CUUC

CUUC

2018-08-09

From the Minister, Fri Aug 10

Greetings from Boston! As I write this, it is Thursday evening and I'm nearing the end of five days of denominational service as a member of the UUA's Commission on Social Witness (CSW)

At the General Assembly 2016 in Columbus, OH, the delegates selected, "The Corruption of Our Democracy" as the CSAI (Congregational Study/Action Issue) for 2016-20. (For the text of CSAI, SEE HERE; for the Study Guide created to go with the CSAI, SEE HERE). Now that two of those four years have gone by, it is the duty of the CSW to amalgate the experiences and learnings congregations have submitted and make a first draft of a prospective Statement of Conscience (SOC) that could be voted on and adopted at the General Assembly 2019.

By the time we adjourn on Fri Aug 10, after spending this week deliberating and wordsmithing together, your CSW will have created a first draft. Congregations will then be invited to suggest revisions, changes, additions, deletions. We will take all these into account in creating a second draft before the beginning of GA 2019. Then, at GA 2019, there will be a "mini-assembly" for further revisions to be proposed and deliberated. Using this input, the CSW will then bring to the floor a third draft for debate among the delegates and possible adoption.

In two years, I'm due to be again spending five intensive days with my fellow members of the CSW as we create the first draft of a potential SOC on "Undoing Intersectional White Supremacy." That was the CSAI selected at GA 2018. (SEE HERE). Stay tuned for news on the ways CUUC will be studying and acting on this issue.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Images of Earth. The Earth is us, and we are the Earth. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. By letting go of the Earth as Other paradigm, we make space for the possibility of Earth as Self. By un-learning the mindset of the Earth as an endless provider, we begin to form a healthy sense of our own boundaries and limits and learn to function within them. This mindset has been embraced by many indigenous cultures the world over for millennia. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: How Do You Account for This? At that same assembly, Mole said to Raven, "Turkey tells me that Grandma doesn't lock her place and that folks are free to wander in and out. They eat her food and mess up her carpet. She doesn't seem to be protective or possessive at all. Yet she snatched away her stick when you went after it. How do you account for this?" Raven said, "It guides her along to Vinecot on a moonless night. It helps her cross the creek when the bridge...READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Aug 11

2018-08-08

Images of Earth

Practice of the Week
Images of Earth

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


One of the most famous images of all time is the photo of the Earth taken by the Apollo astronauts. Hanging in the black void of space, the Earth looks fragile, precious. All human history has taken place on the delicate blue jewel suspended in nothingness. This realization strikes a chord in our collective consciousness and has been especially influential on the modern environmental movement.

While this view of Earth from a distance is a powerful image, it hasn’t changed how we think of our home planet. Instead, it is like a piece of art hanging in our mental gallery and mostly ignored. The dominant worldview is of Earth as an economic resource, divided by boundaries and borders. We may also understand Earth as provider, or even as mother, but the habit of regarding Earth as economic resource is never far from the surface. If we treated our human mothers the way we treat Mother Earth, we would be arrested for assault.

Even mainstream environmentalists argue that we must protect a certain habitat because someday we might find a cure for cancer there. Or that we should develop eco-tourism to help the local economy. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong about curing cancer or providing a livelihood for people who would otherwise be destitute, it reflects an underlying view that Earth’s value comes from its economic potential.

Conceptualizing the Earth in this way places Earth in the category of the Other -- something outside ourselves that exists for us. It is separate from us, and thus can be exploited for our purposes.

We not only see Earth as provider, but as limitless. We like to see ourselves as having limitless potential, able to achieve anything. It’s an unhealthy fantasy. Growth without limit is cancer. Everything has limits and recognizing them is desirable and necessary. In the 1970s, the idea of consciously choosing to limit economic growth for the sake of preserving the environment was briefly considered. Those who recall that era may remember President Carter installing solar panels on the White House roof and telling Americans to conserve energy, while setting an example by putting on sweaters and turning down the thermostat. Unfortunately, America subsequently embraced the idea of endless economic growth.

In a very literal sense, we are the Earth. Our bodies are made of the stuff of the Earth. The atoms and molecules that make up every part of us have been circulating around the biosphere since life began.

The Earth is us, and we are the Earth. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves. By letting go of the Earth as Other paradigm, we make space for the possibility of Earth as Self. By un-learning the mindset of the Earth as an endless provider, we begin to form a healthy sense of our own boundaries and limits and learn to function within them. This mindset has been embraced by many indigenous cultures the world over for millennia. Rediscovering it may be the key to our survival.

