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Essay on Worship .......Vestments   ....Worship Reader (under construction).........
Additional Historical Notes (under construction)


Transcription from Codex Mimeographicus
Some entries are, of course, out of order!
Textual controversies appropriate!
Different versions are included!
Corrections eagerly welcomed!
Missing pericopes solicited!
Disputes honored!


In April 1975, a historic convocation of liberal religious leaders was held at Buck Hill falls, a stately Spa in the hills of Pennsylvania. The convocation commemorated 150 years of Unitarian denominational life.

A certain Spirit moved among some of those who attended. it was a spirit of yearning, a desire to find ways to deepen the devotional life of the liberal faith. Those drawn into the circle of conversation acknowledged that one does not offer worship to others as a program, but that common prayer arises from people who have explored their own devotional experience. The key, therefore, to leading others in worship is to plumb the depths of One's Own worship life.

Led by this spirit, several decided to deepen and continue a liturgical conversation during the ensuing months. Because they were separated by great distances of miles from one another, a monthly discipline for time and topic was agreed upon for this initial conversation in diaspora. On the first of the month, a three-point agenda was to be addressed by each and circulated to all. They agreed, first, to share a liturgical fragment from each one's own Parish use; second, to present the outlines of a liturgical Theory and the theology behind it; and, third, to speak to organizational concerns about how to constitute themselves in a continuing way.

Out of this process arose Mutual invitation, One to another, to Covenant together in a most ancient form of voluntary religious association: the religious order. They explored monastic themes, most highly developed in Christianity and Buddhism, of austerity and solitude, commitment and commonality, and found them salutary to their common desire for devotional discipline and liturgical ordering. During these initial months, the larger list of 10 interested persons, men and women clergy and laity, was winnowed to five who were ready and able to assume the burden of bringing the order into reality. conversation deepened at the Minneapolis Central assembly.

On October 29th 1975, a formal organizational meeting was held in Toronto, and we became the first five to take membership in the congregation of Abraxas, though not yet into its ordered life, for the order itself had not yet taken tangible shape. Toronto was chosen as the site to convene because it was the most economical: two of the five could gather there at no cost for travel. from the outset, however,It was determined that our economic life together should be shared in common. one who could travel two blocks should bear the same burden of cost as one who would travel 2,000 miles.

We began our life as a congregation because of our historic nurture in the tradition of congregational quality, we provided the broadest sharing of authority, permitting every member equal access to the voice of the spirit and the gifts of grace. In a larger sense this tradition has also been the foundation of Sangha and Monastery alike.

We found ourselves called in the ancient name of Abraxas who is and is not, the god behind the gods which is not a person but a process. Abraxas speaks the creative dialectic in nature, in history, and cosmos, and psyche, which is both theism and atheism, but neither, in which opposites engage in contradict, yet point to a larger Unity of the ongoing activity of creation which is never completed. In it, each tribalism deepened in particularity, yet transcended towards a common universality by recognizing every other which it is not. Therefore, we do not abandon the Christian or Jewish or Buddhist or Taoist understanding we bring. rather, we deepen them each as differing languages which reveal the multiplicity of the universe.

Our second formal meeting took place in March 1976, again in Toronto. (It was already our fourth annual meeting.)We adopted bylaws, Grounded in the ancient truth that every religious community has at least two major levels of involvement and commitment: a larger body of devotees - often called the parish - who derived meaning and substance from their association, but who live everyday lives in the world; and a smaller ecclesia at the center who are willing to assume special burdens of time, commitment, and spiritual discipline to serve the larger needs of the whole body.

In Roman Catholic practice, the parish includes all the lay communicants, while the ecclesia includes the priestly hierarchy and the ordered religious laity. In Buddhist practice, the parish includes all the people of the community who find solace in the temple or pagoda, while the ecclesia is the ordered Sangha in whom people find special refuge. In New England congregational practice, the parish includes all persons who find meaningful relationship with their meeting house, while the ecclesia is that smaller group of laity who become members of the covenanted church at the heart of the parish. in this fashion, all persons who enter the congregation of Abraxas become General members, voting alike in the determination of its future. ordered members are those special number who are willing to take on special disciplines, not to earn special Merit or receive special Grace but to give abundantly of their time and Devotion to serve the larger needs of all. In this way we are freely open to the largest number, yet provide a special vehicle to fulfill our mission, both liturgical development and in public service to the world around us.

At this meeting, we developed a comprehensive numbered Agenda system to organize our work in the years ahead, and laid the foundations for monastic Rule. The Rule of Abraxas is designed as a general spiritual guide for all General Members and as teh basis for specific disciplines of the Order at the heart of the Congregation.

In the spirit of collegiality, we confirmed our style of leadership by function rather than by hierarchical status or role. Therefore, while many shall exercise leadership, there shall be no one “leader.” We shall be led, finally, only by the spirit or in the idiom of Islam: there is no god but God. Where charing or moderatorship is needed: The Vicar shall represent the larger Spirit of all. the dean shall attend to the relationships between members and the reception of new members. The Canon shall be records of our money and agenda. The Verger shall keep watch over and protect our historic artifacts and sacred utensils. Such other leadership functions as are needed will be designated as the spirit leads. We developed our first publication, an essay of worship, for distribution beginning at the June 1976 general assembly at Claremont. Four of us attended a Worship Workshop several days before the general assembly began and again shared concerns informally.

At our third regular meeting in October 1976 the first five members were ordained to ordered membership in the congregation, these becoming: Vern the Void, Fred the Full, Stephan the Spare, Duke the Dumb, and Harry the Holy. In the rite of Ordination three monastic vows were take: Equity, Unity, and Collegiality; and each anointed the feet of the other initiates, as a visible sign of humble servanthood. By Equity we vow to share out talents, gifts, and resources in common. In Utility we promise continually to submit to the test of usefulness in our service to others, within and without the Congregation at large, By Collegiality we acknowledge no authority but common decision-making led by the Spirit.

Our initial work developing the essential outlines of the Congregation accomplished, we set in motion the process by which we would receive new members in 1977. New members shall share equally in shaping the continuing mission of Abraxas.

At our fourth formal meeting in March 1977, we reviewed applications for membership of these others now wishing to take part in the Congregation. We established guidelines for reorganizing our provisional trial edition of the Rule, so that new members may take part in writing a final version. We planned to complete our first Ordinary, for Matins, to be celebrated as public worship for all interested at the 1977 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Ithaca, New York. We developed an outline toward publication of our first Breviary, to contain three daily Offices, Matins, Vespers, and Compline, and an ordinary for Eucharist as a movable office. We adopted the liturgical a1b as our essential monastic vestment. We assigned the daily maintaining of the morning office among our members as an ongoing testimony to our commonality in diaspora.

The congregation of Abraxas presented two worship services at the 1977 General assembly, accepted 19 new general members from coast to coast, and met in Retreat for 4 days afterwards.

The sky above, the hills beyond, the Gorge below, Cornell at Ithaca welcomed us. Despite the huff and puff and the early hour, an overflow crowd of Brave and curious Souls gathered on Tuesday morning at 7:00 a.m. for the first public celebration of Matins (the morning office ) by the congregation of Abraxas. The people who came were not disappointed. a few were perhaps dismayed. many were touched. some were deeply moved. It was a new experience for all.

The matins draws upon a dozen religious traditions, east and west and appears highly ritualized with a handsome program “Ordinary” printed in old style red (rubrics) and black (nigrics) lettering to distinguish instructions from words spoken. The audience Bears major responsibility for the participation.

The opening words echoed the Hindu Vedas:
The morning comes and now is!
Welcome the day with gladness,
And greet the dawn with praise

The closing words, from the “Incredible String Band”:
May the longtime sun shine upon us
All love surround us
And the pure light within us
Guide us all the way on.

The matins service was cultivated from roots long nourished in liberal soil, but informed by themes monastic and liturgical less familiar to our churches. Liturgical alps, seasonal stoles and monastic seating structured the service as a responsive dialogue between two sections of people facing one another. In this arrangement, the celebrants formed a common choir with the rest of the congregation, rather than the service being a solo performance up front where an active speaker talks to a passive listeners. All of this produced a mood and style new to many of our people, yet the material was familiar more than foreign. It was a new Crucible of savored ingredients. many came hungry and went away filled.

If the Tuesday matins was calmly sublime, Friday mornings service of reception for new members was joyously ecstatic. The same monastic Rose created the people as choir, supported by the visual statement of liturgical dress which says that sacred time is like no other. the singing was transformed into Rolling Thunder by the vaulting stone walls of Annabelle Taylor chapel, a vast improvement over the rather tacky dormitory Lounge which provided the setting for Tuesday's matins. 19 new members ceremonially signed the membership book of the congregation of abraxas, along with the five present members who reaffirmed their memberships for another year, for a total of 24 members who made a 12-month commitment. the opening words by George Elliott were chanted as an introit:

Ours is a faith taught by no priest
But by our beating hearts…

The Vicar of the Order spoke of the creative tensions in so diverse an organization, but also the commitment of the members, “to sing no longer solo but now in choir,” by developing common worship materials, free of idiosyncrasies and enriched by multiple perspectives. New members were received with a cardamom seed, a symbol of refreshment, and these words: " As when the husk is removed and the seed releases its sweetness, so may the removal of the husks of the self-serving open you to the power of collegial effort in the congregation of Abraxas." A retreat for the ordered members was held at the Binghamptongy and sung to the tune Theology and sung to the tune of  The Canticle of the Sun" (HCL #23):

Let us exalted and set free
Rejoice in ambiguity;
Jubilate, jubilate!
In every Mortal heart this day,
Let Joy of living have its way;
Jubilate, jubilate,
Jubilate, jubilate, jubilate!

A retreat for the ordered members was held at the Binghampton Church, Sunday through Wednesday. Matins, Eucharist (and noon), Vespers (late afternoon), and Compline (before retiring) were celebrated daily, and meals were eaten in monastic fashion. The rule of Silence was observed from complying to matins, and at other periods. The daily routine included business sessions, sell time for individuals, recreation, Spiritual exercises, and goof off time. I can Retreat for ordered and general members was planned for the 1978 General assembly, an executive secretary appointed, seasonal liturgical colors chosen, The Retreat format plan for all future meetings of the order, honorary membership bestowed on Paul Carnes, Jack Mendelsohn, and Gordon McKeeman, and agenda for liturgical writing for the coming year confirmed. It was a group high.


