CUUC

CUUC

2017-10-31

Music: Sun Nov 5


Sure, you know plucked string instruments like guitars and banjos, but….have you ever heard the charango or a cuatro venezolano?

You’re familiar with percussion instruments like timpani, bass drums, snares, and cymbals, but….could you identify a bombo or a cajon?
                                                                           
You love wind instruments like flutes, oboes and clarinets, but how keen are you on zamponas, toyos, quenachos, quenas, mosenos, trompes and palahuitos?                   

If you want to hear these fascinating instruments connected to indigenous Latin-American music in the hands of the master musicians of Camanchaca, CUUC is the place for you this Sunday morning! Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Camanchaca
Claudia Leyton, Ciudad Santiago de Chile
Leonardo Vera, Ciudad Santiago de Chile
Patricio Macaya, Ciudad  Guilpue, Chile                                                                     
Juan Araya , Ciudad Quilpue,  Chile
Boris Morocho, Ciudad Cuenca,  Ecuador

Incursión; Volver a los 17;,  Run Run;, Gracias a la vida
                                                                         
Opening Music:                                                                               
La vikina 

Offertory:
Machupichu

Interlude:
Señora Chichera

2017-10-26

From the Minister, Thu Oct 26

From the Minister

A couple years ago, I signed up with Disaster Chaplaincy Services of New York: I submitted a letter from UUA attesting to my good standing, went to an all-day training, had an hour-long phone interview, emailed them a picture of me, and got back an ID badge and a green vest with a "Disaster Chaplaincy Services" patch on the front, and large letters spelling CHAPLAIN on the back. Their logo looks a lot like our flaming chalice, formed of two hands. The vest and badge had been hanging unused in my closet for two years when, last week, an email went out asking for chaplains to sign up for shifts at a service center in East Harlem.

The disaster to which we were responding was Hurricane Maria, which struck Puerto Rico on Sep 20. With large parts of the island deprived of both electricity and running water, many Puerto Ricans have come to the US -- and many of them to New York. I answered the email, said I could take the morning shift on Tuesday, and was quickly confirmed for what would be my first "deployment" as a Disaster Chaplain.

A community center was utilized to create a temporary services center for assisting incoming Puerto Ricans. It opened on Thu Oct 19 and estimates now are that it will continue throughout November. Sixty to 100 new arrivals have been coming to the center each day, and they begin with an in-take consultation from which they come away with a checklist of tables to visit. The tables ringing the room include various social services, social security, Medicaid, health insurance, mental health services, legal services, the department of education, the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities. The Red Cross has a table and a closet of supplies to dispense (baby formula, clothing and blankets, first aid kits, etc.) I noticed the Catholic Diocese and the Salvation Army also had tables, as well as something called New York Disaster Interfaith Services. In the center of the room were about 40 chairs for people waiting for the next opening at the next table they needed to visit.

My role was to circulate among those waiting, introduce myself, and, if they seemed open to a conversation (they always were), ask how things were going. It was a chance to tell their story to another human being -- including details not relevant to any of the agencies to whom they had or would be talking. In the course of a 3.5-hour shift, I had 14 conversations -- many of them were with couples or families, so I spoke with 23 different people. Of the ones I spoke with, none had lost a home, though many now had leaky roofs. The absence of power or running water (and estimates of six months or longer before restoration of electricity), and six-hour-long lines for food compelled their departure. Most of the people I spoke with have someone to stay with: an aunt, a brother, a daughter, a friend. There was, however, one couple -- in their 60s, I'd say -- that told me they'd arrived at JFK two days ago, had nowhere to stay, and had been riding back-and-forth on various train lines for two days.

While many of them had been to New York before -- and in some cases had been long-time residents here before only in recent years moving to their ancestral homeland -- they all now faced difficult circumstances and unfamiliar challenges that made them "strangers" to the situations in which they now found themselves. I was profoundly moved to have the chance to be a part of welcoming these strangers. The services with which they were connected -- with tolerable wait-times in between -- helped them a lot, I am sure. And to be able to have one's unique story attentively heard and sympathetically accepted in the midst of this strange land was also, I sensed, an important part of conveying that they are welcome.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • October: I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
  • November: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
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

Idea Journal. True genius is not something reserved for a chosen few, but rather is something we all experience on occasion. By keeping an idea journal that records your most profound thoughts, you'll be able to make greater use of the genius within you, and compassionately offer to the world a more creative you. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Maintenance. The times are urgent. What's the right balance of preparing ourselves for the work and doing the work? The needed balance is different for each person -- and different for the same person at different stages of life. It's always a good question -- better than any answer, in fact.

