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Sun Dec 9:  e-Communitarian  *  Minister  *  RE  *  Music  *  Practice: Have a Better Holiday (Occasional)


Religious Education News: Sun Dec 16

Last Sunday's Children’s Worship for grades K–5 was a multi-purpose event. Lyra Harada, our children's music director, was at the forefront “up close and personal,” engaging the children. The students all gathered around as Lyra described the beauty and function of the piano and led them in song. The children then worked together on a joint project writing holiday cards to our home-bound congregants. Each class group was responsible for a specific part of the creation so that they “all” contributed to the cards, which this week will be placed in gift baskets to be delivered. The activity was expertly facilitated by RE Council members and the enthusiasm and fun was clearly visible. Back in the classrooms, grade 2–3 had a very thoughtful and interesting hour with Doreen Rossi and Norm Handelman. The kids explored the importance of thinking about choices before voting, and learned that decisions sometimes have to be made beforehand about what is right or wrong. The teachers segued into an imaginative story Hey, Little Ant, where a little boy is determined to squish an ant, who in turn gives him reasons not to. The children thought about how insects help us and how they should be treated. As an added bonus, the students created their very own insects from construction paper and pipe cleaners! Regardless of season or events, the quality of Religious Education for our children and youth remains constant, and enables our wonderful teachers to utilize resourcefulness, creativity, and dedication to inspire and motivate their students. The holidays are fast upon us and as we reflect on peace and joy, let us not overlook the tremendous gift we are given year ‘round, and that is our children and volunteer teachers!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

Looking ahead...

This Sun Dec 16
All ages are in the sanctuary for our No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant. As the story unfolds, you become Mary, Joseph, goats, sheep, cows, horses, angels, shepherds, and wise folk. Join us for Christmas music, the story, and a reflection. Costumes provided; just bring a joyful spirit.

After the service, come enjoy our Holiday Community Meal in Fellowship Hall, and then the annual Holiday Concert with the CUUC Choir in the sanctuary at 12:30 pm.

Help us Decorate the Mitten Tree
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes and place them on the Mitten Tree in the sanctuary. These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters: The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House. Help us bring physical and emotional warmth to their holiday season.


Music: Sun Dec 16

Christmas-themed music from many lands is featured this Sunday morning. The Catalan composer Federico Mompou provides a jazz-inflected treatment of a popular regional Christmas carol, “El noi de la mare” (The Mother’s Son), in the “song” portion of his third Canción y danza, coupling the tender melody to a lively sardana, or traditional circle dance, in the “dance” portion. His Pessebres (Crèches) are similarly delicate and folkloric in tone, although one smiles at the allusion to the Catalonian tradition of including animal dung in Nativity scenes. The Opening Music includes one of Johannes Brahms’s settings of a 16th-century Lutheran chorale, Es ist ein Ros entsprungen (“Lo, how a rose e'er blooming”), originally scored for organ, but played this morning in a transcription for piano by Ferruccio Busoni. The Offertory features “December” from Tchaikovsky’s cycle of monthly piano works, commissioned by a St. Petersburg music journal. The piece is widely known by its subtitle, “Christmas.” Finally, Donald Waxman, the composer of numerous collections of effective teaching pieces for piano students, furnishes lively arrangements of two traditional Christmas melodies, one French, the other English. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
            I. Pessebres
            II. L’Ermita
            III. El Pastor
Canción y danza No. 3
                                                Federico Mompou

Opening Music:
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen
                                                            Johannes Brahms, arr. by Ferruccio Busoni

Christmas, Op. 37, No. 12
                                                Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Speical Music:
Chantons tous, je vous prie
“The Boar’s Head Carol“
                                    Traditional Carols arr. by Donald Waxman


Religious Education News: Sun Dec 9

“Tis the season” for joy and celebration! To all a Happy Hanukkah, which began Sunday evening. What a wonderful image of the warmth of the celebration of lights that is exhibited by our decorative lights and our inner glow. Sunday’s service soared with the joined singing of children, families, and choir. The RE children had the opportunity to be mesmerized by the Wonder Box Story, told with great humor by Rev. Garmon. Curiosity was the theme and how that can help us or get us in trouble. In the case of the curiosity of cats, these creatures certainly have a penchant for searching out new territories, investigating unknown objects and people, and looking for fun. Seems to me there is a striking resemblance to our students, who are always learning, exploring, and having a good time in RE. Curiosity at CUUC has certainly not killed any cats. Instead it has promoted growth and kindness in our RE “cool cats”! RE classes resumed in full force and it appears that everyone was very involved and engaged being back. The sanctuary now has its Mitten Tree! Also, with the help of Christine Haran and Janice Silverberg, all of the decorations made by the classes are now on display. When I finished up the decorating on Tuesday morning, I stood alone in the quiet of the sanctuary admiring the beauty created by the children and young adults. In one singular moment, I realized I was seeing so much more than paper decorations of red and green and blue and white. What I witnessed was the tangible expression of who we are at CUUC. There were the paper chains in colors that showed diversity. I saw links and strength. All the decorations had continuity and oneness. How profound to recognize the principles we share among ourselves and others through a simple paper decoration at this time of year, but more importantly all year ‘round. The inner peace and love of humanity is not only the core of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, but a reflection of who we all are.

