Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Tag Archives: Liberal Faith

A Dream of Rationality

We have a dream in America of rationality. What I mean by that is that we have imbued our country with an ideal of rational discourse being the primary form of interaction between human beings. That if we can make the right argument, it will persuade people to our (meaning Read more →

On Behalf of a Grateful Nation — Sermon by Rev. David Pyle

Last preached on May 25th, 2014 As both a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and as a Reserve Military Chaplain, I have conducted over a dozen military funerals    and memorial services. They were all for veterans of WWII, of Korea, and of Vietnam… I’ve never been called upon to lead a memorial Read more →

On the Contract-to-Call Process

This is the second in a series of articles that I am bringing to Celestial Lands over the first few months of this New Year, exploring several aspects of the interrelation between professional ministry, congregations, and the current UUA search process.  Future articles will include an exploration of the different Read more →

Institutional Resistance To Change — Homily by the Rev. David Pyle

Last Preached on January 19, 2014   The Rev. Dan Hotchkiss, fellow Unitarian Universalist Minister and the author of a book that has been an inspiration for one of our own congregation’s efforts at transformation, has observed the inherent paradox in the phrase “Organized Religion”. Religion is about transformation. It Read more →

Hire a Contract Minister or Call a Settled Minister?

This is the first in a series of articles that I am planning to bring to Celestial Lands over the first few months of this New Year, exploring several aspects of the interrelation between professional ministry, congregations, and the current search process.  Future articles will include an exploration of the Read more →

The Consequences of Omniscience and Omnipotence

When I was at the U.S. Army Chaplain’s School at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, there was a day in class that we were responding to hypothetical counseling situations.  One of the scenarios presented to us was that of a young woman who came to us for counseling after having been Read more →

President Obama is Not a Liberal Socialist… I Am

I promised myself that I would not move into my “occasional political musings” this election season until after the conventions were over.  Well, the speeches in Charlotte and Tampa are done, and now I feel that there are some things that I have to say… President Obama is not a Read more →

The Transition of Ordination

It has now been over 2 years since I was ordained as a Unitarian Universalist Minister, and each of those years I have spent in more than full time ministry as a minister in our congregations, as well as a reserve military chaplain.  Prior to that was a little over Read more →

Is This Really Where We Are? — A Psalm of Lament

Oh Lord, Is this really where we are?  A man once said, “I believe, but help my unbelief”. I’m not sure I ever understood, until I myself had to cry out to you, Is this really where we are, oh Lord. Are we really as far from the Kingdom of Read more →

Beyond Military Borders — Homily at PSWD-UUA District Assembly 2012

I have received multiple requests for copies of the homily that I presented at the UUA Pacific Southwest District Assembly this year, and instead of continuing to email it out, I thought I would publish it here at Celestial Lands.  The task was to reflect on what “Beyond Borders” meant Read more →

American Exceptionalism and American Irrelevance

One of the genre’s of Science Fiction that I love is what is called “near future Sci-Fi”.  These are stories set to occur in the next 200 years or so.  What I love about them is that they “forecast” out not into some far off fantastic future, but into the Read more →

Truth: The Greatest Adaptive Problem of Humanity

In the last few months, I have been wrestling with one particular set of theological and epistemological questions… and I’m not done with them yet.  That has been part of the reason for the fall-off of writing here at Celestial Lands.  Unsure of where I was flowing around the issue, Read more →

Prejudice is Part of Human Nature

We human beings have many times many different prejudices.  I’m not trying to make a value statement in saying that, just naming something that I believe is an inherent aspect of human nature.  We are deeply prejudiced beings.  It is impossible that this not be the case.  I have never Read more →

To Write or Not to Write… A Systemic Theology Book

One of the aspects of a Clinical Pastoral Education Residency that was most valuable to me was spending a year with ministers from other religious traditions, being required to have deep discussions about theology, about pastoral care, and about our life experiences.  It not only helped me to broaden my Read more →

What Would a UU Religious Order Look Like?

