Ubuntu Linux for Ministry: a feature for orders of service

So, this hasn’t been a weekly Thursday feature as I intended. Nor is this, properly speaking, a Ubuntu Linux-only feature, as it’s uses LibreOffice Writer, and that’s available for Windows and Mac OS X, too. (It is free and open-source software — FOSS — and you can get it here.)

A small thing — making it easy to put the information in an order of service (or a theater or music program) flush left and flush right respectively. Years ago, I would tab, tab, tab the biblical citation, or hymn name or the anthem composer over. Then I’d shim in extra spaces until the right margin wrapped to a new line…then I’d remove a space to pull the line back. It’s hacky, and never quite even. Here’s the right way.

Let’s start with a 5½ by 8½ inch page, as that’s letter paper folded in half and a common size for orders of service. And, for the sake of argument, half-inch margins. (Click the images to see them full-sized.)

To set the page size, use these menus. Format > Page > Page tab

Page style

Page style

Now, the idea of using tabs to set the left-hand information flush left and the right-hand information flush right isn’t entirely wrong. But the correct tab will be a “right tab” setting on the right margin. 5½ inch width, less a ½ inch margin on each side, and that means the “right tab” needs to be set at 4½ inches.

To add a tab, use these menus. Format > Paragraph >Tabs tab

Tabs tab

Tabs tab

As you see, you can use a “fill character” — like dots — to guide the eye. But that seems a little old-fashioned, so I didn’t; you may feel otherwise.

Which means in this example, you can type in “Opening hymn” and tab once to give its name.

Worked example

Worked example

And here is that file. Something to build on.

Is there something you’d like to see, to improve your church publications?

“The Poetic Expression of Unitarianism”

I’m going to meditate on the tradition of “lyric theism.” But first, some documents to give some context.

From Modern Words of Religion, edited by Carlyle Summerbell (1915)


The representative expressions of the Unitarian habit of mind are not to be sought in the fields of theological scholarship or Biblical learning, but in a lyric utterance of singular significance. “It is not an accident,” said one of the best interpreters of Unitarianism, “that out of a religious movement which is supposed to be a movement of sheer rationalism and dissent there has grown up the most clearly defined type of religious poetry which our country has produced. It is not an accident that the lyrics of Longfellow and Lowell and Holmes and Bryant and Emerson proceed from lives bred in the rational piety of the Unitarians. And when we pass from the great masters it is no surprise that from a group of minor poets of the same tradition — Samuel Longfellow and Samuel Johnson and Hedge and Hosmer and Gannett and Chadwick — there has proceeded a strain of lyric theism whose music penetrates many a church, the doors of which are closed against the poets. That means that beneath the vigorous rationalism or the sincere dissents of the descendants of the Puritans there is this deep movement of religious life, a consciousness of God that only a poet can express, a spiritual lineage that unites this little fellowship of free people to the whole great company of the witnesses of the real presence of God.

Saw in Toronto: picture of the church inside on the outside

I saw something clever when Husband and I vacationed in Toronto this summer. We passed by a United Church of Canada parish church — a huge edifice, with what I guess is historically small congregation. But they did something smart to make it seem welcoming and lively.  Something other urban churches could do.

On the church sign, which many pedestrians would pass, you would see a panoramic photograph of the church interior, taken during a Sunday service. So while I dimly recall the grey stone — or was it dark brick? — of the church, I recall the warm interior view well enough to write about it now…

Lost visions of Universalists: her enormous head

Meet Candace Lucretia Fulham Skinner. I found her through the Internet Archive image mass upload, in The Fulham Genealogy. She was married to a Universalist minister, but was a force, and a teacher and editor in her own right.

A force, it seems, presaged by her enormous head. But her whole story is grand. See highlights below, and you can read her whole biography in the book below.

Cover of: The Fulham genealogy by Volney Sewall Fulham

The Fulham genealogy

Candace Lucretia Fulham Skinner

Candace Lucretia Fulham Skinner

b. in Ludlow, Vt, April 28, 1828; d. Dec. 16, 1899 in Waterville; m. June 29, 1854, Rev. JOSEPH OBERLIN SKINNER, A. M., a Universalist Clergyman, b. Feb. IS, 1816; d. Jan. 12, 1879 in Waterville

During several of her latest years her sight was impaired so as to prevent any considerable use of her eyes in reading, writing, or study; and entirely incapacitate her for the various kinds of artistic work with a needle at which she was an adept, and in which she had found great delight.

She inherited in considerable measure the massive brain of her father, Sewall Fulham, her head having a circumference of 23½ inches, with much of his intellectual power and his marvelous memory; and she developed these to the uttermost by the studious habits of a lifetime. Her opportunities for instruction were limited to the common school and the village academy, in which she ranked as one of the best of her class; but in these she made only the beginning of her scholarly attainments, which finally reached a degree of excellence known to few.

