A Tribute to Rev. Nate

June 17, 2014

On June 1, 2015, Reverend Nate delivered his last sermon as the Settled Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. His colleagues opened this service by reflecting on his worship style and sharing some extended excerpts from his sermons. The readers were the Reverend Addae Ama Kraba, Affiliated Community Minister; the Reverend Zemoria Brandon, Interfaith Minister and Trustee; and Dr. Edwin J. Greenlee, Chair of the Worship Arts Ministry and former church President. They began by reflecting on Reverend Nate's preaching philosophy: "It's simple", he said, "Nate, no one is listening to you."


Being Liberal in a Liberal Age

June 17, 2014

For the last seven years, Reverend Nate has served as the Settled Minister of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. He will be returning to academia to pursue his research interests in law and religion. In his last sermon, he says that the primary challenge before Unitarian Universalism is to strip itself from the idea that we need to "be liberal in an illiberal age," as Jack Mendelsohn once described. Now is the time to prepare Unitarian Universalism to be a majority religion, aware that a majority of people now long for a truly liberal and liberating faith.


My God: The App (roll play only)

February 18, 2014

Inspired by the movie Her, about a man who has an intimate relationship with his operating system, Reverend Nate will introduce "My God," the app.

It's a computer program that allows users to determine the attributes of their God and begin to have a personal relationship with the God of their understanding.

* * * *

This recording only includes Rev. Nate's roll play with tech support and GodOS and the epilogue. For the full reflection on the movie Her and benediction, download the worship script or click to listen to the complete recording.


My God: The App (full)

February 18, 2014

Inspired by the movie Her, about a man who has an intimate relationship with his operating system, Reverend Nate will introduce "My God," the app.

It's a computer program that allows users to determine the attributes of their God and begin to have a personal relationship with the God of their understanding.

* * * *

This recording includes the prologue, music clips, roll play with tech support and GodOS, as well as the epilogue, and benediction. Read along: download the complete worship script.


The Mirror of Community

September 26, 2013

In this intergenerational service, Rev. Nate uses themes in the children's movie, The Neverending Story to explore the purpose and the power of being in community. This was delivered as part of the annual Water Communion service, where members of the congregation pour water into a common vase while saying, "to community I bring..." and then they name their intentions for who and how they will be in community together.


Compassionate Communication (from an Imperfect Messenger)

September 26, 2013

A healthy congregation is one whose members cultivate a culture of direct communication while practicing deep listening and loving speech. In this way, language is used to open up meaning rather than to demean an idea or a person. It is not only about the words we use but also about who we address. Indirect communication, for example, can foster a culture of gossip, secrecy, and suspicion, which prevents us from achieving transparency. Triangulation can result in friends being caught between two people they love. Direct communication will be one of the spiritual practices Reverend Nate explores in the sermon.

Here's a link to the Congregation's Communication Toolkit.


Before Forgiveness

September 26, 2013

Will we have the courage to accept the invitation from our Jewish ancestors and admit our wrongdoings and forgive those whose actions we perceive to be the cause of our suffering? Its it possible to start over and to make simple, realistic requests of the ones we love? Not only is it possible, but frankly, it is necessary. Reconciliation is necessary for our survival. Reverend Nate's extended meditation weaves some of his favorite poetry into this Yom Kippur service, including excerpts and adaptations from: Audre Lorde's "A Litany for Survival"; Von Ogden Vogt's "Before the Sanctities of Life"; Vivian Pomeroy's "Forgive Us"; Robert Hass' "Meditation at Lagunitas" and "Sunrise" and "We asked the Captain."


Liberty: A Vote or a Veto?

June 15, 2013

Liberty is a vote not a veto. Owners of for-profit companies have the freedom to vote their conscience, to speak their mind, to persuade and petition and parade in the public square. This free exercise of speech and religion does not give them the right to unilaterally veto the rights of their employees. Doing so would establish a de facto state religion, where corporations become the nation’s congregations and its owners the high priests.

Excerpted from Nate's article published in

Sightings, Issue: June 6, 2013,

University of Chicago Divinity School

The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion

Read full article.

Prophetic Purpose: Historic First Responders and Future Agenda Setters

May 7, 2013

Unitarian Universalists have made historic contributions to society by playing the role of first responders to oppressive agendas. Historically, first responders have taken bold stances against a wide range of controversial social issues: slavery, segregation, racism, sexism, homophobia, you name it. For generations Unitarian Universalists have effective responded to oppressive agendas. Now is the time for Unitarian Universalists to align our collective assets to become the ethical agenda setters of our time.

