CUUC

CUUC

2017-12-14

From the Minister, Thu Dec 14

Let's learn together -- all read a book and talk about it. Or two books. Our national Unitarian Universalist Association has picked two "Common Read" books for 2017-18.

The first book is called Centering. It's an anthology of essays by UU religious leaders of color. They offer stories, analysis, and insight on how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist communities.

Race is a perplexing and difficult issue in our country -- but how exactly is that playing out in UU congregations? What can we learn from what our leaders of color can tell us? Let's explore this and find out together.

My sermon on Sun Jan 14 will offer my reflections on the insights in this book. You can buy the book on Sunday at a book table we'll have set up in the sanctuary.

You can also buy the second of this year's common reads: Daring Democracy. In a March sermon, I'll be reflecting on this important book.

Our mission includes engaging in service to transform ourselves and our world. Let's learn together how best to transform!

Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith
  • The December issue of On the Journey explores Embodiment. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The Tuesday coffee chat resumes on Dec 12, 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Dec 12 & 19: Starbucks in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 684 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale
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

Dream Big Dreams. If you truly open to this question — What are the dreams that matter to me? — don't worry, you won't get caught up in silly stuff, such as wanting to get super rich and famous. Instead, you'll hear your soul speaking—your essence, your core, your deepest inner wisdom. It's worth listening to what it says. And then worth looking for ways—practical ones, grounded in daily life, that move you forward one real step at a time—to bring your dreams to life. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Very Special. No two grains of sand are exactly the same. No two maple leaves, or blades of grass, or stars in the sky are exactly the same. (Why do snowflakes get all the press?) "Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things" (Nietzsche). So tell me, isn't the uniqueness of everything your practice?

Case
In a group munching grubs one afternoon, Mole remarked, "The Buddha Macaw was very special, wasn't she! I'm sure there has never been anyone like her."
Raven said, "Like the madrone tree."
Mole asked, "How is the madrone tree unique?"
Raven said, "Every madrone leaf."
Mole fell silent.
Porcupine asked, "How does the uniqueness of every madrone leaf relate to the practice?"
Raven said, "Your practice."
Verse
There's never been anyone like anyone --
Each of us changing the world,
All day, every day.
I have known a million Red Oak leaves,
And still know nothing of the next one,
Fortunately.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Dec 17

Rocking the LDB Challenge

Minsterial Intern, Cindy Davidson

 I love the music of the Christmas season --- the carols, the oratorios and cantatas, the standards. There is one piece, though, I've been trying to avoid -- and that would be the "Little Drummer Boy" carol. If you can make it from midnight on Black Friday to midnight on Christmas Eve without hearing this carol -- on the radio or TV or in a store -- then (drumroll) you have successfully completed the LDB Challenge ... pa rum pum pum pum! Only ten more days to go!

In the spirit of fun, members in one ministerial Facebook group jump in on a very long thread to post their "I'm out!" and "Still in!" messages. Tales are shared, and groans and laughs bring a fresh breath of light-heartedness to days otherwise filled with the challenges of ministering in trying times. Life seems to me to require a certain measure of laughter, fun, and joy to right the weight of seriousness we encounter in our daily lives and in our world.

"I'm out!" "Still in!" Sometimes I need to see those messages several times before I really hear them. I learn that it's not all doom and gloom out there, there's a time and place for playfulness even for adults! Similarly, on the door of the Minister's Study hangs a small sign that reads, "Don't Postpone Joy." It's a sign I first encountered a few years ago in the home of a friend who has adopted the phrase as her signature "slogan" and email sign-off. Having been raised on a pretty strict 'work before play' ethic, I've needed to see this message many times before really being able to hear it and take it to heart.

And so, with the chatter of children in the background, I spent a wee bit of time Wednesday dropping in on the Montessori School's holiday party in Fellowship Hall.  I arrived just as Santa entered with his sack full of gifts for the children. Some were excited, others mesmerized, and a few wary. The joy of witnessing the children's and parents' delight brought to mind my own childhood encounters with Santa decades ago, at church in the fellowship hall, to boot! And also, the famous "Yes, Virginia...." letter from the late 1800's:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.                         (extracted)
I'm "Still in!" on light-hearted fun. On believing in the wonders of the season. On welcoming joy in the present. And you?

RE News: Sun Dec 17

Lifespan Religious Education

Each year, the Christmas Pageant is born again when you adorn it with a new spirit. The same script feels different because you decide what persona you will take on as the carols flow on. That is a part of the holiday magic. We often do the same rituals, but they come alive in new ways because we have changed and live into the uniqueness of the moment. We are constantly born again as our lives unfold. In addition to being fun, the Pageant gives us a chance to reflect on what gifts we would like to bring into the light and how our identity might shift when we do so. May your heart be renewed in wondrous ways.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 17
All ages in the sanctuary for the...
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.

