CUUC

CUUC

2014-08-28

Journey Group Packet 2014 Sep: Faith

Journey Group Packet
2014 Sep
Faith

Meredith's Reflection
faith (n.) mid-13th-century; "duty of fulfilling one's trust," from Old French feid, foi "faith, belief, trust, confidence, pledge," from Latin fides "trust, faith, confidence, reliance, credence, belief," from root of fidere "to trust," from Proto-Indo-European root bheidh (source also of Greek pistis). Theological sense is from late 14th-century; religions called faiths since circa 1300.
-from Online Etymoligical Dictionary
Some us have a warm, fuzzy response to the word “faith.” Others of us have a cold, prickly reaction to the word. I understand the cold, prickly reaction. Far from its original sense of “fidelity; fulfillment of duties with which one has been entrusted,” “faith” today has sometimes seemed to mean “clinging to a belief regardless of the evidence – regardless, even, of any possible future evidence.” If that’s what “faith” means, it’s no wonder that many Unitarian Universalists would rather have nothing to do with it.

If we are to have fidelity to the truth, we understand that we must always be willing to change our belief in light of new evidence. To define “faith” as “refusal to modify beliefs, whatever the evidence” is to make faith into the opposite of the fidelity that “faith” originally indicated!

The Greek word was pistis. Indeed, in Greek mythology, the goddess Pistis personified trust and reliability. In Roman mythology, her name was Fides (hence, fidelity). The Greeks often spoke of Pistis together with Elpis (hope), Sophrosyne (prudence), and the Charites (a.k.a. Graces, which variously included such minor goddesses as charm, beauty, fertility, creativity, splendor, mirth, and good cheer – all attributes generally associated with harmony among people.) When Paul of Tarsus wrote to the Corinthians that “faith, hope, and love abide,” he was clearly evoking this Greek background.

For the Greeks, Pistis evolved to include persuasion. In the Greek understanding of rhetoric, pistis are the elements to induce true judgment. So the idea of fidelity to duty morphed to refer especially to fidelity to the truth, and the logical means of persuasion of the truth.

In the hands of the writers and the interpretive community of readers of the Christian ("New") Testament, the Greek pistis evolved further from “persuasion” to “conviction.”

The Christian Testament was originally written in Greek, and pistis (uniformly translated to English as “faith”) appears many times. Below is a sampling. As you look over these passages, I invite you to consider what difference it makes if you read faith as “fidelity to an entrusted duty” or as “conviction of belief.”
  • “And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13)
  • "So we are always confident; even though we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord— for we walk by faith, not by sight." (2 Cor 5:7)
  • “Since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith.” (Rom 3:30)
  • “In it [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘The one who is righteous will live by faith.’” (Rom 1:17)
  • “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” (Rom 4:13)
  • “For through the spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. . . . Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love.” (Gal 5:5)
  • “for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints” (Col 1:4)
  • “But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, and put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.” (1 Thess 5:8)
  • “When Jesus heard him, he was amazed and said to those who followed him, ‘Truly I tell you, in no one[a] in Israel have I found such faith.’ (Matt 8:10)
  • “And just then some people were carrying a paralyzed man lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.’” (Matt 9:2)
  • “Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, ‘Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.’” (Matt 9:22)
  • “Then he touched their eyes and said, ‘According to your faith let it be done to you.’” (Matt 9:29)
  • “Then Jesus answered her, ‘Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.’ And her daughter was healed instantly.” (Matt 15:28)
  • “He said to them, ‘Because of your little faith. For truly I tell you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, “Move from here to there,” and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.’” (Matt 17:20)
  • “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only will you do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, “Be lifted up and thrown into the sea,” it will be done.’” (Matt 21:21)
  • “’Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others.’” (Matt 23:23)
  • “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4:40)
  • “Then Peter remembered and said to him, ‘Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.’ Jesus answered them, ‘Have faith in God.’” (Mark 11:21-22)
  • “When Jesus heard this he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, he said, ‘I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.’” (Luke 7:9)
  • “And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, ‘Where is your faith?’ They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?’ (Luke 8:24-25)
  • “The apostles said to the Lord, ‘Increase our faith!’” (Luke 17:5)
  • “When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)
  • “I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail.” (Luke 22:32)
  • “Peter…addressed the people, ‘…And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.’” (Acts 3:16)
  • “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” (Heb 11:1)
All these meanings – fidelity, persuasion, and conviction – echo through our conception of faith today. What is at the core, unifying these disparate meanings?

Jumping from the ancient Greeks and the Christian Testament writers to today: recent reflections on the nature of faith provide important avenues for getting at the core of faith while discarding the association of faith with willful disregard of evidence and reason. Let’s take a look at three contemporary approaches.

