Friday, July 15, 2011

What's a UU? 7th Principle Muffins: In Which I Get Religion

I'm about to talk about one of the things you're never supposed to talk about in polite conversation.  Hopefully you'll stick around at the table.

I had the occasion, at a party the other day, to mention that I'm Unitarian Universalist (UU).  When I tell people this, they usually look at me like I'm Satan spawn, or at least like I'm a little less credible in the realm of spirituality.

It's sort of funny that I ended up a UU; my husband and I were married by a UU minister, simply because my husband was raised without religion, I was raised Catholic (and had long since left the church because it just wasn't a good fit for me), and we wanted something more than just a civil ceremony, but I never in a million years thought that I'd be a member of a UU fellowship.  I remember sitting in the parking lot of the church where the minister who married us was going to meet us, watching people come out, and thinking "hm, so that's what Unitarians look like.  They're sort of ... weird."  My father, old-world Catholic that he was, almost had a heart attack when we told him what we were doing for our wedding, saying that UU's didn't believe in anything, begging me to reconsider.  Luckily for him, I guess, he didn't live long enough to see me sign the book in our church.  (Though in all seriousness, he probably would be glad that I at least go to a church.)

After a long hiatus from organized religion, when I was pregnant with my son, about five years ago, we started to look for a spiritual home.  It was less that I felt like I needed one, and more that we both wanted a community of somewhat like-minded people to help us raise our child with the kinds of values we espoused.  And though we happened upon this particular community by chance (it was a potluck picnic day when we arrived ... how ironic is that, given what you know about me?), it's really come to fit us.  Our fellowship is full of young families like ours (though there are plenty of older members, too, and single people, and divorcees, and every other kind of family configuration you can imagine), and the people really do live their values: they're people I find myself looking up to, and wanting to be when I grow up.

So what's a UU?  There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part (more on this, and muffins, in a minute).

Sources of wisdom include
  • Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and love;
  • Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  • Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to love our neighbors as ourselves;
  • Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  • Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
For me, those principles are a no-brainer.  They describe how I want to live my life. And the sources of wisdom are the things I've read all my life, that have shaken my foundations, or made me stop and hold my breath.

And it's funny ... I really do find myself thinking twice about my actions, sometimes, because of the community I belong to, and the way that it's required me to articulate my values.

The other day, I interviewed with an office, back at my previous employer, that seeks to recruit and retain women faculty members in the sciences ... to diversify the field.  I think I nailed the interview, though unfortunately, it would probably mean a drop in both salary and in title, if I were offered the job (not that I'm jumping the gun here). Thing is, I may be offered the opportunity to live my values.  To do something important for a change, besides cater mostly to people who would do just fine without me.  It's not often that such an opportunity falls into our laps, is it?  Do you get to live your values in your line of work?  (SAHMs are definitely included  in that question!)  Should I can this whole return to higher education, and just open a bakery already, or an online mail-order baked goods supply company (K, from Pull Up Your Potty Seat, says I should ... and even sent me a lovely gift toward my startup supplies ... thank you, K!)

These muffins are another way I get to live my values.  They're vegan (so they affirm the 7th principle of recognizing/appreciating the interdependent web of existence, and our role in tending that delicate web), and incredibly delicious.  This recipe is modified from one that was developed by one of our fellowship members; I promised not to reveal his secret, but I think I can share my version with you.

7th Principle Fruit and Nut Muffins

1/2 c. raisins
1 c. dried apricots, chopped
1 c. prunes, chopped
1 c. chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1 c. chopped almonds, lightly toasted
4 T. flax seed neal mixed in 3/4 c. water, set aside to thicken 2-3 minutes
2/3 c. canola oil
2 t. vanilla
1/4 c. orange juice
2 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. evaporated cane juice (fair trade, please)
2 t. baking soda
4 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger
1/2 t. salt

Place dried fruit in a small saucepan and add enough water to cover.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let sit 15 minutes to plump fruit.  Drain.

Preheat oven to 400.  In a large bowl, blend dry ingredients with a whisk.  In a small bowl, blend flax mixture, oil, vanilla, juice; pour into a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and mix until just blended.  Fold in nuts and fruit.

Line 12 muffin tins with large liners, and fill each cup with a generous helping of batter.  Bake at 400 for 20-25 minutes, until lightly brown and springs back to touch.
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  1. I had never heard of UU until I was in college. I was raised Lutheran in a place where you were either Baptist, Lutheran or Seventh Day Adventist. But I made a friend a little younger than me one year at school (a Presbyterian all women's college if you can believe it) and she was a local girl and took me to her church for the Halloween service. This is when I learned about UUs. And I kind of fell in love with it. It was the first time I had ever felt completely comfortable in a worship service. There were people from all sorts of backgrounds there and everyone was immensely friendly. I still think about it whenever people start talking about religion around me.

    As for the other thing, I think you should do whatever feels most right to you.

  2. That is an interesting post. I was raised Catholic as well and do not attend. My husband and I were talking and if we decide to seek a spiritual home ever.... UU would be pretty much the only one we would consider.