Are you practicing Jedi mind tricks in your household? Then dress up as your favorite Star Wars character for the Pageant and come in costume.

Followed by Holiday Brunch and the Holiday Concert with the CUUC Choir at 12:30 p.m.
  • Includes a performance with the Children’s Choir.
  • Get your tickets at Coffee Hour.

2) Please RSVP for Children's Choir Performances This Sun & Christmas Eve
Parents, will your children and youth be present for the performances at the Holiday Concert This Sun at 12:30pm and the Christmas Eve Service on Dec. 24 at 5:30pm? Rehearsals are at 9:30am and 12pm this Sun.

All ages are invited to participate, but we need to know how many children will be joining us. Please email me at dlre@cucwp.org.

3) 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 warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

4) Faith Development Friday - Jan 19
6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

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?

Youth Social and Movie Night
Hang out in the Youth Room for a special night of fun. Gnomes welcome.

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


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

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-12-12

Music: Sun Dec 17

Solo piano works by the great 19th-century virtuoso Franz Liszt are featured in this morning’s Centering Music. “The Christmas Tree”, however, was a collection written for the composer’s granddaughter, and the delicate, transparent writing bespeaks a more domestic side of Liszt’s creative personality. Similarly, Ave Maria, from Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, is more indicative of the composer’s religious piety than his flamboyant populism. This morning’s Offertory, a festive, seasonal waltz, is one of Tchaikovsky’s monthly creations for the St. Petersburg music journal Nouveliste. Elsewhere, the Christmas music of the Spanish region of Catalonia—much in the news of late for its referendum on secession—is showcased. El Cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds) is a Catalan Christmas carol popularized by the cellist Pau Casals. Que li darem?, sung this morning by our own Kim Force, is a sort of Catalan lullaby to the baby Jesus, in which Magi figures muse about the gifts they will bring the divine infant. Amid all the tenderness and sentimentality, one should reflect on hardened Catalan realism: in that region, it is traditional to depict animal dung in crèche panoramas. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Ave Maria      
From The Christmas Tree
Psallite!
Adeste fideles
                                                            Franz Liszt

Opening Music:
El cant dels ocells
                        Popular Catalan Christmas Carol, arr. by Joaquin Nin-Culmell

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

Special Music: Kim Force, soprano
Que li darem?*                      
                                    Popular Catalan Christmas Carol, arr. by Manuel Garcia Morante

*Translation:
The Mother's Boy
What shall we give to the Mother's Boy?
What shall we give him, that He can enjoy?
Raisins and figs and walnuts and olives,
Raisins and figs and honey and mató (a Catalan dessert cheese).

What shall we give to Mary's little son?
What shall we give to the beautiful newborn?
We shall give Him raisins with a set of scales,
We shall give Him figs with a round little bread.

Bom, bom-bom bom, but the figs are unripe!
Bom, bom-bom bom, well, they shall ripen at some point!
If they don't ripen by Easter Sunday
They might ripen by Palm Sunday.

I would also like to sing a song;
A truly lovely love song
That has been inspired by a young maiden
Who is the Virgin, Mother of our Lord!

Don't cry, no, mother's little darling!
Don't cry, no, oh, light of my life!
This is a song that the Mother's Boy,
This is a song that He has enjoyed a lot.

Bom, bom-bom bom, but the figs are unripe!
Bom, bom-bom bom, well, they shall ripen at some point!
If they don't ripen by Easter Sunday
They might ripen by Palm Sunday.


2017-12-07

RE News: Sun Dec 10

Lifespan Religious Education

The halls have been decked! Thank you Laura Goodspeed for leading the way and to all those who made crafts to hang. Now it's time to decorate the tree...with mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves that will be donated to local shelters. Please bring items this Sun, as we kickoff the Mitten Tree during the Wonder Box Story. As you give, so shall you receive. If you have a need during this holiday season, please let me know so we can support your family. At times we give to others and in other moments we receive. Either way, it is the exchange that holds the meaning of the season.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 10
Children's Choir rehearsals before RE at 9:30 and after at 11:30 in Fellowship Hall. All ages invited.
K-7th start in the sanctuary for Music For All Ages and Wonder Box Story.
8th-12th start in classrooms.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Winter Lights
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Hanukkah
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Christmas
6th-7th – Islam Trip
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Death
10th-12th – Youth Group: Lazer 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 This Sun at 9:30 and 11:30
All children are invited to participate in Children's Choir this Sun to rehearse for a performance at the Holiday Concert on Dec 17 at 12:30 and the Christmas Eve Service on Dec 24 at 5:30.

