CUUC

CUUC

2017-12-28

RE News: Sun Dec 31

Lifespan Religious Education

Nora will sometimes pause during the day to name people she loves. They could be from one side of the family or both, and include schoolmates, family friends, and people from the congregation. It is often a reminder of all the people who are involved in her life and have affected her in some way. I have been realizing how much her gratitude practice has been uplifting for me. It is a joy to hear her name the people she is feeling connected to and a reminder of how important that is for all of us. I am grateful for my connection with each of you and look forward to seeing you in the New Year. When it arrives, may the names of those you love and appreciate be flowing from you lips and ringing in your ears.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 31
No regular RE classes. Childcare will be available for all children who would like to play.

Classes begin again on Sun Jan 7.

2) The Mitten Tree
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes and place them on the Mitten Tree in the sanctuary.

These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters:
The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House.
Help us bring warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

3) Neighboring Faiths Experience
Are you interested in learning more about different religions? Join
the Neighboring Faiths teaching team to explore your own faith development as you support our 6th-7th graders. Contact me at dlre@cucwp.org for more information.

4) Faith Development Friday - Jan 19
6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

Faith Like a River
The Wisdom RE Ministry Team invites you to an Adult RE experience facilitated by Rev. Meredith.
This class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage.
What lessons do the stories of our history teach that can help us live more faithfully in the present?
What lessons do they offer to be lived into the future?

Youth Social and Movie Night
Hang out in the Youth Room for a special night of fun. Gnomes welcome.

Family Journey Group
Parents gather to discuss the theme of resilience (facilitated by Barbara Montrose), while children have their own group with activities and discussion based on the theme (facilitated by Perry Montrose, DLRE). Adult without children are invited to participate in the adult group.


To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-12-23

Proposal that CUUC take a position on Escalating Economic Inequity

Acronyms:
UUA: Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations
GA: General Assembly
SOC: Statement of Conscience
CSAI: Congregational Study/Action Issue
CSW: Commission on Social Witness

We Unitarian Universalists sharply limit ourselves when it comes to issuing official Statements of Conscience. The UUA process allows for no more than one Statement of Conscience (SOC) to be adopted every two years.

Last Jun, the General Assembly adopted a Statement of Conscience on Income Inequality. It's a denominational statement. Would CUUC adopt it as a statement of our congregation's statement?

How Did this Statement of Conscience on Income Inequality Come About?

In brief: the process begins with selection of a Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) for a four-year period of study and action. At the 2014 June, General Assembly (GA) the delegates selected "Income Inequality" as the CSAI for 2014-2018. At the end of year three, the study and action culminated in adoption of a Statement of Conscience (SOC) about income inequality.

Here's how that unfolded:

2014 Nov. The Commission on Social Witness produced an 18-page study guide for congregations to explore the Income Inequality issue (HERE).

2015 Mar was the deadline for congregations to submit first-year comments on the Income Inequality CSAI to the Commission on Social Witness (CSW).

2015 June, GA: Making use of the comments from congregations, the Commmission on Social Witness (CSW) conducted programs and workshops on the topic of the CSAI and reported on congregational involvement with the issue.

2015 Summer - 2016 Spring: Congregations continued programs of education and reflection, community organizing, advocacy, and public witness on the Income Inequality CSAI.

2016 Mar was the deadline for congregations to submit second-year comments to the CSW. The CSW used these comments to refine the Resource Guide and help prepare for workshops on this issue at the 2016 GA.

2016 June, GA: The CSW conducted a second year of workshops on the CSAI. One workshop included reports on successful practices and discussed future possibilities. Delegates selected another CSAI for 2016-2020: "The Corruption of Our Democracy."

2016 Nov: Using all the input submitted by congregations over two years, and the comments from General Assembly workshops, the CSW issued a first draft Statement of Conscience (SOC) on Income Inequality. The first draft statement and a ballot to place the SOC on the agenda of the 2017 GA was included in the annual congregational poll, conducted with annual membership certification.

2017 Feb was the deadline for congregational poll ballots (a quorum of 25% participation required), and for submission of comments on the draft SOC. A quorum was satisfied, and the CSW then prepared a revised draft of the SOC, incorporating the comments submitted on the first draft. The revised draft was then placed on the 2017 GA agenda.

2017 June, GA: Delegates considered the revised SOC. Early in the GA, a "mini-assembly" on the SOC was held for any interested delegates to discuss and propose amendments to the SOC. The CSW then worked into the night considering all the comments -- which to combine, which to "incorporate" (include in the SOC version to go to the floor for a vote) and which to list as "unincorporated amendments." (When the SOC came to the GA floor, any delegate could move to incorporate any of the unincorporated amendments.) Later in the GA, the SOC came to the General Assembly floor for a vote. A few of the unincorporated amendments were debated, and one of them passed. With approval requiring a 2/3 vote of the delegates, the 2017 GA approved the SOC now titled: "Escalating Economic Inequity."