1. Wieman

The Unitarian theologian Henry Nelson Wieman (1884-1975) provides helpful guidance on the nature of faith. Wieman’s view, as described by Virginia Knowles:
“Religious faith is the act by which we commit ourselves with the fullness of our being, insofar as we are able, to whatever can transform and save us from the evil of devoting ourselves to the transient goods of social success, financial opulence, or even scholarship or beauty or social concern.” (1992)
We all have egos, and our egos desire recognizable achievement -- socially, financially, physically, professionally, politically, or artistically. Our egos motivate us to do some good work, but Weiman identifies excessive devotion to the ego’s desires as evil. We may be saved from that evil, suggests Weiman, through commitment to grow and change in ways that make us increasingly better able to avoid the evil of overly focusing on the ego’s desires, increasingly oriented toward humble service of enduring values rather than ego desires and inconspicuous harmony with life and our world rather than recognition of achievement.

Wieman’s understanding of faith captures what has been most central and important about faith in Western religious traditions. The outcome of faith – personal transformation and transcendence of ego-centric desires -- is precisely the outcome that the traditional Western religions have seen as the product of a faithful life. Wieman has showed us a way to embrace this valuable function of faith without the unfortunate notion that faith requires irrational conviction that flies in the face of evidence. Try reading the above samples from the Bible with Wieman’s understanding of faith in mind. Does it work?

2. Salzberg

For American Buddhist writer Sharon Salzberg (b. 1952), faith is
"the act of opening our hearts to the unknown."
Rather than believing without evidence, faith is a willingness to go forward to take in new evidence and new experience, ever-willing to be transformed. This throwing ourselves into the unknown often does feel like leaping -- hence the phrase, "leap of faith."

At the same time, Salzberg is drawing upon the tradition that faith stands in distinction from reason and evidence. After all, reason and evidence tell us about what we can know. Making our peace with unknowability is also a crucial part of a whole life.

While Weiman draws attention to the ego’s focus on achievement, Salzberg’s formulation points to another trick of the ego. The ego pretends to know more than it actually does know about what's going to happen next and about where your life is headed. Ego loves its illusion of being in control. Our conceptions of how things are “supposed” to go can close us to realities that present themselves. Faith is the liberating capacity to step out of our illusion, and, without pretending already to know, be open to surprise and mystery.

Following Salzberg, we can see that faith means engaged and open-minded and open-hearted participation in life. It means the courage to offer up all that we are to the world around us, not knowing what the world will ask or what we will find in ourselves to offer. Faith is the overcoming of the fear that could cause us to withdraw and stand safely on the sidelines. Faith is jumping in -- there's the leap again -- into all that life has to offer, the joy and the triumph and the grief and the loss. Faith is stepping, jumping, skipping, leaping, somersaulting right into the middle of possibilities for how we might evolve and for what goodness might burst forth. Faith's opposite, then, is not doubt, but despairing withdrawal.

This understanding leads to seeing faith as also awareness of an interconnected universe. We are not alone no matter how alone we sometimes feel. What happens to us and from us is part of the larger fabric of life, always rippling out through threads of connection.

If we read the above Bible samples with Salzberg’s understanding of faith in mind, do they may more sense? Less?

3. Fowler

James Fowler (b. 1940, Prof of Theology and Human Development at Emory and a United Methodist minister) defined faith as:
“a way of knowing, construing, and interpreting existence.”
A “religion,” then, for Fowler, is “a community’s way of giving expression to faith relationships held in common.”

Fowler’s definition preserves our very common sense that Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, etc. are faiths (or, more specifically, are names of communities that give expression to faith relationships held in common among the community’s members). Each offers a certain way of knowing, construing, and interpreting existence.

The idea that it’s a good thing to have convictions that are entirely unshakeable regardless of the evidence is a bad mistake. That idea does nevertheless convey, for all its misdirection, one implication that is true: evidence is not the same thing as meaning, and evidence alone does not suffice. The way we understand the world is more than just evidence. Fowler’s definition preserves that nugget of insight about faith: that evidence alone doesn’t offer much guidance. Mere phenomena present us with “a blooming, buzzing confusion” (William James) until interpreted, fit into an overall context, made sense of.

There are many various ways to put the same evidence together into a structure of value and meaning, and each way is, for Fowler, a faith. We all have faith – it’s unavoidable – since we all interpret and make sense of existence. To have “little faith,” then, would be to have a rather haphazard and often incoherent way “knowing, construing, and interpreting existence.” To have a lot of faith would be to know, construe, and interpret existence in a way that coherently makes sense of a vast range of data. How does it work to read the above Bible verses with Fowler’s definition in mind?

