From the Minister, Thu Mar 15

I'm so impressed and proud of the work of our SJTs (Social Justice Teams)!

Our Women's Issues SJT supported the Planned Parenthood Day of Action in Albany on Tue Mar 13. Anne H, John C, Mary C, and Deb M were in Albany lobbying our representatives on behalf of reproductive justice.

Our Environment SJT has been working on making our congregation a recognized "Green Sanctuary" -- including congregational involvement in local efforts on behalf of environmental sustainability. They are helping CUUC focus on food scrap recycling, and are organizing a tour of the Ulster County facility for that -- it's on Apr 4. The hard work of Janet B, Charlie M, Joe M, and the rest of the team has been awesome!

Our Economic Inequality SJT has brought us a proposal for CUUC to take a position on that issue. Details are necessary -- since merely "we're in favor of equality" doesn't say much -- and details we have. Working from the Statement of Conscience adopted at the last national UU General Assembly, this SJT has held forums on Jan 14, Feb 4, and Mar 11 to consider the proposal and suggest amendments. The product of these labors is HERE. A special congregational meeting has now been called for Apr 29 for the congregation to vote on whether to adopt this proposal. Pat L, Jim W, Randy M, and Jeff T have provided commitment and energy to make this happen. Excellent work!

Our LGBTQ SJT has been at work renewing CUUC's "Welcoming Congregation" status. Our Refugee Resettlement SJT has put out an amazing effort (see my column HERE). The Hungry and Homeless SJT works tirelessly all year, and is especially visible in their efforts during the Nov-Dec holidays. The Animal Advocacy SJT is behind revisions to CUUC's response to mice in our vicinity -- and encouraging that the fare at our congregational brunches involve less cruelty. The Racial Justice SJT continues to raise consciousness and shift culture.

In so many, many ways we are simply, impressively, carrying out our mission to "engage in service to transform ourselves and our world." We are living our Unitarian Universalist values and acting in love to make our world better, kinder, more sustainable. It's inspiring -- and humbling.

In love,

  • The two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
  • A Special Congregational Meeting has been called for Sun Apr 29. On the agenda is a Proposal that CUUC take a position on Escalating Economic Inequity. See the proposal HERE.
  • You may suggest changes to the proposal, but for your suggestion to be considered on Apr 29, it must be submitted by Apr 8. To submit a change -- or simply comment -- add a Comment to the post HERE.
  • On the Journey, March: Wandering. HERE.
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
Mar: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Rye
Apr: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center, Eastchester
On The Liberal Pulpit. The Liberal Pulpit is a YouTube Channel HERE!
Index of past sermons: HERE.
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. How Much Is Enough? (Ecospiritual Practice). Our present bases of status are not only hazardous to our financial security but also to our collective ecological security. And we know it. We all know intellectually that endlessly increasing consumption is unsustainable for the Earth.
Your Moment of Zen (Raven Tale #46). One morning Porcupine came to Raven privately and asked, "What is Raven Roshi?" Raven said, "I have this urge to prey on newborn lambs." Porcupine asked, "How do you deal with it?" Raven said, "I'd be disoriented without it."

Zen Practice at CUUC: Sat Mar 17

R.E. News

On Wandering and the Places You'll Go (Cindy)

RE News: Sun Mar 18

Lifespan Religious Education

Many of us were heartened by the high school youth around the country who walked out of school on Wednesday to demand gun control after another shocking school shooting. We were inspired by their passion and maturity. This Sunday, our CUUC high school youth share their reflections on the topic of passion. They will be sharing their passions and hoping to stir yours. Be sure to walk into the sanctuary this Sunday to witness the powerful, creative spirit of our youth.

Please see the following seven (7) announcements:

1) This Sun Mar 18
K-5th start in sanctuary for Wonder Box Story at Youth Service.
6th-7th starts in classroom.

Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Our Worship Home
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Iran (Baha'i: Kindness)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Moses Part 2
6th-7th – Neighboring Faiths: Native American Spirituality with special guest George Stonefish
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Writing Retreat at Murray Grove
10th-12th – Youth Group: Youth Service

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

2) Passover Service Discussion - This Sun 11:40
Do you have a connection, family heritage, or interest in Jewish traditions? Join us to help plan this year's Passover Service and Meal that is happening on April 8. We welcome your ideas and input.

Meet in Room 41 at 11:40 this Sun, Mar 18.