For some years she was a teacher of public and private schools; and between 1847 and 1850 she taught French to pupils of the academy at Ludlow. In 1850 she became Preceptress of the Liberal Institute at Waterville, Me., a Universalist school, in which she was associated, first, with James P. Weston, D. D., afterwards Pres. of Lombard University; and finally with Harris M. Plaisted, in later times Member of Congress and Governor of Maine. Here her fitness for the position was so well recognized that, when occasion required, she was intrusted with the instruction of any and all classes. Her scholarly accomplishments included a thorough knowledge of the Latin and the French languages; a less acquaintance with the Greek and Italian; familiarity with botany; and the mastery of English in all its details. And she was an excellent mathematician.

On Sunday, Feb. 5, 1878, while engaged in a funeral service at the Congregational Church of Waterville, Mr. Skinner was prostrated by paralysis, which, after nearly a year of helplessness, caused his death. He had been Editor of the Universalist Register, a statistical annual of the denomination, for several years; and, during his disability, she gathered the data, prepared the copy, and directed the publication of the issue of 1879. In the following year she was appointed Editor by the Universalist Publishing House, and she continued the work until after the publication of the number for 1881, when a long and severe sickness terminated the employment.

Coding for …?

In my experience, attempts to introduce technology lessons for lawyers means an opportunity for clergy, too. Small-firm lawyers and clergy very often have this much in common: a need for technology, perhaps more than is currently thought, and few opportunities to learn about it, even though they have a deep educational background. I mentioned this resource for typography, later generalized. (Bookmark that second link; you can thank me later.)

So I intend to follow Coding for Lawyers the same way. Using Markdown (lesson2) for sermons — I do — is something I’d recommend for those who just need to “get it on paper” with a minimum of fuss.

Thanks to @internetrebecca (Rebecca Williams) for the citation.

Why Sunday?

A quick thought.

Why should the principal worship service be on a Sunday, particularly late Sunday morning? There are reasonable arguments for Christians, as it commemorates Christ’s resurrection. But that argues for a weekly sunrise service, and — let me tell you — if that were an option, I’d gladly take it. I don’t have to get up to milk the cows then walk miles to the chapel. The customary 11 a.m. service breaks up one of my day’s off. But I’ll gladly do it. Others won’t.

And for Unitarian Universalists, most of whom aren’t Christian, the remaining reasons are customary or cultural.

For new churches, who (1) have to appeal to people to take time to meet and (2) need to find a place to meet, Sunday morning must be the worst time, particularly since some of space best suited for worship are churches, and these are occupied then.

As I said, quick thought.

John Murray commemorated

Universalist pioneer and minister John Murray died this day in 1815. While known in his own day as Father Murray, and honored for his early leadership, his own theological views were largely disregarded in his own lifetime.

His works, formerly hard to find, have been brought to light again by scanning projects. His Letters and Sketches of Sermons are particularly noteworthy.

His autobiography, finished by his wife Judith Murray, was often cited as an influential spiritual classic.

Deconstructing the Messiah church order of service: the text

So, before I break this apart, I want to show you an old order of service from the defunct Church of the Messiah (Universalist) in Philadelphia. (I wrote about Messiah Home, it’s former retirement home here.)

Thanks to friend and Unitarian Universalist minister Hank Peirce for photo of the original text.

Church of the Messiah order of service


Broad St. and Montgomery Avenue
Philadelphia 22, Pa.


Organ Prelude

The congregation will stand for the


From all that dwell below the skies

Let the Creator’s praise arise,

Let the Redeemer’s name be sung,

Through every land, by every tongue.

The congregation will be seated for the

Invocation to be followed by

The Lord’s Prayer


Responsive selection

Soprano Solo


Prayer Organ Response







Moments of Silence

Organ Postlude

Lost visions of Universalists: glorious whiskers

I clearly need to let my facial hair grow out, and find some wax. Even today’s overwrought hipsters have nothing on these Universalists of yore.

Philo E. Thayer, brushmaker of Pawtucket, R. I.

Philo E. Thayer, brushmaker of Pawtucket, R. I.

Details here, in a 1896 book about the Ocean State’s leading men. Search for “Universalist” to find other laymen, though none has a moustache as profound as Thayer. Woonsocket homeopath Robert G. Reed comes close.

Universalist minister Francis  A. Gray

Universalist minister Francis A. Gray

Installed at the All Souls Universalist church in Worcester, Mass. in 1889; details here.

John C. Fox, dairyman, Dracut, Mass. (1908)

John C. Fox, dairyman, Dracut, Mass. (1908)

His bio, here, left column.