Harrisonburg UU

We are a lay-led, religious community offering a unique spiritual and moral witness in the Shenandoah Valley. We meet each Sunday in the historic Dale Enterprise School House. Most of our services have a community dialogue or "talk back" after the service. Each of our services is followed by coffee and refreshments in our "Community Cafe." Quite often the dialogue will carry over to the community cafe.

Coffee and Conversation in the Community Cafe.

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Your Brain And Transcendental Experience

by Tom Endress
March 15, 2015


Transcendentalism- Webster’s New World College Dictionary- 1) any of various philosophies that propose to discover the nature of reality by investigating the process of thought rather than the objects of sense experience. 2) by extension, the philosophical ideas of Emerson and some other 19th century New Englanders, based on a search for reality though spiritual intuition.

Listen and see if you can guess who wrote the following:

“One conclusion was forced upon my mind at that time, and my impression of its truth has ever since remained unshaken. It is that our normal waking consciousness, rational consciousness as we call it, is but one special type of consciousness, whilst all about it, parted from it by the filmiest of screens, there lie potential forms of consciousness entirely different. We may go through life without suspecting their existence; but apply the requisite stimulus, and at a touch they are there in all their completeness, definite types of mentality which probably somewhere have their field of application and adaptation. No account of the universe in its totality can be final which leaves these other forms of consciousness quite disregarded. How to regard them is the question—for they are so discontinuous with ordinary consciousness. Yet they may determine attitudes, though they cannot furnish formulas, and open a region though they fail to give a map. At any rate, they forbid a premature closing of our accounts with reality.” From….William James and his 1898 experiment with nitrous oxide recorded in his The Varieties of Religious Experience



Good morning! I am so excited to be here. I have been piecing together this particular talk on neuroscience for the better part of a year. It hasn’t been easy because there is so much material that has been coming out within the last decade on the relationship between brain activity and mystical, spiritual, and religious experiences.

But first a disclaimer. I am neither a neurologist nor a neuroscientist by any means. Just interested in neuroscience, especially as it applies to mysticism and spiritual experience. Although retired for over a decade now I was trained as a clinical psychologist.

Continue reading Your Brain And Transcendental Experience

Unitarian-Universalism: A Faith that Shines

by Linda A. Dove
January 18, 2015


I grew up in the Anglican Church. For me, its doctrines were a source of puzzlement, skepticism, and anguish—about my sin—my inability to have faith. Finally, I rejected Christianity. And, with the baby, I threw out the bath-water; I turned away from all religion. How many of you had similar experience?

In my 30’s I began to search again. I felt that “holy longing” to understand life’s mysteries. I wanted meaning and purpose; a faith in something larger than myself. By that time I was agnostic, unwilling to throw God right out of the water, but unwilling also to embrace a divinity I was unable to touch, see, hear or talk with. How many of you resonate with this?

My Purpose Today

Now, I’ve been a Unitarian-Universalist for only five years. Quite a few of you are also new UUs. How many of us are fully aware of where our UU faith comes from? I’ll try fill us in with a little bit of our complex origins—the Christian ones—today. And then I hope to encourage us all, both old and new members, to deepen our own understanding and then not to hold back about what our liberal faith stands for. Speaking out takes courage in a conservative, church-going area like the Valley.

Why do we sometimes hold back? An obvious reason is we don’t want to be lumped together with religious theologies like Christianity, Islam or Judaism that we rejected. Many of you tell me UUism attracted you because of fellowship in a like-minded community that is NOT one of these religions.