One of the first essays I ever wrote in seminary, and the first essay I ever had published, was on the need for Unitarian Universalism to develop integrated spiritual practices that can be shared and engaged by large groups of Unitarian Universalists.  In that essay, I make the case that Read more →

The Center of a Liberal Faith Movement

What it means to be a Unitarian Universalist has been on my heart this last week.  Not surprisingly, considering that many UU’s are currently thinking about similar things in reaction to the recent white paper from Rev. Peter Morales titled “Congregations and Beyond”.  I know there is a lot behind Read more →

Our Responsibility to those Beyond Our Walls

Break not that circle of enabling love, Where people grow, forgiven and forgiving, Break not that circle, make it wider still, Till it includes, embraces all the living. –Hymn 323, Singing the Living Tradition Recently, the conversation has begun again about what makes a Unitarian Universalist.  Are you only a Read more →

Let it Be a Dance! — Sermon by Rev. David Pyle

This sermon was presented at the UU Church of Ventura, on January 15th, 2011.  As a child growing up in Hawaii, I danced the hula.  This was not an abnormal thing, growing up in Hawaii.  In fact, my first encounter with the hula was in a class at school, where Read more →

Without Change, Something Sleeps Inside Us… Ministry in the Transitions

My life has been one of change.  Change both within and without.  That reality affects my preaching, it affects how I build relationships, it affects how I look at the universe.  As I have been reflecting on this past year, I have been struck by how much change was within Read more →

UU Military Chaplains and the Cross

Unitarian Universalists are almost always surprised when they see me wearing the Christian Cross on my Army Chaplain uniform.  Perhaps they should not be, given the Christian ancestry of our two founding denominations, but they are.  Reactions have ranged from mild curiosity to outrage to some deep pastoral need.  On Read more →

Religion and the Four Great Fears

My dear friend, Chaplain the Rev. Seanan Holland visited us this weekend, and as usual he and I got into one of our hours-long rolling discussions about Life, the Universe, and Everything.  This time in particular, we were rolling around the origin and nature of religion, the fundamental flaw in Read more →

Introspection and the “Set Apart” Life of Ministry

There are times where the internal shifts necessary to be in a life of ministry in our liberal faith tradition are more obvious than others.  As Unitarian Universalist ministers, we often emphasize a radical leveling in our ministries, and many UU ministers react against the classical understanding that ministers should Read more →

Ministry is Big, so Have Faith

I want to give thanks to my colleague Christian Schmidt for being one of two inspirations for this post, through a question he posed to me in a comment on my article on our denomination’s feelings about supporting ministries.  It is a topic that I have thought about engaging many Read more →

Our Feelings on Supporting Ministries

Over the past few months, I’ve been surprised by some of the reactions from colleagues and former colleagues about my decision to accept an Assistant Minister position.  Those reactions have covered a broad range of concern and emotion… all of which was heartfelt.  I do not want this article to Read more →

The Honor of Being on “Smiley and West”

This weekend I will be on a short segment of the Public Radio International program “Smiley and West” with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.  It was recorded today, to be aired this weekend.  It was an honor to have a letter I sent to the program selected for the Read more →

To Live Like Jesus

Last week and this week, I have been attending some military chaplaincy training in San Antonio Texas, as a part of my continuing education as both a UU Minister and an Army Reserve Chaplain.  The first week was a wonderful course, put on by the Rev. Dr. Chrys Parker and Read more →

I’m a Liberal and I’m a Patriot who Loves God… Deal with It!

I think this topic is becoming a regular 4th of July weekend tradition of mine, mainly because I have had it with the idea that unless someone is a Fox News watching, gun toting Tea-Party Republican they are not a “Real American”.  Beyond the fact that such definitions of “Real Read more →

General Assembly Day 5: Passionate Arguments for Our Faith’s Center

I want to say on Celestial Lands what I said in person to many people about the overall “theme” for this General Assembly.  In my most humble opinion, the overall theme was not the 50th Anniversary of the UUA.  It was not where we will be as a religion in Read more →

General Assembly Day 4: Universalism, Compassion, Spiritual Practice and Salvation

My experience of the fourth day of the 2011 General Assembly in Charlotte, NC, was framed around two lectures… the Murray Street Address by the Rev. Bill Sinkford… and the Ware Lecture by Karen Armstrong.  For me, these two lectures swam in my personal pond through waters that have been Read more →

General Assembly Day 3: A Tale of Two GA’s…

I remember my first General Assembly many moons ago.  I was so excited for the opportunity for all the workshops I could ever dream of on every aspect of church life, of theology, and of our ecclesiological history.  I packed each moment full of engaging panel discussions, of plenary sessions, Read more →

General Assembly Day 2: Lions, Tigers, and Ministerial Authority, Oh My!

