CUUC

CUUC

2016-03-30

Music: Sun Apr 3


As part of our Canvass Kickoff service, Music Director Adam Kent presents works by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg, including the perennial favorite “Wedding Day at Troldhaugen”, a twenty-fifth anniversary gift to the composer’s wife Nina. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with inspirational music, including a traditional Navaho chant. Read on for programming details.
Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Sailors’ Song, Op. 68, No. 1
Peasants’ Song, Op. 54, No. 2
Wedding Day at Troldhaugen, Op. 65, No. 6
                                    Edvard Grieg
Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Tis You That Are The Music     
Cynthia Gray  

Offertory:
Notturno, Op. 54, No. 4
                                                Grieg

Anthem:
Now I Walk In Beauty      Navaho Prayer, music by Gregg Smith  

Failure Gratitude

Practice of the Week
Failure Gratitude
So you think you are a failure, do you? Well, you probably are. What’s wrong with that? In the first place, if you have any sense at all you must have learned by now that we pay just as dearly for our triumphs as we do for our defeats. Go ahead and fail. Embrace failure! Seek it out! Learn to love it. That may be the only way any of us will ever be free." (Tom Robbins, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues)

The exclusive worship of the bitch-goddess Success is our national disease.” (William James)

"Reaching Success demands strange sacrifices from those who worship her.” (Aldous Huxley)
Failure's benefits fall roughly into two sorts: (a) Failure paves the way for a subsequent success, and (b) Failure frees us from the trap of success.

Well-known examples of success emerging from failure come from the scientific world: penicillin, Velcro, Teflon. The world of business is now emphasizing the value of failure in setting up eventual success. Numerous business schools actively preach one simple message: Fail faster and fail better!

In fact, a Stanford Business School professor recently reported a new trend: young entrepreneurial job seekers are listing their failures on their resumes! Instead of boasting about their successes and awards, they proudly promote their marketing missteps and start-up disasters, and what they learned from them. By sharing what they learned and how they used that learning, they display their ability to look at their failures with creative eyes, not as dead ends and bungled attempts but as lessons and brave test runs.

An even greater value of failure arises not when failure leads to success, but when it frees us from the tyranny of "that bitch-goddess, Success." In such failure we can be liberated from a view that life exists solely for achievement. Sometimes, it’s time to dance, laugh, just celebrate being alive -- rest in the grace of the world and be free of the need to make yourself into anything more than what you are. Failure can teach us the humility to find joy in what we have and are. Without failure, we might imagine that success and achievement was all there was to life. What a miserable existence that would be -- never satisfied, nothing ever good enough!

So try this practice: Make a list of all your life's failures. Give yourself a couple days to make the list as complete as you can. Then go through the list, noting what you gained from each failure. Perhaps it taught you something which you then have used to succeed. Perhaps it brought about a change (a new town, a new job) which you came to be grateful for. Perhaps it helped you become free. What gratitude do you have for each of your failures?

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

2016-03-23

Create With/For Others

Practice of the Week
Create With/For Others

An earlier "Practice of the Week" was "Choose Your Spiritual Practice" -- which offered a long list of possibilities (SEE HERE). Many of the suggested possibilities were outlets of creativity: needlepoint, quilting, knitting, sculpting, painting, playing a musical instrument, woodworking, poetry writing, making pottery, cooking.

Often the creative impulse is about expressing yourself, but it is also about using yourself for the sake of others. Another way to put this is to say: we create in order to heal and help. Indeed, from a spiritual perspective, creativity is not just about bringing something new and original into the world; it’s also about bringing in beauty, kindness and joy.

This week's exercise asks you to stretch your creativity beyond simple self-expression to connect with others intentionally.

First, create something together with others. Of course, even when we aren't explicitly partnering, it is rare that new ideas arise from our own isolated heads. Never is art without previous inspiration. Hardly ever is there a creator without a companion. To honor this, find a partner and create something together. Grab your kid and build a model car, or convince your artist or writer friends to do a joint project. Invite your neighbor over to help plant and share a garden. Join the creative justice makers in your neighborhood as they try to build a better and more beautiful world.

Second, if there is a movable product of your joint labors, when you a finished, give it away. In other words, join with others in producing and then join with others through giving away the product.

For Journaling

Reflect on the relationship of creativity with generosity and community. How does creating beauty for others -- and giving it away -- deepen one's spirituality?

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

2016-03-17

Find Strength

Practice of the Week
Find Strength

Rich Hanson on finding strength:


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

To make your way in life -- to enjoy the beautiful things it offers, to steer clear of hazards and protect yourself and others, and find friendship and love -- you need strength. Not chest-thumping pushiness, but determination and grit.

