CUUC

CUUC

2016-02-24

Bring More Intentionality

Practice of the Week
Bring More Intentionality

Liberation is about waking up! Hour by hour, we give up intentionality and let life happen to us. This exercise invites liberation by waking up to what our hours actually look like.

What you'll need:
  • A device such as a smart phone with an alarm clock app that you can set to chime every hour on the hour.
  • A journal or notepad, which you'll carry with you through the day
Here’s what you do:

1. Set the alarm/chime to go off every hour on the hour for the entire day, from the time you get up to the time you go to bed.

2. Every time the hourly alarm goes off, make a one-word note in your journal or notepad that captures what you are doing in that moment. For instance, one day’s worth of entries might look like:
worrying,
staring,
working,
working,
working,
eating,
complaining,
daydreaming,
emailing,
working,
commuting,
cooking,
washing,
emailing,
dog-walking,
nodding-off.

Do this for 3 days.

Then:

3. Notice the pattern and figure out how you want to change it. Don’t over-plan it. Just give your day a little bit more intentionality. Keep your hourly alarm in your head and tell yourself that you want to end the day with a list that you can be proud of. Imagine what kind of list would make you smile, feel in control or feel free. For instance this kind of list:
snoozing,
jogging,
enjoying,
planning,
working,
experimenting,
advocating,
working,
dreaming,
laughing,
cooking,
reading,
connecting,
talking,
loving,
breathing.

Or this kind of list from a day off of work:
sleeping,
sleeping,
soaking,
painting,
painting,
varnishing,
indulging,
napping,
painting,
painting,
dining,
dancing,
dancing,
gazing,
dreaming.

It’s all about consciousness. It’s all about liberating yourself by simply noticing. It’s all about living life rather than letting life live you!

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

CUUC Music: Sun Feb 28


The celebration of the incomparable musical contributions of African-Americans continues this Sunday, as part of our commitment to Black Lives Matter. Musical selections include a setting of a traditional Spiritual as a set of virtuosic piano variations by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, several rags by Scott Joplin, and works in a decidedly jazzy vein by Hale Smith and Valerie Capers. Dr. Capers herself will return to CUUC for our Mothers’ Day service on May 8 and then for a special Jazzfest! concert on Saturday evening May 14th. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
The Angels Changed My Name
                                    Traditional Spiritual, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
My Scarf is Yellow, Scrambled Eggs and Ernie, That’s Mike, An Asphodel for Marcel, Goin’ in a Hurry from Faces of Jazz
                                                            Hale Smith
Opening Music:
Heliotrope Bouquet                                   
                                                Scott Joplin/Louis Chauvin

Offertory:
Billie’s Song and A Taste of Bass from Portraits in Jazz
                                                Valerie Capers
Interlude:
Peacherine Rag
                                                Joplin

2016-02-17

Get Excited

Practice of the Week
Get Excited

Rick Hansen on getting excited:


ENTHUSIASM:
from Middle French enthousiasme,
from Late Latin enthusiasmus,
from Ancient Greek ἐνθουσιασμός (enthousiasmos),
from ἔνθεος (entheos, “possessed by a god”),
from ἐν (en, “in”) + θεός (theos, “god”).

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

Excitement is energy plus positive emotion, and it is part of joy, passion, and having fun. It may be mild -- but it still moves your needle. For example, on my personal 0-10 "thrillometer," seeing the stars on a clear night is about a 2 while the San Francisco Giants winning the World Series in 2010 was a 10.

When you consider excitement in this expanded way, what moves your own needle, even a little bit? How about the sound of bagpipes, a child's first steps, traveling someplace new, finishing a project that's gone well, dancing, laughing, finding something you've wanted on super-sale, or hearing a neat idea?

Of course it's hard, if not impossible, to feel excitement if you are ill or psychologically burdened. The inability to get excited is a sign that something's not right.

But under normal conditions, without excitement about something, life feels flat, bland, and inert. Passion helps ignite and sustain creativity, entrepreneurship, political action, and committed relationships. Getting excited about something together is bonding; shared enthusiasm makes a movie, concert, political rally, conversation, or lovemaking a lot more rewarding.

As you grew up, your natural liveliness may have been criticized, dampened, or squelched. In particular, passion is woven into both strong emotions and sex; if either of these has been shamed or numbed, so has excitement. Did any of this happen to you? If it did, then gradually making more room for passion in your life -- more room for delight, eagerness, and energy -- is a joyful way to express yourself more fully.

