Universal Life Church

Six Unusual Places to Get Married

ice hotel ulc 3.28.14

Married life is an adventure.  Some couples take that quite literally when choosing a place to tie the knot.  From outer space to an ice hotel, shark tank to Dracula’s castle, here are some of the more bizarre places to get married.

1.     Outer Space

Do you want a wedding that is out of this world?  If you buy tickets on a Virgin Galactic flight you can say your “I do’s” I space. The company owned by billionaire Richard Branson plans to start taking commercial space flights this year. Tickets are $250,000 per person and the Virgin Galactic has already sold 680 seats.  Flights will take off from New Mexico and fly to the uppermost part of the atmosphere where passengers will experience weightlessness.

2.     Ice Hotel Swedish Lapland

For a bride and groom who truly want a white wedding, look no further than the Ice Hotel located in northernmost Sweden.  This unique hotel is one of the more unusual places to get married. It rebuilt every year in November and December from snow and ice harvested from the nearby River Torne. The hotel’s chapel features an ice altar and pillars, and reindeer blankets designed to keep the chattering of teeth by wedding guests to a minimum.

3.     Shark Tank

If your idea of a fun wedding involves being surrounded by predators, getting married in a shark tank can be a great choice.  Saying your vows in close proximity to fish that can kill you may provide a renewed appreciation for every day, ordinary married life.

4.     Scott Island, Antarctica

Having your wedding on Scott Island, Antarctica is one way to keep the guest list to minimum. This uninhabited island off the coast of Antarctica is one of the remotest places on earth, and only accessible by helicopter. In 2009, Molly Kendal and Andrew Perry were the first couple ever married on Scott Island.

5.     Dracula’s Castle, Transylvania

Tying the knot at Dracula’s Castle in Transylvania, Romania can be the perfect weird alternative for a couple who wants to start married life off with a fright.  The castle is connected to Vlad the Impaler; the 15th century Romanian warlord who was the inspiration for the Dracula stories.

6.     The Great Wall of China

While some may consider the Great Wall of China a strange place for a wedding ceremony, the venue has been the setting for many love stories over the centuries.  The Wall is over 13,000 thousand miles long wall and is visible from space.

A wedding is unique expression of the tastes and personalities of a bride and groom. For some couples, tying the knot in one of the more unusual places to get married is the perfect fit.

Arizona, U.S. Discrimination Bill Vetoed

UC blog 3.4.14This February, the State of Arizona received considerable attention throughout North America. Attention was focused on a bill that would have allowed business owners to refuse service to customers on religious grounds. The bill was specifically intended to protect business owners from lawsuits resulting from a decision to deny service to lesbian or gay customers on grounds of strongly held religious belief. However, critics of the bill pointed out that it could have numerous unintended consequences. Republican Governor of Arizona Jan Brewer ultimately chose to veto bill, though not before many voices weighed in. In contrast to a number of other recent legislative actions that took place in the United States, this bill had nothing to do with gay marriage.

Is Discrimination a Religious Right?

Proponents of this controversial bill said that personal religious freedoms were being protected by allowing people to express their religious beliefs without fear of lawsuit. Though a few business owners have been named in lawsuits alleging discrimination, these lawsuits took place in locations where discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation was already illegal. Additionally, the services refused were specifically related to gay marriage ceremonies; bakers, florists, and other service providers who denied customers planning a gay marriage did so on the grounds that their religious convictions held that homosexuality was wrong.

The Arizona bill would have given business owners blanket permission to refuse services to customers, giving rise to questions about how the owners would ascertain whether or not a customer was actually gay. Even prominent Republic politicians argued that this bill would make it too easy to discriminate against people while using religion as a mask; Governor Rick Scott of Florida and former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney expressed hesitation over the bill on precisely these grounds. Gov. Brewer chose to veto bill, saying that it “does not address a specific or current concern related to religious liberty in Arizona.”

Other Impacts of the Proposed Bill

The financial impacts this proposed legislation were felt even before Gov. Brewer opted to veto bill.

  • The National Football League (NFL) began looking for alternative locations to hold next year’s Super Bowl, even though a location in Arizona had already been selected.
  • The Hispanic National Bar Association canceled its annual convention, already slated to take place in Arizona.
  • Businesses across the state worried that their income and reputations would be harmed if the Governor did not veto bill.
  • Major corporations, including Apple and American Airlines, threatened to withdraw their business from the state.

Though gay marriage is perhaps the civil rights concern most widely recognized as being important to gay and lesbian members of our human family, there are numerous other challenges that are even more pressing. Access to the public marketplace without fear of discrimination is important to everyone.

