CUUC

CUUC

2014-10-30

Notice You're All Right Right Now

Practice of the Week
Notice You're All Right Right Now
"Anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strength." (Charles Spurgeon)

* * *
Rick Hanson on noticing that you're all right right now:


Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

To keep our ancestors alive, the brain evolved an ongoing internal trickle of unease. This little whisper of worry keeps you scanning your inner and outer worlds for signs of trouble.

This background of unsettledness and watchfulness is so automatic that you can forget it's there. So see if you can tune in to a tension, guarding, or bracing in your body. Or a vigilance about your environment or other people. Or a block against completely relaxing, letting down, letting go. Try to walk through an office or store that you know is safe without a molecule of wariness: it's really hard. Or try to sit at home for five minutes straight while feeling undefended, soft in your body, utterly comfortable in the moment as it is, at peace: this is impossible for most people.

The brain's default setting of apprehensiveness is a great way to keep a monkey looking over its shoulder for something about to pounce. But it's a crummy way to live. It wears down well-being, feeds anxiety and depression, and makes people play small in life.

And it's based on a lie.

In effect, that uneasiness in the background is continually whispering in your mental "ear": You're' not safe, you're surrounded by threats, you can never afford to lower your guard.

But take a close look at this moment, right now. Probably, you are basically ail right: no one is attacking you, you are not drowning, no bombs are falling, there is no crisis. It's not perfect, but you're okay.

By "right now," I mean this moment. When we go into the future, we worry and plan. When we go into the past, we resent and regret. Threads of fear are woven into the mental tapestries of past and future. Look again at the thin slice of time that is the present. In this moment: Are you basically okay? Is breathing okay? Is the heart beating? Is the mind working? The answers are almost certainly yes.

In daily life, it's possible to access this fundamental sense of all-rightness even while getting things done. You're not ignoring real threats or issues, or pretending that everything is perfect. It's not. But in the middle of everything, you can usually see that you're actually all right right now.

How

Several times a day, notice that you're basically all right.

You may want more money or love, or simply ketchup for your French fries. Or want less pain, heartache, or rush hour traffic. All very reasonable. But meanwhile, underneath all the to-ing and fro-ing, you are okay. Underneath your desires and activities is an aliveness and an awareness that is doing fine this second.

There you are fixing dinner; notice that "I'm all right right now," and perhaps say that softly in your mind. Or you're driving: I'm all right right now. Or you're talking with someone: I'm all right right now. Or doing e-mails or putting a child to bed: I'm all right right now.

Notice that, while feeling all right right now, you can still get things done and deal with problems. The fear that bad things will happen if you let yourself feel okay is unfounded; let this sink in. You do not need to fear feeling all right!

Sometimes you're really not all right. Maybe something terrible has happened, or your body is very disturbed, or your mind is very upset. Do what you can at these times to ride out the storm. But as soon as possible, notice that the core of your being is okay, like the quiet place fifty feet underwater, beneath a hurricane howling above the sea.

Noticing that you're actually all right right now is not laying a positive attitude over your life like a pretty veil. Instead, you are knowing a simple but profound fact: In this moment I am all right. You are sensing the truth in your body, deeper than fear, that it is breathing and living and okay. You are recognizing that your mind is functioning fine no matter how nutty and not-fine the contents swirling through it are.

Settling into this basic sense of okayness is a powerful way to build well-being and resources in your brain and being. You're taking a stand for the truth—and against the lies murmured by Mother Nature.

For Journaling

After a day of regularly noticing that you're "all right right now," at the end of the day, write in your journal about the various times during the day that you stopped to remind yourself that you were OK in that moment. What were you doing at those times? What level of unease or anxiety was there?

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Previous Practice of the Week: "Be Generous"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

Music: Sun Nov 2

Join us this Sunday for a musical celebration of the animal kingdom by CUC’s Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas in honor of our special Blessing of the Animals service. Consider arriving by 10am in order to hear a special Music for All Ages presentation by Lisa and the Choir, which will preview our December 21 production of Gian Carlo Menotti’s children’s opera Amahl and the Night Visitors. This work embodies themes of honesty, forgiveness, and love.

Prelude:
Music for All Ages with CUC’s Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas, including the following excerpts from Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti:

"Don't cry, Mother dear"
Amahl: Carla Fisher
His Mother: Lisa Meyer
“The Sherpherds Chorus"
CUC Choir

Choral Anthem I:
Bonse Aba* Traditional Zambian Folk Song, arr. by Victor C. Johnson

*Translation: All who sing with the spirit have a right to be called the children of God.

Offertory:
Counterpoint of the Animals Adriano Banchieri (c.1600)

2014-10-29

Journey Group Packet 2014 Nov: Forgiveness

Journey Group Packet
2014 Nov
Forgiveness

Meredith's Reflection

Love, Understanding, and Forgiveness

We need to receive forgiveness, and we need to give it. As Reinhold Niebuhr said, “No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as from our own. Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.” (in our hymnal, #461)

We need to receive forgiveness because sometimes we find out that our actions, which seemed to us perfectly reasonable, perhaps even virtuous, have hurt someone. We need to forgive others for the same reason: because we aren’t as virtuous as we think we are.

When we care about maintaining relationship, that’s love – or, at least, the beginning of it. In our need for other people is the seed of love. Love, says Niebuhr, takes its final form in forgiveness: that willingness to put restoration of relationship above the calculus of punishment and justice – to put relationship above receiving our due.

Forgiveness depends crucially upon understanding. To illustrate, put yourself in this scenario:
You’ve been grocery shopping. Now you’ve gotta get the groceries home and put away. You’re under some time pressure because you have an appointment coming up. You get to your apartment building, but the parking places on that side of the street are taken, so you have to park across the street. At the grocery store, you had asked for paper rather than plastic, and what you’ve got are three brimming-full paper grocery bags. You decide you need to do this in one trip, so you scoop up all three bags. Your field of vision is now somewhat limited. You wait for the light to change. You know it says “walk” for only a few seconds before it goes into its warning blink, and that stopped cars are ready to proceed the instant the light changes back. You’re making your way across the street, when some clod walking by the other direction bumps into you. Your groceries spill in the middle of the street. Your body floods with that anger reaction. Blood pressure up, you see red. You spin around, clutching the one bag of groceries that didn’t spill, and the angry, loud words that are already starting to come out of your mouth are definitely not words you would want your children to hear. In that moment you see . . . the white cane. The anger just drains right away as you see the truth of the situation with clarity.
When the injured truly understands the offender -- where she was coming from and why she did what she did -- forgiveness naturally follows. Sometimes, though, a person can cling to grievance believing that they could (or do) completely understand the offender, and still find the offense unforgivable.

Forgiveness can happen without reconciliation. But when we find ourselves otherwise unable to forgive, working toward reconciliation – commitment to a process of restitution – can help.

Meredith’s Musings
Forgiveness
(from Communitarian, 2014 November)

On small matters, forgiveness can be a casual matter: as easy as saying the words, “I forgive you.” Some wounds go deeper, though, and the healing is not so easy. The road to forgiveness is sometimes harrowing, soul wrenching -- about the hardest thing a person can do.

Forgiving is fore-giving: giving what was before. To forgive is to give back the relationship as it was before. When the fabric of relationship is ripped through, restoration requires more than brief words of apology and forgiveness.

There are ways that forgiveness goes wrong. First, we might think it is done when it has only begun. Second, forgiveness goes wrong when the forgiver comes off as superior – magnanimous in being willing to forgive. Rather than return the parties to equality, it maintains a reversed inequality. That can happen when we don’t seek a more extended reconciliation process. Third, forgiveness goes wrong when it is expected or demanded. When we “should” ourselves or others into “forgiving,” the longer process that could lead to a deeper restoration is derailed. Forgiveness goes awry, for example, when a battered woman is told she “should forgive” her husband and take him back – without any reliable commitment on his part. Fourth, things have gone wrong when we give up on the possibility of forgiveness at all. This is the flip side of expecting or demanding it or treating it as if it were an easy and momentary thing to do. Once we see that forgiveness isn't simple and instantaneous, we might go the other direction and give up on it entirely. Don't demand it or expect it -- but please don't give up on forgiveness either.

The grace of forgiveness – the grace of being able to forgive, and the grace of coming to be forgiven – can, if not short-circuited, have a power to raise new life from a kind of death. It can break through the usual demands of retributive justice.