Weiman, Salzberg, and Fowler each offer us an active conception of faith. It’s the act by which we commit (Weiman), the act of opening (Salzberg), and a way of doing something, namely, interpreting existence (Fowler). Faith is best understood not so much as something we have, but as something we do – or, sometimes, fail to do.

The Spiritual Exercise

For this exercise, we will consider faith in its aspect of trust. For the Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), faith involves trust in God. The core idea is that we don’t have to take responsibility for everything. How things turn out is, of course, an interactive mixture of what we do and what is beyond our control. Yet sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we control what we do not. One of our “secret” strategies for control involves “shoulding.” I try to ensure that other people – or even inanimate objects – will behave in the way I want by clinging tightly to a belief that they should behave that way. Thus, when somebody (maybe me) fails to be and do as they should, and the result is that things don’t turn out as I want, I get upset. Trust (whether in God, or in society, or in the universe) involves letting go of trying to control everything – including letting go of shoulding. There are two levels.

Level A: Trusting that things will work out the way I want them to
Level B: Trusting that things will work out in a way that is really and deeply OK even if it’s very different from what I would have wanted.

“Level B,” of course, gets more to the essence of faith – which reminds us that acceptance as well as trust are central aspects of faith.

Your exercise, then, is:

For one week try letting go of something that you normally spend energy “shoulding” about or otherwise trying to control. Just let go of worrying and meddling with it. Have faith that it will turn out OK (even if it isn’t what you would have thought you’d want). NOTE: Do exercise reasonable prudence in selecting something to let go of. Stepping back and trusting your toddler to make it across a busy street by himself would probably not be a good choice.

Come to your Journey Group prepared to talk about how the exercise went.

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. How would it change your life if you had more faith? Less faith?

2. “Bad faith” is a term in existentialist philosophy. It means: refusal to confront facts or choices. What, if anything, does this tell you about what faith is?

3. What did faith mean to you when you were 7-years-old? When you were 14-years-old? What was your faith then? In what ways is that still a part of you today?

4. For Fowler, a religion is “a community’s way of giving expression to faith relationships held in common.” What are the faith relationships that Unitarian Universalists hold in common?

5. Have you ever had a “crisis of faith”? Are you still having it? How did it change you?

6. What is faith? How does living with faith enrich one’s life?

7. Some forms of Christianity teach that faith is always a gift from God and never something that can be produced by people. How much control, if any, do you think we have over whether or not we have faith? Can you choose faith – or does faith choose you?

8. Which approach – Weiman’s, Salzberg’s, Fowler’s – makes most sense to you? Or does combining all three seem attractive to you?

9. What value, if any, do you see in strong conviction? What value, if any, do you see in doubt?

11. Is it good for a society for its members to be diverse in their faiths?

12. A few years ago UUA produced postcards that UU congregations could buy and use for mailing to visitors. The postcard had a nice picture of a diverse and smiling group and the words: “Imagine a place where people of different beliefs worship together as one faith.” Is it a good way to express what UU is all about?

13. People have different concepts of what faith means. How much does having different concepts of faith interfere with finding “Common Ground”?

14. What are the differences between faith and hope? What are the intersections between faith and hope?

Recommended Resources

As always, this is not “required reading.” We will not analyze or dissect these pieces in our group. They are simply meant to get your thinking started – and maybe to open you to new ways of thinking about what it means to live with happiness and joy.

WISE WORDS

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.” -Martin Luther King, Jr.

“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”-Rabindranath Tagore

“There are many things that are essential to arriving at true peace of mind, and one of the most important is faith, which cannot be acquired without prayer.” -John Wooden

“Faith is the strength by which a shattered world shall emerge into the light.” -Helen Keller

“A man of courage is also full of faith.” -Marcus Tullius Cicero

“We are twice armed if we fight with faith.” -Plato

“If patience is worth anything, it must endure to the end of time. And a living faith will last in the midst of the blackest storm.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“To have faith is to trust yourself to the water. When you swim you don't grab hold of the water, because if you do you will sink and drown. Instead you relax, and float.” -Alan Watts

“Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.” -Khalil Gibran

“The keys to patience are acceptance and faith. Accept things as they are, and look realistically at the world around you. Have faith in yourself and in the direction you have chosen.” -Ralph Marston

“All the world is made of faith, and trust, and pixie dust.” -J.M. Barrie, Peter Pan

“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” -Max Lucado

“Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can't always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.” -Lauren Kate, Torment

“You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is like an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith.” -Paulo Coelho, Brida

There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.” -Nelson Mandela

“A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

“Believe in a love that is being stored up for you like an inheritance, and have faith that in this love there is a strength and a blessing so large that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it.” -Rainer Maria Rilke,

