The page turned to GA 2016

I stumbled across the webpage of the Unitarian Universalist Association General Assembly, which talks about — in broad terms — next year’s convention.

It’s in Columbus, Ohio.

It’ll certainly be less expensive for more people than last year’s (Portland, Oregon) and possibly than 2017 GA in New Orleans, as Columbus is a lower cost city for hotels and nearer the population centroid for Unitarian Universalists, which is in Illinois.

I hope to be there. So what great plans can we make with the opportunity?

“A Fruitful Life”

It’s been a hard day, and seeking solace, turned to prayer. I pulled this book off my shelf because the title — Light and Peace — spoke to me. It’s a collection of prayers by Charles Hall Leonard, published by the Murray Press, a Universalist publisher, in 1915.

Leonard (1822-1918) was an outsized figure in Universalist history, was a professor and later dean of the theological school at Tufts, and remembered today I’d guess for creating Children’s Sunday, though readers of this blog may be more interested to know that he was the unacknowledged author of A Book of Prayer for the Church and the Home, or what I call usually “the Universalist prayerbook.”

Elmer Hewitt Capen
Elmer Hewitt Capen
One prayer “in memory E. H. C.” bears repeating here. That was the thirty-years’ Tufts president and Universalist minister Elmer Hewitt Capen, who died in office in 1905.

Prayers for deceased ministers have a special place in my heart, and particularly  as Terry Burke, the long-time and much-loved minister of First Parish in Jamaica Plain was laid to rest today, and with whom some day we shall each share glory.

A Fruitful Life

O God, our heavenly Father: To whom can we go, but to Thee, who art our strength in weakness, our light in darkness, and our comfort in sorrow? To-day, we know not how to speak to each other, nor how to interpret to ourselves. We turn to Thee, and, first of all, beseech Thee to awaken within us the memory of all that has been precious in the life of our great friend and leader: his wise devotion to the college into which he built his life; his intelligent administration of its affairs in a manifold range of usefulness bearing upon its progress and growing facilities, and in that loving care and interest which reached the endeavor and the struggle of the humblest student. Help us to recall the calmness of his thought, his unselfish regard for others, his generous approval of all that is right and good, and his Christ-like pity and forgiveness toward all the weak and sinful. We remember the words, spoken in private and in public, which move us to-day with new power, because of this mystic silence.

We desire also to remember all that he was and is, and will be to us, as a part of permanent influence in all the relations which distinguished his life: in the privacy of his home, in the maintenance of a loyal service to the church, in all his efforts as an educator, and in the ampler calls of citizenship.

Help us, O God, in our sense of gratitude for all that this full life has been to us now that we read it anew, know anew its noble witness to learning, to charity, to religion, and get its larger message as from open skies.

Goddard Chapel
Goddard Chapel at Tufts
We bow down before Thee, with whom are the issues of life and of death. Help us all to that acquiescence in grief, which, year by year, has been taught from this place, and, above all, breathed in the prayers that here have daily been put up in our behalf. Help these sorrowing teachers who waited for his step, were cheered, day by day, by the denials he so patiently took up, and were inspired more and more by his confident sympathy. We remember before Thee those who, in great procession along the productive years, moved through these halls, and bore hence the mark of the man they had learned to know, to honor and to love. And grant Thy especial favor to the students, in all ranks, and in all places, here and there, who are now enrolled as members of the college. Have regard unto their sad and questioning hours; and give joy to them also, that they came to know so well the man and president who greeted their coming at first.

And now, what wait we for but for grace and power, both for mind and heart; new motive in view of a great example; new ability to take up the tasks which a great leader has laid down; and new light, also, for comfort to those whose sorrow to-day is deepest, that there may be to them one fixed and tranquil object of thought and affection; and help us all to see that it is no fractional life that we are called to contemplate, but a life, forecast and fashioned in accomplishment, opening more and more into its own power and beauty, and, at the last, opening forth towards the realities of a world from which all veils were taken away. O God, most merciful and gracious, open our eyes to that grateful vision, that so we may be enabled to go on, to bear up, and to find our highest joy and peace in the field of duty to which now Thou dost send us back, and in the entrusted daily care to which Thou hast appointed us. Grant that, from the trembling moments of our human life, and from the mourner’s watch, we may go forth with uplifted heart, and a diviner purpose, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

Printing out pages for a sermon or service book

After much trial and error, I have come up with this method of printing a service or sermon text to be put in a small binder for use in worsip, using free and open source software. And I thought it was worth sharing with you.

First you will need to download the LibreOffice office suite; a version 5.0 has just been released but I use, so I’m just hoping there’s not much of an apparent difference.

Also, ideally the Linux Libertine Graphite type face. (That typeface is free to use and share, and has features  that I will describe later.)

You will also need a half sized binder (like this one) and page protectors.

The trick is composing half-sized pages and then letting the office suite compose those pages on to full size pieces of paper.

Screenshot from 2015-08-14 09:55:12Here’s a sample of the service typed out.