The first step is for the injured to be able to say that they’ve been hurt and how. Sometimes we aren’t ready to get, don’t want to get, don’t need to get, to forgiveness. Just the first step of speaking the pain helps prepare a person to get on with life. Second, having named our pain, grieve it. If we don’t grieve, we are much more likely to pass on the very same injury to others. Last comes letting it go -- which you can’t make yourself do, and you certainly can’t make anyone else let something go. You can only open yourself to inviting the release to come. Letting go – if it happens -- releases the transgressor from the punishment he would deserve for his violation.

“The heart has its reasons, which reason does not know,” as Blaise Pascal said. The path to forgiveness entails delving into the matters of the heart.

The Spiritual Exercise

The focus of this month’s exercise is self-forgiveness – which, in its fullest realization, includes outward changes and a new relationship to the world.

Consider this example, from the 1982 film Gandhi:

Violent rioting has broken out. Muslim and Hindu mobs are attacking and killing each other all over India. Gandhi goes on a hunger strike – refusing to eat until the violence stops. In the film, we see Gandhi weak and in bed from fasting. Leaders of the fighting factions come in, throw down their swords and promise they will fight no more. One man then pushes through and flings bread on Gandhi.
Man: Eat! I'm going to Hell! But not with your death on my soul.
Gandhi: Only God decides who goes to hell.
Man: I killed a child! I smashed his head against a wall.
Gandhi: Why?
Man: They killed my son. My boy. [Holds out his hand at waist level to indicate the boy’s height.] The Muslims killed my son!
Gandhi: I know a way out of Hell. Find a child, a child whose mother and father have been killed – a little boy about this high [holds out hand to indicate the same height the man had indicated] -- and raise him as your own. Only be sure that he is a Muslim and that you raise him as one.
The man is astounded. Then his stunned expression seems to turn from disbelief to wonder. He turns to go. Stops. Turns back to Gandhi. Gets on his knees and bows to the ground. (See video at the bottom of this post.)

This month’s exercise asks you to be creative and imagine – for in imagination we give ourselves the preparation for life. Write (in your journal or separately) a fictional scenario of a person who has done something horrible – as the man who confronted Gandhi had done. If you can, choose an act that you can imagine yourself having done (at an earlier stage in your life, perhaps, -- if circumstances had pushed you to it). Imagine her/his process of restitution (perhaps assigned by a wise woman or man, as in the above example, or perhaps otherwise determined). As your time for this exercise allows, go into detail about how the restitution and self-forgiveness process unfolds – its ups and downs. What does the self-forgiveness arrived at look and feel like? How is the person changed?

Bring your story to your journey group, prepared to share it – in whole or in synopsis.

Questions to Live With

As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework.” You do not need to engage every single one. Instead, simply look them over and find the one that “hooks” you most. Then let it take you on a ride. Live with it for a while. Allow it to regularly break into – and break open – your ordinary thoughts. And then come to your Journey Group meeting prepared to share that journey with your group.

1. When the person to whom we would like to apologize is unavailable (e.g., has died, or is unreachable) can we forgive ourselves? What does it take to release ourselves from guilt and recrimination?

2. When the person we would like to forgive is unavailable (has died, or is unreachable) what can we do?

3. What wrongs against you would you regard as “unforgivable” – no matter what sincere contrition and commitment to restitution the offender may demonstrate?

4. In what ways might praying for forgiveness be helpful and a good idea? 

5. Concerning self-forgiveness, Daniel Woo offers this meditation: “I am a human being who has made mistakes. I am not perfect. I forgive myself today. Today I will do my best, imperfectly. I am forgiven and I will love myself today. I am a good, worthy human being. The sun shines each day no matter what happened yesterday. I forgive myself for all my yesterdays. I have an inner light that shines on me today.” Do you think this sort of meditation would be helpful? Why or why not?

6 Is it appropriate for self-forgiveness to be more difficult than forgiving others? Why?

7. Forgiveness is in part about healing relationships. But what do we do when we do not have a willing partner in the healing process?

8. When we are wronged, it’s normal to be angry and hurt, to rehearse the narrative in our minds. We give over our personal power to the individual who hurt us, continuing to let their past actions dominate our present experience. In such a case, forgiveness is liberating, for in letting go of the grievance, it loses its power over us. What does it take to be able to forgive and let go in this way?

9. In the absence of an apology from the offender, the injured, in some cases, nevertheless forgives. So what is the role or importance of apology?

10. Can temporarily withholding forgiveness sometimes be a wise and caring choice? When?

11. What is the role or importance of group-to-group apology/forgiveness (e.g., the US apologizing for slavery). Is this importantly different from person-to-person apology/forgiveness?

12. Who do you need to forgive in your life?

13. From whom do you need to seek forgiveness?

 Wise Words

To err is human; to forgive, divine. -- Alexander Pope

We must develop and maintain the capacity to forgive. He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies. -- Martin Luther King, Jr.

If I say, 'I forgive you,' I have implicitly said you have done something wrong to me. But what forgiveness is at its heart is both saying that justice has been violated and not letting that violation count against the offender. -- Miroslav Volf

When I am able to resist the temptation to judge others, I can see them as teachers of forgiveness in my life, reminding me that I can only have peace of mind when I forgive rather than judge. -- Gerald Jampolsky

 The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong. -- Mahatma Gandhi

 One of the secrets of a long and fruitful life is to forgive everybody everything everynight before you go to bed. -- Bernard Baruch

 Holding on to anger, resentment and hurt only gives you tense muscles, a headache and a sore jaw from clenching your teeth. Forgiveness gives you back the laughter and the lightness in your life. -- Joan Lunden

 I learned a long time ago that some people would rather die than forgive. It's a strange truth, but forgiveness is a painful and difficult process. It's not something that happens overnight. It's an evolution of the heart. -- Sue Monk Kidd

 It's not an easy journey, to get to a place where you forgive people. But it is such a powerful place, because it frees you. -- Tyler Perry

 How does one know if she has forgiven? You tend to feel sorrow over the circumstance instead of rage, you tend to feel sorry for the person rather than angry with him. You tend to have nothing left to say about it all. -- Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 You will know that forgiveness has begun when you recall those who hurt you and feel the power to wish them well. -- Lewis B. Smedes

 The stupid neither forgive nor forget; the naive forgive and forget; the wise forgive but do not forget. -- Thomas Szasz

 It is easier to forgive an enemy than to forgive a friend. -- William Blake

 As we know, forgiveness of oneself is the hardest of all the forgivenesses. -- Joan Baez

 One important theme is the extent to which one can ever correct an error, especially outside any frame of religious forgiveness. All of us have done something we regret - how we manage to remove that from our conscience, or whether that's even possible, interested me. -- Ian McEwan

 Mistakes are always forgivable, if one has the courage to admit them. -- Bruce Lee

 Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. -- Corrie Ten Boom

 Many promising reconciliations have broken down because while both parties come prepared to forgive, neither party come prepared to be forgiven. -- Charles Williams

 To confer dignity, forgive. To express contempt, forget. -- Mason Cooley When you are happy you can forgive a great deal. -- Princess Diana

 God forgive you, but I never can. -- Elizabeth I

 God will forgive me. It's his job. -- Heinrich Heine

 If I owe Smith ten dollars and God forgives me, that doesn't pay Smith. -- Robert Green Ingersoll 

When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn't work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me. -- Emo Philips

From World Scripture

From the Quran:
Make allowances for people, command what is right, and turn away from the ignorant. (Surat Al-A‘raf, 199)

The repayment of a bad action is one equivalent to it. But if someone pardons and puts things right, his reward is with Allah. Certainly He does not love wrongdoers. (Surat Ash-Shura, 40)

It is a mercy from Allah that you were gentle with them. If you had been rough or hard of heart, they would have scattered from around you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them, and consult with them about the matter. Then when you have reached a firm decision, put your trust in Allah. Allah loves those who put their trust in Him. (Surah Al ‘Imran, 159)
Jesus’ Words on Forgiveness, from the Gospels (NRSV):
“So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.” (Matthew 5:23-24)

“For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” (Matthew 6:14-15)

“Then Peter came and said to him, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.” (Matthew 18: 21-22)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven.” (Luke 6:37)
From Paul’s Epistles (NRSV):
“Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)

“Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4:31-32)

“But if anyone has caused pain, he has caused it not to me, but to some extent—not to exaggerate it—to all of you. This punishment by the majority is enough for such a person; so now instead you should forgive and console him, so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. So I urge you to reaffirm your love for him.” (2 Corinthians 2:5-8)

“Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.” (1 Corinthians 13:4 – 6)
Perry's Family Page
by Perry Montrose, Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Children are often told, “Say you’re sorry.” The offended person is expected to accept the apology and “forgive.” Sometimes the words are meant sincerely and felt by the other person; sometimes they are not, but there is still the expectation to forget the offense. However, true forgiveness is an internal process that relates more to a shift in perspective than a relationship outcome. If we can help children accept human fallibility and process the hurt they have felt or witnessed in another person, then they develop a deeper emotional intelligence and life-changing tool.