“Doubt everything. Find your own light.” -Buddha

“Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be a prudent insurance policy.” -Elizabeth Gilbert

“Faith is about doing. You are how you act, not just how you believe.” -Mitch Albom,

“You do not need to know precisely what is happening, or exactly where it is all going. What you need is to recognize the possibilities and challenges offered by the present moment, and to embrace them with courage, faith and hope.” -Thomas Merton

“When you get to the end of all the light you know and it's time to step into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing that one of two things shall happen: either you will be given something solid to stand on, or you will be taught how to fly.” -Edward Teller

“This is my living faith, an active faith, a faith of verbs: to question, explore, experiment, experience, walk, run, dance, play, eat, love, learn, dare, taste, touch, smell, listen, speak, write, read, draw, provoke, emote, scream, sin, repent, cry, kneel, pray, bow, rise, stand, look, laugh, cajole, create, confront, confound, walk back, walk forward, circle, hide, and seek.” -Terry Tempest Williams

“Doubt isn't the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” -Paul Tillich

“Faith is not something to grasp, it is a state to grow into.” -Mahatma Gandhi

“When all is said and done, the life of faith is nothing if not an unending struggle of the spirit with every available weapon against the flesh.” -Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“You have as much laughter as you have faith.” -Martin Luther

“There lives more faith in honest doubt, believe me, than in half the creeds.” -Alfred Tennyson

“To 'choose' dogma and faith over doubt and experience is to throw out the ripening vintage and to reach greedily for the Kool-Aid.” -Christopher Hitchens

“Life is doubt, and faith without doubt is nothing but death.” -Miguel de Unamuno

“A faith that cannot survive collision with the truth is not worth many regrets.” -Arthur C. Clarke

ONLINE ARTICLES, VIDEOS OR PODCASTS

Google “Fowler Stages of Faith” and peruse a few of the top returns.

Sharon Salzberg, “Faith” http://www.sharonsalzberg.com/archive/article/142

Blogger Dan Fincke’s post on “Why I Define Faith Philosophically as Inherently Irrational and Immoral”
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/04/why-i-define-faith-philosophically-as-inherently-irrational-and-immoral/

Dangerous Faith? Faith vs. Reason on Responding to Climate Change
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/10/opinion/sunday/secular-climate-change-activists-can-learn-from-evangelical-christians.html

Audio: 3-minute audiobook excerpt from Salzberg’s Faith. http://www.sharonsalzberg.com/books-audio/78

BOOKS

Sharon Salzberg, Faith: Trusting Your Own Deepest Experience (2003). Faith resides not in the outcome, but in the willingness to see the possibility for change.

James Fowler, Stages of Faith: The Psychology of Human Development and the Quest for Meaning (1981). Faith develops through life. Few ever reach the sixth and last stage. Many never progress pass the 3rd or 4th stage.

Chris Stedman, Faitheist: How and Atheist Found Common Ground with the Religious (2012). The story of a former Evangelical Christian turned openly gay atheist who now works to bridge the divide between atheists and the religious.

Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim in the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation (2010). A hopeful and moving testament to the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.

FILM

“Raw Faith” (2010) “an intimate and revealing documentary that follows two years in the private life of Marilyn Sewell, a Unitarian minister." Trailer and other info:
http://www.marilynsewell.com/raw-faith-film/

“Dead Man Walking” (1995)
“The Virgin Spring” (1960)
“The Last Temptation of Christ” (1988)
“The Ruling Class” (1972)

Short Films on Youtube (about 6 mins each):

“Faith”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2-QJYS9Vg7c

“Leap of Faith”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bhymyUDEr8

What’s the connection between faith and . . . animal resuce? Check out:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btiDHCuWyBA

Neil deGrass Tyson says faith and reason are irreconcilable.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yy5yWdVHv3o

SONGS ON YOUTUBE

George Michael, “Faith”
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lu3VTngm1F0

Enjoy Your Hands

Practice of the Week
Enjoy Your Hands

* * *
"Studies suggest that knitting - and crafting in general - can actually act as a natural anti-depressant, as well as reduce stress and even protect your brain from aging."
"The real action of compassion is touch. . . . Regrettably, we are a touch-deprived culture in the west."
- Dacher Keltner
"To touch is to give life."
- Michelangelo


* * *
Dacher Keltner on touch:


Rick Hanson on enjoying your hands:


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

Sometimes it's worth remembering the obvious: you engage the world with your body — often with your hands.

Human hands are unique in the animal kingdom in their dexterity and sensitivity. Their capacity for skilled action helped drive the evolution of the neural networks that handle sophisticated planning, decision-making, and self-control.

