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Nurture your spirit. Help heal our world. Unitarian Universalists.

Letters, Fall 2013

Readers respond to the Summer 2013 issue.

Fall 2013 8.15.13

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Climate change

In “Adaptation and Defiance” (Summer 2013) Jeffrey A. Lockwood writes, “Let us take a deep breath together and rage against the warming of the planet.” We do need a bit of rage, a lot of work, and plenty of humor along the way. We must change the ways we use energy, and change other ways in which we live, to put far less carbon dioxide in the air.

It is good that the first word in Lockwood’s title is “adaptation,” however, because we must adapt, just as plants and animals are adapting to global warming. We know that, in some ways, societies can change quickly. Marriage equality is an example. But severely reducing use of fossil fuels throughout our country and around the world is a far tougher challenge than expanding marriage rights in blue states. It is important to understand what we are up against: our addictions to materialism and meat; supranational corporations that are dependent upon and encourage our addictions; emerging countries that are understandably bent on development; politicians who exploit people’s reluctance to change; and our natural tendency to discount harm that seems decades away.

Many of us will participate in this epic drama but won’t be around to learn how it plays out. Let us hope that we and generations to come will find a bit of wisdom to deal with this menace that we and our recent ancestors have unwittingly brought upon ourselves.

Lawrence Hess
San Diego, California
First UU Church of San Diego


I hope Jeffrey Lockwood’s stirring call to “rage against the warming of the planet and the dying of the forest” will cause more UUs to take one of the most effective steps we can to combat climate change: go vegan. By living our Seventh Principle and choosing exclusively plant-based foods, UUs will help lead humanity towards a more sustainable, kinder world.

Chris Holbein
Norfolk, Virginia
Unitarian Church of Norfolk


Divest for the future

I appreciated your forum on divestment (“Should We Divest from Fossil Fuels?” by Tim Brennan and Fred Small, Summer 2013) and was even more encouraged that the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly adopted an Action of Immediate Witness in June calling for a denomination-wide conversation about divestment.

UUA President Peter Morales has inspired many of us with his vision that Unitarian Universalism can be the religion of our time. The global climate emergency is the issue that will do the most to shape the world in which today’s youth and future generations have to live. How we respond to it will define us.

The UUA is not a foundation; we are a faith. The most precious of our resources is the power to inspire within and beyond our denomination.

We must withdraw our money from the fossil fuel industry to show that we have the courage to be part of the future we hope to see. I admire what our treasurer has done with shareholder resolutions, but I do not believe the fossil fuel industries will walk away from planet-destroying mining and drilling, which bring enormous profits; nor are they the companies we want to lead the new economy.

Carbon-free investing is attracting talent and money. With planning and creativity we can implement this change in a fiscally responsible way.

David Keppel
Bloomington, Indiana
UU Church of Bloomington


Unwarranted profanity

I am totally dismayed by the language of retiring UUA Executive Vice President Kay Montgomery, as quoted in the Summer 2013 UU World (“The End of an Era,” by Elaine McArdle). It is embarrassing and disconcerting that the UUA would have someone in the number-two position who “swears like a sailor.” Even if she does talk like that in her daily life, I think that UU World should have used some discretion and not included it in the article.

Also, is it “funny” that Montgomery refuses to give up cigarettes? It is unfortunate, unhealthy, and a bad example. Why mention it?

Educated and discerning people who care about Unitarian Universalism and its place in society should have more respect for readers and fellow UUs. Has the UUA lost touch with what is acceptable and what is not?

Peggie Hoffman
Kennesaw, Georgia


Sharps and Capek

As the cultural secretary of the Youth of the Religious Association of Czechoslovak Unitarians, I was present when the American Unitarian heroes the Rev. Waitstill and Martha Sharp made their first appearance at the Palace Unitaria in Prague in 1939. It was a most unforgettable experience. I remember vividly the aura of peace and tranquility they exuded while talking about their perilous mission of aiding and rescuing people persecuted by the Nazis (“Film Illuminates Unitarian Heroes,” by Michelle Bates Deakin, Summer 2013).

In this connection, the cooperation between the Sharps and the Rev. Norbert Capek should be recognized. As the founder and minister of the Czechoslovak Unitarian Association, Capek provided the Sharps with some of the emergency food and medical supplies stored in the cellars of the Palace Unitaria during the war. Capek, widely known as the creator of the Flower Communion, was martyred in the Dachau concentration camp several years later, when the Sharps were already gone. I myself had the good fortune to escape the Nazi regime and am now a minister emeritus of the Czech Unitarians.

May the Sharps’ example inspire and motivate people to counteract injustice and persecution in today’s world.

The Rev. Joseph Ben-David
New York, New York
Senior Minister, Church of Humanism


Before Olympia Brown

Thanks to UU World and Laurie Carter Noble for acknowledging the 150th anniversary of Olympia Brown’s ordination and Brown’s overall importance in women’s rights (“Olympia Brown: Pioneering Minister, Women’s Suffragist,” Summer 2013).

While Brown was the first woman seminary graduate, I have recently confirmed that Universalist Lydia Jenkins was ordained “with full denominational authority” three years before Brown, in 1860, by New York’s Ontario Association, following their letter of fellowship to her in 1858.

Breaking gender boundaries several years before Brown entered ministry, Jenkins experienced as daunting challenges as did Brown. Granted, Jenkins’s ministry career was shorter than Brown’s: by 1865 the physical challenges of itinerancy compelled her to leave regular preaching. However, never one to be idle, after ministry, Jenkins and her minister husband, Edmund, attended medical school to become doctors of “water cure” and opened their own hygienic institute in Binghamton, New York. Like Brown, Jenkins had also served alongside Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton in women’s and temperance reform. She remained engaged with Universalist denominational activities until her untimely death from a fire in 1874.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Coeyman
Reston, Virginia
Interim Minister, UU Congregation of Reston


This article appeared in the Fall 2013 issue of UU World (pages 58–59). See sidebar for links to related resources. UU World welcomes letters to the editor. Send to “Letters,” UU World, 25 Beacon St., Boston MA 02108, or world@uua.org, but do not send attachments. Include your name, address, daytime phone number, and congregation on all correspondence. Published letters with author’s name, city, and state will appear on www.uuworld.org. Letters are edited for length and style; a maximum length of 200 words is suggested. We regret we cannot publish or respond to all letters.

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