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Sun Mar 17 News:  e-Communitarian  *  Minister  *  RE  *  Practice: Being Animal (Ecospiritual)  *  On the Journey: Humility

2019-03-21

Religious Education News: Sun Mar 24

In addition to being St. Patrick’s Day, March the 17th was also a day of celebration, unity, and shared faith at CUUC. It was a beautiful multigenerational gathering of our five Westchester UU congregations, each one contributing their thoughts and prayers as well as music. It was the first time that we had set up a “quiet play” area in the sanctuary where the children could enjoy simple activities while experiencing the words, music, and rituals of our faith. The area had a big welcoming rug, cushions, and bright lime green milk crates filled with books, stickers, puzzles, etc. We also had on hand our usual Sunday “quiet boxes” (recently replenished thanks to Kim Force), which kids could keep with them if they chose to sit with their families instead. Some parents took advantage of sitting in the quiet area as well, to be near their children. At first the children were a little reticent about sitting in a separate area, but one by one curiosity got the best of them and before we knew it there was a bevy of activity, children working together on puzzles, laughing, and their voices at a decibel level that did not disturb the service. I felt like the Pied Piper with 15 children spilling over the area, much to my delight. This integrated RE “class,” if you will, proved to be a successful and impactful exercise for the children, promoting independence and collaborative sharing. What an affirming demonstration of honoring and rejoicing in our little UU congregants! Simultaneously, while the service was taking place, there was a breakfast for the 6th through 12th grade youth of several congregations. This forum enabled neighboring DREs and assorted advisors –- including our Cyndi Tillman, UUCHV’s Jane Podell, and CUUC’s soon-to-be DLRE Tracy Breneman –- to meet the youth, and afforded the youth an opportunity to socialize, discuss issues and ideas of relevance to them, but most importantly worship as a group of newly discovered friends. We have all walked away from this event not only gratified but re-energized as well. It is our hope that we can continue the children’s quiet area on a semi-regular basis, and strive to engage and attract our older youth in taking an active part in designing and facilitating their own youth program in tandem with the youth counselors. These options for all the children provide inclusion, dedication, and an avenue by which to grow in mind and spirit.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, March 24
Grades K-7 start in the sanctuary to listen to the Centering Music performed by our special musical guests, Jazz pianist Valerie Capers with John Robinson. The kids then move to Fellowship Hall for our Environmental Sunday program, led by the CUUC Environmental Practices Group. Grades 8-12 start in their classrooms.

Upcoming Youth Cons
The Metro NY Social cons (conferences) provide a safe space for UU youth from NY, CT, and NJ to meet, bond, and explore their religious identities together through worship, workshops, and fun! (They are also a great place for adult advisors to connect and support one another!)

Metro NY Youth Conference, March 29-31, UU Congregation of Danbury, CT
Our spring Youth Con in Danbury is for kids in grades 9-12. At cons district youth meet one another, build community, explore their religious identity, create worship, practice leadership, and have fun. Information and registration links HERE. Registrar is Monica Schlichting (monikai@optonline.net).

Metro NY Spring Junior High Youth Conference, April 6-7, CUUC
Registration is open! This 24-hour event for youth in grades 6-8 is a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth. Information and registration links HERE. Questions about programming? Contact Denice Tomlinson (denice1uu@yahoo.com). Questions about registration? Contact Charlie Neiss(cneiss@aol.com).

Help Feed Our Visiting Junior High Youth
Volunteers are needed to bring food items and cooked dishes on Sat Apr 6 to provide meals and snacks for the kids and adult advisors attending the Junior High Youth Con. Please contact CUUCevents@gmail.com to learn more.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com).

2019-03-20

Music: Sun Mar 24



Welcome back jazz legends Valerie Capers and John Robinson, two of CUUC’s most beloved guest performers! And, be sure to attend our annual Jazzfest! Event on Saturday evening, May 18 with the Valerie Capers Trio. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Valerie Capers, piano; John Robinson, guitar
“Some Other Time”
                            Leonard Bernstein

Opening Music: 
“Don’t Get Around Much Any More”
                                    Duke  Ellington.

