened to notice what happened in Fond du Lac.) Thus there were six groups of people joining in: in-person and Zoom participants from each of three congregations. I believe there were three people managing the tech in Fond du Lac: someone to operate the camera and sound board; someone to manage the Zoom meeting; and the minister managed the PowerPoint slides.

I noticed a few other technical points. Only the sermon was recorded, thus doing away with copyright problems for the music and readings. Both announcements, and joys and concerns, were done at the end of the service, after the Zoom session had split into three breakout rooms (one for each congregation), so no one had to worry about making announcements, or stating joys and concerns, that didn’t apply to the other two congregations. The children’s story was a video of a reading of a children’s book taken from the internet — this was probably the low point of the service for me, since the audio quality of that video was poor (needed EQ), and the background “music” was more repetitious than a video game. However, using such a video did away with possible copyright conflicts. All in all, I felt the video and audio technology was handled extremely well.

The whole service was very well done: smooth and competent, without going too far in the direction of the overly polished feel of glitzy mega-church worship services.

I wondered if coffee hour would live up to the high standards of the worship service. It did. People started talking with us from the moment we stood up at the end of the service. There was good conversation, fair trade coffee, and good snacks. Before we knew it, an hour had gone by. You learn a lot about a congregation from coffee hour, and clearly this was a congregation where people liked each other, and cared for one another.

In short, we both felt welcomed, both service and social hour were good, and I learned a lot watching how Fond du Lac handled multiplatform multicongregation worship services.


Some people here at the retirement community in Wisconsin measured up to 15 inches. But the temperatures are above freezing now, and the snow on Ed’s balcony is already starting to slump. People who live here are saying, “This is the last storm of winter. I hope.”

A courtyard surrounded by brick buildings, with trees and ground covered by snow.


Ed died this morning, peacefully in his sleep. Here’s a picture of him when he was 32, sitting next to his four year old daughter:

Man sitting at a picnic table looking at a young girl next to him.

His daughter doesn’t like this photo. She said: no one should be allowed to give little girls hair cuts like that. But since she never looks at this blog, I can get away with posting this. I think it’s a nice father-daughter photo.

One reason why young adults are leaving religion

According to Religion News Service, a recent survey by the Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) finds that young adults who are LGBTQ+ are likely to have no religious affiliation: “According to the report, LGBTQ Americans are more likely to have no religious affiliation (50%) than Americans in general (26%).”

No surprise there, given how hostile many religious groups still are to LGBTQ+ people. But what did surprise me is that nearly a quarter of young adults in the U.S. report that they are LGBTQ+ — way up from previous generations:

“PRRI’s researchers found that about 10% of Americans overall — almost half (46%) of them under the age of 30 — identify as LGBTQ: 3% as gay or lesbian, 4% as bisexual and 2% as something else. Nearly one-quarter of Americans under 30 identify as LGBTQ (23%).”

So of course young adults are going to stay away from organizations that signal fear, loathing, and hostility towards LGBTQ+ people. Why go someplace where either you or your friends are not welcome?

Mapping sea level rise

Back in 1970s, while still in high school, I was really into topographic maps. I tried making topo maps of parts of Concord, Massachusetts, where I then lived. This was back in the days of drawing with pen and ink on paper, so making maps was challenging and fun.

I remember reading somewhere about what was then called the “greenhouse effect,” which would prompt the melting of the polar ice caps. I forget the amount of sea level rise predicted. But when I looked at a topo map of Concord, most of the town would be underwater, with just a few of the tallest hills was islands.

Yep, we knew back then about what is now called global climate change. Then, as Michael Mann has documented in his book The New Climate War, the oil companies conducted a massive disinformation campaign. The oil companies basically hijacked our elected officials while we weren’t paying attention. And here we are today, even more worried about sea level rise.

With all that in mind, I was glad to find the Conspiracy of Cartographers website. They make maps showing what things will look like if the sea level rises 66 meters — the current best estimate assuming all the polar ice melts. Here’s a link to their map of the Boston area. I love their place names: Concord Bay, Lexington Archipelago, Flint Island — this last represents what is now high ground to the east of Walden Pond. Here’s a screen grab of part of their Boston map:

Screen grab of part of a fictional map showing sea level rise west of Boston.
Screen grab of a small part of the Conspiracy of Cartographers map of Boston

Beautiful maps. And depressing. And a very good corrective to the decades of lies and misinformation emanating from the oil companies.

Spring chorus

On Friday when I went for a walk in Whitney Woods here in Cohasset, the marshes were silent. On Saturday, I heard a chorus of frogs calling from a couple of marshes and one vernal pool. When I returned on Sunday, the temperature had dropped 20 degrees, from about 54 degrees to the mid-30s. There were a lot fewer frogs calling on Sunday, but some were still singing away. They sounded like a bunch of ducks gabbling together.

Whenever I tried to get close enough to see them, all I ever saw was a circular ripple where a frog slipped underwater. Nevertheless, identification was relatively easy. Here’s the description of the voice of the Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica) in the Peterson Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians: “A hoarse clacking sound suggesting the quack of a duck.” Another source says: “from a distance, a chorus [of Wood Frogs] sounds like a gathering of miniature ducks quacking.”

I’ll let you decide if they sound like ducks or not. Here’s my lo-fi audio recording:

Noted without comment

Historian David Hackett Fisher’s latest book is titled African Founders: How Enslaved People Expanded American Ideas (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2022) In his discussion of the eighteenth century in French Louisiana, Fisher says:

“The French know it well and say it best: plus la diversité, plus l’unité. In the age of the Enlightenment, David Hume and James Madison were were both quick to understand the uses of that idea. They helped to invent a new science of politics, and inspired the design of the early American republic, which was grounded in the uses of diversity as keys to liberty and freedom. In a later era, some of us have forgotten what they had learned.” [p.486]

Random observation

One of my leisure-time projects for this year has been learning a bit of ukulele. So I’ve been watching a lot of videos of young ukulele players. And it suddenly occurred to me that many of the best young ukulele players are racially very diverse: Abe Lagrimas, Jr., Taimane Tauiliili Bobby Gardner, Rio Saito, Honoka Katayma. Yes, there are fabulous young white uke players, like Britni Paiva and Andrew Molina. But more seem to be non-white and/or mixed-race. Maybe this is just because the younger generation is majority non-white. Or maybe because the best uke players seem to come from Hawaii, which is racially very diverse. Of course, the most famous young ukulele player is white — that would be Billie Eilish (not that her ukulele playing is particularly good).

Learning experience

At this morning’s meeting of the South Shore UU ministers, one of the topics we discussed was elder abuse. It turns out that in Massachusetts are not mandated by law to report elder abuse, though we are mandated reporters of child abuse. We do have the option of reporting elder abuse, though people who are not mandated to report elder abuse must use a different reporting method from mandated reporters. After the meeting, I tried to find out what exactly constitutes elder abuse. I was hoping for some kind of online training, similar to the excellent online training for reporting child abuse, but I wasn’t able to find a thing. I found a couple of generalized lists on the state’s website, but nothing that explained in detail.

All in all, this was a real learning experience. Mostly what I learned is that elder abuse is not taken as seriously as child abuse.