How

Find something that excites you, even just a bit. Feel the enjoyment in it. See if you can intensify the experience through a quick inhalation, a sense perhaps of energy ris¬ing in your body. Lift your chest and head, and let more aliveness come into your face. Register this feeling of excitement, and make room for it in your body. Then as you go through your day, notice what moves your own thrillometer, particularly in subtle ways. Look for things to get excited about!

Tell yourself that it's okay to get excited, thrilled, or aroused. Take a stand for a life that's got some juiciness in it. Reflect on your passions as a younger person: What's happened to them? Should you dust one of them off and recommit to it?

Pick a part of your life that's become static, perhaps stale -- such as cooking, a job, housework, repetitive parts of parenting, even sex—and really pursue ways to pep it up. Try new dishes, turn up the music, get goofy, dance with the baby, vary your routines, and so on.

Be aware of how you might be putting a damper on excitement, such as tightening your body, deadening your feelings, or murmuring thoughts like Don't stand out. . . Don't be "too much" for people... Don't be uncool. As you become more mindful of the wet blankets in your own mind, they'll dry out.

Consider some of the practices for raising energy from yoga, martial arts, or other forms of physical training. These include taking multiple deep breaths (not to the point of lightheadedness), sensing energy in the core of your body a few inches below the navel, jumping up and down a few times, making deep guttural sounds (don't try this at work!), or visualizing bright light.

Join with the excitement of others. Focus on something that lights up a friend or your partner, and look for things that could be fun, enlivening, or interesting about it for you. Don't fake anything, but nudge your own energy upwards; get more engaged with the other person's passion, which may ignite your own.

Don't rain on other people's parade—and don't let them rain on yours. Sure, if you're getting too revved up, read the social signals and either dial down your energy or take it elsewhere. But be aware that excitement makes some people uncomfortable—to keep their own passions bottled up, they put a lid on those of others—and honestly, that's their problem, not yours. With this sort of person, you may need to disengage, find others who share your interests, and walk to the beat of your own drummer.

For me, the essence of excitement is enthusiasm -- whose root meaning is quite profound: "moved by something extraordinary, even divine."


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

By-Laws Change

Rev. Meredith Garmon takes this post to make his case for a change in the CUUC By-Laws

Article 1, section 2 (b) of the CUUC By-Laws currently reads:
All members 16 years of age or older shall be entitled to introduce or amend motions and to vote on all questions being considered at an Annual or special Meeting of the Church; and nonmembers sixteen years of age or over who have been more than occasional attendants at the worship services and who have made a recorded contribution to the financial support of the Church during the preceding year shall be entitled to vote on approval of annual Church operating and capital budgets. [my italics]
I urge the congregation to approve deleting the italicized words above.

My basic argument is this: membership means responsibility to make, by vote, the decisions of the congregation. Anyone may choose not to join, of course, but choosing not to join means choosing not to have a vote. The integrity of our organization is compromised by granting votes to nonmembers.

#1. There is no rationale for keeping this provision. It is highly unusual: in a lifetime of being a UU, I had never heard of such a provision before coming to White Plains, and none of the District Executives, Regional Staff, or other ministers I have consulted with had ever heard of any other congregation having such a provision. If we didn’t have it, no one would be arguing for instituting it. That the provision has lasted this long is a case of “but we’ve always done it this way” thinking.

#2. If people making a contribution feel they should have a say in what is done with the money, then why not allow them vote to on Board members? After all, Board members create the budget and make adjustments to it throughout the year. Yet we do not allow nonmembers to vote in electing Board members. For the same reason, we should not allow nonmembers to vote on the budget either. If they want a vote, they can sign the book. Our leadership is accountable to our membership – to those people who have made the commitment to CUUC represented by signing our membership book. Our leadership is not and should not pretend to be accountable to nonmembers.

#3. The provision introduces needless and hopeless subjectivity. Someone – generally it has been the Board Secretary -- must make the determination each year which nonmembers have been “more than occasional attendants at worship services.” How many attendances constitutes “more than occasional”? Is once a month for 9 months a year “occasional” or “more than occasional”? Our Secretary has no definitive way to answer that question. Moreover, we do not keep records of attendance. Even supposing that we specified that X attendances in a year counted as “more than occasional” (which we have not), we have no way of knowing whether a given nonmember has attended X times or not. (There would seem to be a built-in bias in favor of large nonmembers with a penchant for bright clothes – more likely to be noticed when they attend.) The provision depends entirely on the Secretary’s subjective and probably quite variable determinations.

#4. Allowing nonmembers to vote undermines the point, value, and meaning of membership, which, being a covenantal relationship, requires some minimal clarity about who is in the covenant and who isn’t. The practice of self-governance in covenant is a crucial part of the Unitarian Universalist path of spiritual growth. Allowing nonmembers to vote undermines that important function of membership. Members have the sacred responsibility of voting. We dilute those votes by counting nonmember votes.