Your hands reach, touch, caress, hold, manipulate, and let go. They type, stir pots, brush hair, wash dishes, shift gears, scratch ears, open doors, throw stones, hold loved ones, and help you snuggle into bed. They may not be perfect, and with aging, they may sometimes be in pain, but they're always lovely and vital.

Appreciating your hands makes you appreciate living. Being mindful of them — paying attention to what they're feeling and doing — is a simple and available way to drop down into a more sensual, in-the-body connection with the world, including the people you touch.

How

Right now, take a moment to be aware of your hands. What are they doing? What are they touching? They are always touching something, if only the air. What are they sensing? Warm or cool? Hard or soft?

Move your fingertips. Notice how incredibly sensitive they are, with about 20,000 nerve endings per square inch. Play with the sensations of your fingers stroking your palm, your thumb touching each finger in turn, the fingers of one hand caressing the fingers of the other one.

Soak up the enjoyment your hands give you. Use your hands to draw you into pleasure such as the warmth of holding a cup of coffee, the relief of scratching an itchy head, or the satisfaction of getting a pesky button through its hole.

As appropriate, touch others more. Feel the grip of a handshake, a friend's shoulder, a lover's skin, a child's hair, a dog's or cat's fur.

Buddha Okays All Beings
Feel the skillfulness of your hands: steering a car, writing a note, replacing a lightbulb, sawing wood, planting bulbs, measuring garlic, peeling an onion. Feel their strength in holding a knife, making a fist, lugging a suitcase.

Watch your hands talk: pointing, rising and falling, opening and closing, thumbs-up, okay, waving hello and goodbye.

Many times a day, try to sink awareness into your hands.

Feel them feeling your life.

For Journaling

For your journaling today, copy this sentence into your journal: "Wow, my hand is amazing." As you copy it, pay close attention to how all the muscles of the hand coordinate their motion to allow you to write that sentence.

Make a list: "Things my hands did today that I wouldn't normally have paid any attention to at all."

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

2014-08-27

Autumn at CUUC

How autumn comes -- 2014

Sep 22:

Sep 29:

Oct 6:

Oct 13:

Oct 20:

Oct 27:

Nov 3:

Nov 10:

Nov 17:

Nov 24:

Dec 1:

2014-08-25

CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Aug 24

House Finch
Our theme today was journeys, and journeying light in honor of the fall migration of birds that is well underway. At night you can see flocks of small warblers passing in front of the moon as they head south and during the day see them feeding up in the trees. They fly high so as to avoid the lower, thicker resistant air, but by flying at higher altitudes, they have to have all kinds of physiologic adaptations that make them supreme flying athletes. They also have hollow bones, air sacs, and no bladder to lighten their load.

The eight of us heard poetry and contemplated many facets of traveling. One of the poems we shared was Mary Oliver's, "The Journey."

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice–
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
‘Mend my life!’
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognised as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do–
determined to save
the only life you could save.

To save ourselves, and the world, most of us went to morning service where the theme was also journeys as Rev. Garmon spoke of the Beatniks and the book, On The Road. After the morning's service, a few of us put up ultraviolet stickers on the sanctuary windows so the birds would not hit the windows. We have found a number of dead birds around the building and our hope is to decrease these accidental deaths caused by hitting our windows. We hope to make our congregation a safe home for the many.

Today's bird count was the lowest yet, but we did enjoy the close sighting of several birds, and spending a wonderful morning with one other.

Next bird walk is September 28, 2014, 8:30 a.m. behind the Parsonage.

4 House sparrows
12 American robins
9 Mourning doves
2 Tufted Titmice
1 White-breasted nuthatch
1 Red-bellied woodpecker
1 Downy woodpecker
6 Common grackles
2 Black-capped chickadees
2 House finches
1 Red-tailed hawk
2 Northern cardinals
1 Blue jay

2014-08-21

Search for a CUC Youth Program Coordinator

The search for a CUC Youth Program Coordinator has begun again. We revised the job description to fit the quarter-time position and attract a vibrant, caring, responsible candidate to work with our youth and adult volunteer advisors. The person in this position will be fortunate to collaborate with a strong team of volunteers and supportive staff members to further develop our youth ministry. The CUC Search Committee is very hopeful the right person will appear. In addition to all the ways we are advertising the position, we hope you will keep your eyes open and let us know if you think of anyone who might be the right fit for this position. Please let Perry know or have the person contact us. For the full job description, CLICK HERE.