With the SOC thus adopted at the end of year three, year four is the "Implementation Year" for congregations to work on implementing the Statement of Conscience.

How will CUUC implement this SOC?

That's up to us, of course. We can ignore the statement, consider and discuss it and then decide not to adopt anything, adopt an amended form of the statement, or adopt the SOC as it is. The statement includes a number of suggested actions: it falls to us to decide which ones our congregation will pursue.

A SOC adopted at General Assembly 2017 is HERE.

This has been amended at CUUC Congregational forums on Jan 14, Feb 4, and Mar 11. The resulting proposal that CUUC take a position on Escalating Economic Inequality is HERE.

A special congregational meeting has been called for Sun Apr 29 to vote on whether to adopt this proposal.

Are there further changes you'd like to see? We need to receive them by Apr 8. You may submit a proposed change by Commenting on this post.


2017-12-21

From the Minister, Thu Dec 21

As 2017 nears its end, I am reflecting in gratitude on what a wonderful congregation this is that I am fortunate to serve. It never ceases to astonish me that there are such good and capable people in this world.

There are Unitarian Universalists all over the country, of course -- something like 200,000 adults if we go by church membership rolls, and something like 600,000 if we go by telephone polls (apparently, for every actual member of a UU congregation, there are two others who aren't members but will tell a phone pollster that they're UU), and 1,000 congregations. It's true that these numbers are small compared to the total population -- less than one-tenth of one percent of the population -- but that still seems to me like a lot of folks willing to commit to the combination of congregational life plus Unitarian Universalist principles and values. I've been to a lot of UU congregations all over the country, and I know us: amazingly dedicated to nurturing our spirits and helping to heal the world. It's astounding.

But I'm not really talking about UUs-in-general. I'm talking about the amazing UUs of the congregation I know best: Community UU at White Plains. You rock! Seeing your faces on Sunday morning is unfailingly the highlight of my week. Some of you arrive exultant, and I am lifted by your triumph. Some of you arrive carrying a burden of worry or sadness, and I am touched and honored by your humanity and presence.

Our congregation is so vibrant: the Brunches! the Choir! all the RE Classes and Projects and Activities! the Journey Groups! the Social Justice Teams! the Annual Auction! The Annual Canvass! The Long-Range Planning Team! In the Spirit of Truth! More programs than I can name, even if I could shake a stick at them all. And on and on. As I write this, the chancel in the sanctuary is festooned with a vast poinsettia array -- testament to some of our members' care to bring seasonal beauty to our shared worship space -- and beside the chancel is a tree covered with hats and gloves -- testament to the congregation's compassionate care for those who don't find it easy to stay warm through the winter.

We are here to do the work: the "liturgy" (which means "the work of the people") of our weekly rhythm, and beyond; the "work of Christmas" as Howard Thurman says:
"When the song of angels is stilled, when the star in the sky is gone, when the kings and princes are home, when the shepherds are back with their flock, the work of Christmas begins: to find the lost, to heal the broken, to feed the hungry, to release the prisoner, to rebuild the nations, to bring peace among the brothers, to make music in the heart."
We have the work of expanding and maturing our spirits, of growing wiser and more compassionate, of examining and re-examining our concepts and habits to move toward an ever more liberative way of thinking and being. The tasks before us are sometimes daunting to me -- but I am buoyed by this congregation: by how good at, and prepared for, this work you are.

Thank you!
Meredith
  • Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
  • Statement of Conscience: Escalating Economic Inequity. HERE
  • The December issue of On the Journey explores Embodiment. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The Tuesday Coffee Chat is on Christmas break next week (Dec 26). The TCC resumes on Jan 2, 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Jan: The Cafe inside the Barnes and Noble at Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 680 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
  • Feb: The TCC comes to Irvington! Specific location TBA.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

Practice of the Week

Confront Your Negative Inner Voice. In a voice full of alarm and panic, Bertha would yell, "You better NOT do that -- you'll look stupid!" When I heard her, I would immediately back off and lose my opportunity to make a friend. The fact that Bertha was only a voice inside my own head didn't make her any less scary. She was completely in control -- until I came upon a method that got her off my back and out of my head. Once her attempts to scare me no longer worked, my life radically changed. You may have your own particular form of "Bertha." It may be a voice in your head that tells you you're not good enough, or smart enough, or that you'll always be a loser. Like an out-of-control cancer, destructive thoughts can ruin a person's life if they're not confronted. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Metaphysics. One can be simultaneously both a Buddhist and a Christian. There might seem to be some, um, metaphysical differences. Are the differences in the metaphysical doctrines of Buddhists and Christians relevant to whether one can be both Buddhist and Christian? This question has far too many wheels, cogs, bells, flashing lights. A person could get lost in all that machinery. Can you not be away and at home at the same time? Is there not something to which all things relate, something that vanishes if named, and has in any case been vanished from the beginning?