Flushed with the successes, though not excesses, of the Ithaca general assembly and the Binghamton retreat, Abraxas sought brief but refreshing rest and relaxation before shouldering September's wheel. Abraxas did not languish,  however, for though Abraxas May weary, Abraxas never sleeps. That is the nature of never-ending process: though one member may sleep, another remains ever vigilant. The reality of us all is larger than the sum of each. throughout July and august, Abraxas touched the shores of the sea with its clams and quahogs, witness the calm of Inland Plains marked with the cries of the forest and the wheels of the streetcar, punctuating the turn of each day with its song at the rising and settling of the sun.

Our October 1977 Retreat brought a new reality: our first opportunity to draw even closer to a fully enclosed monastic setting for our periods of gathered congregational life. We met, for the first time, in a fully appointed institutional setting at the Saint Ignatius Loyola Renewal Center near Buffalo New York. This provided monastic cells, dining room, chapel, lounge, and meeting room facilities in one's self-contained setting. With this supportive atmosphere, we were able to continue and Perfect the full monastic routine of an order Day based upon work, study, prayer led by the liturgical flow of our four daily offices at morning, noon, evening, and night. It was an integrating and integral experience.

In our business sessions, progress left forward, imagination abounded, rage was restrained, New Visions were kindled, and pragmatic accomplishments were enjoyed. We determined that our breviary would be called a Book of Hours and our missal a Book of Seasons, suggesting that a  further collection of rights of Passage might become a book of days. This ladder, however, is still far off. Specific plans were made for the first two, for the winter 1978 retreat, and for the 1978 general assembly at Boston with a retreat at Senext to follow. Vitality and ecstasy were heard from as far away as Abraxas West. We encourage them to proceed with energy and order, inviting them to be informally constituted as a college within the congregation. mechanisms were initiated towards formal affiliation as a fellowship within the UUA.

Among the most heated disputations was the “so-so debate”. This volatile issue in raised passions to a point to rival the classic confrontation of the Bishops at Nicea over “homo ousos” vs. “homoi ouisous”. In our case, the disputed text arose in the course of approval for the ordinary for the eucharist. the first form of the text presented was one made popular through usage, which read:

 “The mystery is that we are so connected, even when we feel so apart.”

An alternate text was proposed, based on the rationale of simplification and clarity, which read:

“The mystery is that we are connected, even when we feel apart.”

 Despite protests of Anguish and much gnashing of teeth, the second version presented won the day. it was accomplished, however, unlike our predecessors at nicaea, without the necessity for banishment, ostracism, or excommunication. praise the power of the Abraxan process! Grace prevails.

We returned to St. Ignatius for our Winter retreat in February 1978, despite the threat of Buffalo blizzards. There, we continued the pattern and the planning set forth in the fall.

We discovered that we ended fiscal 1977 in a positive position, but that in 1978, careful budget planning showed that we, too, were about to be overtaken by that most monstrous demon of all church budgets: inflation. It shall be necessary to call upon our deepest energies of exorcism to cast it out, if we are to end 1978 in a similarly health position. With a little help from our friends, and St, George, we shall.

One of the spiritual revelations of our winter retreat was the discovery that our Four Act approach to workshop conforms no only to the five-stage liturgical theory of Von Odgen Vogt (his stage 2 and 3 combine into our Act II), but also to a classic form of the symphony, as follows:

ACT I: Allegro   |   ACT II: Andante   |    ACT III: Scherzo  |    Act IV:  Maestoso
With charismatic Cadenza added where appropriate.

We look forward to Boston, and to another significant stage of our organizational development - the inclusion of others in our Senexet retreat and the novice of prospective Ordered Members. We pray with humble heart that the power we have unleashed will continue to grow with spiritual significance for religious liberals everywhere.


Abraxas West had its beginnings when three delegates from the Pacific Central District were delighted to see each other at the service for welcoming new general members into the congregation of Abraxas, held at the UUA general assembly in Ithaca, New York.

The three had all been interested and impressed by the Abraxas matins service held earlier that week. After the ceremony they decided to get together back home in the fall to pursue their interest in Abraxan liturgy further.

 Their first gathering, held early in the fall of 1977, was at the First Unitarian Church of Berkeley. The Abraxan Matins was performed, and basic procedures for continuity were set up. The group welcomed several interested newcomers.

A regular meeting time of Tuesday morning at 8:00 a.m. was set up, and after several meetings, it was decided to set the meeting place at Starr King School regularly. We have met there consistently through to the present, the spring of 1978, with each member in rotation writing and performing and an Abraxan Matins service in whatever style desired.

The services have ranged from the most simple to the most complex. each has been a reflection of the individual character of the celebrant in delightful ways. we have chosen to remain relatively unstructured, avoiding the complexities of the Abraxas order, and dealing with responsibilities for our institutional survival as we go along.

 We have held one single day retreat for ourselves, attended by six members, at the Berkeley Church. Our two members who are Parish ministers have utilized collectively produced Abraxan liturgies. periodically in their churches. We have also held services at the ministers’ gatherings shared by Northern and Southern California ministers in November and January, and we plan to sponsor a major Northern California UMA gathering involving lots of Abraxan worship in May.

This past week we have decided to end our exploration of matins for the moment and begin work on vespers, as suggested by our colleagues in the order. Henceforth we will meet on Fridays at 5:00 p.m., at Starr King School.

We have found our group to be valuable not only in our understanding and appreciation of literature. It has also become an important source of community and celebration within our lives. The experience of creating worship ourselves in a small community setting has been especially important to us, lay people and clergy alike. (April 1978)


The 1978 Unitarian Universalist General Assembly was held in Boston, our traditional Mecca/Vatican/Holy City for religious liberals on this side of the Atlantic pond.

Attending such a meeting in such sacred space, the congregation of Abraxas responded in kind for the occasion. For the first time at a large public meeting we were able to share for all who would come the full extent of our published liturgical hours. On Tuesday we celebrated Matins; on Wednesday, Eucharist; on Thursday, Compline; and on Friday, a new members service. Only Vespers was missed, it not yet being published in trial form.

The locals, however, were anything but Sacred Space - until we arrived there, that is. the dungeon dorms of Boston University, along with the unsavory squalor of tawdry college lecture Halls underwent the magic metamorphosis of our Sterling presence. The hall assigned to us for Eucharist was notably vulgar and insipid. However, the power of spiritual presence which we engendered through majestic singing and sublime prayer and praise rendered its deformity impotent to tarnish our radiance. An overflow crowd was carried to transport.

All of this near miraculous achievement was accomplished with grace, despite our printer's failure to deliver finished copies of our services to the Verger a few hours before his flight, not to mention other administrative and technical delinquencies. We surmounted each misfortune, however, expansively.

Our new members service was followed by our first formally constituted annual meeting. We pioneered a new style of doing business in which reports were changed in plain song, seconded with “Amen”, and voted on with “Hallelujah!”. Each officer reported in turn, none causing great controversy or wrangling of low demeanor, as those persons of a more nationalistic bent are so often want to do in the conduct of their meetings. Only one officer's presentation was explosive in nature, it being recorded here precisely as given. It was the report of the Canon: “BOOM!”

We scored another new first following the general assembly, when we held our first open Retreat for members and friends. Some 16 persons attended, male and female, from across the continent, from Canada and the US, male and female, clergy and laity. It was held at Senexet House, a historic center for Unitarian Universalists and other religious liberals. It proved a most sustaining setting. strangers were welcomed and welded into a worshiping Community Sublime and grace. worship was led by newcomers as well as ordained members, including the transfer of from the ladder to the former in our final Eucharist as a sign of equity and servanthood. This event marked another new beginning for us: the first tangible steps toward missionary openness, that the spirit May ever overflow whoever its present vessels may be.

All reports at the Boston meeting were chanted, not read…

Is there anything to be heard from Abraxas West?

Abraxas West has met almost weekly/ sometimes early in the morning on Tuesday at a place called “Starr King”/ Sometimes [ we met ] in the evening at a place called “First Church” Berkeley. / We had one Retreat for a day at which we hiked over the hills to a place called Red Gardens, which also had a Carmelite nunnery — or some sort of nunnery — but it was closed [laughter]./ So be the report of Abraxas West.

A report on the state of the order [from the Vicar]

The order has met twice since our last annual meeting/ Twice in a true monastic setting in a place called Clarence Center, New York./ In Winter the place is filled with snow./ Therefore, much was accomplished that is worthy in Abraxas.

A report on the council [from the Vicar]:

The council is in order./  The order is the council/ - and the two were one./ Hopefully in the future/  the order will not be the council/ and the council will not be the order/ - for the sake of clarity.

May we hear a report on the State of the Congregation from the Scribe [treasurer]?

From the stirrings of the Universe, from chaos to cosmos, the process of paradox worked its power of creation [laughter].  / Then in the year 1975, this invisible energy took the visible manifestation/  in the form of the Congregation of Abraxas./ First five, then twenty-five and now this past year we found our General Membership to be 39 persons, male and female together, clerical and lay as one./ From struggle ambiguous and clairvoyant, full of vision profound and superficial [laughter again erupts], / touching new depths of the spiritual and new heights of triviality, we have grown and deteriorated together in ways unforeseen and beyond the foretelling./ Fiscal 1977 began with balances in the aggregate of $242.42./ Revenues during 1977 amounted to $2,226.41./ Expenses during 1977 cost us $2,102.22, / leaving us with a new balance of $366.61 at the year's end./ COSTS MOUNT EVER UPWARD!  Each service this week depleted our coffers more than $100 a piece for printing alone./ The spirit, too, costs money./ We need yours [laughter]./ For we are you, you are we, and therein lies our future, both perfunctory and full of promise./ So is the report of the Scribe on the state of the congregation. Amen.

Will the Verger report on the State of our Sacred Implements?

The Verger happily reports a growing Archive of documents and deeds, and an inventory of one sacred seal, one wooden foot of Abraxas, copies of Matins, Compline, and Eucharist, several medallions awaiting newly ordained members along with some albs; forthcoming pins; and the holy book of membership; 283 cardamom seeds; and a whole shitload of t-shirts. Amen.

Will the executive secretary report?

The executive secretary gladly reports enthusiastic inquiries of support in response to the article in The UU World and our other missionary efforts, with 75 now paying to be on our mailing list. In addition we have conducted worldly affairs to those requesting attention, and with the direction of the order produced mailings of liturgical, organizational and missionary character. Our first Retreat has 17 persons registered at present. Amen.

The dean's report on ordered membership?

The dean reports that there are 16 persons interested in ordered membership.

Will the Canon please report?