3) Metro NY Junior High Youth Con Registration - Don't Miss Out!
March 24-25 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY.
This event is for youth in grades 6-8 and a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth.

For more information please CLICK HERE.

To register please CLICK HERE.

For questions about event programming please contact Denice Tomlinson at
For questions about event registration please contact Charlie Neiss at

4) Refugee Children Need Friends
The family that recently arrived from Afghanistan and is living in White Plains would like to make some new friends. Would you and your children like to meet them, maybe for a play date or shared outdoor activity? (The children are 4, 5 and 10.)

For more information, please contact Jane Dixon,

5) Faith Development Friday - Mar 16
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community

RSVP to by 12:00 noon Fri Feb 16
so we know how much pizza to order and the number of participants for each group.

6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00pm Programs Begin...

Faith Like a River
The Wisdom RE Ministry Team invites you to an Adult RE experience facilitated by Rev. Meredith. This class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. What lessons do the stories of our history teach that can help us live more faithfully in the present? What lessons do they offer to be lived into the future? You may also join this program online via Zoom videoconferencing by going to

Family Journey Group
Parents gather to discuss the theme of wandering (facilitated by Barbara Montrose), while children have their own group with activities and discussion based on the theme (facilitated by Perry Montrose, DLRE). Adults without children are invited to participate in the parents’ group.

Youth Group Social Night and Service Prep
Join us for a night of fun and preparing for the Youth Service on Sunday!

Social Time for Adults
Those who would like more time to chat and just be together are welcome to continue hanging out in Fellowship Hall after the meal. Come to simply get to know your fellow CUUCers better, without specific programming.

Also stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.

6) UU Common Read Discussion - Fri Mar 23, 7:30pm, Fireside
Hosted by CUUC Wisdom Reading and Discussion Group
We will discuss Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, one of the two books selected for this year’s Common Read. This optimistic book is for Americans who are asking, in the wake of Trump's victory, What do we do now? The answer: We need to organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

Buy a copy after Sunday’s worship and join us!

Facilitated by Rev. Meredith and Sabrina Cleary (


Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development


On Wandering and the Places You’ll Go

Cindy Davidson, Ministerial Intern

Our monthly theme of wandering and our annual giving campaign’s theme of “Let’s Journey Together” has me daydreaming … my mind meanders here and there… Oh, where are the places you’ll go? We’ll go?

In Dr. Seuss’s 1990 book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! the protagonist “you” in the book is portrayed in the drawings as young boy who wanders on life’s journey. Never having been a young boy myself, I’m asked to translate the disconnect between the “you” I hear and the images I see in the book; the visual learner in me bristles at the non-sight of my “you.” (Ever notice how some stories are better heard than read, or the “feels good when I’m included” factor in the “we” and “they”?)

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience when taking in a story, film or work of art told through or by the personage or identity of someone very clearly “unlike-me.” I try to “let it go” and use these occasions as opportunities to practice perspective-taking. After all, isn’t that what we are challenged to do every day of our lives? Especially in this gathered, covenantal community?

In Dr. Seuss’ story, “you” and we the readers arrive at the “The Waiting Place,” waiting for something to happen and for the journey to continue towards resolution. Waiting for something to happen – suspense! Will it be by another’s actions? Our own? By happenstance, by plan? So many possibilities!

>Whether we journey and wander in search of spiritual fulfillment and the realization of our highest ideals as part of our individual quest or as part of a collective endeavor, I think we would do well to recognize and follow our passions. I’m reminded of African American theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman’s words, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. What the world needs is people who have come alive.” Perhaps we would do well to interpret this “you” in both the singular and the plural: What the world needs is for every UU congregation to go and do what makes it come alive.

In this month’s Journey Group packet, Emilie Wapnik’s TED talk on "Multipotentialites" resonates with me deeply as a person who has wandered vocationally and avocationally my whole life. I wonder though, what if the “you” in this story is the collective you (y’all! yins!) and we think of this congregation as the vehicle for unleashing our multiple potentialities in service to the world? Casting a common vision of being “a sanctuary without walls that promotes diversity, fellowship, spiritual growth and inspiration, while committing to people and the planet through social action and service” is a good and exciting start and reflects well your collective passions and ways you come alive. Getting there -- moving from the waiting place onto the pathway forward -- will it happen by happenstance, miracle, or strategic planning?