Case
That evening Owl said, "I'm still thinking about our experience at the Little Church in the Grotto. Can a Buddhist be a Christian?"
Raven said, "Love thy neighbor."
Owl asked, "Can a Christian be a Buddhist?"
Raven said, "There are lots of them."
Owl asked, "Aren't you bypassing a conflict in metaphysics?"
Raven asked, "What has metaphysics got to do with it?"
Owl asked, "What is the antecedent of 'it'?"
Raven said, "Good move, Owl.
Verse
Crane references God; Raven not so much.
Still: the mystery, humility, not knowing.
Raven mentions karma; Crane points to grace.
Still: sunshine and air are not earned,
nor our parents' love,
nor that nuthatch in the birch;
and causes have effects.
Choose a language, get a loyalty.
Choose a loyalty, get a language.
Who can name the antecedent?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Dec 24
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
This week's e-Communitarian
Practice: Confront Your Negative Inner Voice

Confront Your Negative Inner Voice

Practice of the Week
Confront Your Negative Inner Voice

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


When I was in my early teen years, I barely spoke. People considered me to be painfully shy. However, the real reason I didn't talk was because I was a slave to someone known as Bertha. Bertha would scream at me whenever I attempted to make friends with anyone. In a voice full of alarm and panic, she would yell, "You better NOT do that -- you'll look stupid!" When I heard her, I would immediately back off and lose my opportunity to make a friend. The fact that Bertha was only a voice inside my own head didn't make her any less scary. She was completely in control -- until I came upon a method that got her off my back and out of my head. Once her attempts to scare me no longer worked, my life radically changed.

You may have your own particular form of "Bertha." It may be a voice in your head that tells you you're not good enough, or smart enough, or that you'll always be a loser. Like an out-of-control cancer, destructive thoughts can ruin a person's life if they're not confronted.

STEP ONE: Clearly identify the harmful voices in your head. While we all have critical thoughts from time to time, most people have one or two thought patterns that are particularly destructive and limiting. What are yours?

Here are ten thought patterns that often give people problems:
  1. I should just kill myself.
  2. I hate myself.
  3. I can't do anything right.
  4. No one could ever love me.
  5. I better not say anything because I'll just look foolish.
  6. I'm so ugly (or fat).
  7. I'm so stupid.
  8. S/he is goind to pay for what s/he did to me.
  9. I can't believe I did that. I am so dumb.
  10. I just need a stiff drink (or smoke, etc.) and everything will be OK.
Once you recognize a specific destructive thought pattern from your own life or the above list, it's helpful to give it a name. With apologies to all women named Bertha, that was the name I chose to represent my negative inner voice. "Bertha" represented to me an imposing, mean, nasty-tempered authoritarian. When that voice in my head said, "You better not do that -- you'll look stupid!" identifying the voice as "Bertha" helped me create some distance. With the voice named, it didn't seem so ominous. It was no longer me saying I needed to behave a certain way -- it was mean and nasty Bertha. What name could you give to a specific voice in your head? Any name will do. The important thing is that you know precisely the thought pattern to which the name corresponds. Once you've identified a specific voice and given it a name that fits, you're ready for the confrontation.

Negative inner voices affect our lives only when we take them seriously. Harmful voices feed off our reaction to them. If we can laugh at them or even ignore them, they soon wither and die. They have no power other than the energy we give them. Once a negative inner voice has been identified and named, we're ready for step two.

STEP TWO: Practice ways of distancing yourself from the negative, harmful voice. There are two ways to do this:

(A.) Have a dialog with the negative inner voice. When you do this, imagine that your "Bertha" (or "Sam" or whatever name you've picked) has been assigned the job of annoying and controlling you. Your job, on the other hand, is to avoid taking its ranting seriously. Talk to the voice -- silently, or even out loud. Say things like:

  • "Hello, I was expecting you now. I hear what you're saying, and you always say the same old stuff. I'm not buying it. Get some new material if you expect to hook me like you used to."
  • "Why don't you just calm down and take your finger off the panic button? I know you think you're trying to protect me, but you're not needed now. Everything is just fine, and you just sound stupid when you get hysterical."

Your dialog with your negative inner voice should be whatever works for you. In general, the more your "Bertha" realizes you are hip to its ways, the more it will leave you alone.

(B.) Change the tone of voice in which she speaks to you. Most people hear their negative inner voice speaking in a mean, scary, or urgent tone. Much of the impact of these harmful thoughts comes not just from what they say, but how they sound. Fortunately, you can easily change the tone of the voice to sound ridiculous. Next time you hear your particular brand of Bertha, try repeating the words in Mickey Mouse voice. Or try Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny -- whatever voice works for you to make your negative inner voice sound silly. No matter what you think, it's hard to take it seriously if it's in a Bugs Bunny voice.

