Responses from Unitarian Universalists
on the work of Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow
"The Wonder of Evolution" (article in UU World)
The cover story of the spring 2006 issue of the national magazine of the Unitarian Universalist Association features the work of Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd "itinerant evolutionary evangelists" in bringing a sacred understanding of evolution into Unitarian Universalist circles, where it powerfully bridges the spiritual and philosophical diversity inherent in this liberal faith tradition.
In February 2005, Connie Barlow and Michael Dowd were the theme speakers at the Meadville-Lombard Winter Institute, an educational program for Unitarian Universalist ministers and Directors of Religious Education. The UUA ("UU Faith Works") has posted a description of the UU-relevant educational materials that we make freely available on our website.
19 June 2008 Viking/Penguin released the new hardcover edition of Dowd's Thank God for Evolution. The book website provides links to the news articles about it, including New York Times Magazine and Washington Post.
"EXCITEMENT, INSPIRATION, HOPE, ENTHUSIASM"
"Way beyond cool! This was the best presentation I have ever seen in my life. And I am not kidding. Michael confirmed every hunch I ever had about the universe. A logical and inspirational description of how science and spirituality intersect in the common plane of humanity. I've heard hundreds of speakers and I've never learned as much in one hour. I understood and absorbed every single word. Invite everybody you know and be prepared for him to blow your mind!" Lisa Earle McLeod, president of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett (Georgia), and syndicated columnist
"Last night I was at the first session of a class that I am leading. We were doing the customary go around, getting acquainted, sharing about our experiences in the church. One person spoke with great enthusiasm of your service last August. She was so excited to be hearing that story, and to be hearing it in her church! I wanted you to know that the ripples are still moving out from your brief time with us. You leave trails of enthusiasm and hope everywhere." Rev. Ann Tyndall, Unitarian Church of Evanston (Illinois)
"Connie and Michael's relaxed but exciting presentation of 'The Great Story' at the UU Church in Fresno, CA brought out about 60 people on a weeknight. The crowd was very enthusiastic about the way the scientific metaphor of the beginning of the universe was used in so many creative ways. People left feeling informed, inspired, and connected to the whole process." Rev. Bryan Jessup, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno (California)
"I got so much energy, knowledge, and hope from your and Connie's presentation and conversation last Sunday that I determined to get you back for a workshop as soon as possible. I was really impressed and stimulated by your present lifestyle and your constant learning from both books and people." Dale Craig, President of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of North Bay (Napa, CA)
"Thank you, thank you, thank you from the congregation at UUCFM. We have been hearing such accolades about your Sunday service, Connie, and your presentation on Wholly Wednesday, Michael. They both were stimulating, interesting, and thought-provoking." Helen Leddy, President-elect, Unitarian Universalist Church of Fort Myers (FL)
"The service on Sunday was terrific. I was heartened and inspired!"Rev. Ann Tyndall, Unitarian Universalist Church of Evanston, IL
"I really can't express in words how powerful your message is. Thank you for sharing it at TJ. I had made two copies of the audiotape of your program, but someone else who had heard how great it was asked for the second tape, so the one I am finally sending you is actually the third copy. I wish you all the best in your travels and other endeavors. I will be doing what I can here in Kentucky, living and spreading your words." Lynn Foreman, Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Church, Louisville, KY
"Michael and Connie are both a delightful blend of passion, warmth, and intelligence. I've met them, read their writings, and fielded enthusiastic praise from those who have personally experienced their programs. I recommend them to UU congregations in our district and beyond. They will have a special appeal to those who are open to having their minds stretched as well as their hearts touched and spirits raised." Rev. Harry Green, Metro New York District / UUA Acting District Consultant
