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CUUC

2017-10-16

CUUC Music: Sun Oct 22


Along with several other Caribbean islands, Cuba was recently the victim of Hurricane Irma, which struck the country’s northern coast as a Category 5 storm, causing massive flooding in the capital city, Havana. The U.S. media paid scant attention to this particular catastrophe, however, whether for political or sociological reasons. Cuba, with its distinctive political and economic systems, remains the embodiment of “otherness” to most U.S. citizens. It epitomizes the exotic, while its people are all too easily subject to de-humanizing characterizations as colonial-era stereotype or helpless, brainwashed pawns of a totalitarian regime. Poor peoples everywhere bear the brunt of climate change, and in Cuba the issue is compounded by decades of alienation from the world power to its north.

In anticipation of CUUC’s tribute to Havana at next month’s Goods and Services Auction, Cuba’s rich artistic traditions ore showcased in several of Sunday morning’s musical selections. The solo piano works featured in the Centering Music include a modernist take Cuban conga drumming by Hilario González as well as a newly discovered unpublished piece of juvenalia by the Cuban-American composer Tania León, who was interviewed at CUUC last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUxoI3x8fo.  Joaquin Nin-Culmell, younger brother of the diarist Anais Nin, pays a sentimental homage to his Cuban ancestry in two of his charming Douze Danses Cubaines, works which evoke a nineteenth-century Europeanized view of what was then a Spanish colony.

The Offertory music, “Cancion para dormir a un negrito” from Xavier Montsalvatge’s Canciones Negras bears special comment. The layers of appropriation are so numerous and complex, that the song is bound to evoke conflicting emotions. The very notion of a lullaby written for public performance is a contradiction, which requires a certain suspension of disbelief. In this case, Cuban poet Ildefonso Pereda Valdés’s text depicts a Cuban mother of African descent  singing her baby to sleep in a world where bogeyman are white, and a black child might dream of outgrowing slavery. The bittersweet nostalgic lilt of an Habanera is subverted by tart dissonances, which impart an ironic edge to the mother’s reassurances: “If you sleep well, the master of the house promises to get you a suit and make you a ‘groom’.” To complete the picture, Montsalvatge was from Catalonia, a region of Spain currently in the midst of a heated confrontation with the country’s central government over a controversial referendum to secede. He viewed Caribbean culture through the scrim of commerce, which brought goods--as well as song and dance-- from the distant Antilles to Spain’s Costa Brava. Our skin may well crawl at the seductive beauty and simplicity of Montsalvatge’s creation, in spite of the twisted history it embodies.

And, beyond Cuba, CUUC’s Choir is on hand with two moving selections: Amy Bernon’s “A Song Sung Once” and the Spiritual “Turn Me Round”, popular in UU circles for its timeless message of resistance to oppression and ever-widening circles of empathic responsibility.

Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Preludio en Conga No. 3
                                                Hilario González
Rondó a la Criolla
                                                Tania León
Douze Danses Cubaines, Nos. 4 and 12
                                                Joaquín Nin-Culmell

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
A Song Sung Once
                                                            Amy Bernon

Offertory: Kim Force, soprano
Canción para dormir a un negrito* from Canciones Negras
                                                            Xavier Montsalvatge

Anthem:
Turn Me ‘Round
                                                Traditional Spiritual arr. by Earlene Rentz

*Translation:
Hush-a-bye my little one, Little black one who doesn't want to sleep. Head of a coconut, little coffee bean, With soft cottony hair, With huge eyes like two windows that look out at the sea. Close your little eyes, frightened little one, The white bogeyman could eat you! You are no longer a slave! If you sleep a lot the master of the house will buy you a suit with buttons to be just like a groom. Hush-a-bye, sleep now little one. Head of a coconut, little coffee bean.