Strength comes in many forms, including endurance, losing on the little things in order to win on the big ones, and restraint. For example, if you want to move a boat at the edge of a dock, don't run into it with a big smash; you'll just hurt yourself. Instead, stand on the edge of the dock, put your hand on the boat, and lean into it. Strength keeps leaning.

Inner strength is not all or nothing. You can build it, just like a muscle.

How

Mental strength draws on physical health, which is fueled by:
  • eating protein at every meal;
  • taking vitamin and mineral supplements daily;
  • exercising several times a week;
  • setting aside seven to nine hours a day for sleep;
  • using intoxicants in moderation or not at all; and
  • addressing and resolving chronic health problems, even seemingly mild ones.
If you are not doing these, how about starting today?

Make a list of your strengths, such as intelligence, honesty, bearing pain, natural talents, recognizing good in others, or just surviving. Be accurate -- not unfairly self-critical. Recognizing your strengths will help you feel stronger. If it's appropriate, ask someone what he or she thinks some of your strengths are.

Think about some of the good things you use your strengths for, such as earning a living, raising a family, growing as a person, or making our world better. Tell yourself, It is good for me to be strong. My strength helps good things happen. Good people want me to be strong; anyone who wants me to be weak is not on my side. Notice any beliefs that it is bad to be strong . . . and then turn your attention back to the good reasons for being strong.

To increase your sense of strength, recall times you felt strong. (For me, many of these have involved standing up for others, or physical activities like hiking in wilderness.) What did your body feel like then? What was your posture, point of view, or intention? Explore embodying strength right now: maybe lifting your chin, widening your stance, or breathing deeply. Take in these physical sensations and attitudes of strength so you can tap into them again.

Notice how good it feels to be strong. Feel the pleasure in your body, perhaps a quiet fierceness and resolve. Enjoy the confidence that strength brings, the sense of possibility. Appreciate how your strength empowers your caring, protectiveness, and love.

Tell yourself that you are strong. That you can endure, persist, cope, and prevail. That you are strong enough to hold your experience in awareness without being over¬whelmed. That the winds of life can blow, and blow hard, but you are a deeply rooted tree, and winds just make you even stronger.

And when they are done blowing, there you still stand. Offering shade and shelter, flowers and fruit. Strong and lasting.

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

2016-03-15

CUUC Music: Sun Mar 27


The CUUC Choir offers joyous seasonal favorites to celebrate the Easter holiday, and Adam Kent provides spiritual meditations by J. S. Bach and a tribute to spring by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg.

Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Music for All Ages with Adam Kent, piano
                                    J. S. Bach, God, and the World, including a performance of Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E Major, W.T.C. I
                                   

Interlude:
Alleluia: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas                                   
Randall Thompson 

Offertory:
To Spring, Op. 43, No. 6
                                                Edvard Grieg

Interlude:
Gaudeamus Hodie*                                     
Earlene Rentz
*Translation: Let us rejoice today!  Rejoice!

CUUC Music: Sun Mar 20


CUUC Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas treats us to a program of music from popular and classical traditions, and Music Committee co-chair Kim Force offers a touching setting of the Twenty-Third Psalm by Bobby McFerrin.

Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano

Prelude, op. 16, no. 4
Prelude, op. 13, no. 3
Prelude, op. 11, no. 9

Alexander Scriabin

Prelude no. 4 in e minor

Frederic Chopin

How Sensitive

Noreen Sauls and Frederic Chopin



Opening Music:

Spring Is Here

Richard Rogers/Lorenz Hart, arr. By Bill Charlap

Offertory:

Danny Boy

Traditional, arr. by Noreen Sauls

Interlude: Kim Force, soprano

Psalm 23
                                    Music by Bobby McFerrin


2016-03-14

BLM & CUUC Process

FROM THE PULPIT -- SUN MAR 13

Our congregation is in process toward adopting a resolution of support for the Black Lives Matter movement. (See the resolution: CLICK HERE.) Our Board of Trustees, on Wed Mar 9, has approved a special congregational meeting on Sun Apr 17 to vote on that resolution.

Our congregation has taken a number of social justice actions over the years, but we have not taken a stand, as a congregation, on an issue of social advocacy. Back in 2005, this congregation earned the designation “Welcoming Congregation,” through a process laid out by our national denominational headquarters. That meant the congregation as a whole had made a commitment to being welcoming to the LGBT community – but not a commitment of public social advocacy.

