Tool to search news broadcasts

Internet Archive has a tool that searches news broadcasts back to 2009, but since it’s fairly new, you may not have heard about it. Lots of uses, but I’m thinking particularly of those preachers who heard of, or were told of, a news segment but then don’t have access to it.

I thought a demonstration was in order, but so many of the searches were old or sad (funerals, vigils) that when I came across this 2014 Fox News segment with a Unitarian Universalist named John “Mac” McNichol, who is a living kidney donor, I knew I had to share it.

Plans for 2015

I’m not much for resolutions: I rarely start well, forget them quickly and then late in the year reproach myself for failure. Why bother?

But I will make plans for the blog. I mean it both as a notebook for me and (more importantly) a resource and commentary for you, the readers. A review of blog traffic, feedback and my own thoughts lead me to focus on:

  • practical, ready-to-use resources for churches and individual believers
  • fresh interpretations of Universalist Christianity
  • skills to cope, survive and thrive in a changing world without snark or finger-wagging

I’ll also work on building readership, and would appreciate you help though referrals, plus links on blogs and in social networks.

Ah: I could write on boy bands, as so many seek them here, but I won’t consider that right now.

2014 blog metrics in review

Happy New Year! My (minimal) celebration plans are done, the last of my year-end charitable giving is out and I’m musing on resolutions (to not have any).

Back in April, I established some goals for the blog and now that the year’s ended, I thought I’d report back.

  • So before the end 2015, I want to have written 4,000 blog posts. On track, this is post 3,778.
  • And I want to have reached 3,600 blog posts by the end of 2014 General Assembly. Accomplished May 23, 2014.
  • From the beginning of 2014 to the end 2015, I want to be cited at least 25 times by blogs which linked back to my blog. Twenty-eight already, the UUA Interdependent Web roundup being the most frequent source.
  • Because the writing is complementary, I want 750 followers on Twitter by the end of 2014. (I’m @bitb.) Accomplished July 15, 2014.
  • I’d like my average readership to be 60 per day by the end of 2014. Maybe, but if so, just barely. Probably the wrong way to measure. This blog has had 23,430 sessions.. That’s an average of 64 a day. 84% of visits were from the United States
  • As a product of my blog work, I want to be invited, by the end of 2015, to participate in one non-blogging event, though it can be online, and I’m disallowing invitations by close friends. Not yet, but I was invited on friend, minister and blogger Victoria Weinstein’s Peacebang tenth anniversary spectacular yesterday.

Happy New Year!

Revisiting worship from 1939

I’m making a historical review of worship at Universalist National Memorial Church, by request, to help worship leaders understand how worship has developed. I’m curious to see what will turn up.

I’ve written very generally about a set of orders of service, saved in the Library of Congress ephemera collection and posted online. Two posts (1, 2) from 2012.

So, what can we tell from the order of service? Some initial thoughts.

  • It’s pretty easy to see the morning prayer format. The Venite, the typical morning psalm, is a pretty big tell, too. The current UNMC service has all of the elements of morning prayer, with some parts more emphasized than others, and new elements (joys and concerns, center aisle greeting) added.
  • The call to worship, invocation and Lord’s prayer are grouped, with the organ prelude and hymn (music) and procession (action), as a unit: the opening sequence.
  • In Hymns of the Church services, the opening sequence may begin with opening words, but the hymn fills that role, presumably. The call to worship is the statement of the purpose of worship. The second service has a prayer for purity, which almost presumes a private and unspoken confession. Or if not confession, then at least a good intent. You see this construction in other published services.
  • With sentences, we hear echoes of this sequence at UNMC today, though the Lord’s Prayer is in another place.
  • The responsive readings are really long. About twice as long as found in the 1964 Hymns for the Celebration of Life and absolutely endless by 1993 Singing the Living Tradition standards. About two psalms worth, but perhaps used in halves, as suggested by the order of service, and the penciled notes in the version of the Hymns of the Church.
  • The prayer after the scripture reading may be a general thanksgiving, a part of a larger sequence from Anglican morning prayer. The “pastoral prayer” or “long prayer” may be implied here.
  • In morning prayer, two major elements can appropriately be put in different places: announcements and the sermon. The announcement placement problem is perennial. In one version of “morning prayer and sermon” the sermon comes close to the end, before an optional prayer, final hymn and benediction. This is what UNMC has now. The printed order of service has the sermon after the reading, which might be a more modern ordering. But that’s not necessarily an endorsement.
  • This service includes communion, a service its own right of course, after the usual morning service. Several years ago, a member of UNMC told me that Seth Brooks, who began his long pastorate the following week, presided over communion from the pulpit. Make of that what you will: better amplification perhaps, and that the thin space behind the altar was never meant for a versus populum service. (I recall getting a shoe wedged in.) And there’s no way that stone will move.