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Mallard attended meetings for a while before asking her first question: "Aren't we wasting time just sitting here while the Blue Planet goes to hell?"
Raven asked, "Do you waste your time eating?"
"Is that all it is," Mallard asked, "Just personal maintenance?"
Raven said, "Mallard maintenance, lake maintenance, juniper maintenance, deer maintenance."
Hotetsu's Verse
Being present to. Becoming the proof of.
These two things only are to be done
With and in this brief and florid stay:
Witness, and bear witness.
Heaven, hell, and a planetful of blue,
Are sitting here, sitting here.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News for Sun Oct 29
RE News
Music News
This Week's e-Communitarian

RE News: Sun Oct 29

Lifespan Religious Education

Halloween is here. That means the ghosts, goblins, ghouls, giants, and gnomes are coming out of the woodwork (or courtyards in the case of the gnomes) at CUUC. We look forward to seeing the children and youth's alter egos on Sun as they get to give us a preview of their Tues costumes. In recent years, there has been significant conversation about what is appropriate dress up, or not, in the context of cultural appropriation. For an article explaining the issue in its complexity, yet with simple advice, please CLICK HERE.

Please see the following eight (8) announcements:

1) This Sun Oct 29
  • K-5th grade start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship with music rehearsal led by our Children's Music Director, Lyra Harada.
  • 6th-12th grade start in classrooms.
Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home:Beehive
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Noah
6th-7th - Neighboring Faiths: Baptist Trip
8th-9th - Coming of Age: Community & Stone Soup Prep
10th-12th - Youth Group: Halloween Event

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

2) Halloween Costume Parade & Fun This Sun - Wear your costume to CUUC!
At 11:10 all classes will join the Halloween parade into the sanctuary.

Then Youth Group will lead the children to the Halloween fun area in the red pod after the service.

Whether in the stretchy tunnel room, decorating pumpkins, or getting through the green slime you are bound to have a howling good time.

3) Children's Choir
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will lead a Children's Choir after RE two Sundays a month. They will perform at the Thanksgiving Service and the Holiday Concert.

If your child or youth would like to be a part of the choir, SIGN UP HERE.

4) Family-friendly Concert and Opportunity for Children/Youth
Sun Nov 5 at 12:30 p.m. following brunch

Music at CUUC launches its 2017-18 season with…

Music Director Adam Kent’s family-friendly, all-Mozart recital.
  • Includes a skit entitled “Wolfgang und Sigmund: Mozart Unblocked”, in which the great child prodigy composer is analyzed by history’s greatest psychoanalyst, played by our own Craig Hunt.
Special discounted family rates.

Children and youth are needed to volunteer as ushers, reception hosts, and stagehands. If your child is interested in participating in this way, please email Adam at adamkentpianist@gmail.com.

5) Pelham to Syria Winter Donation Drive - Last Chance to Help
In Syria, a harsh winter is about to descend on millions of refugee families. Hearts and Homes for Refugees will collect, pack, and deliver aid to displaced Syrians.

Only specific items are needed and will be collected this Sat Oct 28, 10:00am - 4:00pm

Drop off at St. Catharine's Rectory, 25 Second Ave, Pelham.

Volunteers are also needed to help sort and pack. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Contact Jane Dixon at lilrhodie@gmail.com, if you have any questions.

6) Stone Soup Brunch Nov 5
Stone Soup Brunch brings forth sustenance from the diverse contributions offered from our community. To sign up to bring an ingredient, CLICK HERE.

Sponsored by the 8th-9th grade Coming of Age as a class fundraiser.

Soup for all (stones extra), with other goodies. $5/adult; $3/child; $15 max per family

7) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive
Nov 5 to Dec 3

This year the Ecumenical Food Pantry in White Plains will be distributing gently used books and toys to their clients. Imagine the joy you can bring to parents who cannot afford to give their children much during the holidays. We will also be collecting new/like new stuffed animals. Last year several of the senior citizens were thrilled to choose a stuffed animal for themselves.

Please bring donations to the RE Lobby starting on Nov 5.

On Dec 3, children are asked to bring a book that was or is special to them to share during Children’s Worship before it is donated.

Contact Mary Cavallero marycava4@gmail.com for information or to help with this project.

8) Wisdom Reading & Study Group – An opportunity for spiritual growth
After the service Nov 12, Dec 3, Jan 7

Text and topic provided ahead of time, but please attend regardless and bring other related texts to share. We begin with…

Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett
“...This is brilliant thinking, beautiful storytelling and practical insight.” - Brené Brown

In Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett has created a master class in living for a fractured world. Fracture, she says is not the whole story of our time. The enduring question of what it means to be human has become inextricable from the challenge of who we are to one another.

Related podcast and other related materials, CLICK HERE.

For questions or further information, please contact Sabrina Cleary at clearytheory@gmail.com.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-10-25

Idea Journal

Practice of the Week
Idea Journal

Category: May be a part of your Journaling practice, one of the three core daily practices.


The average person has about 50,000 thoughts a day. Most of them are just like the ones you had the day before. Occasionally, though, you have a realization that is new, powerful, and potentially life changing. Perhaps it's an insight into how to make your relationship better, or maybe it's an ingenious idea for how to complete a project at work. Whatever your insight, it likely becomes lost as it's quickly overwhelmed by all the other thoughts in your head. Oh well. If you had only written it down, you could have reaped the rewards of your important realization.