2017-10-12

RE News Oct 15

Lifespan Religious Education

Last Sunday, Rev. LoraKim (our Community Minister and a wildlife veterinarian) and the Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team facilitated a Nurture Nature RE workshop. We began by reciting our chalice lighting with the word "people" being replaced by "being." Let us light this chalice of understanding in our hearts so that we may know how other beings think and feel. Children and youth walked the CUUC grounds looking for signs of wildlife. They then watched videos of animals in various situations and were asked what they thought the animals were feeling and needing. Some of the feelings named were angry, sad, scared, and joyful. When it came to pictures of animals in storms, the needs seen were love, food, shelter, friends, connection, help, knowledge, and to learn to love. The children realized that these were also universal human needs and discovered that all beings share common feelings and needs.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Oct 15
Children and youth start in the sanctuary for Music For All Ages (with special musical guest, The Biryani Boys) and the Our Congregation Skit.

Children who participated in the Nurture Nature RE program last Sunday, led by Rev. LoraKim and the Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team, will be performing a skit during the Our Congregation to support this month's Share the Plate.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children: A Tour of the Outside of Our Congregation
K-1 - Creating Home: Symbols of Faith
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: India (Hindu)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: In the Beginning
6th-7th - Neighboring Faiths: Unitarian Universalism (Attend CUUC service)
8th-9th - Boston UU Heritage Trip
10th-12th - Youth Group: Laser Tag Outing

To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

2) Children's Choir
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will lead a Children's Choir after RE two Sundays a month. They will perform at Thanksgiving Service and the Holiday Concert.

If your child or youth would like to be a part of the choir, SIGN UP HERE.

3) Pelham to Syria Winter Donation Drive
In Syria, a harsh winter is about to descend on millions of refugee families. Hearts and Homes for Refugees will collect, pack, and deliver aid to displaced Syrians.

Only specific items are needed and will be collected on:
Sat Oct 21, 10:00am - 4:00pm
Wed Oct 25, 4:00 - 8:00pm
Sat Oct 28, 10:00am - 4:00pm

Drop off at St. Catharine's Rectory, 25 Second Ave, Pelham.

Volunteers are also needed to help sort and pack. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Contact Jane Dixon at lilrhodie@gmail.com, if you have any questions.

4) Resources for Talking to Children About Tragedies
We have all been horrified and saddened by recent tragedies, from hurricanes to shootings. Our children are often exposed to information and images that we do not always have control over. Unexpected conversations arise and it can be difficult to know how to respond and what to tell children or not. Here are some resources for parents:

UUA article on supporting children in the face of tragedy
Advice and resources from Fuller Youth Institute, via Andre Lerner (our UUA congregational contact)
Today Show age-by-age guide
From the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
PBS Talking with Kids About News
Helping children cope with tragedy related anxiety

If you would like to talk about this topic or need any further support, please contact me (dlre@cucwp.org; 914-946-1660 x4) or Rev. Meredith.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-10-11

From the Minister, Thu Oct 12

From the Minister

"These are times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine at the beginning of a series of pamphlets, The American Crisis, begun in 1776. Today men's, women's, and all people's souls in this country are tried by times that, if not already at crisis, appear to be on the brink of it. This may seem a strange assertion, what with the stock market doing well and leading economic indicators looking generally positive. But our souls are tried, even if the median wallet has not yet taken a turn for the thinner. The country has grown polarized. Many are aggrieved -- sometimes they are aggrieved about others being aggrieved. Our souls are tried by the pervasive acrimony of public discourse.

Some of the grievances are legitimate and addressing them is long overdue. Others, not so much. Police brutality that falls disproportionately on people of color would be in the first category, I'd say. Claims from the alt-right about "white genocide" would be in the second. I regard grievances about confederate monuments as in the first category; grievances about the removal of confederate monuments as in the second.

We make a similar distinction in cases where offense is taken. Was the criticism legitimate, and taking offense at it is merely a defensive reaction? Or was the "criticism" actually a slur that warrants being recognized as offensive? Not all offense-taking is equal. It can be hard to determine which is warranted and which isn't. Here's my process.