Today we have a number of Social Justice teams, and our various teams have taken and are taking a variety actions. They address environmental protections, hunger and homelessness, LGBT issues, Economic inequality and poverty. Most of us feel proud of the actions of these teams, and most of us support what they’re doing. None of those actions, however, involves taking a stand as a congregation.

We encourage people to live their faith -- to be active in social causes. We also recognize that our members have diverse opinions -- indeed, we cherish our diversity. While I have never seen it happen, I can imagine that someday it could happen that there might be Unitarian Universalists gathered at a street corner carrying signs, "UUs in Support of X" -- while on the opposite corner there are other Unitarian Universalists carrying signs, "UUs Opposed to X." (What might be a plausible example of X? Perhaps nuclear power could become such an issue. Some Unitarian Universalists do feel strongly about the need for power sources that don't emit greenhouse gases, while other Unitarian Universalists feel strongly about the dangers of nuclear power.) Both groups would be living out their interpretation of our principles, and being active in the social arena, as our faith encourages them to be. But which group would represent their congregation as a whole? Neither! Each group represents only the sub-group of the congregation that it is. As their minister, I would be pastorally supportive of both sides, and encouraging of each side in being involved and expressing their faith in the way they see it leading.

All the actions we have taken so far represent only the sub-group that takes the action. If the actions are widely -- or even unanimously -- supported by the congregation, that support has been informal. No team or group or committee of the congregation may claim to speak on behalf of the entire congregation -- unless the entire congregation has voted its agreement with what is said.

This is how we have to do things if we want to value diversity of thought, as we do, and at the same time encourage public expression. For all of the actions that our congregation’s various social justice teams have taken, the congregation as a whole has never taken a stand on an issue of social advocacy.

In the case of Black Lives Matter, however, the Social Justice Coordinating Council and I agreed that the time had come. This was something unlike the other social issues. This was, at this time in our nation’s history, more important. This, at last, was an issue so crucial that it was time for the congregation as a whole to take a stand.

Here was an issue worth cranking up all the apparatus of process leading to a special congregational meeting. We have cranked up that apparatus before -- though not in order to take a stand on an issue of social advocacy. Two years ago that apparatus of process led to adoption of a mission statement. That process, as you may recall, took much longer than our current process to take a stand in support of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. We passed the mission statement in January 2014 -- at which point the congregation had been at work on it for a year and a half -- and rather intensely for the previous 5 months.

We would have been able to do the current process faster if not for simple scheduling difficulties. I did want us to hear from a speaker from inside the BLM matter movement before the vote. King Downing has extensive experience on the inside of that movement. I wanted us to hear from him. I had hoped he could speak to us on Sun Feb 28, but he turned out to be unavailable at that time. Then Sun Mar 6 was already locked in for Rev. Rob Gregson to guest preach. So Mar 13 was the soonest we could get Mr. Downing -- and I was so happy to have him with us that day.

Then Sun Mar 20 and 27 are part of the Easter break. And Sun Apr 3 we have a brunch after the service that we couldn't move. So that takes us to Apr 10 for discussing and considering amendments to the resolution, and April 17 for voting.

Our neighboring Unitarian Universalist congregation in Mt. Kisco approved a resolution of support a couple weeks ago. Our neighboring UU congregation in Croton won’t have their vote until June. So we are somewhere in the middle.

To take a stand as a congregation will require a supermajority vote of 80% of the members present.

Let me remind you, if you’re not a member, you have until March 18 to join in order to vote on April 17. We stand at an important moment in the history of our congregation – a moment when our courage can empower us to make a difference in the world, a difference in the lives of so many of our neighbors.

POSTSCRIPT -- WED MAR 16

Our congregational process makes taking stands extraordinary -- difficult and drawn-out, by design. Does such a design seem wrong?

While taking a stand as a congregation is extraordinary, social action taken by a group within the congregation with informal nods of encouragement from the congregation-in-general is our ordinary, normal -- and usually must faster-response course. This is the system that UU congregations generally (and many non-UU congregations as well) have worked out to allow for action to go forward while also honoring diversity of opinion within their ranks.

You might understandably feel that, while diversity of opinion may be fine when it comes to things like opinions about energy policy or taxation rates, there are some issues that are so basic that there ought to be instant and unanimous support for them, and CUUC's policies and procedures ought to allow for instant action to express that support. I understand the longing for that kind of community, but, for better or for worse, that's not who we are.

What we are is a diverse collection of people. For some of us, support for the BLM movement is absolutely essential. For others, it's simply a very good idea and the right thing to do. For still others, expressing congregational support for a movement may be OK, but isn't very important. Maybe for a few, it seems like a bad idea. Our covenant is to stand by one another, whatever our disagreements.