You don't have to let your bright ideas get lost anymore. By beginning an idea journal -- or by using your journal for sketching ideas -- you can keep track of your most meaningful thoughts.

An idea journal is not like a diary in which you summarize important life events. Instead, it's a recording of your ideas, insights, and hopes. Like an artist's sketchbook, it's where you jot out a rough draft sketch of concepts you can subsequently flesh out. An idea journal becomes like a trusted friend, reminding you of where you want to go in life, and how you can best get there. By reading your idea journal periodically, you can trigger important new insights, as well as inspire yourself to take actions that can change your destiny.

These five guidelines can help you turn a book of blank pages into one of your most prized possessions -- one that has a profound impact on your life.

1. Keep your idea journal near you at all times. You never know when brilliance will strike. For convenience, some people have a couple small journals, rather than one large one. Others find it handy to keep a mini digital recorder around to record important thoughts. (Then, when they have time, they transfer their recorded thoughts into a computer file or journal.) A third approach is to type ideas into a laptop computer, smartphone, or tablet. Whatever your means of recording, have it near you at all times.

2. Write (or record) in your journal the moment you think of something you don't want to forget. If you're in the shower or walking the dog when a great insight comes, immediately stop what you're doing and record your thoughts. I used to think I could write down my ideas at a later time, I almost always forgot to. I use a digital audio recorder because some of my best insights came while driving my car or walking my dog. Since my brain now realizes I take its insights seriously, my brain now produces more important realizations than I used to have. Keeping an idea journal is like taking care of a beautiful flower: the more you attend to the brilliant "flowers" in your mind, the more they grow.

3. Structure the entries in a way that works for you. Some people derive the most benefit from an idea journal when the entries appear in outline form, while others prefer an unstructured way of writing. As you practice, you'll soon discover what works best for you.

4. Discern what to include and what not to include. If you write too much in your idea journal, it will be boring to read. If you write too little, using it for only the profoundest insights, it will not be as useful a tool as it could be. Again, with time and practice you'll find the best balance. Personally, most of my journal entries fit under four headings: important insights, personal goals, actions I'd like to take, and creative ideas. Coming up with your own list of categories will help you get a feel for what to include and what not to.

5. Discover your method for using the entries you've made. I set aside a small period of time each week to review the previous week's entries. As you look over your entries, I think you'll be pleasantly surprised to realize the quality of your insights.

True genius is not something reserved for a chosen few, but rather is something we all experience on occasion. By keeping an idea journal that records your most profound thoughts, you'll be able to make greater use of the genius within you, and compassionately offer to the world a more creative you.

* * *
See also: "Four Reasons to Keep an Idea Journal"
"How to Keep an Idea Journal"
"Keys to an Effective Idea Journal"

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

2017-10-24

Music: Sun Oct 29

Sunday morning’s musical selections complement the monthly theme of Death and anticipate Halloween festivities later this week. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 12 is widely considered an important departure from earlier Classical norms. None of its four movements is in a conventional sonata form, and the third movement is a stately funeral march. The short Lyric Pieces by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg evoke the imaginary creatures of Norwegian folklore. The remaining solo piano works are by American composers, a depiction of a haunted house by Edward MacDowell, and a poignant tribute to William Bolcom’s deceased father in Graceful Ghost Rag. The Interlude features a performance by CUUC’s own Kim and Christian Force. Lukas Graham’s “Funeral” is not so much a dirge as a wish to be commemorated with fun and joy. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Piano Sonata No. 12 in Ab Major, Op. 26
            III. Marcia Funebre
Ludwig van Beethoven
Little Troll, Op. 71, No. 4
March of the Trolls, Op. 54, No. 3
Edvard Grieg

Opening Music:
A Haunted House from Fireside Tales, Op. 61
Edward MacDowell

Offertory:
Graceful Ghost Rag
William Bolcom

Offertory: Kim and Christian Force, vocals and piano
Funeral
Lukas Graham


2017-10-19

From the Minister, Thu Oct 19

From the Minister

Black lives matter because all lives matter. Yet black lives are treated as mattering less than white lives. One of the ways we see black lives counting for less is environmental racism. Examples:

In 1979, state and federal authorities selected Warren County, NC as the site for a landfill to deposit PCB-contaminated soil. The site was chosen even though a shallow water table, with the drinking water only 5–10 feet below the surface, meant a significant risk of drinking water contamination. Warren County was 54.5% African-American (1980 census), and per capita income was 0.75 the statewide per capita income.

In 2014, Michigan state authorities, to save money, switched the water supply of Flint, MI, from Lake Huron to the Flint River, known for its pollution. Lead content in the drinking and bathing water in Flint shot so high it met the EPA’s definition of "toxic waste." Flint is almost 57% African American.

