UUA President’s Statement on the Boy Scouts of America Decision

PeterThe Rev. Peter Morales, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), issued the following statement reacting to the Boy Scouts of America’s (BSA) historic decision:

“Yesterday, the Boy Scouts of America took a historic step towards equality by agreeing to admit openly gay scouts. But this decision falls short of affirming the worth and dignity of all who would like to participate in scouting.

“While long opposing the BSA’s discriminatory policies, the UUA has consistently noted the many benefits that scouting offers to boys and young men, and we applaud the fact that these benefits will now be available to all male youth who want to participate in scouting.

“However, it remains wrong to continue to discriminate against scout leaders, Eagle Scouts, and parents. I fear the continued discrimination against gay adults sends the wrong message to gay youth. These youth will not feel fully accepted into the scouting family.

“Discrimination based on sexual orientation does not belong in scouting and is inconsistent with the BSA’s own values of respect and kindness.

“Unitarian Universalists remain hopeful that one day soon the BSA will change its remaining policies of discrimination and prejudice to ones of inclusion and respect for all who wish to participate in scouting at every level.”

UU College of Social Justice

UU College of Social JusticeAs a UUCSJ Program Leader you will be on the front lines of facilitating social justice education to your UU peers. This gets personal: you will be helping people understand how race, class, and gender shape our society, and their own lives.  You will help people gain an understanding of their own faith, and how that faith informs their justice work. And you will be providing tangible, replicable skills for people to envision and create communities of peace and justice.

For more information click here.



Unitarian Universalism in a Thousand Wordsblog pic pilgrim-seeing-through-300x236

by James Ishmael Ford

Back in the mid nineteen seventies, after I left the Zen monastery that had been my home for several years, I stumbled upon an early nineteenth century pamphlet titled “Unitarian Christianity.” After reading it I immediately looked for where the local Unitarian church was, now called, I saw Unitarian Universalism. I fell asleep during the service. But, later, at the coffee hour I met with people who intrigued me, fascinated me, and eventually opened a new spiritual way for me.

Over the years that have followed I’ve reflected on this tradition, a lot, where it comes from, what it is, and where it is heading.

Personally, at the beginning, I blame the Enlightenment.

In the eighteenth century when Europeans and North Americans noticed they could take the same skills that were revealing the secrets of the natural world to the workings of the mind and heart and even to their religions, something wondrous birthed into the world. It would variously be called rational religion and liberal religion.

Throughout the eighteenth century some broad principles were worked out through a critical engagement with traditional Christian doctrines and texts. One scholar tagged these as freedom, tolerance, and reason. While these currents would find homes in nearly all religions, by the first decades of the nineteenth century in North America two denominations emerged that were particularly devoted to this approach, the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association. Despite their deep similarities, for various reasons it would take more than a hundred years for these two communities to consolidate. Finally in 1961, they did, forming the Unitarian Universalist Association.

Each brought a distinct style to the party. In the middle of the nineteenth century a Universalist minister Thomas Starr King called to the Unitarian pulpit in San Francisco was asked how he saw the two denominations. Arguably the first Unitarian Universalist, he replied dryly the Universalists believed God too good to damn humanity, while the Unitarians felt they were too good to be damned. In this little joke we can see these two styles. The Universalists focused on the matters of heart with the slogan “love over creed,” while the Unitarians focused on ethics and the good life with the slogan “salvation by character.”

By the Twentieth century these styles emerged as a naturalistic religion, concerned with life in this world. For a while it would be closely identified with humanism, but unlike organized humanism Unitarian Universalism felt no need to disassociate itself from the family of religions. However this religion was a radical departure from the Abrahamic faiths. Through its own evolution a religion emerged that more closely resembles the traditions of ancient China, Confucianism and particularly Taoism than any of the other Western traditions.

Those who have gathered together under the Unitarian Universalist flag are notoriously resistant to labeling, hostile to anything that might look like a creed. Nonetheless, in 1985, with a second round of voting at our annual convention, the General Assembly of the UUA established a statement of principals and purposes, which were incorporated into the bylaws of the Association.

While the target of disdain from many within, particularly that so much of it is vague and “mom and apple pie,” there are three of the principals which I think speak to the shape of contemporary Unitarian Universalism. Two are theological assertions. And the other speaks to a style.

The first of the theological assertions is that every individual has value. This intuition is grounded in the seventh assertion in the principals that everything is bound up together in a vast web of intimacy. Taken together numerous ethical and social and spiritual concerns arise. How do we live if we feel each of us has significance, value, and that we are all of us related? And, more, what if we see that we are completely a part of this world? Over the years people have taken up one or another of the consequences that follow these intuitions.