As you talk back to your Bertha, or change her tone of voice to sound funny, you'll no longer find her to be so scary or bothersome. Sticks and stones may break your bones, but passing thoughts need not hurt you if you don't take them seriously. The bothersome thoughts of a negative inner voice are a great burden, and it feels wonderful to have that burden lifted. You'll be free to act in ways that you previously avoided, and you'll be able to create new outcomes in your life. Confronting your negative inner voice -- getting it out of your head and off your back -- can help you soar to new heights.

For Journaling

At first, you may not be able to confront your negative inner voice "on the spot" and in the moment when the voice arises. So practice with your journal. At the end of the day -- or the beginning of the next one -- address your negative inner voice in your journal. Write it a letter. Address your voice by name (whatever name you've given it), tell it what its usual patterns are, and why you're not going to let it be in charge any more.

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

* * *
See also:
Out Your Inner Awesome: "How to Silence Your Negative Inner Voice"
Psychology Today, "Steps to Overcoming Your Critical Inner Voice"
Psych Central, "Three Unique Techniques for Navigating a Negative Inner Voice"




RE News: Sun Dec 24

Lifespan Religious Education

What will you embody this Christmas and into the New Year? For some, the birth of Jesus is God becoming flesh. In a metaphorical view, this could mean the spiritual or feeling self becoming embodied. Every night that a fledgling part of you grows into lived expression is a holy night. We see this happen constantly with young children as they mature. However, we all evolve more fully into our truer selves, if we grow through our experiences and live with intention. This holiday season may you find another part of your holiness and nurture its birth. In our beloved community, we bear witness to the unwrapping of each other’s gifts.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 24
10 a.m. RE Reindeer Games (Children and youth gather for fun and frolic during the service)
5:30 p.m. - All ages are welcome to attend the Christmas Eve Service (childcare is available for those who need it)

All children and youth are invited to perform in Children's Choir during the Christmas Eve Service. Please arrive at 5 p.m. for rehearsal.

There is no RE on Sun Dec 31 but childcare will be available.

2) The Mitten Tree
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes and place them on the Mitten Tree in the sanctuary.

These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters:
The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House.
Help us bring warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

3) Neighboring Faiths Experience
Are you interested in learning more about different religions? Join
the Neighboring Faiths teaching team to explore your own faith development as you support our 6th-7th graders. Contact me at dlre@cucwp.org for more information.

4) Faith Development Friday - Jan 19
6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

Faith Like a River
The Wisdom RE Ministry Team invites you to an Adult RE experience facilitated by Rev. Meredith.
This class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage.
What lessons do the stories of our history teach that can help us live more faithfully in the present?
What lessons do they offer to be lived into the future?

Youth Social and Movie Night
Hang out in the Youth Room for a special night of fun. Gnomes welcome.

Family Journey Group
Parents gather to discuss the theme of resilience (facilitated by Barbara Montrose), while children have their own group with activities and discussion based on the theme (facilitated by Perry Montrose, DLRE). Adult without children are invited to participate in the adult group.


To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Now Let Us Sing ... Sunday Morning

 Ministerial Intern, Cindy Davidson

And the survey said... "Too much singing!" "Not enough singing!" It seems one person's like is another's dislike, and vice versa.  I, for one, am of the "Never too much music!" belief and find much inspiration, comfort and solace in singing our hymns -- so much so that I made a spiritual practice of it for quite a while. And, isn't that what we do when we join our voices together in congregational singing on Sunday mornings?!

I invite you to come sing -- as much or as little as you like -- during this Sunday morning's service as we mark the Winter Solstice and welcome the spirit of Christmas writ large. We'll set aside the gaiety of Solstice traditions and the pageantry of the Christmas story to welcome, befriend, and reflect on the gifts and challenges of darkness. Whether our encounters with darkness are "out there" in the world or in the inner recesses of our own beings, the movement from darkness to light entails a certain level of expectation and vulnerability, no matter how natural the process. It does help to be in community.

In a liberal adaptation of the "Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols" Christian Christmas Eve worship style, this Sunday morning's service includes a wide range of readings, reflections, and poetry, a time of contemplation and prayer, and plenty of music and congregational singing. It will be a different experience than -- and a nice complement to -- our candlelight Chrismas Eve service.

Wherever it is and with whomever you worship this weekend, may your travels be safe, and may you know the harmonious blending of voices of a freely gathered, life-affirming community.