How will you, I mean you, yes you, be in the middle of this story?

How Much Is Enough?

Practice of the Week
Ecospiritual #4: How Much Is Enough

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

Not long ago, my family had an old clunker of a car that we jokingly referred to as “the rust bucket,” or just “the bucket.” It was small, got good gas mileage, was used mostly for short trips, and was about fifteen years old and looked its age. It got so awful looking that our kids were embarrassed to be seen in it. If they needed to go somewhere, they would beg for us to take the minivan instead. Mostly we acquiesced, but occasionally the kids were forced to ride in the bucket, much to their dismay.

My personal concerns about the bucket centered mostly on its potential to break down at inopportune times, but I confess that there were moments when I felt a little twinge of what my kids expressed. A small, deep-down part of me wanted to hang a large sign on the bucket that read something like, “We’re trying to save the earth’s resources!” My feelings about the bucket are not something I’m proud of, but they are revealing.

My feelings are evidence that I am still embedded in a culture that equates status with expensive stuff. I cannot remove myself from my culture completely. Not all cultures are like ours in this respect: some accord more status for wisdom or generosity, and very little for material possessions. Ours, however, is a culture where we judge others by their evident wealth. To one degree or another, we all experience pressure to keep up appearances we deem appropriate to our social standing. Even in the midst of an economic collapse, people struggling to pay their bills may go to great lengths to keep up the illusion of prosperity.

Tragically, dysfunctional American concepts of status are spreading. The nouveau riche class in emerging industrialized countries (China, India, for example) is increasingly enamored with conspicuous consumption, and the growing middle class follows their lead.

Our present bases of status are not only hazardous to our financial security but also to our collective ecological security. And we know it. We all know intellectually that endlessly increasing consumption is unsustainable for the Earth.

What others thinks of us will always matter. We want to be valued and respected. We want to be held in high regard by those around us. We want people, even strangers, to judge us favorably. These desires are as old as humanity itself and form the bedrock on which all the cultural pressures pile up. The work before us is not to try to change the bedrock (an impossible task) but rather to change the culture – to shift the way we accord status. This will be difficult, but not impossible.


1. Neighborhood Walk. Who are the proverbial “Joneses” where you live? What about them qualifies them for that moniker? Take a walk around your neighborhood. Mentally note what seems to constitute status. House size or style? A certain type of car? Perhaps the regular comings and goings of a decorator? Maybe in your area, status is even a little eco-oriented, such as solar panels on the roof. If you live in a city, how is status expressed for apartment dwellers? Location? Or something else? How might status be expressed differently in a blue-collar neighborhood than a white-collar one? Does the state of the economy influence expressions of status? What might people be trying to express through their outward symbols of status?

2. Journaling: Childhood Walk. Take an imagined mental walk down the streets of your childhood neighborhood. Visualize each house or apartment building, along with the cars, gardens, and people. In your journal, describe your childhood neighborhood and reflect on such questions as: Who had the fanciest house? Were all the houses similar? Who were the “Joneses” of your childhood? As a child, how did you perceive the people who lived around you? Were you the top dog or the underdog? Did your family’s economic status have an impact on how you were perceived? Was the neighborhood mixed in terms of income, or more homogenous?

3. Altar: Inner and Outer Life. On one side of your altar, place three or four items that symbolize your outer life and how the world perceives you: your work, your socioeconomic status, your home, or any aspect of your identity that is open to the public eye. On the other side, place three or four items that symbolize your inner life: aspects that are more personal and private. These may be religious or spiritual symbols, or items that represent any part of your life that the world does not see. Leave the items separated on the altar for a few days. Spend some time observing your creation and musing on its meaning. Next, remove any items that do not represent what you consider to be the real you. What’s left? Is it a mix, or are the items now only from one side? Leave the new arrangement in place for a few days and muse on what it says.

Group Activities

What’s Your "Bucket"? Group members each share a story of when they were compared to others regarding material status or possessions in an uncomfortable or unfavorable way. At the end of each story, the other group members mention noneconomic qualities they see in the person who just spoke (e.g., friendliness, compassion, creativity).

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • Many religious traditions contain parables, stories, or proverbs about the dangers of judging by outward appearances. What does your faith say on the subject?
  • Have you ever been in the home of someone who was very status conscious and wealthy enough to fully express it? What was your emotional response to the experience? Were you at all envious?
  • If you have children, how do concepts of status affect their world? Do they feel pressure to keep up with the junior Joneses? How?
  • How does our present culture reinforce concepts of status based on material possessions? What might status look like in a culture that truly valued ecological sustainability?

* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practice of the Week Index"

Previous Ecospiritual Practice: 3. Turn Away from Mindless Living


Time Change!

A special musical message from our nonmusical staff:

Gods of Sleep and Goddesses of Slumber
Help us not be late, we ask.
Changing clocks, one forward number
May we not forget this task.
Choir members, preachers, teachers
All will deeply grateful be
If on time we get to CUUC!

Little White Envelopes

“Money is the root of all evil” -- A corruption (pun intended) of the Christian scripture (1 Timothy, verse 6:10): “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (NRSV)

It was a rare Sunday to leave for church, all of one block away, without our little white custom-printed and carefully filled out envelope in hand. Inside, our weekly tithe, soon to join others in the shiny brass collection plates lined in red velvet. My father was among the men who would open all those envelopes and carefully count and record the collection each week. Perhaps that helps explains my fondness for those little white envelopes I  don’t find often these days in UU congregations.

I don’t recall any discomfort then around talking about money in church like the discomfort I’ve encountered since. You knew what was expected and you did your best to meet that expectation. 10% or a commitment to “working towards a tithe.” Little white envelopes. Use them weekly. Just do it. If you fell short during hard times, not so bad. If you fell short by withholding out of an “eagerness to grow rich,” well, that was a matter between you and your maker or conscience.

My experience of tithing as a transformative spiritual practice, rather than a duty, occurred not in my childhood years in the United Methodist church­­­, but in my home UU congregation some fifteen years ago. I remember well that first year when I stepped up my giving significantly. I took the challenge of tithing literally and pledged 10% to the church. (Since that year, I’ve gone with the so-called “UU tithe” …. 5% to the church and 5% to other non-profits.)

It felt good to give generously then, and it still does. Researchers and testimonials confirm there is delight and joy in being generous with our gifts of time, talents and treasures. Certainly, there have been times when honoring my commitments has been difficult. Times when I fell short and needed to regroup and come back to the practice again. For me, it has been a dynamic process and an inward journey of sorts that challenges me to continually orient and discipline myself towards practicing simplicity, resisting the pull of consumerism, and placing people before things. Choosing to live into theologies of abundance, gratitude and sharing rather than scarcity, fear and withholding can be both daunting and emboldening! By tithing, I was reminded of who I strove to be and how I sought to be a part of the change I wished to see in the world.

In her writings on tithing as a spiritual practice, UU Rev. Rebecca Parker shares these words from Steve De Groot that capture the essence of my own experience:
“I tithe because it tells the truth about who I am. …. a person who has something to give. … a person who has received abundantly from life. … a person whose presence matters in the world. … a person whose life has meaning because I am connected to and care about many things larger than myself alone. If I did not tithe, I would lose track of these truths about who I am. By tithing, I remember who I am.”

I wonder – is there room in your life for a serious practice of intentional giving?  Not that clich├ęd “giving until it hurts,” but giving until it transforms your heart, your mind, your understanding of your place in the world and the way you relate to others and your community?

-- Alexander, Scott W., ed. Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life. "Spiritual Practice for Our Time," Rebecca Parker. Skinner House Books: Boston, MA. 1999.


Make Monthly Budgets

Practice of the Week
Make Monthly Budgets

Category: Supporting Practices: Observances that support and expand developing spirituality. They aren't "slogans to live by": they require setting aside some dedicated time. They aren't "occasional," but call for regular application. Nor are they merely "worth a try," since their value doesn't depend on whether you happen to have a taste for them.

Meredith Garmon

If spirituality is about anything, it’s about waking up and paying attention – noticing our own lives, for which the first step is noticing how often we aren’t noticing our own lives. Attention includes attention to money.

First, make a budget. If at your house, there is a precise monthly budget, and you keep track of every dollar spent and what budget category it falls under, then you are doing a wonderful spiritual practice of noticing your life and what it is for. Making a budget and knowing where and when you exceed it really is a deep spiritual practice of paying attention to your life.