Twins born different years on New Years

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Waiting for the arrival of a baby can be an exciting guessing game since due dates are not always accurate.  If you happen to be expecting two babies, the anticipation may be even greater. A very unique event occurred in Toronto and Washington D.C. this past New Years; 2 sets of twins were born in different years.

Gabriela and Sophia

Canadian mom Lindsay Salgueiro was not planning to spend the last day of 2013 in the hospital, but her infant daughters had other plans in mind. Salgueiro’s original due date was January 19th.  Baby Gabriela arrived just before midnight and weighed in at 7 pounds.  Sister Sophia arrived 8 minutes later weighing 5 pounds, 15 ounces.  The incremental time difference of the deliveries gave Sophia the opportunity to have her own special New Year’s birthday and to be one of the first babies of 2014. Both mother and twins are doing well and the city of Toronto is very pleased to have played host to such an auspicious event.

Lorraine and Brandon

Five hundred miles away from Toronto in Washington, D.C., Yaleni Santos Tohalino was making some New Year’s history of her own. She also delivered twins with one being born in 2013 and another in 2014. Her daughter, Lorraine, was born at 11:58 on December 31st and had a birth weight of 6 pounds, 5 ounces. Brother Brandon arrived at 12:01 AM weighing 5 pounds, 10 ounces. The brother and sister will have a very unique birth story to share with their own children and grandchildren Yaleni and proud dad Father Warren Begazo were very happy to welcome their December 31st and January 1st babies.  It is safe to say their New Year’s Eve will take on a whole new level of significance and special memories.

Other Notable Births of 2013

While it is difficult to top the New Year’s twins from Toronto and Washington D.C., there were some other notable births in 2013. Prince George Alexander Louis arrived on July 22nd. He is the son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, otherwise known as Prince William and Kate Middleton. Prince George is third in line to the British throne after his grandfather and father. He would have been the first grandchild of Princess Diana. North West, the daughter of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, was born on June 15th. Kardashian heads her own fashion and reality show empire. West is a Grammy winning recording artist and fashion mogul.  Uniting Gabriela, Sophia, Lorraine, Brandon, Prince George and North West someday would make for an incredibly interesting birthday celebration.

Canadian Wedding Traditions Make for a Unique and Memorable Experience

There's lots of things you can do before, during, and after a marriage that are traditionally Canadian.

Your wedding is one of the biggest and most important days in your life, so there is no doubt that you’re going to want everything to be perfect. But there is so much that goes into planning the wedding and making it unique and special for you, your fiance, and everyone else in attendance. If you are looking for marriage inspiration in order to find the perfect way to experience your wedding, look no further than some of these classic Canadian traditions. There are a variety of wedding officiants from the Universal Life Church who specialize in these Canadian traditions and can help ensure that everything goes as planned.

Before the wedding, many Canadian brides like to host what is called Trousseau Tea, which is an event held specifically for friends who did not make it on the guest list for the wedding itself. Trousseau Tea is like a bridal shower but on a more personal level; the wedding dress is traditionally laid out in order for the guests to see it, and the bride-to-be and her family spend time with each of the guests in a much more intimate fashion. Trousseau Tea is usually held by brides who are intent on a small wedding that will be attended only by family or exceptionally close friends.

During the wedding party, an event called the wedding wheel is usually held by both the bride and groom. The wedding wheel is incredibly fun for everyone- it involves the guests forming two lines for an opportunity to dance with the happy couple. When a guest reaches the front of the line, he has the chance to pay any amount of currency to “buy” his or her dance. At the end of the party, the bride and groom get to dance together, and the money is put toward honeymoon or other marriage expenses.

While the wedding wheel is certainly entertaining, the bride/groom roast is even more so. This event is held at the wedding reception and involves close friends or family making a toast to either the bride or groom with the intention of embarrassing them and having a laugh at their expense. The jokes are all in good fun and everyone gets a good laugh out of the stories, including the bride and groom themselves. At the end of the roast, the toaster offers the couple their best wishes in an emotional speech that will be sure to bring some tears of joy, and then the party continues.

These marriage inspiration ideas will contribute to a wedding that will be memorable for everyone involved, especially for you and your spouse-to-be. It is best to use wedding officiants who are well-versed in Canadian wedding traditions such as these because they have experience and knowledge into how to perform them so that everything runs smoothly. Whether you use an officiant from the Universal Life Church or elsewhere, these marriage inspiration ideas will create an experience that are sure to create long and successful memories.

2012 ULC Ordinations Up, General Religious Affiliation Down
Interior of Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Canadian Religious Beliefs dip in some provinces, rise in others.