Continue reading Unitarian-Universalism: A Faith that Shines

Parenting Authentically in an Interfaith Marriage

by Kevin J. Zimmerman
December 28, 2014

I learned at last, as I came to be about seventeen, that my father was an entire freethinker, as much as I am now. It shocked me much, because he never taught me anything, allowed me to pick up religion from any one around me, and then scolded me because I embraced beliefs which he knew must condemn him. I think this neglect to be honest with children is a terrible evil. I have lost years of thought, and wandered wide and done such unwise conceited things, and encountered risks for soul and body, all of which might have been obviated by his frank teaching. — Moncure Conway -

I grew up in a largely secular household, where books by Carl Sagan and Joseph Campbell punctuated our bookshelves. But like Moncure Conway, I “picked up religion”from those around me, eventually joining the Mormon Church, to my father’s great disappointment. Unsatisfied with the local public schools, my parents opted to send me to a private, Christian school from kindergarten through third grade—a time when children are most vulnerable to indoctrination. I loved the school, but there my child’s brain was infected with the tedious supernatural beliefs of religion, beliefs such as mind reading (prayer), vicarious sacrifice (the atonement), and survival of one’s own death (the afterlife). Once people’s brains have been infected by religious dogma, they are often crippled in their ability to think critically. I had caught a bad case of religion that I didn’t shake until my 30s.

You can read Kevin Zimmerman’s entire sermon in pdf format Parenting Authentically in an Interfaith Marriage

The Flip Side to Serving and Giving: Receiving

By Linda Dove
Sunday, October 5, 2014

It’s pot-luck Sunday today when we give and receive food and share fellowship among our guests and ourselves. In my recent talk on Giving I said I would follow up sometime with the flip side of the coin, Receiving. Today’s the day. First, I’ll remark on the topic and then I’ll focus on how Receiving fits into our UU journeys together, as I see it.

Of course, we all sometimes receive from one another, whether gifts, services, caring—or even things we don’t want to receive.


The wider culture uses Either/Or thinking—Givers/Takers, Selfless/Selfish, Responsibility/Rights, Generosity/Miserliness. In general, we focus on Givers more than Recipients. We see Givers as acting from a sense of abundance; Receivers from scarcity or greed.

Stereotypes in the media contribute to this. Givers are heroes—deservedly—Iraq veterans, nurses, fire-fighters. Recipients are villains—Labor Unions, Big Banks.

• John Stewart recently did a satire on this. He showed the TV talking-heads on six different prime-time news programs all expressing outrage that people on food stamps were buying— seafood.

• And Annette Bosworth, a political candidate in S. Dakota, wrote on FB that food stamp Recipients are wild animals. She made her point by quoting the National Parks Service asking visitors not to feed the wild animals because that makes them dependent on humans.

Continue reading The Flip Side to Serving and Giving: Receiving


J. Barkley Rosser, Jr.
Delivered at Harrisonburg Unitarian Universalists, August 17, 2014

In each of the major northeastern Asian nations one finds three religions practices among others. One of these is the international religion of Buddhism, which originated in South Asia and entered China from Central Asia to the northwest, then to move on into Korea and then to Japan. Another is Confucianism, which originated in China and then also moved through Korea to Japan. Finally, each of them has a much older traditional religion that is shamanistic in practice, animist and polytheist, emphasizing divinities in mountains, rocks, trees, rivers, and other local sites, and rituals to stimulate fertility in people as well as agriculture, and also protection from evils and bad health, and so on, with critics sometimes arguing that these older shamanistic religions are “superstitious.” In China there were many local ones, with most of them becoming subsumed into Taoism, which also has a more esoteric aspect as shown in the book, Tao-De-Ching, by Lao-Tse. In Japan this ancient local religion is Shinto, and in Korea it is Sinkyo (pronounced “Shinkyo”), with it likely these last two names come from a common root in Central Asian or Siberian shamanism, Japanese and Korean being related languages.

In these nations and with respect to these three religions there tends to be a very different attitude than one finds in western monotheistic societies, and even among monotheists in those societies, such as the substantial Christian population in Korea, now 29% of the population, with Pope Francis visiting South Korea during this talk, and the current president, Park Geun-ye, nominally a Roman Catholic, as was her late father, Park Chung-hee, who was president and military dictator from 1960-1979. In the West, one can only belong to one religion at a time, and even only to one sub-sect of that religion, such as Wenger Old Order Mennonite Anabaptist Protestant Christian. Someone raised in that tradition may find family members upset if they even go to another branch of Old Order Mennonites (not to pick on the Old Order Mennonites particularly). However, it is fine to belong to all three religions in these northeastern nations. It is said that a Chinese person, “wears Taoist sandals, a Buddhist robe, and wears a Confucian crown.” In Japan, the typical person will get married in a Shinto temple and take newborn children there to be blessed while having a Buddhist funeral. Not a problem.