This sermon is an extension of his recent keynote titled Prophetic Purpose for the annual meeting of the Central Midwest District of the Unitarian Universalist Association.


Agenda Setters

May 7, 2013

Please vote at http://lookingatdemocracy.org/submissions/14839-agenda-setters

Agenda Setters is a democratic strategy designed to mobilize people throughout the United States to participate in creating laws. An internet town hall forum will feature applicants' ideas, which will be voted on by residents in their Congressional districts. The top proposals will be featured in the national television series Agenda Setters.

It's like American Idol but for democracy!

Each episode will feature the top ten ideas in a related area, such as education or justice. Just like in a television game show, people throughout the country will elect the winners. This will give a platform to the next generation of national agenda setters and their elected officials the political capital to turn their ideas into law.

Special thanks to Jai Rice for converting the PowerPoint presentation into the movie file.

The Future of the Catholic Church

March 31, 2013

Why is Rev. Nate discussing the "future of the Catholic Church?" Because he knows his audience: where else do ex-Catholics in Philadelphia go on Easter but the First Unitarian Church!


Tim Wise: Anti-Racist Activist

May 8, 2012

Tim Wise is among the most prominent anti-racist writers and educators in the United States. Professor Michael Eric Dyson of Georgetown University calls him "One of the most brilliant, articulate and courageous critics of white privilege in the nation." In 2010, Tim was named one of "25 Visionaries Who are Changing Your World," by Utne Reader. Tim has spoken in all 50 states of the U.S., on over 800 college and high school campuses, and to community groups across the nation, including last year at General Assembly of Unitarian Universalists. Tim has also lectured internationally in Canada and Bermuda on issues of comparative racism, race and education, racism and religion, and racism in the labor market.

He spoke at the First Unitarian Church on May 6, 2012 as part of the 200th Birthday of Dr. Martin R. Delany. Martin R. Delany lived an extraordinarily life as a social activist and reformer, black nationalist, abolitionist, physician, reporter and editor, explorer, jurist, realtor, politician, publisher, educator, army officer, ethnographer, novelist, and political and legal theorist.

delany.jpgBorn on May 6, 1812, free, in the slave state of Virginia, Martin Delany's response to white supremacy was to create an Africanist vision of Black Nationalism and Pan-Africanism. A pivotal person of the mid-nineteenth century, he is not well known today. He published Mystery, one of the first African-American newspapers, in Pittsburgh in 1843, and co-edited North Star with Frederick Douglass in 1847. He attended Harvard Medical School in 1850, but was expelled by Oliver Wendell Holmes, then president of Harvard, in response to white student's refusal to attend class with a "colored." Delany organized a number of "emigration" conventions to organize a "back to Africa" movement in the United States and Canada in1850's. He did not just talk about emigration, in 1959 he led an expedition to the Niger Valley, where he negotiated a treaty with the kings of the Yoruba for African-Americans to emigrate. His novel, Blake or the Huts of America, published as a serial in The Anglo-African Magazine in 1859 is one of the first presentations of an African American hero in literature and perhaps the first novel by an African American male. Delany became a recruiter for the Union Army in1863 and after meeting with President Lincoln was appointed the first African American officer, a Major, in the Union Army in1865. He worked with the Freedmen's Bureau in South Carolina during Reconstruction and then stayed in Charleston, South Carolina until 1884. During this period he became involved in Charleston real estate and politics, becoming a judge in 1875. Martin R. Delany died in Wilberforce, Ohio on January 24, 1885.

Welcome Home

March 5, 2012

They were excommunicated, shamed, feared and condemned. They were marginalized for their questions, banished for who they loved... they were the people who are now on a quest for meaning. ~ Rev. Nate Walker, First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia.

Are you the 1%?

December 13, 2011

Rev. Nate Walker struggles to live his own ideals. He says:

"We, as one strong body, are required to lead by being. When we feel the impulse to be the interrogator we must choose to be the generator of visions larger than ourselves. When we feel the impulse to be enraged we must accept the invitation to be empathetic and no longer make people the object of our aggression. When we feel the impulse to be furious we must be curious. When we feel the impulse to be righteous we must transform our soapbox into a music box. Let us dare to be powerfully playful."