The important point is to do two things at the end of every month: (1) compare your actual spending to what you budgeted for that month -- make note of which line items you stayed within and which ones you exceeded, and (2) make a budget for the next month. Whether or not you actually do stick to your budget might or might not be so important, depending on your financial situation. In some situations, making and keeping a budget is a crucial financial practice. Even if, for you, budgeting might not be a financial necessity, it is a spiritual practice of being mindful how your resources are deployed to do good to yourself and others. Awareness of which line items are consistently over or under budget presents you with the question: Do you want to adjust your budget or adjust your spending? Which adjustment will be most conducive to your and the world's flourishing? That's an important and a spiritual question for reflection -- a key question for living intentionally. But you can't begin to address that question until you're making a budget and comparing your spending to it.

Second, as you review at the end of each month how your actual spending compared to your budget for that month, take that opportunity to reflect on what your spending on yourself did for you that month. Every "outgo" (you know, the opposite of "in-come") that isn't saving or donating is spending on yourself (or your family). Then the question for each such expense is: "Is this really helping me/the family? What spending is helping me/us be happy, improving my/our overall well-being, and what really isn’t? Am I spending more than what’s doing me/us any good?"

Maybe your next budget can begin shifting some money out of the spending categories and into one of the two other categories: saving and giving. It’s amazing how willing human beings are to keep buying stuff that not only isn’t helping them be any happier, but is actually making them unhappy. Studies show that as we become less materialistic, our well-being improves, and that as our well-being improves we become less materialistic. It’s a spiritual practice of health and joy to intentionally assess whether the spending on yourself is helping – and how much of it is harmful habits that are only weighing you down. In particular, if that spending has been leading to debt, then it’s a double-killer: you carry the burden of the debt and of the materialism.

Third, as you draft each budget, think about whether it would work for you to give away more. What’s your money for? It’s for doing good in the world. Take care of yourself – which includes not spending on what you don’t need – and give away the rest. I like the website for rating charities for maximum effectiveness for every dollar you give.

There are two categories of charity and social good organizations: (1) those that directly help people who are suffering, and (2) those that work for systemic change, reforming the systems that create suffering. Giving food to the hungry doesn’t address the need to change the system that leaves people hungry. At the same time, supporting systemic change so that eventually everyone will be able to feed themselves doesn’t feed any of the people who are hungry right now. So my suggestion would be dividing your charitable giving evenly between those two categories.

Fourth, for saving and giving, think in terms of percents. What percent of your total income can you save? What percent can you, or do you want to, give away? A good starter guideline is 10-10-80. Save 10 percent. Give away 10 percent. Live on the other 80 percent. 10-10-80.

Certainly at different phases of life, and at different income levels, those percentages need to be different. Maybe you can afford to be giving away 20 percent. Or 50 percent. Don’t be stuck on 10 percent giving if you have open to you the possibilities of giving away much higher percents. There is such amazing joy in that – don’t hold yourself back if you don’t need to.

Or maybe saving 10 percent is too much because your retirement is as set as it needs to be, and you have no debts, and your kids' inheritance is already as substantial as it needs to be. (A little inheritance is nice, but a big inheritance may take from your kids the benefits that come from facing tough challenges. Large inheritance doesn't, in fact, do the recipient any favors, though they may not know that at the time.) In some circumstances, saving 10 percent is too much. Don’t be stuck on that 10 percent either.

But as a beginning point for being intentional about who you are in the world, what your resources stand for, try 10-10-80. Try living into 10-10-80 for a year or so and then see what adjustments would be fulfilling, given your position.

Spirituality is a path – it’s a path of awareness and intentionality, of waking up to ourselves and what we are and what we’re doing instead of being pulled along by unexamined habits and impulses. Spirituality of money recognizes that what we do and are includes what we do and are with our resources.

Ariel Kiley writes:
Budgeting is a spiritual practice! A spiritual practice is one where you consciously choose to tune in to and follow the guidance of your higher self. When you are spending money unconsciously, you are following the whims of your unconscious urges, you are at the mercy of your ungrounded fantasies, your wounded ego or your victim mentality. By consciously tracking your spending, earnings and planning where you money is going to go to serve your highest values and callings in life, it become seriously spiritual.
Ariel -- a NYC-based yoga and meditation teacher -- has a created a series of videos about financial freedom that might be inspiring. Here are the links:
#1: The Decision to Get Out of Debt
#2: The Debt I've Been Dragging Around
#3: January 2018 Budget
#4: January Review
#5: February 2018 Budget
#6: February Review

For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"