Altgeld Gardens, a housing community Chicago, was built on an abandoned landfill and is surrounded by 53 toxic facilities and 90% of Chicago’s landfills. Mercury, ammonia gas, lead, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), heavy metals, and xylene, are among the known toxins and pollutants affecting the area, and residents suffer excessive rates of prostate, bladder, and lung cancer; children born with brain tumors; fetal brains developing outside the skull; asthma, ringworm, and other ailments. The population of Altgeld Gardens in 90% African-American and 65% below the poverty level.

Chester, PA, has five large waste facilities (including a trash incinerator, a medical waste incinerator, and a sewage treatment plant) with a total permitted capacity of 2 million tons of waste per year – compared to merely 1,400 tons allowed in all the rest of Delaware County, PA. Chester residents suffer a cancer rate 2.5 times higher than anywhere else in Pennsylvania and a mortality rate 40% higher than the rest of Delaware county. Chester is 65% African American.

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, institutionalized practices had segregated minority members into the most vulnerable low-lying areas. Moreover, evacuation plans relied heavily on the use of cars, though 100,000 city residents, disproportionately minority, had no car. Hundreds who could not evacuate died. After the hurricane, the federal response, according to many black leaders, was slow and incomplete. At the time of Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans was 60.5% African American.

In 1989, the Louisiana Energy Services (LES) sought to build a privately-owned uranium enrichment plant just outside Homer, LA, straddling a road connecting two African American communities, Forest Grove and Center Springs. Residents sued, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's Atomic Safety and Licensing Board found that racial bias did play a role in the site selection process.

Diamond, LA
, a small, African-American neighborhood, was sandwiched between two large Shell Oil plants. For years, residents lived with an inescapable acrid, metallic odor and a chemical fog that seeped into their houses. They experienced headaches, stinging eyes, allergies, asthma, and other respiratory problems, skin disorders, and cancers. Periodic industrial explosions damaged their houses and killed some of their neighbors. Eventually, protests led Shell to agree to relocate the residents.

Repeatedly, minority communities are treated as more disposable than white communities. The lackluster response to Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico – compared to the response to Harvey in Houston and Irma in Florida – is the most prominent current example of a horrible pattern.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • October: I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
  • November: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
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.

This Week on The Liberal Pulpit

The Oct 15 sermon, "What Other People Think of Us," is now posted in three parts:

Part 1: We All Care What Other People Think of Us
Part 2: The Self and Its Worldview
Part 3: Biases and Anxiety

List of, and links to, past sermons: HERE.
List of, and links to, other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Stick With It. Little by little our way of seeing the world and being in it can shift. With effort, the mind can be trained. So choose your spiritual practice, and stick with it. Support your path with daily journaling, study, and meditation. Add further supporting practices such as mealtime grace, keeping sabbath, and getting enough sleep. New pathways in the brain are built through long familiarization. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Buddhist Terms. Does mastering concepts sometimes get in the way? How much cognitive learning is helpful for spiritual deepening? "Not by your will is the house carried through the night." (Wendell Berry)

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
After zazen one evening Woodpecker asked, "I'd like to understand basic Buddhist terms, but I'm not sure that would help my practice. What do you think?"
Raven said, "They help us sort out our vows."
Woodpecker asked, "Then they're a kind of appropriate means?"
Raven said, "Like the rain."
Hotetsu's Verse
Save every being, end every delusion.
Do this twice every morning before breakfast, and after.
Gain wisdom from every sensation, embody the entire Buddha way.
Like the rain, like the rain, like the rain.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News for Sun Oct 22
RE News
Music News
This week's e-Communitarian

RE News: Sun Oct 22

Lifespan Religious Education
Knowledge: accumulated philosophical or scientific learning.
Insight: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships.
Judgment: good sense.

These are the components of wisdom. The CUUC Wisdom RE Ministry Team endeavors to help us all grow in those capacities. When we share in community what we know, how we see it, and what it means to us, we enlighten ourselves as we connect with others. In that way, faith development and spiritual growth become more fully integrated into our lives. The Wisdom RE Ministry Team creates Adult RE opportunities and invites you to explore with us. Information about a reading and study group is listed below.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Oct 22
  • K-5th grade start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worshop that includes music with our Children's Music Director, Lyra Harada.
  • 6th-12th grade start in classrooms.
Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children: A Tour of the Outside of Our Congregation
K-1 - Creating Home: Symbols of Faith
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Israel (Judaism, focus on Sabbath)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Cain and Abel
6th-7th - Neighboring Faiths: Christianity Intro
8th-9th - Coming of Age: UUism and World Religions
10th-12th - Youth Group

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

2) Children's Choir
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will lead a Children's Choir after RE two Sundays a month. They will perform at the Thanksgiving Service and the Holiday Concert.

If your child or youth would like to be a part of the choir, SIGN UP HERE.

3) Halloween Costume Parade & Fun Oct 29
Wear your costume to RE and join our parade through the sanctuary at the end of service.

Then Youth Group will lead fun Halloween activities in their haunted rooms for children after RE.