#5. I requested the removal of this provision in 2013-14, and brought it the board’s attention again in 2014-15. At those times, a partial explanation involved sympathy for nonmembers who, due to Jewish ties, found it personally difficult to be a member of a “church.” Now that we have changed our name to “Congregation,” then we no longer have even that excuse for confusing and weakening the meaning of membership by allowing nonmembers to have a vote on one thing and not others.

CUUC Music: Sun Feb 21


Who better than Ludwig van Beethoven to illustrate the desire for music? Even after he scarcely hear a note, the song of a bird, or the words of a friend, Beethoven continued to write music, driven by some inner love and compulsion. Franz Schubert also expressed his deep-seated reverence for this art in his setting of “To Music”, sung for us on Sunday morning by CUUC member Kim Force.

The CUUC Choir is also on hand with several selections notable for the warm sentiments they express—enough to melt a polar vortex!
Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Adagio from Piano Sonata No. 1 in f minor, Op. 2, No. 1
Allegretto vivace from Piano Sonata No. 18 in E-flat Major, Op. 31, No. 3
                                                Ludwig van Beethoven

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Evening Star                                                            
Victor Johnson  

Offertory:’
Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair  
American folk song, arr. by Ruth Elaine Schram
Interlude: Kim Force, soprano
An die Musik*
                                                Franz Schubert

*Translation (Text by Franz von Schober)
To Music
You, lovely art, in how many grey hours,
When life's mad tumult wraps around me,

Have you kindled my heart to warm love,
Have you transported me into a better world,
Transported into a better world!
Often has a sigh flowing out from your harp,
A sweet, divine harmony from you

Unlocked to me the heaven of better times,
You, lovely Art, I thank you for it!!
You, lovely art, I thank you!

2016-02-13

Resolution on Supporting Black Lives Matter

Date of this draft: 2016 Feb 13

WHEREAS, Unitarian Universalists strive for justice, equity and compassion in human relations; and

WHEREAS, Unitarian Universalists have a goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all; and

WHEREAS, allowing injustice to go unchallenged violates our principles; and

WHEREAS, although most police officers warrant our gratitude and respect for the dangerous work they undertake to promote public safety, law enforcement practice in the US is too often an expression and manifestation of systemic racial prejudice; and

WHEREAS, although people of all ages and races are killed by law enforcement, black people ages 20-24 are seven times more likely than the general population to be killed by law enforcement; and

WHEREAS, the 102 unarmed black people killed by police in 2015 represents 37% of all unarmed people killed by police that year; and

WHEREAS, Tanisha Anderson, Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Miriam Carey, Michelle Cusseaux, Shelly Frey, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Trayvon Martin, Kayla Moore, Tamir Rice, Tony Robinson, Samuel Dubose, Sandra Bland, William Chapman, Walter Scott, Tiara Thomas are just a few names of people recently killed by the racism that exists in the United States today; and

WHEREAS, mass incarceration fueled by for-profit prisons and racially biased police practices drive the disproportionate imprisonment of black and brown Americans; and

WHEREAS, the school-to-prison pipeline is an urgent concern because 40% of students expelled from U.S. public schools are black and one out of three black men is incarcerated during his lifetime; and

WHEREAS, the 2015 General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association adopted a resolution, called an Action of Immediate Witness, which cited the above facts, recognized “that the fight for civil rights and equality is as real today as it was decades ago,” and called Unitarian Universalist congregations to action:
  • to become closer to a just world community,
  • to engage in intentional learning spaces to organize for racial justice with recognition of the interconnected nature of racism coupled with systems of oppression that impact people based on class, gender identity, sexual orientation, ability and language;
  • to work toward police reform and prison abolition (which seeks to replace the current prison system with a system that is more just and equitable);
  • to take initiative in collaboration with local and national organizations fighting for racial justice against the harsh racist practices to which many black people are exposed;
and

WHEREAS, that same resolution of the 2015 UUA General Assembly also declared: “No matter who you are, black lives matter, and a system of fair, transformative, and restorative justice that is accountable to communities is something to which each of us has a right. Unitarian Universalists and our greater society have the power to make this happen;” and

WHEREAS, Black Lives Matter is an international activist movement, originating in the African-American community, that campaigns against violence toward black people, regularly organizes protests around the deaths of black people in killings by law enforcement officers, and broader issues of racial profiling, police brutality, and racial inequality in the United States criminal justice system; and

WHEREAS, the Black Lives Matter movement has gained powerful traction in resistance to police brutality and institutionalized racism that target the black community; and

