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iSpirituality: Pros & Cons of DIY Religion, pt 1

On this MLK Sunday, I am beginning a sermon series I am titling iSpirituality: the Pros and Cons of Do It Yourself Religion. In the next few weeks, I wanted to discuss something I think is very crucial when it comes to the continual life of the mainline church. How to balance the natural American and human propensity to have our own religious approach to things and the need to join together in community. That is sort of the crux of the sermon series.
The Congregational church in Wendell empty and attempting to be renovated. The Baptist church in Orange now a yoga hall. A Unitarian church in Pelham a museum. A congregational church in East Pelham now a home. An Episcopal church now a pharmacy in Brattleboro.
These churches once possessed life. They once possessed a community that came together to sing and worship and live out the truths of their faith. Now, they are no more. 
So many other churches in the general area and across the country, especially New England, are barely hanging on. …
Recent posts

A New Year Prayer in the Age of Disorientation

O God who is Love Ever with us, it has been a difficult year. We have seen such ugliness and bitterness and divisiveness. We have experienced such loss, both personally and collectively. We have experienced the loss of loved-ones and of for some the loss of love. Along with these natural, individual losses, we have endured the turmoil of a culture losing its way, seemingly embracing the path of inhumanity. We have seen the dehumanization of the refugee, of the religious faithful not our own, of the reporter, of those of another race. We have experienced an utter rejection of truth, of true words, of true effort, of true compassion in a world grasping for the truth of love. We have watched leaders climb to power embracing the means of victory at all costs, including the cost of respect, dignity, and love for humanity. We have seen these leaders climb to power with love of power their only lasting love, their only governing principal, their only real purpose.  And we have watched as th…

A Universalist's New Baptism

Yes, I am a Christian. Despite my doubts and my questions and my disdain for what passes for Christianity to so many so-called Christians. In many ways, I am the same skeptic I was in my mid-20’s when I disavowed Christianity, God, religion altogether. Something still holds me back like it did then. What holds me back now is the desire to get it right. I am more like Saint Thomas than Saint John. I want to know and know correctly. I want to have proof. I want to see the evidence. I still desire to know in my head what I cannot feel in my heart. Doubts remain.

Yet, I desire a new baptism. I want now to lose my life so that I may find it. I want to stand without thoughts or worry or care in the glory of Beauty. I want to empty my ego and selfishness, and die to self for the sake of a world on the verge of perennial emptiness, emptiness of the negative kind. May I simply stand empty before God. May I realize that ultimately mystery remains.
While some mysteries we can solve, others remain …

A Christmas in Korea

In August 2000, Holly and I traveled to South Korea and for a year taught conversational English at a university. There are many Christians in South Korea. However, Korea remains Buddhist-Confucian in culture. This is especially so in more rural places like Iksan, the city where we taught. There, the Buddhist-Confucian culture is still mostly unadulterated. Christmas was certainly celebrated in Iksan but more like St. Valentines Day in the U.S, which is to say not so significantly spiritually.
It was for us the first and only Christmas spent in a culture not Christian (and Christmas) centric. However, the Christmas in Korea was one of the mostspiritually significant for me .
On Christmas night 2000, I took a walk down Daehagno. From one of the many shops “Silent Night” lilted. That it was Frank Sinatra singing the beautiful carol only propounded the homesickness it moved.
“All is calm, all is bright…holy infant so tender, so mild. Sleep in heavenly peace.”
The first four months of my yea…

Winter Solstice Songs: My Top Ten

In December of 1993, I received in my PO box at Cedarville College in southern Ohio an audio book on tape. It wasn’t the store bought kind. Wasn’t digital of any kind in 1993. It was a homemade, self-recorded tape of my favorite voice – then and now – reading a book that included her name. The book was The Story of Holly and the Ivy by Rumer Godden, which tells the story of a young child named Ivy and a doll that Ivy longs to have as her friend, Holly, the name that still stops me in my tracks when I hear it.

When you are in love, it is interesting how you see in every story of friendship and love your own story. When one of the characters has your love’s name, this is especially true. 

Winter and its holy days for me mean Holly. 

The music she used as the soundtrack for her homemade recording some 24 years ago was the music of George Winston and his December album which includes his rendition of the classic holiday song “The Holly and the Ivy.” I begin my top-twelve winter-themed songs …

12/14/12

"Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,

he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross. Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father." - Philippians 2:5-11

One of the hardest cries I've cried occurred 12/14/12. I heard the news coming home after a tough day as a hospice chaplain. Throwing clothes into the drier after washing them that morning, I lost my attempts to keep it in. I imagined my son as a child in Newtown at Sandy Hook Elementary. I saw him in them and me…