A Birthing – A Book – In Much Gratitude

A Birthing – A Book – In Much Gratitude May 29, 2017
UU Pagan Voices
Published by Skinner House Press. Image © Kishgraphics

This blog post is more on the personal side from me today. My reports on CUUPS Business will move to a e-newsletter soon. At our last executive board meeting, I requested to just be a blogger on this page about subjects that were timely to our organization. So it begins!

During this past week, I received a box of printed and finished books at my home. I stared at it almost in disbelief that the journey I stepped into was now complete. As I held them in my hands, and the emotions came flooding out. All of the work, the editing, compiling, reaching out with invitations to write, searching for the people we wanted to contribute, writing, getting permissions from the articles and so on, was now in a physical form I could hold.  The book Pagan and Earth-Centered Voices of Unitarian Universalism had been born.

Write a Book???

Me? Writing or editing a book? I have, for 45 years been on the other side of publishing as a designer, an art buyer and a production artist. I can choose type, layout books without batting an eye lash in Quark XPress or InDesign, design covers and make the whole thing read easily. I would work with teams of editors to make sure the accurate typographic hierarchy was in place. The images projected the accurate feeling and that it was legible and readable. After all that is the designer’s mantra! I could manage a publication from concept to finished printed product. Write though??? Seriously??

I have written for magazines. SageWoman, Witches & Pagans, Circle Magazine and of course the old CUUPS NUUS! Magazine articles seemed easy comparatively because they were short and sweet. No images necessary. No long-term commitment. In the past they were in print so there were no trolls or online reviews. People were more forgiving in their opinions and everyone knew we were a small community unfolding who we really were. My goodness, when I came to Unitarian Universalism it seemed as though there were a lot of UU Pagans and we were all in the closet!

Now here we are! A book full of juicy, fun, insightful essays by UU Pagan and Earth-Centered thinkers who also are all UU! It is an exciting time. How fast my 30 years as a UU Pagan has gone and how much ground we have taken in the denomination. Also, what a difference we have made working with the larger Pagan and Earth-Centered communities and organizations!

How Did It Start?

In early 2014, the board of CUUPS shared about a potential book project with Skinner House Press on Pagan Voices within the Unitarian Universalist Association. After much conversation, and weighing the options, Rev. Shirley Ranck (author of Cakes for the Queen of Heaven) and I agree we would take it on if we worked together.

There were so many ways to approach the book, and we knew the vision was a compilation of essays from people who followed Pagan and Earth-Centered traditions and/or thinking of many kinds. Goodness though, as UU’s we knew there was no one way! Similar to the other theologies honored in UU sources and principles, Paganism and Earth-Centered voices were as diverse as humanity. We are not a once size fits all. There is no dogma or one way being the right way. We challenge the Pagan who comes to us with a fixed way of thinking. What Shirley and I did know however, is that we could create a beautiful tapestry of voices from many different people.

Shirley and I decided to meet in San Jose  February 2014 to brainstorm with some friends who all had various experiences in the world of UU Paganism at conferences, denominational gatherings and local groups around the country.  At that meeting, Starhawk, Selena Fox, and Margot Adler sat with us to share their ideas and brainstorm with us.

Sitting at that meeting felt like a Divine Council of Goddesses. One thing we were clear of is there had really not been an understanding of Paganism and Earth-Centered theo/alogy in the UU denomination and the larger Pagan community. We were setting out on uncharted territory.

What is UU Paganism and Earth-Centered Thinking?

Many outside of the denomination called UU Pagans, “Pagan-Light.” We are not steeped in religion in the ways the dominant Pagan sects and traditions sometimes are. What was clear at that meeting is, there is something about UU Paganism that forces a person to be their talk and walk that talk. Our deeds are our creeds. Each of the people at that meeting, had been involved in Unitarian Universalism in one way or another for many years. The cup of ideas over-flowed.

We wanted to include not only Pagans within the denomination, but folks who were some of the key people who shaped it to contribute. Articles about the birthing of the sixth source and seventh principle; about the Goddess Women’s movement, Cakes for the Queen of Heaven; the Covenant of UU Pagans; and the work of so many along the way. We wanted to show the beauty of Earth-Centered traditions and the gifts they are to our congregations, as well as the difficulties of feeling welcomed and creating a home within the denomination.

Who Wrote Essays?

About thirty people were invited to write. Of that twenty-three beautiful essays from the heart came together weaving many aspects of what it is to be Pagan, UU and people of the Earth. We included articles from the perspective of thinkers who are gay, straight, lesbian, Native, African American, women, men, elders and young people. There are many paths of honoring the Earth traditions, the Gods, Goddesses, and the Divine – Druids, Wiccans, drummers, singers, artists, ministers, laity, priestesses, religious educators, and college students. Each person wrote from their own particular experience in their own voices.

Pagan and Earth-Centered Voices of Unitarian Universalism is part of a series of books about a variety of religious voices of the denomination. It joins books on Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism, and Humanism all produced by Skinner House Press.

Lessons of Gratitude

This journey has taught me an enormous amount about gratitude, stepping outside of my own interpretations of myself and taught me that even in the most difficult times, we can rise up and be tall.

I am grateful for those who saw me bigger than I did. I am grateful for learning so much about the early years of UU Paganism from Shirley Ranck and many others. I am in awe of the staff at Skinner House, Mary Barnard and Marshall Hawkins, for their constant coaching and questions. They were clear of the importance of this book and gave it the attention to detail careful scrutiny.

Many thanks all of the writers who sent essays and those we asked edits from. Many thanks also to the family of Margot Adler for giving us permission to run the article she suggested we use from the past instead of her writing a whole new one. The book would not have been the same without her name and voice gracing the pages.

To Those Close to the Action!

I think of my parents and what they may have said. When sitting with my dad during the last 18 months of his time on the planet said he knew I could do whatever I wanted to. He knew I was the tenacious daughter. I knew how to point my compass in the direction I wanted to go. My mom let me know the same. I am grateful to them for understanding my path in life was different.

Much love and gratitude to my chosen and adopted family and kin. You have so many times been the breath that breathed life into my soul when I was tired. When I wanted to quit. When I thought I was not adequate and when I needed to know in one simple moment I can do anything I set my mind to.

To Rev. Shirley Ranck, you were my absolute dream partner! You balanced me! I am so clear I was balance to you. It was an incredible honor to map out this journey and hop on board the boat with you. I knew every time we spoke this would happen. You inspire me.

To All of You!

Thank you to the board of CUUPS and Skinner House….thank you for the opportunity!

To Our Families! I want to thank my own and Shirley’s families. My son who wrote his own essay for it, my husband for his skillful editing when other eyes were needed, Shirley’s daughter for teaching her more technology to get the job done. You all made this happen too!

For UU Pagans, Earth-Centered thinkers and lovers, God/dess Lovers, those who sit in the pews, tend to CUUPS chapters, and have been in your congregations…YOU are the Pagan and Earth-Centered voices on the streets.  Your acts of generosity and voices speaking and honoring the Earth, the Great Mother/Father and the Ancient Ones and the circle of wisdom have taught me much. We as UU Pagans and Earth-Centered thinkers have earned our place and have and are making a difference. I dedicate this book’s journey to all of you.

Be Blest!

To order the book you can visit the UUA Bookstore. Enjoy it and have fun bringing the ideals of honoring the Earth as sacred and divine to your congregations and groups! Be well. Love intentionally. Laugh and express joy. Walk this planet in a sacred way. Blessings to you.

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