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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Prayer in lieu of posting.

Since I've turned out to be too busy to post anything this week, I'll point you to a long comment I posted last week. Dudley Jones had asked if I pray, and I replied.

Posted by Philocrites, September 29, 2005, at 08:34 AM | 1 comments

Monday, September 26, 2005

'Via media': Episcopalians challenge the Christian right.

Here's something exciting: Values, Vision and the Via Media, a conference at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., October 13 through 15. Focused on bringing moderate and progressive Christian voices back into the public square, the conference is rooted in the Episcopal tradition, but Christians from a variety of traditions will find a lot of value in the three days of programs. I think I just might go myself.

I'm most interested in the Thursday afternoon pre-conference sessions — especially "The Reception of Progressive Values in the Media" with E.J. Dionne, Kevin Eckstrom, Amy Sullivan, Steven Waldman, and several other journalists whose work I don't know as well. Other big names at the conference include Jim Wallis, former Sen. John Danforth, Jonathan Schell, Harvard professor and John Kenneth Galbraith biographer Richard Parker, and Massachusetts legislator Byron Rushing. (I love the thought of attending a wine and cheese reception with these folks.)

Thanks to Jo Guldi, a blogger who's on the program, for drawing my attention to the conference. She adds:

Bloggers, famous or not, are encouraged to come, meet each other, speak out at the discussions of strategies for long-term change, and document the conference real-time.

Check it out.

Posted by Philocrites, September 26, 2005, at 10:10 PM | 3 comments

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Unitarian Universalist minister-blogger in the news.

Dan Harper, the new minister of the First Unitarian Church in New Bedford, Mass., is profiled in the local paper today — and his blog is part of the story:

The Rev. Harper said that he is very interested in the way that ministers use new technologies to reach people. In addition to their bi-weekly bulletin and Web site at, he provides pastoral counseling via e-mail and writes his own blog located at [sic]

Alas, they got the Web site's address wrong. Dan's blog — Yet Another Unitarian Universalist — is really at

("First Unitarian Full-time Minister Has Eclectic Background," Linda Andrade Rodrigues, Times-Standard 9.24.05)

Posted by Philocrites, September 24, 2005, at 07:47 PM | 3 comments

Religion news is everywhere these days.

It's getting awfully hard to keep up, don't you think? Here's a small sample of what we stumbled upon in today's papers here at Philocrites Central:

Gay priests: One courageous retired priest in Boston was willing to say openly what many seminarians and priests couldn't say on the record to the Times:

As he walked inside to hear confessions, the Rev. Reginald Redlon, a retired priest who served as rector of a New Hampshire seminary for 10 years, said he is against the proposed papal ban.

"I don't think that gays who are celibate, prayerful, and disciplined should be barred from the seminary," Redlon, 85, said. "They are very often very zealous priests. Everybody has to integrate sexuality into their personal lives, and to discriminate against homosexuals is a mistake."

("Divided Catholics," Charles A. Radin and Anand Vaishnav, Boston Globe 9.24.05, reg req'd; "Gay Men Ponder Impact of Proposal by Vatican," Laurie Goodstein, New York Times 9.23.05, reg req'd)

Agnostic religious artist: Rich Barlow profiles the extraordinary engraver Barry Moser, an agnostic and former fundamentalist preacher (who knew!) who keeps illustrating religious books and acknowledges that his soul is a "wannabe Christian." ("Agnostic Puts Skill to Use for a Friend," Rich Barlow, Boston Globe 9.24.05, reg req'd)

Plus: Episcopal Bishop Gene Robinson predicts schism in the Anglican Communion. (Get it over with already, I say.) The unscience of "intelligent design" gets a Pennsylvania court date. And A.O. Scott looks at Hollywood's interest in making "Christian-friendly" films — "Just Like Heaven" and "Emily Rose" most recently.

Finally, the UUSC: Bella English profiles Jennifer Harbury, the anti-torture activist who is helping to host the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee's mock-trial of Donald Rumsfeld, Alberto Gonzalez, and George Tenet in Washington tomorrow. Harbury is also the author of a new Beacon Press book, Truth, Torture, and the American Way: The History and Consequences of U.S. Involvement in Torture (also available from Beacon directly).

Posted by Philocrites, September 24, 2005, at 01:03 PM | 3 comments

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Who's afraid of freedom and tolerance?

Doug Muder — aka Pericles at Daily Kos — offers a perceptive analysis of two competing worldviews in his latest article for liberal religion and life: He wants to know why fundamentalists seem so afraid of liberal assumptions and liberal family values. He genuinely wants to know what's so scary about freedom and tolerance?