If you are interested in getting ordained by an online church and you live in Canada, chances are that you are not alone as many Canadians have also done the same thing. A recent Internet survey conducted by the Association for Canadian Studies indicates that the number of Canadian citizens who consider religion to be a part of their lives has experienced a slight dip during the past few years. Despite the dip, some provinces of Canada have actually reported being more religious through religious actions conducted by the church. Nontraditional spirituality has also begun to rise throughout Canada and the rest of North America, in part because of the presence of online churches that allow people to follow their own paths. The Universal Life Church (ULC) is one of those churches and seeks to serve Canadians so that they can choose their own path in religious studies.

The results of the survey showed that Canadians who felt religion as a significant presence in their lives fell from 39 percent to 36 percent during last year. However the number of people in Canada who chose to get ULC Ordinations rose steadily throughout 2012. Those who catch a casual glimpse of the survey may come to the conclusion that spirituality and religion are declining in popularity among the citizens of Canada but a closer look tells a different story. There is a rise in those choosing to get involved with organizations that promote acceptance of other belief systems and that shows that rather than experiencing an overall decline, perspectives on religion are shifting in a positive way. This fact is to the benefit of ministers who decide to get ordained with the ULC.

The survey results showed the only part of Canada that didn’t experience a reduction in numbers with traditional religious organizations was in the province of Quebec. Jack Jedwab, a religious scholar who is also executive director for the Association for Canadian Studies, suggested that recent elevation of Kateri Tekakwitha (Lily of the Mohawks) to sainthood by the Catholic Church of an historical figure is at least partially responsible for this regional trend. Kateri Tekakwitha, or Lily of the Mohawks, recently became the first First Nations citizen to be honored with sainthood by the Catholic Church.

Although the original survey results reflect a trend toward exploration of nontraditional spirituality in favor of institutions steeped in tradition, they also indicate that many people who have always been involved with traditional religion are beginning to use ULC Ordinations to enhance their beliefs by incorporating a creed of freedom and tolerance into their existing ideology.

With the number people deciding to get ordained in the ULC growing throughout many parts of the United States, it makes sense that those in Canada will follow the trend.  With their storehouse located in the beautiful city of Seattle, WA, USA; the ULC is an excellent alternative for those who need a significant spiritual presence in their lives but may not feel comfortable in traditional religious venues.
Does Mardi Gras Invalidate Lent?

ULC, mask, celebration, lent, shroveAlthough the Universal Life Church is not a Christian or a Catholic organization, we share many of the same basic beliefs that constitute the foundations of these religions. For instance, our interfaith ministers agree with the Christian message that actions as well as thoughts play a significant part in mortality. Those who knowingly commit acts that they believe are wrong sometimes depend on their religion to offer them ablution simply because they’ve asked for forgiveness after the fact. A great example of this is those who celebrate Mardi Gras in ways that are against the teachings of their religion before repenting during Lent to make up for their transgressions. This can be compared to intentionally living a life outside the boundaries of personal belief systems and asking for redemption on the deathbed.

The term Mardi Gras is actually French for Fat Tuesday, which is the last night before Lent when believers can enjoy dining on foods rich in calories, fat and taste. Over the years, revelers have incorporated other behavior into Mardi Gras festivities. Most people who celebrate Mardi Gras consider it to be great fun and often go all-out in their activities, similar to how some people spend Saturday nights engaging in behavior that is considered a sin by their church before appearing at services on Sunday morning.

The interfaith ministers who have become ordained through the Universal Life Church do not necessarily believe that the behavior of Mardi Gras revelers constitutes sin. However, we do feel as if spiritual beliefs should be given more than just lip service. Its a complex issue because even though most people probably consider such behavior to be gaming the system, common interpretations of certain parables in Christianity validate the idea that those who reach spiritual enlightenment late in life are entitled to the same rewards as those who have been pious from an early age. The Biblical Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard portrays a situation in which workers were paid the same whether they had worked for one hour in the vineyard or for an entire day. This parable stresses the belief that God loves all people equally and that does not grant favoritism based on the length of time that a person has been a believer.

Conflicts such as these are excellent opportunities for discussion about spiritual matters. Is it really morally right to use the act of asking for forgiveness after engaging in behavior that is against one’s moral code as a sort of spiritual “get out of jail free” card, and is it possible for a person to abuse the notion of forgiveness so many times that they run out of free passes?

Those who become ordained in the Universal Life Church don’t follow a set of beliefs decided on by others. We believe that every individual, including our interfaith ministers, has to find and follow his or her own spiritual path. Part of the process of developing an individual moral code is exploring questions such as this one thoughtfully and in-depth.

