Sunday, July 27, 2008

Prayers ascending...

...for the members of the Tennessee Valley UU Church, for recovery for the wounded, for comfort for their traumatized children, and especially for Greg McKendry, who reportedly died a hero's death as he shielded the children from an intruder firing a shotgun in the sanctuary.

I'm sure I speak for the whole UU blogosphere in expressing our grief and our solidarity with our sisters and brothers in Knoxville.

[Update: Linda Kraeger, a visitor from the Westside Unitarian Universalist Church, hs died as well. It seems there were a number of kids and adults from Westside visiting TVUUC this morning. So now prayers are ascending for Linda and for Westside too. We hold all of them in our hearts this very sad day. And thanks also to the members of the neighboring Second Presbyterian Church, who took in and cared for the TVUUC kids fleeing the scene.]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Religion Notes from All Over

Mormon missionary calendar-maker excommunicated

Sun Jul 13, 11:09 PM ET (AP)

The creator of a calendar that featured shirtless Mormon missionaries was excommunicated Sunday after a disciplinary meeting with local church leaders in Las Vegas.

Chad Hardy said he bears no ill will toward the council of elders from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

"I felt like I spoke my truth," the 31-year-old entertainment entrepreneur said. "Bottom-line, they still felt the calendar is inappropriate and not the image that the church wants to have."

"Men on a Mission," which has sold nearly 10,000 copies at $14.99 each, included pictures of 12 returned missionaries wearing black slacks, but not their trademark white shirts, in modest poses. The men also were photographed in traditional missionary garb and share their religious beliefs in biographical sketches.

Some of the 12 models have also been called to disciplinary meetings, but none were punished.

"I have no ill feelings toward any of those people," Hardy said of the church council. "They did what they believed was right and I really do feel it was the best decision for both of us."

Frank E. Davie, the senior leader over a group of Mormon congregations in the Las Vegas area, confirmed the 12-member council's decision in a telephone call to The Associated Press. He declined further comment.

Hardy said the purpose of the 2008 calendar was not to tear down the church or its 13 million members.

"The project is about stepping outside the stereotypes and stepping outside of the image," Hardy said. "Not everybody fits the image and I let them know we're not trying to portray an image for the entire church."

An excommunicated person is removed from official church rolls, but are still welcome at church services. Excommunicated members are prohibited from receiving the sacrament and can't perform church callings such as teaching or preaching during meetings. They also cannot enter church temples.

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Banquet

I love it when different religious traditions stumble across the same apprehension. I figure, the more widely apprehended a religious principle is, the more universally true it must be.

Widow throws party to find place in heaven

Fri Jun 6, 6:28 AM ET A rich 80-year-old Indian widow has spent thousands of dollars on a feast for 100,000 people in the hope it would please the gods and open the doors of heaven for her, local officials said.

People from surrounding villages and towns were fed lunch over two consecutive days by Phuljharia Kunwar, who lives in the eastern state of Bihar and has no family or relatives.

Kunwar spent $37,500 (19,186 pounds) on the feast. Local officials said she spent lavishly on the meal because she had no one to bequeath her property.

"She told us she could now begin her final journey and her soul could rest in peace in heaven," Ajay Kumar Bulganin, a local lawmaker who attended the feast, held over Wednesday and Thursday, said.

"She was worried that no one would care about throwing a feast after her death."

[Copyright © 2008 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.]

On one occasion when Jesus was going to the house of a leader of the Pharisees to eat a meal on the sabbath, they were watching him closely. ... When he noticed how the guests chose the places of honor, he told them a parable. “When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not sit down at the place of honor, in case someone more distinguished than you has been invited by your host; and the host who invited both of you may come and say to you, ‘Give this person your place,’ and then in disgrace you would start to take the lowest place. But when you are invited, go and sit down at the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher’; then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at the table with you. For all who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” He said also to the one who had invited him, “When you give a luncheon or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, in case they may invite you in return, and you would be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you, for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

[Luke 14:1, 7-14]

Friday, July 04, 2008

In case you were wondering...

Yes, Katie Mayhew,

the 16-year-old amateur singer from Martha's Vineyard who won a high school talent search and knocked the crowd's socks off earlier this evening at the July 4th Boston Pops fireworks celebration, is a descendant of the same Mayhew family from Martha's Vineyard as Jonathan Mayhew,

the Unitarian minister who preached the sermon that John Adams called ""the spark that ignited the American Revolution", and who coined the famous phrase "no taxation without representation".

Given the patriotic theme of the evening, I'm astonished the producers didn't mention the connection.

Obviously, a commanding stage presence and the ability to mesmerize crowds in Boston are gifts that still run in the family.