Books From Today's Sunday Service--What's Intriguing?

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Books From Today's Sunday Service--What's Intriguing?

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ag. 13, 2006, 3:47pm

This topic is meant to be an ongoing forum for us to mention titles or authors who we may have learned about during a worship service on any given Sunday (or whatever day...).

ag. 13, 2006, 3:50pm

Today's guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma, Meredith Guest, read from Wishful Thinking by Frederick Buechner. A progressive Christian theologian, his work sounds like it is very much in tune with the hope in UU congregations that we can reclaim the best of the churches we may have "come out of" (ritual, prayer, and language) in the context of a new way of approaching our spirituality.

ag. 21, 2006, 10:42am

Our speaker yesterday talked about the links between Indian thea/ology and American Unitarian Transcendentalism. He specifically quoted from Autobiography of a Yogi by Yogananda, and also the works of Gandhi, describing a circle of influences that included Emerson and Thoreau. Wonderful!

ag. 27, 2006, 11:23pm

Well, eventually someone else will probably post something about a book quoted in a worship service. But for now, I'll continue...

Today, we had an excellent sermon on mental health as a spiritual concern, featuring readings from Mary Oliver, Thandeka, and The Holy Bible. In particular, from the latter, an amazing passage about King Saul, and the evil spirit from the Lord which was visited upon him, and which caused him to seek out the harp playing of David, as a way of calming him.

Our speaker, Rev. Barbara Meyers, is the author of a UU curriculum on mental health for congregations, entitled "The Caring Congregation." She is a visionary speaker, and I highly recommend her to anyone looking for speakers or workshop leaders in the San Francisco Bay Area.

ag. 28, 2006, 5:37pm

I just wanted to say that I would happily add to this discussion, but being a full-time grad student, my pleasure reading hours are very limited, and since I work Sundays, I haven't been able to get to church for a while. Hopefully someone else will chime in before long, though. :)

ag. 28, 2006, 5:50pm

Oh, but wait! I do have something to say. It's about Mary Oliver. I've noticed she's very popular with UUs, and as a reader of poetry, I can understand why. I once heard an interesting anecdote about her that irked me, though. According to a former student of hers, she has a very strict definition of art which is that if a work does not uplift, it isn't truly art. Given this definition, I can see why her work is so popular among the spiritually driven. But as an artist, I object wholeheartedly, as I think art should reflect all of human experience, which is not and cannot always be uplifting. The unfortunate part of this for me is that I have come to regard her as some sort of poetic nun now that I know this about her, and have thus had trouble taking her work seriously, as it seems altogether naive, not to mention snobbish, to simply eliminate a large piece of human experience from one's writing in order to create a "spiritual" effect. I don't think spirituality is quite so limited as that.

Maybe I have her all wrong, and if so, I'm open to correction, but that's been my take on her work so far.

Editat: set. 7, 2006, 8:00pm

Hmmm. I'd have to find her quoted somewhere to know what she may have really meant. If she meant that art is not just a mirror, I'm with her there. It has to do something with the matter in hand to make it augment our experience. Whether "uplift" is the right word--that could certainly be debated. I do think that her poetry does what good poetry does: allows for the broadening of perception, including the occasional "aha!"

My church's service on Sunday! I gave a sermon on libraries and their relationship to the sacred. )You can read it online at

In it, I cite John Milton's Areopagitica, along with work by Kurt Vonnegut, Daniel Pennac's Better Than Life, and Samuel Longfellow.

set. 10, 2006, 1:04pm

Hi kbalma,

Well I saw or heard Mary Oliver at the national conference (aka GA) this summer. My impression of her as a person was positive, warm, quirky, funny, smart, alive, passionate. Like most human beings she is probably multi-faceted. Perhaps she said something to that effect (about art needing to be uplifting). But I'd want to have a conversation with her about what she meant, and as people grow and change would she change her opionion on that matter. Then again, perhaps she never said such.
Anyways, I hope I'm not being too didactic here.

set. 20, 2006, 6:12pm

We had a "This I Do" service on Sunday, part of an ongoing series of services held about quarterly where one or two members or friends of the congregation talk about how they live out their spiritual values in their daily lives. In the future, I think I'll ask for bibliographies when these happen.