GENERAL ASSEMBLY:  The Verger was told a few hours before his plane left that printer could not get the Eucharist Compline printing done - arrangements thus were made in Boston with UUA help. Abraxans on the same dorm floor made much easier communication and preparation for the four services were conducted. Our liturgical commitment was deepened with a major portion of the annual business meeting conducted in chants, with “I second the motion” being replaced with “Amen”, and the votes taken by the use of “Hallelujah" instead of “Yea.”. Our supply of Abraxan literature was exhausted at our display table. The Eucharist offering was given half to the UUA annual fund and half to the UUSC. The Eucharist celebration transformed an absolutely horrible space into a heavenly region with a good spirit of the Overflow crowd. After the Compline, many were moved to silence. The sun, with uncertain plans in the early in the morning, decided to bless the outdoor Matins with radiant appearance just as the service began. Silliman commented that the Eucharist was “very moving” in many places, but he missed a central prayer of Thanksgiving. At the annual meeting, our bylaws were revised to permit membership in the congregation by signing the rolls, rather than the book, in order to facilitate membership of those unable to attend the GA.

RETREAT:  Attending were male, female; East and west, US and Canada clergy, lay; those born Into UUism, converts; a substantial age range, and people mostly strangers to each other as the retreat began. But in a few days we were transformed into a worshiping community. The ordered members encouraged the desire of the others to participate in the Abraxian adventure, and the new ones appreciated the fact that the ordered members were taking steps to turn over the organization and process to those ready to accept them. This passing of the torch was symbolized by the final Eucharist service, conducted not by a member of the order, in which the order gave their albs to be worn by the others. Compline Tuesday night: voices melded perfectly in chants, one couldn't identify one's own voice. “I was transported into religious community in the presence of powers Beyond myself, would the loss of personal identification”. Volleyball was a spiritual encounter for some who participated, with the opposing teams named appropriately after the front and back of the t-shirts worn: “Abraxas is” versus “Abraxas isn't.” Both teams won and lost. Worship materials included not only published Abraxan works but also Services by Joe Pia and Abraxas West. Pia's paper led to an excellent introductory discussion on worship. Senexet House and grounds were a charm; we have an offering to Senexet House. One spiritual exercise transferred the Isiah  resexperience into our own lives. Others demonstrated Dwight Walsh’s techniques usable in workshop, but a style not associated with Abaraxas.


Q: How did the Abraxan presence at Oxford originate?

Flower: The Communion or Eucharist Service at the International Association for Religious Freedom Congress in Oxford in 1978 came about from a variety of circumstances. Early in 1978 I received a note from Deither Gehrmann stating that I might have some responsibility for worship at the Congress. LAter, about the time of the UUA General Assembly and the Abraxas Assembly in Boston, I learned from Diether that I would be in charge of the North American experimental worship service, probably on Tuesday night.  AT the General Assembly and the Abraxas Retreat following, I decided to do the Abraxas Eucharist at the IARF at Oxford, I obtained 150 printed copies to take with me. Wayne Arnason, among others, was very strong in opinion that we should do the Abraxas Eucharist there. Wayne had been active for many years in the IARF and the IRF, the youth affiliate of the IARF.

I took the programs with me to Oxford. At Oxford began the heavy discussion on the limits of toleration, the theme of the conference. one issue concerning Scientology - two scientologists were there as observers at the theologians meeting and provoke some consciousness of some of the theological problems that we're having today. As we started to prepare for the Eucharist service itself, we were informed that there was a need to have a special Congress service at which an offering could be taken for the support of the IARF project, a safe house for mothers and toddlers in Northern Ireland. Bill McMillan of Northern Ireland had brought communion silver and used it at the service on Sunday, and agreed that we could use the silver on Tuesday night. I also bought two additional chalices so that we would have four chalices to pass at the time. Additional printing was required since the service was now a much larger and more important one than I had thought in the original assignment. The decision was made, and Duke Gray agreed, that he would be the celebrant and that I would give the homily at this service. The readers were chosen so that they could read in their own languages some portions of the Abraxas service (those numbered one, two, three, four, and five). “One” was read by Mr Gato of the Rissho Kosei-Kai in Japan; “Two” by Andreas Rossler, a German Christian; “Three” by Hungaria Arpad Szabo of the Unitarian Church of Romania; “Four” by American Doris Hunter, “Five” by Andrew Hill, minister of St. Mark’s Church in Edinborough, Scotland. Alice Wesley provided the music.

Q: Who else was involved with the service?

Dumb: As Richard (Flower) explained, I was recruited to preside after I had arrived in Oxford, so I did not bring an alb or other vesture or appropriate material. Thus the style became secular dress for the occasion, headed by Richard as the preacher and the reader for the lessons and a star-studded case so to speak of ARF notables including Dana Greeley, former president of the UUA: Sandra Caron, the current moderator of the UUA, who is attending in place of Paul Carnes, president of the UUA who could not attend for health reasons, though it is likely he would have taken part at our invitation; and Bill McMillan, former moderator of the non-subscribing Presbyterian Church of Ireland, which is the name of the Irish Unitarians for whom the offering was being taken. Other notables have been mentioned by Richard.

I think special thanks should be given to Bill McMillan of Belfast for his permitting us to use the historic communion silver of the Unitarians of ireland, and to Manchester College and its principal Bruce Findlow for permitting the use of some elaborate and expensive candlesticks from the school’s safe for use at the table

The service was celebrated with about 300 delegates. There was another large group of persons recruited as ushers both to take the offering and to pass the elements in addition to those who acted in a presiding capacity. so there were perhaps as many as 20 persons all told who were actively engaged in presiding, leading, and distributing the elements for the communion.

Q: What was the response?

Dumb: The response was decidedly more positive than negative as far as we could tell from those who were present and participated.

Flower: There were seven pieces in the daily mimeograph newsletter. Two were poems that first day: one neutral, one somewhat negative; and then a somewhat negative letter. The second day, two negative letters, one from a Christian, one from a Humanist; the one said the service wasn't Christian enough, the other that it wasn't Humanist enough. And finally with a letter from a Humanist who said that it was a very Humanistic service and they enjoyed participating in it;  and a Christian who said it was a very Christian service, and they enjoyed participating in it.

I would add, too, because I think it's important, that the feeling tone I had at the end of the service was that there was a high among those who took part - certainly those who were celebrants - And those who at that point were remaining (who numbered certainly 200) who did not rush out hurriedly at the end of the service for one reason or another. I was very pleased by a number of very particular responses, one by the bishop of the Unitarian Church of Hungary who told me that he wanted to adapt portions of it for using his church in Budapest, and one by Bill MacMillan who was very impressed with certain portions. They both were referring, I believe, to the first section in part two where basic introductory statements of an almost doctrinal nature (the doctrine of a non-doctoral invitation, “all are welcome at this table”,  etc) were used which they felt very impressed by and wish to adapt or integrate into their own Eucharist practice.

Q:  Would you say this was a major event?

Flower:  It was certainly a major event in the life of the Congress, certainly the most written about event in the Congress experience. No other event got seven responses in the newsletter. A follow-up concerns the extra communion pieces that we bought, one was given to Mrs Gato from Japan the closing night, another chalice was given to Andrea Rossler from Germany, and the patent or plate that was used for passing the bread was given to Doorly Gehrmann, the wife of the IARF general secretary.

I think it is important that the service was held as a demonstration of the problems of the very theme of the Congress - the limits of tolerance. Remember all the issues of excommunication and the question of who may participate in communion were at the heart of the reformation. we illustrate in an opposite way that these problems are still very much with us.


A retreat May 4th through 6th in an isolated cabin on a stream in a redwood forest north of SF was attended by Abraxans from the Bay area, an Inquirer from Sacramento, and the congregation's executive secretary from Kansas City, (the vicar could not attend).

Rewarding worship services and the Abraxian retreat format aided us in uplift with each other. We became missionaries Sunday morning at the large Sonoma County Fellowship where the Abraxas Rite I Eucharist was celebrated. The congregation, somewhat surprised, enthusiastically participated in the Liturgy and Communion, then welcomed us to lunch - with more Bread and Wine.

Retreat business permitted a fuller understanding of the Order’s policy regarding liturgical garb for official Abraxan services and assembly. A five-part liturgical pattern (see forthcoming packet) developed through AW was discussed in the context of the Syracuse policy of encouraging multiple patterns, at least for the time, while striving toward a common set of familiar forms. Worship can never be codified; local variation is desirable; multiple models of the psyche and of the human drama must be organic, not imposed. Nevertheless common structural theory aids in ridding ourselves of charismatic tendencies and provides the novice workable means at the outset.
On May 19th Abraxas West will provide a workshop and services at the Pacific Central District meetings. June 4 is the next regular meeting. In the fall, as a gift to the GTU and Starr King, AW is proposing a seminar/workshop/worship, “The Theory and Practice of Abraxan Worship,” for two units credit, Thursday evenings.

NINTH ENTRY:  FALL 1978 RETREAT (Out of Order)]


Congregation of Abraxas events were prominently identified in the UUA GA program by the foot of Abraxas design, at the 1979 Michigan State University, East Lansing assembly.

At the Eucharist celebrated late Tuesday afternoon, a congregation filled the assigned Kellogg Center room, and participation was overflowing; nevertheless, we managed to east on two of the six large loaves of Abraxas, thru Stephen the Spare, provided. The Revised Rite One was used, and Wayne Arnason of Abraxas West read the revised homily on bread and wine. The $110 collected was divided between the UUA and the UUSC. Many stayed to testify to the moving spirit of the service.

Late Friday afternoon, Abraxans reassembled in the same room for the service of Welcome for New Members. After hearing Duke the Dumbs homily on labels, Harry the Holy presided over new and renewing members signing the Book. The flow of converts has swelled to the point that the approaches to the book became snarled; so the rubrics are to be revised in order to improve this traffic. Nevertheless, even those who did not become General Members for this year spoke of the “high” generated by the service.

The Annual Meeting that followed was marked more by hilarity than by substance (although Gene Pickett, new President of the UUA was made an Honorary Member.) This shortcoming did not escape comment during the subsequent retreat. The difficulty did not owe per se to the practice of chanting the business, which most participants accepted with aplomb (the scribe’s report being punctuated with notes of “misrere” and the Canon’s report a wonderful “Boom!”) but rather to the lack of provision for new members, and even even non-ordered old members, to play active roles in the meeting — and the press of GA scheduling which dictated either a hasty adjournment before the dining room closed, or no supper on the meal ticket. The meal ticket was victorious. Amen.

Many Abraxan brothers and sisters commented about increased interest in worship evidenced at the GA. In addition to the two Abraxan services, workshop events sponsored by several group’s filled the week’s schedule. And there was recurring talk of us at workshop sessions — showing growing awareness of the Congregation of Abraxas as a UU group concerned with worship. We now have a representative on the UUA Commission on Common Worship and on the UUMA-LREDA Convocation Committee, and nearly a hundred participants. There were five of us as late as 1977.