2017-12-19

Music: Sun Dec 24 (10:00am)


Brazilian composer Heitor Villa-Lobos immortalizes a popular indigenous legend in his piano work As três Marias, in which universal harmony is embodied in the joyous playing of three young children. He relates the tale as follows in the score:
       Once there were three little girls, “The Three Maries of Earth,” who romped and played in the countryside of Brazil. They were always happy and the best of friends. Smilingly they traveled all the parts of life together.
            That this trinity might serve as a perpetual symbol of the union of humanity, Destiny has preserved them as eternal stars in the heavens to illuminate the path for the other children of Earth.
            Other musical selections include two numbers from Franz Liszt’s charming Christmas Tree cycle, written for the composer’s granddaughter. The Opening Music is a solo piano harmonization of a Catalan Christmas carol sung last week by Kim Force, and the Offertory is a set of traditional Rumanian Christmas carols in strikingly modernist harmonic garb by the Unitarian composer Béla Bartók. One of Johann Sebastian Bach’s touching Chorale-Preludes is featured in the Interlude, a work originally for organ transcribed by the British pianist Harriet Cohen. Read on for programming details, and consider returning to CUUC at 5:15pm Sunday evening for gathering music and then our annual Christmas Eve service, featuring trumpeter Kenneth Kraut, the CUUC Adult and Children’s Choirs, and yours truly.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
As três Marias
 1. Alnitah; 2. Alnilam; 3. Mintika
                               Heitor Villa-Lobos
From The Christmas Tree
            5. Scherzoso Lighting the Tree
            9. Old Provençal Carol
                              Franz Liszt
Opening Music:
Homenaje a Federico Mompou: Que li darem?                                               
                                               
Joaquin Nin-Culmell


Offertory:
Rumanian Christmas Carols, Series I
                                                Béla Bartók

Interlude:
Beloved Jesu, We Are Here
                                                Johann Sebastian Bach, arr. by Harriet Cohen

2017-12-14

From the Minister, Thu Dec 14

Let's learn together -- all read a book and talk about it. Or two books. Our national Unitarian Universalist Association has picked two "Common Read" books for 2017-18.

The first book is called Centering. It's an anthology of essays by UU religious leaders of color. They offer stories, analysis, and insight on how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist communities.

Race is a perplexing and difficult issue in our country -- but how exactly is that playing out in UU congregations? What can we learn from what our leaders of color can tell us? Let's explore this and find out together.

My sermon on Sun Jan 14 will offer my reflections on the insights in this book. You can buy the book on Sunday at a book table we'll have set up in the sanctuary.

You can also buy the second of this year's common reads: Daring Democracy. In a March sermon, I'll be reflecting on this important book.

Our mission includes engaging in service to transform ourselves and our world. Let's learn together how best to transform!

Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith
  • The December issue of On the Journey explores Embodiment. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The Tuesday coffee chat resumes on Dec 12, 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Dec 12 & 19: Starbucks in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 684 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

Practice of the Week

Dream Big Dreams. If you truly open to this question — What are the dreams that matter to me? — don't worry, you won't get caught up in silly stuff, such as wanting to get super rich and famous. Instead, you'll hear your soul speaking—your essence, your core, your deepest inner wisdom. It's worth listening to what it says. And then worth looking for ways—practical ones, grounded in daily life, that move you forward one real step at a time—to bring your dreams to life. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Very Special. No two grains of sand are exactly the same. No two maple leaves, or blades of grass, or stars in the sky are exactly the same. (Why do snowflakes get all the press?) "Every concept arises from the equation of unequal things" (Nietzsche). So tell me, isn't the uniqueness of everything your practice?

Case
In a group munching grubs one afternoon, Mole remarked, "The Buddha Macaw was very special, wasn't she! I'm sure there has never been anyone like her."
Raven said, "Like the madrone tree."
Mole asked, "How is the madrone tree unique?"
Raven said, "Every madrone leaf."
Mole fell silent.
Porcupine asked, "How does the uniqueness of every madrone leaf relate to the practice?"
Raven said, "Your practice."
Verse
There's never been anyone like anyone --
Each of us changing the world,
All day, every day.
I have known a million Red Oak leaves,
And still know nothing of the next one,
Fortunately.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Dec 17
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
The e-Communitarian
Practice: Dream Big Dreams

Rocking the LDB Challenge

Ministerial Intern, Cindy Davidson

 I love the music of the Christmas season --- the carols, the oratorios and cantatas, the standards. There is one piece, though, I've been trying to avoid -- and that would be the "Little Drummer Boy" carol. If you can make it from midnight on Black Friday to midnight on Christmas Eve without hearing this carol -- on the radio or TV or in a store -- then (drumroll) you have successfully completed the LDB Challenge ... pa rum pum pum pum! Only ten more days to go!

In the spirit of fun, members in one ministerial Facebook group jump in on a very long thread to post their "I'm out!" and "Still in!" messages. Tales are shared, and groans and laughs bring a fresh breath of light-heartedness to days otherwise filled with the challenges of ministering in trying times. Life seems to me to require a certain measure of laughter, fun, and joy to right the weight of seriousness we encounter in our daily lives and in our world.

"I'm out!" "Still in!" Sometimes I need to see those messages several times before I really hear them. I learn that it's not all doom and gloom out there, there's a time and place for playfulness even for adults! Similarly, on the door of the Minister's Study hangs a small sign that reads, "Don't Postpone Joy." It's a sign I first encountered a few years ago in the home of a friend who has adopted the phrase as her signature "slogan" and email sign-off. Having been raised on a pretty strict 'work before play' ethic, I've needed to see this message many times before really being able to hear it and take it to heart.

