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Marilyn Sewell
The Rev. Dr. Marilyn Sewell is an accomplished Unitarian Univeralist minister, writer, activist and spiritual leader. She retired from parish ministry in 2009, after serving 17 years as the Senior Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Portland, Ore., and was named Minister Emerita.

Marilyn has become a noted figure in the Unitarian Univeralist movement, known for her dynamic speaking, her writing and her teaching. Frequently sought out by the media for interviews on various spiritual and social issues, she has received numerous awards and honors.

Marilyn is the subject of a full-length documentary film, "Raw Faith," which recently opened in N.Y. to critical acclaim. She is the author and/or editor of nine books, including recent books on prayer and forgiveness. To order her books go to her web site at

Entries by Marilyn Sewell

Civic Disobedience and Climate Change

(16) Comments | Posted August 5, 2015 | 12:18 PM


On July 30, the whole world watched as 13 Greenpeace activists dangled from ropes tied to the St. John's bridge in Portland, Ore., red and yellow streamers catching the wind. They were blocking the exit of the Fennica, Shell's ice breaker...

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Mad Men: A Morality Tale

(3) Comments | Posted May 19, 2015 | 12:46 PM


I don't know about you, but I'm already missing AMC's "Mad Men": nevermore will I see Joan's clothes and fulsome figure striding into the office; Peggy's terrible design sense regarding her own clothes, coupled with her rising sense of self-worth; Roger's off-handed remarks,...

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Top Ten Reasons We Don't Talk About Climate Change

(30) Comments | Posted April 20, 2015 | 4:49 PM


Most people know that the earth is warming, and as the dominant creatures on the planet, humans are at fault. Two out of three people believe climate change is happening, and 89 percent are "somewhat worried" or "very worried." After all,...

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Understanding Depression

(3) Comments | Posted August 18, 2014 | 3:46 PM


The suicide of Robin Williams has once more brought the illness of depression into the national spotlight. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline received 7,500 calls the day after Williams' death, twice the usual number. Local crisis centers report a similar increase....

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A Christmas Blessing

(0) Comments | Posted December 24, 2013 | 2:17 PM


I'm sitting in my living room on Christmas Eve. There's a fire in the fireplace, and I am looking at my Christmas tree, with its funky ornaments. The tree is just a beauty, but the decorations could in no way be...

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Robert Redford as Everyman in All Is Lost

(5) Comments | Posted October 28, 2013 | 11:01 AM


I am not a sailor. On my first sailing expedition, the captain abandoned ship and I was saved by the Coast Guard. Nevertheless, I was eager to see J.C. Chandor's new film about a solo sailor facing his mortality -- All...

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The Emergence of the Feminine

(32) Comments | Posted August 27, 2013 | 2:29 PM


What is going on? Two male icons of religion have made surprising, and gratifying, pronouncements of late. Pope Francis says he is not going to judge gay priests and furthermore stated that the church needs a "theology of women." The Dalai Lama...

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Climate Change and the Church

(54) Comments | Posted July 23, 2013 | 5:48 PM


The house is on fire -- this is what climate scientists have been telling us for over 20 years. We don't want to hear them. Some people say the droughts and fires and storms are nothing unusual -- weather has always been unpredictable, and...

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Changing the Gun Culture

(132) Comments | Posted March 29, 2013 | 1:33 PM


I am an advocate of stricter gun control laws. Like other advocates, I could list statistics, put forward comparisons to other countries, appeal to logic. But I would like to speak instead of my experience. Five members of my extended family have been killed...

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I Want To Pay Higher Taxes

(12) Comments | Posted January 8, 2013 | 12:15 PM


When I was a new minister, I had an encounter I'll never forget. I called on a well-to-do couple, the man then serving on the church board. My purpose was to ask them to increase their yearly pledge, which was embarrassingly low -- miniscule,...

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A Symbol of Hope in a Time of Grief

(1) Comments | Posted December 18, 2012 | 8:50 AM


I woke up on last Saturday morning to a glorious sunrise which comforted me, somehow, after the horrific shooting deaths of children in Newtown, Conn., the day before. The sunrise reminded me of the beauty and joy which children bring to us careworn adults....

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Saying Goodbye to Tolerance

(746) Comments | Posted October 19, 2012 | 7:42 AM

I am a Unitarian Universalist, and we consider ourselves the most tolerant of faiths. In the 19th century Universalist churches were known for opening their doors to dissenters of all varieties, and our modern-day UU churches have continued to provide space for those who cannot find a welcome mat elsewhere:...

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The Sexuality of Jesus

(81) Comments | Posted September 27, 2012 | 4:35 PM

Karen L. King, a professor at Harvard Divinity School, has caused quite an uproar with her discovery of a scrap of fourth-century papyrus that suggests Jesus may have been married. She is not the first to speculate about Jesus's marital state-various theologians as well as writers of fiction have suggested...

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Mortality and the Gift of Perspective

(39) Comments | Posted June 11, 2012 | 7:21 AM

The first thing I was aware of was my husband George asking frantically, "Can you breathe? Can you breathe?" He had found me in our home unconscious, face down, in a pool of blood. I was absolutely still, he said, and he thought I might be dead. But then he...

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Rush Limbaugh and the Legacy of Margaret Sanger

(73) Comments | Posted March 6, 2012 | 10:36 AM


For three days Rush Limbaugh verbally attacked a young Georgetown University law student who testified in support of the Obama administration's requirement that health insurance plans cover contraceptives for women. Among other pejorative terms, Limbaugh called the young woman a "slut" and a "prostitute."...

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Pondering Regrets in the New Year

(0) Comments | Posted January 6, 2012 | 2:39 PM

I do not have many regrets in my life, at least in regard to the big decisions: getting married, getting unmarried, having children, attending various schools, working first as a teacher, then as a psychotherapist, and most recently as a minister. These decisions have been to the good, more or...

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Occupy Wall Street: A Prophetic Voice

(11) Comments | Posted December 20, 2011 | 7:23 AM


I am weary of hearing well-meaning friends question the Occupy Wall Street phenomenon. They ask, "What do they want? They don't have any clear goals -- how can they hope to bring about change?"

I want to ask:

"What was the meaning of Gandhi's...

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Was Christopher Hitchens Religious?

(71) Comments | Posted December 18, 2011 | 7:04 PM

Less than a year before his death, I interviewed Christopher Hitchens for Portland Monthly magazine. I didn't want to do the interview. As I told editor Randy Gragg, "I don't like Christopher Hitchens. He is rude. He is a bully. So why should I help get his work before more...

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Finding God at the Margins in the Mississippi Delta

(8) Comments | Posted November 8, 2011 | 8:01 AM


My sister Donna and I recently took a self-guided blues tour of the Mississippi Delta. It was an extraordinary experience. I grew up in the South, but never visited the Delta, the emotional heart of the blues, which runs from Vicksburg, Miss., to Memphis,...

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The Church and OccupyWallStreet

(10) Comments | Posted October 11, 2011 | 2:27 PM


I'm waiting to see what the religious response will be to OccupyWallStreet, which is a true revolution of the people. It is a cry from people who have been abused far too long by those who hold economic and political power. It is a...

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