To learn more about Haitian Vodou

We had a packed meeting room last Sunday! It was great to see. We learned something about Haitian Vodou and asked a lot of questions, but still just scratched the surface of this complex religion and philosophy of life. Our vodouisant guest speakers recommend the following two books to learn more about their faith:

  • Divine Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, by Maya Deren ( link)
  • Mama Lola: A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn, by Karen McCarthy Brown ( link)

They are also very open to questions and can be reached via e-mail:

  • Adam McGee: amcgee {at} fas {dot} harvard {dot} edu
  • Manbo Maud Evans: mmevans70 {at} yahoo {dot} com

— Rev. Frieda

Books recommended by Rev. Frieda

I’ve referred to a couple of books recently that people have asked about. The first is The Soul of Money, by Lynne Twist. She was an executive with The Hunger Project for many years and has a wonderful perspective on money and how it can be a fulfilling force in our lives rather than an anxiety producing one.

The other book from the Easter service is Saving Jesus from the Church, by Robin Meyers. He is a UCC minister who describes the origins of many of the church’s professed beliefs and encourages Christians to return to the teachings of Jesus rather than worshipping Jesus Christ.

Why is a Big Mac cheaper than a salad?

I promised last Sunday that I would post the picture I talked about and some references for learning more about how our food is produced and what we can do about the injustices, health and environmental issues. First, here is the graphic from the AlterNet article. There is another source article in the New York Times.

The film that I think is a “must see” is called Food, Inc., and since it was nominated for an Oscar this year, it can be found at any movie rental place. Join in the discussion after church next Sunday to see some clips and discuss them with others.

The journalist I referred to is Michael Pollan. He’s written several books, of which I’ve read one: In Defense of Food, which is an excellent treatise on the history of processed food in this country and what he’s learned about healthy eating. He is also the author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Food Rules, a book of aphorisms to help us navigate the mysteries of labels and packaging.

One of the most important ideas Pollan presents, IMHO, is that we are meant to be in relationship to our food — we are part of the web of life, not an opposing force. It’s really about our place in the world.  In the words of Wendell Berry, whom he quotes in his book:

Eating with the fullest pleasure — pleasure, that  is, that does not depend on ignorance — is perhaps the profoundest enactment of our connection with the world. In this pleasure we experience and celebrate our dependence and gratitude, for we are living from mystery, from creatures we did not make and powers we cannot comprehend.

Blessings on your food journey. I’d love to hear your stories.


Honoring Mary Daly, pioneering feminist theologian

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Mary Daly

Mary Daly, radical lesbian feminist Catholic theologian who taught at Boston College for 33 years, died Monday at the age of 81.

Daly was a pioneer in challenging patriarchal leadership and theology in all organized religion. Her theological writings and courses essentially started the feminist theology movement, which thrives still today at many seminaries.

Her extreme feminism caused many to reject her, but no one can say she didn’t influence positive change. Those of us who are female ministers owe a lot to her courage and teachings. You can read more about her at NPR or on Wikipedia. Thank you to Amanda Symmes, who brought the news to me.

In Faith,

The meaning of Ramadan

We have entered the season of Ramadan, a period of fasting, prayer, and spiritual study for Muslims.

The radio program Speaking of Faith has gathered stories about the meaning of Ramadan from Muslims all over the country. They are inspiring and touching, and are a wonderful way to get to know our Muslim neighbors better. I commend them to you.

On the Speaking of Faith website, you can listen to the original program, “Revealing Ramadan,” or listen to the uncut versions of the stories presented. You’ll also find poetry about Ramadan by Adnan Onart, one of the callers. By clicking here, you can listen to his poems “Ramadan in Dunkin’ Donuts,” “Morning Prayer,” and more.

If you are offered food by a stranger this month at sundown somewhere — maybe even a Dunkin’ Donuts — it just might be an invitation to participate in the breaking of the Ramadan fast.


Watch the UUA General Assembly

General Assembly, the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual denominational meeting, is taking place in Salt Lake City right now.

There will be worship services, musical performances, workshops, award-winning sermons, the vote for the UUA president, study/action issues and much more.

Twenty-five hours of live, streaming video will be broadcast, and is happening right now.  Click here to start watching. Links to past video will be posted so that you needn’t watch it live.

This is a great way to participate if you aren’t able to be there. See our democratic process in action and experience the many ways you can learn or be inspired. It’s almost as good as being there.

OWL sex education noted in Boston Globe

Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a human sexuality curriculum that was developed by the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. It is one of the programs I feel most proud of in our denomination. The curriculum offers courses from early childhood to adulthood, and some congregations teach multiple age groups. Typically our churches teach the OWL class for teens (either seventh- and eighth-graders or senior high youth).

Yesterday in a Boston Globe article about sex education in Massachusetts, OWL was mentioned as a program that is progressive. Well, it actually used the word “radical.” What I like about the program is that it gives a group of teens, an equal number of boys and girls typically, a forum to talk openly with each other about all aspects of relationships and sexuality. It teaches the “facts of life,” but more importantly explores how we relate to our own sexuality and that of others with respect and sensitivity.

Students universally leave the class with more confidence about navigating the expectations and pressures of our culture while maintaining their own sense of self. Northshore has had several people trained to deliver the OWL class, and Jim Lynch and Patty Rhode have just finished that training.