Practices

1. Melting into the Earth. On a warm day, go outdoors to a quiet place where you can be undisturbed. Lie down directly on the Earth, flat on your back or on your stomach. Spread your arms wide. Breathe slowly and deeply, and spend a minute or two just relaxing. When you feel relaxed, imagine yourself as water soaking into the Earth. There is no separation between you and the ground beneath you. The cells of your body flow into and between the cells of the soil, merging into oneness. Allow yourself to experience this completely. After fifteen to twenty minutes, slowly come back to normal awareness.

2. Compost Blessing. Small-scale composting of your kitchen scraps into a vegetable garden is easy, and the ultimate in recycling. When you bring the compost out to the bin, bless it. Say a simple phrase, like “Blessings on your journey around the cycle of life,” or offer a prayer of your choosing. Visualize the compost breaking down into rich soil and nourishing next year’s tomatoes. Imagine yourself eating those tomatoes, realizing that the compost, the tomatoes, and you are all part of a greater whole.

3. Journaling: Earth as Mother. Write for at least 30 mins on the concept of Earth as mother. Some possible prompts:
  • Consider yourself as a child of the Earth. What sort of child are you? Where are you in your development? What is your personal relationship to Earth, your mother?
  • Broaden the focus. Answer the questions above with all of humanity as the child.
  • If the Earth is our mother, what sort of mother is she? What stage of motherhood works for the image nowadays? Is she a young mother? Elderly? Pregnant?
  • The mother-child relationship can also have a shadow side, dysfunctional and unhealthy. Is there a shadow side to the human-Earth relationship? What is it?
Group Activities

Culture Quest. Gather books or articles of indigenous creation myths from many cultures. Break into smaller groups of three to four, and have each group read a myth. Discuss in the small groups how the Earth is envisioned in the myth, and how this differs, or doesn’t, from the way we envision the Earth today. Consider the role of the human in each story. Come together again as a larger group and discuss the various images of Earth. Which story most resonated?

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • How do indigenous concepts of the Earth as mother compare to modern or Western understandings of this idea?
  • How does classifying something as Other affect how we think about it?
  • The mainstream environmental movement often frames its arguments based on the idea of preserving the Earth as a resource for human use (for example, the possibility of discovering new medicines in the e4ndangered rainforest). Do you find this approach helpful or problematic? Why?
  • Is it possible to assign economic value to all the Earth provides us? Would this be helpful or harmful?
* * *

Previous Ecospiritual Practice: The Problems of Progress

2018-08-02

From the Minister, Fri Aug 3

In Baltimore, "Thread" has organized about 1,000 volunteers into "extended families" for 415 academically underperforming youth. "Thread" creates elaborate systems of relationships -- social networks instead of social media -- that benefit the volunteers as much as the kids. All parties understand they are entering a 10-year relationship -- until the kids are in their 20s. Founder Sarah Hemminger explains, “Unconditional love is so rare in life that it is identity-changing when somebody keeps showing up even when you reject them. It is also identity-changing to be the one rejected.” The volunteers understand they aren't there to change society or the world, but to be changed. An app keeps track of every contact between a volunteer and a student, and Thread also "cultivates an ethos of utter vulnerability," "an atmosphere of intense intimacy and outspoken love," and encouragement to “show all the way up.”

In Somerset, England, in the village of Frome, the Compassionate Frome project was launched in 2013 with a new approach to improving healthcare outcomes in the town. The project investigated where there were gaps in the services of agencies and community groups, and, to fill those gaps, created new groups for people with particular conditions. "Health connectors" helped people plan their care and -- here's the key -- trained volunteers to help people find the support they need.

Whether the issue is education or healthcare, isolation is deadly and connection is the cure. By combating isolation, Frome now has a "buzz of sociability" and common purpose that helps everyone feel better. The provisional data from Frome suggests "that when isolated people who have health problems are supported by community groups and volunteers, the number of emergency admissions to hospital falls spectacularly. While across the whole of Somerset emergency hospital admissions rose by 29% during the three years of the study, in Frome they fell by 17%."

A healthcare system that treats patients "as if they were a cluster of symptoms rather than a human being who happened to have health problems" makes for staff who are stressed and sad by their silo working and patients who are "defeated by the medicalization of their lives." Illness tends to reduce ability to socialize, which leads to loneliness, which worsens the illness.