4) Wisdom Reading & Study Group – An opportunity for spiritual growth
After the service Nov 12, Dec 3, Jan 7
Text and topic provided ahead of time, but please attend regardless and bring other related texts to share.

We begin with…
Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett
“...This is brilliant thinking, beautiful storytelling and practical insight.” - Brené Brown

In Becoming Wise, Krista Tippett has created a master class in living for a fractured world. Fracture, she says is not the whole story of our time. The enduring question of what it means to be human has become inextricable from the challenge of who we are to one another.

Related podcast and other related materials, CLICK HERE.

5) Pelham to Syria Winter Donation Drive
In Syria, a harsh winter is about to descend on millions of refugee families. Hearts and Homes for Refugees will collect, pack, and deliver aid to displaced Syrians.

Only specific items are needed and will be collected on:
Sat Oct 21, 10:00am - 4:00pm
Wed Oct 25, 4:00 - 8:00pm
Sat Oct 28, 10:00am - 4:00pm

Drop off at St. Catharine's Rectory, 25 Second Ave, Pelham.

Volunteers are also needed to help sort and pack. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Contact Jane Dixon at lilrhodie@gmail.com, if you have any questions.

6) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive
Nov. 5 to Dec. 3
This year the Ecumenical Food Pantry in White Plains will be distributing gently used books and toys to their clients. Imagine the joy you can bring to parents who cannot afford to give their children much during the holidays. We will also be collecting new/like new stuffed animals. Last year several of the senior citizens were thrilled to choose a stuffed animal for themselves.

Please bring donations to the RE Lobby starting on Nov. 5.

On Dec. 3, children are asked to bring a book that was or is special to them to share during Children’s Worship before it is donated.

Contact Mary Cavallero marycava4@gmail.com for information or to help with this project.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-10-18

Stick With It

Practice of the Week
Stick With It

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.


Familiarization is the key. To get out of an old way of being, get deeply familiar with a new way.

We take our point of view so much for granted, as if the world were really as we see it. But it doesn't take much analysis to recognize that our way of seeing the orld is simply an old unexamined habit, so strong, so convincing, and so unconscious we don't even see it as a habit. How many times have we been absolutely sure about someone's motivations and later discovered that we were wrong? How many times have we gotten upset about something that turned out to have been nothing? Our perceptions and opinions are often quite off the mark. The world may not be as we think it is. In fact, it is virtually certain that it is not.

There's nothing wrong with habits as such. Habits can be good. But an unconscious habitual point of view will not be optimal. A little reflection shows us that our habitual way of seeing things, in many instances, large and small, causes us much difficulty. It's often distorted, causing us extra upset we don't need, and it's too narrow, limiting our possibilities and our love. And yet we are pretty stuck on our point of view. Clearly, it will take some doing to see through it, and this is why spiritual practice takes time, effort, support, and much repetition. But little by little our way of seeing the world and being in it can shift. With effort, the mind can be trained.

So choose your spiritual practice, and stick with it. Support your path with daily journaling, study, and meditation. Add further supporting practices such as mealtime grace, keeping sabbath, and getting enough sleep. Stick with these practices -- familiarize yourself with them so thoroughly that they become second nature.

New pathways in the brain are built through familiarization with a new approach. Repetition and repeated drill brings the establishment of a new habit that is not, like the old ones, unconscious -- but instead is a habit you have thought about and chosen to cultivate for reasons that come out of your best motivations. It's a matter of brain-washing yourself, but in a good way: washing out an otherwise musty brain, freshening it up.

Left alone with its unconscious habits, the mind goes down predictably dull and often disadvantageous pathways. We think, feel, and see in a way that doesn't serve us very well -- and we assume that this is a fixed and necessary experience. It's not! Repeating teachings and intentional practices establishes new pathways, new habits.

The brain is plastic, fluid. It changes with our inner and outer activity. When we go to the gym to lift weights or do aerobics, we know that these activities are not something we will do once or twice. Their virtue is in the drill, the repetition over time. This is what changes our body.

Through familiarization the habits we want to inculcate will little by little become automatic. When someone asks you for your address or phone number, you probably don't say, "Let me think about it." You don't need to reflect or consult with anyone. The information is at the tip of your tongue because you are fully familiar with it. You haven't needed to make a special study of the information because by simple repetition with interest over time you have made these facts part of you. The same thing happens with spiritual practice. Faith, God, and inspiration aside, repetition is the true soul of spirituality.

This is a sad fact: If someone does ask you for your phone number, your address, your place of business, and so on, you can answer easily because these things are uppermost in your mind. You refer to them every day. But if someone asks you to account for the condition of your soul, probably your response would not be at the tip of your tongue. Probably you would be embarrassed or confused by the question. How good is it that we are quite familiar with our outer circumstances and activities but quite unfamiliar with our inner lives, with our soul, our spirit? The practice of familiarization proposes that we correct this imbalance and become just as fluent in our spiritual lives as we are in our material lives.