PRAISE FROM VERY LARGE UU CHURCHES
"It was a magical weekend. I found great merit in your presentations and thought that your ability to work with a range of ages, and to raise the level of interest and excitement among people across the theological spectrum (re: a new story of life and the universe), was commendable. We received great feedback not only about the workshops, but also about the children's chapel you conducted and the worship services Michael led." Rev. Michael Schuler, First Unitarian Society, Madison WI
"Thank you for covering so well the pulpit of Community Unitarian Church. I've had very good response to your presentation both form and content. You are putting forth important material. Thanks for bringing it here." Rev. Carol A. Huston, Minister, Community Unitarian Church at White Plains, NY
"Michael and Connie are relaxed, engaging and professional all at the same time. Their material framed some of the core issues of our day in a manner that left us with a sense of hope and a feeling of empowerment. Our congregation was enriched by their ministry with us." Rev. M. Maureen Killoran, Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville, NC
Praise for Michael's 2007 book from UU ministers
"This is a book I would gladly (and securely) recommend, not only to members of my own humanist-inclined congregation but to my evangelical relatives as well!" REV. MICHAEL SCHULER, SENIOR MINISTER, FIRST UNITARIAN SOCIETY OF MADISON
"Michael Dowd's marvelous use of scientific information, religious metaphor, humor, and sheer delight in his subject(s) carries us to new places where evolution and the deep stories of religion converge. His book is a gift for our time." REV. LAUREL HALLMAN, SENIOR MINISTER, FIRST UNITARIAN CHURCH OF DALLAS
"Dowd has given us a bridge across one of the major chasms of our times: religion and evolution. His passion for both science and religion is contagious. Reading his book, one can see that the discourse itself has just evolved to a whole new level!" REV. MARLIN LAVAHNAR, SENIOR MINISTER, ALL SOULS UNITARIAN CHURCH, TULSA PRAISE FROM UU TRAINING INSTITUTES AND SUMMER CAMPS
"From the information on the evaluations, the two of you were sensational in every way. Thank you!" Carol A. Taylor, Dean and Chair of Meadville Lombard Winter Institute
"On behalf of the Planning Committees of the Northeast and NH/VT Districts, I am writing to thank you for the wonderful program you brought to our Fall Conference. As the conference progressed, a sense of connection and awe became tangible among us all. Your passion for your life work is indeed infectious and I know we all went away inspired, educated, and refreshed. Thank you for your suggestions for small group workshops. The evaluations show that they were a valuable part of the conference: many people said they loved the evolutionary parables workshops. I have heard glowing reports from parents and children from your time with them." Ann Kebbell, chair, joint district planning committee
"The Stebbins Summer Gathering at Asilomar is a week-long PCD-UUA summer conference on the coast of central California. Connie and Michael delivered a two-hour workshop each day and Michael delivered a ten minute homily at our daily morning worship. Michael and Connie presented a powerful workshop the first day and each day they got better and stronger. My grasp of The Great Story grew exponentially. The breadth and depth of their material was amazing. I am sure that if our conference lasted for two weeks, I would still have been on the edge of my seat at the last day. They were great staff members and a definite asset to our conference. I highly recommend you include them in your programming. For more information, contact me, Dick LeBlanc, dean of Stebbins 2005 at 510-234-3524 or firstname.lastname@example.org." Dick LeBlanc, dean of Stebbins (UU) Summer Gathering, Asilomar CA
"Outstanding presentations! And much needed in the adversarial climate, where science and faith are stereotypically caricatured as being at odds. Your presentations are the most powerful example of Bill Sinkford's 'language of reverence' that I know of. Keep it going! Rev. David Johnson, attendee at Southeast UU Cluster Group event in January 2007