Our congregation contains much of the range of attitudes and viewpoints that the general population around us contains, albeit not in the same proportions. Our best hope, I believe, is to model how a diverse community can also be a learning community. We are not a people who automatically and intuitively know what racial justice requires, but we are a people who can learn. There is certainly great need for learning both in our nation and in our congregation. Learning takes a while. I've learned a lot myself since Trayvon Martin's 2012 death in Sanford, Florida, not far from where I was then living. I've learned more in the last year. And still have much to learn.

Transforming the world also entails transforming ourselves. Our mission recognizes as much when it says, "engage in service to transform ourselves and the world." Maybe sometimes you'd like CUUC to already be transformed. Sometimes, so would I. But our ministry to and with each other is ever to work with who we are, stepping, falteringly, toward dimly perceived possibilities of what we may be. If it were quick, it wouldn't be real transformation.

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On the need for this action, please see these posts of mine from The Liberal Pulpit:

BLM & UU
   Part 1: UUs and BlackLivesMatter
   Part 2: White Supremacy is a Spiritual Wound
   Part 3: Afflicted or Comfortable? Yes.

It Must Be Said (Black Lives Matter II)

Black Lives Matter I

Just Mercy
   Part 1: 'Just Mercy' Reading
   Part 2: Death Penalty and Race
   Part 3: Progress. So Slow.
   Part 4: In the Light of the True Narrative

The Arc of the Moral Universe
   Part 1: Bending Toward Justice?
   Part 2: A Powerful Perception
   Part 3: Unconscious Bias and Moral Imagination

The Spirit of Truth
   Part 1: The First Balm
   Part 2: Divide and Keep Conquered
   Part 3: Explaining Some Mysteries
   Part 4: Journey Toward Wholeness

Ferguson (reflection on the Grand Jury's non-indictment in the slaying of Michael Brown)

Intercultural Sensitivity is Hard!
   Part 1: Juneteenth
   Part 2: Unknown Freedom
   Part 3: A New Approach
   Part 4: Denial, Polarization, Minimization
   Part 5: Go 90

Nonviolent Social Change
   Part 1: To Hear Each Other With Compassion
   Part 2: The Essence of Violence Is in the Heart
   Part 3: Social Change Through NVC

2016-03-09

Sustainable Liberation

Practice of the Week
Sustainable Liberation

The task of creating a society in which none are oppressed and all are liberated is demanding and often discouraging work. Keeping ourselves liberated from getting dragged down or burnt out from activism is an essential part of liberating all beings. In the article below, Kelle Walsh describes Alice Walker's approach to sustainable liberation.

Alice Walker's 7 Simple Steps to Being a Love Activist
by Kelle Walsh
From the deck of the “Freedom Flotilla” destined for the Gaza Strip, to standing on the frontlines of healing America’s own violent history, author and activist Alice Walker has been a voice for peace for nearly 40 years. Here, she shares the keys to being a LOVE Activist passionately committed to healing our troubled world through peace and an open heart.

1) Recommit Every Day

When you're on a mission of peace, your commitment to nonviolence is tested daily. So every day, you’re called to recommit to who you are, to keep your heart open and to stand your ground as a peacemaker.

2) Protect What Matters Most

Know what you’re defending: What’s within you that’s worth protecting so you don’t become just like the people who are trying stop you? Guard it dearly and use it as your inspiration for nonviolence.

3) Embrace Your Joy

Peace is not just the cessation of war. It’s also the act of embracing JOY. To have peace is to be fully awake and vibrantly alive! Find the small joys in daily acts of peace.

4) Stand for Truth

When you stand with, and for, the marginalized and abused, bring a kind heart, an open mind and a good conscience. This can only be achieved by acknowledging what has truly happened. The suffering must be seen and the wounded must be embraced.

5) Be Courageous

Women in particular have a key role to play in bringing peace into our homes, communities, spiritual circles and world. So be courageous, even audacious, speak up and share your unique gifts. The world needs your leadership!

6) Spread Forgiveness

When you forgive, others feel it deeply. Alice loves the Tonglen practice of breathing in pain and disaster as far as you can, and breathing out peace, prosperity and joy... spreading these good feelings out into the world.

7) Love the Earth

Nature is a vital life-giving source that we cannot take for granted. Be a conscious steward of the Earth. Treat Her with respect and nature will keep us happy and healthy in return.

What do you need to liberate from within you in order to remain engaged in the wider work of liberation? From Walker’s list, choose the one of the seven that calls to you the most. Once you have your answer, take some time this week to really focus on enacting that step.

For Journaling

Journal every day for a week about how you have tried to enact the step you chose. What did you do? How did it go?