Should the ULC Ministry Support Atheist Churches?

Universal Life Church, ULCThe Universal Life Church embraces all faiths (and non-faiths), including atheism, but is it possible, or even desirable, to start a church for atheists, or is this a contradiction in terms to be avoided? Britain already has its own atheist church, which meets at a former church building in London. Although many religious and non-religious individuals alike see a conflict in the idea, the ULC sees it as a creative way to build a sense of community.

Sunday Assembly is a first for Great Britain, which has a significantly higher atheist population than the very religious United States. According to data from a 2011 census, one if four people in England and Wales identify as non-religious, whereas 5 percent of Americans identified as atheist. However, the number of atheists is growing around the world, including Canada as well as Britain. In order to serve this growing segment of the population and create a space where secularists could commune, stand-up comedians Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans co-founded the church, called The Sunday Assembly, and decided there was no better place to locate it than in a church-turned-entertainment venue in Islington called The Nave. But could atheists who get ordained online in the Universal Life Church do the same thing?

Jones and Evans seem to have made the concept work. Two hundred “worshipers” attended the first service, held on 6 January, where the congregation discussed the theme of “Beginnings” and achieving success be letting go of past failures and avoiding mental “booby traps”. With such a generic focus, who is to say more won’t show up at following services? To cement their status as a non-religious gathering, rather than hold a sermon by a traditionally ordained minister, the church invited a children’s author, Andy Stanton, to discuss the topic, and rather than lead a prayer church leaders encouraged the congregation to close their eyes and meditate on feelings of inadequacy and fear of failure, while Jones took the stage as MC. And, just as traditional churches sing hymns, the Sunday Assembly congregation sang a rendition of the Oasis song “Don’t Look Back In Anger”.

Despite Jones and Evans’s concept, not everybody is pleased with the idea of an atheist church. One of the more vocal critics in the religious community is the Revd Saviour Grech of Saint Peter and Saint Paul Roman Catholic Church in Clerkenwell: “How can you be an atheist and worship in a church? Surely it’s a contradiction of terms. Who will they be singing to?” the Islington Gazette reports him as saying. Meanwhile, secularists have argued that Jones and Evans risk of turning atheism into a religion, according to The Huffington Post UK. But Jones has countered that he and Evans are not trying to create a religion, but build a “useful community”, and that receiving complaints from both atheists and the religious means they are doing the right thing. For ministers ordained online, Jones has a good point: there need be no contradiction in the idea of an atheist “assembly”.

Like The Sunday Assembly, the Universal Life Church is an unconventional church which doesn’t fulfill everybody’s expectations of what a church should be, given its practice of online ordination. However, that does not necessarily mean the concept is contradictory or unworkable. As a ULC minister, what do you think about Jones and Evans’s atheist church? Do you think it is a contradiction, or do you think it is a way of building a viable community for the non-religious?

ULC Celebrates World Religion Day
Universal Life Church, ULC, World Religion Day

Many religions share goals of strengthening love, hope, and faith both within individuals and amongst a community

Since 1950, the third Sunday of January has been the official day of celebration of World Religion Day. This day of recognition of the commonalities between all world religions was originally started by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of the United States. It has also been adopted as a day of celebration by the Universal Life Church since their inception in 1959.

The ULC was founded with the basic doctrine to, “Do only that which is right.” Anyone may become ordained as an interfaith minister by the church free of charge.

This year, World Religion Day will be celebrated on Sunday, January 20th with activities all around the globe. The purpose of the celebration is opening doors of communication between people of all faiths, and even those without expressed faith, to identify common values and goal that promote world harmony.

Celebration of World Religion Day does not require being a member of Baha’is or the ULC. While interfaith ministers will preside over ceremonies in many places, all people are encouraged to participate by doing something that recognizes the fundamental affinity of all world religions. Such activities include:
• Attending the religious services of another faith.
• Initiating a conversation with someone of another faith about the commonalities between religions.
• Attending a celebration of World Religion Day sponsored by the Universal Life Church or Baha’is organizations.
• Personal contemplation of the common goals of all world religions in their aspiration to work as a motivating force for harmony in the world.

The goals of all religions include a desire for peace and an expression of universal love for all humankind. Some may want to become ordained as an interfaith minister in the ULC as a way of assisting others who seek religious recognition or want to perform a wedding, baptism or passing away, but who do not feel comfortable within the structures of more traditional churches and centers of faith.

All religions and faiths have a common core of belief that can become obscured by doctrinal differences and differing rituals and practices. World Religion Day is a moment to recall and celebrate what unites us all beyond and above our diverse ways of expressing our desire for universal love, harmony and peace.