“This week we pray for…”

You may have noticed that there’s a widget on the right-hand column called “This week we pray for” that has a date, a list of nations and a picture. This links to a prayer resource from the World Council of Churches, focusing on a different region of the world each year.

Each resource page features a photo, thanksgiving and petitions, prayers, links to information about the churches in those countries, and sometimes other resources. The idea is to stimulate intentional prayer for the people of the world.

To get the code to share on your site, go to

The Soul of the Bible: Christmas edition

Bonus blog post, following up from earlier. So, it seems the 1908 and 1946 editions are close — there’s a preface missing the later edition — indeed, so close that the arranged version of the customary Luke 2 passage, read at Christmas shares a page number. But what’s the reading based on?

It’s Luke 2:8-20, essentially the King James version, with bits of the American Standard Version to (gently) modernize the reading. Reminds me of Linus’s discourse in the Charlie Brown special. Good stuff.

The arranged reading (for Christmas and otherwise)

It’s a given that old hymns may be re-arranged to suit the particular service better, even if it’s just to choose some verses and not others. And responsive readings are often edited from their source documents to better suit the occasion.

Readings for preaching are chosen, and are sometimes edited for inclusive language, but I wonder how often biblical readings are “compiled” — to use the responsive reading idiom — rather than be read in a standard translation, as cited.

But there is an alternative. I wrote about an early twentieth-century service book intended for Unitarians organizing “lay centers,” that assumed the use of a particular compiled book of readings: The Soul of the Bible. Or as its subtitle calls them, “synthetic readings.”

It must have been popular. The copy I found and bought is about thirty years younger (Beacon Press, 1946) than the service book. (Also noteworthy: the editor, Ulysses G. B. Pierce was the minister of All Souls, Unitarian, Washington.)

Here is the 1908 edition.

So, I wondered, would it have been useful for Christmas Eve services? That’s for later. But for now I wanted to raise the idea, surely against the flow of the last two generations of Christian liturgics, but also having its own honesty. The scriptures do not, at last, preach themselves, and we will shape our interpretation of them.

Give to a ministerial discretionary fund

This is the time of the year — after Christmas, before New Year — when I review my charitable giving and either try to do just a bit more, or make up for lost opportunities.

So I review what’s touched my heart over the last year — a months’ old situation is unlikely not to need more money — all the while able to make better choices about who to give to.

But I rarely find a worthy cause as good as a ministerial discretionary fund. So much of funding good work is trusting that the money will be put to the best possible use. (And I’ve never been peppered with mailings to give to one.) Ministerial discretionary fund are built on filling needs that would otherwise go unmet, and presumably you trust your minister’s judgement.

These funds often help deeply; I say this is someone who has run one, donated to several and received help from one. But the funds are themselves often not deep.

Consider donating, and if you have means, donate to others.

Remembering the 2004 tsunami

A merry Christmastide to you all. Now returning to the regular blogging.

"Harta Ocean Indian Quake". Licensed under " href="">CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.
Harta Ocean Indian Quake“. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Please remember in prayer the dead from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, and the people who survive them. About 230,000 people died, mostly in Indonesia and Sri Lanka. Deaths of Western tourists (including 543 Swedes) in Thailand made the news here, so you may recall that part.

The recovery continues, the mourners are many.

So is the great and wide sea also; wherein are things creeping innumerable, both small and great beasts.
There go the ships, and there is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to take his pastime therein.
These wait all upon thee, that thou mayest give them meat in due season.
When thou givest it them, they gather it; and when thou openest thy hand, they are filled with good. When thou hidest thy face, they are troubled: when thou takest away their breath, they die, and are turned again to their dust.
When thou lettest thy breath go forth, they shall be made; and thou shalt renew the face of the earth.
The glorious majesty of the Lord shall endure for ever; the Lord shall rejoice in his works.
The earth shall tremble at the look of him; if he do but touch the hills, they shall smoke.
I will sing unto the Lord as long as I live; I will praise my God while I have my being. (Psalm 104: 25-33, Coverdale)