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The delicate business of parenting and other matters.

The following questions, based on this issue's contents, are designed to stimulate spiritual reflection and adult education group discussions.

By Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley

Fathers Play a Critical Role in Parenting. Neil Chethik ("Fathers, Sons, and Loss—What We Can Learn") reports on what sons say they need (or needed) from their dads.
Question: Thinking about your father (or the person who was most like a father to you), how would you describe the quality of your relationship? In what ways did your dad provide nurturance? If you weren't nurtured by your father, where did you look to fill the void?

Is our task to reclaim or reinvent what it means to be a good parent? In seeking "a new paradigm for 21st century fatherhood," panelist William Doherty argues that two-parent families represent the ideal ("Reclaiming the Best of Fatherhood").
Question: Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not? Can single parents, extended families, or communal parenting provide a healthy environment for children? What impact do sexism, homophobia, racism, and classism have on parenting?

Spiritual Gifts. Philip Simmons ("Winter Mind") writes of silence, emptiness, and nothingness as spiritual gifts of Buddhism and mystical Christianity and as resources to help us embrace the fullness of life, even in winter's extremes. "Adolescents are natural mystics," he says.
Question: After reading Simmons's essay and the two articles on fatherhood (Neil Chethik's and the roundtable discussion), how do you think these spiritual principles can be applied in parenting? How have you applied them in everyday living?

Remembering Our Friends. "Soul mates" may be the most apt description for the relationship between the Rev. Dana Greeley, who presided over the merger of the American Unitarian Association and the Universalist Church of America, and Nikkyo Niwano, founder of the Japanese Buddhist sect Rissho Kosei-kai and longtime friend of the UUA, p. 38. The Rev. Kim Crawford Harvie says of the two men, "They were both driven by the same passion for world peace…achieved through spiritual peace—peace at home, love among family members, neighbors, people you meet in the street."
Question: In an age when so many competing values and agendas vie for our attention, what would it take to sustain such a deep spiritual friendship individually or institutionally? How do you stay spiritually centered in relationships where there are great differences? How can your congregation build a strong interfaith relationship?

To claim our inheritance…or not. The Rev. Thomas Mikelson ("Commentary") suggests that our spiritual coolness and "inherited" suspicion of direct religious experience—expressed enthusiastically—may be one of the reasons Unitarian Universalist congregations do not grow more rapidly.
Question: How do you understand the first source of living tradition: as "direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life?" Is there a place in your congregation's worship life for spiritual expressiveness?

Does nature teach morals? "I believe there is a moral as well as a physical grain in things" ("The Grain in Things, Seen and Unseen"), says Scott Russell Sanders, "and that our chief business is to discover what we can of that pattern and to align ourselves with it."
Question: If you have found a moral compass in the patterns in nature, how have you integrated it into your spiritual understanding? How does this understanding affect your life?

A "community of remembrance and hope" at UUA headquarters. President John Buehrens ("Horizons") discusses the UUA's plan to construct a memorial wall to honor three people—Jimmy Lee Jackson, the Rev. James Reeb, and Viola Liuzzo—who died in Selma, Alabama, fighting for voting rights. Buehrens hopes that the memorial will "remind us that serving the cause of human rights with courage, working for justice with those of other faiths, and using memory to inspire hope are all aspects of our calling as Unitarian Universalists."
Question: Reflecting on your memories or impressions of the civil rights movement, what hopes do you have for racial justice today?

To vote or not to vote—that is the question. Ethical decisions are often difficult because they involve two conflicting values. The Rev. Lauren R. Stanley, an Episcopal rector, recently made the decision never to vote again "for a candidate who would sign death warrants" ("Testimony"). She states that if she had voted for George W. Bush or Al Gore she would be saying, "I am in agreement with them."
Question: Do you agree or disagree with Rev. Stanley's position? Is voting a right or a responsibility? Which is more important, voting or agreement with a candidate across-the-board?

The Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley is adult programs director for the UUA Department of Religious Education.

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