First, do I have to decide? In many contexts, it's beside the point. If I'm speaking one-to-one with a person who is angry and hurt, my judgment about whether they should be angry and hurt isn't necessary or helpful. Should be is irrelevant; they are. I empathize with the feeling and seek to explore that with the person, hoping to facilitate clarity. Most of the time, I don't have to decide whether I would judge offense-taking warranted. "Warranted" is not a useful determination; offense was, in any case, taken, and my best response is to offer a nonjudgmental presence to that hurt.

In other cases, though, we are called upon to think more systemically. In what ways is our nation, our state, our county, our community, failing to be as fully realized a beloved community as it could be? That is: what are the criticisms that should be taken seriously even if (especially if?) they give offense? What changes, of policy or of attitude, are needed? I don't think there's a definite rule here -- there's no algorithm for distinguishing important criticism from defensive complaint. I do, however, find it helpful to look at where the power is. This itself is sometimes difficult to assess -- there are many different kinds and sources of power. But often the location of the power is clear. Overall and in general, whites have more power than blacks, men have more power than women, the wealthy have more power than the poor, and non-elderly adults have more power than either children or the elderly. My sympathies will tend to be with the grievances of the less powerful. Grievances from the more powerful may well be a defensive clinging to privileges that are not just.

The caveat in all cases where we exercise judgment to determine what criticism, or what offense-taking, is legitimate, is the one Jesus expressed when he asked: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" Thus the systemic questions always lead me back to my ongoing personal, individual work. In what ways am I complicit with the evil I decry? What logs render my vision wooden? Where are my own failures to "serve and protect" without bias? What subtle monuments to privilege do my choices erect?

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • October: I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
  • November: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

Practice of the Week

Mealtime Practice. Many families struggle to juggle competing work schedules, school activities, and community commitments. It is nearly impossible to find time to sit down to share a meal together. Yet taking time to eat together can be one of the most important activities that families do. Mealtime is a spiritual discipline: an activity through which those gathered may discover depth and meaning in their lives. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Brown Bear's Purpose. You are perfect exactly as you are. So what do you need with spiritual practice?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Badger's question about the purpose of practice was followed up with a question from Porcupine: "What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up her role as teacher?"
Raven said, "To make little boys ask questions."
Porcupine said, "Don't patronize me, Roshi. My question is: What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up the role of teacher?
Raven bobbed her head. "Excellent! Excellent!"
Porcupine stamped his foot. "That's not an answer!"
Raven said, "She didn't have answers in mind."
Hotetsu's Verse
What do the maples have in mind, their red leaves falling?
What does the moon have in mind, its crescent resting in the branches?
Something, perhaps, though they seem
To have forgotten what it was.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News for Sun Oct 15

RE News
Music News
This week's e-Communitarian

Mealtime Practice

Practice of the Week
Mealtime Practice

Category: Supporting Practices: observances that support and expand developing spirituality.
“Be there when you eat. Achieve the fullest experience of your food. Taste it. Savor it. Pay attention to it. Rejoice in it.” (Marc David)
Adapted from Aaron R. Payson, "Mealtime," in Everyday Spiritual Practice


Slowing Down, Being Together

I, too, became a part of the rushing crowd. As a student, I had grown accustomed to eating pizza at midnight as I studied for exams or grabbing a sandwich between classes. During the first year or so of my ministry and my marriage, I operated in much the same way. Meals were a grab-them-when-you-can, if-you-can prospect. Sitting down to eat was a novelty.

Many families struggle to juggle competing work schedules, school activities, and community commitments. It is nearly impossible to find time to sit down to share a meal together. Yet taking time to eat together can be one of the most important activities that families do.

Mealtime is a spiritual discipline: an activity through which those gathered may discover depth and meaning in their lives.

The speed with which we attempt to complete our lives and complete our meals ultimately hampers our experience of eating itself. That’s what was happening to me. Then one day as I was yet again eating what would pass for dinner alone at my desk in my office, I decided to put a stop to all the eating on the fly. It wouldn’t be easy, but I had the advantage of lessons learned as a child with my family around the dinner table.

