Global chalice lightings

The International Council of Unitarians and Universalists (ICUU) is now defunct, another victim of COVID. According to Inga Brandes, ICUU President in 2021, “With the Covid Pandemic, the climate Emergency, and underlying funding issues, ICUU is facing major problems of sustainability and impact.” And so we now have the International U/U Collaboration.

This is sad, but not entirely surprising. As I understand it, ICUU funding has been precarious for some time. All best wishes to the new group.

However, in the transition, the old ICUU website disappeared, along with some 212 “global chalice lightings.” The global chalice lightings were words for lighting the chalice, submitted by Unitarian / Universalist communities from around the world, and often translated into multiple languages. These were a tremendously useful resource. Not only did they give insight into the internal diversity of global Unitarian and Universalist communities, not only were many of them useful in worship services, but they also were one of the only linguistically diverse Unitarian Universalist resources we had.

Yes, we have UU hymns and readings in Spanish. But here in the United States, there are Unitarian Universalists who are fluent in many other languages, and/or whose first language is other than English. For example, in my past two UU congregations, I shared global chalice lightings in Portuguese, French, and German with native speakers of those languages. I’ve known one or two African American Unitarian Universalists who felt some connection to global chalice lightings from Nigeria, and the occasional Filipino American Unitarian Universalist pleased to see global chalice lightings from the Philippines.

I hope someone has saved all those global chalice lightings, and makes them available again. The new website of the International U/U Collaboration has less than a dozen of them. I can’t find them on the UUA website. I did manage to get all the global chalice lightings from 2003 through 2014 from the Wayback Machine. But after 2014, it’s much more difficult to pull the global chalice lightings from the Wayback Machine.

The ICUU global chalice lightings are undoubtedly covered under international copyright. So I’m not going to post any of them here on my website (though I’m willing to share them with individuals if you email me directly). And if you happen to have a collection of ICUU global chalice lightings from 2015 on, and you’re willing to share, please leave a note in the comments below!

Clerical stoles

In two earlier posts (one and two), I wrote about preaching gowns. Personally I’m not a fan of preaching gowns, but I understand why they can be of use. Now I’d like to think out loud about clerical stoles.

Stoles are those long pieces of cloth that clergy drape around their necks. The stole comes from the Christian tradition. I don’t remember Unitarian Universalist clergy using stoles until the 1980s. My recollection is that Eugene Pickett, when he was president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, insisted that clergy should wear stoles. By the 1990s, clerical stoles were pervasive in Unitarian Universalism. And by 2003, the year I participated in the Service of the Living Tradition as a newly ordained minister, I think I was the only minister who didn’t wear a stole.

Some people understand the stole to be a symbol of ordination. But choirs that wear robes often also wear stoles, and we generally expect most of our choristers to be non-ordained persons. So I’m not convinced that the stole is a symbol of ordination, and only to be worn by ordained clergy.

Also, stoles are reminiscent of other special religious clothing in other traditions. A stole is somewhat similar in appearance to the Japanese Buddhist wagesa, though the wagesa has very specific symbolic meanings (as I understand it) which obviously differ from any symbolism a stole might have. A stole is perhaps slightly reminiscent of the Jewish tallit or prayer shawl, insofar as it’s something to drape over your shoulders when engaging in religious observances.

It seems to me that there are other cultures that drape long pieces of cloth around your neck. Think of Hindu men who wear a dupatta over a sherwani for their wedding. I feel like there are other examples, though I can’t think of any right now. So even though there’s a strong connection between the stole and Christianity, it you take the cross off a stole maybe it’s not a Christian stole any more. When Unitarian Universalist minister Hank Peirce wears his Boston Bruins stole, there isn’t much connection between the stole and Christianity.

I don’t like wearing a preaching gown, but I feel reasonably comfortable wearing a stole. I think of it as a uniform. Like when I worked at the lumber yard, and I had to wear a shirt with a “Concord Lumber Corp.” patch over the shirt pocket, and my first name embroidered on the other side of my chest. (And yes, I’ve thought of having a stole made with a patch that says “First Parish Unitarian Universalist” on one side, and my name embroidered on the other side, but rejected the idea for obvious reasons.)