The lesson on forgiveness in the Unitarian Universalist Religious Education curriculum Moral Tales, which the CUC fourth-grade class is using this year, begins by asking the children to think about acts of goodness that they and others have done. The children are then asked to name the virtues behind the acts, e.g., generosity, courage, honesty. Before they think about what it means to forgive themselves and others for hurts that have occurred, they need to be holding the sense of goodness that exists in all of us. In order to process hurts in a healthy way, we need to remember that goodness abounds and we hold virtues within us, despite our foibles.

The session then focuses on an old Middle-eastern story about two friends who travel together. The friend who is slapped by the other in an argument writes the hurt in sand and it is blown away by the winds of forgiveness. The same friend is then saved from drowning by the friend who had slapped him. He etches that act in stone and when asked about the difference replies, "When someone hurts us, we should write it down in sand where the winds of forgiveness can erase it away. This way our hearts are free from bitterness, and we can renew our friendships. But, when someone does something kind for us, we must engrave it in stone and in our hearts so that we will never forget.” 

The curriculum tells the children that
the act of forgiveness is one of the most important choices we can make. Forgiveness can help us keep our relationships with others. It can help us have hearts full of love rather than bitterness.
It is pointed out that the word forgiving is made up of “for” and “giving.”
Forgiveness means giving kindness, empathy, and love to another person, even if they have hurt us. When we are angry at ourselves and forgive ourselves, we are giving kindness, empathy, and love to ourselves.
It is stressed to the children that this does not mean we forget the hurtful act or excuse it. The interaction may still affect the choices we make, e.g., not lending a personal possession to someone who has destroyed one, but we make efforts to let go of the resentment.

Similarly, psychological studies on forgiveness have defined it as a
freely made choice to give up revenge, resentment, or harsh judgments toward a person who caused a hurt, and to strive to respond with generosity, compassion, and kindness toward that person. It is a process that involves reducing negative responses and increasing positive responses toward the person who caused the hurt, across the realms of affect, cognition, and behavior. Importantly, forgiveness is not condoning, excusing, denying, minimizing, or forgetting the wrong. It can occur without reconciliation, which requires the participation of both parties, if the person who caused the hurt is absent, deceased, or remains unsafe.
Forgiving is not forgetting, but it is changing our perspective toward the incident. The key is that forgiveness is an internal process that helps us shift how we feel and determines our relationship to ourselves, as well as others. It may or may not change the interaction with the person who caused the hurt or who we hurt, but it changes the way we move forward on our life paths. The studies have shown that this choice of forgiveness directly affects health outcomes and mortality rates.

In teaching our children what it means to forgive, we are empowering them with a tool that will positively affect their health and their ability to relate to the people around them. In helping children accept our human imperfections, we enable them to give understanding, empathy, and kindness to themselves and others. They are freed to act boldly in transformative ways because they have let go of burdensome resentments and unhealthy self-criticism. Learning the process of forgiveness is vital to personal well-being and the continuation of peace-making in the world.

Resources

Moral Tales, Session 5: Forgiveness http://www.uua.org/re/tapestry/children/tales/session5/index.shtml

Study on Forgiveness and Health Outcomes http://www.academia.edu/1007805/Forgive_to_Live_Forgiveness_Health_and_Longevity

The Forgiveness Toolbox: A skills-based toolbox enabling individuals and groups to transform the impact of harm and violence and nurture peaceful co-existence http://www.theforgivenesstoolbox.com/

Barbara Marshman, What If Nobody Forgave? A story about letting go of grudges. http://www.uua.org/worship/words/readings/5955.shtml

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Clip from "Gandhi" (1982):

2014-10-28

CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Oct 26

On our bird walk today kept with the theme of death as this was also the morning of our Dias de los Muertos service. As we reviewed the species on the grounds, we also took stock of the meaning of death, and of life. Birds are so often metaphors of both.
"One man looks at a dying bird and thinks there's nothing but unanswered pain. The death's got the final word, it's laughing at him. Another man sees that same bird, feels the glory, feels something smiling through it." (Film: "The Thin Red Line")
To bring this question to light I had a stuffed (taxidermied) skin of a female starling to show the group. European starlings are tied to death - they have very high annual mortality in the wild, and are often given credit for the demise of native species (they are introduced from Europe and Asia). We spoke of how some see the beauty in starlings, and others not. Crows too are linked to death and bad luck, and as if to offer their opinion of this, a murder of 33 crows flew over during the walk (for crows, a flock is called a "murder").

During the walk we also saw an immature red-tailed hawk. These juveniles have a very tough go of it their first year as they learn to hunt and face the winter. Some studies show over 50% of first year birds never make it to their second year.

During our walks we always stop by the memorial garden, where thanks to someone special, it is being refurbished. There we spoke of those we had known and lost over the years.

The stillness and sadness did not last for long, for the sun and colors of the leaves were bright, as was the company we kept.

Please join us for our next bird walk: Sun Nov 23.

LoraKim

Today’s sightings:

1 Titmouse
4 Mourning doves
4 American robins
1 House Sparrow
1 Yellow-rumped warblers
1 Black-capped Chickadee
2 European starling
4 Canada Geese
2 White-breasted nuthatch
1 House finch
1 Blue jay
1 Downy woodpecker
1 White-throated sparrow
7 Pine siskins
33 Crows
1 Turkey vulture
1 Red-tailed hawk
1 Downy woodpecker

2014-10-24

Be Generous

Practice of the Week
Be Generous
"Sustainability, ensuring the future of life on Earth, is an infinite game, the endless expression of generosity on behalf of all." (Paul Hawken)

* * *
Rick Hanson on being generous:


Adapted from Rick Hanson, Just One Thing. [Order a copy for yourself: HERE]:

Giving—to others, to the world, to oneself—is deep in our nature as human beings.

When our mammalian ancestors first appeared, about two hundred million years ago, their capacities for bonding, emotion, and generosity were extraordinary evolutionary breakthroughs. Unlike reptiles and fish, mammals and birds care for their young, pair bond (sometimes for life), and usually form complex social groups organized around various kinds of cooperation. This takes more smarts than, say, a fish laying a swarm of eggs and swimming away—so in proportion to body weight, mammals and birds have bigger brains than reptiles and fish do.

When primates came along about sixty million years ago, there was another jump in brain size based on the "reproductive advantages" (love that phrase) of social abilities. The primate species that are the most relational—that have the most complex communications, grooming, alpha/beta hierarchies, and so on—have the largest cortex (in proportion to weight).

Then early hominids emerged, starting to make stone tools about 2.5 million years ago. Since then, the brain has tripled in size, and much of this new cortex is devoted to interpersonal skills such as language, empathy, attachment to family and friends, romance, cooperative planning, and altruism. As the brain enlarged, a longer childhood was required to allow for its growth after birth and to make good use of its wonderful new capabilities. This necessitated more help from fathers to keep children and their mothers alive during the uniquely long juvenile phase of a human life, and more help from "the village it takes to raise a child." The bonding and nurturing of primate mothers—in a word, their giving—gradually evolved into romantic love, fathers caring for their young, friendship, and the larger web of affiliations that join humans together. Additionally, our ancestors bred mainly within their own band; bands that were better at the give-and-take of relationships and teamwork out-competed other bands for scarce resources, so the genes that built more socially intelligent brains proliferated into the human genome. In sum, giving, broadly defined, both enabled and drove the evolution of the brain over millions of years.

Consequently, we swim in a sea of generosity—of many daily acts of consideration, reciprocity, benevolence, compassion, kindness, helpfulness, warmth, appreciation, respect, patience, forbearance, and contribution—but like those proverbial fish, often don't realize we're wet. Because of the brain's negativity bias, moments of not-giving—one's own resentments and selfishness, and the withholding and unkindness of others—pop out with blazing headlines. Plus modern economies can make it seem like giving and getting is largely about making money—but that part of life is just a tiny fraction of the original and still vast "generosity economy," with its circular flows of freely given, unmonetized goods and services.