Click to continue . . .

Posted by Philocrites, September 21, 2005, at 07:59 AM | 3 comments

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Beacon Hill office bird-watching.

Red-tailed hawk on Beacon HillCoworkers alerted me to the hawk perched on the iron railing outside their office window this afternoon, so I took a few pictures and gawked. This is my favorite. And, no, I have no plans to start a Tuesday Bird Blogging feature; I can hardly keep up with the Friday Middle English Recipe Blogging. (Sorry, Fausto.)

Bird-watching readers: Is this really a falcon?

Posted by Philocrites, September 20, 2005, at 06:00 PM | 3 comments

Devin + Trevor = Trevon?

I'm happy to say this phenomenon managed to skip my Utah Mormon family (Philocrites is an old if obscure English family name), but when my youngest sister was showing me her high school yearbook, I couldn't help but laugh at the made-up names of many of her classmates. Like "Trevon." (Too many Devins and Trevors running around in your subdivision? Voilá!)

Why am I telling you this? Because, via Noli Irritare Leones, I see that someone has created a Mormon Name Generator. Sincerely yours, Chavis Belton.

Posted by Philocrites, September 20, 2005, at 08:07 AM | 2 comments

Monday, September 19, 2005

Frederick Buechner denounces President Bush.

Frederick Buechner, the gifted novelist and Christian apologist, shows up this morning in the Boston Globe letters to the editor:

This shallow, reckless, monolithically complacent man who touts his belief in the philosophy of Jesus but advocates tax cuts for the richest of the rich instead of succor for the poorest of the poor, who has entangled us in an unnecessary, unwinnable, and increasingly murderous war against shadows, who consistently favors the interests of big business over those of the imperiled environment, and appoints an official of the International Arabian Horse Association to be in charge of managing horrors like Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, surely the second George Bush is not the only one to blame for his insane and tragic chapter in our history, but it is hard to imagine a more appropriate symbol of it than the never-to-be-forgotten Mission Accomplished dance he did on the carrier's deck for all the world as though he really believed it.

("The Reckless George Bush Is to Blame," Frederick Buechner, Boston Globe 9.19.05, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, September 19, 2005, at 07:53 AM | 4 comments

Sunday, September 18, 2005

October 5 Taize service in memory of Brother Roger.

 Bells call people to evening prayer at Taize I'm so glad to hear that the Harvard Square Clergy will be hosting a Taize-style worship service Wednesday evening, October 5, to honor the life and ministry of Brother Roger Schutz, the founder of the Taize Community. The service will be at 6 o'clock at the Harvard-Epworth United Methodist Church on Mass. Ave. in Cambridge, next door to Harvard Law School. (Come at 5:15 to sing in the choir.)

As I mentioned earlier but haven't had the time to describe properly, Mrs Philocrites and I spent several days at the Taize Community in France with 4,000 or so other people just two weeks before Brother Roger was murdered during the community's evening prayers. (I took this photo of the bell tower just as we arrived the first night; you can see the bells ringing.) Taize was a life-changing experience, and I have been pondering it — such an archaic act, pondering, but I don't have a better word for it — ever since. I'm very grateful that enough of the clergy here in Cambridge have heard of Taize or been there to put this service together.

See also the Christian Century's remembrance of Brother Roger: "A Desire for God" (9.20.05).

Posted by Philocrites, September 18, 2005, at 09:57 PM | 0 comments

Media-savvy Boston-area UU minister.

Say, what is Hank's secret? His spunky Unitarian Universalist church in Medford sure gets a lot of good press. Here's at least the second story about the church's serendipitous acquisition of a church bell. I remember another story several months ago when the church first obtained the bell, which I can't find online anymore; now there's this story about ringing the bell at the congregation's homecoming service. Simple, charming news that helps keep a small and growing congregation in the public eye.

News featuring Hank arrives almost like clockwork. Last August, I noted that Hank had helped the Boston Globe mark the death of the Rev. Eugene H. Adams with a fine and downright entertaining obituary. The September before that, I noted Hank's amusing interview with the Boston Phoenix about his quest to find a suitable gift for the Dalai Lama. Clearly, he has been handed some great media opportunities — but maybe he also knows how to go looking for them.

Hank, since most of us don't really have to worry about meeting the Dalai Lama, you can skip that one — but do you have tips for colleagues and other UUs who wonder how to turn small moments in church life into appealing stories in their local paper?