When you go to print, click the Properties box on the General tab, and then set the paper to print Landscape. This is what it looks like with my printer.Properties of Brother-HL-L2360D-series_168

Here’s the trick: check “Use only paper size from paper preferences.”


Then change the layout to print two pages side by side. Extra points to those who can figure out how to print a booklet or brochure, in which case a saddle stapler is a help.


Then print, fold, slip into the protectors and then into the binder.

Download the file I used in this lesson here, or click here for a Google Doc that does essentially the same thing (with the Gentium font) for you to copy and modify as you will.

I would appreciate feedback if you use either source.

Dating that pamphlet

File this under “not working on tomorrow’s sermon.”

So, when was that midcentury Universalist pamphlet published. It’s helpful to know when a clear pivot away from Christianity was made from a central authority, in this case, the “Department of Public Relations, U.C.A.”

It’s clearly post-World War Two, and presumably before the 1959 convention that ratified consolidation with the Unitarians. Any more internal evidence?

  • The reference to the “four year advance.” Possibly after 1956. Can’t find dates online with associated files at the archives.
  • The quotation from Harry Overstreet citing The Mature Mind.
    The book was first published in 1949.
  • The Universalist Circle program, a parallel to the Unitarian fellowship movement, that lasted through to consolidation.
  • The 16 Beacon Street address. Offices there from 1933, per Miller, The Larger Hope, 2: 630.
  • Possibly the quotation from the Brainard Gibbons, who championed this approach. Probably from his 1949 Convention sermon, or related to it. The Larger Hope, 2: 634; Spoerl, in Universalist Heritage, 4.

But the most evidence isn’t of date, but of kind. Long-time readers of this blog know I’m not fond of this kind of Universalism. (I think it’s naive; it also cultivates self-centeredness and — perversely — sectarianism.)

But I’m not unsympathic to why they wanted a religion that they though would be expansive and more optimistic. The fires of war had just died down, and a thermonuclear fire might have destroyed everything. It was a time of growth and unexpected prosperity. Why wouldn’t they respond to the times?

Reading “Church Refugees”

When minister and friend Derek Parker mentioned that he was in a study group, and that they were reading a book about people who were once devoted church members but have left the church without giving up what they believed … well, that piqued my interest. And it’s a sociological study, not just an opinion piece.

I even ordered a copy. And you can also download a sample chapter at the link.

Church Refugees, by Josh Packard and Ashleigh Hope. (Group, 2015)

But I read slowly, so you’ll have a change to catch up.

A fee to see the MFC?

So, I’ve heard through the grapevine that ministerial candidates are being charged $250 to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Said grapevine is not happy about that.

I would love some commentary about that, but first I would like confirmation and (better still) a statement of reasoning. Or perhaps this is old news — I met the MFC a very long time ago — but if the story’s making the rounds, then it’s worth discussing it plainly and in the open.

Does anyone know?

An unlikely word about convention economy

The World Congress of Esperanto (Universala Kongreso, or UK) started its meeting this evening in Lille, France.

I’m not there; perhaps next year in Slovakia. But to mark the occasion, I looked up the official World Esperanto Association (Universala Esperanto-Asocio, or UEA) and found this page, incongruously written in English, and thus the title of this blog post. It’s meant to explain the UK to “partners” presumably to include local government and tourism authorities, who are more likely to read English than Esperanto.

Now, I’ve found Esperantists to be thrifty in their arrangements, and this passage sums up the reasoning in a dignifed way:

As a non-profit NGO, UEA is a very budget-conscious organization and so is the Congress of the Association. This congress has many special charms, but sober treatment of the financial matter is required. The delegates pay expenses from their own funds and usually are price conscious. Many of the delegates come from developing countries, and there are significant proportions of retired people and students among the participants. This is a people’s congress for ordinary people, not an elaborate meeting of executives financed by corporate funds.

I think you could say much the same about General Assemblies. Ours, and from the #CampbellCon plaints, others, too. Just because you’re clergy doesn’t mean that our basic meetings are affordable, or paid from expense accounts.

In case you wonder about the costs of going to the UK, see this registration cost page. Early registration for a typical member from a rich country is 180 euros; a member with a disability from a poor country would pay 60 euros; and a person under 21 would pay nothing. For some hotel options, see the Dua Bulteno (Second Bulletin; the First is the invitation with registration info) with lodging info, from page 9, including student accomodation, much like the Unitarian Universalist use of college dorms. Or here. I also like the meal ticket (see page 12), for example six dinners — two courses, cheese, dessert and tap water for 54 euros, but this may be an opportunity of meeting in a French college town. (Another Esperantist custom — the amasloĝejo; “mass-dwelling” — is often only BYO sleeping bag crash space; a hard sell for most people. But the Lille local committee did try to find a place, without success. I did have an attendee crash on my apartment floor the one year I lived in a GA town.)

You may also note excursions (from page 13) and a banquet that show that some Esperantists have the means and will to spend more.

And you may also note that the flight from North America would double all of these costs. But there’s something to learn here if we try.