I learned about Thread from the op-ed column HERE, and about the Compassionate Frome project from the Guardian article HERE. Please click through and give these articles a read.

A few UUs are skilled at lobbying legislators or organizing protests. What all of us know how to do -- by virtue of being UUs who gather week after to week to do it -- is make community. It turns out that the thing we have been practicing and getting good at is the very thing that the world most desperately needs.

White Plains needs its own version of Thread for struggling students, our own Compassionate Westchester Project for our sick. Can CUUC make it happen? We'll need to team up with other groups, but through our Refugee Resettlement team, we've lately been getting practice at that, too.

What do you say?

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Don't Throw the Second Dart. Some physical and mental pain is inevitable. To survive physically, you need a body that tells you it hurts when it's ill or injured. To flourish psychologically and in your relationships, you need a mind that sends different signals of distress—such as loneliness, anger, or fear—if you're rejected, mistreated, or threatened. But then we add insult to injury with our reactions to these darts. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Can't Have That. That evening Raven took her perch and said to the assembly, "Grandma came to see me today. She held out her stick and asked me what it was. I went to take it in my talons, but she pulled it away and said, 'It's mine. You can't have it.' How would you respond if she asked you what it is?" The assembly was silent. Porcupine...READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Aug 4

2018-07-26

From the Minister, Fri Jul 27

Every two years, in even-numbered years, the delegates at General Assembly select one issue for our congregations to study and act on for the next four years. It's called a Congregational Study/Action Issue -- CSAI. We're always in the first two years of one CSAI while in the second two years of another.

In Jun 2016, General Assembly in Columbus, OH selected "The Corruption of Our Democracy" as the CSAI for 2016-2020. Read about it: HERE.

Last month, the 2018 General Assembly in Kansas City, MO selected "Undoing Intersectional White Supremacy" as the CSAI for 2018-2022. The study and actions taken on this issue in our congregations may lead to a Statement of Conscience to be voted on at the 2021 or 2022 General Assembly.

The premise of the issue we are asked to take up is:
"White supremacy culture operates economically, institutionally, politically, and culturally, shaping everyone’s chances to live healthy, fulfilling lives. It is also the nation’s most toxic export, shaping policies and practices that do profound harm to the Earth and all living things."
Congregations will study and take action on the issue as each congregation sees fit. The CSAI description, as adopted, includes some suggested starter questions for exploration:

  • How are people socialized into various overlapping supremacy systems, creating a white dominated hetero patriarchy that serves the interests of US corporatism?
  • How do different racial and economic strategies get applied to different racial groups, often disguised in coded language that pretends to be colorblind while having racialized impacts?
  • How can we, as UUs, build transformative relationships of trust and accountability across race lines?
Good questions, not easily answered. I look forward to exploring them with you. Read the full description of this CSAI as adopted: HERE.

The 2018 General Assembly also adopted three AIWs (Actions of Immediate Witness):
"End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE"
"Dismantle Predatory Medical Care Practices in Prisons and End Prisons for Profit"
"We Are All Related: Solidarity with Indigenous Water Protectors"

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Stay on Your Path and Explore New Paths. From Jun 15 through Jul 31, we won't be highlighting any particular Practices. We'll return in August to highlighting one each week -- sometimes introducing a new one and sometimes drawing your attention to a previously mentioned practice. In the meantime, stay on your path! And explore new paths! There are 165 "Practices of the Week" listed and indexed HERE. Look them over and choose your own Practices to highlight until August.

Your Moment of Zen: The Stick. Grandma had been living at Vinecot for as long as anyone could remember. She was white-haired and bent, and walked with a stick. She was a friend of Turkey, who had free run of her house. One day she came to see Raven who promptly flew up into the Assembly Oak. “Come down here, Raven Roshi,” she said. “I want to talk to you.” Raven flew down before her and observed, “We understand each other.” “Oh,” said Grandma, “I’ve been living in the forest for READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Jul 28

2018-07-13

From the Minister, Fri Jul 13

The third of the three AIWs (Actions of Immediate Witness) passed by the delegates at General Assembly 2018 was: "We Are All Related: Solidarity with Indigenous Water Protectors." The action addresses the Dakota Access Pipeline, which is on Great Sioux Nation Treaty Land, and the "intercultural community of transformation and prayerful resistance" that formed at Standing Rock to oppose the Pipeline's construction under the Missouri River -- which flows on down through Kansas City, where the 2018 General Assembly gathered.

