I’m very excited for my upcoming installation as the 28th settled minister of First Church Unitarian in Littleton, Massachusetts! It will be March 10th at 3:00 p.m. There will be wonderful music and some amazing ministers and other colleagues sharing their thoughts. There will be delicious food and awesome DJ music afterwards, too. It’s less than a week away!
I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist and by a father who had studied religion for many, many years. He had a B.D. (what would now be an M.Div.) from Lancaster Theological Seminary, and he was raised in the German Reform tradition (now part of the UCC). He thought he might be a minister in that tradition, but his humanistic atheism made him decide otherwise in the end.
He discovered his first UU church in Los Angeles, where I was born. We moved to Pennsylvania and the whole family joined the Unitarian Church of Harrisburg, where I attended “Sunday School”.
In addition to the obvious influences (I went to divinity school and got my M.Div., and I am still a UU), there’s a lifelong influence that also came largely from my father. And that is that, like my father, I am very interested in trying to discover as much as possible about the historical Jesus. In fact, I’m probably more interested than he ever was. I am somewhat obsessed with learning as much as I can about the historical Jesus.
And it’s not easy.
As you probably know, Jesus (apparently) never wrote anything. The documents we have about him were written some time (often generations) after his death. And the documents and points of view are contradictory, and they suggest that in some cases details were fabricated to present a particular Christology and theology. It’s very hard to know what to believe.
I’ve read the canonical New Testament, and all the gnostic gospels (I think so, anyway). I’ve read many books that explore the historical Jesus. I’m in the midst of reading all the books on Jewish Christianity that I can; it is possible that these early “Christians” (who were unitarian and thought of Jesus as the Messiah — a human prophet) were the closest to Jesus’s perspective. But really, how can we ever know? The work of the Jesus Seminar is helpful, but it’s still mostly educated guesswork.
And so, my lifetime search for the historical Jesus continues.
Last night I had the pleasure of participating in an event put on by the Harvard Divinity School Socialists called “Living a Radical Future: The Spiritual Opportunities of Socialism.” I was (unbelievably) on the bill with Dr. Cornel West! (Flyer to the left.) It’s sort of a fluke that I got to do this; the Harvard Divinity School students saw that I was in the “editorial group” of Religion and Socialism (of DSA), and that I was local, and an HDS grad. So, lucky me!
The event was in Andover Chapel, which I hadn’t stepped foot in since 1997, 21 years ago! I was surprised to find the pews are gone, with lovely chairs creating a much more versatile space.
It was great to meet the current HDS students, too. They gave me so much hope. They were predominantly from the Millennial generation, and they seem so advanced in their understanding of democratic socialism.
When I was a student at HDS in the mid-90s, it was through taking a class with Dr. West (called “Religion and Cultural Criticism”) that I ultimately learned about the concept of democratic socialism (as opposed to the “scary” versions of socialism that I’d been taught about growing up). And it was through Dr. West that I heard about DSA (the Democratic Socialists of America), since Dr. West has been an honorary Co-Chair of DSA for quite some time.
I attended quite a few meetings of a start-up version of Harvard YDSA (Young DSA), but there were only a handful of us (four – seven, tops) at each meeting, though it was university-wide. This was around 1995-97. At last night’s gathering of HDS Socialists (just Divinity School Students, not university-wide), there were probably 85 people there! It was wonderful.
I had the honor, after giving brief remarks, of introducing my hero, Dr. Cornel West. I felt unworthy of this, but I did it anyway!
Dr. West is so brilliant. I had the privilege of learning from him, once again.
In addition to being as intelligent as anyone I’ve ever met, he is also as warm and sweet as anyone I’ve ever met. What a great human being.
The FCU Standing Committee voted unanimously to endorse “Yes on 3”, and the Deacons and I unanimously agree. We are part of a larger faith coalition in support of this measure. “Yes on 3” is a campaign of Freedom Massachusetts to support ballot initiative 3 this November. Voting YES on Question 3 means voting “to uphold dignity and respect for our transgender neighbors”. As an LGBTQ Welcoming Congregation, it is in line with our values to take this public stance. There are now “Yes on 3” yard signs at FCU. Learn more at http://freedommassachusetts.org!
Recently, the Littleton Independent welcomed me to town, which I very much appreciated. You can read that article here.
So much has been happening in the world. I have been all-consumed (in a good way!) with getting up to speed here at my new, wonderful congregation. But this week, the outside world really came screaming in with the Kavanaugh hearings. That is very much on my mind today.
The UUA President, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, is in D.C. today with other clergy to try to #StopKavanaugh. She will deliver a petition that UUs were invited to sign onto here.
My heart goes out today to all those people who have been triggered by this recent discussion. There are many of us. May our nation find the wisdom and strength to overcome rape culture and our larger culture of violence.
The latest edition of ActionUnlimited ran a piece entitled “The First Unitarian Church in Littleton Welcomes Their New Settled Minister”. The online article can be read here. A somewhat longer version appears in the print edition. A photo of it is below. It’s nice to be welcomed to town!
This Saturday, September 8, from 10:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m., there is a rather big happening in Littleton: the Country Fair! It’s at Fay Park (28 Foster Street), and there’s something for everyone. Don’t miss it! Facebook event page here.
I will be there in a “Lucy VanPelt-style” (ala Peanuts) booth, “Profound Questions Answered, 5 ¢”.