For several months, this twice-monthly newsletter has contained a topical article, but little in the way of resources that would help someone develop a better Universalist Christian religious life; or organize Universalist Christians in a common activity, much less new churches. I’m going to break from this format this time to consider some basic resources, and if you like it will make it a regular feature. Please write me about this or any other question you have at firstname.lastname@example.org. In the same spirit, I’ve cleaned up the look of this newsletter, so that it closer matches the plain but quick-loading universalistchristian.org site. (The security-conscious will notice it serves pages with HTTPS now.)
Here are four resources or tools that I use regularly to manage my religious life, and each is either free or can be had at a small cost.
There is no better reference source for hymns than Hymnary.org, and it’s useful to find which hymnal has a particular hymn, including many historic Universalist books. It has audio and media files for many of the works now in the public domain, and is also useful for finding hymns that match biblical texts and themes. (My long-term plan is to finish uploading details for the 1937 Hymns of the Spirit.)
When I preach, I use the Revised Common Lectionary, in part because its development committee has Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship representatives, and has such wide ecumenical acceptance. This site from Vanderbilt University Library has been around for years as a reference, and continues to add features, such as downloadable half-page printouts, slideshows and files to add the readings to your favorite electronic calendars. The long-standing arts and prayer features deserve notice.
How can we keep up with news and writers without depending on social networks like Facebook and Twitter? (Sometimes it gets pretty sleazy.) I manage reading blogs and other sites that syndicate (share a computer-readable version) with NewsBlur. A basic version is free of charge, but I use the paid service – $24 a year – to manage more than 300 sites. If you used and liked extinct Google Reader, this is a good substitute.
If you’re unhappy with your office suite, LibreOffice. It is free of charge, available for all the major operating systems and is a robust choice for spreadsheets, word processing (including mail merges), graphs and more. I have used it almost daily for 15 years, and yes it opens Microsoft files. Naturally, I use it for sermon and liturgical texts, and to plan charitable giving.
Mark your calendars. All-Souls Sunday, the first Sunday of November (this year November 5) was commended by the Universalist General Convention “for a special celebration of our distinguishing doctrine, the Scriptural truth that all souls are God’s children, and that finally, by His grace attending them, they will all be saved from the power of sin, and will live and reign with Him forever in holiness and happiness.”
Also please tell your friends and associates about the Universalist Christian Initiative. They can sign up for these updates at http://universalistchristian.org/join/.
(The Rev.) Scott Wells