I’ve Got Good News!

August 3, 2014
© 2014 by Paul Britner

Poem: The Invitation by Oriah Mountain Dreamer

I’ve got good news! There is a place of faith where people can believe what their conscience calls them to believe, a place of hope that accepts both the responsibilities and possibilities of humankind, and a place of love, where all people are accepted for who they are and who they were created to be. That place is our Unitarian Universalist movement, which nurtures my spirit and, to borrow a phrase from our poem, sustains me on the inside when all else falls away.

Yet, I’m uncomfortable standing on a street corner and shouting out this good news to all who might hear it, including some who might desperately need it. We’ve all seen people with those sandwich sign boards walking up and down the street that read “Repent or go to hell.” I guess they’re trying to scare people into their pews. If I were so inclined I would walk up and down a busy street with one of those sandwich sign boards with our Universalist message on side, “Don’t worry—you’re going to heaven!” and our Unitarian message on the other: “You’re OK—God doesn’t make junk!” Of course, if people saw that, they might think, “Wow, a church that says I don’t need to go church!” Well, that’s true. You don’t need to go to church to be a good person.

The truth is, though we lack the leverage that fear mongers have, we have much more to offer: the affirmation of inherent worth and dignity, the responsible search for truth and meaning, and the encouragement to spiritual growth, to name three. Generally speaking, though, we are not the kind of people who would tap a stranger on the shoulder and say, “Let me tell you my good news.”

I wonder, though, if in our enthusiasm for reticence, we sometimes go too far. We choose to err on the side of privacy and leaving people alone. I believe we are so afraid that someone might be offended by our even talking about our faith that we say nothing, and we deny our good news to people who want what we have and don’t even know we exist.

Continue reading I’ve Got Good News!

What Liberal America Should Know About Evil

Andy Schmookler’s June 22 Message in Summary

Andy Schmookler delivered the sermon at HUU on Sunday, June 22, 2014. The title of his talk was “What Liberal America Should Know about Evil.” He says that America faces a crisis in which the stakes could not be higher. Both the right and the left play a role, he says, but the roles are very different.

He drew upon a line from William Butler Yeats: “The best lack all conviction, while the worst / Are filled with a passionate intensity.” Likewise in America now, the heart of the crisis is that the political right has been taken over by an “evil force,” while the response from Liberal America has been woefully weak.

The first step in the necessary change in our destructive political dynamic, Andy said, has to be a change on the liberal side. A fire must be lit, and he believes that the way to light it is to present a clear and compelling picture of the nature of the force we are up against.

With a series of articles — presently appearing only on his own website but soon to be launched on major national websites — Andy is painting the picture that America needs to see. It’s a picture of a coherent force that moves through the culture, consistently imparting a pattern of brokenness, as well as exploiting the brokenness it already finds in the culture and in individuals.

And he is addressing the elements in a worldview held by too much of Liberal America—one that does not regard things like “value,” or “evil,” or the sacred as entirely real. You can’t hit what you can’t see, and you can’t see what you don’t believe can exist, he says.

America needs an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment of realization. Here’s an unprecedented force that’s pushing to change our democracy into a plutocracy, and blocking our nation’s acting responsibly to protect our children and grandchildren – and indeed all life on earth – from the potential catastrophes of climate change. Andy’s campaign is an attempt to help drain the power from that force.

Here’s how people can help this campaign to get our national conversation to focus on the real truth about our national crisis, and perhaps reach the “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment of realization so sorely needed:

1) Check out Andy’s message. Go to The Series: Links to All the Entries , which presents the sequence of articles with which Andy hopes to light that fire in Liberal America– to move it, in the words of his motto, to “See the evil. Call it out. Press the battle.”