I wish I didn’t have to wear any special clothes to be a minister. As a Universalist, I think all humans are of equal worth, and wearing special clergy clothing sets my teeth on edge. But I realize that people want to see their clergy wearing some kind of uniform. For me, a stole represents a reasonable compromise between egalitarianism and the need for a uniform. So on Sunday, when I participate in the Town of Cohasset 9/11 observance, I’ll be in uniform, wearing a stole.

(Getting a stole for Sunday proved to be a challenge. I have a stole that my younger sister gave me when I was ordained, but it’s still in a moving container somewhere. I just found out about the Cohasset 9/11 observance, and had to get a stole on short notice. But finding a stole without any Christian symbolism on it, that could be overnighted to me, was a challenge. I finally found Threads by Nomad, a small company that’s trying to provide clothing that doesn’t do “damage to people or the planet.” They had clergy stoles on sale and they were able to overnight one to me. Sadly, it looks like they’re selling off their stole inventory, so maybe it hasn’t been a good business opportunity for them. Their website tells me that the stole I bought was “made from a fabric called mud cloth from Mali. Mud cloth is dyed using fermented mud — a traditional dying technique in many parts of the world but notably in West Africa. Our mud cloth is not mass produced and therefore every piece is different in design.” Since I’ve been strongly influenced by African philosophy, this seemed like a serendipitous find. Plus the stole was made by an “artisan [who was] fairly compensated.”)

Preaching gowns, part two

In a previous post I outlined some reasons why I don’t want to wear a preaching gown. In this post, I’ll do my best to give some of the many good reasons why Unitarian Universalist ministers should Geneva gowns, or other types of preaching gowns.

First, women ministers are held to impossible standards of dress, and for them a preaching gown makes sense. I have heard from many women ministers about the comments they have to endure from congregants about their clothes. I’ve heard about other women giving backhanded compliments on articles of clothing, compliments that are really criticisms. I’ve heard about men making inappropriate comments on how “sexy” or “attractive” a woman minister looked. As a man, I could deal with that kind of comment by wearing exactly the same kind of clothes all the time (which is in fact what I do), but women are held to a different standards and if they don’t wear a variety of clothes they are subjected to criticism. So if I were a woman minister, I wouldn’t want to deal with this kind of bullshit, and I’d seriously consider wearing a preaching gown.

Second, ministers who are not white typically experience varying levels of racism in our predominantly white Unitarian Universalist congregations. As an example, recently I heard about a minister of color who was told that they were very well-spoken — well of course they are, they have been trained in the art of public speaking, as have all ministers — white male ministers don’t receive this sort of backhanded compliment (sadly, white women do hear similar comments). If I were a person of color and a minister in a Unitarian Universalist congregation, chances are good that I’d want to wear a preaching gown.

Third, there are ministers who are poor dressers. I’m one of those ministers. I simply don’t pay attention to clothes most of the time. On one memorable occasion, I showed up at church on Sunday morning wearing a coat and trousers from two different suits. I frequently forget to fasten collar and cuff buttons. I have poor taste in ties. I try to remember to pay attention to my appearance, but I frequently forget; it’s not that I don’t care, I’m simply not aware. Ministers like me might to do better to wear wear a preaching gown, to save our congregations from occasional embarrassment. In my case, however, I’m sure I’d find ways to look slovenly in a preaching gown; the gown might hide some of my sartorial blunders, but not all of them.

Fourth, a preaching gown is a symbolic tie to Unitarian Universalist history. It’s not a wholly bad thing to be descended from the Protestant Reformation. Some of our most cherished values — freedom of individual conscience, the priesthood and prophethood of all persons, etc. — derive from the Reformation. Ralph Waldo Emerson wore a preaching gown, as seen in Daniel Chester French’s sculpture of the seated Emerson. Wearing a preaching gown can symbolize the tie to our most brilliant Unitarian minister, and to a host of other Unitarian and Universalist and Unitarian Universalist ministers.

In short, there are very good reasons for a Unitarian Universalist minister to wear a preaching gown. There are very good reasons for Unitarian Universalist congregations to want their minister to wear a preaching gown. Perhaps most importantly, given the persistent and pernicious sexism and racism in Unitarian Universalism (which is a reflection of the racism and sexism in our wider society), preaching gowns make a great deal of sense. Wearing a preaching gown can serve as a symbol that the person wearing it is a highly trained and skilled professional. Well-meaning white parishioners, and parishioners of all genders, may need this weekly reminder. The reminder of professional competence offered by preaching gowns might also be useful for ministers who are young, disabled, LGBTQ+, etc.