When you express your giving nature, it feels good for you, benefits others, prompts them to be good to you in turn, and adds one more lovely thread to the great tapestry of human generosity.

How

Take care of yourself. Don't give in ways that harm you or others (e.g., offering a blind eye to someone's alcoholism). Keep refueling yourself; it's easier to give when your own cup runneth over—or at least you're not running on empty.

Prime the pump of generosity. Be aware of things you are grateful for or glad about. Bring to mind a sense of already being full, so that you'll not feel deprived or emptied out if you give a little more.

Notice that giving is natural for you. You don't need to be a saint to be a giving person. Generosity comes in many forms, including heart, time, self-control, service, food, and money. From this perspective, consider how much you already give each day. Open to feeling good about yourself as a giver.

Give your full attention. Stay present with others min¬ute after minute, staying with their topic or agenda. You may not like what they say, but you could still offer a receptive ear. (Especially important with a child or mate.) Then, when it's your turn, the other person will likely feel better about you taking the microphone.

Offer nonreactivity. Much of the time, interactions, relationships, and life altogether would go better if we did not add our comments, advice, or emotional reactions to a situation. Not-doing is sometimes the best gift.

Be helpful. For example, volunteer for a school, give money to a good cause, or increase your own housework or child care if your partner is doing more than you.

Do your own practice. One of your best contributions to others is to raise your own level of well-being and functioning. Whatever your practice is or could grow to be, do it with a whole heart, as a daily offering to whatever you hold sacred, to your family and friends, and to the widening world.

For Journaling

Questions to address in your journal: In the last week, when did you:
  1. give your full attention to someone?
  2. offer nonreactivity?
  3. help someone?
  4. do something else that was generous?
Do you have a practice that is "a daily offering to whatever you hold sacred, to your family and friends, and to the widening world"? Briefly describe the practice and how it fosters generosity.

* * *

Previous Practice of the Week: "Dream Big Dreams"
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"

Halloween Fun on October 26

Halloween Fun for Children!

Sunday, October 26 at 11:30 a.m.

During the Fall Harvest Brunch, Youth Group members will be hosting some fun Halloween activities for the CUC children. Gather by the door in Fellowship Hall and monsters, ghouls, and ghosts will lead the way.

2014-10-23

Music: Sun Oct 26

In keeping with October’s theme of death and this Sunday’s sermon on El Día de los Muertos, music for Oct 26 will feature funeral marches from sonatas by Beethoven and Chopin, an Elegy by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg, American composer William Bolcom’s Graceful Ghost Rag, and Manuel de Falla’s Danza del Terror from the ballet El amor brujo. This last work relates a tale of about a young gypsy woman’s struggles to exorcize the ghost of her deceased lover.

Prelude:
Sonata No. 12 in Ab Major, Op 26
III. Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un Eroe
Ludwig van Beethoven

Sonata in Bb minor, Op. 35
III. Marche funèbre
Frederic Chopin

Opening Music:
Danza del Terror
Manuel de Falla

Interlude
Elegy, Op. 47, No. 7
Edvard Grieg

Offertory:
Graceful Ghost Rag
William Bolcom

2014-10-16

Children and Youth Class Auction Baskets

Calling All CUC Children and Youth!

 We Need Your Help for the CUC Auction.

THIS YEAR’S THEME IS A “PICNIC IN PROVENCE”

Each RE class will put together a THEMED BASKET of GREAT STUFF to be auctioned off at this year’s CUC Community Auction. Every child in the RE program can help by bringing in one or two new items to donate to their joint class basket. Pick something listed below, or better yet, BE CREATIVE!  

Please bring in your items by November 2 and look for the collection basket by the RE front door.  THANKS for helping to make this year’s auction a success!! 

Please MARK all items with your child’s class/grade.
__________________________________________________________________________________

Nursery/ Pre-K/ K/ First GradeGames for Le Petite Prince / Princess
Add your favorite game to this basket that appeals to the whole family.  Board games, mind games, car games.  This game basket will be Oh-la-la! 

Second/ Third/ Fourth GradeCafé au lait
Café au lait and a little sweet, such a part of French life.  Add your favorite coffee, espresso, gift card to Starbucks, or non-perishable cookie or sweet to this basket, which will celebrate the French sidewalk café. 

Fifth/ Sixth GradeFrench Market Basket (of gift cards)
The French know how to shop.  Add a gift card to this French Market Basket for books, fashion, home goods, music, coffee, gas or even French bread.

Seventh/ Eighth / Ninth Grade (COA)  – La Maison du Chocolat
Truffles and bon bons, hot chocolate and cookies, macarons and drinking chocolate, dark chocolate and milk chocolate.  Add your favorite kind of chocolate to this tempting basket. 

Youth GroupFrench films (or films shot in France)
From film noir to New Waves, add your favorite DVD of a French film or a film shot in France to entertain all ages. (Ideas include Midnight in Paris, Paris (2008), La Belle e la Bete, Day for Night, Paris -- Je T'aime, Jean de Florette, La Grande Illusion, Breathless, Sabrina, Chocolat, Rugrats in Paris, Anastasia, The Aristocats, A Monster in Paris, Ratatouille and The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Questions???
Bevin Maguire (bevinMM@gmail.com) or
Craig Hunt (stourleyK@hotmail.com)

2014-10-15

Music: Sun Oct 19

This Sunday, UU musical legend Jim Scott is our special musical guest. Read on for Jim’s bio and references to his special relationship with CUC.

ABOUT OUR SPECIAL MUSICAL GUEST JIM SCOTT

Composer, guitarist and singer Jim Scott will be our guest on Sun Oct 19. His songs are in our UU Hymnbooks, including “Gather the Spirit,” and he’s toured the country for nearly three decades, playing at over 600 UU churches. As co-chair of the UU Ministry for the Earth, Jim helped create the Green Sanctuary program and assembled and arranged the "Earth and Spirit Songbook,” a great contribution to our worship and RE resources. Formerly a member of the Paul Winter Consort and co-composer of their Missa Gaia/Earth Mass, Jim has gone on to record a number of CDs of his original music and publish a growing line of choral works. He recently won the UU Silliman Anthem Contest for his piece “I Am Waiting.”

Jim arranged for the 2013 benefit concert that he and Pete Seeger did here at CUCWP, raising money for the UU Service Committee. (Over $8,000). He's been doing a lot of walking lately, participating in the "People's Climate March" in NYC, the "Ferguson October" March in St. Louis, and he just did a benefit concert for the "Great March for Climate Action" in Pittsburgh, on their way across America to Washington DC in November. We can thank him by visiting his table with CDs and books at coffee hour. After hearing him, I’m sure you’ll want to take some of his work home with you.

MUSICAL SELECTIONS:

Prelude:
Gospel Medley -- Traditional, arr. by Jim Scott

Choral Anthem I:
Address to the Moon -- Music by John Purifoy, Poem by Nathaniel Hawthorne
CUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas

Choral Anthem II:
Turn Me 'Round -- American Spiritual, arr. by Earlene Rentz

Special Choral Music with Jim Scott:
I Am Waiting -- Jim Scott

Offertory:
May Your Life Be As a Song -- Jm Scott

Dream Big Dreams

Practice of the Week
Dream Big Dreams

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.
"Dream as if you'll live forever. Live as if you'll die today." (James Dean)

Everyone has dreams: goals, big plans, reasons for living, contributions to others. They include starting a family, changing careers, going to college, deepening the emotionally and sensually intimate aspects of a long-term relationship, writing a book, living a spiritual practice, making art, getting a stoplight installed at a dangerous intersection, losing thirty pounds and keeping it off, saving the whales, saving the world.

Many of these dreams are rooted in childhood visions of what's possible. When the young elements are peeled away, what remains is often still deeply true for a person.

What are your own longings of the heart?

They could be quite concrete—and still be big dreams. Like everybody in the family doing their share of housework. Or finding a job that takes less than an hour to drive to. Or coming to peace with your mother or your son. Or planting roses. Or carving out half an hour a day for yourself.

Or they could be more far-reaching or lofty. Such as reducing bullying in schools or carbon dumping in the atmosphere, or pursuing your own spiritual awakening.

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.

How

Find a quiet time and place, and ask yourself what you long for. Also imagine younger versions of yourself, and ask them what their dreams are.

