Sunday, May 27, 2012


I preached today at the Unitarian Universalist Church ofLexington. I have known their pastor for a number of years and when she called to ask me to fill in, I was delighted. I had not been to a Sunday morning service there---just a funeral and a meeting in their Fellowship Hall. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

My clergy friend asked me to speak about my faith journey. I’m not even sure she knew how much my faith journey and my extraordinary life journey are so entwined. I think she just wanted another female clergy person to share her experience with the congregation.

The first perception I had was during the preparation conversations with the folks who would be leading worship. To every one of my questions are suggestions, their answer was “We’re open to that.” It was refreshing. There was an openness to doing things differently, to experiencing someone else’s faith tradition, to welcoming the visitor.

I used Robert W. Fuller’s book, Somebodies and Nobodies for the Opening and Closing Readings. They were open to that. I used a couple of paragraphs from my own unpublished memoir for the Reading that led into the Mediation. They were open to that. And I shared as much about my life journey as I did about my faith journey because in my mind the two cannot be separated. They were open to that.

I give thanks today for my friends in the UU tradition who are on the journey!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Julia's Child

This post is inspired by the novel Julia's Child by Sarah Pinneo. Worried about what her kids eat, Julia Bailey starts a prepared organic toddler meals business. With names like Gentil Lentil, can Julia balance work and family and still save the world? Join From Left to Write on May 24 as we discuss Julia's Child. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

We’ve been fighting stereotypes of women for decades now and we have now added to the fight the stereotypes of Moms. There’s the Tiger Mom who caused a stir with her book on rigid parenting. There’s the Attachment Mom who caused a stir by appearing on the cover of Time nursing her three year old. Then there’s Ann Romney, Michelle Obama, Laura Bush and Hillary Clinton who each gave us something to criticize and something to champion in our quest to form the perfect combination of qualities for the perfect Mom.

This post is inspired by Julia’s Child, a novel about a young woman who started her own organic toddler meals business. Sounds like a great idea but I just learned the stereotype of rich New York moms is entrepreneurs who start cupcake businesses! The moms I know who work are juggling more balls in the air than any CEO I have known and most do it extremely well. The stay-at-home moms that I know do not sit on the couch and watch soaps while eating Graeter’s ice cream. More likely, they are glued to carpool duty, PTA responsibilities and more soccer games than Pele ever played!

So why do we get so exercised about Moms? Because it remains the most important job on the planet. 

Friday, May 18, 2012

Spiritual but not Religious

Photo by John Lynner Peterson

Some reports have indicated that Spiritual but not Religious (SBNR) is the fastest growing faith group in the U.S. The fact that the Pew Forum now lists Spiritual but not Religious as a faith choice says much about the segment of our population that want to be identified as people of faith but don’t express their faith within the confines of a church or organized religious group.

How do you define spirituality—especially in contrast to religion? For me, spirituality is the transcendent connection to God (fill in your Higher Power) that lifts me beyond my skin, bones and brain existence here on earth. How have I experienced this transcendence? Through music most frequently, but also through relationship with another that is so intimate you know that your souls have touched, through reading that forces me to move past my intellect and even past my emotions. And, yes, I have experienced spirituality through sex with my beloved.

Religion by contrast has taught me theology, doctrinal beliefs and love of certain institutions. Religion has taught me a great deal that I have discarded, i.e., belief in the literal virgin birth, literal resurrection and literal interpretation of the Bible. Religion has also taught me transcendent metaphors that still mean much to me, i.e., communion and the symbolism of the table, the bread and the wine. I have distaste for the meaning of such words as resurrection, redemption, salvation, heaven and hell as taught in my religion and yet, I want to reclaim these very words for the spirituality that fits me now. If you wash the literalism from these words, they can be used effectively to describe transcendence that I know to be real from my own experience.

So what does this mean for our nation? For Christianity? For our churches? One result that some of the surveys and articles point out is that people are attending a variety of churches rather than committing to one. Obviously, this behavior adds to the precipitous decline in membership being reported by all denominations of Christianity because many who would describe themselves as SBNR just stay home from church.

Perhaps you have heard sermons in which SBNR has been disparaged from the pulpit. Of course you have, because SBNR persons do not fund budgets which pay the light bill, the pastor’s salary and insure the institution is perpetuated. What would these preachers say we are giving up by not being religious? One argument they might make would be the loss of community if you practice your spirituality only in isolation. I agree with this line of reasoning and must admit this is why I am still a member of a congregation. The community I have found in churches has raised me, sustained me and comforted me through the highs and lows of my life. I am who I am because of church communities.

Another argument might be that we enact social justice as a faith community not as individuals. I’ll let you make your own case for or against that claim. I would also make the case for church being the place where I most frequently access God/spirituality through music. It is not the only place I can or have experienced God through music but it certainly has provided the most frequent access. What are other reasons you or your minister offer for why we need to stay religious?

Are you spiritual but not religious? Do you still attend church? Why? Why not?

Monday, May 7, 2012

I am Forbidden

This post is inspired by I AM FORBIDDEN by Anouk Markovits. Though not sisters by blood but through their Hasidic faith, Mila and Atara views the rules and structure of their culture differently. Mila seeks comfort in the Torah while Atara searches for answers in secular literature she is forbidden to read. Ultimately each must make an irrevocable decision that will change their lives forever. Join From Left to Write on May 8 as we discuss I AM FORBIDDEN. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

This ancient story of trying to control others through religious laws never gets easier to understand. I find it particularly challenging as a woman and as ordained clergy. I also find it particularly obnoxious in the 21st Century and yet, we have seen a rise in the practice.

In ancient times the miracle of birth seemed more than miracle, it was mystery and it was particularly mysterious to men. Therefore, women must be controlled and an effective way of controlling anyone was through their faith. All power rested with men so it was not difficult to use this power to control women with religious laws.

The example of this as lived out in the Hasidic community of the novel, I am Forbidden, reveals the gut-wrenching choices women often made and the illogical knots people of faith had to tie themselves into to conform. For examples in today’s world, we need look no further than the recent controversy between Catholic nuns and the Catholic hierarchy. For the full story of this conflict go to

I also commend to you a Lexington, KY Letter to the Editor on the subject of the Vatican vs. the Nuns: (Scroll down to Nuns Know Best).

As female clergy, I know well the fight that many of my sisters of the faith have fought in their various religions and in most all Christian denominations. Progress has been made in the 20th and 21st centuries but as the Catholic situation indicates, there is always the possibility of going backwards as well as forward.

I commend to you this well-written novel as an experience of how painful the results can be when we try to control others through faith.