    The job sounds exciting. It would be wonderful to do what you believe.

    The muffins as always look delish!

  3. Your muffins look gorgeous!
    We always attended church, but after our oldest was born we decided we wanted to find a church home. The fit you talk about is exactly what we found, and I can't imagine worshipping anywhere else.

  4. I have never even heard of UU till now. Sounds very cool and practical, love those qualities. AND anytime your business is ready I have a first order for you. Your food is so amazing!!

  5. I love the seven principles you listed for UU. They are very in line with the social work code of ethics we follow as profession. I'm glad you've found a spiritual home that fits you and your family ultimately I think that's what is most important a place that you can all grow spiritually.

  6. The people you interviewed with would be incredibly smart to hire you! I think you'd be awesome at the job, as one of the most important things about helping keep women in the sciences is making them feel comfortable and appreciated. Your blog and your life exude this. Yes, you do live your UU principles. You definitely blog your UU principles and have been such a positive influence on at least me! Thanks for outlining UU. I never actually knew much about it and think that it is something I would actually enjoy. I'll think about maybe seeing if there is a fellowship where I live. But, where I live they might not be as cool as you are, as people here tend to be ridiculously fascist about being open minded and sensitive, to the point where they aren't at all. (I like to define the community where I live as, "I'm so open minded I love everyone except for you because you aren't as open-minded as I am.")

  7. by the way, I have been thinking so much about how cool it is that your son received the recognition from your fellowship for being such a great person. I think I never commented on that post though; I'm sorry! SUPER congratulations. I felt all proud and goose-pimply reading about it so I can only imagine how great it was for his mom and dad! One of my favorite stories is the one about your bike ride when the seat fell off and how he encouraged you and tried to make you feel good about the situation. What a remarkable kid you have there. Says a lot about you and his dad!!!

  8. Oh, Justine, everytime I read you I'm either eagerly nodding my head in agreement or sighing in admiration, and tonight I'm doing both. :)

    I had a bad experience with a southern Baptist church camp when I was in high school, and the experience left me completely alienated from any kind of organized religion. (It was soooo bad.) A couple of years ago when I was in the deepest part of the IF trench I found myself longing for some kind of spiritual footing. And that's when I found myself on the doorstep of our little UU church here. I never officially joined, but regularly attended as a guest. And I LOVED it for the very reason that Rebecca pointed out above: it jives lockstep with the core tenets of social work. Since we've had Arlo I've not attended, and I've missed it. There was a spell of a particularly uninspiring interim minister, and the summer is comprised primarly of lay services...but I have a very strong feeling that we'll be back there in the fall. I recently commented to another blogger that I feel compelled to surround Arlo with empathetic children and diverse families.

    Good luck with the job! I hope there's good news in store for you. :)

  9. That job sounds wonderful! Good luck.

    When I was in high school, after I had vehemently abandoned the Catholic church, and all organized religion along with it, I used to take piano lessons at a UU church. I remember browsing around and reading some of the material on display as I waited to be picked up and everything sounded good to me. Reading your post, it still does.

  10. i love that you shared soem info about UU here. N & i have been sort of hunting around for a spiritual home, for the same reasons you describe, & we've yet to find one that "fits", but you've now got me thinking about exploring UU options near us. (not that this was your intention in posting, i just thought i'd mention it!)
    & i vote for the online bakery! i'd order from you :)

  11. I've always been interested in UU. We've had some not-so-good experiences in Catholic churches...nothing awful, but lots of judgement (he wasn't my husband at the time, so that might have been a big part of it). So we just stopped going. I sometimes wish that we belonged to a spiritual community.

  12. So, I happen to know you make beautiful muffins and therefore am guessing that these are similarly scrumptious.

    I was raised Catholic (sort of) but when I was little my mother discovered the Unitarians-Universalists, and it clicked for her 100% (we were too young to have anything click, especially nothing that entailed going somewhere on a Sunday when all we wanted to do was sleep and play with toys). As I've gotten older, though, I've realized that this is really the only form of religion (and, actually, for me it's more about philosophy than religion...which makes it even more attractive) that I'd want to pursue as a family. It's wonderful support. And wonderful support for living one's values in a very real, everyday way.

  13. I think muffins are inherently spiritual. Or maybe that's just the experience I have when eating them... whatever.

    I am intrigued by this UU of which you speak! I was raised in a nondenominational church, and hubby in the Catholic church (which he also left, not feeling "the fit"). Our wedding was performed by the very pastor of the church I attended growing up, but I always felt as though there was room for... more. I see now that there is a group of people embracing this, and I am very happy to hear it!

    Thank you for sharing, both your recipe and your spirituality. This post made for a very nice read on a Sunday morning when I have no church to attend. :)

  14. I have never heard of UU before! Perhaps it is not out here in Oz.
    Those muffins sounds exactly like my favourite recipe from childhood, (if you subsituted apple juice concentrate for a couple of ingredients) mmm I think I might have to make some of them this week now!


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