One of the speakers talked about being a bookseller on Ebay, and he brought a couple of boxes of examples of the kind of stuff he sells. He gave me one of them--about Bronson Alcott's Fruitlands--and also a hymnal for Jewish youth. Fun!

Our worship associate read the famous "If," by Rudyard Kipling.

oct. 2, 2006, 6:05pm

Yesterday we had a service entitled "A Sanctuary of Music." We had an anthem from our small choir (Larking About is our name--9 singers yesterday): "Deep Peace." We had a reading from Walt Whitman on music; and we had two extended piano pieces, one by Mendelssohn and one by Beethoven. All in all, a wonderful service, linking music to spirituality.

oct. 8, 2006, 3:50pm

Today, a member of our congregation, Earl Cruser, spoke about the strains of sources that comprise our faith, based on a talk he heard in Mexico at a UU Fellowship in San Miguel de Allende by Richard S. Gilbert.

Earl, a former Presbyterian minister, mentioned a number of authors and books in his sermon. These included Karl Barth, Reinhold Niebuhr, Richard Niebuhr, and Paul Tillich, as well as the book Honest to God by John A. T. Robinson. All of these he associated with the strain of Liberal Christianity present in modern-day UUism.

Lastly, Earl cited Ralph Waldo Emerson as the emblematic representative of the strain of mysticism, characterized as spirituality borne of direct personal experience of transcendence.

All in all, a rich talk.

oct. 22, 2006, 3:38pm

Today's sermon was on democracy. Among the authors quoted were Abraham Lincoln and Orlando Patterson, both writing about democracy as a concept. Patterson's distinction between personal and sovereign freedom was key to the talk. Also quoted were a variety of past US presidents, including George Washington, Jimmy Carter, and Harry Truman, in addition to the aforementioned Lincoln.

nov. 20, 2006, 3:26pm

Hi David-

I haven't really been following most of the (too many) groups I joined and am just now reading this one.

Three points off the top of my head:

(1) I usually keep this under my hat, because it would be heresy around other UUs, but Mary Oliver's poems don't do alot for me. They are very accessible and popular, but, oh, I don't know, they don't go far to either "uplift" me or give me a deeper insight into the way things really are. But, hey, I'm in a minority here and I'm certainly talking just about my own reaction. Some of my best friends love her stuff and are moved by it and that's what really counts (for them, that is);

(2) our minister recently did a series of sermons based on a book that had the correspondence between two of my All-time Heros, Leo Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi. It seems that they wrote to each other extensively about Truth, Peace, Nonviolence and other lofty ideals. I'll try to get the title of the book (I think it was just Mahatma Gandhi and Leo Tolstoy Letters written by Gandhi), because it sounded great and made good fodder for our own lives. Here's a blurb about it from Wikipedia:

"A letter Tolstoy wrote in 1908 to an Indian newspaper entitled "Letter to a Hindu" resulted in intense correspondence with Mohandas Gandhi, who was in South Africa at the time and was beginning to become an activist. Reading "The Kingdom of God is Within You" had convinced Gandhi to abandon violence and espouse nonviolent resistance, a debt Gandhi acknowledged in his autobiography, calling Tolstoy "the greatest apostle of non-violence that the present age has produced". The correspondence between Tolstoy and Gandhi would only last a year, from October 1909 until Tolstoy's death in November 1910, but led Gandhi to give the name the Tolstoy Colony to his second ashram in South Africa. Besides non-violent resistance, the two men shared a common belief in the merits of vegetarianism, the subject of several of Tolstoy's essays "

and finally (for now)...