A 48-hour retreat took place at St.John’s Provincial Seminary (Roman Catholic) located on a 180-acre site in Plymouth township, close enough to see Detoit shrouded in smog on the horizon. Since it was the Fourth of July weekend, we dozen retreatants had the large seminary to ourselves. We enjoyed rattling around in the generously cloistered facility so handsome that on arrival Duke the Dumb (Retreat Master) was heard exclaiming repeatedly, “This is the style to which I would like to become accustomed!” The four daily services — Matins, Eucharist, Vespers, Compline — were celebrated first in one then another of several chapels: the enormous cathedral-like main chapel, the pews of which are built in two facing choirs (providing Abraxan right and left) with only a small balcony of pews facing the altar; five crypt chapels beneath (May they ever echo with the small of Harry the Holy’s incense!), one of which contained the cardinal’s tomb and another, carpeted, with cushions on the floor, dubbed “the California Room”; a tower room ascended by a winding staircase; and, some distance from the buildings, a grove of trees with an altar before a statue of Mary Regina, where the kindling of only an unshielded Matins flame was acceptable to the elements. We enjoyed the use of the spacious sacristy, and admired the many vestments and other paraphernalia stored within.

Before each service we always assembled at the entrance to the main chapel, where unaccountability was a statue of a cleric in Geneva bands with stole the ends of which overlapped in fine Abraxan fashion. Thence Vern the Void, Worship Master, led a procession, through cloisters, to the selected chapel.

The private cells that accommodate us were strictly regulation.

While “ordering” awareness thro the Abraxan “monastic” day its pattern of centering on worship together, six 1 1/2  hour program sessions introduced Abraxans history, personal histories, individuals’ struggles and planning. Career-wise, we tended to fall into two antiphonal groups, The Haves and the swimmers in ambiguity. The halves were placed in the debt of the others by being shown how good they have it. Yet, in Abraxas, we all rejoice in being at seas together in ambiguity.

The boundary between the “sessions" and “FAT” tended to be somewhat ambiguous too!

This routine was punctuated by two other activities. “Spiritual exercises” were arranged by Joe the Pen and Judy, where chanting was the activity. This succeeded in “bringing the om of the universe out of the walls of the racquetball court.”  Recreation was arranged by Postulate Kristy “Caprice” Russell. A trial Abraxan game was somewhat unwittingly produced, a game much like volleyball, (but nothing like volleyball), played in a basketball gymnasium, using a greatly elevated tennis net, and a special ball - a ball that was round and yet not round, a ball that led to careening speculation on the design of a ‘ball of abraxas”.       

We rattled around in a large refectory, where a mural of the Miracle of the Loves and Fishes graced one wall, and Stephen the Spare, Master of Table Discipline, presided, dishing out liberal doses of silence, and ambiguously received. It seems that Abraxan appetite and egos wax together at table. in the kitchen a jolly Polish cook presided. However, he took a sour view of our closing the door in order to protect our silence, such as it was.

Most retreatens stayed for a 24-hour continuation of the cycle, now dominated by the business of the Council of the Order of the Congregation of Abraxas. That day witnessed an historic watershed. As last year the ranks of the order have swelled to seven members, and the ordained size of the council is only five, the time had come to turn the fruit basket over, so to speak, and for some ordered members to be turned out of office, so to speak. As tradition wills it, Swizzle Sticks were drawn (Richard the Flower being allowed to ensure “losing” by cheating), and the Council became Duke the Dumb, Harry the Holy, Joe the Pen, Stephen the Spare, and Vern the Void. By unimpeachable  Abraxan logic, Fred the Full having ‘lost”, was found presiding over the Council meeting (Richard the Flower having flown the coop, so to speak.) After much soul searching, by consensus the Void was established as Vicar, the Spare as Verger  and the Pen as Canon. The Holy and the Dumb remain as Dean and Scribe respectively.

And finally, at Vespers during this latter day, Jim Riley seized a cadenza to declare his desire to become a Postulant to the Order, bringing the number of postulants to nine awaiting movement from General membership to Ordered membership. A written curriculum will be provided this summer for postulates. Postulates at this retreat expected to be ordered Thursday night at the octave retreat in October in New York are Kitsy Russell and Grace Ulp..

Richard from the flower contributed the following Haiku statement:
Solitary song bird
Sing our matins after dawn…
Abraxas, listen!




The old Vanderbilt Mansion stands stately and unsuspecting just off of elite 5th Avenue within a hop of Central Park. One enters this refuge through huge oaken doors onto coolstone and marble and then through an elegant set of French wrought iron gates into a massive arched entry hall. like Pilgrims welcoming Indians to a Thanksgiving, Sister Bonaventura and Sister Mary Julian sweep to the door in their long black Garb to greet us. On this first day of the retreat this includes Caprice, Pen, Mark, Holy, Void, and Ananda, who immediately began exercising their Spirits upon arrival by going into the exceeding Vanderbilt drawing room and striking poses representing their inner beings. More about their inner beings later, for the time being I will digress and describe the exceedingly Vanderbilt house, a four-story high ceiling Roman arched house in which our private rooms were on the fourth floor. We did not feel like servants however because we were allowed to partake of most of our meals in the huge and exceedingly Vanderbilt dining room with its high back chairs and stone fireplace that is large enough to roast a hippopotamus.

If one is not in need of roasting hippos, then one can always spend one's time in the library on the second floor which also has a huge fireplace with gargoyles on the sides. The library, if a vote were taken, I'm sure would win as the favorite room as it has the ambience of something out of an old Boris Karloff movie with an antique organ set high on a balcony that totally encircles the room and can be reached by a winding stairs tucked back in a corner. The walls are covered with books which, while this Chronicle has no proof, she is certain hide many secret passages and exotic mysteries. But the room itself seems mysterious enough with the Duke of Urbino's coat of arms hanging from the ceiling, the 12 foot high lamps, the chandeliers and Oriental rugs. In this room most of the business meetings and spiritual exercises were held and if anyone thinks that there is anything strange about goings on in the following report, it is probably because most of the inspiration for these goings on took place here.

But on this first day of our retreat the goings on were actually comings together as we had the pleasure of joining in friendship and sharing the first liturgies of the retreat as well as a bottle of aAmaretto de Serrano Originale chosen by Mark for our first re-creation. This Indulgence of spirits was especially appreciated as it was shared after a valiant attempt at yoga.

But I am ahead of events for before the yoga and Amaretto, the day held a trip to All Souls to pick up the Order of Service for Sunday. This goal was achieved with dispatch and we got scenic tours of this historic building. Our other excursion for the day was a walk backwards around Central Park reservoir. (By backwards it is meant that all the joggers were moving in the opposite direction.)

Holy led a spiritual exercise which increased our auras five centimeters, at least. We each chose a line from A Hymn and responded to it by beginning, “I am grateful…”  Then we sang the hymn, “O Life That Maketh All Things New.”


Today's spiritual exercises included the observation that those you use who were not a Braxtons were not spiritual retards and all this Abraxan stuff is elephant shit anyway, to be taken seriously only with humor. In the afternoon, execution of liturgical style (or style of execution as the case may be) was practiced. When Dumb arrived, we stood on the stairway and sang, “We wish you a Merry Christmas!”  By the end of the day, Spare had arrived (Praise be the Foot of Abraxas!). At dinner at our urging Spare told us of his first parachute jump out of an airplane. We all gave each other knowing looks for we have had that feeling before - every time we ride the Redeemer elevator. It makes one aware of the tenuous thread by which life hangs. Caprice has set an example for us all by clutching tightly to the Foot of Abraxas and when the elevator is overloaded she clutches two Feet of Abraxas! This has worked every time and we have all survived. (Praise be Abraxas!)

 After dinner with encouragement from Pen and Holy that a religious experience awaited us, we all went to the Gug to view George Rickey's mobiles. We blew on them to set them in motion and feel their hypnotic rhythms. It was mentioned that these mobiles might be an excellent focus for all the hot air blowing around in churches and these were truly sacred objects.

At the close of the day before Compline we did a 99. (NOTE TO NON-ABRAXANS: Don’t worry, a 99 is no relation to a 69 except that it is a touching experience and an intimate sharing.) We finished the Amaretto. So much for Tuesday.


Business was the order of the morning with the afternoon open for devotions and a pilgrimage to St Mark's in the Bowery which is in the process of reincarnation. Dick arrived, (Praise be the Foot of Abraxas!) 

Mark presented a new Vesper service before dinner. At dinner Caprice read from roshi capra, which stimulated a hot discussion of sin, guilt, confession, and anger. It was decided that this was enough of a spiritual exercise to last the whole evening and all proceeded directly to another business meeting which eventually evolved into messing around and a discussion of pens paper on the sacred. This ended with a clarifying reminder by dumb that void doesn't exist. with that resolved once and for all we went to complain.

Grace arrived during Compline when we were singing “Who is In My Temple?” There was time out for hugs. (Praise be the Foot of Abraxas!)


Today's pilgrimage was to The Cloisters with its unicorn tapestries, herb gardens and wonderful medieval art.

FANTASY ON THE WAY TO THE CLOISTERS. The Abaxans, slipping off their Pure White Robes of the Sacred circle, step into the sacristy and emerge in black leathers, and a cross their backs, written in Rainbow glitter, are the words “Abraxas isn't!” and they move like rats, through the sewers of the city, through the smut infested, wreaking bowels of the city and as they come up out of the Earth rising slowly and silently the gates open and there is before them paradise and one of them turns slowly to the other and says, “Abraxas is!” and everybody laughs for they are very happy. The end.

Long pause in the Chronicles for meditation.

Upon return, Spare serenaded us with his songs which we were so enthusiastic about we decided to use them in the sacred ordering service later this evening

O’Hell Duke (sung to Amazing Grace)

O’hail Abraxas
You are the ground
On which we walk and fall
You’re everything
So what do we care
If we bump into the wall.

God of Spare (sung to God of Grace)
God of space and God of Purgatory
Make thy people take a shower,
Clean out every category
Make our minds full of empty power
Give us nothing,
Grant it never!
That we may be empty.
That we may be empty.

Lucy and Carl, who shared Eucharist and lunch with us, returned for the evening. In a spiritual exercise, Carl told us the amazing story of how he had been an orchestra leader on a ship and also played the role of Minister - very successfully! He and Lucy stayed for Compline and we received a brief visit from Nancy at the end of Compline. They departed when we moved into mythical time for only those “who would and would not be grossed out were allowed to stay.”

