Seizing An Alternative


Although the aim of Life at novelty, growth and richness of experience counters the forces of entropy, there are limits to the carrying capacity of the planet. […] However, reaching the limits of the planet’s carrying capacity does not necessarily entail an end to all growth, but is does require a change in the types of growth that occur so that the ecological sustainability rather than economic and population growth becomes our goal. — Paul Custodio Bube, Ethics in John Cobb’s Process Theology, p.97-98

One of the classes I took during my time at Claremont School of Theology was called “Seizing an Alternative: Toward an Ecological Civilization.” It was lead by Dr. Philip Clayton and Blake Horridge, and was part of the International Whitehead Conference of the same name this past summer. The premise of the class was that our current cultures of consumption and consumerism are unsustainable, and that we as religious leaders had to find ways to educate ourselves about the realities of this problem and re-think how we engage with people so as to help shift our respective communities away from self-destructive behavior and thought processes that are already wreaking havoc on a global ecological scale. The real problem, especially through the Western lens in the U.S., is the lack of comprehension that ecological disaster is inextricable from social, civil, and economic disaster.

photo by Mark Rain ‘This is your Earth on global warming” (cc) 2007
photo by Mark Rain ‘This is your Earth on global warming” (cc) 2007

For those of you reading this who think what I’m saying is a stretch, I would point you to this amazing comic done by Audrey Quinn and Jackie Roche, which outlines how climate change, and the subsequent prolonged drought in Syria, led directly to the downfall of what experts considered a stable government and has caused war, destruction, and the massive exodus of refugees from the area. If we do not shift away from a cultural, almost religious, obsession with consumerism and consumption without consequences, we will continue to contribute not only to the fall of other communities, but eventually our own. Our bubble of safety and prosperity is not impervious.

What I took away from the class — what I chose to be my practical manifestation of what I had learned into my work as a Unitarian Universalist minister — was the profound need for Earth-centered spiritual development in our religious lives as UUs. I am not someone who can organize community gardens, or petition the city to change laws about beehives and chickens and goats in urban homes. I struggle with how to get close to zero-waste living and how to be an effective minister to a congregation without using my car, or having to go into debt to buy one that is powered by sustainable energy.

What I do know is that I am surrounded by people who can do all those things, and much, much more. My job is to change the narrative we hear in congregations during our worship services from one of thoughtless abundance to one of cultivated sustainability. And I truly believe that narrative will come from our CUUPS members and from our relationships with indigenous cultures in our local communities.


Originally posted on the Patheos blog Nature’s Path.

We Gather


As you may be aware from recent worship services and Rev. Gail’s weekly email, the Worship Committee has been retooling the welcome we give on Sunday mornings. As a newcomer to this congregation, and a member of the committee, I have watched this process unfold over the last four months, and seen in it a representation of not only our Unitarian Universalist principles, but also the FUUN covenant we have as a congregation.

Part of my preparation to see the Ministerial Fellowship Committee is to review the sources and history of our tradition, one of which is The Cambridge Platform. In this document is the origin of our congregational polity, our rights to decide how we govern ourselves, and how we determine membership and leadership. At the core of this system is the idea of covenant, a commitment not between humans and deities, but between the members of the congregation. It’s a call to working towards right relationships with each other, even in times of conflict or disagreement.

The FUUN covenant speaks of a creating a safe and compassionate community, and recognizes both our interdependence and the beauty of our differences. Our small group ministry, the Covenant Groups, also each have their own covenant written by the members. My advisory committee works together within a mutually agreed-upon covenant. Even the seven principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association are part of a covenant between the member congregations to “affirm and promote” those principles, to work to make them a reality in the world.

But, as we all know, words on paper are sometimes hard to live up to, especially when multiple people, with a diversity of perspectives are involved. Our covenants are here to remind us to stay at the table, to give each other the benefit of the doubt, and to treat our fellow congregants, and those who visit us, with kindness and respect. The reason I’m writing this today is to tell you how I have witnessed all of these things happen over the last four months of rewriting and redesigning the Sunday morning welcome.

It has been collaborative on multiple levels — between the Worship Committee, the Membership Committee, and the FUUN staff; between members of the Worship Committee themselves, and then among the sub-committee formed to “wordsmith” one of the most important parts: talking about our covenant to both visitors and members during worship. While writing about our covenant, they embodied that covenant. Everyone contributed their opinion, everyone was heard, and everyone changed, in some way, the final paragraph that was agreed upon. It was, in a single word, beautiful.

So, whether you are new to FUUN, one of our longtime members, or one of the many in between, as we end 2015 and enter 2016 I invite you to think about covenants. Perhaps, if you like, meditate on the congregation’s covenant as a form of lectio divina:

We gather in safe and compassionate community, seeking our spiritual truths. We affirm our interdependence, celebrate our differences, and create a thoughtful and harmonious voice for liberal religion. Through the practice of the principles of our faith, we promote social, economic and environmental justice and continue our legacy of respect and acceptance. We covenant together in a spirit of love and freedom.

What does it mean to you to feel safe? To experience compassion? To have your differences celebrated? To understand your interdependence with others? How do you live out this covenant in this community? Why do you gather here?

In gratitude,
Meghann Robern