The other point is enshrined, at least until there’s another vote, as the fourth principle, which is a call to a “free and responsible” search for meaning. Here we opened ourselves to the full range of spiritual disciplines from prayer to meditation to critical analysis, but always with the call to test whatever we find in conversation within a spiritual community predicated upon a covenant of presence to our own minds and hearts and to each other.

While the radical freedom of this tradition means people can join and do pretty much nothing, to genuinely honor the tradition means taking our lives seriously, to engage that free and responsible quest, to understand deeply what the preciousness of the individual might mean within the context of radical intimacy. I’ve noticed people tend to do this in two ways.

The first is to take these intuitions and style and live them within a larger faith stance. This is sometimes called the great hyphen. Among others there are UU Christians, UU Jews, UU pagans and UU Buddhists. I’m a UU Buddhist. I’m deeply convinced of the principal insights of Gautama Siddhartha, Buddhism’s founder and more the Chan masters of China and their followers in Japan’s Zen schools. And, I engage this tradition as a religious liberal, bringing my confidence in the abilities of ordinary people within all cultures to find everything necessary in this life, to the great matters of life and death. I’ve seen UU Christians do the same thing, with similar success in the transformation of heart.

But, also, I’ve seen people grow wise in this tradition without any hyphens. Simply looking at their own hearts and minds, paying attention to how we each arise in this world precious, and how we are all wound up together vastly more intimately than we can ever describe, leads as naturally as the day follows the night, to a life of wisdom and joy. Some in this approach might think of themselves as humanists. Many would just say they’re Unitarian Universalists.

I love spending time with people in their seventies and eighties and older, who’ve devoted a lifetime to this tradition with critical and radically open hearts and minds.

That’s all it takes.

And that gives me hope.

Pastoral Message

Hello Family,photo of me at P&E 4

I’m sending all of you a big, virtual hug because it seems like the new normal is on any given day for there to be in this country or somewhere in the world some type of traumatic event.  With the internet and the 24 hours news cycle, blissful ignorance is becoming more and more difficult to experience.

My prayer for each of you as you process the latest tragedies is that you have a loving supportive community that offers you a sense of safety, comfort and unconditional love.  All of which I am grateful to have in my life and I have dedicated my ministry to helping provide for others.

One example of my efforts to create supportive community is the annual FREE Food and Fellowship luncheon that I host each year at General Assembly for Youth and Young Adults of Color.  So, if you identify as Native American, Asian, Arab, Latino/a, African descent, trans-racially adopted, multiracial and are between 15-30 you are invited to the annual luncheon that will be held on Thursday, June 20, 2013 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown, in the Rose Room (DRUUMM suite) 12:00-2:00.  Please RSVP as soon as possible to mcummings@uua.org.

Another example of my ministry to support community is the annual Multicultural Leadership School, for Youth and Young Adults of Color(age 15-30) that will be held Friday, August 2, 2013 – Tuesday, August 6, 2013.

The Multicultural Leadership School (MLS) is a training designed specifically for Unitarian Universalist (UU) Youth and Young Adults of Color.  The goal of the training is to equip participants to be leaders in their UU congregation, district or continental committee.  The 3 day school will feature experienced facilitators who will be intentional on providing participants with experiences that will foster relationship building, leadership skills, racial/ethnic identity development, inter-cultural collaboration and deepening of  faith identity.  At the conclusion of the training, participants will have a new community of peers, stronger and more confident leadership abilities and a stable foundation for sustainable leadership in Unitarian Universalist congregations and other Unitarian Universalist communities and organizations.

For more information go to http://www.uua.org/re/youth/identity-based/color/158493.shtml .

As always, I would love to hear from you.  You can message me on Facebook at Monica Cummings, email me at mcummings@uua.org or leave a comment for me on the Living Mosaic blog at http://uuyayaoc.blogs.uua.org/.

I Love You,

Rev. Monica

Associate for Youth and Young Adult Programs


The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee is seeking an Associate for Youth and Young Adult Programs. This is a regular full-time position located within the UU College of Social Justice, a partnership between the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations (UUA). For more information click here.