Sad to say Full had to go to a (ugh) board meeting and Pen had to leave for Somalia earlier and could not share in the piece-de-resistance of the retreat, the sacred Ordering service in which history was made when Abraxas ordered the first woman, namely Grace the Wing and Kitsy, Caprice.

I hesitate to report the goings on at this service but perhaps it can be best described in Dumb’s words: “As we move from impiety to blasphemy and from blasphemy to infidelity and from infidelity to transgression and from transgression to the very Gates of hell, I sometimes wonder why I ever come to these retreats!” The feeling behind this might or might not be captured by the words of Caprice's daughter when she captured the essence of Abraxas with the words, “Bless my soul!” But be that as it may. The highlight of the ceremony came when Duke of the Dumb kicked the foot of Abraxas across the room and Steven the Spare put “It” back in place again making a Cosmic statement. Words cannot do justice to describe the experience of this moment in non-time.

A heated discussion with wine and peanuts followed the service, the focus of which was that we grossed each other out.

Now let it be said at this time that your Chronicle writer takes full responsibility for her totally biased definition of reality, not only picking and choosing the words on these pages but the biased intonation of the spaces between the words. Her biased interpretation of the discussion following the ordering service is summed up as follows: “Abraxas is!” and anyone who forgets that around here better not forget it. Those who suggest “he isn't” better do so with devotion and not poke fun.


This Retreat seems to be retreating. Holy left last night and Dick left early this morning, leaving seven of us to try to begin the day.

We began by sleeping through Matins (which went on without us as is the way of Abraxas). But Void and Wing did a quickie in the chapel before coming to breakfast so Abraxas would know we were not being negligent. The day was devoted to personal devotions so some went this way and some went that: Spare to the UN; Caprice and Ananda exploring the shops in the morning and in the afternoon to St John the divine; Dumb and Wing shopped for an alb and I won't mention what Void did. I know but I won't tell.

So much for Friday.


You are magic
Magic as the Dutch
You are magic
I love you so much.

Spare left this morning. We have been too busy with business meetings to get around to healing his back, But as is the way of Abraxas, he reported his back was feeling much better — this in spite of the beds (fit only for Indian fakirs). Abraxas works in mysterious ways.

In the afternoon, Wing and Caprice bought a plant and card for Sisters Bonaventura and Mary Julian who have charmed us totally. We are indeed grateful that they have not only endured us but have made us feel at home with their gracious hospitality. We shared in their service before lunch today, a simple, pure monastic service that said it all.

To those who scoff at destiny let the following be a testimonial for you all to ponder: Kitsy ordained the Caprice on Thursday night, was shopping for cheese when she came across a succulent Camembert which she proceeded to purchase. Winged Grace looked at it and said, pondering the label “Of course, you have to get that!” What did the label say? It said, “Caprice des Dieux” (Caprice of the Gods)

Time out for meditation.

Other activities of the afternoon included a shower taken by Dumb and a visit to the Frick by Void and Ananda. We all had a good time and were glad we did what we did.

After dinner a heavy planning session was held to distill the possibilities of the evening into an essence satisfying to all.

It was unanimous that we would walk to a nearby movie theater. Dumb, wise in the ways of the Big Apple, suggested we go an hour early to get tickets which was very wise indeed as people at showtime were turned away at the door. As Void said to Dumb: “If it hadn't been for you our evening would have been capeaux.” (rhymes with poo).

We spent our hour before show time shopping in a bookstore, bar drinking and talking about the bottom line of religion.
So much for Saturday. It was suggested that we do Compline before Matins tomorrow.


After Matins which included an inabsentia healing of Spare’s back, a rump group of Abraxans paraded to All Souls as ambassadors of good will, etc. We were greeted warmly by Forrester Church who later welcomed us during the service.

After lunch we said our goodbyes to Wing and then there were only four of us rattling around in this old mansion.

In the afternoon after business was attended to once and for all,  Caprice virtuously stayed home to study and Dumb and Void and Ananda went to the Met.

In the evening Nancy joined us for the pre-dinner service and a dinner of beans and dark bread and donuts. (Our brains are turning to starch, no doubt about it!) Proving this thesis, Vern poured hot water in the jar of Sanka; this followed pouring Sanka on his plate. (The Mad Hatter has nothing on us!)

After dinner a discussion took place with even Nancy in which efforts were made to explain the unexplainable.


The 4th annual Fall Retreat of the congregation of Abraxas officially ended at 10:45 Caprice and Duke exited to the Oyster Bar of Grand Central Station to fortify themselves with clams and oysters to go out into the world to do the work of  Abraxas. Vern and Ananda stayed at #7 to do the non-work.

Praise be Abraxas!

Respectfully and disrespectfully submitted,
Your Chronicalatier, AB


From the West coast, the South, New England, Central States and Canada, we came for the 4th Annual Fall Abraxas Retreat (our 14th official meeting), again this year at the House of the Redeemer in New York City. This was our largest (15 retreatants) and longest (eight days), and though the swelling attendance we expected on the weekend occurred Thursday instead, the evaluations reported unanimous satisfaction. Bro Joe the Pen was called by the government to Somalia, and most of the others for less exotic reasons had to depart before Sunday, but those who remained were blessed with a beautiful service at All Souls and a sermon remarkably appropriate to our active experience on the “Church of the Future.” We thanked Forrester Church for his invitation and kind greetings to us.

 he Retreat followed the standard Abraxan monastic day with four worship services, and three cycles of meal, spiritual exercise, business or devotions, personal time, and recreation, all of which flowed remarkably well in the ambience of the house and with Central Park, the Guggenheim, the Met and other places in easy walking distance. Sisters Bonaventura and Mary Julian made our stay (and are coming and goings) most pleasant, and we are grateful for their kindness in helping us with unanticipated needs (We need a typewriter…Someone just called and wants to come to Vespers and dinner, etc).

We published a revision of the Matins, moved closer to complete work on vespers, made progress on a parish ordinary, and made plans for a retreat following the Newport Convocation, the GA and additional retreats. Abraxas west, well represented (though surely missed Flower!), spurred us to plans on a variety of subjects. The high (or low point) of the retreat was of course the ordering service Thursday, when Kitsy, Caprice and Grace the Wing took vows and entered the order, our first two women and two more lay people. zPostulants now include Wayne A, Mark B, una B, Dick M, Bill M, Tom M, and Jim R. A postulancy procedure was developed. Other business decisions are recorded in the archives and circulated as needed,

NINTH ENTRY:  FALL 1978 RETREAT (Out of Order)

The congregation met for a retreat at the house of the Redeemer in New York City. What is now a retreat house was formerly a Vanderbilt mansion, a place of considerable Grandeur and prestige address. Its location on 5th Avenue enabled us to play in the park. Some of our number even jogged around the reservoir each morning.

Our labors — in many lengthy business sessions — were punctuated by assorted recreational activities, including rousing games of Ring Around the Rosie and musical chairs on the second floor landing outside the library, the place we worked. the Stillness at number 7 was mightily broken by our boisterousness.

We took the afternoon off and made the long Trek northward to the Cathedral of St John the Divine and The Cloisters. The Cathedral impressed us all as a sometimes Romanesque, sometimes Gothic enclosure of a sacred space, with its focal point the high altar. The Cloisters, with their collection of art treasures and chapel-like enclosures were also a fitting experience for a bunch devoted to a life of worship.

The high point of the retreat came with the ordaining of Richard Boeke and Joseph Pia to the order, thus extending our number to seven ordered members. The reception after the ordering found us all belting great draughts of water, there being nothing harder on the premises that night. We had downed all the Vino during FAT. Planning ahead sometimes gets lost in the spontaneity of it all.

As usual, this Retreat ended too soon, sending us all into diaspora before we had been able to drink as fully as we would like of each other's presence. Back into the world we went, waiting for our next assembly in February 1979 in Syracuse.

1980 UUMA-LREDA Convocation on Worship

ABRAXAS AT THE CONVOCATION adapted from Spare’s Chronicle.

Many told us that the congregation of Abraxas contributed significantly to the UUMA-LREDA convocation March 7th through 11 at Newport, Rhode Island. Since the congregation was conceived at the previous Convocation at Bucks Hills Falls, PA, the worship convocation provides a measure of our development in these five years, and an indication of denominational movement as well. The presence of 250 UU professionals is a sign of an increasing commitment to collegial support and of an understanding of the uncertainty of worship in our movement.

For several years, we joined others in encouraging the UUMA to consider a convocation on worship. when planning was begun, we contributed Full to aid the committee, with input from several sessions at retreats when we considered the most helpful formats to propose.

Each morning of the convocation the congregation was represented. Full and Void were respondents to papers and Dumb presented our style of thinking in a major paper on the liturgical year. The responses to Dumb were fascinating: one seemed to deplore his “eclecticism” as a betrayal of the Christian faith, another seemed to find the paper too Christian to be useful in today's churches. a third response was appreciative. Abraxas, seeking to embrace the polls, will perplex.

We had a literature table — and our worship READER, an anthology of UU writings from Vogt (1921) to the Commission on Common Worship (1980), sold out the second day and our supply of the Abraxas West RITE OF RELIGION was also exhausted. (Full had edited the published version of the UUA commission's paper.) We took orders for more and added new people to our mailing list and to General membership.

We had a workshop led by Flower and Full, and postulant Dick Munro chaired the local committee.

The high point of Abraxas participation at the convocation was the Wednesday evening Eucharist service, well attended and received. It should be noted that our service — of a dozen that week -- was the only one at which the chairs were arranged and other than preacher/congregation, student/teacher or media/audience setup. Later we heard stories that the healing called for in offertory led colleagues who had old grudges some dating to the 1969 EAC issue, led to reconciliation and embrace for the first time in years. The spirit flowed beautifully with many unrehearsed readers who had volunteered during the prologue; and the Bread and Wine were widely shared. Some told us that they understood for the first time the reasons for our emphasis on worship as participation (liturgy = the work of the people), worship not as a minister leading others through a service, but rather worship as a group activity, with shared leadership. this was our first version of the Rite One Eucharist.

One wag said that this is the gathering at which Abraxas came out of the closet and into the sauna. Indeed, sauna discussions were frequently inquiries or exchanges about the Congregation. One survey showed an 80% favorable/20% unfavorable rating by the convocationers to Abraxas. We succeeded in making a contribution to the gathering, and we hope our efforts will enrich the practice or worship in our movement.



A happy but weary group left Newport after the activities of the convocation for the hospital Christian Brothers Retreat Center in South County Rhode island. Exhausted, Abraxas postponed the beginning of the retreat from noon to vespers, and sleep and rest prevailed. There were 12 of us: Dick M, Flower, Cave McN, Dough H, Tom O-T, Dumb, Spare, Void, Full, Pen, Caprice and Judy. Holy and Wing were missed, as was Mark B, whose good news we prayed for and received; we also missed those who have been at only one retreat thus far and could not make this one.