Through 2016 and into 2017 Lakota/Dakota/Nakota (Sioux) peoples were joined at Standing Rock by "people from more than 300 Indigenous nations" and "allies of many colors" to protect the waters of the Missouri. The Obama administration halted Dakota Access Pipeline construction pending an Environmental Impact assessment. However, President Trump reversed this action and construction resumed. The pipeline was completed in April 2017 and oil began flowing through it the next month.

The AIW notes that "Unitarian Universalists play a unique role among faith communities, forming strong bonds as relatives with Indigenous Water Protectors," and that "unprecedented numbers of Unitarian Universalists, Indigenous and otherwise, were propelled by our values to respond to this call for solidarity and were generally welcomed as relatives" at the Standing Rock protests.

"Seven Indigenous Water Protectors face federal charges in Bismarck-Mandan. A National Jury Project randomized survey concluded that 77% of the jury-eligible population in Morton County and 85% in Burleigh County have already decided that Water Protectors are guilty, yet requests to change trial venues have been denied."

"As Unitarian Universalists," the AIW declares:
  • We express our gratitude to Standing Rock, Sacred Stone Camp, Oceti Sakowin Camp, Sicangu Rosebud Camp, and associated camps for welcoming us as relatives and affirming that all people belong to the human family.
  • We affirm solidarity with Water Protectors, including defendants, inmates, and their loved ones.
  • We pledge our direct and tangible support for local Indigenous movements that seek to protect the environment and restore traditional Indigenous ways of life.
The AIW urges extending "relationships of solidarity with Water Protectors, leveraging our spiritual, financial, human, and infrastructural resources in support of Water Protectors, especially those who face ongoing charges and prison sentences, and their loved ones." It also asks "the UUA to supply materials and guidance such as curriculum development, educational materials, and support for networking among UUs to work in solidarity with Water Protectors."

Read the full statements of all three AIWs. Here are the links:
"End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE"
"Dismantle Predatory Medical Care Practices in Prisons and End Prisons for Profit"
"We Are All Related: Solidarity with Indigenous Water Protectors"

Westchester UU minister, Rev. Karen Brammer, was at Standing Rock in Nov-Dec 2016. She posted about the experience at "Voices of Liberal Faith." See HERE, and scroll down to "Brammer, Karen".

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Stay on Your Path and Explore New Paths. From Jun 15 through Jul 31, we won't be highlighting any particular Practices. We'll return in August to highlighting one each week -- sometimes introducing a new one and sometimes drawing your attention to a previously mentioned practice. In the meantime, stay on your path! And explore new paths! There are 165 "Practices of the Week" listed and indexed HERE. Look them over and choose your own Practices to highlight until August.

Your Moment of Zen: Emptiness. At a Tallspruce party, Porcupine cornered Raven and said, "I wanted to tell you that I've found that there is no basis for emptiness." Raven looked startled, then she and Porcupine burst into laughter. READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Jul 14

2018-07-06

From the Minister, Fri Jul 6

The 2018 General Assembly (Jun 20-24) adopted three AIWs (Actions of Immediate Witness). Last week I summarized the first: "End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE." The full AIW is HERE.

This week, let me tell you about the second AIW: "Dismantle Predatory Medical Care Practices in Prisons and End Prisons For Profit." It notes that "prisons for profit encourage longer terms of imprisonment and maximize profit by minimizing services and rehabilitation," and that many prisons "charge for necessary medical care using private, for-profit medical companies." Prisoners' limited ability to pay "perpetuates illness, debility, insurmountable debt, and chronic poverty. People in prisons are dying every day due to prohibitive medical cost." It is a "a system of oppression that perpetuates and further criminalizes poverty." The Supreme Court has declared these practices unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment (Estelle v. Gamble, 1976), and the practices violate the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners -- yet the practices continue.