APPEALING TO THE BREADTH OF UU DIVERSITY
"Michael - It was such a blessing to have you share your ministry at First UU last week. Your message of hope, uplift, and science impacted both the humanists and the reverent among us, hopefully bringing us closer together in the mission of our faith." Rev. Bret Lortie, First Unitarian Universalist of San Antonio, Texas
"When I first corresponded with Michael over a year ago, I felt certain our congregation would not support a follow-up workshop. Was I ever wrong! People were so inspired and energized on Sunday morning that the workshop on Monday evening was packed. Michael was incredible! I don't recall ever having such a positive response from such a wide diversity of church members." Barbara Clark, Chair of Religious Education Committee, UU Congregation of Green Valley, AZ
"From Sunday sermons and cosmic storytelling, to congregational discussions and longer presentations, Michael and Connie can be counted on to deliver dynamic, engaging, and deeply meaningful programs that appeal to the breadth of UU diversity." Bill Chase and Marion Leavitt, Board of Worship Co-Chairs, First Unitarian Society of Rockland County (New York)
"It was a pleasure to see Connie's strong skills in engaging the children. She kept the attention of the youngest and stimulated the older ones to a high and delightful level of participation. After the children left for Religious Education classes, Michael followed up with an equally strong adult presentation, "Celebrants of the Earth Story,' in which he dynamically and passionately told us that "we are evolution becoming aware of itself the Universe awakening to the grandeur of its own story.' In the discussion period following, he demonstrated a fine facility to expand further on his topic by his well thought out responses to comments and questions. Overall, Connie's science and humanist background pairs well with Michael's broad and inclusive faith experience in ways that highlight both the strengths of our tradition and the diversity of Unitarian Universalists today. Individually, each is a strong presenter, but together they are truly a dynamic duo!" Verne Bell, Past President, UU Society of Orange County, NY
"Michael, DUDE!!!!!! Today was the most pivotal point in my 10 year spiritual journey at Northlake. You gave me answers to questions that I didn't even know were my questions. It made Uniitarian Universalism finally make sense to me, and will now allow me to better explain my beliefs. I can't believe that I never thought of the Big Picture concept before today. I hope now my journey will make sense and I will know where I'm going and why. Thank you and Connie so much for the best Sunday experience I have ever had as a Unitarian." Neil Levinson, member of Northlake Unitarian Congregation, Kirkland WA
"Just a note to say thank you for launching my husband and me on this great new adventure as we learn more about the "Great Story." We first heard you on the radio in Columbus, Ohio, and then attended your presentation that evening at the Unitarian/Universalist church. I have long been interested in cosmology, but struggled with the disconnect with traditional Christianity, feeling that I had to "turn off my brain" to be religious. Through your work, I now see a bridge between a spiritual life and the great story of the cosmos. I am eager to begin a grand new journey of exploration. Thank you! Carol Apaki, Granville, OH
"Dear Connie: You and Michael visited my UU Meeting House in September and I was enthralled. Whenever I'm feeling discouraged, I return to The Great Story website because it gives me hope. I belong to a group called SisterCircle. We formed nearly 11 years ago and have been celebrating the Wheel of the Year with members and friends since then. this year we will do "The Tiamat Story" twice once for SC and friends and once for our UU congregation. We are pagans who practice in the "Goddess Tradition" and we are very, very enthusiastic about and inspired by your work. Thank you for all the awe and joy we've felt from the work you do. Blessed be." Rebecca, Shrewsbury NJ
"Michael: Just a note to say how much I enjoyed your presentation Wednesday evening. I'm a Buddhist UU and found so much of what you said to be compatible with Buddhist ideas, like dependent co-arising and, of course, compassion." Charlie Suhor, UU Fellowship of Montgomery AL
PRAISE FOR OUR INTERGENERATIONAL SERVICES AND R.E.