One of the things that always amazes me about my time at a General Assembly is how different my experience is depending on what I wear.  Now, for most people this might not be literally true, but it my case it is.  Let’s take the first and second days of Read more →

General Assembly Day 1: Unitarian Universalists of the Holy Spirit

As I sat in the second row, center aisle of the Opening Ceremonies of the 2011 General Assembly of the UUA, next to my military chaplain colleagues, what struck me most about the service was how many times the word “Spirit” came into the ceremony/celebration/worship service.  By the time I Read more →

Blogging the UUA General Assembly

As I did last year, I once again intend to write an article here at Celestial Lands for each day of the General Assembly in Charlotte, North Carolina.  Sandy and I are here in Charlotte, checked into the hotel suite of rooms we annually share with the Rev. Katie Norris Read more →

The Church and Leadership Development

One of my developing ecclesiological theories is that the church, especially the liberal church, serves among its many purposes as the laboratory for being a whole, full, and religious human being.  The liberal congregation is the container, the laboratory where we are able to learn how to engage one another Read more →

Unionized Ministry

Recently, I had the honor and privilege to meet Rev. Don Southworth, the current Executive Director of the Unitarian Universalist Ministers Association (UUMA), at the Spring Minister’s Retreat for the Heartland Chapter of the UUMA. This is my first year as a “regular member” and not a student member of Read more →

The Purpose of Religious Communities

I always know I’m onto something when I can get a congregant to look at me cross-eyed. A few months ago I was having a conversation with a dear congregant from a corporate background about how our Fellowship here in Midland “did things”. How our committees and teams function, how Read more →

Dawn Breaks on “Offer Day”

It is an interesting part of being an Interim Minister, that you come to love a congregation, that you have ministered among them, that you have hopes and dreams for them, that you are an intimate part of a religious community… and you know that you are only there to Read more →

What Turned a Conservative into a Liberal?

I regularly have conversations with conservatives, both political and religious conservatives. Sometimes that is through my work as an Army Chaplain, sometimes through my work as a liberal minister in a fairly conservative town, and sometimes it is through people from my past who seek me out to ask me Read more →

Generations of Ministerial Colleagues

Last week I attended the First Year Minister’s Seminar at the UUA Headquarters at 25 Beacon Street in Boston. The program was great… it was good to hear directly from the many different UUA staff offices, and the conversation I had about my theory of social justice with a senior UU Read more →

Faith is Hard… and Liberal Religion Needs Some

One of the earliest articles I wrote here at Celestial Lands is one where I seek to define, for myself, the meaning of faith (that faith is not belief, it is “sacred trust”). I sometimes think we Unitarian Universalists and others of Liberal Religion have a harder time coping with Read more →

Gun Control, Militias, and the Second Amendment

I have chosen never to carry or use a firearm ever again. I made that choice not because of a fundamentalist attitude toward guns, but rather because I am entirely too good with them. I reached a place in my faith journey where I realized that I would rather die Read more →

A Quick Welcome

Now, I know I say that I write the Celestial Lands Blog for myself, and for my own spiritual, emotional, intellectual, and theological development… but that does not mean I do not check out the site statistics on a regular basis. Over the past week or so, I have noted Read more →

Church Life, Alcohol, and Me

Every year at this time of year I end up having the conversation with someone (usually a congregant) about church life, me, and alcohol. There is a familiar flow to the conversation, and I thought this year, after having one conversation with a friend and ministerial colleague along these lines Read more →

On Why I Write

Every year around the New Year I take a retrospective look at my writings of the past year… not just here at Celestial Lands, but my sermons, newsletter articles, and assorted other writings. I write a lot… it is part of my spiritual practice to do reflection upon life, the Read more →

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