Indeed, white male ministers like me should probably consider wear preaching gowns to show solidarity with our ministerial colleagues. However, this must be balanced against another consideration. In my experience dealing with the aftermath of ministers who engage in unethical behavior and misconduct, I have a strong sense that misconducting ministers use all the little signs and symbols of authority to insulate themselves from being held accountable for their ethical violations. I believe some misconducting ministers have used the symbolic power of a preaching gown to allow them to hide from accountability. So white male ministers who choose to adopt the signs and symbols of ministerial power — preaching gowns, titles, and the like — must be careful to ensure that there are robust institutional structures in place to hold them accountable for their behavior. Actually, all ministers should make sure there are robust institutional structures in place to hold them accountable, but white male ministers need to be especially sure of this.

For me personally, the decision on whether or not to wear a preaching gown comes down to two competing demands. If I were to wear a preaching gown, I could express solidarity with non-white and non-male ministers. Balanced against that is my strong sense that wearing a preaching gown can serve as one of those little things that can serve to insulate ministers from ethical accountability. For me — not for anyone else, mind you, just for me — the balance is tipped in favor of any slight increase in ethical accountability. But I think for most ministers, and for most congregations, the balance will be tipped the other way.

Preaching gowns

I was trying to explain to someone why I don’t wear a preaching gown, or any other clerical vestments. It’s kind of a long explanation, so I thought I’d turn it into a blog post.

Unitarian Universalists ministers who wear gowns to preach typically wear one of two types of gown. If they have a doctoral degree, they can wear a doctoral robe. When I was a teenager, the minister of my Unitarian Universalist church was Rev. Dr. Dana Greeley. As I recall it, he wore his Harvard doctoral robe to preach: crimson fabric with black insets, and black velvet bars on the sleeves.

The other choice of robe is the traditional Geneva preaching gown. This is the gown worn by ministers in traditions that trace their lineage (to use a Buddhist term) back to the Protestant Reformation, particularly to John Calvin in Geneva. The Protestant Reformation put the emphasis on preaching the Word, and they wore gowns that resemble academic gowns showing the importance of their education, their focus on the Word.

Since I don’t have a doctoral degree, I’m obviously not going to wear a doctoral degree. My reasons for not wearing a Geneva gown are more complex.

First, I feel that Unitarian Universalism has drifted far enough away from Protestantism that Geneva gown have little symbolic value for us any more. A Geneva gown symbolizes Protestant shift from priest to preacher, where preaching the Word became central to the Protestant religion. Our worship services no longer focus on preaching as much as we used to — I remember sermons lasting for close to half the worship service, but today my sense is the typical Unitarian Universalist sermon lasts for about 15 minutes of an hour-long service. So we are not preaching as many words as we used to do. Nor is it clear to me that we are preaching the Word — capital “W” — that is, the Word of the Christian God. A Unitarian Universalist minister who is Christian might want to wear a Geneva gown. But even Unitarian Universalist ministers who are Christian need to preach to theologically and religiously diverse congregations, so the Geneva gown might be about as appropriate as the saffron robes of certain Buddhist monks. A Unitarian Universalist minister who wears a Buddhist saffron robe is making a definite statement about their religious outlook; if I were to wear a Geneva gown, I feel I’d be making an equally definite statement, and I’m not sure it’s a statement I want to make.

Second, Protestant ministers wear a Geneva gown to set themselves apart from ordinary members of the congregation. The gown is a sign of their special religious status. I’m not sure that Unitarian Universalist ministers actually have that kind of special status. I feel that my position as a Unitarian Universalist minister is closer to the position of rabbis as described by Coffee Shop Rabbi: “Rabbis are ordinary people with specialized knowledge. Unlike a priest, we do not have special powers. A rabbi is a person who has studied Torah, Jewish law and tradition. Someone, either an institution or another rabbi, has declared that they can call themselves ‘rabbi’.” As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I consider myself to be an ordinary person who has specialized training: a three and a half year graduate degree, a one year internship under an experienced minister, and clinical pastoral education. Both a local congregation and the Unitarian Universalist Association have declared that I can call myself “minister.” In my understanding, my specialized training does not give me a special status such that I need to wear special clothes to lead worship.