Michele Rinaldi,
Religious Education Coordinator

A look at what's coming up...

RE This Sun Dec 9
Grades K-5 start in the Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship and music with children's music director Lyra Harada. Grades 6-12 start in classrooms. Parent Orientation for Grade 8-9 Our Whole Lives (OWL) starts at 11:40am in room 11.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Dec 7, Fireside Area & Classrooms
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include Adult RE and Family Journey Group. Adults may also just come for a slice and unstructured social time together. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to by 12:00 noon on Friday.

Holiday Giving Opportunities

Gently Used Children's Books and Toys Drive for the Ecumenical Food Pantry, through this Sun Dec 9
Bring in gently used kids' books and toys for our collection to benefit clients of the Ecumenical Food Pantry. We are also collecting stuffed animals (must be new or like new). Contact: Mary Cavallero ( for information or to volunteer to distribute.

Gift Cards for Coachman Family Center, Sign Up Sun Dec 9; Bring In Wrapped and Tagged Gift Cards Sun Dec 16
Help a family at the Coachman shelter by signing up to purchase a $25 gift card for their school-age children. This Sunday we will have lists available with the age and gender of the children, and the type of card they prefer. Please box and wrap the gift cards, tag with the child's name and room number, and bring to CUUC by Sun Dec 16. Contact: Ray Messing (

Personal Items for Shelter Residents, through Sun Dec 30
New socks, men's underwear (L & XL), women’s underwear, and toiletries will be collected throughout December for residents of local shelters. Posters from our Religious Education students help spread the word! Contact: Ray Messing (

The Mitten Tree is Here!
Help us decorate the tree with your donations of mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for all ages and sizes. Share the gift of warmth! We are collecting throughout December. Items will be given to the men, women, and children of local shelters: The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House. Contact: Ray Messing (

From the Minister, Thu Dec 6

"Peace on Earth," as I wrote last week, is a key phrase of the Christmas season. I urged that we also think about Justice on Earth. The second phrase of what the heavenly host proclaimed to the shepherds is, as you may recall: "...good will to all."

(Note: That's not the more authoritative version of what they said. The NRSV gives: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favors!” That is, the peace is limited to only those toward whom God has good will. The NRSV, however, has a footnote: "Other ancient authorities read peace, goodwill among people." So, the oldest sources we have for the Gospel of Luke include two strikingly different versions of what the heavenly host said to the shepherds. Still, it's the "other ancient authorities" that are better known in popular culture, so in this case, let's go with the footnote rather than the main text: "On earth peace, goodwill among people.")

Does goodwill provide justice? Nope. Good will is better than ill will -- usually -- but good will is not enough. You can have the best intent in the world, but if you're negligent, you're still at fault.

Citing good intentions doesn't get us off the hook for harm we've done, howsoever inadvertently. I was reminded of this when I heard Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi apologize recently. She had praised a supporter by saying, "If he invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." The words evoked her state's sordid history with lynching -- and did so in the context of a campaign in which her opponent was a black man. Her apology: "For anyone who was offended by my comments, I certainly apologize. There was no ill will, no intent whatsoever in my statements."

If you have no fence or enclosure around your backyard swimming pool, you're negligent. If the neighbor's child drowns in it, you're liable. It doesn't matter how good your intent was. That you didn't mean to cause harm is beside the point. Either Sen. Hyde-Smith wasn't paying attention enough to know what words cause harm in the context of America's past and present, or she knew but didn't care. Either way, she was negligent. Good intentions are no defense against negligence.

Over and over, we see white people excusing themselves by citing their intentions. It's infuriating how often this tactic is used, and how it's almost always white people expecting absolution on the basis of their intentions. (The dominant US culture rarely wonders what a black person's intent might be.) I used to be such a white person myself. Brit Bennett's heart-breaking essay from four years ago (HERE) helped shift my awareness.