And so, with the chatter of children in the background, I spent a wee bit of time Wednesday dropping in on the Montessori School's holiday party in Fellowship Hall.  I arrived just as Santa entered with his sack full of gifts for the children. Some were excited, others mesmerized, and a few wary. The joy of witnessing the children's and parents' delight brought to mind my own childhood encounters with Santa decades ago, at church in the fellowship hall, to boot! And also, the famous "Yes, Virginia...." letter from the late 1800's:
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus! It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence.

We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The external light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.                         (extracted)
I'm "Still in!" on light-hearted fun. On believing in the wonders of the season. On welcoming joy in the present. And you?

RE News: Sun Dec 17

Lifespan Religious Education

Each year, the Christmas Pageant is born again when you adorn it with a new spirit. The same script feels different because you decide what persona you will take on as the carols flow on. That is a part of the holiday magic. We often do the same rituals, but they come alive in new ways because we have changed and live into the uniqueness of the moment. We are constantly born again as our lives unfold. In addition to being fun, the Pageant gives us a chance to reflect on what gifts we would like to bring into the light and how our identity might shift when we do so. May your heart be renewed in wondrous ways.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 17
All ages in the sanctuary for the...
No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant
As the story unfolds, you become Mary, Joseph, goats, sheep, cows, horses, angels, shepherds, and wise folk. Join us for Christmas music, the story, and a reflection.

Costumes provided; just bring a joyful spirit.

Are you practicing Jedi mind tricks in your household? Then dress up as your favorite Star Wars character for the Pageant and come in costume.

Followed by Holiday Brunch and the Holiday Concert with the CUUC Choir at 12:30 p.m.
  • Includes a performance with the Children’s Choir.
  • Get your tickets at Coffee Hour.

2) Please RSVP for Children's Choir Performances This Sun & Christmas Eve
Parents, will your children and youth be present for the performances at the Holiday Concert This Sun at 12:30pm and the Christmas Eve Service on Dec. 24 at 5:30pm? Rehearsals are at 9:30am and 12pm this Sun.

All ages are invited to participate, but we need to know how many children will be joining us. Please email me at dlre@cucwp.org.

3) The Mitten Tree
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes and place them on the Mitten Tree in the sanctuary.

These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters:
The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House.
Help us bring warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

4) Faith Development Friday - Jan 19
6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

Faith Like a River
The Wisdom RE Ministry Team invites you to an Adult RE experience facilitated by Rev. Meredith.
This class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage.
What lessons do the stories of our history teach that can help us live more faithfully in the present?
What lessons do they offer to be lived into the future?

Youth Social and Movie Night
Hang out in the Youth Room for a special night of fun. Gnomes welcome.

Family Journey Group
Parents gather to discuss the theme of resilience (facilitated by Barbara Montrose), while children have their own group with activities and discussion based on the theme (facilitated by Perry Montrose, DLRE). Adult without children are invited to participate in the adult group.


To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-12-12

Music: Sun Dec 17

Solo piano works by the great 19th-century virtuoso Franz Liszt are featured in this morning’s Centering Music. “The Christmas Tree”, however, was a collection written for the composer’s granddaughter, and the delicate, transparent writing bespeaks a more domestic side of Liszt’s creative personality. Similarly, Ave Maria, from Liszt’s Harmonies poétiques et religieuses, is more indicative of the composer’s religious piety than his flamboyant populism. This morning’s Offertory, a festive, seasonal waltz, is one of Tchaikovsky’s monthly creations for the St. Petersburg music journal Nouveliste. Elsewhere, the Christmas music of the Spanish region of Catalonia—much in the news of late for its referendum on secession—is showcased. El Cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds) is a Catalan Christmas carol popularized by the cellist Pau Casals. Que li darem?, sung this morning by our own Kim Force, is a sort of Catalan lullaby to the baby Jesus, in which Magi figures muse about the gifts they will bring the divine infant. Amid all the tenderness and sentimentality, one should reflect on hardened Catalan realism: in that region, it is traditional to depict animal dung in crèche panoramas. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Ave Maria      
From The Christmas Tree
Psallite!
Adeste fideles
                                                            Franz Liszt

Opening Music:
El cant dels ocells
                        Popular Catalan Christmas Carol, arr. by Joaquin Nin-Culmell

Offertory:
Christmas, Op. 37, No. 12
                                                Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Special Music: Kim Force, soprano
Que li darem?*                      
                                    Popular Catalan Christmas Carol, arr. by Manuel Garcia Morante

*Translation:
The Mother's Boy
What shall we give to the Mother's Boy?
What shall we give him, that He can enjoy?
Raisins and figs and walnuts and olives,
Raisins and figs and honey and mató (a Catalan dessert cheese).

What shall we give to Mary's little son?
What shall we give to the beautiful newborn?
We shall give Him raisins with a set of scales,
We shall give Him figs with a round little bread.