Offertory:
“In a Mellow Tone” 
                                     Ellington

Interlude: 
 “Brotherhood Begins with You and Me”  from In Praise of Freedom 
                           Valerie Capers

Postlude:
“One Note Samba”
                            Antonio Carlos Jobim. 

2019-03-16

From the Minister, Sun Mar 17

Fri Mar 15

Dear Ones,

I got a call from Yency today that I wanted to tell you about. Down in Charlotte, NC, where he lives, a new sheriff was elected for the county (Mecklenberg) in 2018 Nov. The new sheriff, Gary McFadden, had campaigned on a promise to end the county’s participation in 287-g – a controversial program in which the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) deputizes state and local law enforcement officers to enforce federal immigration law.

On McFadden’s first day in office he made good on his promise, and ended local law enforcement’s participation on immigration law. Yency told me that the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was not pleased with McFadden’s decision and has been exacting retribution against Mecklenberg County by stepping up the number of raids. In vans disguised to look like a construction company vehicle, ICE has been all over town, day after day. They nab the undocumented at convenience stores or at their homes. They block off intersections and check each car they suspect of containing undocumented workers.

Miguel Maldanado was recently taken into custody – Miguel is a cousin of Yency’s spouse, Evelin. Miguel had no criminal record, and so was allowed to go – provided that $12,000 in bail was posted. A friend of Miguel’s, apprehended at the same time, had a traffic violation. It was probably Driving Without a License, Yency said. The undocumented do a lot of driving without a license since North Carolina law doesn’t allow them to get a license. Because of the violation, Miguel’s friend was deported.

$12,000 for bail represented a significant hardship for Miguel – and for the extended family and friends who chipped in to raise the amount. But it would have been even worse to not have been able to get back to work.

The immigrant community in Charlotte – as in much of the country – lives under a constant threat of their families being torn apart. Tragic and cruel deportations are common and the shadow of fear is unrelenting.

This wrong is devastating to its direct victims and distressing to all people of conscience. The fact that it is happening to my own family doesn’t make it more distressing. But it does have a way of sharpening my awareness of it.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Being Animal We are deeply embedded in a grand story, an epic tale beyond any we could imagine -- a small part of which tells of our own waking up to the beauty of the interconnected web of which we are NOT at the center. Surely there is spiritual sustenance here: wonder, awe, and common ground to bind us. We have only begun to appreciate the fullness this spirituality offers. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: What Is Mind? Grandma was in #63-#68. Then Grandma and Granddaughter together were in #73 (where Grandma told Granddaughter to follow her bliss) and #80 (where they discussed reading).

Dogen (1200-1253) said, "Mind is no other than mountains and rivers and the great wide earth, the sun and the moon and the stars."
When asked "What is Buddha?" Mazu (709-88) answered, "Mind is Buddha." (But Mazu later said, "There is neither mind nor Buddha.")

As for whether anything will do, it's like what the life of your as-yet-unborn grandchild will be about. Although it could be anything, not just anything will do. What doesn't fit doesn't fit.

Case
Sitting around after supper one night, Granddaughter looked up from a book she was reading and asked, "What is mind?"
Grandma said, "Kitty is crying for food."
Granddaughter asked, "Do you mean anything will do?"
Grandma said, "No."
Granddaughter waited for more, but Grandma had returned to her knitting. She sighed and got up up to feed he cat.
Later, Turkey reported this to Raven and asked her opinion. Raven croaked, and then croaked again.
Turkey asked, "Will that do it?"
Raven said, "Apparently not."
Verse
It's like this, I've heard.
The brain -- yours, mine, a beetle's,
A dolphin's, a dog's, a bacterium's,
a turtle's, a penguin's, a carp's --
Extends through the nervous system,
And to the body, and to the world
That tickles the senses,
To fire motor neurons, or something,
To tickle back.