Stay Sensitive to Religious Rights
Catholic church, Winnipeg, Universal Life Church

The Catholic Church of Winnipeg runs the risk of undermining the arguments made by the Vatican regarding religious freedom

Just recently, the Winnipeg Roman Catholic Church announced it would invite representatives of the regime in the small African country of Eritrea to a local parish festival. Subjectively speaking, Eritrea has one of the poorest human rights records in the world. Eritrea allows only four churches to freely worship in their country, one of which is the Catholic Church. The Eritrean-Canadian Human Rights Group of Manitoba was among one of the first organizations to react, asking for a change of policy by the local Church bureaucracy. They have requested this on account of the country’s human rights abuses. Evidently, this observation is quite true. Thousands flee the country every day, becoming refugees in the process.

The position of the Universal Life Church on this issue is clear. As part of our core beliefs, we respect all faiths and allow anyone to be ordained regardless of his or her religious background. We have found that the action taken by the Winnipeg Catholic Church has overly insensitive to religious rights, and hence contrary to this key principle. But with our own stance aside, the Catholic Church has many other good reasons to rescind their unofficial endorsement of the Eritrean government. Consider, for example, the cries of religious freedom abuses in the United States. In that country, the Catholic Church is accusing the federal government of violating religious freedom, citing the recent mandate that will soon require all medical institutions to provide contraceptives, a practice contrary to Church teachings.

The Universal Life Church is not asking for the Winnipeg Catholics to kow-tow to the wishes of human rights activists. We especially do not expect them to cancel their festival altogether. A radical demand such as that would counter the purposes of our policy allowing anyone of religious creed to be ordained.

Instead, we are merely asking for the Roman Catholic Church to take a more sensitive route. Currently, by standing by their decision, the Winnipeg Catholics are maintaining a glowing hypocrisy to their Pope’s call for religious freedom in other nations. After all, Catholicism is one of only four faiths that are allowed in the country of Eritrea. This fact should not be surprising as it relates the decision made in Winnipeg. However, now that Catholic authorities have been reminded of their duty to protect religious freedom, it is incumbent on them to alter their decision as necessary. Such a decision, if anything, would not just reflect the beliefs of the Universal Life Church, human rights groups, and the Catholic Church itself. Rather, such a decision would reflect the universal concepts of human rights, justice, and the common good.

Winnipeg Police Promote Prayer

Universal Life Church, prayer, CanadaTurning to citizens to help address their city’s crime rate, Winnipeg chief of police Devon Clunis recently called for a rather unorthodox civic action: prayer. Prayer, Clunis suggested, might be an answer to Winnipeg’s crime problem, and he asked that citizens of all faiths consider participating. As an interfaith organization, the Universal Life Church finds Clunis’s regard for diversity and respect for multiple faiths very encouraging, but there is an even more crucial opportunity at play here.

It’s important to understand the psychological process of prayer, regardless of an individual’s religious beliefs. What happens when a person prays? There’s obviously an issue at hand, be it a plea for assistance or an expression of apprehension or appreciation. Prayer encourages an internal dialogue, promoting meditation and focused thinking. The participant automatically begins to internalize his or her own goals and intentions, and the appeal at hand benefits from thoughts targeted on action.

Chief Clunis’s prayer request has the ability to reset civilian minds. His call doesn’t imply that people should pray and wash their hands of civic duty. Instead, his appeal may actually encourage positive thought processes that appeal to basic tenets of civilian behavior.

It’s hard to see the harm in that, but there has been some resistance to the idea from both non-religious and religious citizens, who may find Clunis’s prayer request to be an inappropriate insertion of spirituality into civic government. Where does the Universal Life Church stand on this debate? We are universal champions of freedom of religion and freedom from religion, but we see no forceful measures being taken by this simple request.

Has the chief of police declared martial law, insisting that residents pray or else? This is clearly not the case, and he has taken the additional step of embracing the freedom to pray to any religious head. No one is being strong-armed into participating, nor is anyone being rewarded for praying or punished for not praying. Beyond this obvious alignment with our position, we see an added opportunity to eliminate negativity.

Clunis’s detractors appear to be merely naysayers at this point, with no valid counterpoints or tangible alternatives to alleviating crime in Winnipeg. In fact, these individuals might be better off attempting to see the potential value in this proposition. Is Winnipeg’s crime rate going to plummet if even a portion of the population responds to Clunis’s appeal? Perhaps not, but the end result is a larger group of citizens with their minds turned to the basics: responsibility, action and a sense of right and wrong.