Try to be open to what comes up, rather than dismissing it as unrealistic, too late, "selfish," or foolish. Perhaps write it down, even just a few words, or tell someone. If you like, make a collage of pictures (and maybe words) that represent your dream(s). And remember that your dreams aren't set in stone; you can let them breathe and change and grow.

Make room for your dreams in your thoughts and actions. Be their friend. Feel what it would be like if they came true, and how that would be good for you and others.

Without getting bogged down in details or obstructions, give thought to what you could do, in realistic ways, to move toward the fulfillment of your dreams. Look for the small things you can implement and build on each day. Perhaps go further and write down a plan for yourself, with—gulp—dates on it. Don't be daunted by things getting more real.

Then take action. If it helps, tell the truth about and keep a record of your actions—like writing down how much time you spend each day exercising, talking lovingly with your mate, or simply curled up relaxing. Focus on the things that will make the most difference; put the big rocks in the bucket first.

Throughout, let your dream live you. Feel into the wholesome heart of a dream—how it comes from deep within, how it is healthy, how it will serve you and others. Give yourself over to your dream.

Let your dream be a friend to you.

For Journaling

Questions to address in your journal:
  1. What are the dreams that matter to me?
  2. Thinking back to the person I was when I was half my current age, what were the dreams that mattered to my younger self? Is there a modified version of some of those dreams that I still have?
  3. What would my life be like if my dream were realized? How would the world be changed?
  4. What's my plan for realizing my dream?
* * *
Rick Hanson on dreaming big dreams:


* * *

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

2014-10-11

CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Sep 28

In these early days of Fall we gathered on Sun Sep 28 to welcome these golden orange days of leave turning. As we walked around the grounds, we could see the thinning of the tree cover, making the light of the sky reflect invitingly off our smiling faces as we observed the birds and other animals. Though it was our lowest species count yet, we did add new species to our bird walk list, including a mockingbird, fish crows, a garter snake, and a red squirrel.

Our birding was a time not just a of observation, but also of reflection and meditation. Being in the middle of the Jewish High Holy Days, we thought on the themes of repentance and atonement. In the world of nature we may see approach this as thinking of that which separates us from one another and the reality of existence, and that which keeps us from a sense of assured belonging and joyous welcoming to others on this earth. Being in the beauty of the birds, we practice ways to affirm our wholeness, which leads us into compassionate action towards the many others.

Below is a list some of the many others we saw this day.

Next bird walk is Sun Oct 26, 8:30am at the Parsonage. Our theme will be following the theme of the month, death. Come join us.

Rev. LoraKim Joyner
CUC Community Ministry

4 Mourning Dove
3 European Starling
2 House Sparrow
1 Hermit Thrush
3 Robin
3 Carolina Chickadee
4 Blue Jay
11 Canada geese
2 Red-breasted nuthatch
1 Mockingbird
2 Fish crow
1 Cardinal
1 Gartner snake
3 Grey squirrels
1 Red squirrel
4 Chipmunks

2014-10-09

Put Out Fires

Practice of the Week
Put Out Fires

Category: Slogans to Live By: Practices for everyone to keep in mind and pay attention to. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time. Just have the intention to grow stronger in each of these areas as you go about your day, and sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling. The titles of these practices are guiding slogans to live by.
"There is a tendency at every important but difficult crossroad to pretend that it’s not really there." (Bill McKibben)

In your heart, right now, you know if there are any vital matters that you're not dealing with: a harm or threat that's not being addressed, or a major lost opportunity. These are real alarms, and you need to listen to them.

For example, there could be
  • unpaid bills on the verge of harming your credit score;
  • a teenager who's increasingly disrespectful and defiant - or caught in the undertow of depressed mood;
  • month after month without much exercise;
  • a marriage that's unraveling thread by thread;
  • abuse of alcohol or drugs;
  • a co-worker who keeps undermining you;
  • chronic overeating, or a nagging sense that there's something wrong with your health.
Quickly or slowly, "fires" like these will singe a life, and sometimes burn it to the ground.

If something's urgent - such as a clogged toilet, a letter from the IRS, a lump in an armpit - most people will get after it right away. But what if it's important-but-not-urgent — an issue or goal that you can always put off dealing with for one more day? It's easy to let these fires smolder — but in the end, they're the ones that usually cost you the most. You still know they're out there; they cast a shadow you can feel in your gut. And eventually their consequences always come home — sometimes during your last years, when you look back on your life and consider what you wish you'd done differently.

On the other hand, when you come to grips with important things, even if they're not urgent, that unease in the belly goes away. You feel good about yourself, doing what you can and making your life better.

How

Open to an intuition, a sense, of whatever you may have pushed to the back burner that truly needs attending. Consider your health, finances, relationships, well-being, and (if this is meaningful to you) spiritual life. Notice any reluctance to face significant unmet needs — it's normal to feel guilty or anxious about them — and see if you can release it.

Ask yourself: what gets in the way of you addressing important-but-not-urgent matters in a typical day? What do you finesse or manage each day but never solve once and for all? Or what do you keep postponing altogether?

What's not actually getting better no matter how much you hope it will?

Write down the name(s) of the important thing(s) you need to address. Tell a trusted person about this. Make it real for yourself that this issue matters. Face it. Keep facing it.

Bring to mind some of the many benefits that will come to you and others if you tackle this issue. Help them be vivid in your mind. See how your days will improve, how you'll sleep better, feel better, and love better. Open to your heart's longing for these benefits. Let the benefits call you, drawing you like honey does a bee.

Also bring to mind the short- and long-term costs to you and others of this issue continuing to smolder away. Be honest with yourself—willing to feel guilt, remorse, or shame in order to do the so honorable, so hard thing of looking squarely at these costs.

Feeling the benefits, and feeling the costs, make a choice: Are you going to put out this fire? Or wait another day?

When you choose to confront this issue, open to feeling good about that.

Then get to work. You don't need to have a complete plan to get started. Just know the first step or two—such as talking about the issue with a friend or therapist, gathering information (e.g., assessing a health concern), seeing a professional, doing one or more small positive actions each day, or getting structured support from others (e.g., a buddy to exercise with, a regular AA meeting). If you're stuck, you don't need a more perfect plan; you need to take imperfect action. The breakthrough will come when you commit to addressing an issue and then structure ongoing support and action toward that end.

If you find yourself procrastinating or getting bogged down, imagine that you are looking back on your life as you near its end. From that perspective, what will you be glad that you did?

For Journaling

Write down the names of important things you need to address. Write about the benefits of tackling the issue, and about the costs of not tackling it.

* * *
Rick Hanson on putting out fires:


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

Extraordinary Sunday For All Ages, Oct. 12

Extraordinary Sunday for All Ages at 10 a.m.

Explore Unitarian Universalism

High School Youth Group members will lead all the children in an exploration of UU history and identity through fun activities, including a UU scavenger hunt around the RE pods. Learn about famous UUs and the values of our faith. There will even be a science experiment.

Children begin in Fellowship Hall.

Wellness Workshop - Thu Oct 23 at 7 p.m.

Wellness Workshop at CUC

Thu Oct 23 at 7 p.m.




 


Do you constantly crave sweets and are not sure why?
Are you tired of always being tired and having low energy?
Do you want to gain control over your cravings and not deprive yourself?

If you are like most people, you may have some issues with sugar. Well, not to worry. Certified Holistic Health Coach Jaime Stemkowski will help you change your relationship to sugar. Jaime will talk about:

  • The top ways sugar is negatively affecting your health and happiness
  • How sugar is part of the solution - not the problem
  • Tips to eat foods you enjoy and not deprive yourself
  • To understand how your lifestyle affects your cravings
  • Your first steps to take back control of your life and health
Please RSVP to jaime@lifewithjaime.com.

You can also visit Jaime's website to learn more: www.lifewithjaime.com

The Five Smooth Stones of Liberal Religion

Source: James Luther Adams, "Guiding Principles for a Free Faith," On Being Human Religiously: Selected Essays in Religion and Society (Beacon Press, 1976, pp. 12-20). Versions or substantial excerpts from the essay also appears in The Prophethood of All Believers (1986) and in The Essential James Luther Adams (1997).

SUMMARY

Here's my summary of the five smooth stones:

1. Openness to New Truth. "Religious liberalism depends first on the principle that revelation is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism." Our religious tradition is a living tradition because we are always learning.

2. Freedom. "All relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion." We freely choose congregational relationship and spiritual practice. We deny infallibility and resist hierarchical authority.

3. Justice. We are morally obligated to direct our "effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which makes the role of the prophet central and indispensable in liberalism."