This being so --
The world being made of micro and macro
Tickle-loops everywhere, endless and beginningless --
Where is mind to be found?
Where not?
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
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2019-03-15

Religious Education News: Sun Mar 17

A busy Sunday unfolded last week in RE as the children had another opportunity to engage with Perry on the theme of humility. He conducted a “voting with your feet” contest by posing questions or scenarios that were either humble or bragging. One side of the room was “true” and the other “false.” The answers were flying as well as the feet and the children were eager to get all the answers right! A few weeks ago, Perry and I facilitated a Teacher Enrichment session after worship. The turnout was good, with approximately 15 teachers. Afterward, everyone voiced strong interest in having another session, so we complied with our second edition this past Sunday. There were fewer teachers, but the intimacy of the small group lent itself well to a deeper and more focused discussion. The conversation was productive, blossoming into areas of teaching style, issues with students, class dynamics, etc. Ideas and suggestions thrown out by Perry for possible future RE reorganization were intriguing and prompted many opinions. Once again we ran out of time too soon, opening the possibility of continuing these discussions in the future. Our hope in responding to teachers’ needs and concerns is that we broaden our vested interest and commitment and, more importantly, solidify our community as colleagues.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, March 17
Grades K-5 are in the sanctuary for our multigenerational Westchester UU Congregations combined worship. Kids can sit with parents or use the area set aside for quiet play. Grades 6th-12th are invited to the youth room (14) for breakfast, worship, conversation, and activity planning.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com).

Metro NY Youth Conference, March 29-31, UU Congregation of Danbury, CT
Our spring Youth Con in Danbury is for kids in grades 9-12. At cons district youth meet one another, build community, explore their religious identity, create worship, practice leadership, and have fun. Information and registration links HERE. Registrar is Monica Schlichting (monikai@optonline.net).

Metro NY Spring Junior High Youth Conference, April 6-7, CUUC
Registration is open! This 24-hour event for youth in grades 6-8 is a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth. Information and registration links HERE. Registrar is Charlie Neiss (cneiss@aol.com).

2019-03-14

Being Animal

Practice of the Week
Being Animal

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.


Your genetic similarity to any other human is about 99.9%. You’re about 96% genetically the same as a chimpanzee, about 90% the same as a cat, 85% the same as a mouse, 80% the same as a cow. How about a fruit fly, a chicken, or a banana? Each of these three is about 60% genetically the same as a human.

The common ancestor of humans, chimps, and bonobos lived about 7 million years ago; the common ancestor of all primates, about 50 million years ago. Our branch split off from the branch that became reptiles and birds about 300 million years ago. We share common ancestors with all living creatures.

This understanding of the connectedness of life is recent. Darwin saw that we were connected, but he had no knowledge of chromosomes or genes. Only in the last couple decades have we sequenced genomes to get the details of our interconnection. The implications of our new understanding are profoundly spiritual and offer us new ways to see ourselves as a species.

We are kin to all that lives upon the Earth – not so different from other life as Westerners long presumed. Many nonwestern cultures have always had a stronger sense of connection and a perspective that was holistic, multisensory, and boundless in scope, enveloping the totality of the cosmos. Western thought is given more to compartmentalizing knowledge and emphasizing difference. Those tendencies led to the development of science, which is now telling us what other cultures assumed: the deep truth of interconnectedness and interdependence is clear.

Not only do we share common ancestors but we carry the story of all life within us. The story encoded within the base pair sequence of our DNA is like a song, written slowly, verse by verse, over eons. Our deepest ancestors wrote the original chorus, the basic chemical processes that made everything possible. Later verses of the song spoke of sense organs, backbones, and limbs. Later still, life sang the verses relating to thought and consciousness, spirit and transcendence.

We are deeply embedded in a grand story, an epic tale beyond any we could imagine -- a small part of which tells of our own waking up to the beauty of the interconnected web of which we are NOT at the center. Surely there is spiritual sustenance here: wonder, awe, and common ground to bind us. We have only begun to appreciate the fullness this spirituality offers.

Practices

1. Shape-Shifting. Find a quiet place and choose an animal you have some familiarity with. Sit comfortably, close your eyes, relax, breathe slowly and deeply, and imagine yourself becoming this animal. Imagine your body transforming, how you move, what you see, hear, and smell. Stay with it for 15-20 mins. When you are ready to end the visualization, acknowledge your kinship to this creature.

2. Discover Your Ancestors. If you wish to learn more about your particular place in the story of humanity, you can use DNA sequencing to discover some of the story of your ancient ancestors. “23 and Me,” National Geographic’s Genographic Project, or Ancestry.com offer genetic testing that will show what areas of the world your ancestors (just the human ones, so far) lived.