2) Spread the word by emailing all your liberally-minded friends and neighbors and associates – everyone potentially receptive to this message – to invite them to check out this series and join the “campaign.”

3) Contribute financially to help cover the costs of a publicist, an overhaul of the website for the new campaign, and the production of a book based on the series.

4) Ask yourself “What can I do to help this effort succeed?”

Andy can be reached at andybard@shentel.net.

The Heavenly Do’Nuts Take-Out Model – Giving, Service and Stewardship

Presented by: Linda Dove
June 8, 2014

Good morning. Thank you to Steve for facilitating our service today.

Our offertory says to me, Were all in this life together and we need to help each other along.

It evokes for me our 7th. UU principle, Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

This morning I invite you to ponder with me on giving, service and stewardship. A complex topic; so just one or two aspects.

I’m going to use the three terms interchangeably, though of course, they have different connotations. (Another time I’d like to explore the other side, the receiving side. But no time today.)

Service originally meant, of course, being a slave or servant.Today, it means offering others something of value.

Stewardship means taking care of something of value: like money, property, nature, family, community, a business, or an institution, be it secular, religious, or governmental.

We admire those who are generous for “giving back”. We judge those who are not generous as miserly, like Midas and Scrooge.

Recently, a Readers Digest article fanfared how a customer in line at a Heavenly Do’Nuts Take-Out paid for the next driver and his action inspired the whole line of drivers behind to do the same. You may have read about this. The headline was Everyday Heroes: Acts of Generosity.

Let me start us off with a piece on Giving from Kahlil Gibran’s, The Prophet. It’s in your handout in the Order of Service. Let ’s go through it as a responsive reading. Kira will lead us.

Continue reading The Heavenly Do’Nuts Take-Out Model – Giving, Service and Stewardship

Time Ebbs, Flows, and Waits

by Richard Wolf
March 2, 2014

I’m here this morning to invite our consideration of an apophatic mystery we call “Time”. I like Time, it’s one of the only things I’m been able to really count on. So far, anyway, Time seems to have been on my side. Maybe for you, too.

Particularly, what about Time here at Sunday Service? How does our experience of Time here connect with yet remain distinct from our routine and home lives? How do experiences of Sunday Services pertain to each day as well as perhaps extending over months or years? But even if you are new or relatively new here, your experience could be just as full and round as someone who has been coming here for twenty two years, though with very different content. Sunday Service takes place in an eternal way, across and beyond many movements of time.

People say that Time is God’s way of making sure everything doesn’t happen at once. I’d agree, though my preferred nomenclature for the Big G is Formation Mystery, or FM. Sometimes Time flies, and then other times (hopefully not now) it drags; yet Time always seems to be pushing, flowing (fastly or slowly) forward, whatever direction that is.

Time as such is the popular chronological time. Chronos time rules material creation in all forms. Chronos Time is cycles and seasons, our setting of time’s movements mathematically according to nature’s cycles: sun or moon calendars, clocks, watches, schedules.

[Speaking to the mystery of Chronological Time, The Book of Ecclesiastes begins with words like these:

“One generation departs and another generation arrives; while the Earth abides forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, then discretely transits to the same place it arose.

The wind goes toward the south, and turns around to the north; in motion continually, always to cycle around again.

All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.

All things engage in their works, hidden in mystery to human people.”

Chronos Time clearly does works of its own, beyond human control. The reading reminds me of expressions like “time marches on” and “time and tides wait for no man”, sayings that speak to the relentlessness of time’s demands. Yet the reading tells of this same Time being the Great Mystery which empowers the works of nature.

[Sun, moon, stars, and waters are moved by powers both strong and subtle, far beyond human influence. As constituted of mostly water, our own biorhythms connect with Moon and tides. Sun and starlight effect our moods; our ingestion of plants and animals effect our body chemistry, and natural cycles govern our own and everyone’s procreation. We are material creatures. And we can’t get any younger, as far as we know.]