"Thank you, Connie and Michael, for a great intergenerational service. The church was abuzz with delight at the coffee hour and happy comments kept coming my way all week! What was so great was that the service flowed so well that it kept the attention of kids and adults throughout: to learn what we humans share with dinosaurs, to get a picture of what life was like in America long before humans arrived, and to do a Stardust Communion affirming our ancestral link to the stars. We laughed and we cried, and we felt the awe together everyone from Christians to Religious Naturalists to atheists. Your ebulience, enthusiasm, and erudition captured us all!" Rev. Sarah Clark, Peterborough NH Unitarian Universalist Church
"Thank you, Connie, for sharing your passion for science with our Middle School class. Not just anyone could come into our class and share what you did, and at the same time keep kids (ages 11-14) captivated for a whole hour. What you share comes straight from your very soul and it holds any adult or child's attention, no matter what their particular interests may be. Your topic tied in so well with our "Interdependent Web of Life and Earth Awareness" unit of study. The intent of this unit is to build a sense of kinship and interdependence with all of life, as well as to enable children to sense the wonder and mystery of birth, growth, and death. In one hour, Connie, you managed to hit on all of this, in a most profound way. My son, Amby, who was in the class, said, "I thought it was so exciting, what Connie said, that we are all stardust. It was cool how she said that I am 13 billion and 12 years old. " Nancy Francisco, Religious Education teacher at Unitarian Universalist Society of Springfield, MA
"Dear Connie: I just wanted to drop you a note telling you how much our Sunday School class enjoyed your presentation. I have an energetic, curious, and enthusiastic group of kids and they were mesmerized by you. You brought great material and challenged them to think outside the box. As a professional teacher myself I always get excited to see real learning taking place. I hope we get a chance to teach together again. Thanks for a great class." Robin Moir, Spirit of Life Unitarian Universalists, Odessa FL
"The January 27th service marked the return of Michael Dowd and Connie Barlow in what was probably the best intergenerational service we've seen in years. "From Stardust to Us" was a succinct survey of our physical derivations from the Big Bang to our present. Michael and Connie noted the mythological roots of many of our creation stories and showed children and adults the incredible interrelation of all things to each other, using the contemporary knowledge of our beginnings. Four enjoyable rituals of recognition were performed by all of us. Gongs and bells introduced the elements of the rituals in an effective service of interest and participation." Newsletter of the First Unitarian Society of Rockland County (NY)
"Connie and Michael: Thank you so much for your wonderful 'Coming Home to North America' event. Everyone who came was moved and excited, as you may have noticed as they swarmed around your books/tapes table afterwards! Several people are talking about doing a followup session to help people work with the information. You have definitely planted a seed here. Thanks again. Dina Claussen, Worship Committee Chair, Wy'East Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Portland OR.
"Thank you, Connie, for doing a guest program for our 11-13 year olds, while Michael was delivering the sermon on Sunday. The kids loved your "We Are Stardust" session, and benefitted from the program. Come back and see us anytime!" Michael Malone, Director of Religious Education, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Miami, FL
"I am excited about your evolutionary timeline and all that your website is opening up for me. Thanks for opening my eyes and heart to a new direction. Your site has put a name to the place where my heart has been for many years." Alice Springer, Director of Religious Ed, UU Sante Fe
PRAISE FROM UU YOUTH
"Hey Mr. Dowd!
I just wanted to say thanks again, and to let you know how amazing your talk was. It has truly impacted my life. I had never felt so close to a stranger before or their ideas. If I didn't have any manners, I swear drool probably would have dribbled out of my mouth at one point. I was gaining all this information that I already knew, but it was being pieced together in a way I never dreamed of. And there was also info that I had never heard of (I am only 16).
What impacted me the most, was the realization that I am part of everything and everything is a part of me. This has made me feel closer to "God" or whatever he or she is than ever before. When I am outside, and next to nature, I just feel so connected to the past, the present, and the future and whatever cosmic force that compels it all.
On the drive back home I had one of the best discussions with my mother. We both were feeling a lot of the same things, and at the same time, completely different things. We both gained. I felt this deep content. Like, ok, I'm ready to search now. I'm ready to start my paths. My spiritual paths. I was hesitant before, because I felt like I was biased against Christianity because I felt like it had let me down and I wanted to study other religions, but there is so much knowledge out there I had no idea where or how to start. I guess you could say, I felt like my spirit was floating but without a cause. And I wanted a cause. And now I feel centered, and I feel ready and safe to explore all that is out there with my spirituality. And this means so much to me, because my spirituality means so much to me.