Be Curious

Practice of the Week
Be Curious

* * *
Curious people are typically not self-centered.
- Rick Hanson's daughter
Cultivate "Don't Know Mind." When we think we know, we aren't curious. Peace, joy, and connection aren't about what you (think you) know. Rather, they come from shedding the need to know, letting go our attachment to security of knowledge, and always being open to the surprise of the this moment.
* * *

Rick Hanson on being curious:


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

* * *

A couple years ago, my father and I were driving to the ocean, near where I live north of San Francisco. Born on a ranch in North Dakota in 1918, he's a retired zoologist who loves birds, and I wanted to show him some wetlands.

The twisting road was carved from the side of coastal hills plunging to the sea. After a while we paused at a pull-out for a pit stop. Returning from the bushes, I found my dad scrutinizing dried, scraggly grasses sticking out from the mini-cliff next to our car. "Look, Rick," he said excitedly, "see how the layers of dirt are different, so the plants growing in them are different, too!" He sounded like a little kid who'd discovered an elephant in his backyard.

But that's my dad: endlessly curious, never bored. I and ten thousand other drivers had sped around that turn seeing nothing but another meaningless road cut. But he had not taken the commonplace for granted. He wondered about what he saw and looked for connections, explanations. For him, the world wears a question mark.

This attitude of wonder, interest, and investigation brings many rewards. For example, engaging your mind actively as you age helps preserve the functioning of your brain. Use it or lose it!

Plus you' gather lots of useful information — about yourself, other people, the world — by looking around. You also see the larger context, and thus become less affected by any single thing itself: not so driven to get more of what you like, and not so stressed and unsettled by what you don't like.

As our daughter once pointed out, curious people are typically not self-centered. Sure, they are interested in the inner workings of their own psyche — curiosity is a great asset for healing, growth, and awakening — but they're also very engaged with the world and others. Maybe that's why we usually like curious people.

How

To begin with, curiosity requires a willingness to see whatever is under the rocks you turn over. Usually it's neutral or positive. But occasionally you find something that looks creepy or smells bad. Then you need courage, to face an uncomfortable aspect of yourself, other people, or the world. In this case, it helps to observe it from a distance, and try not to identify with it. Surround it with spaciousness, knowing that whatever you've found is just one part of a larger whole and (usually) a passing phenomenon.

With that willingness, curiosity expresses itself in action, through looking deeper and wider — and then looking again.

Much of what we're curious about is really neat, such as the development of children, the doings of friends, or the workings of a new computer. And sometimes it pays to be curious about some sort of issue. As an illustration, let's say you've been feeling irritable about a situation. (You also can apply the practices below to different aspects of your mind, or to other people or to situations in the world.)

Looking deeper means being interested in what's under the surface. For example, what previous situations does it remind you of — particularly ones when you were young and most affected by things?

Looking wider means broadening your view:
  • What are other aspects of the situation, such as the good intentions of others, or your own responsibility for events?
  • What factors could be at work in your mind? For example, have you worked too much lately, or felt underappreciated, or not eaten or slept well? Did you appraise the situation as a lot worse, or a lot rnore threatening, than it actually was? Did you take it personally?
Looking again means being active in your investigating. You keep unraveling the knot of whatever you're curious about, teasing apart the threads, opening them up and seeing what's what. You don't take the first explanation as the final one. There's an underlying attitude of wonder and fearlessness. Like a child, a cat, a scientist, a saint, or a poet, you see the world anew.

Again.

And again.

For Journaling

For your journaling today, here's an exercise for cultivating curiosity. Set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer starts, start writing. Keep the pen moving without stopping to think until the 10 minutes are up. Here's the twist: Write nothing but questions. Write questions about what happened to you, what you saw, heard, experienced, felt in the last 24 hours. Don't answer any question. Just move immediately on to asking the next question.

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

2014-08-17

Technical Problem vs Adaptive Challenge

As our Community Unitarian addresses the various issues and questions that come up, it is important to be able to distinguish a "technical problem" from an "adaptive challenge." At the Board of Trustees retreat on Sat Aug 16, the Board studied the differences. As we go forward, it will be crucial to ask ourselves: "Is this simply a technical problem? Is there an underlying adaptive challenge here -- for, if so, a very different approach is called for."

The single biggest failure of leadership is to treat adaptive challenges like technical problems.