The AIW "denounces the predatory practice of charging medical fees to people in prison," and calls on UUs to:
  • Contact Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner urging him to sign HB 5104, which is currently on his desk. This bill would end medical fees for people incarcerated in Illinois.
  • Contact Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and state legislators to demand an end to fee-for-service medical care in their states.
  • Publicly oppose the practices of Corizon Health, which profits from privatized health care in Kansas, Missouri, and in twenty other states, as well as Wexford Health, MHM Services Inc. and other companies that supply health care for local, state, and federal prisons and ICE detention facilities.
  • Get more deeply involved in direct service prison ministry through such actions as beginning or joining local prison ministry efforts within your congregation or community organization; networking with others engaged in prison ministry; leading worship or small group ministry within prisons; becoming a pen pal; and welcoming post-incarcerated persons into your congregation.
  • Continue to educate ourselves on the adverse impacts of prison privatization and the many injustices such as a) grossly disproportionate impact on marginalized groups, b) solitary confinement practices, c) prison-based gerrymandering, d) voter disenfranchisement and e) employment discrimination.
Read the full AIW HERE.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Stay on Your Path and Explore New Paths. From Jun 15 through Jul 31, we won't be highlighting any particular Practices. We'll return in August to highlighting one each week -- sometimes introducing a new one and sometimes drawing your attention to a previously mentioned practice. In the meantime, stay on your path! And explore new paths! There are 165 "Practices of the Week" listed and indexed HERE. Look them over and choose your own Practices to highlight until August.

Your Moment of Zen: Saving the Many Beings. Mallard appeared in the circle after a trip and asked, "The first of our vows is to save the many beings. You told us that the Sixth Ancestor said this means, 'You save them in your own mind.' Is that all there is to fulfilling this vow?" Raven said, "Completely fulfilled." Mallard said, "But what then?" Raven said, "Not just your skull." READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Jul 7

2018-06-28

From the Minister, Thu Jun 28

Last week, I was at the 2018 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association in Kansas City.

GA is always exciting and always teaches me something. My first GA was 20 years ago: 1998 in Rochester, NY. In the years since then, I missed a few, though not many. Kansas City was my 18th GA. It was also my first GA serving on the Commission on Social Witness (CSW), to which I was elected at the end of the 2017 GA. Originally named the "Commission on General Resolutions," the CSW shepherds the processes for the social action resolutions that are voted on by all the delegates at GA. This includes shepherding:
  • the CSAI (Congregational Study/Action Issue) process through submission of proposals many months in advance of GA through the delegate vote to select one such proposal for a 4-year exploration by our congregations;
  • the SOC (Statement of Conscience) process through which the CSAI culminates in statement which the delegates may vote to adopt. For example, the 2017 GA adopted an SOC on economic inequality which our congregation adopted, in amended form, last April.
  • the AIW (Action of Immediate Witness) process through which a maximum of three issues raised at GA turn into statements at GA.
In the coming weeks, I'll use this column to write about the CSAI that was chosen at GA 2018. But, first, let's look at the AIWs that were selected. I'll discuss each of the three in the weeks ahead. First, "End Family Separation and Detention of Asylum Seekers and Abolish ICE."

The 578-word statement references our 2013 Statement of Conscience on immigration (read this SOC HERE), and notes that families are being separated, "children are abused and drugged," and that "white supremacy criminalizes black and brown bodies and the exercise of their rights." The statement calls on UUs to demand reunification of families, an end to incarceration of asylum seekers, investigation of the drugging and abuse of detained children, and abolition of ICE and removal of immigration oversight from the Department of Homeland Security.

The statement also urges us to participate in the Jun 30 Mass Mobilization (see HERE) and Jul 2 events at border areas, support immigration reform, and "build accountable relationships with immigrant-led groups, supporting what they request, without usurping leadership."

Read the full AIW statement HERE.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit. New in the last two weeks:
Index of past sermons: HERE.
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE.

Practice of the Week: Stay on Your Path and Explore New Paths. From Jun 15 through Jul 31, we won't be highlighting any particular Practices. We'll return in August to highlighting one each week -- sometimes introducing a new one and sometimes drawing your attention to a previously mentioned practice. In the meantime, stay on your path! And explore new paths! There are 165 "Practices of the Week" listed and indexed HERE. Look them over and choose your own Practices to highlight until August.
Your Moment of Zen: Delineation. Porcupine came over with a gift of leavings. "Kind of you," said Raven. "I have a report," said Porcupine. "This morning when the birds woke me up, I realized that my quills and my skin don't delineate me." "What delineates you?" asked Raven. "You always blink when you ask a hard question," said Porcupine. Raven said, "You are very observant." READ MORE
Zen at CUUC: Sat Jun 30