The Vespers began our use of a beautiful stained glass chapel. The service was a communion without the elements; the experience, which some felt was inadequately announced, produced a fruitful debate later in the retreat. The last Vespers of the retreat began with a silent liturgical walk from the chapel door to the Brothers’ graveyard, where the short service was held, placing our brief efforts into a larger context. (By now we were processing into all services, even from the door outside the Chapel to our places therein,) At Sunday Matins, we were led to consider the meaning of each window for us as religious liberals and learned a just-composed chant. At Monday Matins, we considered the leaves still clinging to a dead branch after the winter.

Another much discussed service was Rite II Eucharist “in full drag.” Since we were invited to make full use of the sacristy, we all wore chasables for the service. After overcoming the giddiness which the beautiful designs inspired, many of us found them fitting garments to celebrate the Processes and Presences. yet there was a deep personal hurt, too, for the experience of one who had at one time studied for the RC priesthood and then rejected it, suddenly finding himself wearing what he decided he never could, was almost overwhelming.

Sunday we went to Westminster Church in East Greenwich where we participated in the readings, sermon discussion of the Convocation, and the liturgy. We used a draft of an Abraxas Parish Ordinary. The service was well received, and some of us fell in love with a musician or two.

Spiritual exercises at this Retreat ranged widely from zazen to massage to writing our personal credos. The work and recreational periods were also varied. We spent a glorious afternoon walking the beach (some of us were chased by the police) where we did Tai Chi and picked up litter and took it back for disposal. One person wrote of the experience: “Going to the sea, picking up the trash, the busy mind silenced by waves and sun and tidepool. Rachel Carson reminds us, “Life begins at the edge of the sea… place of earth and time.” With Martin Buber, acknowledge, “All real living is meeting.”

Back at the center, with fulsome and tireless instruction from Dumb, we “knotted up the raveled cinctures of care” with the revelation that “we are responsible for our own knots” After a successful warehouse purchase and a run through Canadian customs, we shall surely not waste away with old tawdry chords.

Miraculously, our entire business agenda was covered, beginning with a traditional evening of “99”, sharing where we individually have been since our last retreat. Those who had never observed our collegial writing before (i.e. our blessed arguments) reported they were much impressed to see it work, and they felt they gained enormously from our “theoretical” discussion. A postulant came to the keen realization that nobody else is doing anything like us in developing worship disciplines, which means that nobody like us is developing religious community in this way. One of the OF (original five) found a “more mature and peaceful quality” in our deliberations. Finally assignments were made to complete Vespers; and a set of Parish ordinaries were planned, rather than initial publication of a single form. Abraxas West agreed to prepare a submission for a Book of Passage. We agreed to study Pat Bowen's dissertation on the Humiliati and seek advice from them at a joint meeting. We did GA and promotional planning and reviewed our recent successes, applauded Dave McM’s declaration of postulancy, and considered evaluations of Abraxas from the Convocation.

The post convocation retreat was an enlarging of our circle, with the older Abraxans welcoming the new and talented visitors and postulates, and the new excited by experiencing the process and power of Abraxas. The dimensions of Abraxas in our personal lives, as a Congregation, as a witness within Unitarian Universalism, and as a presence within a troubled yet glorious world, we're unified and not unified.

1980 ALBUQUERQUE GA (first version)

“But critical to the spiritual development of course are worship resources and celebrative skills. The UUMA/LREDA Convocation of Worship held in Newport, Rhode Island this past spring was one grand step toward the renewal of our worship life. The congregation of Abraxas is making a stimulating contribution. But much more is needed….ultimately it is our dream to provide special training for all our theological students in areas as diverse as religious education and conflict management, but especially in preaching and the liturgical arts. We must set a goal and a model for our worship leaders: that our words and rituals plumb the depths, invoke the highest, and illuminate the ultimate.”

The 1980 General Assembly was the fifth with an Abraxan presence. Building from our first distribution (The Essay on Worship, 1976) in Claremont, the congregation has been received with increasing favor. At Ithaca (1977), we celebrated matins for the first time in public and began our tradition of the General Assembly Service Welcoming New Members. At Boston (1978), we led matins, our first version of Rite I Eucharist and the Compline, and our annual business meeting began to be known for its unusual style of presenting reports. Last year in East Lansing, a revised Eucharist with a tested prologue was praised.

This year at Albuquerque, the perception of the congregation of Abraxas shifted from, in Robbie Isaac's words, “the liturgical fringe” to “the cutting edge” of the denomination. The fourth version of the  Rite I Eucharist, with a new homily  [see text elsewhere] drew an enthusiastic crowd, many having to stand through the service.

The welcoming service homily looked back to that era of desolation when there was no group in our movement committed to collegial worship: “Group worship for us is not a gathering to audition a solo voice, however beautiful. It is an active community; as we own our worship, having fought over every word until grace produces from our discord a new and startling harmony, a harmony that rings with history, lies close to nature, and displays psyche; a harmony that now announces an awakening denomination, and joins with other voices in the chorus of this world's re-creation.”

The annual business meeting was, as always, hilarious, especially with the chanted treasurer’s report and the revelation of how he had managed to keep expenditures from exceeding income! The executive secretary reported growing interest in the congregation, with excellent response to our ads in the UU World. Our constituency now includes 50 paying friends, another 50 General members, with seven postulates and nine ordered members.

Using the “Ritual for People who Hate Ritual”, our workshop was intended to be a general introduction to worship; instead, the participants asked questions specifically about the Congregation and our approach to the religious life through worship. Kate and Fred Gillis made a beautiful, collapsible Abraxas banner for our display table which became a meeting place for conversation about the Congregation. We sold out (again!) of our READER and SUPPLEMENT  and most of our liturgical material. (However despite surprisingly brisk t-shirt sales we still have all sizes available except XL.)

(second version)

Abraxas came into its own at Albuquerque. Interest was high at both the Eucharist and at the workshop on worship theory and practice. Bells and albs somehow were less threatening and we appear to have lost our image as a secret society or a group of clerical supremacists and began to be seen for what we are - a group of UU’s concerned enough about worship to be doing something about it.

Full had to miss Gene Pickett's inspiring address in order to chase down a bottle of wine for the Eucharist. One would expect there to be a liquor store close by to a major convention center, but such was not the case. (Someone said the convention center was designed by Mormons!) Finally a member of the local committee took Full to a store a couple of miles away where he purchased the appropriate wine. The woman from the Albuquerque Church was puzzled about communion in a UU Church.

About 140 people packed into the opened-up and Navajo-Nambe rooms, whose arrangements were straightened out with a center staff at the 11th Hour by Holy (Our man on the inside!) Many worshipers were moved by the remembrances. One spoke of his need to forgive himself. Others spoke of being put at ease by the prologue which emphasized the fact that we were not putting on a performance but were a family worshiping together.

The welcoming of New Members Service was sparsely attended, but interest was high and newcomers expressed appreciation of our ability to laugh at ourselves. As usual, reports were chanted, and the Scribe's method of balancing the books by not paying bills was much appreciated. The Canon gave his tired old report. (It is hoped that the reorganization of Abraxan offices will result in improved reports in the future.)

The worship was introduced liturgically with the Ritual for Those who Hate Ritual. The passing of the match was a high point of solemnity/hilarity. The discussion dealt with theory and the adaptation of the liturgical approach in local churches and fellowships. many brought the message back home.

1980 POST-GA RETREAT (first version)

For the fourth year, we held an open Retreat following the general assembly. Centro Pastoral (Dominican) in Albuquerque offered us their entire building including individual cells, chapel, outdoor patio (where we had a glorious morning service), lounge, dining hall, and kitchen. This is the first time at such a retreat we have arranged our own food/clean-up, and thanks to cook Gloria (praises be!), it worked very well. The first abraxian baby shower, for “Ace” Barnet, was a delightful surprise for his parents.

With the choosing of the sacred swizzle sticks, a new Council was formed to fill position newly described: Br Joe the Pen, Vicar; Sr Kitsy Caprice, Dean; Br Harry the Holy, Abbot; Br Stephan the Spare, Canon; Sr Grace the Wind and Br Richard the Flower, Co-Priors; Staff positions were filled by he outgoing council: Br Vern the Void, Scribe; Br Fred the Full, Verger; Duke the Dumb, Bursar.

A most vigorous discussion was inspired by new drafts for the Vespers, with some hotly deploring the “bowdlerization of God” and others with equal passion defending the many names for the “Riddle”. Vespers has proved to be our most difficult office to create, but we affirmed our commitment to the collegial process and have assigned further drafting. Slight changes were made in the Ordering Ritual for october. Thanks to Bunny Turner, we each had a copy of the new retreat handbook, and we finally agreed on an Ideal daily schedule to flush out the daily sequence which has proved over the years to meet most needs. An outing to the Sandia for Compline was a treat, even though the Complin literature was left in the retreat house.

(second version)

A 72-hour retreat was held at Centro Pastorale (Roman Catholic), located in a residential section of NE Albuquerque. Seven ordered members were present (Capric, Dund, Full, Holy, Spare, Void, and Wing)  plus two general members (Cara McLarty and Al Thelander), two spouses (Ananda Barnet and Gloria Gray)  and, for Saturday only, John M. Fritz,  a former congregant of Holy.

The setting was adequate and comfortable, but not luxurious. The small Chapel having fixed pews, we used folding chairs set up in the facing rows at the two sides in front. Matins were held each morning in the delightful courtyard, before the blazing sun reached over the building into this space. Gloria Gray served as cook, with kitchen help before and after meals provided by all others.

Some highlights of the retreat were: 1) At our Eucharist on the first morning void asked us for the greeting to each embrace the person to his/her right — this resulted in a chain of celebrants running around the table counter-clockwise; and 2) Saturday morning at breakfast Gloria told about having stuck her head out of her room about 6:00 a.m. and seeing a figure in while with long hair — not identified as one of the retreatants and which Gloria, from her Christian Perspective, identified as the Lord.

There being only one first time retreatant present the first two days, introductory material on the Congregation of Abraxas was condensed into two orientation sessions on Friday. The remainder of the business sessions were devoted to business, first to organizational matters, then to collegial review of the Vesper service. This course was decided on for another reason also: both Spare and Void had to depart home for personal reasons before the scheduled end of the retreat: Spare to be at his church Sunday morning, Vern and Ananda to be in Kansas Monday afternoon to receive their newly adopted son, tentatively named Ace by retreatants.