Third, anyone can lead a Unitarian Universalist worship service. We are not like many Christian denominations, where only a priest or ordained clergy can preside at worship services. (Nor are we like the Church of the Latter-day Saints, where only men can preside at services.) So you don’t need a special person to lead worship, and the worship leader doesn’t need special clothes to lead worship. Alternatively, if ministers wear special clothes to lead worship, then maybe ordinary Unitarian Universalists should, too.

Fourth, I’m a cheapskate, and Geneva gowns are expensive. Yes, you can purchase a polyester Geneva gown for under three hundred dollars. But I don’t want to purchase any artificial fiber clothes any more — artificial fibers are one of the chief sources of microplastics in the environment. And a natural fiber gown will cost upwards of $1,000. I find it hard to explain to myself why I’d spend well over $1,000 on a garment that I’d wear at most 40 hours a year. Better I should either put that money into my retirement savings, or give that money to a local homeless shelter.

There are lots of arguments about why Unitarian Universalist ministers should wear some kind of special clothes to lead worship. I’ll outline some of those arguments in a follow-up post.

Three books on Transcendentalism

Three recent books provide new insights into the nineteenth century Transcendentalist movement.

The Transcendentalists and Their World by Robert A. Gross (New York: Farrar, Strauss and Giroux, 2021).

Robert Gross is perhaps best known for his brilliant use of social history techniques in his 1976 book, The Minutemen and Their World. Social history was a mid-twentieth century intellectual movement that, rather than focusing on elite powerful figures, focused on the mass of people in a given historical era. In The Minutemen and Their World Gross and his research assistants pored through historical documents like voting records, deeds, tax rolls, and the like. Using both quantitative techniques, like statistical analysis, and qualitative techniques, he was able to tell a much richer story about the Minutemen of Concord, Massachusetts, and why they decided to take up arms against His Majesty’s troops.

After completing that book, Gross extended his research into nineteenth century Concord. He wanted to figure out why such a small town became the home of both Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau, two major Transcendentalist figures. He also wanted to find out more about the social and cultural milieu of Emerson and Thoreau, as a way to better understand their intellectual accomplishments.

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Alternative democracies

Unitarian Universalists claim that one of our central principles is democratic process. As our United States democracy seems on the verge of failing, maybe it’s time to look for new ideas in alternative forms of democracy. A recent paper by Stephen C. Angle titled “Confucian Leadership Meets Confucian Democracy” explores one such alternative democracy (Journal of Social and Political Philosophy [1.2 (2022): 121–135 DOI: 10.3366/jspp.2022.0021], available free online through October: https://www.euppublishing.com/doi/epdf/10.3366/jspp.2022.0021).

Wait a minute — Confucian democracy? I always thought Confucianism was hierarchical, not democratic. Apparently Confucian democracy is now A Thing. And I found some interesting ideas in this article that might help us rethink our hyper-individualistic democracy. For example, this passage explores how individuals must balance their moral intuition (which can get self-centered) against what’s going on in the world around them:

“[T]he right way to think about Confucian leaders is as a kind of external model or authority, vis-à-vis each individual citizen, and in this way they serve as a kind of institution: one among a number of necessary external checks on the individual judgment of any given citizen. Confucians, for all their stress … on the need for people to freely ‘get it themselves’, also emphasize the need for such external checks, other instances of which are teachers, parents, ritual instructions, and classic texts. The relationship between internal, personal attainment and matching with an external model is much debated within the tradition. Often, it seems as if a pendulum is swinging back and forth, from extremes of inner-reliance, through various more balanced positions, to extremes of outer-reliance, and back again. I feel that Confucians today can learn the most from the balanced positions that recognize the importance of both sides.

“One excellent example is the Ming dynasty Confucian Luo Qinshun (1465–1547). He was concerned about thinkers of his day who advocated sole reliance on one’s own moral intuition. He calls this ‘onesidedess’, and adds: ‘If one’s learning is not extensive and one’s discussion is not detailed, one’s vision will be limited by the confines of one’s own heartmind, and however one may wish to be free from error, it will be impossible’…. What, then, is one to do? [Luo] says: ‘Thus to “seek within oneself” one must begin with one’s own nature and emotions. One then goes on to extend to other things what one has perceived in oneself, and if it is found to be inconsistent, then it is not ultimate Pattern’…. Like most of his fellow Neo-Confucians, Luo holds that the coherent Pattern of the universe is one-and-the-same, no matter whether examined within oneself or in external things. Therefore, by looking for ways in which one’s own emotional reactions tally with external models (such as the reactions of role models to similar situations), one can locate Pattern within oneself and avoid being led astray by superficial or self-centered reactions. Similarly, if external models cannot be made to tally with one’s own emotions, then this is reason to question those models. The goal is to ‘achieve corresponding illumination of things and the self’….”

