Pulpit master

Rev. Neal T. Anderson

The Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Northern Nevada, 780 Del Monte Lane, installed Neal Anderson as new minister on Nov. 9. For more information, call 851-7100, or check out www.uufnn.org.

Where did you come from?

Ahhh, where did I come from? [Laughs]

I didn’t mean to ask that in some kind of existential matter.

Wow. That’s a good one. I spent a year in Cleveland, Ohio, serving West Shore Unitarian Universalist Church as the intern minister. Before that I spent two years at Starr King School for the Ministry, which is the Unitarian Universalist seminary in Berkeley, Calif., and then before that, I’d spent my life in Saskatchewan. I grew up on a family farm in Southern Saskatchewan.

How did you come to be chosen for the Reno pulpit?

For the Fellowship here? The Unitarian Universalists Association and Unitarian Universalists follow what’s called “congregational polity.” That typically means there is no hierarchy; the local congregations have the opportunity to make all of the decisions. What happens is when a congregation is searching for a minister, they create a congregational record, and they post it on a special site on the internet. I, as a minister who was in search [of a congregation], had the opportunity to access all of the congregations throughout North America that were searching for a minister. Reno caught my eye. I indicated that I would be interested in them. … I got a note from the chair, and she said, “Oh, we had a chance to read your ministerial record online, and you sound like someone we might have been interested in, but we’ve already selected someone to be our candidate. So, thanks, but no thanks.” [Laughs.] So, anyway, maybe two or three weeks later, I got another message that said the person they had selected had decided on something else. So we had an interview over the phone. That went well. I came out for a weekend interview. That went well. Then the search committee selected me to be their candidate. Between May 3 and May 11, I spent the whole week in Reno with the congregation, preached on two Sundays and at the end of that, the congregation voted on my call. The vote was very successful, and they called me to be their minister.

Did you know Charles Dickens was a Unitarian when he wrote A Christmas Carol?

Oh. Yes, I sure did know that. In fact, many Unitarian Universalist congregations will perform the Dickens Christmas Carol during the season. It sort of encapsulates the Unitarian Universalist values. In fact, I was lucky enough to play the Ghost of Christmas Present in my former congregation.

Does it seem sort of ironic that the guy who invented Christmas wasn’t Christian?

[Plainly dubious:] Are you suggesting that Dickens invented Christmas? There’s a fabulous book by a guy named Stephen Nissenbaum who wrote a history of Christmas [The Battle for Christmas]. One of the things about the history of Christmas in the United States was that, in fact, folks from Unitarian congregations that were really hoping that Christmas, the 25th of December, would actually be a day off. A lot of the traditions of Christmas prior to that were about a lot of revelry.

It was kind of a Halloweeny thing.

Exactly, it was a very Halloweeny type of thing. The whole idea of “wasseling” was it was a way in which the upper classes thought for one day in the year, they could allow the lower classes to participate in some of the riches. With wasseling, the lower classes would be traveling from home to home, knocking on doors and asking the rich folks to provide them with their best food and wine.

So I guess he was a Christian.