Bom, bom-bom bom, but the figs are unripe!
Bom, bom-bom bom, well, they shall ripen at some point!
If they don't ripen by Easter Sunday
They might ripen by Palm Sunday.

I would also like to sing a song;
A truly lovely love song
That has been inspired by a young maiden
Who is the Virgin, Mother of our Lord!

Don't cry, no, mother's little darling!
Don't cry, no, oh, light of my life!
This is a song that the Mother's Boy,
This is a song that He has enjoyed a lot.

Bom, bom-bom bom, but the figs are unripe!
Bom, bom-bom bom, well, they shall ripen at some point!
If they don't ripen by Easter Sunday
They might ripen by Palm Sunday.


2017-12-07

RE News: Sun Dec 10

Lifespan Religious Education

The halls have been decked! Thank you Laura Goodspeed for leading the way and to all those who made crafts to hang. Now it's time to decorate the tree...with mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves that will be donated to local shelters. Please bring items this Sun, as we kickoff the Mitten Tree during the Wonder Box Story. As you give, so shall you receive. If you have a need during this holiday season, please let me know so we can support your family. At times we give to others and in other moments we receive. Either way, it is the exchange that holds the meaning of the season.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 10
Children's Choir rehearsals before RE at 9:30 and after at 11:30 in Fellowship Hall. All ages invited.
K-7th start in the sanctuary for Music For All Ages and Wonder Box Story.
8th-12th start in classrooms.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Winter Lights
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Hanukkah
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Christmas
6th-7th – Islam Trip
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Death
10th-12th – Youth Group: Lazer Tag Outing

To view the Religious Education Google calendar, CLICK HERE.
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

2) Children's Choir This Sun at 9:30 and 11:30
All children are invited to participate in Children's Choir this Sun to rehearse for a performance at the Holiday Concert on Dec 17 at 12:30 and the Christmas Eve Service on Dec 24 at 5:30.

Please join Lisa and Lyra in Fellowship Hall at 9:30 and 11:30.

3) The Mitten Tree This Sun Dec 10
Please bring mittens, hats, gloves, and scarves of all sizes into the sanctuary. They will be placed on the Mitten Tree as part of the Wonder Box story.

These items are for men, women, and children of local shelters: The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House. Help us bring warmth to their holiday season, emotionally and physically.

4) The No-Rehearsal Christmas Pageant Sun Dec 17
As the story unfolds, you become Mary, Joseph, goats, sheep, cows, horses, angels, shepherds, and wise folk.

Costumes provided; just bring a joyful spirit.

Are you practicing Jedi mind tricks in your household? Then dress up as your favorite Star Wars character for the Pageant and come in costume.

Followed by holiday brunch and the...

5) Holiday Concert with the CUUC Choir at 1 p.m.
Includes a performance with the Children’s Choir.
Get your tickets at Coffee Hour.


Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-12-06

From the Minister, Thu Dec 7

Greetings from Ometepe island, in the Lake Nicaragua!

Among my "extra-curricular" duties is being on the six-member board "One Earth Conservation" (OEC) -- the nonprofit organization founded by my spouse, LoraKim, and Gail Koelln, a UU of the Shelter Rock congregation. As a part of this work, LoraKim travels half-a-dozen or so times a year for trips of 10 days to two months to various locations in Latin America: mostly to Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, though she has also been a few times each to Guyana and Paraguay. She works with local groups concerned to preserve their parrots.

One of the OEC board members is Honduran and lives and works as a biologist in Honduras; the rest are US Americans. Of these, I've visited an OEC project once before (a year and a half ago, in the Mosquitia region of Honduras), but the other board members had no direct experience of the work they oversee. In addition to affording some hands-on exposure for the OEC Board, this trip also includes four others representing OEC's pilot experiment in offering eco-touristry experiences that (a) allow participants to learn about the various forces threatening native species, particularly parrots, (b) assist the actual work of the conservationists, and (c) help fund the conservation projects.

We began with a seminar-style presentation about the project, Nicaraguan history, and the status of the Ometepe parrots. We know that the primary threat is poaching: people stealing the chicks from the nests to sell throughout Central America and Asia to people who think it's cool to have a parrot in their house. (Import of wild birds into the US has been illegal since the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992, and has been banned in Europe since 2007.) The T-shirts worn by the Nicaraguan team of conservationists elegantly yet forcefully make the point: over a picture of a Yellow-nape Amazon parrot are the words "Tu casa no es mi casa" (Your house is not my house.)

To get up the tree requires first using the sling-
shot to get a rope over a branch. They let me
have a try. I missed.
We spent time in the field watching the young men of the local conservation team climb trees to see if the nest cavities were active this year. When they find active nests, they alert patrol volunteers to watch the trees to try to prevent poaching. The patrol effort is woefully understaffed, so the poaching, sadly, is slowed less that we'd like.