But if Time is always flowing forward, wouldn’t it also somehow ebb, draw back, or fold? Occasions of inspiration, vivid recollections, dreams, or visions are in the realm of Kairos Time. A drawing-back from the flowing progression of Chronos time takes place, like the ebb of ocean tides and evaporation in the water cycle.

Kairos can be translated as “the right moment,” It also means “weather”. Another translation refers to the openings of a weaving. [Is past woof and future warp or vice versa?] Kairos time is when you know the time is right: when a work of art is complete; when the right words are said or heard. Kairos is the timing behind why you and I are present here. It’s about when something happens that can’t be explained or accounted for, maybe a spiritual or intellectual inspiration, an unexpected opening of one’s presence in time.

Last Sunday, for me anyway, the service was so integrated that it seemed over just minutes after it started. On similar Sundays, I’ve lost track of time, finding my present awareness of the “now” heightened; or maybe I felt a touch or word, or had some kind of enlightenment. Sometimes even some kind of an “aha” moment has occurred.

[Other times, I have to confess, I’ve slipped into chronic distractions and judgments. I’ve thought to myself (I’ll let you fill in some blanks) “This could be a little bit too ______________ for me.” or “I shouldn’t be thinking about his or her ___________________.” or “This ______________isn’t one I would have chosen.” I’m happy to report that on such occasions I’ve almost always been able to return myself to an appropriate place (whatever that is) in collective consciousness for Sunday Service.]

As I reflected on personal Sunday Morning experiences of Time, with consideration for preparing these words, I looked at how Time’s flowing could be akin with Chronos Time, and Time ebbing akin with Kairos Time. Our Chronos time here is dependably from 10:30 to 11:30 Sunday mornings. Our Kairos Time here is always indeterminate: an opening for the entry of insights, distractions, surprise instructions, or signs could happen at any time. I like to see the program as set though always in –process. This way even congregants who attend every Sunday never attend the same Sunday Service twice.

I propose to you that at least an acknowledgement of Kairos time enhances the quality of spiritual practices, including the quality of a Sunday Service. When we gather here, to what extent do we detach from chronological time, while keeping to a schedule, to allow for experience that is beyond the linear, beyond the rational? [We might also consider our detatchment from excessive rationalization or judgment, times like those fill-in-the-blank examples just earlier.]

[Kindly leave watches, cellphones, and egos at the door. Kindly also leave any extra “umbridge” you might have, so that we have enough for when others might need to take some.]

[Religious traditions mark entry and exit from Kairos time with particular rites, signs, and symbols. Catholics remember Baptism with Holy Water upon entry and exits from worship spaces. Lakota people engage prayer bundle and smudging rituals before and after inipi. We ring a bell, raise our voices, join our hands. Like many worship traditions, we include times of silence, or the use of certain word formulas (“so may it be”). Rituals like these invite a drawing back, an ebbing, of the ordinary forward push of chronological time. Portals and passageways are opened.]

Our lives take place somewhere between being unconscious slaves in Chronos and realized co-creators in Kairos. Our reading from Ste.-Exupèry directs us to stop and realize how our consciousness of each successive “now” extends seven generations into past and future. He speaks to the ebb and flow of generations, suggesting that heritage is transmitted via moments of memory and meaning within our own lifetimes, as well as via whatever material symbols our descendents may inherit –rituals, mementos, furniture, real estate, trusts,… He invites us to step aside from the push toward the future and the pull of the past in order to stand in a present-place as active owners of heritage and destiny. His words empower the shaping of a uniquely situated personal history, beyond constraints of our life as a time-line. Can we draw back from the rapid flow of culture to realize what keys we’re to give and which passwords we’re to transmit? How do we balance inheritance and legacy?