On the first day of the retreat (Thursday) considerable time was spent on devising a schedule. The schedule proposed by Wing was revised to provide a full cycle of events morning, afternoon, and evening, and to provide more free time, especially a 2-hour cell-time each afternoon.

 In reviewing the Chronicles of Abraxas Friday morning Dumb and others brought out in some detail the events leading up to the formation of the Congregation. Those present decided to get this prehistory into form to add to the printed chronicles.

Besides sharing kitchen duties, retreatants shared the leading of worship services and of some spiritual exercises. There was discussion on the wisdom of this. Some thought that it led to a lack of continuity in these two elements of the retreat. The advantage was that most present had the opportunity to lead an Abraxan worship.

Minutes of the business sessions were recorded by the executive secretary, the more momentous decisions being spoken into a tape recorder. A summary of items of general interest is here offered to the reader of these Chronicles

1)   The vow of utility is being rewritten to emphasize its vocational nature.
2)   A letter will be sent to Carl Scovel expressing the appreciation of Abraxas for his sermon at the Service of the Living Tradition at the recent General Assembly.
3)    Honorary membership was voted for Gene Pickett, President of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
4)    The congregation of Abraxas is well on its way to achieving tax-exempt status as a non-profit organization, thanks to the efforts of Harry the Holy.
5)    Two postulates, Wayne Arnason and Dick Munro, should be ready for ordering at the fall retreat.
6)    One new postulant, Al Thelander, was welcomed into the process.
7)    Following a recommendation by Dumb, the offices of the Congregation was restructured as follows:
a) Staff positions:
Scribe: Executive secretary, handles correspondence and the newsletter;
            receives money for deposit; supervises publishing of Abraxas

            materials; acts as spokesperson for Abraxas
Bursar: Treasurer; financial planning and reports; pay of bills.
Verger: Custodian of sacred implements and archives; taskmaster at retreats.
b) Offices of the Council:
Vicar: Chair of the Council
Dean: Responsible for new members and postulates and for solidarity.
Abbott: Responsible for planning and directing retreats.
Canon: Responsible for planning and guiding worship.
Priest: Responsible for coordinating Abraxas activities at General Assemblies
          of the UUA

8)    The outgoing Council selected persons to fill the three staff positions:
     Scribe: Void (Vern Barnet)
     Bursar: Dumb (Duke Gray)
     Verger: Full (Fred Gillis)
9)     Ordered members, Void and Dumb withdrawing, then submitting themselves to selection by swizzle sticks for the three vacancies on the council (the terms of Pen and Holy continuing for another year). Spare and Caprice each won a seat; Flower and Wing will share a position because their duties at First Unitarian Church of Berkeley do not permit them to travel to Abraxas Retreats at the same time.
10)    The new Council elect its officers:
     Vicar: Pen (Joe Pia)
     Dean: Caprice (Kitsy Russell)
     Abbott: Holy (Harry Thor)
     Canon: Spare (Stephen Papa)
     Priest: Flower/Wing (Dick Boeke/Grace Ulp)
11)    The Verger will work on design of a stole for use without vestments and will obtain rainbow ribbon for use by general participants in Abraxan
celebrations at GA, etc.
12)    There was long and sometimes heated discussion of the Trial Vespers. Some members preferred to see more explicit God language used,
while others had reservations about this. Some preferred a shorter version included in the May 80 mailing. Consensus was reached that more work
is needed. Dumb will prepare a revision for review at the fall retreat.
By Sunday morning five of the participants had departed. The remainder carried on, holding a discussion of the work to be done in the coming year by the new officers and staff. Monastic offices continued to be celebrated throughout the day, except for Compline.
Following supper Sunday Caprice, Full, Holy, and Al left the retreat center for a ride on the tramway to Sandia Park. By losing their way in the rented car, they toured some new residential developments in SE Albuquerque. They arrived at the tram house in time to board Flight 25, which took off just after sunset, a rich red glow still on the horizon. They spent about a half an hour at the peak, watching the sky darken and the lights of the city come on. Fred was able to read a K-mart sign in the city with the aid of a coin operated telescope. The return trip in the dark was less exciting than the upward journey.

Matins were celebrated Monday. The business of the morning was clean-up and departure. After dropping off the others at the airport Fred and Kitsy took the car for a visit to Santa Fe. The story of their day did not reach the chronicler of these events.


Through the travels of postulant Wayne Arnason, Abraxas appeared at three different denominational “occasions” during August 1980. Wayne led
an Abraxan-style service on Sunday, August 3, at the Arlington Street Church in Boston during their summer service series. This marked the first
occasion that Abraxan worship was celebrated in the “Mother Church” of Unitarianism.

Later that month, Abraxas “went to the mountain” and “had a dream”. The “mountain” is the newly purchased UU camp in the southeast. Wayne was
invited to help celebrate “Thomas Merton Day" as part of a week-long “Theology through Biography” conference. Wayne's lecture was supplemented by celebrations of three printed Abraxas offices, giving the conference attendees some feel for the style of the monastic day as it is observed in a Unitarian Universalist context.

The following week, Abraxas met LRY for the first time in a dream! In the context of several evenings of leading dream workshops with LRY’ers,
Wayne also celebrated the Abraxan compline with a group of 20 young people. The emphasis on the Compline on psyche, dream, and sleep was
highly appropriate and well received.

ENTRY THREE AND A HALF: 1978 April (out of order)

The Annual Meeting of the St Lawrence District usually includes a programme section, as well as the business sessions. This year's annual meeting, held in Ottawa April 28-29-30 had Worship as its conference theme.

I was asked to do a workshop based on the Abraxas experience.

I led the workshop, in two separate sessions, repeated for two separate groups.

The focus of my workshop was the application of the Abraxas experience to parish worship, especially for smaller fellowships without professional
leadership. To do this, I began each session with only the briefest remarks of 5-10 minutes, and Then constituted the group as a worshiping community, in
which we ran through a simple service which I had earlier conducted on a Sunday morning for the Clemons Valley Unitarian Fellowship of Big Flats,
New York. (No kidding! There is a fellowship in Big Flats. I was there.) There were 12-15 people in each workshop, held in a small classroom at the
Ottawa Church. We arranged the chairs in monastic rows (as I had done at Big Flats) and did the entire service together with A Capella singing.

This took us to coffee break (about the first 45 minutes).

After coffee break, we turned the chairs around and spent the second half of the worship talking about our experience, how it differed from the more
conventional fellowship guest-speaker format, and finally, some theoretical and organizational concerns about the Congregation of Abraxas itself.

I brought along my Alb and stoles for discussion and display, but did not wear them.

To my surprise, there was no hostility — only enthusiastic curiosity. After all, it was a voluntary workshop during a Worship Conference. Oonagh and
Kitsy were among those attending.

Please send any additions or corrections to the Executive Secretary, Congregation of Abraxas, P.O. Box 4165, Overland Park, KS 66204.


Abraxas is a group of Unitarian Universalists concerned with improving the quality of worship. Those who wish to be on the mailing list of the
organization are invited to send ten dollars or more to Congregation of Abraxas, P.O. Box 4165, Overland Park, KS 66204.

During the academic year, Abraxas West meets weekly on Thursday at 8:00 AM at Starr King School. Visitors are invited to join us for worship and
conversation. In the winter term of 1980, Mark Belletini, Richard F Boeke, Ted Tollefson, and Grace Ulp joined in teaching the course in worship at
Starr King School. The same four joined in writing and editing a 60 page book titled “The Rite of Religion”. Copies are available for three dollars
($3.00) from Abraxas West ℅ First Unitarian Church of Berkeley, 1 Lawson Road, Berkely, CA 94707.


The following is chanted to the tune of #522, Hymn of the Spirit:

1. We began the year with a combined balance in US and Canadian funds of Two Hundred and Sixty Two dollars and / eighty one / cents. //
Our revenues for the year amounted to Four Thousand Three Hundred and Eighty Four / dollars and / Fifty / cents. //
Our expenses for the year amounted to Four Thousand Two Hundred and Fifty Six dollars and / thirteen / cents. //
This excess of Revenue of Expenses resulted in an increase in our year-end cash position of One Hundred Twenty Eight dollars and thirty seven
cents, for a closing balance of Three Hundred Ninety One / dollars and / eighteen / cents. //


2. However, since the largest single item in our budget is / travel ex- / pense, //
Due to the energy crises, fuel shortages, international oil cartels, OPEC pricing arrangement, the monopolistic imperialism of multi-national
corporations and other running-dog lackeys of the capitalist conspiracy, and the resultant / rise in / airline / fares, //
we project a budget year for Nineteen / Seventy / Nine // which may be less favorable / in its- / out / come. //


3. Therefore, we solicit the ever more earnest res- / ponse of / faith //
From our devoted / sisters / and bro- / thers //
in trust that a significant increase in / pledges in- / come //
will offset the / ise in / expen- / ses. //


Respectfully submitted and sung,
Duke T Gray, OCA (Dumb, Scribe)

ENTRY 18: FALL RETREAT 1980, first version

APPROACH: The Flower and Mark have flown all night and are tired beyond the telling of it, and both are wondering if Abraxan spirit is possible in
such a stupor. Flower reads a fantasy book-key a former parishioner. Behold the Pentecost of Abraxas, whose foolish name (by coincidence?) fills
the book. We are called and enkindled. We arrive from our separate ways, one by one, and assemble for our first Eucharist at noon (or
so…probably “so!”) Spare is worship coordinator, providing us with light-hearted words for our exploring. The initial awkwardness of our corporate
worship (as we approach the altar of the goddess “community” through the week) seems to get smoother and Friday night sees our symbolic
tetra-hourly gatherings moving with grace and a natural polish. Postulants MArk, Wayne, Dick and Dave join Ordered Members Caprice, Wing,
Flower, Holy, Spare, Void, and Full all gathered at House of the Redeemer to wrestle with the Angel Abraxas.

EMPTYING: We grieve for the loss of Sr Bonaventura. We confess a gaping hole in our Whole because of the dumb absence of Dumb, whose
name we invoke (Gawd!) now and then to help us bear our missing. We see Mark sitting tense in his chair as we explore parish liturgies, ordinaries,
prospers, and examples. We see Void emptying himself from the sacrament after a display of humor felt inappropriate. We confess (as we usually
do) to both unspoken and unspokened praise, displayed an ill-displayed uncharities. Business meetings do not seem very tight — we confess to
alternate satisfactions and dissatisfactions with what we do. We hear of those who critique us. (Is the angel we wrestle with really a devil?) We
contemplate the ultimate self-emptying: changing our name. We (once again in saecula saeculorum) contemplate our identity, our mission, our
substance. We conclude (as we always do) that we love one another, and to explore the flow before we go with it.