For two hours each day -- from 1.5 hours before sundown to half an hour after -- we split into teams of three or four to go to various high-ground spots to count the parrots we see as they head from wherever they've been feeding to wherever they're going to overnight. The parrots fly by, usually in twos or threes, sometimes in flocks of 40 or 50. The team leader carefully records the time of each sighting, the number of parrots seen, the species (almost always one of three: yellow-nape Amazon, red-lored Amazon, or Pacific parakeet), and the direction of travel. Later LoraKim and the team leaders will sit down to look carefully at the records and determine which sightings were the same parrots passing by multiple observation spots.

Climbing a tree this way is a lot of exercise.
LoraKim estimates there are probably about 1200 yellow-nape and 400 red-lored left on Ometepe. But it's important to gather the data for more accurate estimates each year. If we can document how much poaching is occurring, and document how effective the conservation efforts are in reducing poaching, the efforts can build support -- both in the hearts of the people, and from funding agencies.

Other field trips show us other efforts on behalf of sustainable ecology:
  • We visit a 900-acre cooperative farm that is also a hostel: "Run by a collective of 24 families the farm produces organic coffee, plantains, milk, corn, beans, rice and vegetables, and protects the surrounding natural environment" (Finca Magdalena).
  • We visit family plots of less than 10 acres where, with the guidance and assistance of Fauna & Flora International, sustainable and crop-diverse farms are succeeding.
  • We lunch at El Jardin de la Vida, "a sustainable eco-friendly hostel and restaurant built with minimal concrete, natural materials and renewable energy."
There's reason for hope for this planet's bipeds, feathered and featherless. Also reason for despair: the poachers have developed better suitcase-sized incubators and are now stealing eggs rather than chicks. While we are there, a pall is cast by the news of some foreign visitors on the island putting out word that they are looking to buy parrot eggs or chicks.

Time-bomb flew onto my shoulder, where his
interest in my ear made me a little nervous.
The day before we arrive, a young boy finds a fledgling yellow-nape Amazon walking by the road. He can't fly yet -- but he gave it a try and found himself stranded on the ground. The boy throws a cloth over him, takes him home, and contacts the conservation team (whew!). The next day, LoraKim and I arrive to pick up the bird to take a stint of caring for him until he can be released -- this will take several weeks, says LoraKim, so in the few days we'll be on the island we're just hoping to get the process off to a solid start. "Time-bomb" as we name him, expecting him to explode on us at any time, doesn't yet know what eating is --  he's only had food pushed down his mouth so far. He's very angry about being away from home. LoraKim boils dry dogfood until it makes a smooth mush. She slides a tube down Time-bomb's throat and injects the mush into his crop while I do my best to hold him still. He doesn't like this one bit -- but when we're done he seems to notice that it feels better to have some food in him. Over the next few days, he gets less angry -- comes to see us as his flock rather than predators. He learns to eat from a syringe, without the tube down his throat. Then he learns to reach out on his own to take bites of food from a bowl. All the while he's living in our hotel bathroom, which we've tried to make suitable habitat by putting most of a small tree in the shower stall. Before we leave, we'll transfer Time-bomb to a family that can take care of him until he can be released. We're worried that he's too acclimated to people. We're worried that without his parents and a parrot flock, he'll be an easy mark for a hawk. But he might make it. Right now, we're Time-bomb's best bet to keep ticking.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith
  • The December issue of On the Journey explores Embodiment. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
  • Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
Let's Chat

The Tuesday coffee chat resumes on Dec 12, 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Dec 12 & 19: Starbucks in Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 684 White Plains Rd, Scarsdale
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

Practice of the Week

Begin the Ecospiritual Path. We who live in the industrialized West may find it uncomfortable to face the painful reality of the damage our culture has inflicted upon other people and the Earth itself, as well as dysfunctional aspects of our culture such as consumerism. We may even feel guilty and ashamed. Nevertheless, it is critical that we walk this path since its truth is often glossed over and ignored in favor of business as usual. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

The Holy Spirit. What kind of thing is an idea? How does your idea of idea relate to your faith?

Case
Reverend Crane invited Raven and her students to an ecumenical service at the Little Church in the Grotto. Afterward the Tallspruce community was abuzz about the experience. The next evening Owl asked, "Is the Holy Spirit something like Buddha-nature?"
Raven said, "The two ideas are similar."
Owl asked, "Then Christianity and Zen are somehow linked?"
Raven said, "No, not at all. They are totally different and distinctly separate."
Owl was silent for a moment. Then she asked, "How are they different?"
Raven said, "Their ideas of idea are different."
Owl asked, "How are their ideas of idea different?"
Raven said, "One has eternal life, and the other expires before sunset."
Verse
Being as the light is, rising, setting,
Tracelessness is granted -- joy enough.
Two snags, to be avoided if one can, or incorporated:
The ideas of eternal life, and the eternal life of ideas.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Dec 10
RE News
Music News
This Week's e-Communitarian
Practice: Begin the Ecospiritual Path