Excellent online biography of Sophia Fahs

Talbot School of Theology in La Mirada, California, is close to completing a massive project: a Listing of Religious Educators, capsule biographies of some 160 key figures in Protestant, Catholic, and Orthodox religious education.

A quick scan seems to reveal that just one Unitarian Universalist religious educator makes it onto the list: that person is Sophia Fahs. The capsule biography of Fahs, written by Lucinda A. Nolan, Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Catechetics, Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., is well worth reading. Of particular interest is Nolan’s careful and concise summary of Fahs’s theological development; through her curriculum books, Fahs had a major theological influence on Unitarian Unviersalism in the middle third of the last century, so her theological development had a significant impact on Unitarian Universalism’s theological development.

In addition to the capsule biography, Nolan provides an excellent bibliography, and offers several interesting excerpts from Fahs’s many books and articles. Many of the things Fahs said continue to be relevant today, such as this excerpt from Fahs’s last article, published in 1971:

“I believe that during the past as well as today Christian churches have been neglecting the children, even though Sunday Schools have been growing in size and equipment; and few theological seminaries give the education of the ministers to children their whole-hearted interest and respect…. At present it takes a very strong purpose and a willingness to sacrifice prestige for a man or a woman to enter the field of the religious education of the young. Ministers in preparation should be helped to feel more keenly the critical importance of the children.”

Since Fahs’s day, Unitarian Universalism has become a post-Christian religious body. Yet as someone who has moved from parish ministry to education ministry, I can attest to the fact that what Fahs said then remains true today: Unitarian Universalist ministers who start working with children and teenagers move down in the ministerial pecking order; and seminaries still do not adequately emphasize the critical importance of children and teenagers.

Link to the Fahs capsule biography.

Buds

As Carol and I went for a walk this evening, we passed by trees with swelling buds. Every so often I caught the scent of flowers blooming. This while the bulk of the United States east of the Rockies is being clobbered by a huge winter storm.

Update, 2/2: Headline on this morning’s edition of the San Mateo County Times, printed over photos of winter weather: “Aren’t you glad you live in California?”

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A little louder, please

A couple of evenings ago, Carol and I happened to be walking along the platform of the San Mateo Caltrain station on our way home. A woman sat on one of the benches, talking on her cell phone while waiting for a train.

“Tell her that you’re not going to have to talk with the D.A.,” she said in a clear, penetrating voice.

On the next bench over, another woman huddled into her jacket.

“No, tell her that the D.A. isn’t going to press charges,” she said, louder this time. “Just tell her that, OK?”

We walked by. In a low voice, I said, “That’s not the kind of conversation I’d want to have in public.” Carol chuckled.

Springtime

I had to talk with someone in New England, who happened to mention all the snow on the ground there. I told them that here in the Bay area, we’ve been having warm days, with temperatures in the 60s. I did not tell them that as I was driving to work yesterday, I noticed that new green leaves are appearing on some of the deciduous trees; that for the last few days the evening air has been filled with the scent of flowers; that on Sunday I stood and watched a gorgeous male Anna’s Hummingbird (Calypte anna) in fresh bright plumage feeding at the hummingbird feeder hanging near my office.

Tibetan Monks, closing ceremony

The Tibetan Buddhist monks spent their final morning at the Palo Alto church. In addition to completing the sand mandala, they chanted for ten minutes in each worship service. As beautiful as the sand mandala was, I enjoyed the chanting the most: something about the low notes they managed to produce with their throat-singing, or more properly overtone singing, really got to me.

And of course they destroyed the sand mandala in a closing ceremony. They chanted for a good twenty minutes, and then one of them walked around the table and then drew his hand radially out from the center across the design in each quadrant and then again between each of those places. Then another monk came and swept the sand into the center; he used an ordinary four inch paint brush, which I thought was a nice touch; the best religious ceremonies mix the sublime with the ordinary.

The closing ceremony, just before the monks destroyed the mandala.

After the ceremony was over, I was talking with someone who said that twenty minutes of their chanting was plenty for her; but I said I disagreed, and could easily have listened for another hour.

An anecdote

Every Monday night, I sing with a group of people over in Berkeley. We always take a break halfway through the evening, and tonight two of the singers told us how they got held up at gunpoint in front of their house, at 5 in the afternoon, in a good neighborhood in Oakland. They were unharmed, but both of them were quite shaken by the experience. They said that the police told them that the continuing recession has made crime worse.