It is those quiet moments, where I used to feel empty and hollow and lost, that now I feel strong curious and optimistic. I can't pinpoint right now everything that I gained from "The Great Story" but I can tell you this: You guys kick ass. You guys kick serious ass because you are actually going out in the world and sharing the good news. And you aren't shoving it down poeople's throats, or slamming a book in their face. You aren't going "my way or the highway". And that's what I loved about you. Also, I felt an instant connection like this guy gets how I feel about life and faith and others.
peace and lots of love,"
Elissa Goss, age 16, First Unitarian Church of Houston (after attending Michael Dowd's 2-hour program at Emerson Unitarian Church of Houston).
"Dear Michael: I brought my 9 year old son to the [adult] program [at First Unitarian] in Dallas tonight. He said it changed his life and made him feel better about many things. In response to your saying, "Humanity is the universe become conscious of itself," he said, "Wow, mom, it's like we're stem cells for the alzheimer's patient." I was amused and proud at the same time! He talked about what he had learned all the way home and then wished he didn't have to go to bed so he could stay up and talk about it some more. Thanks for putting poetry and magic to the things I have been telling him. Sharon Devine, parent at First Unitarian of Dallas, TX
PRAISE FOR PRESENTATIONS AT UU CAMPS
"Michael and Connie's program combines the passionate and the practical to open us to the miracle that life on planet Earth is. Our group of eighty adults had a most engaging week, re-examining our views of the world in new and hopeful ways. The response at Eliot Naramata was enthusiastically positive, and we hope to invite Michael and Connie to do another camp in the future." Antonia Won, Vice President, Eliot Institute
"At the week-long Eliot camp at Naramata, B.C. in June 2003, Michael presented The Great Story in an hour long talk each morning. He was very well received; the evaluations found him knowledgeable and enthusiastic about his subject. He was always available for discussion during the day and took part in camp activities. He took time to visit with the Youth group and held a 12-step program voluntarily each afternoon. We are hoping for a return visit at another of our camps in the future. Joan Russell, Eliot Board member
AWAKENING THE SPIRIT
"I had the pleasure of hearing Connie and Michael's presentation in January and found myself feeling that what they were saying resonated with a deep inner knowing. Their talk fanned the flame of my determination to continue to attempt to affect change in my company by being pro-active, making bolder suggestions, knowing that if the owners only opened their minds to hearing and embracing a fraction of what I would be proposing, it would be a step forward. Their message reminded me yet again of the need for transformation in the business arena in the way we do business." Wendy Negri, member, U.U. Church of Fresno, CA
"Thank you for all your inspiring work with us this weekend. You have left us with such richness for the imagination, and pointed us in the direction for wanting more. And, not least, it's been such joy to finally meet you both. May your ministry of awakening the spirit be blessed beyond measure!" Rev. Carole Martignacco, Unitarian Universalist Church of N. Hatley, Quebec
ACCURACY OF THE SCIENCE
"I was delighted to be a member of your audience last Sunday when you spoke at the Unitarian Church of Evanston. I enjoyed your presentation and, even more, I was heartened to discover two people so unselfishly devoted to a cause. My later visit to your website only strengthened my impression that you are an unusual partnership somehow surviving in a world of materialism and self-interest. On your website, I was of course attracted to "A Feast of Elements". Your description of the synthesis of elements is remarkably accurate, considering its brevity. You managed to catch the essence of the story, if not all the details." Dr. Richard S. Treptow, Professor of Chemistry, Chicago State University
"Michael: We really enjoyed your service Sunday and the program last night. My congregation is filled with DuPont scientists and engineers, many of whom came one or both times. If you are a hit with that crowd, you know you are doing something right. Let's plan to have you and Connie come two years from now and I will let my colleagues (UU and otherwise) in the area know what a wonderful program you offer." Rev. Nancy D. Dean, Unitarian Universalist Society of Mill Creek, DE
PERSONALLY AND FROM THE PULPIT
"Connie and Michael: This is a big thank you to you for the stimulating message you brought to our pulpit!! Several Flint members came to me after the service to say how interesting and insightful your service was. By Tuesday after the service, the word spread that those who where not present really missed a worthwhile message. My minister, the Rev. Lisa Friedman, called me to say she heard good things about your Sunday service. I even got a chance to "witness" to our church secretary, Peggy Sexton, who is a member of the Fenton Epiphany Church and suggested that your message was one that her church, with a Christian UU influence, would appreciate as much as the Flint church did, that is traditionally more Humanist. Yesterday an Epiphany member called me to find out how to contact you. I am sure you will hear from her!