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

2017-10-16

Music: Sun Oct 22


Along with several other Caribbean islands, Cuba was recently the victim of Hurricane Irma, which struck the country’s northern coast as a Category 5 storm, causing massive flooding in the capital city, Havana. The U.S. media paid scant attention to this particular catastrophe, however, whether for political or sociological reasons. Cuba, with its distinctive political and economic systems, remains the embodiment of “otherness” to most U.S. citizens. It epitomizes the exotic, while its people are all too easily subject to de-humanizing characterizations as colonial-era stereotype or helpless, brainwashed pawns of a totalitarian regime. Poor peoples everywhere bear the brunt of climate change, and in Cuba the issue is compounded by decades of alienation from the world power to its north.

In anticipation of CUUC’s tribute to Havana at next month’s Goods and Services Auction, Cuba’s rich artistic traditions ore showcased in several of Sunday morning’s musical selections. The solo piano works featured in the Centering Music include a modernist take Cuban conga drumming by Hilario González as well as a newly discovered unpublished piece of juvenalia by the Cuban-American composer Tania León, who was interviewed at CUUC last year: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuUxoI3x8fo.  Joaquin Nin-Culmell, younger brother of the diarist Anais Nin, pays a sentimental homage to his Cuban ancestry in two of his charming Douze Danses Cubaines, works which evoke a nineteenth-century Europeanized view of what was then a Spanish colony.

The Offertory music, “Cancion para dormir a un negrito” from Xavier Montsalvatge’s Canciones Negras bears special comment. The layers of appropriation are so numerous and complex, that the song is bound to evoke conflicting emotions. The very notion of a lullaby written for public performance is a contradiction, which requires a certain suspension of disbelief. In this case, Cuban poet Ildefonso Pereda Valdés’s text depicts a Cuban mother of African descent  singing her baby to sleep in a world where bogeyman are white, and a black child might dream of outgrowing slavery. The bittersweet nostalgic lilt of an Habanera is subverted by tart dissonances, which impart an ironic edge to the mother’s reassurances: “If you sleep well, the master of the house promises to get you a suit and make you a ‘groom’.” To complete the picture, Montsalvatge was from Catalonia, a region of Spain currently in the midst of a heated confrontation with the country’s central government over a controversial referendum to secede. He viewed Caribbean culture through the scrim of commerce, which brought goods--as well as song and dance-- from the distant Antilles to Spain’s Costa Brava. Our skin may well crawl at the seductive beauty and simplicity of Montsalvatge’s creation, in spite of the twisted history it embodies.

And, beyond Cuba, CUUC’s Choir is on hand with two moving selections: Amy Bernon’s “A Song Sung Once” and the Spiritual “Turn Me Round”, popular in UU circles for its timeless message of resistance to oppression and ever-widening circles of empathic responsibility.

Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Preludio en Conga No. 3
                                                Hilario González
Rondó a la Criolla
                                                Tania León
Douze Danses Cubaines, Nos. 4 and 12
                                                Joaquín Nin-Culmell

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
A Song Sung Once
                                                            Amy Bernon

Offertory: Kim Force, soprano
Canción para dormir a un negrito* from Canciones Negras
                                                            Xavier Montsalvatge

Anthem:
Turn Me ‘Round
                                                Traditional Spiritual arr. by Earlene Rentz

*Translation:
Hush-a-bye my little one, Little black one who doesn't want to sleep. Head of a coconut, little coffee bean, With soft cottony hair, With huge eyes like two windows that look out at the sea. Close your little eyes, frightened little one, The white bogeyman could eat you! You are no longer a slave! If you sleep a lot the master of the house will buy you a suit with buttons to be just like a groom. Hush-a-bye, sleep now little one. Head of a coconut, little coffee bean.





2017-10-12

RE News: Sun Oct 15

Lifespan Religious Education

Last Sunday, Rev. LoraKim (our Community Minister and a wildlife veterinarian) and the Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team facilitated a Nurture Nature RE workshop. We began by reciting our chalice lighting with the word "people" being replaced by "being." Let us light this chalice of understanding in our hearts so that we may know how other beings think and feel. Children and youth walked the CUUC grounds looking for signs of wildlife. They then watched videos of animals in various situations and were asked what they thought the animals were feeling and needing. Some of the feelings named were angry, sad, scared, and joyful. When it came to pictures of animals in storms, the needs seen were love, food, shelter, friends, connection, help, knowledge, and to learn to love. The children realized that these were also universal human needs and discovered that all beings share common feelings and needs.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Oct 15
Children and youth start in the sanctuary for Music For All Ages (with special musical guest, The Biryani Boys) and the Our Congregation Skit.

Children who participated in the Nurture Nature RE program last Sunday, led by Rev. LoraKim and the Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team, will be performing a skit during the Our Congregation to support this month's Share the Plate.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children: A Tour of the Outside of Our Congregation
K-1 - Creating Home: Symbols of Faith
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: India (Hindu)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: In the Beginning
6th-7th - Neighboring Faiths: Unitarian Universalism (Attend CUUC service)
8th-9th - Boston UU Heritage Trip
10th-12th - Youth Group: Laser 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
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will lead a Children's Choir after RE two Sundays a month. They will perform at Thanksgiving Service and the Holiday Concert.