Please join Lisa and Lyra in Fellowship Hall at 9:30 and 11:30.

3) The Mitten Tree This Sun Dec 10
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes into the sanctuary. They will be placed on the Mitten Tree as part of the Wonder Box story.

These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters: The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House. Help us bring warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

4) The No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant Sun Dec 17
As the story unfolds, you become Mary, Joseph, goats, sheep, cows, horses, angels, shepherds, and wise folk.

Costumes provided; just bring a joyful spirit.

Are you practicing Jedi mind tricks in your household? Then dress up as your favorite Star Wars character for the Pageant and come in costume.

Followed by holiday brunch and the...

5) Holiday Concert with the CUUC Choir at 1 p.m.
Includes a performance with the Children’s Choir.
Get your tickets at Coffee Hour.


Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-12-06

From the Minister, Thu Dec 7

Greetings from Ometepe island, in the Lake Nicaragua!

Among my "extra-curricular" duties is being on the six-member board "One Earth Conservation" (OEC) -- the nonprofit organization founded by my spouse, LoraKim, and Gail Koelln, a UU of the Shelter Rock congregation. As a part of this work, LoraKim travels half-a-dozen or so times a year for trips of 10 days to two months to various locations in Latin America: mostly to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, though she has also been a few times each to Guyana and Paraguay. She works with local groups concerned to preserve their parrots.

One of the OEC board members is Honduran and lives and works as a biologist in Honduras; the rest are US Americans. Of these, I've visited an OEC project once before (a year and a half ago, in the Mosquitia region of Honduras), but the other board members had no direct experience of the work they oversee. In addition to affording some hands-on exposure for the OEC Board, this trip also includes four others representing OEC's pilot experiment in offering eco-touristry experiences that (a) allow participants to learn about the various forces threatening native species, particularly parrots, (b) assist the actual work of the conservationists, and (c) help fund the conservation projects.

We began with a seminar-style presentation about the project, Nicaraguan history, and the status of the Ometepe parrots. We know that the primary threat is poaching: people stealing the chicks from the nests to sell throughout Central America and Asia to people who think it's cool to have a parrot in their house. (Import of wild birds into the US has been illegal since the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, and has been banned in Europe since 2007.) The T-shirts worn by the Nicaraguan team of conservationists elegantly yet forcefully make the point: over a picture of a Yellow-nape Amazon parrot are the words "Tu casa no es mi casa" (Your house is not my house.)

To get up the tree requires first using the sling-
shot to get a rope over a branch. They let me
have a try. I missed.
We spent time in the field watching the young men of the local conservation team climb trees to see if the nest cavities were active this year. When they find active nests, they alert patrol volunteers to watch the trees to try to prevent poaching. The patrol effort is woefully understaffed, so the poaching, sadly, is slowed less that we'd like.

For two hours each day -- from 1.5 hours before sundown to half an hour after -- we split into teams of three or four to go to various high-ground spots to count the parrots we see as they head from wherever they've been feeding to wherever they're going to overnight. The parrots fly by, usually in twos or threes, sometimes in flocks of 40 or 50. The team leader carefully records the time of each sighting, the number of parrots seen, the species (almost always one of three: yellow-nape Amazon, red-lored Amazon, or Pacific parakeet), and the direction of travel. Later LoraKim and the team leaders will sit down to look carefully at the records and determine which sightings were the same parrots passing by multiple observation spots.

Climbing a tree this way is a lot of exercise.
LoraKim estimates there are probably about 1200 yellow-nape and 400 red-lored left on Ometepe. But it's important to gather the data for more accurate estimates each year. If we can document how much poaching is occurring, and document how effective the conservation efforts are in reducing poaching, the efforts can build support -- both in the hearts of the people, and from funding agencies.

Other field trips show us other efforts on behalf of sustainable ecology:
  • We visit a 900-acre cooperative farm that is also a hostel: "Run by a collective of 24 families the farm produces organic coffee, plantains, milk, corn, beans, rice and vegetables, and protects the surrounding natural environment" (Finca Magdalena).
  • We visit family plots of less than 10 acres where, with the guidance and assistance of Fauna & Flora International, sustainable and crop-diverse farms are succeeding.
  • We lunch at El Jardin de la Vida, "a sustainable eco-friendly hostel and restaurant built with minimal concrete, natural materials and renewable energy."
There's reason for hope for this planet's bipeds, feathered and featherless. Also reason for despair: the poachers have developed better suitcase-sized incubators and are now stealing eggs rather than chicks. While we are there, a pall is cast by the news of some foreign visitors on the island putting out word that they are looking to buy parrot eggs or chicks.

