Spiritual and Religious: Highlights from Lillian Daniel among the UUs

Spiritual and Religious: Highlights from Lillian Daniel among the UUs June 18, 2013

Lillian Daniel is the author of the new book When “Spiritual but Not Religious” Is Not Enough: Seeing God in Surprising Places, Even the Church. This morning she delivered a keynote address at the Unitarian Universalist Ministerial Association’s annual “Ministry Days,” which precede the Unitarian Universalist Association’s annual General Assembly, which is being held this year in Louisville, Kentucky.

I personally have an interest in the ways that Unitarian Universalism is poised invite those who identify as “Spiritual But Not Religious” to experience being both spiritual and religious. Lillian is hilarious, and a provocateur. For Unitarian Universalists, I would recommend particularly Chapter 1 of her new book, “Spiritual but Not Religious?” (pages 3-17).

The following bullet points are drawn from live-tweeting Daniel’s keynote this morning, both from my own tweets and from re-tweeting my colleagues. And as with all live-tweeting, these quotes track as closely as I (and others in the audience) could manage in the moment. For more, follow the hashtag “#ministrydays” on Twitter:

  • “I will not apologize anymore for a church I am not a part of.”
  • “Being privately spiritual but not religious doesn’t interest me. Interesting is community.”
  • “There are limits to self-made religion.”
  • “In community, other people might call you on stuff, or heaven forbid, disagree with you.”
  • “Life with God gets rich and provocative when digging deeply in a tradition you didn’t invent.”
  • “The bland majority find ancient religions dull but themselves uniquely fascinating.”
  • “I want to sit next to someone who has been shaped by a mighty cloud of witnesses.”
  • “The myth: If we are nice and apologize, they will come.”
  • Daniels names the faith-killing assumption that if we tell folks nothing is expected of them, they will be attracted to our churches.
  • [VIDEO]: “Religion & Spirituality in a Changing Society”: http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=50144670n.
  • “I love Jesus so much, I let people pay me a salary to talk about him….”
  • [Poem] Stephen Dunn, “At the Smithville Methodist Church”: http://www.uvm.edu/~lschnell/eng121/soundtrk/dunn.html.
  • “Community matters. Depth matters.”
  • “If you find God in nature, do you find God in cancer? You need community to wrestle with that.”
  • “Hyper-individualized spirituality works ok for a while…until life gets hard. Then where do we turn?”
  • “Religious community gives us a place to work it out when our assumptions and beliefs break down in the face of life & death.”
  • “Choosing your own beliefs is like a beautiful bouquet. Looks nice, but not helpful when life is tough.”
  • “Best argument for why church matters is somewhere between ‘burn in hell’ and ‘whatever floats your boat’”
  • “Growing up Episcopalian, talking about sin was like mistaking the fish fork for the salad fork.“
  • “UCCs put the ‘Bi’ in Bible.” #Welcoming #LGBT [United Church of Christ]
  • ‘Vampire Christians’ only want Jesus for his blood….
  • “Need community where you are accepted for who you are and encounter the Spirit.”
  • “Need same effort to find your family’s church as spent finding best college for your children.“
  • “When you’ve seen one church, you’ve only seen one church. Need persistence in search.“
  • “God as divine magical genie, financial planner & mediocre physician.“ #FunctionalAtheism
  • “I hate the ‘lettuce’ sermon: Let us… Let us… Let us…”
  • “We need to recover rigor in religious life without threat of roasting in hell.”
  • “Can you honestly say to someone who missed church that you really missed something?”
  • “We have to be willing to risk offending. We need a rigorous church that requires much of us.”
  • “Don’t make it easy for people to skip the community part.”
  • “Grief is beautiful because it is a witness to deep love.”
  • “If I could sum up my sermon at party, I wouldn’t have spent 15 hours on it”
  • “Kick all the human beings out of the church, and imagine how great we could be!”
  • Question: “How to give a testimony without it being narcissistic?”
  • “In personal narrative in sermons, preacher should not be hero. Need to avoid narcissism in pulpit.”
  • “Make church membership A Big Deal: high requirements, high prestige.”
  • “Cultivate discipleship, not just membership. Equip you to change the world, not to meet your needs.”
  • “Joining church is not like joining a gym. The church is not about providing services, not about meeting all of your needs.”
  • “How do we gather to worship and not worship each other, although worshipping each other is better than worshipping ourselves.”
  • “If you didn’t get something out of worship, well, it’s not just about you, Narcissus“
  • “Interim Ministry not only time you can tell truth. All Ministry is, in a sense, interim.”
  • “Go to (1) Heaven…or (2) Discussion about Heaven? A hard decision!”
  • “High bar or low bar for membership. Altar calls or yearlong membership classes. Both work. Middle ground doesn’t.”
  • “As ministers, we need to model comfort with fallibility and messiness.”

I should probably add the general caveat that tweeting someone does not necessitate agreement with their statement; rather, it may just be that the statement resonated for whatever combination of reasons.

Also, in particular, I do not agree with the following lines, although I can appreciate the call for more community that motivates these claims:

  • Don’t put your sermon manuscript online. Don’t make it easier for people to miss the relational moment.
  • Don’t make it easy for people to skip the community part of church: stream or post videos of sermons. Don’t print online.

I am unconvinced that refusing to post sermon manuscripts is good advice. Sermon delivery isn’t that precious and special, although this point is guaranteed “Red Meat” for a ministerial audience, even if there are a lot of vegetarians in said audience! In all seriousness, many people get a lot out of reading sermons. And there are may different types of learning styles; everyone doesn’t engage best through spoken sermons.

That being said, I appreciate Daniel taking the time to journey to Louisville to dialogue with the UUMA. The Rev. Dr. Lillian Daniel (@lillianfdaniel) describes herself as a “Minister, Writer, Teacher, Occasional Ranter.” She is ordained in the United Church of Christ, and is the Senior Minister of First Congregational Church of Glen Ellyn, Illinois. She is the previous author of Tell It Like It Is: Reclaiming the Practice of Testimony(2005) and co-author of This Odd and Wondrous Calling: The Public and Private Lives of Two Ministers (2009).

The Rev. Dr. Carl Gregg is a trained spiritual director, a D.Min. graduate of San Francisco Theological Seminary, and the minister of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Frederick, Maryland. Follow him on Facebook (facebook.com/carlgregg) and Twitter (@carlgregg)

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