"What does justice-making look like, feel like, when we receive hostile communication? Are we hostile in return? Or is something else required of us? What we choose to do is a reflection of who we believe ourselves to be. It all depends on our beliefs about power. I once believed it to be powerful to condemn wrongdoers. I believed it right to tear down another's unexamined assumptions and vaporize those whose presence was not worthy of my attention. I believed that others were the cause of my aggression: others were to blame for my feelings of despair, disappointment and righteousness indignation. Rather than anger being used as a signal it became the solution to all my problems. I felt good to fuel the addiction of righteousness. I was doing justice. I was doing justice. But! I was being an asshole. I am merely five years into my ministry and have long since mastered the art of being an asshole. I have spent far too much energy using the public forum as a battlefield, annihilating those perceived to be my enemy. I have armed myself with faithful friends, so that each time we walked into a room, those present would shade their gaze and whisper in dread, 'The UUs have arrived.' I used to believe that being feared was powerful. I used to believe it was my duty to free the oppressed, but when reacting with righteous anger, guess who became the oppressor? Thich Nhat Hahn says, "I came to set the prisoner free only to realize the prisoner was me."

"We, as seekers of freedom, are required to make justice not simply a product but a process: just actions are the means by which to achieve a justice society. When we observe oppression let us develop strategies that free not only the oppressed but also the oppressor. Those who use their power to deny freedom to others are also imprisoned and are also worthy of care. Do not let their unjust actions inspire us to justify employing cruel means, or else we'll soon become what we set out against. The challenge is this: take up the miseducation of justice making by stripping your conscience of images of equity that claim to manifest through condemnation, through humiliation, through shame and blame and righteousness indignation. No. The craft of justice making begins by marrying a just thought with a just action, inspiring us to collective action: daring to free both the oppressed and the oppressor, for which know what it's been like to be both. Don't get me wrong, stand we must; stand strong and bold, but rather than shoving our foot on the oppressor's neck let us instead reach out a hand, and show them, and even ourselves, a new way of leading by being. I do not know what this new way looks like, yet. But hopefully together we can figure it out."


How Do You Love Somone Seemingly Unlovable?

October 6, 2011

SanctuaryWedding-1.jpgConnie says, "You just do." Nate says, "You just don't." What's your answer?

The First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia: www.PhilaUU.org


Installation Sermon

July 15, 2011

The Church of the Larger Fellowship, a unique congregation of 3,500 that only meets in person at General Assembly, celebrates the installation of its new Senior Minister, Meg Riley. This sermon, delivered by Rev. Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia, speaks of the saving message of Unitarian Universalism.


Reimagining Social Justice: Imagination as a Spiritual Practice

July 15, 2011

It is a moral imperative to train social justice leaders how to mindfully harness the generative power of the imagination – to see the world through the eyes of another. This interactive and spiritually nurturing workshop will empower social justice leaders to use the moral imagination to achieve true transformation. ~ Rev. Nate Walker offered this presentation on Saturday, 25 June 2011 at the General Assembly of Unitarian Universalist Congregations.

Laura’s Love: Founding First School for Freed Slaves

July 15, 2011

Unitarian Laura Matilda Towne, a white woman, established the first school for freed slaves months after the Civil War began. After her death in 1901, the Penn School continued as a beacon for racial justice. How did the abolitionist ministry of Priestly and Furness influence Towne? How does her story influence us? ~ Panel Presentation delivered on Thursday, June 23, 2011 at the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.


Why Do We Paint the Roses Red?

May 3, 2011

A Flower Communion sermon where Reverend Nate draws upon Lewis Carroll's "Alice in Wonderland" to ask, "why do we paint the roses red?"

Click to watch: http://youtu.be/OneRqB1LJy4

Is Liberal Religion a “Saving” Faith?

May 3, 2011

"If we really want to build a progressive, prophetic religion then we must be the ethical agenda-setters of our time. We cannot solely base our public actions on the reactions to conservative agendas. We need to rise up and make a bold and clear stance by saying that religious oppression, religious exclusion, and religious violence are illegitimate - period."

"We are saved when we stop giving new answers to old questions," says Reverend Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. "The question is not 'what happens when we die," but 'what happens when we kill?'" In this bold and provocative sermon, Reverend Nate calls Unitarian Universalism to be a truly progressive and prophetic faith by saving us from participating in systems of oppression and violence. Full text at: http://bit.ly/aSavingFaith

Click here to watch: http://youtu.be/x25aGvrkgGU

Are We Hardwired for Belief?

