Obituary for a Blog

Posted January 20, 2011 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: healthy church, history, learning, technology

So I actually wrote my own (blog’s) obituary in my head sometime in December, but since I hadn’t actually written the words down, I haven’t removed the blog from the http://www.  It’s time.  Uncle!   Of all my duties as minister of a midsized congregation, this one just never gets my attention.  I have to write a sermon just about every week, why would I want to write more than that?  I never quite figured out who my audience was anyway -I kept wanting to talk to my local congregation, which I get to do every Sunday anyway.  You were great fun, blog, while I was on sabbatical, but now that I’m back in the pulpit…

So, goodbye blog.  Maybe I’ll write in you again someday.   Thank you Phil and Betsy, for showing me how to do it, and giving me the confidence I could.  But just because I can, doesn’t mean I should.  In fact, I think it will give me great peace of mind to put the blog to rest.  So, rest it shall… for a time.  Goodbye dear reader, whoever you were…

Love Prevails

Posted November 18, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: mission, practicing, welcoming

What a great experience it has been to come together with colleagues – Peace activists, clergy, community – and celebrate diversity in East Lansing.   The hate group came and left on schedule (2:50-3:20) and now we have our city to ourselves. (I don’t mean to be coy about who they were – but I refuse to call them a “church” even though they call themselves one, since they use religion to spew their venom.)

There was a DJ and party in the parking lot next door which we could hear from our church building.  We had three Standing on the Side of Love banners to welcome the students as they left the high school, and directed them to the parking lot party.  When we got the ‘all clear’ that the hate group had left town, we returned to the site of their protest, and swept the sidewalk of their hate.  It was a great ritual, and fun to be a part of.  What a great city East Lansing is!  Thank-you, WBC, for giving us the opportunity to throw a party and celebrate our diversity! 

Thanks to the Heartland District of the UUA, and First UU Church of Ann Arbor for loaning us your banners!  They sent just the right message:  Standing on the Side of Love.


Posted November 11, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: learning, small UU world, Travel

At Ohio River Study Group we’re studying popular culture.  Colleague, Gordon Gibson, has written a paper that is a conversation with Henry David Thoreau about 21st century popular culture, to which I responded yesterday.  The first paper was on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and the second was on violence in pop culture, and final paper was on ritual on the internet (First UU Church of Second Life).  I had intended to watch some violent movies on our “reading list” but never did.  Buffy, however, I watched, and fell in love with.  I hadn’t watched the first run.  But this year, since the assignment was made, I have become a little fanatic about Buffy.  It’s the perfect kind of show to watch after a long evening meeting at church. What’s not to love about a young woman kicking vampire @$s? 

We have, you can imagine, talked a bit about the problem of evil, and problem of evil in a liberal traditions which has often tried to argue evil away, rather than fight it head on like Buffy.  It’s not an easy subject.  What we fans (thank you Valerie and Dawn!) like about the Buffy series is that evil is multilayered and complicated and not straight-forward most of the time (except when she is attacked by a vampire in the graveyard, she fights it, stakes it, and it turns to dust).. but at other times her friends will be vampires, or former vampires, or werewolves who are perfectly fine most of the month…evil is not always obvious, never contained, and we always have to resist it.  We need to strategize, and one of the most important messages of this television series, is that we need the support of our friends.

Support of friends is what this study group is really about – minister friends who serve congregations and communities, doing work like me – and considering the problems of the world and discovering strategies for fighting evil.  It’s a good group of colleagues and I’m glad to be among them.

Applause in church

Posted October 22, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: learning, practicing, small UU world

The topic came up in our Celebrations committee meeting last week (that’s the worship committee) – apparently, some people are disturbed by the waving of hands in church and clapping.   I heard members of the committee express concern about which, if either, is appropriate – and I heard about anxiety and confusion about the mixed signals we give as worship leaders.

You should know it is a common enough topic among colleagues of ministers.  While visiting a large church in the last few years, during the debrief of worship, one colleague commented on the applause during the service, to which the senior minister of that church replied, “They were clapping when I arrived and I decided not to do anything to stop it for fear that we’d turn into one of those congregations where half the people are waving their hands in the air and the other half are clapping.”   To which I lauged out loud – recognizing the congregation I serve and the role I’ve played over the years in creating this culture of mixed response.

The Celebrations committee wants to start a conversation about this around church – see what you think.  You may post a comment to this blog, to get the conversation started.  I’m going to try some different things, too, in worship.  This Sunday, for example, I’ll ask the congregation to hold all applause and hand-waving.  The topic I’m preaching on is grief, and though I am quite sure the music will be outstanding (as it usually is), I think it will be best appreciated in silence so we can sit with the emotional response it elicits.   The service next Sunday, has an entirely different – celebratory – mood.  So I may try something different next week. 