Northshore will be offering OWL for seventh-, eighth-, and ninth-graders starting the last week of March and going to June. There will be a mid-summer get-together, and then the class will resume in September. There are still openings in the class with first preference given to NSUU members’ children. Contact Fred Mills, Director of Religious Education, to register. You’ll find his e-mail address here.

Reflections on a new era

The election is over, and Barack Obama will be our next president. I am as amazed as anyone that this has happened. But what exactly has happened? This election was nothing like any other in my lifetime or before. I don’t think I quite fully realized it until the announcement came and I saw the excitement, joy and tears in the faces of the crowd in Chicago — and their almost uniform youth. Of course I knew it would be historic, a bi-racial president — monumental change! But I think much more than that has happened.

This was nothing like the liberal vs. conservative battles other elections have been. Barack Obama represents the newer generations — generations that never lived through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the culture wars of the ’60s, the Vietnam War or the Feminist Movement. He doesn’t represent the next liberal Democrat, but rather a new movement. He has already catalyzed a huge increase in the number of engaged people in our democracy. If he is true to his promise we will see a new form of governance — maybe not right away, but as Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier writes, “maybe, just maybe, something new has arrived: A post-partisan approach to governing, founded on the Obama Coalition, fueled by young and minority voters, powered by the 21st century technologies …”

By 2045, according to a recent government report, Anglo people will be in the minority in this country. We are becoming a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural nation. Barack Obama is no token; he is from a different mold, and he is ushering in a new era, albeit burdened by overcoming the devastation wrought by the old one. No wonder there was such awe and wonder on those faces in Chicago. Obama seems confident and ready, but I think if this new vision is to prevail, the continued engagement of all of us in our government will be crucial.

GLBT losses were huge this election: Arizona, Florida and California by popular vote made it constitutionally correct to violate the civil rights of GLBT person. In Arkansas, no unmarried person may now adopt or foster a child. This is a great sadness. I do not believe laws like these will prevail, but there is a long road ahead. And once again, I’m so grateful for the people of Massachusetts!

But meanwhile there is much to celebrate: A longtime UU and pillar of the community in Framingham who is African-American, Esther Hopkins, said, “I grew up in this country from the time when everything was segregated and there was really no hope then. Now I myself am in the position where there’s a black governor of my state and a black president of my country, and my son had the opportunity to vote freely for whom he wanted. I’m thrilled. I did not think I would live to see the day.” Neither did I.

As a member of our church wrote to me, “I feel as if I’ve been released from a long-term cocoon of cynicism, shame, and some depressed apathy regarding our nation and am joyfully caught up in the hope and fascination and possibilities for the future. I don’t yet know in what role, exactly, I might participate. But meanwhile I find myself praying frequently and fervently for Barack Obama’s life, health and success.”

What are your thoughts, feelings, hopes or fears about this election? If you’ll send them to me (note: remove NOSPAM from address) or post comments here, I’ll collect them for all to read.

Ric Masten: A singular life

On Sunday we’ll be talking about people we care about who’ve died in the past year. One of those people was not a personal friend of mine, but someone I hold a deep appreciation for. He is the author of one of our hymns: “Let It Be A Dance.” And he died at the age of 77 last March of prostate cancer. He was a Unitarian Universalist traveling poet and troubadour and many UU churches enjoyed his services.

There is a wonderful article about Ric Masten’s life in a local Monterey, California, paper, and you can read it by clicking here. I’ll tell the story of how Ric came to write “Let It Be a Dance” in the service. His incredible spirit allowed him to survive nine years after he was told he had six months to live. Stubborness and fierce indepence of thought was a big part of that longevity, but also his philosophy of life and death. You’ll read about that in the article.

Here is the ending to another one of his songs, “Waterfalls and Tigers.”

… Now waterfalls or tigers,
Somethin’s gonna get ya.
We’re here today. Tomorrow, we’ll be gone!
It’s the sound of one hand clapping,
if you try and fight it:
Brother, you’re gonna miss the song …
(chorus) Sing a song….sing a song,
When hope has been abandoned,
sing a song —
Brother it would be a real catastrophe
if you should fail to stand and sing a song …

Thoughts on the church burglary

As many of you know by now, we had a break-in at the church Sunday night. The thief probably entered the church through an unlocked classroom door, broke into the office, and stole the cash and checks collected at Octoberfair. Fortunately we have copies of the checks and were able to contact everyone to have them stop payment and reissue a check to NSUU. We lost approximately $3,200 in cash. Ellen in the preschool had a small amount of cash taken, too. The collection from Sunday was not stolen.

We are heartsick about this, of course; it’s sad on so many levels: for the many people who worked so very hard on the Fair, for the church budget, for the conditions and thinking that led this person to do this, and for our violated sense of security. On the bright side, the assets of the church that are much more important — the people, all of the spirit and love you bring to NSUU, and the building and grounds themselves — are all intact. I’m glad no one was here to be hurt.

We’ve been working with the police, and I’m asking for your help in the investigation. If you noticed anyone or anything unusual or suspicious on Saturday or Sunday, please let me or Nancy know. Nancy has contacted the insurance company, which will pay to repair the window in the office door and reimburse at least some of the cash. As we have information about that, we’ll let you know. The Board is working on how to improve cash management going forward. If you have questions or suggestions, let us know.

May the positive energy we’ve all generated these past couple of months keep us from dwelling on this too much, and carry us onward to better things.

With great faith in NSUU,