TECHNICAL PROBLEMS VS. ADAPTIVE CHALLENGES


TECHNICAL PROBLEMS ADAPTIVE CHALLENGES
1.Easy to identify Difficult to identify (easy to deny)
2. Often lend themselves to quick and easy (cut-and-dried) solutions Require changes in values, beliefs, roles, relationships, & approaches to work
3. Often can be solved by an authority or expert People with the problem do the work of solving it
4. Require change in just one or a few places; often contained within organizational boundaries Require change in numerous places; usually cross organizational boundaries
5. People are generally receptive to technical solutions People often resist even acknowledging adaptive challenges
6. Solutions can often be implemented quickly — even by edict “Solutions” require experiments and new discoveries; they can take a long time to implement and cannot be implemented by edict

EXAMPLES
TECHNICAL PROBLEM ADAPTIVE CHALLENGE
Take medication to lower blood pressure Change lifestyle to eat healthy, get more exercise and lower stress
Implement electronic ordering and dispensing of medications in hospitals to reduce errors and drug interactions Encourage nurses and pharmacists to question and even challenge illegible or dangerous prescriptions by physicians
Increase penalty for drunk driving ƒ
Raise public awareness of the dangers and effects of drunk driving, targeting teenagers in particular

Adapted from Ronald A. Heifetz & Donald L. Laurie, “The Work of Leadership,” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1997; and Ronald A. Heifetz & Marty Linsky, Leadership on the Line, Harvard Business School Press, 2002.

Table 1.
Kind of Challenge
Problem Definition
Solution
Locus of Work
Technical
Clear
Clear
Authority
Technical and Adaptive
Clear
Requires learning
Authority and Stakeholders
Adaptive
Requires learning
Requires learning
Stakeholders







Table 2.
Task
Technical
Adaptive
Direction
Provide problem definition & solution
Identify the adaptive challenge; frame key questions and issues
Protection
Protect from external threats
Disclose external threats
Orientation
Orient people to current roles
Disorient current roles; resist orienting people to new ones too quickly
Conflict
Restore order
Expose conflict or let it emerge
Norms
Maintain norms
Challenge norms or let them be challenged.

2014-08-07

This Year's Common Read

The Unitarian Universalist "Common Read" for 2014-15 is:

Paul Rasor, Reclaiming Prophetic Witness: Liberal Religion in the Public Square

The selection committee met during the summer, thoughtfully considered the 14 books nominated for the 2014-15 Common Read, and, on Aug 5 announced their choice.

In Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, Rasor argues that conservative Christianity is not the only valid religious  voice in our national social policy. His book invites Unitarian Universalists to explore and claim our c ontribution, as religious liberals, to the pressing moral and ethical debates of our contemporary world.

Th e UUA Common Read began as part of long-range preparation for the 2012 “Justice” General Assembly.

Past years' Common Reads:
2010-11: Margaret Regan, The Death of Josseline
2011-12: Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith
2012-13: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
2013-14: Saru Jayaraman, Behind the Kitchen Door

The selection committee includes both headquarters and field staff of the UUA, charged each year to discern the most useful and appealing offering for congregations and individual Unitarian Universalists. This year's selection is an elegantly written, 105-page book is a gem. Rasor observes that many liberals are uncomfortable with talking about our faith as the well from which spring our social justice commitments. The book includes insights from our theological heritage and our history that have bearing for us today, and calls us to prophetic, faith-based justice work.

Order your copy from the UUA Bookstore: CLICK HERE
Or from Amazon: CLICK HERE

The Beauty of the Breeze (Perry's Ponderings)

As I sit in my cleaned out and almost completely-organized office, the most perfect breeze passes through the open door and peacefully awakens my senses. In its wake, I cannot help but pause for a moment to notice the beauty around me, feeling fully alive and connected to the nature outside the door and the life of the congregation within it.

There have been some days this summer when we were in the midst of the cleaning and reorganizing that there was a busyness in the heat, much as you might find on a city sidewalk baking in the sun as it absorbs thousands of footsteps. Then the cooling off happens overnight and we are refreshed by the air, able to see anew what has passed. It is heartwarming to see the imprint of the footsteps at CUC and the fresh air breathing new life into the building.

What has transpired for you this summer? Have your steps quickly traversed those city sidewalks with a destination in mind? Have you found those moments to pause and connect with nature, or loved ones on vacation? Whether a particular conversation gave you pause or the perfect passing breeze held you still, I wonder what has contained significance for you in the changes of the summer season. What will you bring back with you to this community when you return?

We are more than halfway through the summer and coming upon the time when our minds are pulled into thinking about a new school and church year. We savor the time we have before it comes and begin to prepare in motions that will transition us from one mode to the other. I hope the summer activity and slowing down have provided what you needed during this time and the remaining summer weeks bring more of that.

I have been planting seeds in what is new soil for me at CUC and look forward to nurturing more of those growing relationships, so we may have a bountiful fall. I await to hear your stories and prepare for the ones we will be creating together.
Work and nature came together when everything had to come out of the office for the floors to be done.