WHEREAS, the 13 Guiding Principles of the Black Lives Matter movement, set forth at blacklivesmatter.com, are highly consonant with Unitarian Universalist values; and

WHEREAS, all lives matter, and upholding the value of all lives requires attending especially to those lives most treated as not mattering; and

WHEREAS, affirming that black lives matter challenges presumptions that they don't matter and recognizes that the disregard of black lives calls for specific attention and should not be left alone to continue; and

WHEREAS, the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains’ “Policy on Political and Social Advocacy” stipulates that, “A position of the [Congregation] on an Advocacy issue shall be taken only by the congregation in a vote according to the By-Laws,” and that, in the absence of such a congregational vote, neither the Congregation’s minister, nor its Board of Trustees, nor any committee, group, or individual of the Congregation may speak for, on behalf of, or in the name of the Congregation on any advocacy issue;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation of White Plains supports and is a majority-white ally of the Black Lives Matter movement and its Guiding Principles;

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation authorizes expressions of that support, including but not limited to: public statements from Congregation leaders of support and advocacy for Black Lives Matter and its Guiding Principles, and the public display of a “Black Lives Matter” banner to be clearly visible to traffic on Rosedale Avenue.

2016-02-10

Watch Where Your Mind Wanders

Watch Where Your Mind Wanders
Practice of the Week

This one is the simplest exercise but also potentially most enlightening. Take a week and keep track of where your mind joyfully leans. Catch yourself daydreaming. Notice when you say to yourself, “I really have to remember to...” Pay attention when the voice in your head says, “I wish I was doing X instead.” And when you notice it, write it down. Keep track of it for a week. Then pay attention to what this week’s worth of wandering is telling you.

“If you want to know where your heart [desire] is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.” -- Bernard Byer

“Maybe prayer doesn’t mean talking to God at all. Maybe it means listening to our dreams and paying more attention to what we really want from life.” - Gary Kowalski

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

CUUC Music: Sun Feb 14


In honor of Valentine’s Day, Sunday morning’s solo piano music includes works composed by a composer in love and works written to celebrate a loving occasion.
Robert Schumann endured years of separation from his beloved Clara Wieck because of the opposition of the latter’s father to the couple’s desire to wed. During this difficult period, the young lovers corresponded about musical matters and exchanged musical works. Among these, Robert’s Kreisleriana, based on a novel by E.T.A. Hoffman, was one of the most hotly inspired and emotional.
The pianist who most influenced me growing up was the Spaniard Alicia de Larrocha. The works by Federico Mompou and Xavier Montsalvatge were both written as wedding gifts for Alicia on the occasion of her marriage to pianist Joan Torra in 1950.

In addition, the CUUC Choir is on hand with powerful messages about love and hope, the first a setting of an ancient Latin text by Seneca, the second based on the powerful words of a Holocaust victim.

Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch from Kreisleriana, Op. 16
                                    Robert Schumann
Preludio XI
                                    Federico Mompou
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Si Vis Amari*  
Jerry Estes
*Translation: If you want to be loved, love.

Offertory:
Divagación
                                                            Xavier Montsalvatge

Anthem:
An Inscription of Hope                         
music by Z. Randall Stroope, text from an inscription found in on a cellar wall in Cologne, Germany  

2016-02-08

Community UU Receives Proclamaition

Community UU hosted the Interfaith Harmony Week service on Sun Feb 7. The White Plains Journal-News covered the event: CLICK HERE.

At the service, Westchester County Legislator Benjamin Boykin II presented Rev. Meredith Garmon with a proclamation from the Westchester County Board of Legislators. Our congregation was previously honored by proclamations in 2009 Apr -- one from the City of White Plains and one from the Westchester County Board of Legislators, both honoring our 100th anniversary.

Full text of the new proclamation is below.


Westchester County Board of Legislators

Proclamation

WHEREAS, throughout its history, Westchester County has been blessed with outstanding invdividuals and organizations that have contributed greatly to the welfare of the county and its people.