Toward closing, what about the waiting part? We are always between Time moving us forward or drawing us back, but does Time wait? Can Time pause or stand still for a while? I think “yes” but only for a little while, if we ask and wait, too. Sometimes Time just waits on its own. To ask time to wait is to acknowledge an overlapping place between Chronos and Kairos, a limbo place of transition. Maybe Time waits when its manifestations are under consideration, like those tiny particles that alternate being and doing, form and energy. Time waits at gateways between Chronos and Kairos forms of itself, a place we are now. Maybe Times waits when a bird stops and looks at you.

In Nature, time seems to wait in the overlapping of waves, and when the Moon is completely full or new. Time waits when breath is held or needs to be caught, like when you’ve been laughing or crying too hard. Where there is movement there must also be no movement somewhere, somehow, sometime, to be the ground or source from which movement proceeds.

One Kairos opening which recently helped me was the apparent mistake of the inclusion of the Walt Whitman reading in today’s program. Was it a typo that # 659 was listed instead of the Ste- Exupèry reading, #249, with which I’d been working? Was this a miscommunication, a mistake, someone else’s idea, a Kairos event, or all of the above?

Let’s take a look at it — # 659. Many levels of application are possible, but please consider a few in particular. Take a look at the second stanza, the first that the assembly will read. The words could suggest that a congregant’s quality of presence here is what really shaped our Sunday Order of Service, not the decisions of your Sunday Services Committee. The eighth stanza speaks to the free availability for entry into Kairos Time anytime. And the last, words from which I’ll repeat as our Benediction, speak of the essential value of any present “now” as the only place from which we can fully appreciate our situation in and out of Time.

Let’s engage in this reading together. Then just rest in a brief no-time silence, before we have some community dialog.

#659: For You

Brief Silent Reflection


Community Sending Forth

Benediction: “Happiness,…knowledge,.. this place, … this hour.”

[An adaptation from the beginning of the Book of Ecclesiastes:]

“One generation departs and another generation arrives; while the Earth abides forever. The sun rises and the sun goes down, then discretely transits to the same place it arose.

The wind goes toward the south. And turns around to the north; in motion continually, always to cycle around again.

All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full. To the place from which the rivers come, there they return again.

All things engage in their works, hidden in mystery to human people.”





Louis Rubin, “My Most Unforgettable Teacher”

This talk was given as a segment of HUU’s Jan. 26, 2014 Sunday service about teachers. It followed reflections by educators David Lane on his work with JMU student teachers, and Mary Hahn on her years teaching in Rockingham County schools.

I’m not a teacher. I have huge admiration for teachers, including my husband Robin, my son Eddie, and, as an education reporter, all those I met who keep helping young people learn while weathering SOL’s and all trends thrust upon them. I discovered long ago I couldn’t be them. Remember a ‘’60s game called “If you were a book, who would you be written by?” When I was starting my work life, my answer might have been William Golding, whose characters in his bestseller reminded me of some students I got as a substitute teacher. (That was Lord of the Flies. I hope that, no thanks to me, those kids’ lives have turned out well.)

Golding had been a writer-in-residence at then-Hollins College – one among scores of famous writers, including Eudora Welty and Flannery O’Connor, brought to that campus by Louis Rubin – subject of my tribute, who died this fall, three days short of 90. As a publisher; author of more than 50 books; and mentor to countless writers, Louis is credited with making Southern literature a respected scholarly field. Last year, the visiting author for what has become Hollins’s Louis D. Rubin, Jr. Writer-in-Residence Program was Natasha Trethewey, national poet laureate.

So it seems amazing Louis corresponded with me for more than 40 years!

He talked to our classes about great works having universal application, with the intriguing example of the Japanese devouring translations of William Faulkner. I think that’s where I first consciously learned to appreciate how stories can go deeper than the limits of literal experience, into what Faulkner called “the human heart in conflict with itself.”

When Louis explained Huckleberry Finn’s “All right, then, I’ll go to hell” moment, I learned how a great story challenges without preaching. When Huck refuses to betray his friend Jim, a runaway slave, he chooses between the “morality” he’s been taught and his own conflicting, decent instincts.