("Unitarians Get New Bell," Nell Escobar Coakley, Somerville Journal [really? not the Medford Transcript? hmm] 9.15.05; "Rev. Eugene Adams, at 87; Civil Rights Leader, Minister," Michael Busack, Boston Globe 8.16.04, reg req'd; "Shopping for the Dalai Lama," Chris Wright, Boston Phoenix 9.25.03)

Posted by Philocrites, September 18, 2005, at 09:13 PM | 3 comments

Monday, September 12, 2005

The failed war.

Mark Danner's 9/11 anniversary cover story for the New York Times Magazine makes for bleak but absolutely vital reading. What has George W. Bush managed to accomplish in his four-year "war on terror"? More terrororism — 651 major attacks last year alone; a growing civil war with no obvious political solution in Iraq; a weakened U.S. military; enormous damage to American prestige; and, most notably, a continuing public relations bonanza for Osama bin Laden because the turmoil in Iraq, and the attacks in Madrid and London and other places around the world, is attracting radical Muslims to al Qaedism — just as bin Laden predicted when he planned the 9/11 attacks.

What Danner doesn't say — perhaps only because his story was already on its way to the press when the hurricane struck — is that the only other war-related promise Bush made to the American people that Iraq itself had not yet shown to be false was this: that the Bush administration was entirely focused on the safety and security of the American people. The disastrous response to the catastrophe in Louisiana and Mississippi shows that Bush isn't even serious about homeland security. The tax-cut president, wrapped in his flag, has failed us.

("Taking Stock of the Forever War," Mark Danner, New York Times Magazine 9.11.05, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, September 12, 2005, at 07:55 AM | 3 comments

Thursday, September 8, 2005

Boston interfaith service for hurricane victims today.

Boston religious leaders will offer an interfaith prayer service for hurricane victims at Trinity Church in Copley Square at 12:15 this afternoon. (Boston Globe 9.8.05, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, September 8, 2005, at 07:33 AM | 3 comments

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Heads up for my young Episcopal readers.

Mrs Philocrites has urged me to spread the word about the Right Now Conference, a young-adult conference coming up October 7 through 9 for Episcopalians between 21 and 30 years old. The conference Web site asks: "Are young adults the future of the church? No, we are the church RIGHT NOW." The conference takes place right here in Cambridge, Massachusetts — which leads me to think of it as the "Right Here, Right Now" conference. (Mrs Philocrites says this lame attempt at humor only goes to show that I'd seem too old for the conference even if I were Episcopalian.) Hurry on over and sign yourself up.

Posted by Philocrites, September 7, 2005, at 09:53 PM | 2 comments

Puritan heretic statuary watch!

Biographer Eve LaPlante celebrates Anne Hutchinson in today's Globe: Turns out the statue of the banished Puritan woman, which stands in front of the west wing of the Massachusetts State House, has never been properly dedicated. A ceremony is scheduled for Friday — a mere 85 years after the statue was commissioned, then rejected by the Boston Public Library, then accepted by the state, then disregarded by the Legislature and installed without ceremony. ("A Heretic's Overdue Honor," Eve LaPlante, Boston Globe 9.7.05, reg req'd)

Meanwhile, the statue is inaccessible to the public because the government closed the gardens, the west entrance, and the main entrance to the State House just after 9/11 and has never reopened them. You can see her, with a scope or binoculars, just up the road from the UUA.

Posted by Philocrites, September 7, 2005, at 08:07 AM | 2 comments

Monday, September 5, 2005

Say, don't we have a vice president, too?

As I read all of this morning's New York Times and Boston Globe coverage of the ongoing disaster relief efforts along the Gulf Coast, a question started to form: Didn't we also elect a vice president? Where is Dick Cheney?

He's only been mentioned once in the Washington Post in the last week — and that's because he may be buying a $2.9 million estate in Maryland. Have you seen him in the news lately doing anything constructive? Just wondering.

Update 9.7.05: Boston Globe columnist Derrick Jackson reads my mind — or my blog: "Where's Dick Cheney?" (9.7.05). The President, meanwhile, has assigned Cheney to verify that the citizens of the Gulf Coast are indeed greeting U.S. troops with flowers and toppling statues of local despots; Halliburton will assist — but Mississippi gets first dibs on the congressional aid package. My confidence soars!

("Bush Taps Cheney to Assess Recovery Effort," James Gerstenzang and Mary Curtius, Los Angeles Times 9.6.05, reg req'd; "Halliburton Subsidiary Taps Contract For Repairs," Lolita C. Baldor [AP], Washington Post 9.5.05, reg req'd; "Miss. GOP Muscle May Get 1st Shot at Funding," Laurie Kellman [AP], Boston Globe 9.7.05, reg req'd)

Posted by Philocrites, September 5, 2005, at 11:28 AM | 3 comments

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