4. Institution Building. Religious liberals "deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation....Justice is an exercise of just and lawful institutional power." Institution building involves the messiness of claiming our power amid conflicting perspectives and needs, rather than the purity of ahistorical, decontextualized ideals.

5. Hope. "The resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism."

FULL TEXT

Adams' essay, "Guiding Principles for a Free Faith," has five sections, of which "The Five Smooth Stones of Liberalism" is the last and longest section. Here's the full text of that section:

THE FIVE SMOOTH STONES OF LIBERALISM

I.

Religious liberalism depends first on the principle that “revelation” is continuous. Meaning has not been finally captured. Nothing is complete, and thus nothing is exempt from criticism. Liberalism itself, as an actuality, is patient of this limitation. At best, our symbols of communication are only referents and do not capsule reality. Events of word, deed, and nature are not sealed. They point always beyond themselves. Not only is significant novelty both possible and manifest, but also significance is itself inchoate and subject to inner tensions of peril and opportunity.

The ground for this first tenet is the human dependence for being and freedom upon a creative power and upon processes not ultimately of our own making. The liberal’s ultimate faith is not in himself. We find ourselves to be historical beings, living in nature and history, and having freedom in nature and history. The forms that nature and history take possess a certain given, fateful character, and yet they are also fraught with meaningful possibilities. Within this framework, humanity finds something dependable and also many things that are not dependable. One thing that is dependable is the order of nature and of history that the sciences are able to describe with varying degrees of precision.

How long the order of nature will continue to support human life is beyond the ken of our science. Possibly our earth and our sun will one day cool off and freeze, or they may dissipate or explode. Moreover, everyone is condemned to what we call death. Whether beyond this death there is a new life is a matter of faith, of a faith that trusts reality as we have known it. Like one of old we may say to this universe and its ruling power, “Into thy hands I commend my spirit.”

Whatever the destiny of the planet or of the individual life, a sustaining meaning is discernable and commanding in the here and now. Anyone who denies this denies that there is anything worth taking seriously or even worth talking about. Every blade of grass, every work of art, every scientific endeavor, every striving for righteousness bears witness to this meaning. Indeed, every frustration or perversion of truth, beauty, or goodness also bears this witness, as the shadow points round to the sun.

One way of characterizing this meaning is to say that through it God is active or in the process of self-fulfillment in nature and history. To be sure, the word “God” is so heavily laden with unacceptable connotations that it is for many people scarcely usable without confusion. It is therefore well for us to indicate briefly what the word signifies here. In considering this definition, however, the reader should remember that among liberals, no formulation is definitive and mandatory. Indeed, the word “God” may in the present context be replaced by the phrase “that which ultimately concerns humanity” or “that in which we should place our confidence.”

God (or that in which we may have faith) is the inescapable, commanding reality that sustains and transforms all meaningful existence. It is inescapable, for no one can live without somehow coming to terms with it. It is commanding, for it provides the structure or the process through which existence is maintained and by which any meaningful achievement is realized. Indeed, every meaning in life is related to this commanding meaning, which no one can manipulate and which stands beyond every merely personal preference or whim. It is transforming, for it breaks through any given achievement, it invades any mind or heart open to it, luring it on to richer or more relevant achievement; it is a self-surpassing reality. God is the reality that works upon us and through us and in accord with which we can discern truth, beauty or goodness. It is that reality which works in nature, history, and thought and under certain conditions creates human good in human community. Where these conditions are not met, human good, as sure as the night follows the day, will be frustrated and perverted. True freedom and individual or social health will be impaired.

This reality that is dependable and in which we may place our confidence is, then, not humanity. Nor is it a mere projection of human wishes. It is a working reality that every person is destined to live with. In this sense, we are not free; we are not free to work without sustaining, commanding reality. We are free only to obstruct it or to conform to the conditions it demands for growth. This reality, is, then, no human contrivance; it is a reality without which no human good can be realized and without which growth of meaning is impossible. Theists and religious humanists find common ground here. They differ in defining the context in which human existence and human good are understood. The liberal’s faith, therefore, is a faith in the giver of being and freedom. Dignity derives from the fact that we participate in the being and freedom of this reality.

But we not only participate in divinely given being and freedom; through the abuse of freedom we also pervert and frustrate them. We distort or petrify the forms of creation and freedom. Hence we cannot properly place our confidence in our own creations; we must depend upon a transforming reality that breaks through encrusted forms of life and thought to create new forms. We put our faith in a creative reality that is re-creative. Revelation is continuous.

II.

The second major principle of religious liberalism is that all relations between persons ought ideally to rest on mutual, free consent and not on coercion. Obviously, this principle cannot be advocated in any strict or absolute sense. Education, for example, may be compulsory within the liberal state, if not in the liberal church. All responsible liberals recognize the necessity for certain restrictions on individual freedom. They also recognize that “persuasion” can be perverted into a camouflage for duress. Nevertheless, free choice is a principle without which religion, or society, or politics cannot be liberal.

Some time ago there was a good bit of excitement about the study of social organizations among birds. Scientists studying how long it takes a group of fowl to form a social organization reported that within eighteen to twenty-four hours, a group of chickens hitherto unacquainted with each other formed a tightly structured social organization—a rigid hierarchy of pecking rights. Liberalism, in its social articulation, might be defined as a protest against “pecking orders.”

This second principle, like the others, can be stated in religious terms in various ways. Historically, the more profound forms of liberalism began in the modern world as a protest against ecclesiastical pecking orders. Protest against political and economic pecking orders soon followed. This protest often found its sanction in the basic theological assertion that all are children of one God, by which is meant that all persons by nature potentially share in the deepest meanings of existence, all have the capacity for discovering or responding to “saving truth,” and all are responsible for selecting and putting into action the right means and ends of cooperation for the fulfillment of human destiny. These religious affirmations are thus the basis of the liberal’s belief that the method of free inquiry is the necessary condition for the preservation of human dignity. This method of free inquiry and persuasion is the only one consistent with both the dignity and the limitations of human nature, and it is the method that yields the maximum of discovery and criticism.

Now it should be clear that if some people wish infallible guidance in religion, they are not going to find it in liberal religion. Of course, orthodox mentors will claim that this the reason we need a divine guide, in a book or a church doctrine. Further, they sometimes tell us that the mortal sin of the liberal is the unwillingness to submit to divine authority and that this unwillingness grows out of intellectual pride. What the orthodox overlooks, however, is this: the most pretentious pride of all is that of those who think themselves capable of recognizing infallibility, for they must themselves claim to be infallible in order to identify the infallible.

In contrast, the liberal seeks in the words of the prophets, in the deeds of saintly men and women, and in the growing knowledge of nature and human nature provided by science meanings that evoke the free loyalty and conviction of people exposed to them in open discourse

III.

Third, religious liberalism affirms the moral obligation to direct one’s effort toward the establishment of a just and loving community. It is this which make the role of the prophet central and indispensible in liberalism.

A faith that is not the sister of justice is bound to bring us to grief. It thwarts creation, a divinely given possibility; it robs us of our birthright of freedom in an open universe; it robs the community of the spiritual riches latent in its members, it reduces us to beasts of burden in slavish subservience to a state, a church or a party – to a self-made God. That way lies the grinding rut and tyranny of the superpatriot line, the Nuremberg line, and the Moscow line, different though these lines are from each other in their fear and obstruction of freedom. To try to manipulate or domesticate the integrity of freedom is to rely upon the unreliable—an attempt that ends in reliance upon unjust arbitrary power and upon unjust arbitrary counsels. Sooner or later the arbitrary confronts either stagnation from within or eruption from both without the within. The stars in their courses fight against it.

This faith in the freedom that creates the just community is the faith of the Old Testament prophets. They repudiated the idea that the meaning of life is to be achieved either by exclusive devotion to ritual or by devotion to blood and soil, or by self-serving piety. The “holy” thing in life is the participation in those processes that give body and form to universal justice. Injustice brings judgment and suffering in its train; it is tolerated only at the peril of stability and meaning.

Again and again in the history of our civilization this prophetic idea of the purpose of God in history comes to new birth. Jesus deepened and extended that idea when he proclaimed that the reign of God is at hand. The reign of god, the reign of sustaining, commanding, transforming reality is the reign of love, a love that fulfills and goes beyond justice, a love that cares for the fullest personal good of all. This love is not something that is ultimately created by us or that is even at our disposal. It seizes and transforms life, bringing us into a new kind of community that provides new channels for love and new structures for justice.

