Sermons & Other Thoughts from Rev. Brian Chenowith

Tag: UUA

Committed to Full Inclusion

Our reading this morning was from Michael Daeschlein, titled, “UU Principles and Disability.

You know what I’m talking about, you’ve seen them in the downtown of any major city. Little booths often accompany them, sometimes there’s a milk crate and a megaphone involved, or they just plant themselves right in front of you and force you into a conversation.

I’m referring to street preachers. Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, a wide variety of other Christians, even Hare Krishna’s – yes, they’re still around, and every now and then they’ll represent a religious viewpoint you’ve never heard of. I always have my own responses.

I often eagerly want to talk to these missionaries of faiths that aren’t mine. I’ll even day dream of standing on my own milk crate one day near the busiest intersection in Chicago, New York, or Boston with a sign that simply says, well, I’m not quite sure what it would say. But these days I think it would say, “Just breathe.” Many of us have similar experiences. Read the rest of this entry »

The Larger Conversation

Our reading for this morning was from the poet, Denise Levertov, titled, “Goodbye to Tolerance.”  It was written as a protest against injustice and intolerance.  She writes:

Starting in March of last year, 2017, the Unitarian Universalist Association was in crisis.  It was a crisis that led to debate, confusion, anger, pain, and the resignations of three of our denominational leaders:  the Director of Congregational Life, the Chief Operating Officer, and the President of our Association.  The charge?  That the Unitarian Universalist Association was engaging in a culture of white supremacy through their hiring practices.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with this crisis that rocked our faith, let me back up here a bit.  There is a lot going on here.  I will not go to great lengths to explain our complicated polity and organizational structures.  But here it is as simply as possible:  Our congregation, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Lexington, is part of a national and worldwide movement of Unitarian Universalists, the Unitarian Universalist Association.

UUA for short.  The United States is divided into regions and districts.  Some parts of the country just have regions, some have districts, some have both – for the sake of our time together, let’s pretend regions and districts are nearly the same thing.  Each of these regions is overseen by a staff person at our headquarters in Boston.  The southern region, which we are not a part of interestingly enough, had an opening for that staff position. Read the rest of this entry »

Few Persons of This Persuasion: Melbourne, Australia

This sermon was delivered to the Melbourne Unitarian Peace Memorial Church in Melbourne, Australia.  A podcast of the service can be found here.

There’s this great story from the early days of Unitarianism here in Australia. Some of you may know it. I believe it tells us of the power of freethinking souls who seek each other out in the unlikeliest of places. It concerns a man named William MacDonnell and his efforts to ascertain just how many Unitarians there were in the Colony at the time.

He understood that certainly there were people that believed as he did – in the Unitarian view of Christianity. He had arrived in Australia at a time when several opportunists were also arriving with hopes of industry and enterprise on their minds. Surely, Unitarians were amongst these people, MacDonnell thought.

But he was also aware that his fellow Unitarians were spread throughout the Colony, feeling lost and alone as he did. And so on May 18th, 1850, MacDonnell inserted an advertisement into the Sydney Herald. The way this account is worded,

I imagine Mr. MacDonnell sneaking into the press room late at night and inserting heretical Unitarian leaflets in the papers. I’m sure the actual unfolding of events was by the book and ordinary. Nonetheless, an advertisement appeared and read as follows:

TO UNITARIANS.
A few persons of this persuasion, feeling the great want of a place of worship, where they could honour God according to their consciences, are anxious to meet and co-operate with brethren of similar views, that they might by mutual aid and counsel make a beginning in carrying out so desirable an object. For this purpose communications are solicited from Unitarians who reside in Sydney or are scattered throughout the Colony, with such suggestions as their wishes or experience may dictate; and, as this step is but preliminary, those who feel interested in advancing the great truth of the strict Unity of God, will please, for the present, address ‘Alpha’ at the office of the ‘Herald.’

Read the rest of this entry »

Growing in Community

Our reading for this morning came from the book Serving with Grace by the Rev. Erik Wikstrom.

There was a moment during seminary when I almost fled from the ministry.  I’ll add, this was but one moment out of several where I wanted to pack it up and call it a day – to say that ministry was not for me and that I had made a mistake, the Universe was wrong, and that I’d be better suited remaining in the world of quiet librarianship, surrounded by books, the awkward public and their peculiar reference questions, and the daily pulse of nine to five.

I’m sure everyone, while training for their particular field, have had moments of wanting to flee.  Ministry is full of them.  But this one was specific to me, I imagine. Read the rest of this entry »

Question Box Sunday

Below are the questions submitted during our first ever Question Box Sunday.  I’ve divided them into some basic categories — including the ones we answered during the service.  Over the next few months I will answer 2-3 of these every week and make them available here on this website for you all to read.  Questions are powerful things that can create space for the unexpected to emerge.  In that spirit, you have my gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

[BLOG] Ministry & The Seven Month Itch

I’m a newer minister.  Sure, I’ve long been called to this work but as far as practicing the craft, I’m fresh off the assembly line.  I’m in my first settlement, first year, and there are first firsts all over the place.  On top of it all, there has been and will continue to be this shared hope amongst newer ministers that what we need to learn and do will be more accessible:  Searching for a congregation will be streamlined, settling into a community will be smooth, our credentialing process will be straightforward, compensation for ministers will make sense, and seminaries will teach all of the ins and outs.  No surprises will be left.  It’s a tall order.  It’s an impossible hope.

And all throughout this hope, no matter where I turn, I feel that my colleagues and I are often repeating ourselves with, “Well, this should be here for us…and that, too.”  Some may call it entitlement and certainly part of it is.  However, entitlement or not, we’re feeling our way through a calling rooted in humanity with human systems and human flaws with human needs.  It’s an incomplete system.  It may never be as fleshed out as our hopes demand. Read the rest of this entry »