I’ve spent the last year reading the 68 books and documents on the required reading list for the Ministerial Fellowship Committee. This is the list of readings everyone preparing for the UU ministry must read before interviewing with the committee.
Although the required readings have provided me a powerful grounding in a broad variety of subjects, there are only a few books on the list that I would recommend to anyone not preparing for ministry. Certainly, if you are a history buff, there is lots of rich material on the list for you. But much of the list is simply too inaccessible to be enjoyable.
That having been acknowledged, the 11 titles below are the ones I can envision myself recommending to congregants for years to come:
Building Healthy Congregations
- The Safe Congregation Handbook: Nurturing Healthy Boundaries in Our Communities, compiled by the UUA. An excellent resource on a variety of topics related to healthy congregations, with a special emphasis on sexual boundaries and safety. Available online.
- A Time to Build: Creating Sexually Healthy Faith Communities, by Debra Haffner. A really useful guide to various aspects of spiritual and sexual health. Like The Safe Congregation Handbook, a good resource to refer to over and over again. Available online.
- Leading Change in the Congregation: Spiritual and Organizational Tools for Leaders, by Gilbert Rendle. This is an Alban Institute Publication about systems thinking and change. Any minister (or board) will need to lead a congregation or group through change, and this is a very useful and accessible guide. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
Justice and Witness
- Uprooting Racism: How White People Can Work for Racial Justice, by Paul Kivel. The title says it all, and this book is really what it purports to be: for white people. A wonderful introduction to anti-racism work.
- Learning to be White, by Thandeka. Thandeka posits that racism has its own harrowing effects on whites, who are forced through emotional abuse to deny parts of themselves in order to conform to a social construction of whiteness that benefits upper class elites. This is a powerful invitation to white people to reflect on their formational experiences of being “white.”
- Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue, Edited by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy Palmer Jones. This is a dynamic collection of essays from current UU and UU-friendly thinkers, theologians, and activists about anti-racism work. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
- Proverbs of Ashes: Violence, Redemptive Suffering, and the Search for What Saves Us, by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Ann Parker. The power and honesty of Rita and Rebecca’s personal sharing make this a powerful book for anyone to read. This is the ONE book from the reading list that my partner, Peter, read also. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
- Faith Without Certainty: Liberal Theology in the 21st Century, by Paul Rasor. This is a powerful summary of liberal theology’s strengths and weaknesses. This book really lifts up the tensions between the call to community and the privileging of the individual. This is the post-modern liberal dilemma, I believe. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
For Unitarian Universalists
- The Unitarian Universalist Pocket Guide, edited by Bill Sinkford. This is a quick, accessible, and reasonably thorough introduction to many aspects of UUism: faith, ministry, worship, religious education, social justice, evangelism, and history. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
- Worship That Works: Theory and Practice for Unitarian Universalists, by Wayne Arnason and Kathleen Rolenz. A wonderful look at Unitarian Universalist worship practices. Available at the UUA Bookstore.
- Essex Conversations: Visions for Lifespan Religious Education, Collected by the Essex Conversations Coordinating Committee. This is the most recent (2001) collection of UU thoughts on religious education. I would recommend it to anyone interested in religious education. I particularly appreciate the essays by Dan Harper and Rebecca Parker. Available at the UUA Bookstore.