All that I typed above is true, but I spoke as the Lay/Guest Coordinator of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint. What I want to say now is how meeting you and experiencing your message affected me personally. First, I has warmed by the way that the two of you, who are so different in your interests and approach to your topic, enhance and empower each other. Yet, both of you "hit the nail on the head" for me. Connie, I am a person who is always questioning the where and the why of everything. Your knowledge about science and the Universe is an inspiration to me. What an awesome, mind-boggling Reality!!!
Michael, I can understand your religious experience. I came from a Pentecostal background. I left the Christian Church not because I felt rejected and snubbed, as many other UU's have, but because it just did not answer many of my questions. I could not accept everything on Faith alone and needed some answers. I thank you for your insight on how the Wonders of the Reality Connie speaks of can connect to the teachings of all religions and the meaning of Faith.
Connie and Michael, I am looking forward to welcoming you again to the UU Flint pulpit. I am not alone. When I mentioned that I hope to schedule you again next year, the response was, "If you can get them back again, please DO!" Judy Tipton, Lay/Guest Coordinator, Unitarian Universalist Church of Flint, MI
Michael: I've been a Unitarian Universalist for 45 years and this was one of, if not THE, most meaningful, informative, and entertaining presentations I've ever had the privilege of hearing. Thank you SO much!" Fran Gebuhr, Greater Nashville Unitarian Universalist Congregation, TN
"Connie and Michael: I'm still reeling from your presentation at the UU church in Lexington. I'm nearly 60 and felt like a college sophomore (the good parts) again: the intellectual equivalent of a thrill ride in a Ferrari!" Glen White, Lexington KY
REACHING THE WIDER COMMUNITY
A member of our church (UU Church of Tallahassee) told me at choir practice (2009) a story where he shared your DVD with an African-American friend of a conservative Black church over in Gadsden Co. to the west of Tallahassee; she showed your DVD at her church and, Jack reports, she said her church reacted positively & enthusiastically to your message! Wow! (We agreed you are a very powerful Missionary for the idea of "Evolution" amongst people who often would strongly shun the idea.) Will Adkins, member of UU Tallahassee, FL
"Michael: I've been working with the adult literacy program in Havana, FL. The director is a black minister of a small rural Methodist church in northern Florida. I told her about the video I have of you speaking in a traditional church, and offered to let her to see it. A couple of weeks later, I stopped by her office and asked if she had had the time to view it. She told me that she had seen it multiple times and that she had already done two services with what she had learned. Keep up the good work" John McDevitt, Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee, FL.
"Dear Connie and Michael: I just wanted to let you both know that the sermon you gave last year was a turning point in my life! I really mean that. I get a real kick out of telling people I finally figured out why people are tired all the time. When they ask why, I give them a brief history of the Big Bang theory and end up saying that the atoms that make up the cells of their body are 14 BILLION years old! Most people "get it" and also see the wonder in it. I have spoken of the great story to all of my friends and relatives and even strangers on the street. So, the sermon you gave has rippled out to literally hundreds of people." Rich Graham, member of the First Unitarian Society of Burlington, VT.
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