3. Mind Map. Journal about your own animal nature, emotions, instincts, and desires. Look past the surface layer of human cognition, and let your deeper inner animal speak. What wisdom does it offer? On the center of the page, write the words inner animal. Then, create a "mind map" by drawing lines radiating outward, and write other words or short phrases that connect or flow from the original phrase. More words or phrases can flow from these as well. The words can be emotions (anger, fear), behaviors (hibernate, hunt), needs, or experiences. Try to write without pausing, allowing your thoughts to fill up the page with words and phrases. When you're finished, look back at the whole page, and see where your thoughts took you. Are there any surprises? A variation on this exercise is to use your non-dominant hand, which sometimes results in fresh perspectives since it utilizes different neural pathways within the brain.

Group Activities

Tree of Life Mural. A group mural can be as simple as taping photos on a wall or as elaborate as a permanent painting in a worship or classroom space. Begin with an image of a bare tree on your wall, and have each participant add images of several animals or plants to the branches, sharing, as they do so, why they chose the particular animals or plants they did. Be sure to include humans somewhere on the tree.

Variation: Use a bare tree branch, either fallen or carefully cut, and create ornaments to hang on it representing the various forms of life on Earth. The finished product can decorate a meeting space.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • How much of human behavior —such as aggression, food choices, and moral decisions – do you think can be explained by evolutionary forces? What are the implications of such explanations?
  • Are there some forms of life, either plant or animal, to which you feel a particular connection or kinship? Why do you think this is so? What does the connection mean to you?
  • If we think of the Earth as one whole living being, completely interconnected, what role do humans play? Are we the mind of Gaia? The spirit? Or something else entirely?
  • Why is it difficult for WEIRD (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich Democracies) people to relate to animals, plants, and the natural world with a sense of spiritual kinship? What is it about contemporary culture that makes this such a challenge?

* * *

2019-03-08

Religious Education News: Sun Mar 10

Last Sunday began with a Wonder Box story delivered with great humor by Rev. Garmon. The theme of humility is at best a thoughtful, perhaps complex topic, and for children perhaps a little abstract. The Reverend, with his usual aplomb, laughed at himself as he tried modifying his definition of humility to be understandable, realizing it was a “tough crowd.” He asked the children whether they knew anyone who was a bully or who bragged, and had the students examine whether that behavior was good and what might be better. Our young congregants quickly “got it” and answered that being humble was not showing off or acting better than someone else. A great lesson for sure! After worship, our volunteer adults and youth group members came together with their typical drive and commitment to pull off the Pancake Brunch fundraiser. The kitchen ran like a well-oiled machine under the guidance of Steve Miller and those pancakes were sizzling and flipping in short order (pardon the pun…). The meal left everyone in Fellowship Hall looking full and satisfied, attesting to the success of the event. The volunteer cleanup was so complete and efficient there wasn’t even a custodian fee later! The money raised will all go to PrideWorks, supporting LGBTQ youth and their allies. Many, many thanks to our youth including Evan Cacchione, Joshua Prince, Zach Breault and sister Abbie, and Alex Zisson and sister Callie, and to our adult volunteers, Chris and Kate Breault, Cyndi and Dan Tillman, Liz and Lex Suvanto, Aimee Zipkin, and Steve.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, March 10
Grades K-5 start in Fellowship Hall. Grades 6th-12th start in classrooms.

Teacher Enrichment Lunch, Sun Mar 10, 11:45am, Fellowship Hall
Join our Director of Faith Development Perry Montrose and RE Coordinator Michele Rinaldi for the next installment of meetings to support our teachers and our RE program. RSVP to cuucre@gmail.com.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com).

Metro NY Youth Conference, March 29-31, UU Congregation of Danbury, CT
Our spring Youth Con in Danbury is for kids in grades 9-12. At cons district youth meet one another, build community, explore their religious identity, create worship, practice leadership, and have fun. Information and registration links HERE. Registrar is Monica Schlichting (monikai@optonline.net).

Metro NY Spring Junior High Youth Conference, April 6-7, CUUC
Registration is open! This 24-hour event for youth in grades 6-8 is a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth. Information and registration links HERE. Registrar is Charlie Neiss (cneiss@aol.com).