Jesus uses the figure of the seed to describe this power. The power of God is like a seed that grows of itself if we will use our freedom to meet the conditions for its growth. It is not only a principle by which life may be guided; it is also a power that transforms life. It is a power we may trust to heal the wounds of the common life and to engender sharing in community. This is the power the Christian calls the forgiving, redemptive power of God, a power everyone may know and experience whether or not these words are used to describe it. It is the power that leads to integrity of personal life, to the struggle for justice in social-institutional life, and to a creative tension between them.

Not that it demands no wounds. It drew Jesus up Golgotha to a cross. Thus Jesus was not only a martyr dying for his convictions, but also the incarnation of the affirmative power of love transforming life, even in death, and creating a transforming community, a fellowship yielding to the tides of the spirit.

The commanding, sustaining, transforming power can, at least for a time, be bottled up in dead words or in frozen institutions. The sustaining, transforming reality can be perverted by willful people’s abusing their freedom, into a power that up to a point supports evil—yet, if we could not so abuse our freedom, we would not be free.

In history and in the human heart there are, then, destructive as well as creative powers. These destructive powers are manifest in the social as well as in the individual life, although they are most subtly destructive in the social life where the individual’s egotism fights under the camouflage of the good of the nation, the race, the church, or the class. These destructive impulses (thoroughly familiar to the psychologist if not to their victims) seem veritably to possess people, blinding them, inciting them to greed, damaging the holy gifts God provides. This is precisely the reason for the need of the redemptive, transforming power. Indeed, the “pious” are often most in need of transformation.

The community of justice and love is not an ethereal fellowship that is above the conflicts and turmoils of the world. It is one that takes shape in nature and history, one that requires the achievement of freedom with respect to material resources as well as with respect to spiritual resources. Indeed, the one kind of freedom is not fully authentic without the other. Freedom, justice, and love require a body as well as a spirit. We do not live by spirit alone. A purely spiritual religion is a purely spurious religion; it is one that exempts its believer from surrender to the sustaining, transforming reality that demands the community of justice and love. This sham spirituality, far more than materialism, is the great enemy of religion.

IV.

Now, anything that exists effectively in history must have form. And the creation of a form requires power. It requires not only the power of thought but also the power of organization and the organization of power. Thus we are led to the fourth element of liberalism: we deny the immaculate conception of virtue and affirm the necessity of social incarnation. There is no such thing as goodness as such; except in a limited sense, there is no such thing as a good person as such. There is the good husband, the good wife, the good worker, the good employer, the good layperson, the good citizen. The decisive forms of goodness in society are institutional forms. No one can properly put faith in merely individual virtue, even though that is a prerequisite for societal virtues. The faith of the liberal must express itself in societal forms, in the forms of education, in economic and social organization, in political organization. Without these, freedom and justice in community are impossible.

The faith of a church or of a nation is an adequate faith only when it inspires and enables people to give of their time and energy to shape the various institutions – social, economic and political—of the common life. A faith in the commanding, sustaining, transforming reality is one that tries to shape history. Any other faith is thoroughly undependable; it is also, in the end, impotent. It is not a faith that molds history. It is a faith that enables history to crush humanity. Its ministry prepares people to adjust to the crushing by focusing on, and salving, the personal experiences of hurt.

The creation of justice in community requires the organization of power. Through the organization of power, liberated persons tie into history; otherwise they cannot achieve freedom in history. Injustice in community is a form of power, an abuse of power, and justice is an exercise of just and lawful institutional power.

The kind of freedom that expresses itself only within the family and within the narrow confines of one’s daily work is not the faith of liberals. It is as lopsided as the other kind of freedom that tries to express itself only in larger public affairs and forgets that the health of the body politic depends upon the health and faith of its individual members. At best it creates and expresses cloistered virtues of loyalty, honesty and diligence. This kind of faith can be oblivious of the injustices of the domestic, economic, and political orders; it can be a form of assistance to the powers of evil in public life and consequently also in the private life.

V.

Finally, liberalism holds that the resources (divine and human) that are available for the achievement of meaningful change justify an attitude of ultimate optimism. This view does not necessarily involve immediate optimism. In our century we have seen the rebarbarization of the masses, we have witnessed a widespread dissolution of values, and we have seen the appearance of great collective demonries. Progress is now seen not to take place through inheritance; each generation must anew win insight into the ambiguous nature of human existence and must give new relevance to moral and spiritual values. A realistic appraisal of our behavior, personal and institutional, and a life of continuing humility and renewal are demanded, for there are ever-present forces in us working for perversion and destruction.

Perhaps nothing exemplifies this better than the twentieth-century experience of war. To be sure, there are many liberals who deny that war reveals anything fundamental about human nature and possibility. There are those for whom war is only an anachronism, a temporary aberration not to be taken seriously as a comment on human possibility. Still others would ignore war as a revealer of the human because they consider it one of those calamities, one of those accidents that comes from without, like earthquakes and storms, or from exterior political and economic machinations; as such it neither confirms nor challenges their view of the human condition. But war is a relentless revealer. It presents the human powers of aspirations as dramatically as does peace. Indeed, it reveals that the humanity of conflict is essentially the same as the humanity of “peace”; but in war the humanity that is almost hidden in times of peace, the homo absconditus, comes into fuller view.

Still, there is something in the genuine liberal perspective that, while recognizing this tragic nature of the human condition, continues to live with a dynamic hope, with the optative mood as one of its voices. It is a mood that derives ultimately from the ancient prophets and from the white-hot heart of the New Testament. No reputable scholar today would deny that Christianity was in its origin an eschatological religion. The recognition of this fact has become a source of embarrassment to many liberals. Yet liberalism denies to its peril that it was brought into being by people who, like the prophets and the eschatologist of Nazareth, turned from retrospect to prospect.

The optative mood alone offers only a truncated and, in the end, frustrated conjugation; the full paradigm demands the penitential and imperative moods as well. It demands also the declarative mood that speaks of the resources of fulfillment. This fuller paradigm, governed by the optative mood, has taken many forms in the thought of the West. Paul with his joyous faith in redemption, Augustine with his vision of the City of God, Joachim of Fiore with his hope of a new era—the reign of the Spirit—Lessing with his expectation of a third era, Channing with his prophecy of a new spiritual freedom, Marx with his battling for a new humanity, all speak in the optative mood without neglecting the realistic and the tragic. They utter their faiths in differing accents, although each as something to learn from the others, and all are severely critical of much around them. But all sense that at the depths of human nature and at the boundaries of what we are, there are potential resources that can prevent a retreat to nihilism.

Thus, each of these thinkers passes the litmus test of all prophetic religion. In response to the primary question of whether history has a meaning and a demanded direction or not, they all answer, finally, Yea. This is the issue that cuts through all others. It cuts through the ranks of those who believe in God as well as through the ranks of the unbelievers. The affirmative answer of prophetic religion, which may be heard in the very midst of the doom that threatens like thunder, is that history is a struggle in dead earnest between justice and injustice, looking towards the ultimate victory in the promise and fulfillment of grace. Anyone who does not enter into that struggle with the affirmation of love and beauty misses the mark and thwarts creation as well as self-creation.

Thus, with all the realism and toughmindedness that can be mustered, the genuine liberal finally can hear and join the Hallelujah Chorus—intellectual integrity, social relevance, amplitude of perspective, and the spirit of true liberation offer no less.

Our Seven Principles and Six Sources

From the Bylaws of the Unitarian Universalist Association, "Section C-2.1. Principles"

We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
  1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  2. Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  4. A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  5. The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  6. The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
  7. Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world's religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God's love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
  6. Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.

Music: Sun Oct 12

This Sunday, we feature guest musicians pianist Marie-Fatima Rudolf and bassist Alec Safy of the Marie-Fatima Rudolf Trio in jazz selections. On Saturday evening, November 22nd, the complete trio returns for our annual Jazzfest! concert at Music at CUC. Read on for performer bios:

Marie-Fatima Rudolf, piano
Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Marie-Fatima Rudolf has been playing piano since the age of four. After 15 years of classical training, she did her undergraduate studies in jazz performance at McGill University (Montreal, Cananda). Since graduating in 2005, she has played clubs and festivals in Canada, recorded on various albums, including two as a leader: Transparence (2009), and Songbird’s Prayer (2011). Marie-Fatima is thrilled to be studying at Purchase College as a Masters in jazz performance, under the tutelage of Kevin Hays.