Grace

Eating is a sacred act, which is why, in most religious traditions, mealtime is made distinct from other activities by beginning with a time of grace of blessing so that those gathered to partake of the sustenance before them might be mindful of their connection to each other, to the environment, and to that which is holy around and within them.
“This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our own unskilled states of mind and eat with moderation. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realize the path of understanding and love.” (Zen mealtime sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh)

“The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.” (attributed to Johnny Appleseed)
Mealtime grace is, for those who practice it, a key aspect of gratitude practice. Grace at mealtime is a ritual awakening to the reality of our relationship of gratitude for all that sustains us. Slowing down for gratitude also slows us down to more fully appreciate our food.

At one Thanksgiving meal in my childhood, we arrived at the dining room to discover five single kernels of corn on each person’s plate. We sat down, and Mother began, “It is said that when the pilgrims gathered at the first Thanksgiving table, each person was given just five kernels of corn, for that is all that they had to share. So now we take this opportunity to share with each other five things for which we are thankful this year.” I remember scrambling when my turn came. I expressed thanks for a new bike, roller skates, my new friend Jimmy, and even my little brother. The next year, and the next, and the one after that, became more important. As I grew, this ritual began to take on significance.
“I am thankful for the health of my family, for the opportunity to be together in the spirit of love, and for the gift of food.”
Setting a Place for One More

During Pesach, or Passover, families and communities celebrate their journey out of bondage to the promised land. As the table is set with the elements of the ritual Seder meal, a place is set for the prophet Elijah, who, during the course of the meal, is welcomed into the room and invited to the table, where a glass of wine is poured for him. My mother set an extra place at the table each night. Some nights, it went unused, and we thought about those whom we missed at our table. Many nights, however, the place got filled by an unexpected friend my brother or I brought home, or by a person who just stopped by for a moment to chat with my father, who was a minister.

* * *

The ingestion of food is only a minuscule portion of what it means to take in sustenance. Reclaiming mealtime is a spiritual discipline when we remember the depth of our own connections to others, to the earth and the elements that help us to grow, and to the divine spark within each of us that ignites around good company and is aflame through the presence of love that is also the substance of grace.

I realized that if I just slowed down, breathed a little, I was already ahead of the game. Saying grace wasn’t so hard. I was and am grateful for many things.

A healthy spirituality grew our latest New Year’s dinner from an intimate gathering of six to an even more intimate fifteen. With the places all set, we delightedly took our time, getting to know each other, passing around the potatoes, and enjoying ourselves. We said grace. We talked of new things we had learned over the past year. We were too full to have dessert right away, which gave us an excuse to linger over coffee as our bodies and heart found the room.

* * *
List of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

Music: Sun Oct 15


Sunday morning’s special guest musicians are The Biryani Boys, Mustafa Bhagat and David Freeman. Their mission is to preserve and promote the Indian classical music tradition and to provide safe passage into the contemporary landscape. They will provide an introduction to this musical style during our Music for All Ages. You can follow their work and find their videos at https://thebiryaniboys.bandcamp.com/. Read on for programming details.

Music for All Ages: The Biryani Boys—Mustafa Bhagat, Sitar; David Freeman, Tabla
Indian Music Lecture/Demo: Hamsadhwani (Alap)

Opening music:
 Hamsadhwani (Vilambit Gat)

Offertory:
Hamsadhwani (Thumri Gat)

Interlude:
Hamsadhwani (Drut Gat)

Postlude:
Hamsadhwani (Original Composition)

2017-10-05

From the Minister, Thu Oct 5

From the Minister

Hurricane Maria brought suffering to millions in Puerto Rico. Water is in short supply, the power is out on much of the island, communications are down, and temperatures are hitting 44 degrees C -- which is 112 F. It's a deadly dangerous situation for critically ill hospital patients. The San Juan airport is packed with people there to get a one-way ticket off the island.