Boston Marathon 2013 – What Story to Tell Children… and Ourselves

[The day before our blog was set to launch, explosions at the 2013 Boston Marathon finish line killed two people and injured at least 100. Our scheduled first post, on awakening our environmental stewardship on Earth Day, will appear later this week. — Editors]

My son Owen, who lives in Atlanta and was following Internet news and commentary, noted something important yesterday. “It’s different this time,” he said, “Different from 9/11. It seems to be more about those hurt than who’s responsible.”

Owen was in seventh grade on September 11, 2001. His teachers struggled mightily with how to talk about what had happened. I was a religious educator serving a congregation north of Boston. I struggled mightily, as well: What was the right message and response for the children and youth who came to church looking for help?

Flower growing out from crack in sidewalk

The language of war and violence was everywhere about us. Some children of our parish, invited to make cards of sympathy and friendship for the children of those who had died, drew pictures of bombs and burning buildings, and wrote messages like, “Don’t worry. Our president will protect us.”

In times of great trauma and grief, both individual and collective, we need a story to hold the fragments of images and feelings together. Our human-ness requires a story. Our brains can only hold that which we can fit into the narrative. It is up to us–as parents, educators, religious professionals, and caring adults–to offer our kids a story that provides a frame to hold what they are hearing and seeing.

Owen had put his finger on something essential. The frame being offered in our public discourse is different this time than it was twelve years ago. Then, there were stories of heroism and compassion and prayers and love, but they were the sidebars to the main story line: “This horrible thing happened to us and we are going to get the bad guys and all will be well again.” This time, the main story is of people helping one another in every possible way, forming community together. This time, it seems we are collectively deciding to breathe deeply and wait before rushing to create a narrative about who has perpetrated this terrible act of violence. Together, we have offered to one another an invitation to, in Adrienne Rich’s words, “…cast [our] lot with those who, age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power, reconstitute the world.”

While now is the time to offer to children a narrative to hold, we cannot always do it directly. Many children will have been shielded from the horrible details. They may only know that all is not well. Yet they, too, are desperately seeking a way to make sense of what is happening. Share music and a story that give children a little distance from the horror, and at the same time offer them a way to feel their feelings, respond, and move forward.

One such story is Tolstoy’s “The Three Questions,” in which a king learns that the most important thing to do is what is good, the most important people are those nearby, and the most important time is now. With children, use the lovely picture book adaptation by Jon Muth.

Do what is good: Care for those children and youth who are with you and around you, help them process what has happened, if an opportunity to do this work presents itself. Be sure to tell them the story you want them to hold deeply. And do not forget to send them forth to act with love and compassion. There is little more empowering or comforting–for a child, a youth, or an adult–than to believe one is called to be the hands, feet, and voices of God and of Love in this world of ours.

Pastoral Message

 News Alert

Sadly, we are once again witnesses to senseless violence. New images of suffering, panic, and heroism burn themselves into our memory. Shock mixes with grief, disbelief, compassion and anger. 


Monday’s bombing at the finish line of the Boston Marathon occurred just blocks from the Unitarian Universalist Association headquarters. As far as we know, all our staff are safe. Our prayers go out to the families of those who were killed and to all who have been injured. Beyond the physical injuries, many have been traumatized here and across the country. 


At times like this our spiritual communities are more important than ever. This is a time for being together, for giving and taking comfort from one another. This is a time for reaching out-both to be comforted and to offer kindness. 


At this time we do not know who did this or what twisted thinking produced this horrific act. We do know this: everything we do to spread compassion, understanding, acceptance, and peace matters. It is literally a matter of life and death. 


May each of us find comfort and healing. May each of us find ways of letting our pain be transformed into acts of love and healing. 


  In Faith,


Rev. Peter Morales

President, Unitarian Universalist Association


P.S. Resources are available to help you process these disquieting events emotionally and spiritually for yourself, in your family, and with others in your faith community.  

King’s Chapel Special Service

King’s Chapel will be open tomorrow for prayer, beginning at 8 a.m and for two special services of prayer and music (12:15 and 6). We are a place of sanctuary for our members and friends, for those who work in the City, and for the people from out of town who visit us daily.

Our usual Tuesday 12:15 concert will continue, as a time for musical reflection. We will also offer spoken prayers both prior to and after that concert. Also, at 6 p.m., we will host a brief service of prayer for any in the area who may be leaving their place of work and seek an opportunity to come together and pray.

Throughout the day, the Tour Guide staff will let all visitors know that they are welcome to come into this sacred space, to view its beauty, and to quietly pray, if they choose, but that we will not be offering regular tours. We also will place numerous additional Bede books around the Chapel so that those visiting can write prayers. God bless.

58 Tremont Street, Boston, MA.