I like that Luo Qinshun wants to ensure that we aren’t led astray by self-centeredness. One implication: democratic leadership should maintain social structures that will help us avoid self-centeredness. That’s going to be a tough sell in the United States today. But it could be a bracing corrective to the hyper-individualistic self-centeredness that currently rules us.

I find Angle’s academic prose to be tough going. Still, lots of thought-provoking material in this paper.

Six more copyright free hymns

Clearing a backlog of copyright-free hymns from my music files.

I’ve just uploaded PDFs of 6 more copyright-free hymns to this Google Drive folder: “The Growing Light,” “A Hundred Years Hence,” “Peace, the Perfect Word,” “Prayer for This House,” “There Are Numerous Strings in Your Lute,” and “Turn Back.” Most of these hymns have appeared in UU hymnals.

Why copyright-free hymns? Because you don’t need a license, which smaller congregations may not be able to afford. Because you can do anything you want with them, including recording them, altering them, projecting lyrics and/or music, etc., etc. In this multiplatform age, we need more copyright-free hymns.

Of this batch of copyright-free hymns, you may be most interested in “There Are Numerous Strings in Your Lute.” Lovely words by Rabindranath Tagore, the Nobel prize winning author who was associated with the Brahmo Samaj, a South Asian spiritual movement which both was influenced by Anglo-American Unitarianism, and which had a powerful influence on Anglo-American Unitarianism. The music supplied for this text in Singing the Living Tradition is pleasant, but I don’t know anyone who’s ever actually sung it in congregational worship — it comes across as more of a choir anthem. I found two 19th century shape-note tunes that fit Tagore’s text reasonably well. I hope these two easy-to-sing tunes make it more likely that this lovely text is actually sung in worship.

Of the other hymns included here, “A Hundred Years Hence” is a feminist hymn; and both “Peace, the Perfect Word” and “Turn Back” are peace songs. Full information about tunes and texts is below the fold.

Now online: 87 total hymns, including 61 from the two current UU hymnals.

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Five more copyright free hymns

I’ve just uploaded PDFs of 5 more copyright-free hymns to this Google Drive folder: “Come By Here” (a.k.a. “Kumbayah”), “Many Thousand Gone,” “Nobody Know the Trouble I’ve Seen,” “Siyahamba,” and “Transience.” All these hymns have appeared in UU hymnals.

Why copyright-free hymns? Because you don’t need a license, which smaller congregations may not be able to afford. Because you can do anything you want with them, including recording them, altering them, projecting lyrics and/or music, etc., etc. In this multiplatform age, we need more copyright-free hymns.

Of the hymns I just uploaded, you might be most interested in “Come By Here.” This is often assumed to be a copyrighted song composed by Marvin Frey. My research shows that this is, in fact, a public domain song. In addition, most of us are sick of the usual, sing-around-the-campfire “Kumbayah,” which can sound a bit dreary. I found alternate public domain tune and lyrics that are more lively, more fun to sing.

“Transience” is also worthy of your attention. It’s one of the songs that got dropped in the transition from the 1964 Songs for the Celebration of Life hymnal to the 1993 Singing the Living Tradition hymnal. The text is by South Asian poet Sarojini Naidu. Not only is it a pretty good poem, but we need more hymns by Asian and Asian American authors and composers.

Information for the five songs is below the fold.

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Reopening

Here in Palo Alto, it feels like people are starting to return to church. It’s not like the pandemic has gone away. Here in Palo Alto, the Omicron surge has died down, but now we’re seeing a slight uptick in cases, probably caused by BA.2. Or caused by the lifting of indoors restrictions on masks. Or caused by hundreds of other random variables that we’re not aware of.

At the same time, we’re also becoming more aware of another public health problem — an increase in mental health issues among teens and children. Teen mental health problems began rising around 2009, but the pandemic prompted even more teen mental health issues. One probable cause: a rise in screen time. More screen time leads to more mental health problems. And the pandemic led to even more screen time.

I feel that our congregations are in a balancing act right now. On the one hand, we want to help control the virus, and we also want to remain accessible to people who are vulnerable to the virus. On the other hand, we know that our in-person programming can support positive mental health outcomes in children and teens. So we need to reopen to support good mental health, and we also need to promote COVID safety.