(3) our choir recently did Deep Peace too. Isn't it simply the BEST?! I can't remember a song that delivers so much of what its title promises.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

nov. 20, 2006, 3:47pm

p.s. By the way, the Tolstoy/Gandhi book seems to be out of print (and noone in LibraryThing has yet cataloged it - wow!).

But here's Tolstoy's original Letter to a Hindu that so affected the young Gandhi. It's at Gutenburg:

I plan to give a read later tonight (it's a LONG "letter").


"In the end, only kindness matters."

feb. 12, 2007, 9:18am

Yesterday's sermon, by a Starr King student named Alexandra McGee, addressed the topic of UUism's lack of a "salvation story," a charge leveled by UU minister Davidson Loehr in a recent journal article. He sounds like an interesting thinker--anyone read him?

He is the minister of the Austin congregation, and has a book out entitled America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher. I'll have to chase it down.

Alexandra's point of view was not entirely in agreement or in disagreement with Loehr, but encourage us to develop our own salvation stories both through our individual paths and, more importantly, through community.

feb. 14, 2007, 10:14am

"Yesterday's sermon, by a Starr King student named Alexandra McGee, addressed the topic of UUism's lack of a "salvation story," a charge leveled by UU minister Davidson Loehr in a recent journal article. He sounds like an interesting thinker--anyone read him?

He is the minister of the Austin congregation, and has a book out entitled America, Fascism, and God: Sermons from a Heretical Preacher. I'll have to chase it down."

I haven't read Davidson Loehr's book, but I have heard him speak in person. He was a guest speaker at my church in Atlanta last November and gave a sermon titled "What Would Jesus Do?". It was an excellent sermon. It is available through the podcast from UUCA. Look for the podcast button on the left side of the page here: .


17fulwoodoldchapel Primer missatge
Editat: març 23, 2007, 4:36pm

Hi I am only just discovering the delights of Librarything. I have just put the contents of Fulwood Old Chape (Unitarian)chapel library on here
I'll come back and share something from our sermons soon.

abr. 23, 2007, 2:08pm

Ah, Earth Day! Yesterday, I was the lay-leader (since I've been involved a bit in environmental matters).

I suggested to the minister that the talk be not just another "Yea, Earth!" and that she might challenge the good folks to go beyond changing lightbulbs; prod everyone to take it to the streets. She assured me that her sermon was, indeed, not going to be "just another Yea Earth, pat ourselves on the back" talk.

Here's the reading that preceded her reflections and it gives a good indicator of the focus of the whole service (Bill McKibben has been at the front of the environmental movement for years and he was the prime organizer of the recent Step-It-Up! movement)

From Meltdown by, Bill McKibben

An essay published in the 2/20/07 Christian Century

We need a movement to combat climate change, we need it fast, and we need it to involve as many churches as possible. … How’s that for a blunt and artless beginning? But that’s the point. The time is so short, and the task so large, that eloquence seems almost frivolous.

The bottom line: we have much less time to act than we thought, and that action has to be dramatic. James Hansen is the country’s foremost climatologist, a man who will doubtless win the Nobel Prize for his decades as a NASA researcher running the most powerful computer model of the climate, and he said last year that we have a decade to reverse the flow of carbon into the atmosphere or else we will live – his words – on a “totally different planet.” There’s enough theology in that phrase for a month of sermons, but let me concentrate on the politics. It means that the changes we make in our homes and churches as individuals and congregations, vital as they are, can’t deliver the speed or magnitude of change that will slow climate change. It means that we need to change light bulbs – but we also need to change laws. It means that Washington , after two decades of very successful bipartisan effort to do nothing, needs to spin on a dime.

We don’t lack for science or engineering, nor indeed for economic mechanisms to make a transition more efficient, or policy proposals to guide our work. What we lack is simply political will.

juny 14, 2007, 10:55am

Our service on Sunday featured a wonderful Gay Pride sermon by a member of ours, Meredith Guest. She talked about a book entitled Self Made Man by Norah Vincent, which sounded very good.