A classmate, then, who did become a college teacher recalls when her first class with Louis, teaching Proust, felt like expecting to be seated at a banquet but instead being ushered into the kitchen to see the food being cooked. His approach inspired her work.

At our “girls’ school”/later to be “women’s university,” Louis encouraged us to have it all – careers, families, everything. Follow our talents, hopes and dreams to the limit! Nothing new now (and some may call it too much work), but then, worlds were opening.

Creative writing seminar met Wednesday evenings in Louis’s basement. Third house on the right on Faculty Row. (If American literary sites received blue plaques, like in the U.K., the basement entrance to that otherwise nondescript mid-century rancher would deserve one at least as much as the ancient, picturesque cottage-like schoolhouse so-marked in Salisbury where Golding taught, perhaps to early prototypes of Ralph, Jack and Piggy.) Those of us who read and discussed our work in the Rubin basement ranged from faculty and graduate students, down to sophomores. The ranks included Annie Dillard, Lee Smith and Henry Taylor.

The year my class graduated, 1967, Louis moved on to UNC-Chapel Hill. He remained incredibly generous with the time he gave ex-students. His comments on our work could be tough but could be lavish in praise.

His son Robert hiked the Appalachian Trail (as did my son Eddie). After I’d told Louis about reading Robert’s book on that hike, Louis answered, “He’s a much better writer than I am.” This winter Robert said Louis had valued his work “much higher than it probably deserved, but I imagine that’s true of most of us. He was a generous soul.”

For Louis’s memorial, recalling his and his wife Eva’s Unitarian wedding (a match that would last more than 60 years), his brother said the couple rolled their eyes when the minister recited “the night has a thousand eyes.” (I Googled the phrase and found there have been at least three different songs with that title. I wonder if the one quoted was an 1895 poem; might it have appeared in an early UU hymnal?)

Before academia, Louis’s career was journalism. He wrote a memoir about that, optimistically titled An Honorable Estate. He was city editor in Staunton, and worked for the AP with our friend Jim Geary. In 1956, after graduate study at Johns Hopkins, he became associate editor at the Richmond News-Leader. Years later when I asked Louis about his career there, at a time when I’d become uncomfortable with the biases of those I worked under, he told me about waking up and growing disgusted with the Richmond paper’s crusade against school integration. He moved to Hollins soon after that. He said his reasons for the move were complicated. Of course, journalism’s loss was Hollins’ gain.

He liked to repeat a quote by H.L. Mencken, “Nobody ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.”

Louis was pragmatic. He honored his Jewish heritage, but didn’t do mysticism or theology. Yet in his final illness, we heard he told a visitor (when he was quite alert), “I’ll see you again. There are other worlds, you know.” He’s buried in a family plot at Temple Beth Elohim, in Charleston, S.C., where he grew up.

Some obituaries called Louis “curmudgeonly.” He had that side, especially while going deaf – but it doesn’t capture him. Just before the long strange trip that would land me in Harrisonburg, while driving my old heap on a job search, I blew off a forecast of heavy snow. In March? No way. So I blundered head-on into The Blizzard of March ’93. Spun 360 on the interstate. No fun, but it made a good story later. Here’s Louis’s response to my report, from a letter I’ve saved these 20 years: “As for your escapades on icy roads, you’re fortunate to have emerged so harmlessly. Next time you had better listen to the weather bureau; they called that storm, and predicted how bad it was likely to be, several days ahead. These days they are quite accurate. What I do every November is have a set of steel-studded snowtires put on my car’s drive wheels. They can handle ice… The only cost is having them put on and taken off. Moreover, they have the fortunate effect of keeping the ice and snow away from these parts; it hasn’t iced up or snowed in three years.” In the same letter, he gave me a job-search tip that I wonder now why I didn’t follow.

Sometimes I think calling a memorial a “Celebration of Life” is euphemistic, but Louis’s “wake” two weeks ago at Hollins felt like a true celebration. I wish he could have heard what we all said, and even what I’m telling you now – and no doubt, made corrections.

–Chris Edwards