March 14, 2011

Three stories of faith reveal how it is natural for us to use our brain to make meaning of our lives. What's the science behind belief? Is there a physiological explanation for why humans throughout time have developed creeds and dogma? Is it natural for us to express our values and if so, why? What does science have to say about why people turn to religion? Do humans rely on belief systems during certain times of their lives more than others? If so, why? What happens when those beliefs are challenged and deemed obsolete? Where do we turn if we no longer believe but may feel like we are hardwired to turn to religious beliefs?  Click here to watch.

Is there such a thing as “the one”?

March 13, 2011

Are we destined to love only one person? Is there such a thing as a single Soul Mate? Or could it be that love comes in many forms and changes over time? Some people experience that evolving love with one person over a lifetime, others experience different kinds of love with different people. Reverend Nate's Valentine's sermon will reflect upon the nature of love and how it is manifested in intimate relationships.

Click here to watch the video or press play below.

A Nation of Religious Minorities

March 13, 2011

We need not wait for some future increase in non-western religions for the United States to face the complexities of diversity, because the problem of governing pluralism has always existed and will continue into the future. What is changing is our awareness that the United States is and will continue to be a nation of religious minorities.

Click here to read full text with footnotes.

~ Reverend Nate is indebted to the insightful comments of those who responded to my request for feedback: Natalie Aydin, Reverend Paul Beedle, Justine Blau, Jeff Frankl, Ed Greenlee, Reverend Alex Holt, Eric Isaacson, Dan Johnson, Stephen Kramer, Linda Lord, Kate Luhr, Anne Slater, Mary Stomquist, and Dan Widyono.


What if Jared Loughner were Mexican?

January 16, 2011

Reverend Nate turns from a sermon intended to be about white privilege to the subject of the polemic nature of our political discourse, of which we are all a part. He examines his own thoughts and actions in relation to the assassination attempt of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords as well as the words Sarah Palin and Rush Limbaugh. Reverend Nate reflects upon the struggle of playing the middle, of being the bridge, as articulated by poet Donna Kate Rushin.

Click here to read or press the play button below to listen or click here for the YouTube video.


What Are You Willing To Be Jailed For?

January 9, 2011

What moral stance would lead you to break a civil law? For what social justice issue would you be willing to put yourself at odds with the police? Reverend Nate reflects upon the nature and effectiveness of non-violent civil disobedience in relation to some of the most morally compelling issues of our time. He does so by reflecting upon Derren Brown's reenactment of the Milgram experiment conducted by Stanley in 1963. Click here to watch the 9 minute video before listening to the audio sermon.


Language as a Generative Act

November 14, 2010

A healthy congregation is one whose members cultivate a culture of direct communication while practicing deep listening and loving speech. In this way, language is used to open-up meaning rather than used to demean an idea or a person. It is not only about the words we use but who we address. Indirect communication, for example, can foster a culture of gossip, secrecy and suspicion, which prevents us from achieving the goal of transparency. Direct communication will be one of the spiritual practices Rev. Nate explores in the sermon entitled, "Language as a Generative Act," a term used in the Newfeld communication model. For a sample "Communication Toolkit" please visit http://philauu.org/page/communication-toolkit.  Until then, here's a clip of the sermon.

What if the Tea Party were Black?

October 24, 2010

In the context of the midterm elections, Reverend Nate will serve as a race critic by asking, “What if the Tea Party were Black?” Specifically, he will draw upon questions asked by Tim Wise, “Imagine that hundreds of black protesters descended on DC armed with AK-47s. Would they be defined as patriotic Americans?” Reverend Nate will draw upon the history of the Black Power movement and political examinations of the rise of the Tea Party in America. Click here to watch video.

What Unites Unitarian Universalists?

October 17, 2010

Reverend Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia asks, "What unites Unitarian Universalists?" Paul responded "respect for one another"; Ranwa said "our differences unite us"; Whitney and Kim said "love"; and Peter said "hope"; Manish said "ethics"; Paul said "the magnetic pull of acceptance"; Leroy said "what unites me with other Unitarian Universalists is a lack of belief in the supernatural explanations for the universe"; Jean Sue said, "the inability to blindly believe unites us"; and Janet says that "compassion" unites us "and a willingness - in fact a need - to question assumptions"; while Ed said that we are united by the ability to "appreciate a good question as much as if not more than answers." How would you answer this question?

Forgive & Forget?

September 26, 2010

An "object sermon" delivered on Yom Kippur. Part I is about the two "F" words - forgive and forget. Part II is about the two "R" words - reconcile and remember.