WHEREAS, we are gathered today at the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation in the great city of White Plains to celebrate the 12th Annual Interreligious Prayer Service for Peace and Justice in observance of World Interfaith Harmony Week, and

WHEREAS, World Interfaith Harmony Week was proclaimed by a United Nations General Assembly resolution to promote understanding and tolerance among all religious traditions and beliefs, and

WHEREAS, lead by Rev. Meredith Garmon, the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation is a Welcoming Congregation committed to affirming and purposefully including all regardless of age, race, ethnicity, national origin, disability, gender, gender identity or expression, and sexual or affectional orientation, and

WHEREAS, the organizer for the event, Charles S. Chesnavage, has planned the annual prayer service for the past twelve years, this is the second time the prayer service is held in the City of White Plains and the first time that the Coummunity Unitarian Universalist Congregation, an organization that believes in nurturing one another in our spiritual journeys, fostering compassion and understanding within and beyond our community, and engaging in service to transform ourselves and our world, is hosting the service, and

WHEREAS, representatives of many religious traditions including Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Baha'i, Chirstian, Native American, the Humanist tradition, Quaker and Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints have come together to recite universal prayers and statements for peace and justice, and

WHEREAS, accomplishments such as these that promote world harmony should be properly recognized and acclaimed, THEREFORE BE IT

RESOLVED, that the members of the Westchester County Board of Legislators join with Legislator Benjamin Boykin II in paying tribute to the Coummunity Unitarian Universalist Congregation and Charles S. Chesnavage, AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED, that today, Sunday February 7, 2016, is hereby proclaimed "World Interfaith Harmony Week at the Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation Day" in Westchester Count, AND BE IT FURTHER

RESOLVED, that the text of this proclamation be carried throughout the County of Westchester for all people of good will to forever know.

Given Under My Hand and Seal this 7th Day of February, 2016.

s-Michael B. Kaplowitz, Chairman s-Benjamin Boykin II, Legislator

2016-02-02

CUUC Music: Sun Feb 7


In honor of CUUC’s rescheduled Black Lives Matter service, Sunday morning music includes works by composers of African descent and a composition by a white European influenced by African-American idioms.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was an English-born composer of Creole heritage. His 24 Negro Melodies, the source for the first two works in the Prelude, are his arrangements of traditional tunes from Africa, the Caribbean, and the United States. His style is warmly romantic and evocative a virtuosic tradition of piano performance.
Scott Joplin’s numerous rags for solo piano need little introduction; they are among the classics of American music. “The Entertainer”, featured in “The Sting” from the early 1970’s, is widely credited with triggering a resurgence of interest in this popular musical form.

French composer Claude Debussy was of course Caucasian, but some of his output reflects a fascination with other cultures and places. His beloved “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” is an homage to American Vaudeville, and draws upon traditional African-American musical styles. The inclusion this work illustrates the universal relevance of cultural diversity.  
Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Bamboula                       
West Indian, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Take Nabandji           
South East African, arr. by Coleridge-Taylor
The Easy Winners and Maple Leaf Rag
                                    Scott Joplin           

Opening Music:
Golliwogg’s Cakewalk from Children’s Corner
                                    Claude Debussy
Offertory:
The Entertainer
                                    Joplin



Explore Desire Through Renunciation

Explore Desire Through Renunciation
Practice of the Week

Lent begins in February. It is one of the many spiritual traditions that invite us into the spiritual practice of renunciation and self-denial. This exercise honors that tradition -- but with a twist. In this practice, there's as much over-indulgence as there is self-denial.

The aim is not self-control -- it's self-knowledge. This week's practice will create just enough distance from your desires to understand what is behind and beneath them. What deeper hunger is driving your obsession with food? What deeper struggle is underneath your need to keep everything in the house clean and perfect? Don’t get caught up in resisting the desire. Instead figure out what it is trying to tell you.

Here's Ram Dass, from his book, Paths to God, explaining:
If you want to play a little bit with a renunciation practice, pick some desire that you encounter every day. You decide which one: the desire to eat something or other, the desire for a cigarette, whatever it is you want to play with. Pick something that you usually give in to every day — like, let's say, a cup of coffee in the morning — and for one day, don't do it. Then the next day, do it much more than you usually would — have two cups of coffee. Start to study your reactions. Notice the difference in your feelings toward the desire on the first day and on the second day.

Maybe another time you'll want to take two desires to work with; one day don't satisfy one and doubly satisfy the other, and then flip them around. Try to be very attentive to what's going through your mind about it....Start to relate to your desires as something you can scrutinize rather than as things that totally suck you in all the time, things that consume you. Get into a friendly relationship with your desires. Play with them, instead of being driven by them all the time. Desires get to be fun, really, once we're observing them instead of mechanically reacting to them.

The whole game of renunciation and purification is an experiment — an experiment in how quickly we can extricate ourselves from being attached to our desire systems. Notice that it isn't a question of getting rid of desires — that's a misunderstanding. Trust me, the desires will stay around! We're just loosening their hold on us, getting clear enough of them so we can see them in some sort of context.
Journaling

Write about it in your journal: What goes through your mind when you (a) deny yourself something that you usually do every day? (b) do twice as much of something that you usually do every day? What do you discover about the way your desire works in your life?

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