If you'd like to read Meredith's sermon, it's online at

Editat: juny 25, 2007, 10:19am

Two sundays ago, on the Broadcast service (France Culture) the sermon was built around Grand Corps Malade, a slammer

jul. 2, 2007, 6:16pm

On Sunday (yesterday) July 1, we were delighted to have Ric Masten as our guest speaker at the Unitarian Universalists of Petaluma. I was his worship associate, and got to pick the poems he would read, after which we would talk about them some. Worked great! His new book is Words and One-Liners, Take 2, which includes, besides his poems, some amazing art. Ric's website is located at Take a look! You can sign up for his "cybergation" and receive weekly deliveries of poems and one-line drawings.

jul. 3, 2007, 9:02am

Oh, I remember Ric (when he had (I think) the title of UU Troubadour), singing at the Norwich, CT UU Church back in the '70s. He was wonderful, but (again, I think) it was a snowstorm or something and only a very disappointing few people turned out. Ric, though, went on with the show like he was doing Madison Square Garden.

One thing that has always stuck with me from that night is that he told a little story of some kid who drew people with two big holes in their head, which had teachers/parents rather worried. Ric then proceeded to reposture himself so that we, in the audience, saw his nostrils as two great big holes in his head. That was the first time that I realized that not everyone (particularly kids) sees things from the same perspective as we "normal" people. A big learning for a (then) much younger adult ... Thanks, Ric!

I just now visited his website and am glad to see that his long, long trails with prostate cancer are still being sauntered with a sense of adventure and an ocassional wry grin.

All Souls Unitarian Universalist Congregation
New London, CT

"In the end, only kindness matters."

jul. 3, 2007, 7:07pm

We will be conducting a service this summer, and will use the book The hard questions for an authentic life : 100 essential questions for designing your life from the inside out by Susan Piver. We will break the audience down into small groups to discuss a couple of the questions - we'll choose some related on a given topic. Then we'll gather in the larger group to share. We used this approach & book for a service we conducted a couple years ago and thought it was successful.

ag. 20, 2007, 7:30pm

Our speaker on Sunday, Dave Ergo, spoke about how to wake us up from the dream of the modern world, and talked about a number of books. The one I remember offhand was Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, which sounds intriguing. I've reserved it at my library. The essential challenge of his book is that "more is not better"--an appealing perspective for me.

ag. 20, 2007, 11:01pm

Yes, I have to get McKibben's latest book, too. I hear that it is excellent. I did a reading at our All Souls a few months ago by Bill McKibben (hmmm .... sounds familiar ... ah, yes, it's quoted in message 18 above).

If you aren't familiar with him, check out the Wikipedia article about him.


"In the end, only kindness matters."

oct. 15, 2007, 7:58pm

Here's an interesting one. On Sunday we had a speaker named Buzzy Martin, who gave a talk entitled "Don't Shoot Me, I'm the Guitar Man!" about his work doing music programs in San Quentin State Prison and at youth detention facilities. He has a book by the same title which he has self-published.

Worth looking at. See his website at

des. 6, 2007, 8:36pm

Last Sunday, during our minister's sermon, my sweetie and I looked at each other and said "I know which book he's been reading" Kelly, Joseph's The origins of Christmas. The book discusses why the story of Jesus's birth got written when it did. Anyways, interesting reading for this time of year. Merry Christmas!

juny 30, 2008, 12:02pm

Our Director of Religious Education gave a talk yesterday on Why Religious Literacy Matters, and featured Stephen Prothero's book Religious Literacy. Fascinating. She included a pop quiz on our level of religious literacy that was very basic, yet only answered 100% correctly by two members of our congregation.

oct. 31, 2008, 1:29pm

OK, so maybe I'm the one most interested in the possibilities of this topic...

I preached two Sundays ago on "Stopping to Ask for Directions," and quoted from a few sources. Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken"; Carlos Castaneda's Teachings of Don Juan; and Robert Hunter's "Ripple" and "The Wheel" (which can be found in his Box of Rain and in my The Complete Annotated Grateful Dead Lyrics).