Right now, the Palo Alto congregation where I serve is reopening as fast as we can, while staying safe. We just figured out how to start offering child care for infants and toddlers once again. As the weather warms up, we’re seeing more preschoolers show up for outdoor play time — we had six preschoolers on campus this past Sunday, the first time we’ve had more than two since the pandemic began. We’re still not up to pre-pandemic attendance, but we’re getting there. And we’re still offering most of our programming outdoors, or in large rooms with small numbers of kids.

Reopening is a lot of work. But I don’t mind. It feels great having more people showing up in person again.

Where we are now with COVID and congregations

I’m watching the case rates in Santa Clara County, where the Palo Alto congregation is located. The 7-day rolling average is over 4,000 — yikes, that’s high. On the other hand, preliminary figures for mortality seem to show a low death rate — probably due in part to the fact that 82.8% of county residents have been fully vaccinated (thought only 58.2% of eligible residents have received boosters). But on the other other hand (that’s three hands, if you’re keeping track), anecdotal evidence from health care professionals says that ICU beds are getting full again, and elective surgeries and procedures that require an overnight stay in the hospital are being postponed.

Obviously, this is not where we hoped to be. But rather than feeling discouraged, I suggest we consider this as another problem in planning. So, how do we plan for next steps in our congregations?

First, just to say the obvious — any plan we make has to be flexible, to account for changing circumstances.

Second, to say something else that’s obvious — we’ve discovered that the big thing that draws many people to UU congregations is the community. Sure, we like the theology, but the big draw is a chance to be a part of a community with shared values. And many people want to get a regular dose of UU community in person.

Third, something else that’s obvious — we’re gaining a pretty good sense of what’s safest, and less safe. It’s safest to do in-person gatherings that are outdoors, distanced (or small groups), and masked. It’s less safe to do indoors events, but some indoors events are still possible in some circumstances. Instead of saying, “Oh we can’t do what we used to do, waaah!” we probably need to start saying, “Gee, what are our present options for fun and engaging communal events?”

So here’s one obvious thing I believe we should be doing: we should be planning outdoors events. Whatever that might be: outdoors worship services, outdoors small group meetings, outdoors classes. (And I know what those of you are going to say who live where winters are really cold — you’re going to say this doesn’t apply to you. Well, my-sister-the-children’s-librarian, who lives and works in Massachusetts, is doing outdoors story time for kids in the winter; sure, her attendance is lower, but people still show up.) It’s true that not everyone in your congregation is going to come to outdoors events, but I suspect enough people are hungry for in-person interaction that it’s worth doing.

Another thing I believe we have to do: start planning like COVID is not going away. I would love it if COVID suddenly decided to go away next month. But it now looks like there’s a good chance that COVID is going to become endemic. If it has become endemic, then we’re going to have to learn to live with it. So maybe we should start thinking about one or more of the following: requiring proof of vaccination; think about shorter indoor worship services (e.g., 45 min., to limit time spent indoors); adding more worship services (so you can have more smaller indoors services); creating permanent spaces for outdoor programs where possible; improving ventilation in indoor spaces; and/or many other things.

Another obvious thing we should do: for our online offerings, keep improving community interaction. I’ve been noticing that many people are getting better at participating in online events — video conferencing is a learned skill. Similarly, I believe many of us are getting better at facilitating online communal interactions. In my own case, I’ve become much better at teaching online, and at facilitating online meetings — again, these are learned skills. As we continue to get better at participating in and leading online events, one of our goals should be improving community interaction.

One final thing I believe we should be doing: we should go easy on ourselves. Yes, the pandemic is probably going to kill off some UU congregations; but if you start thinking that way, you’re liable to either get tense and stressed out, or sad and filled with grief, neither of which is going to help keep your congregation going. Of course, getting overwhelmed and doing nothing is also not helpful; my point here is that we do need to do something, we just don’t need to be overachievers. My primary rule for congregational life has always been: if it’s not fun, let’s not do it. This still holds true during the pandemic!

I’m actually feeling pretty positive about congregational life in the immediate future. Yes it’s different from what I’m used to, and yes it’s hard to let go of a lifetime of past expectations, and yes change is annoying and difficult. But new possibilities are opening up, and I’m actually feeling quite positive about the future of our congregations.