I don’t know where the conversation will lead.  But I hear the request for some clarity – so let’s keep talking!  What do you think about applause in church?  Is hand waving better?  When does it work for you?  When doesn’t it?  Do you come to church for silence and solace?  Or do you come to church to get energized and to make noise?   Is it about appreciation?  Do the musicians expect/need/crave applause?  What happens when you don’t give them that applause?  Is it just as effective to tell them after the service how mcuh you enjoyed the music?  Why do you want to clap?  Why do you crave the silence?  How do we reconcile your wishes with that of your neighbor’s?

Paint or Get off the Ladder

Posted October 5, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: history, practicing, small UU world

I noticed this phrase (“paint or get off the ladder”) for the first time this last week.  Surely someone had said it before, but I didn’t know it.  (The familiar phrase to me is about “the pot”)  But that’s how I feel about this blog.  I either need to write, or get off the blog. 

September in parish life can be overwhelming.  Launching the new year (programmatically we run from Sept-Aug, even if our budget is run Jan-Dec) means two services instead of one, religious education classes, introducing theme-based worship, annual pledge drive – with the pressure this year, of helping the congregation meet its goal of raising enough money to staff the church sufficient for its size in order to launch a capital campaign in the spring.  It’s just a lot. 

I’m writing from Indiana where I am learning with Heartland Unitarian Universalist Minister colleagues.  We’re discussing “whose are we” – theological and identity issues to ground us in our work.  One of the highlights of our time together as colleagues are the “Odysseys” – the stories of our more experienced ministers of their lives in ministry.  For me, these are always inspiring tales of our others have gone before, survived, thrived, and contributed greatly to our faith.  It is always humbling to this minister born in 1964 to hear how challenging it was for non-straight-(or passing)-white-men to break into this field.  My son at age 4, when I was about to enter seminary, was surprised to learn that men “could” be ministers – for the only ministers he’d known up to that point in his life were women.

We at the Greater Lansing congregation often brag about ordaining the Rev. Augusta Jane Chapin in 1863, which is true.  But it doesn’t mean that from then on, women had it easy in parish leadership.  The ordination of the Rev. Denise Tracy (which I thought was by this congregatin, but rememws reminded recently that it was elsewhere), back in the 1970’s is probably more significant to the unquestioning acceptance of women I felt entering seminary in 1998.  And of course, the Rev. Maryell Cleary – not ordained by this church, but who served it late in life and joined it for her final years – preceded and prepared us for the wave of women ordained in the 1970’s.   I’ve been thinking about the legacies we inherited and the ones we will leave to our children’s children…

Just a few days away from the hectic congregational busy-ness, I suppose, puts me back in a reflective mood, where I can start painting.  I’ll keep my blog for now.  I like the view from the top of the ladder…

Happy Interdependence Day

Posted July 5, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: history, learning, mission

Of everything at General Assembly this year, it is the Ware Lecture by Winona LaDuke that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  She managed to talk about the danger we have put the earth in, while providing hope for the future:  an amazing feat!  I have gone back and thought about various things she said in the days that followed.  “We’re the people that can do the right thing and what a spiritual opportunity that is,” she told us.  Your can hear her entire lecture at, event 4013 of General Assembly 2010.  I highly recommend it.

I’ve thought about her words especially this holiday weekend – the 4th of July.  I’m proud of my Unitarian and Universalist ancestors who helped “found” this country – but her words, “We were quite confident that we did not get discovered.  We were on to the fact that we were here,”  tease me.  The message that I took away from her lecture was that we honor those who were already here by honoring this land that we now share.  Stop coal.  Work on climate change.  Garden, and eat local.  Change our world view.  She delivered the message in a way that both honored the little things I currently do, and challenged me to do so much more.  I’ve been spending my holiday weekend considering the more I must do, and how. 

Happy Interdependence Day!

General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association

Posted June 26, 2010 by Rev. Kathryn Bert
Categories: learning, Photoblog, small UU world

  We took the long route to General Assembly this year – through the Upper Penninsula of Michigan and through Wisconsin, and down to Minneapolis.  My son got lots of practice driving and we got to visit some college campuses along the way.  Beautiful drive!  Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore was a highlight.

Ministry Days – meetings before General Assembly – weren’t as long this year, and so things started a bit before I was ready.  But I was particularly moved by the adoption of the statement of conscience on Peacemaking yesterday, and eagerly look forward to the UUA Board report on business resolution on GA 2012 (how we respond to Arizona SB 1070) and ensuing discussion.  I am struck by the civility of the conversation so far.  We do seem to get better and better at hearing one another and working toward compromise.  What good news that is for our association, our congregations, and our spiritual lives!


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