Alec Safy, bass
Alec Safy is a native of Buffalo, NY, and is currently a senior in jazz studies at SUNY Purchase. A member of the Greater Buffalo Youth Orchestra for 6 years, Alec was honored to play venues such as Carnegie Hall in NYC and Dvorak Hall in Prague during a European tour. Since attending Purchase he has studied bass with esteemed professionals Doug Weiss and Scott Colley, has been a member of the Purchase Latin Jazz Orchestra and the Purchase Jazz Orchestra under the direction of Todd Coolman and Jon Faddis. Alec is a regular on the Buffalo jazz scene and has performed the past two years at the Lewiston Jazz Festival.

Prelude:
I'll be seeing you                           Sammy Fain
I love you                                             Cole Porter
Autumn Leaves                           Josef Kosma
Marie-Fatima Rudolf, piano
Alec Safy, bass

Opening Music:
Someone to watch over me                  George Gershwin

Interlude:
 We will meet again                           Bill Evans

Offertory:
The shadow of your smile                  Johnny Mandel

2014-10-03

The Value of Journey Groups

WHY THIS IS SO VERY IMPORTANT
"There is a quality of listening that is possible among a circle of human beings, who by their attentiveness to one another create a space in which each person is able to give voice to the truth of his or her life. There is the miracle of authentic narrative, made possible by listening that holds still long enough to let the truth be told. Where there is this kind of listening and speaking, a new kind of community is born -- a community of life."
- Rebecca Parker, Unitarian Universalist Theologian

"I pin my hopes to quiet processes and small circles, in which vital and transforming events take place."
- Rufus Jones, Quaker historian and theologian

Helping Each Other Become the People We Most Want to Be

Unitarian Universalism is about connection. We are a religion that sees people struggling, not against our own sinful souls, but against a shallow, frantic, and materialistic world that all-too-often leaves us disconnected from our deepest selves, life's gifts and needs greater than one's own. Therefore, it is our mission at CUC to "nurture each other in our spiritual journeys" and to "foster compassion and understanding." Journey Groups are the most direct and effective way to do this nurturing and fostering.

Through our mission, CUC works to heal that divide. We nurture each other in our spiritual journeys in order to find and create connection in an often very disconnecting world. We foster compassion and understanding in order to become people of depth and presence in a world often shallow and distracted.

Journey Groups offer
  • Formative space and circles of learning, support, and challenge
  • Opportunities for spiritual deepening and practice
  • An intimate home within a larger church community
so that participants become the people they want to be.

Journey Groups are about becoming.

Formative Space

The core purpose of Journey Groups is to create formative space for individuals. This is a space of acceptance and safety in which group members can explore their deepest values and inner voice without judgment or coercion.
"So what do we do in a circle of trust? We speak our own truth; we listen receptively to the truth of others; we ask each other honest, open questions instead of giving counsel; and we offer each other the healing and empowering gifts of silence and laughter....Our purpose is not to teach anyone anything but to give the inner teacher a chance to teach us...."Formation" may be the best name for what happens in a circle of trust, because the word refers, historically, to soul-work done in a communal setting....In a circle of trust, formation flows from the belief that we are born with souls in perfect form. As time goes on, we are subject to powers of deformation, from within as well as without, that twist us into shapes quite different from the shape of the soul. But the soul never loses its original form, and never stops calling us back to our birthright integrity. In a circle of trust, the powers of deformation are held at bay long enough for the soul to emerge and speak its truth....In a circle of trust we can grow our selfhood like a plant -- from the potential within the seed of the soul, in ground made fertile by the quality of our relationships, toward the light of our own wholeness."
- Parker Palmer
A Theology of Connection

Journey Groups are the way we practice what Unitarian Universalist theology teaches. Our UU theology is complex, yet it can be boiled down to a single focus on healing spiritual disconnection. Our congregations gather to heal disconnection by nurturing each other in our spiritual journeys, fostering compassion and understanding within and beyond our congregations, and engaging in service to transform ourselves and our world. Journey Groups are the container in which we explore the meaning of this theology in our lives and support our journey toward deeper connection with ourselves, with others, and with the mystery of life.

1. Journey Groups Are Rooted in a Theology Focused on Spiritual Connection

Many us grew up in a Christian context galvanized around the idea of sin. The sin perspective sees a world of people struggling with the fact of a deep, fundamental flaw in their nature. Religious communities, on this perspective, function to offer forgiveness or purity.

We Unitarian Universalists see the world from a different perspective. We see a world of people struggling with spiritual disconnection. We see ourselves and many around us hungering to re-connect with self, others, and the wholeness of creation. Unitarian Universalism and UU congregations exist to help people with this struggle. This is what we are about: to heal spiritual disconnection by nurturing the spiritual journey, fostering compassion and understanding, and engaging in transformative service.

We are all struggling to find our ways home -- to what we care most deeply about and who we most want to be. So Journey Groups are not just "an evening of good discussion" or "an opportunity for intellectual stimulation" or even "a chance to meet new friends." Journey Groups are designed to be a path home.

2. Journey Groups Provide an Opportunity to Explore the Worship Themes in More Depth -- and Connect with the Congregation as a Whole

Journey Groups are not a "stand alone" program. Journey Groups are inextricably connected to the worship life of CUC by providing participants with a way to explore the worship theme of the month. Besides helping us go deeper, this also connects us to the wider congregational community. Bob or Sue might not be in your Journey Group, but since they are also dealing with the same theme, you have a point of connection that allows us feel part of the same journey -- and strike up a conversation a bit more easily.

Journey Groups are not sermon discussion groups. The goal of a Journey Group is not explore the sermons in more depth, but to explore the monthly theme in more depth. Having the sermons in the background enriches the experience, but sermons are not the focus. The focus is on the monthly questions and spiritual exercise, which provide a different kind of experience than worship offers.

3. Journey Groups Invite Us to Experience the Worship Theme, Not Just Talk About It

Unitarian Universalists want to do more than just read and talk about spiritual topics. Provocative readings are important. Thinking about and discussing a topic is important. But there is nothing like experiential learning.

Each Monthly Packet includes a spiritual exercise to engage prior to the meeting. If, for instance, the theme is "grace," we don't just read what theologians have to say about it -- we challenge ourselves to find a way to bring grace (a gift not expected, earned, or deserved) into another person's life. If the theme is "prayer," we don't just read theories and perspectives on prayer -- we challenge ourselves to find a new way to pray (or even try prayer for the first time). The spiritual exercises differ widely from month to month. Sometimes they are profound and involved. Other times, simple and playful. Sometimes members may report having "the most moving experience of my life." Other times, they come in and say, "I'm not sure that worked for me, but it did make me realize..." No matter what, we ask members to try they exercise. Whether you "enjoy" it or not, the experience has something to teach you about life and yourself.

Of course, spiritual exercises differ from spiritual practice. The monthly exercise cannot take the place of on-going, daily practices that center us. Rather, the monthly exercise supplements our practices and facilitates the path toward depth and meaning.

4. Journey Groups Offer Questions to Walk With, Not Walk Through

Traditional small groups use discussion questions to keep the discussion focused and structured. Journey Groups use the questions differently. We see the questions as tools for individual exploration. Instead of asking our groups to go through the questions one by one and discuss them, we give you the questions ahead of time and ask you to find the one or two questions that "hook" you -- that speak to you in some dramatic or challenging way. We ask you to "live with" or "walk with" that question for the few weeks leading up to the Journey Group meeting. Find the question that hooks you and let it take you on a ride. Members then arrive at the meeting, not with an answer to each of the questions on the list, but with a story about the one or two questions that spoke to them and led to deeper, personal learning.

5. Journey Groups Slowly Teach the Substance of Unitarian Universalism.

Each monthly theme brings attention to a spiritual value. The Monthly Packet and Journey Group meeting challenges you to ask, "What does it mean to live a life with this particular value front and center?" The values engaged in this way are ones that Unitarian Universalism has historically honored and emphasized. By growing into them, we grow into the distinctive substance of our faith tradition.

6. Journey Groups are the Essential Component of Theme-Based Ministry.

Theme-based ministry develops religious competence and the resources for coping calmly with life's uncertainty, crises, and loss. See the "Theme-Based Ministry" page: CLICK HERE.

Community

In Journey Groups we engage each other in a covenantal relationship. So we commit to honoring a particular format and clear relational commitments during meetings. These promises to each other provide meaning and connection. Over time, great depth of friendship emerges that may be called spiritual friendship.