2014-08-05

UU Christian Fellowship for 2014-15

from CUC Community Minister, Rev. Kelly Murphy Mason:

Happy summer, everyone! In just a couple of months, starting in September 2014, we’ll resume our monthly meetings of the Metro NY Unitarian Universalist Christian Fellowship for the 2014-15 program year. Our new theme is:
Desert Spirituality: Contemplation in the Christian Wisdom Tradition.
On Thu Sep 18, we’ll gather at:
The Community Church of New York
40 E 35th St
Manhattan, NY 10016
7:30pm - 9:00pm

Through the church year, we'll gather every 3rd Thursday evening of each month following, for fellowship and conversation.

See these three PDFs:
1) Flyer highlighting the new Metro NY UUCF theme this coming year, Desert Spirituality (CLICK HERE).
2) The customary agenda for our chapter meetings, with our regular chalice lighting (CLICK HERE).
3) A comprehensive UUCF program calendar and detailed outline of our upcoming discussion topics (CLICK HERE).

One cornerstone of our conversations will be Dr. Christine Valters Paintners award-winning text, Desert Fathers and Mothers: Early Christian Wisdom Sayings, published by SkyLight Press.

Companion volumes this year will include:
Thomas Merton, The Wisdom of the Desert
Mary C. Earle, The Desert Mothers: Spiritual Practices from the Women of the Wilderness.

All of these books are available for purchase online. Together the books will help introduce us to the ‘Desert Spirituality’ at the heart of some of the earliest Christian contemplative movements. Note that our reading list – while quite illuminating – is only recommended, not required. Paintner’s book should be especially useful in our ongoing conversations, but certainly, people are welcome to join the group at any time with any degree of familiarity with the material.

Do let me know about any questions, concerns, or comments you might have regarding our Metro NY UUCF chapter meeting. Folks from various congregations throughout the tri-state area have attended in recent years, so thank you all for your generous support of UUCF within this Metro NY district. You are heartily encouraged to pass on word of our regular UUCF meetings to those in your UU congregations or to other Christian-curious friends who might be intrigued by what UU Christianity, in particular, has to offer. A number of you attended the recent UUA General Assembly in Providence. It was great to see you there with thousands of other UUs and also members of the national UUCF organization. Many thanks to UUCF Executive Director the Rev. Ron Robinson for helping us publicize and promote our program here in Metro NY. At the national level, UUCF has its own rich store of resources available at its website and invites lively dialogue about alternative Christian communities and various “heresies” within the larger church, all online at www.uuchristian.org.

Suggestions about future programming for Metro NY UUCF will be gratefully taken into advisement. We also respond to invitations from area congregations, either for communion services or occasional adult religious education offerings. Feel free to copy, post, forward or otherwise distribute any & all of the attached PDFs to anyone anywhere who might be interested in our local UUCF programs. I do hope to see some of you at Community Church this coming fall. Please remember that this UUCF chapter is always kept open; the invitation to join us at the Metro NY fellowship remains a standing one, month after month, year after year.

2014-08-01

New & Improved Youth Room! (Perry's Ponderings)

New magnetic chalkboard wall in Youth Room.
“Now open” it says on the newly painted magnetic chalkboard wall in the Youth Room. Next month, high schoolers will be returning to their special space at CUC. Thanks to senior Sofia’s sweat equity, they will find that the wall reserved for decorating can be drawn on with chalk and have things posted. It will be open for creativity and the sharing of ideas.

We have added three comfortable couches in the Youth Room and now have ample seating for our Youth Group that includes a large incoming sophomore class from Coming of Age last year. We want to be sure there are not only seats for those we expect to join us, but also always room for one more. A welcoming space is the first step to facilitating a vibrant Youth Group. In the fall, all the youth will have the opportunity to add their creative touches to the room and turn it into a true home when they begin connecting with each other through sharing, learning, worship, and service.

Added couches create space for everyone.
The CUC Search Committee for the Youth Program Coordinator position will be reconvening to find us a suitable candidate to guide the youth and their volunteer adult advisors. The Board has expressed full support for this position by funding a reasonable salary for this ten-hour a week position. Thank you all for your pledges that make this important position possible. Please let me know if you think of someone outside of the congregation who might be a possible candidate, as we search for a responsible kind-hearted person who shares our values and understands the balance of stepping up and stepping back when guiding youth. This person will anchor the program, while collaborating with the other staff members and a strong team of youth advisors to further develop our youth ministry.

I encourage our youth and their families to communicate with me about what they would like to see in youth programs. We want to engage our youth in the varied opportunities for growth that they seek. Within those experiences there will be surprise self-discoveries and bonding with others that forms a safe space in which to be held during the teen years. The self-confidence and understanding built upon those relationships will sustain the youth throughout their lives.