In Las Vegas, Steven Paddock fired from a hotel into a concert crowd, killing 59 and injuring about 500 more.

Our distress at these two disasters is compounded by our country's tepid response. In the one case, thankfully, aid is arriving in Puerto Rico. Getting it distributed to the places it is most needed remains a huge challenge which we could do more to help address. In the other case, the most needed response is reasonable gun control legislation -- which our legislature is incapable of passing.

Other calamities of recent months include the Transgender Military Ban, the rescinding of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), violence and white supremacy in Charlottesville.

The world may seem to be getting crazier, harsher, crueler. Our task remains what it always is: to love, to connect in empathy and kindness, to seek understanding, to give help where we can, to keep doing the work of peace and justice. There are many so committed. We are not alone. As the poet Adrienne Rich put it:

My heart is moved by all I cannot save:
so much has been destroyed
I have to cast my lot with those
who age after age, perversely, with no extraordinary power
reconstitute the world.
Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
In October, I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
In November, I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
Drop by if you can!

You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit at your place. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.


This Week On THE LIBERAL PULPIT

A reflection on gender identity:
What If I Don't Have a Gender Identity?

The "Yay! Death!" sermon (Oct 1) is now posted, in three parts:
1. Yearning for Immortality
2. Two Epiphanies
3. Quintessence of Glorious Dust

List of, and links to, past sermons: HERE.
List of, and links to, other thoughts and reflections: HERE.


Practice of the Week

Draft Your Obituary. Most of us will never get the opportunity to have a newspaper reporter come to our homes and solicit the story of our lives. But the story of our lives matters deeply too. It matters to us and to our conscience. It matters to those whose lives we touch. To our loved ones. We all can play a role in shaping the unfolding drama of creation, so the story of our lives READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

The Purpose of the Practice. Doubts. We all have them. Perhaps we once regarded doubt and faith as opposites, each the antidote of the other. Yet doubt is essential to faith. How does that work?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Badger attended the circle irregularly because of family responsibilities. One evening he was able to come for zazen and questions. He asked, "What is the purpose of the practice after all?"
Raven asked, "Do you have an inkling?"
Badger hesitated, "I'm not sure," he said.
Raven said, "Doubts dig up the whole Blue Planet."
Hotetsu's Verse
The practice is the enlightenment, the doing is the purpose,
The doubting is the faith, the asking is the inkling.
What am I saying? Badgers dig.
On the whole Blue Planet, nothing is missing.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News for Sun Oct 8

RE News:
Music News
CUUC Weekly News
This Week's e-Communitarian

Draft Your Obituary

Practice of the Week
Draft Your Obituary

Category: Occasional: These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.

This exercise is from Robert Hardies. He writes:
I heard a piece on the radio. It was a report from the annual convention of obituary writers in America. I hadn’t realized obituary writers had a convention. But the report revealed some interesting things about the particular beat. It turns out that editors from papers like the New York Times and Washington Post do some calculations to try to figure out what famous people might be dying in the near future. And on the basis of those predictions, editors assign reporters to interview these “subjects” about their lives and ask them how they want to be remembered. Obituaries are written and filed under lock and key until the appropriate time. Apparently, this is how obituary writers stay ahead of the game.

Most of us will never get the opportunity to have a newspaper reporter come to our homes and solicit the story of our lives. And most of us won’t make the obituary page of a national newspaper. But the story of our lives matters deeply too. It matters to us and to our conscience. It matters to those whose lives we touch. To our loved ones. If your faith is like mine and you believe that we all can play a role in shaping the unfolding drama of creation, then the story of our lives matters on an ultimate level, too.

So let us be good and faithful stewards of our lives stories. Let’s pay attention to how the story is unfolding. Go home today and write your obituary as if tomorrow were the last day of your life. Would the story you tell reflect what’s most important?
This week, give it a try! Use your journal -- or any piece of paper, or your computer keyboard.

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List of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"