Time-bomb flew onto my shoulder, where his
interest in my ear made me a little nervous.
The day before we arrive, a young boy finds a fledgling yellow-nape Amazon walking by the road. He can't fly yet -- but he gave it a try and found himself stranded on the ground. The boy throws a cloth over him, takes him home, and contacts the conservation team (whew!). The next day, LoraKim and I arrive to pick up the bird to take a stint of caring for him until he can be released -- this will take several weeks, says LoraKim, so in the few days we'll be on the island we're just hoping to get the process off to a solid start. "Time-bomb" as we name him, expecting him to explode on us at any time, doesn't yet know what eating is --  he's only had food pushed down his mouth so far. He's very angry about being away from home. LoraKim boils dry dogfood until it makes a smooth mush. She slides a tube down Time-bomb's throat and injects the mush into his crop while I do my best to hold him still. He doesn't like this one bit -- but when we're done he seems to notice that it feels better to have some food in him. Over the next few days, he gets less angry -- comes to see us as his flock rather than predators. He learns to eat from a syringe, without the tube down his throat. Then he learns to reach out on his own to take bites of food from a bowl. All the while he's living in our hotel bathroom, which we've tried to make suitable habitat by putting most of a small tree in the shower stall. Before we leave, we'll transfer Time-bomb to a family that can take care of him until he can be released. We're worried that he's too acclimated to people. We're worried that without his parents and a parrot flock, he'll be an easy mark for a hawk. But he might make it. Right now, we're Time-bomb's best bet to keep ticking.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith
  • The December issue of On the Journey explores Embodiment. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
  • Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
Let's Chat

The Tuesday coffee chat resumes on Dec 12, 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Dec 12 & 19: Starbucks in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 684 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale
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

Begin the Ecospiritual Path. We who live in the industrialized West may find it uncomfortable to face the painful reality of the damage our culture has inflicted upon other people and the Earth itself, as well as dysfunctional aspects of our culture such as consumerism. We may even feel guilty and ashamed. Nevertheless, it is critical that we walk this path since its truth is often glossed over and ignored in favor of business as usual. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

The Holy Spirit. What kind of thing is an idea? How does your idea of idea relate to your faith?

Case
Reverend Crane invited Raven and her students to an ecumenical service at the Little Church in the Grotto. Afterward the Tallspruce community was abuzz about the experience. The next evening Owl asked, "Is the Holy Spirit something like Buddha-nature?"
Raven said, "The two ideas are similar."
Owl asked, "Then Christianity and Zen are somehow linked?"
Raven said, "No, not at all. They are totally different and distinctly separate."
Owl was silent for a moment. Then she asked, "How are they different?"
Raven said, "Their ideas of idea are different."
Owl asked, "How are their ideas of idea different?"
Raven said, "One has eternal life, and the other expires before sunset."
Verse
Being as the light is, rising, setting,
Tracelessness is granted -- joy enough.
Two snags, to be avoided if one can, or incorporated:
The ideas of eternal life, and the eternal life of ideas.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Dec 10
RE News
Music News
This Week's e-Communitarian
Practice: Begin the Ecospiritual Path

2017-12-05

Music: Sun Dec 10

The popular music of Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region, reflects the cultural melting pot that distinguishes its history. In the Middle Ages, the area saw the peaceful co-existence of the three great Semitic faiths. In later centuries, Andalusia’s gypsy population would develop a musical style which transmogrified the more regular, four-square rhythms of Castilian folk music into a deeply personal, expressively wrought musical genre widely known as Flamenco. In the early twentieth century, the legendary Spanish poet and playwright Federico Garcia Lorca collected examples of this popular musical and poetic tradition, several examples of which are featured in this morning’s music, as performed by master Flamenco cantaor Fernando Barros, who hails from Granada. Read more about Fernando and his brilliant educational initiatives at http://studyflamenco.com/.

CUUC’s Choir is also on hand with radiant expressions of joy from both classical and popular traditions.

Read on for programming details.

Music for All Ages: Fernando Barros Lirola, vocals; Adam Kent, piano
Canciones españolas antiguas
            Los Mozos de Monleón
             En el café de Chinitas
Anda Jaleo, Jaleo
            Traditional Andalusian collected and arranged by Federico Garcia Lorca

Anthem:
Gloria  from Gloria   
                                                Antonio Vivaldi
       
 Offertory:
 You Are the New Day 
John David, arr. by Peter Knight  

Interlude:
Zorongo
                                                Garcia Lorca

Postlude:
La tarara
                                                Garcia Lorca