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We gather for the Ordination of Nathan A. Ryan on Sunday, February 24, at 5:30 p.m.  This service is for our entire congregation, our children, friends, and guests.  It is with a sense of pride that I acknowledge how our congregation and our new minister have engaged one another in trust, listening, and support. It is time to celebrate the relationships that continue to grow and become.  It is also a joy to work with Nathan as a member of several teams called in various ways to do ministry and to serve the mission of our church –to make this a better world.  I hope every member will make an effort to attend the ordination, a moment of high church in a UU setting.


Words prepared for me on the occasion of the Interfaith Service on Jan. 4, the morning of Mayor-President Kip Holden's Inauguration at St. Joseph's Cathedral:  "[We pray] for a deeper spirit of reconciliation among people of different races and religions; for a unity of heart in addressing the intractable problems of our society; that all people may be lifted up by the hope of a world made new . . . ."  Could the organizing committee (or I) have written better words for a Unitarian Universalist Minister?  I think not.  I was proud to have been included and to have participated with Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Catholic clergy, and Bishop Muench, presiding.   


One Clergyman's Gun Thoughts: Having been asked to address my views on guns in America (at Yoshiro Hattori's memorial service in 1992, in Japan in 1994, at numerous Peace Vigils, at a major conference on firearms at our church, and on public airwaves last year) I continue compiling my thoughts in a humble attempt to understand America's gun culture.  For example, I've noticed that before advocates address what I would call moderate to sensible gun policy, they often refer to their personal ownership of guns, as if they're obligated to show some credential before advancing an opinion, an opinion that would otherwise be dismissed if they hadn't shown it.  I've noticed that often clergy concentrate on the sinful nature of humanity –their theological rationale for understanding the prevalence of violent behavior in our society.  Now I ask you: are Americans really more sinful than other industrialized nations that have far fewer firearm deaths?  I've heard it often stated that we Americans need more God.  I am at a loss to name an industrialized country more religious and more ostensibly God-believing than our country.  One could argue that to achieve tranquility in the nation, we need less God, not more.  Others argue that our violent entertainment –television, film, video games — ought to be curtailed.  But consider the irony:  just as this nation is a consumer, we are likewise a heavy exporter of violent media to other nations, the export of which does not apparently have the same effect on those societies as that media, it is argued, have on us.  And let's stipulate:  The Supreme Court has not given an unlimited right to bear arms just as freedom of speech in the First Amendment is not an unlimited right. 


We all know that libel, slander, and yelling, "fire!" in a crowded theater, are actionable offenses under the law. Furthermore, at what point does collecting and owning any material thing reach its own limits, its tipping point?  At what point does the prevalence of something (whether it be food, fertilizer, aspirin, or carbon dioxide) reach levels of toxicity and danger in an eco-system?  At what point do we call the overwrought consumption, obsession, even love, of something material a dependence, a mental illness, an idolatry?  Finally, I note  —from my work in pastoral care to and with others— the first declaration of addiction is frequently, "Let's not talk about any of these things."  But we are past due for a national conversation that keeps the grief-stricken families of Newtown, and countless families across the nation, in our hearts.