2019-03-05

On the Journey: Humility

The Mar issue of On the Journey has arrived! HERE
This month, UU Journey Groups will be exploring HUMILITY. Don't miss it, and don't miss your Journey Group meeting to get together to work with this theme!

The Mar issue of On the Journey features
  • poems from Kobayashi Issa, Jane Taylor, Emily Dickinson, Seamus Heaney, John Bunyan, Charles Simic, and Jan Levitt
  • a quotations page of 33 provocative, witty, or trenchant remarks
  • Commentaries by Rev. Scott Tayler, Pema Chodron, David Brooks, Roger Fisher, and Beverly Flaxington
  • A link to a Carl Sagan video
  • a spiritual exercise for the month
  • a page of intriguing questions
The Questions Page. Select one or two questions to “live into” -- carry around with you for a few days before your group meets. Then share your thoughts or musings with your group.
  1. Has your view of humility changed as you've grown older? Does it mean something different to you now than it did 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Even 30? If it has changed, why? How has that change changed you?
  2. Have you ever had a hard time drawing the line between humility and humiliation? Humility isnt’ (or shouldn’t be) about being a doormat. Have you ever been seduced into believing that "staying small” or “sacrificing yourself" is virtuous? Who or what helps you learn that one can be humble and worthy at the same time? Or are you still trying to learn that?
  3. Has humility ever been dangerous for you? Humble people are honest about their flaws, but being honest about your flaws also leaves you vulnerable. Has this ever got you stomped on? Manipulated? What have you learned about the importance of being “selectively humble”?
  4. Do think humility is different for men and women? Are the costs of humility different for one sex than they are for the other? What about the dangers? The rewards?
  5. Are you happy with your ability to ask for advice or take criticism? When was the last time you genuinely asked for advice or were truly glad for "constructive criticism”? And if you can't remember the last time, what's up with that?
  6. Do you humbly share credit, or do you slyly keep it for yourself? Do you spread the praise? Appreciate others’ contributions? Acknowledge your indebtedness?
  7. Have you mastered the humility of withholding judgment?
  8. When you're hurting, do you humbly ask for help or proudly put on a smiley face and hide your pain?
  9. Has your lack of humility ever made you miss out? What have you held yourself back from, for fear of looking silly or lacking control (dance lessons, learning to ski, risking a date, going back to school)? Is that humility or is it pride?
  10. How much did you earn what you have? In what ways are you, too, guilty of “being born on third base and thinking you hit a triple”? How much are you defined by your accomplishments and status? Do you give enough credit to grace?
  11. How does our culture’s emphasis on wealth-attainment and self-indulgence effect you? Messages prizing the attainment of material wealth and encouraging self-indulgence bombard us daily. We are not entirely free of these expectations. How can we be a member of this society and also nurture and maintain a personal spirit of humility?
  12. What’s your question about humility? Is there some other question that’s niggling at you?
Questions from the poems and commentaries.
  • Is it arrogant to keep one’s house swept clean of spiders?
  • Does humility accentuate beauty?
  • These “meek members of the resurrection”: is this what many living imagine they are and will continue to be in death? Is their humility false?
  • “To labor and not seek reward” – is that “self-forgetful or agony”? What lesson to you find in the mythic St. Kevin?
  • Does humility (sometimes?) have an ulterior motive? If it does, it really humility?
  • Have you felt important (exalted?) lessons were in humble objects? The last line suggests that this, too, is a projection of ego. Do you think it is?
  • Epistemic humility: abandoning pretenses of knowledge. If we acknowledge frankly that we don’t know how to be in the world, does this increase or ease our difficulties?
  • Is awareness of grace the essence of humility?
  • “For us, humility is about sight,” says Tayler. Is that what humility is about? How well do UUs truly know the things claimed for us in his last paragraph? How well do you?
  • Can you be grateful to those who annoy you? Does such gratitude facilitate humility?
  • Is Brooks correct about a “tectonic shift in culture”? What does this shift mean for how you live?
  • What has been your experience of humility, or the lack of it, among those working for social justice?
  • Do Flaxington’s five suggestions seem helpful? How would your assess yourself on these five?
The link to the current and all past issues of On the Journey can always be found at cucmatters.org/p/journey-groups.htm