EXPLORING: Holy helps us explore our religious centers with exercises that would stretch even Ignatian muscles. We dance (just till we get going).
We explore the child in us with Flower’s Freight Train. We explore the city — dinosaur bones and Kurdish tribal diaramas, St. Peters, Cit-Corp and
St Marks in the Bowery, Indian import shops and French bread stores. We explore the nature of (rude/fun) decadence with Thursdays (Gawd!)
Slivovitz-blitzed FAT. We explore each other's minds in a thousand private conversations, explore the denomination through Holy Gossip, explore
silence, exhaustion, Abraxas presence in a non-monastic parish across the park; we explore via stories and words and poems, sweetly and
satisfyingly, the four elements of worship during the weekend post our retreat.

CONNECTION: We connect with Brother Leo, Brother Wide, Brother Dave, and Brother Tao in the underlyingly sacred and profane ordering liturgy. We connect with Yvonne - who delights us so that it seems as if she had always been amongst us. We connect in self-revelations and confessions - one who was ready to “kick them all out” except they run his church, another who's homesick, another confesses quiet happiness, another who confesses ambivalence in leaving a perfect parish, and many who have lost loved ones to death, or have seen the face of god this year and not yet dead. We connect with forgiveness and reconciliation as a chicken lays an egg yet transforms with the phoenix of joke-tellers. Absolutions are pronounced by the hurt to the hurters. Souls touch deeply, marrow mingles. We laugh till we cry, and sing till we're hoarse. We connect with Sr Mary Julian over a bottle of wine, Sister Mary Gregory over her self-confessions of nun-mischief. We connect closer than ever on the weekend retreat. The business which emptied as was allowed at last by the silence and Assurance of the weekend. We leave on monday, sharing one last Matins,
the council meeting, going our diverse and sundry ways, transformed, left the same, and unkindled by the spirit of which Abraxas (praised! damned!) can only be a feeble symbol.

ENTRY 18: RETREAT 1980 (second version)

Most of those who requested the Boston mini-retreat were unable to participate, but the eight who did attend, even part of the day, seem to move easily through the retreat pattern. We were especially blessed by the presence of Bob Stayn of South Africa, who shared his experiences and concerns about liberal religion in this country. The mini-retreat was held at the Arlington Street Church, with dinner at Gatsby’s Oct 20. The daily schedule was shortened but complete except for altered meal discipline. Some felt that a 14-hour experience does not give a fair introduction to the Abraxas retreats — which begin to provide a sense of order only after the beginning of the second day when the cycle is repeated, with the intervening night discipline of silence. Others felt that the worship experiences and discussions were significant in themselves, apart from a sense of
retreat. The morning program period on the “meaning of worship” invited each participant to describe “meaningful worries” each person had in understanding one's current worship experiences. The afternoon discussions on the “process of worship” considered Orthodox Abraxas, Reformed Abraxas, and Abraxas West theories on the sequence of liturgical acts. In the evening, we reflected on the worship experiences of the day. One participant suggested that future Boston retreats be planned for weekends so the many interested lay people can more easily participate, or that evening programs with a single worship service be offered.

The New York Retreat (Oct 22-27) was held for the third year at the CSM (Episcopal) House of the Redeemer, just west of Central Park on 95th. Four postulates became Ordered Members at the special Thursday night service: Wayne the Wide Arnason, Dick the Dove Munro, Dave the Tao MacMillian and Mark Leo Belletini. Br Wide is UUA Youth Consultant, Br Dove is a RI  overnmental official, Br Tao is a Harvard student and Br Leo is minister of our Hayward, CA church. During the first half of the retreat (closed), business grabbed our program slots, but Br Holy’s spiritual exercises kept us stretched religiously. We spent one afternoon at the new Asian wing of the Natural History Museum. The second half was open, and business was eschewed. Dealing with ”The Religious Life” under the rubrics of Approach, Emptying, Exploring, and Connection, we had a profound and refreshing sharing with each other. On October 26th Sunday the Congregation of Abraxas, fully vested, led the Eucharist service at the Universalist Church on the east side of Central Park. The context for the service was created by Minister Joel Scholenfield who spoke on the need for nuclear disarmament in his United Nations Sunday sermon.  Concelebrating the service was Yvonne Groseil, a member of the congregation
who is also attending the Abraxas retreat. The congregation participated fully in the service and their warmth to the members of the Congregation of Abraxas was gratifying. Our retreat was not the same without Sr Bonaventura who had died 6 weeks earlier, but Sr Mary Julian delighted us with her wit and helpfulness. How can we thank her and Sister Mary Gregory for managing meals and other details with abroxens constantly coming and going?


Abraxan Evangelical efforts continued on the East Coast in December with Bro Wide leading the Abraxas Eucharist on Sunday morning, December
14th at the First Parish in Framingham. The invitation to lead a service in Abraxan style came from the minister in Framingham, the Reverend
Charles Gaines, who is presenting a series of services on worship in the UU movement.

Excellent cooperation from Chuck Gaines, a team of ushers, and the congregation in Framingham resulted in a meaningful sharing for the 120
people present. Special remembrances were offered for John Lennon and Dorothy Day. 15 people remained after the services to express their
enthusiasm and learn more about Abraxan ideas on worship.

This concludes the Chronicles as received by 1981 May. A wonderful retreat was held in March 1981 in Chicago, beginning with the installation of Bro Duke the Dumb as minister of Chicago First Church. Chronicles of that Retreat will be distributed after they are received by the Abraxan office.

A REQUEST: those with additional memories concerning events described in these Chronicles (especially the Early Days) are asked to supplement
these accounts by sending additional material to Grace the Wing for a revised Chronicles to be issued in the indeterminate future.


Yet to be told: How Abraxas fell apart.

HISTORICAL NOTES (under construction)

The Congregation of Abraxas was founded by Duke the Dumb  (Gray), Fred the Full (Gillis), Stephan the Spare (Papa) , Harry the Holy (Thor), and yours truly, Vern the Void (Barnet) after the 1975 Buck Hill Falls UUMA Convocation.  Later joining the order were such as Wayne the Wide (Arnason), Mark Belletini and Dick Boeke.  The first public witness of the group was at the 1976 UUA General Assembly. The history could be reconstructed from a 20-page single-space Chronicles of the "missionary and liturgical order" and from a number of newsletters it published. At its height, I think there were over a dozen members of the order and a number of postulants.
    We were especially proud of Fred serving on the 1980 UUA Commission on Common Worship and Mark for chairing the Hymnbook Commission.
    As I reflect on those days, these points seem to me most important:
   a. The group was committed to a discipline of collegiality. Although the group distributed materials written by its members and others, nothing could be published in its name unless all members of the Order agreed to it. Since the group ranged from born-again UU to Buddhist/atheist, the writing of liturgy was often painful but joyfully endured because of the breath of understanding gained by discovering was of being inclusive. I remember a conference call that cost us over a hundred bucks as we argued over whether to include the word "seeming" as a modifier of the word "evil."
    Especially significant publications were the basic "Essay on  Worship," the "Matins," the "Compline," and the "Eucharist."  The liturgical materials were always published in "draft" form to give the invitation for growth.
    b. The Congregation had a  great sense of humor, as the "shadow vows" to the three vows required of Ordering (not poverty [economic], chastity [focus of purpose], and obedience [authority] but equity, utility, and collegiality -- and my vows prevent me from revealing their shadows).
    c. I remain perplexed these many years later that the group found more receptive ground among lay people than the clergy. I remember the challenge the Congregation faced in doing the Eucharist in the then rabid Santa Rosa Fellowship -- with amazing success because of the virtuoso rather than charismatic execution of the liturgy we had developed.
    d. Especially surprising was the number of lay people who wanted to come to our retreats, the length of which varied from 3 or 8 days at a time, from Berkeley to Boston, several each year. We did not anticipate the popularity of the retreats which were originally designed as consultation meetings to work on the liturgical writing. But we developed an "ordered day" with matins, eucharist, vespers, and compline, and a wonderful schedule which included Abraxas volleyball and eating with specific disciplines. The discipline most popular was the rule of no conversation between compline and matins.
    e. The development not only of daily and seasonal cycles of worship and devotion but also of a 4-part structure for the liturgy itself (outlined in the 1980 Commission's work and detailed in the Congregation of Abraxas Worship Reader (see below), has continued to ring true and may be the most important work the Congregation did. That's why (below), I lament it being reduced to stoles.

aspects of the Congregation's work:

1. stoles: window-dressing, alas!

The 1980 October newsletter (710.15 in the Abraxas agenda) tersely explained the alb, the stole, the cincture, and other items of dress the Congregation adopted. I will see if the Chronicles of Abraxas also contains materials about this. The newsletter was produced a month or so before I purchased the first computer for my church, so I don't have the text in electronic form. I have made a gif file of it, however, which can be accessed at or go to and click on the 8-button on the bottom of the page.  The approved exclamation at the Abraxas retreats was not "Bless my soul," but "Bless my stole" as participants came out of the closet and into the sauna. Ha.
    The purpose of vestments was not to further distance between congregation and the clergy -- but that is another discussion.
    My impression is that when Abraxas presented President Gene Picket a stole at General Assembly (he had hinted that he would like one) AND HE WORE IT, the clergy brothers and sisters began to imitate the practice which has become increasingly popular.
    Which brings me to my lament. I recall modernist architects discussing the impact of their work. I think it was Mies van der Rohe who said, "Yes, but what do we have to show for it but the picture window?" The central work of Abraxas, liturgical renewal, has been pretty much reduced to the stole and maybe a few worship features, but the overall conception of worship still seems to be primarily a set up for the sermon. In my opinion,  the ground-breaking 1976 Abraxan essay "Worship" has yet to receive the serious and widespread consideration it merits. Am I wrong?

A statement requested from Vern -- 2011 January 4

Religion begins with awe which develops into gratitude and matures into service. Worship prepares us for, and sometimes actually opens us to, the mystery too big for words. The Congregation of Abraxas, which exulted in the freedom possible only with the discipline of form, and which required us to work toward complete agreement among us on every word of all the liturgies we presented from our wildly different theologies, taught me that our words at best only point to what is too deep, too large, too amazing for words. But those pointers, carefully ordered, often led to fresh awe, unspeakable gratitude even in the horrors of existence, and a constantly renewed commitment to serve others -- energized by that awe and and shaped with gratitude. Even when worship was in ordinary, rather that sacred time and space, it was a rehearsal, a practice session, that made me ready anywhere for unexpected experiences and insights channeling and purifying what some call love.