If your child or youth would like to be a part of the choir, SIGN UP HERE.

3) Pelham to Syria Winter Donation Drive
In Syria, a harsh winter is about to descend on millions of refugee families. Hearts and Homes for Refugees will collect, pack, and deliver aid to displaced Syrians.

Only specific items are needed and will be collected on:
Sat Oct 21, 10:00am - 4:00pm
Wed Oct 25, 4:00 - 8:00pm
Sat Oct 28, 10:00am - 4:00pm

Drop off at St. Catharine's Rectory, 25 Second Ave, Pelham.

Volunteers are also needed to help sort and pack. For more info, CLICK HERE.

Contact Jane Dixon at lilrhodie@gmail.com, if you have any questions.

4) Resources for Talking to Children About Tragedies
We have all been horrified and saddened by recent tragedies, from hurricanes to shootings. Our children are often exposed to information and images that we do not always have control over. Unexpected conversations arise and it can be difficult to know how to respond and what to tell children or not. Here are some resources for parents:

UUA article on supporting children in the face of tragedy
Advice and resources from Fuller Youth Institute, via Andre Lerner (our UUA congregational contact)
Today Show age-by-age guide
From the National Child Traumatic Stress Network
PBS Talking with Kids About News
Helping children cope with tragedy related anxiety

If you would like to talk about this topic or need any further support, please contact me (dlre@cucwp.org; 914-946-1660 x4) or Rev. Meredith.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2017-10-11

From the Minister, Thu Oct 12

From the Minister

"These are times that try men's souls," wrote Thomas Paine at the beginning of a series of pamphlets, The American Crisis, begun in 1776. Today men's, women's, and all people's souls in this country are tried by times that, if not already at crisis, appear to be on the brink of it. This may seem a strange assertion, what with the stock market doing well and leading economic indicators looking generally positive. But our souls are tried, even if the median wallet has not yet taken a turn for the thinner. The country has grown polarized. Many are aggrieved -- sometimes they are aggrieved about others being aggrieved. Our souls are tried by the pervasive acrimony of public discourse.

Some of the grievances are legitimate and addressing them is long overdue. Others, not so much. Police brutality that falls disproportionately on people of color would be in the first category, I'd say. Claims from the alt-right about "white genocide" would be in the second. I regard grievances about confederate monuments as in the first category; grievances about the removal of confederate monuments as in the second.

We make a similar distinction in cases where offense is taken. Was the criticism legitimate, and taking offense at it is merely a defensive reaction? Or was the "criticism" actually a slur that warrants being recognized as offensive? Not all offense-taking is equal. It can be hard to determine which is warranted and which isn't. Here's my process.

First, do I have to decide? In many contexts, it's beside the point. If I'm speaking one-to-one with a person who is angry and hurt, my judgment about whether they should be angry and hurt isn't necessary or helpful. Should be is irrelevant; they are. I empathize with the feeling and seek to explore that with the person, hoping to facilitate clarity. Most of the time, I don't have to decide whether I would judge offense-taking warranted. "Warranted" is not a useful determination; offense was, in any case, taken, and my best response is to offer a nonjudgmental presence to that hurt.

In other cases, though, we are called upon to think more systemically. In what ways is our nation, our state, our county, our community, failing to be as fully realized a beloved community as it could be? That is: what are the criticisms that should be taken seriously even if (especially if?) they give offense? What changes, of policy or of attitude, are needed? I don't think there's a definite rule here -- there's no algorithm for distinguishing important criticism from defensive complaint. I do, however, find it helpful to look at where the power is. This itself is sometimes difficult to assess -- there are many different kinds and sources of power. But often the location of the power is clear. Overall and in general, whites have more power than blacks, men have more power than women, the wealthy have more power than the poor, and non-elderly adults have more power than either children or the elderly. My sympathies will tend to be with the grievances of the less powerful. Grievances from the more powerful may well be a defensive clinging to privileges that are not just.

The caveat in all cases where we exercise judgment to determine what criticism, or what offense-taking, is legitimate, is the one Jesus expressed when he asked: "Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?" Thus the systemic questions always lead me back to my ongoing personal, individual work. In what ways am I complicit with the evil I decry? What logs render my vision wooden? Where are my own failures to "serve and protect" without bias? What subtle monuments to privilege do my choices erect?