"Goodwill among people" achieves no justice when the people are negligent.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit /New:
Index of past sermons: HERE.
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

The Dec 2 sermon, "Three Curiosities":

Practice of the Week: Have a Better Holiday /Occasional. Here are four steps to a better Christmas or Hanukkah: 1. Visualize the holiday you want. 2. Seek creative ways to avoid what you don't like about the Holidays. 3. Give a present to your self. 4. Plan ahead for something that you'd truly like to do. How? READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: Essential /What is "explain"? What exactly are we doing when we "explain"? There is the fact -- the thing that happened -- and then there is the "explanation" of the fact. Explanations place phenomena within a context of meaning -- which is essential, right? But the phenomena themselves, always both more and less than their explanation, are "more essential."

One evening during the question period, Owl asked Raven, "How important are the words of the Buddha Macaw and her successors to our practice?"
Raven said, "Essential."
"Is there anything more essential?" asked Owl.
Raven said, "The bullfrog calls his mate."
Owl was silent but did not return to his place in the circle.
Raven continued, "You see, Owl, the Buddha Macaw explains it."
Owl asked, "What does she explain?"
Raven cawed.
Whitman's Verse (from Song of Myself, III)
There was never any more inception than there is now,
Nor any more youth or age than there is now,
And will never be any more perfection than there is now,
Nor any more heaven or hell than there is now.

Urge and urge and urge,
Always the procreant urge of the world.
Out of the dimness opposite equals advance, always substance and increase, always sex,
Always a knit of identity, always distinction, always a breed of life.
To elaborate is no avail, learn’d and unlearn’d feel that it is so.

I and this mystery here we stand.
Clear and sweet is my soul, and clear and sweet is all that is not my soul.
Hotetsu's Verse
Urge and urge and urge . . . To elaborate is no avail.
To no avail, yet essential.
Until, one day, not.
The uselessness of explanation
Must be explained, which does not suffice,
But to us afflicted with the rash,
the placebo salve helps us not scratch.

Everything depends upon bullfrog call, raven caw,
(and a red wheel barrow, if you've got one).
The signs may be divined
-- not for meaning, for beauty --
When symbol subdues symbol,
Colonel orders Captain to retreat,
And the battlefield is clear.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and "Hotetsu's Verse" by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC, Sat Dec 8: HERE


Have a Better Holiday

Practice of the Week
Have a Better Holiday

Category: Occasional (in this case, once a year)

'Twas the week before Christmas and in my own house I was frantic and hurrying, and felt like a louse. That was five years ago. That day I vowed I would never again get sucked into the hype of “Christmas Spirit.” Instead of running around, fighting traffic, and losing my temper with store clerks, I decided I would do whatever it took to really enjoy the holidays. After all, it's supposed to be a time of celebration and spiritual renewal. Why not make it into one? Of course, if you're at all like I was, enjoying yourself during the holidays will require changing your approach.

Four simple keys can turn hurried holidays into heavenly Holy days.

1. Visualize the holiday you want.

To help you do this, remember the original purpose of the holiday season. Christmas and Hanukkah both represent a time to appreciate the blessings of life, God's grace, and the end of darkness and the beginning of new light and hope. Can you remember a Christmas/Hanukkah memory from your childhood that was filled with joy, comfort, and love? That's really what we all want to experience during the holidays.

Yet, sometimes it seems we're being led down a fast-flowing river toward stress, insecurity, and sadness. By having a clear picture of what a truly happy holiday season would be like, you have a fighting chance to create what you want. Without your own unique holiday “fantasy" to hold onto, you're likely to be swept into the currents of what everybody around you is doing.

Once you have an idea of what you'd like to experience during the holidays, your next step is,

2. Seek creative ways to avoid what you don't like about the Holidays.

For example, if you don't enjoy running around buying a lot of presents, then don't. Most people ask themselves the wrong question when it comes to planning their winter holiday. Subconsciously, they think, “What should I do now that it's the holiday season?" If you "should all over yourself, you'll never enjoy Christmas. Instead, it's better to ask yourself, “What would I love to do to spread joy and good cheer this time of year?” Listen for your own unique answer to that question. By following your heart, you'll feel the joy of Christmas, and enliven the spirits of those you love.

Each year when I ask, "What would I love to do this holiday season?" I get a different answer. One year I decided to simply write letters to friends and family and tell them how much I appreciated them. During another Christmas I sent people copies of favorite stories and jokes I had collected during the previous twelve months. No two Christmas seasons are the same. This year I've collected my favorite comics, copied them, and sent them to people I love. Although I rarely buy actual presents, many people have said they appreciate my gifts more than anything else they receive for Christmas. People like things that have a personal touch to them. How might you share with your family something that has brought you a smile or touched you in a special way? If you don't like to buy expensive presents, figure out alternative ways to express your love.