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

CUUC Music: Sun Mar 13


Chilean violin virtuoso Alejandro Mendoza is our musical guest at CUUC on Sunday, March 13. He teams up with Adam Kent in Mozart’s Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304, a deeply expressive work written in the immediate aftermath of the death of the composer’s mother. Alejandro also offers two intriguing movements from Johannes Brahms’s Violin and Piano Sonata No. 3 in D Minor, Op. 108, and the lyrically effusive first movement of César Franck’s popular Violin Sonata. Alejandro and Adam will present a full-length recital on April 17 at 2pm at the White Plains Public Library in memory of Clarice Wilson, who was a long-time CUC member. More information is available at http://www.adamkentmusic.com/calendar/.
Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Alejandro Mendoza, violin; Adam Kent, piano
Sonata for Violin and Piano in E Minor, K. 304
            Allegro and Tempo di Menuetto
                                    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Opening Music:
Adagio from Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Op. 108
                                    Johannes Brahms

Offertory:
Un poco presto e con sentimento  from Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Minor, Op. 108
                                                Brahms
Interlude:
Allegretto ben Moderato from Violin Sonata in A Major
                                    César Franck
           

2016-03-02

Let Your Precious Go

Let Your Precious Go
Practice of the Week

Here's an article by Gretchen Rubin, "Do You Have Something Precious that Isn’t Good for You?":
I’ve been re-re-re-re-re-re-reading J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings books. In case you’re not quite as familiar with the story as I am, one of the book’s main characters is Gollum, who for many years carried the One Ring, an evil ring of supreme power. The ring extended Gollum’s life but turned him into a pitiful creature. In The Hobbit, Gollum loses the ring, which is found by the hobbit Bilbo, who later gives it to Frodo.

Whenever Gollum refers to the ring, he calls it “my precious.” “Losst it is, my precious, lost, lost! Curse us and crush us, my precious is lost!” And when the wizard Gandalf goes to research the history of the ring, he finds an account by King Isildur, who, in the distant past, had won the ring from the evil Sauron. Isildur writes of the ring, which he refuses to destroy, “It is precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.” So again, that word “precious.”

Once the ring comes into the various people’s possession, they hate to give it up. They become enslaved to the ring, though it’s precious to them. I’m haunted by the way, through the books, Gollum mourns for “my precious.”

I’ve noticed that many people have a habit that makes them unhappy — one that they know drains them, isn’t good for them, causes them grief. And yet, at the thought of giving it up, they protest, “No! It’s my precioussssssss!”

A friend told me that she was uncomfortable about how much wine she was drinking every night, but when I said, “Do you think you’d like to stop drinking the wine?” she became very agitated, saying “No, no! I don’t want to do that.”

Or when another friend told me that she felt bad about her weight, and I said that I felt so much better after I gave up sugar, she said, “Oh, that’s ridiculous. I could never give up sugar.”

And I talked to a friend from law school who felt lousy because he was exhausted all the time; when he told me that he gets four hours of sleep each night, I said, “Maybe you could go to bed earlier?” In a furious voice, he said, “If I went to bed earlier, that would mean my firm would get more of me! That time at night is the only time I have to myself!”

Each time, I was reminded of Gollum and Isildur. “It’s my preciousssss! It’s precious to me, though I buy it with great pain.”

We’re grown-ups. We can do what we want. I’m not saying that giving up wine, or sugar, or leisure time is necessarily the right thing for those folks to do. But as my Habits Manifesto holds, “We should make sure the things we do to feel better don’t make us feel worse.”

It’s precious...but perhaps we’d be healthier, happier, and more productive if we think about tossing it away. Whenever I start to get that feeling in my life, when I feel myself starting to hiss, “But it’s my precioussssss!” I pay attention. Am I being mastered by something that’s not good for me?

For a while, I had this feeling about — of all things — Greek yogurt. Oh, how I love Greek yogurt! I was eating it two or three times a day, instead of other foods. Which I knew wasn’t a healthy course for me. And if some other member of my family ate the last carton of yogurt, I was furious. So I stopped eating it altogether for a while (that’s the Abstainer way). Now I eat it just once a day, and am finding that manageable. But for a while there, I had that feeling of “this isn’t good for me/but it’s precious to me/so I’m going to refuse to give it up.”
This Week's Practice

1. After reading the above article, identify something that you treat as your “precious.”

2. Give it up. Or make some small step in letting it go. Liberate yourself from your “precious."

Journaling

Write about what you gave up and what it was like to let it go, or take a step toward letting it go. Was easy? Hard? Did it feel liberating immediately? Did it cause anxiety?

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