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • October: I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
  • November: I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
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

Mealtime Practice. Many families struggle to juggle competing work schedules, school activities, and community commitments. It is nearly impossible to find time to sit down to share a meal together. Yet taking time to eat together can be one of the most important activities that families do. Mealtime is a spiritual discipline: an activity through which those gathered may discover depth and meaning in their lives. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Brown Bear's Purpose. You are perfect exactly as you are. So what do you need with spiritual practice?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Badger's question about the purpose of practice was followed up with a question from Porcupine: "What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up her role as teacher?"
Raven said, "To make little boys ask questions."
Porcupine said, "Don't patronize me, Roshi. My question is: What did Brown Bear have in mind when she took up the role of teacher?
Raven bobbed her head. "Excellent! Excellent!"
Porcupine stamped his foot. "That's not an answer!"
Raven said, "She didn't have answers in mind."
Hotetsu's Verse
What do the maples have in mind, their red leaves falling?
What does the moon have in mind, its crescent resting in the branches?
Something, perhaps, though they seem
To have forgotten what it was.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News for Sun Oct 15

RE News
Music News
This week's e-Communitarian

Mealtime Practice

Practice of the Week
Mealtime Practice

Category: Supporting Practices: observances that support and expand developing spirituality.
“Be there when you eat. Achieve the fullest experience of your food. Taste it. Savor it. Pay attention to it. Rejoice in it.” (Marc David)
Adapted from Aaron R. Payson, "Mealtime," in Everyday Spiritual Practice


Slowing Down, Being Together

I, too, became a part of the rushing crowd. As a student, I had grown accustomed to eating pizza at midnight as I studied for exams or grabbing a sandwich between classes. During the first year or so of my ministry and my marriage, I operated in much the same way. Meals were a grab-them-when-you-can, if-you-can prospect. Sitting down to eat was a novelty.

Many families struggle to juggle competing work schedules, school activities, and community commitments. It is nearly impossible to find time to sit down to share a meal together. Yet taking time to eat together can be one of the most important activities that families do.

Mealtime is a spiritual discipline: an activity through which those gathered may discover depth and meaning in their lives.

The speed with which we attempt to complete our lives and complete our meals ultimately hampers our experience of eating itself. That’s what was happening to me. Then one day as I was yet again eating what would pass for dinner alone at my desk in my office, I decided to put a stop to all the eating on the fly. It wouldn’t be easy, but I had the advantage of lessons learned as a child with my family around the dinner table.

Saying Grace

Eating is a sacred act, which is why, in most religious traditions, mealtime is made distinct from other activities by beginning with a time of grace of blessing so that those gathered to partake of the sustenance before them might be mindful of their connection to each other, to the environment, and to that which is holy around and within them.
“This food is the gift of the whole universe: the earth, the sky and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it. May we transform our own unskilled states of mind and eat with moderation. May we take only foods that nourish us and prevent illness. We accept this food so that we may realize the path of understanding and love.” (Zen mealtime sutra, Thich Nhat Hanh)

“The Lord is good to me, and so I thank the Lord for giving me the things I need – the sun and the rain and the apple seed. The Lord is good to me.” (attributed to Johnny Appleseed)
Mealtime grace is, for those who practice it, a key aspect of gratitude practice. Grace at mealtime is a ritual awakening to the reality of our relationship of gratitude for all that sustains us. Slowing down for gratitude also slows us down to more fully appreciate our food.

At one Thanksgiving meal in my childhood, we arrived at the dining room to discover five single kernels of corn on each person’s plate. We sat down, and Mother began, “It is said that when the pilgrims gathered at the first Thanksgiving table, each person was given just five kernels of corn, for that is all that they had to share. So now we take this opportunity to share with each other five things for which we are thankful this year.” I remember scrambling when my turn came. I expressed thanks for a new bike, roller skates, my new friend Jimmy, and even my little brother. The next year, and the next, and the one after that, became more important. As I grew, this ritual began to take on significance.
“I am thankful for the health of my family, for the opportunity to be together in the spirit of love, and for the gift of food.”
Setting a Place for One More

During Pesach, or Passover, families and communities celebrate their journey out of bondage to the promised land. As the table is set with the elements of the ritual Seder meal, a place is set for the prophet Elijah, who, during the course of the meal, is welcomed into the room and invited to the table, where a glass of wine is poured for him. My mother set an extra place at the table each night. Some nights, it went unused, and we thought about those whom we missed at our table. Many nights, however, the place got filled by an unexpected friend my brother or I brought home, or by a person who just stopped by for a moment to chat with my father, who was a minister.

* * *

The ingestion of food is only a minuscule portion of what it means to take in sustenance. Reclaiming mealtime is a spiritual discipline when we remember the depth of our own connections to others, to the earth and the elements that help us to grow, and to the divine spark within each of us that ignites around good company and is aflame through the presence of love that is also the substance of grace.

I realized that if I just slowed down, breathed a little, I was already ahead of the game. Saying grace wasn’t so hard. I was and am grateful for many things.

A healthy spirituality grew our latest New Year’s dinner from an intimate gathering of six to an even more intimate fifteen. With the places all set, we delightedly took our time, getting to know each other, passing around the potatoes, and enjoying ourselves. We said grace. We talked of new things we had learned over the past year. We were too full to have dessert right away, which gave us an excuse to linger over coffee as our bodies and heart found the room.

* * *
List of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"