A third way to keep the spirit of the holidays alive is,

3. Give a present to your self.

I don't mean another sweater or necktie. I mean something that will help you to experience the joy, peace, and sacredness of life.

Last year, my partner and I spent three days in Yosemite in the middle of December. Leaving the craziness of city life for the grandeur of nature was the best present possible for both of us. This year we plan to go to a desert resort. As we sink into a jacuzzi bath while listening to Mozart, we'll be sure to reminisce about the madness we left behind back home. What would be some treat you could give to yourself that would add meaning, joy, and relaxation to your winter season? Schedule it in now, before you get too swept up in the Christmas rush.

Lastly, to have a truly Merry Christmas or Happy Hanukkah,

4. Plan ahead for something that you'd truly like to do.

If you're not spending the holidays with your family, call some friends and see if they're available. Perhaps you can create a meal together, play a fun board game such as Pictionary or Monopoly, or simply have a meaningful conversation. The book Life's Big Questions has over 200 questions that can spark lively conversations and help keep the spirit of your holiday alive.

Perhaps around a holiday dinner you can ask your friends and family questions such as:
1. What's your favorite Christmas/Hanukkah memory?
2. What was one of the most special moments you experienced this past year?
3. What are you truly grateful for in your life right now?
4. What was the worst Christmas/Hanukkah gift you ever received?
5. What gives you a real sense of joy in life?

Asking questions like these to those you love can help bring intimacy and a sense of the sacred back into the holiday season. Your fondest Christmas memories are probably not of presents you've been given, but of special times you've spent with people you cared about. Having a really good conversation with a friend or family member can be one of the best "gifts” you ever receive.

The holiday season is not a time of ease and joy for most of us. If you plan to have a good holiday season, you need to be deliberate about creating a sacred time, either for just yourself or with the people you care about. By following your heart and keeping true to the original purpose of the Season, you can make this your best holiday season ever.

* * *


Music: Sun Dec 9

Jazz artist Vince Guaraldi, of Peanuts fame, is featured in original compositions as well as arrangements of beloved holiday favorites this morning. The CUUC Choir is on hand with a preview of Benjamin Britten’s A Ceremony of Carols, a work included in the ensemble’s upcoming Holiday Concert on 12/16, and a popular Spiritual completes the morning’s musical selections. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
O Tannenbaum    
Christmas Is Coming   
What Child Is This      
Linus and Lucy    
                        Arrangements and Original Works by Vince Guaraldi

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
 Wolcum Yole!     from A Ceremony of Carols
Benjamin Britten

Offertory: Christian Force, percussion
My Little Drum    
Vince Guaraldi

Anthem: Mary Lane Cobb, soloist
Hush, Somebody’s Callin’ My Name       
  American Spiritual, arr. by Brazeal W. Dennard



On the Journey: Curiosity

The Dec issue of "On the Journey" has arrived! HERE
This month, we explore CURIOSITY. Don't miss it, and don't miss your Journey Group meeting to get together to work with this issue!

Check In, p. 1. How has your month been, and what’s one thing that piqued your curiosity in the last month?

1. (From p. 2) How might the word “curiosity” have gotten from the archaic meaning (carefulness, fastidiousness, attention to detail) to its modern meaning? What happened in our culture that would have shifted “curiosity” from the mostly bad sense that it had in Middle English – (prying, meddlesome, nosy), to the more positive associations with the word today? How do you see “curiosity” connected to “care”?

2. (From p. 3): Are there things better not pried into – as Whitman and Davies suggest? Fulton, too, suggests “new is a hooligan.” What is lost by holding everything open to interrogation?

3. (From p. 4) Which quotations resonate with you?

4. What kills curiosity?

5. How curious a person are you? Average? More curious or less curious than average?

6. If you were to become more curious than you are now, would that be advantageous?

7. What are you curious to know about curiosity itself?

8. When is curiosity a bad thing?

9. Suppose you could snap your fingers and double the level of curiosity that humanity in general has about one subject of your choosing. What subject would you choose? Why?

10. Which do is more important: curiosity to arrive at a definite knowledge, or curiosity about questions that can have no final answer?

11. What’s more the more important in human life: knowing, or the process of finding out? (Has Google deprived us of something by making finding out so many answers so easy?)

12. We are curious for knowledge. Are we curious for wisdom? (And what’s the difference between knowledge and wisdom?)

13. Is judging really a bad thing? Is curiosity really a cure?

14. Is there a different question about curiosity that is niggling at you? What is it?

EXERCISE (p. 11): Fill out this eight-question Curiosity self-assessment

The link to the current and all past issues of On the Journey can always be found at