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Thursday, July 21, 2005

Please welcome your guest hosts.

How exciting to introduce two friends whose insights and company I'm sure you'll be glad to have here at Philocrites while I turn my attention to other things over the next few weeks. Two criteria drove my quest for guest bloggers: After all, what would Philocrites be without red hair and a degree from Harvard Divinity School? Happily, between the two of 'em, Jason Shelton and Thom Belote have those all-important blogging bases covered. Whew!

The kindest misdirected compliment I received at the General Assembly this year was at a party the last night of G.A. (It may have been the kindest misdirected compliment I've received all year.) A woman I don't know turned to me and told me what a talented musician I am. I thanked her; admitted that while I do my best to plunk out four-square hymns when asked, I'm really not that talented; and said that I was incredibly flattered to be mistaken for Jason Shelton — the truly talented music director of the First Unitarian Universalist Church in Nashville, whose music we had been enjoying throughout G.A. (We red-headed youngish UU guys are used to being confused for one another, though. I've also been complimented for being Branden Miller and Evan Keely, so I'm not complaining.)

Jason and I are friends who get to see each other only when our denominational responsibilities put us in the same place at the same time. (He's been a lurker around these parts longer than just about anyone, for which he has my undying thanks.) Even though he's a tad younger than I am, he's had time to be a Franciscan brother as well as become a Unitarian Universalist minister. (M.Div. from Vanderbilt, the Harvard of the South, right?)

As a musician, composer, and hymn writer, he has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues in the Unitarian Universalist Musicians Network. Thousands of UUs have been introduced to his music at the last two General Assemblies: He was music director at last year's innovative Sunday morning worship service and co-director at this year's rousing closing ceremony, and he helped introduce a bunch of the songs from the new UUA songbook, Singing the Journey, where you can find several of his hymns. Oh, and his album, The Fire of Commitment, is on my iPod.

Thom Belote and I met over breakfast at the General Assembly in Salt Lake City back when he was still just an incredibly smart college student. I was part-way through my M.Div. at Harvard at the time, and we became friends when he came to Harvard, too. One of the things I had the pleasure to witness at div school over seven years — four years for me, three for Mrs P — was the emergence of real ministers out of mere seminarians, a transformation wonderful and quite inspiring to see and something that doesn't actually happen to everyone who earns the degree or, I'm ashamed to say, gets ordained. When Thom returned from his internship, we all noticed. Right away. He came back with really good "MP" (seminarian-speak for ministerial presence) and is now the young, very competent minister of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, one of the congregations that participated in the UUA's first "Uncommon Denomination" marketing campaign. Thom, who grew up UU in Massachusetts, owns an enviable collection of Kansas paraphernalia, of which he is justifiably proud.

Thom's scholarly inclination has already given us the Dictionary of Unitarian Universalist Biography entry for Unitarian superstar (and quasi-unitarian) Thomas Jefferson. He's the guy to ask when someone wants to know about Jefferson's religious and philosophical beliefs.

Please welcome Jason "Scholacrites" Shelton and Thom "Deuterophilocrites" Belote. They'll keep things moving around here; I'll pop in as I can, but don't expect a lot from me for a few weeks.

Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 21 July 2005 at 7:38 PM

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July 22, 2005 08:15 AM | Permalink for this comment

I know Evan Keely. He interned in my church. Being mistaken for Evan is a pretty high compliment too!

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