How do we contribute to Islamophobia?

September 12, 2010

islamophobiaIn his first sermon of the year-long series on “Big Questions,” Reverend Nate asks, “How do we contribute to Islamophobia?” He will reflect upon the prejudice that Muslims are currently facing with the building of the Community Center at Park51, the proposed Islamic Center in lower Manhattan. He will draw upon political and sociological data to reflect upon the religious conflicts that are being played out before these mid-term elections.

For more information about the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia visit www.PhilaUU.org.


30,000 visits to this PodCast!

August 21, 2010

Special thanks goes out to all of you who helped this podcast see over 30,000 visits! Peace, Nate

Ministry with Monsanto

July 18, 2010

Directors from Monsanto came to the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia for dinner to discuss the ethics of biotechnology. When asked, "will you vow to do no harm," Monsanto replied, "We already do no harm." Listen to Reverend Nate Walker's summary of Monsanto's response to the proposal to develop a modern Hippocratic Oath that could lead the entire field of biotechnology to "do no harm, to do good, and to be just." Click here for the full text: http://bit.ly/agEV5f



April 12, 2010

Why does a 4-year-old keep throwing his mother's Blackberry in the toilet? Why does a 12-year-old listen to an iPod while holding a dead baby? How can the century's technological advances be matched by comparable advances in human relations? Rev. Nate reflects upon these questions in the context of a sermon entitled iMinistry.

Smile: You’re Sexy!

March 8, 2010

A sermon by the Irreverent Nate Walker offered at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia on Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 11:00 am. smile_you_are_sexy.jpg


Theological Capitolism

March 6, 2010

In response to the Camel & Eye of a Needle parable Rev. Nate asks, "Why should the wealthy man's net worth be used to demean his inherent worth?" This sermon by Rev. Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia is about the interlocking oppressions of class, race and gender.

iWedding: Skype Connects Families abroad

February 27, 2010

iWedding at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. Present for their ceremony were the groom's parents and two friends, and thanks to Skype's video conferencing, the bride's mother and aunt in the Ukraine and the groom's sister and brother-in-law in Los Angeles. The pulpit was moved into the isle of the chapel in order to hold the two wireless laptops. The families in Ukraine and L.A. had a good view of this intercontinental ceremony.

Blasphemy Laws

February 21, 2010

Rev. Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia recently joined an Amici Curiae brief for the case Kalman v. Cortes, which charges a Philadelphia man for blasphemy for trying to name is film company "I Choose Hell" productions. In this sermon, Rev. Nate defends Kalman's right to freedom of belief and speech. He will do so by drawing upon the legacy of various Unitarians and Universalists who were imprisoned, exiled and killed for their so called blasphemous beliefs. Given this history, Rev. Nate will articulate how Unitarian Universalists are poised to help overturn the current blasphemy laws in Pennsylvania. For the complete text click here, including footnotes click here.


Palin Inspires Rev. Nate to write sermon on hand

February 14, 2010

"Re-imagining Valentine's Day" at the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia with the national Standing on the Side of Love campaign. Stay tuned for Reverend Nate's sermon next week, where he will use his portable teleprompter.

Building Beloved Community

January 18, 2010

Our church ain't no country club, and ain't no intellectual secret society, and ain't no navel gazing hum-didy-dum cult. It's an intentionally diverse congregation made up of people who seek to lead meaningful lives, and to build a just and sustainable world. So when you come to me, the elected leader of this historic congregation, come not to expect that some passive clergyman will coddle you to the point of complacency. Come to me as your PST: your Personal Spiritual Trainer."

Monsanto’s 21st Century Oath: Do No Harm

January 11, 2010

In preparation for his meeting with executives at Monsanto in St. Louis, MO, Reverend Nate Walker of the First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia reflects upon three principles of biomedical ethics: (1) nonmaleficence, do no harm; (2) beneficence, generous acts of doing good; and (3) distributive justice, achieved through the fair, equitable and appropriate distribution of food. This sermon demonstrates how the "Grant Oath" can inspire the entire field of biotechnology to prevent harm, remove harmful conditions, and offer benefits to people, animals and the environment. Visit http://bit.ly/5DXibT for the sermon text, including footnotes, which is part II of his series on Sovereign Seeds, a public letter delivered to the CEO of Monsanto on November 1, 2009. Visit http://bit.ly/4oDHcv to listen/read this original sermon.