CUUC

CUUC

2017-11-30

RE News: Sun Dec 3

Lifespan Religious Education

We begin December with the full activity of the season - Advent and Hanukkah lessons, Deck the Halls, Craft Fair, holiday singing, wreath sale, and holiday donations - but also with the intention of being a respite from holiday busyness. As you need to, just be present in the sanctuary or the RE wing. Embodying the spirit of the season means focusing on the connections we have with the people in this community and the peace we find here. I invite you to participate in all the fun and find moments of pause.

Please see the following six (6) announcements:

1) This Sun Dec 3
Children's Choir rehearsal before RE at 9:30 in the sanctuary. Everyone invited.
K-5th start in Fellowship Hall for Children’s Worship with special book project.
6th-12th start in classrooms.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Home in Nature
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Germany (Christianity)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Hanukkah
6th-7th – Islam Intro
8th-9th – Coming of Age: God
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) Bring a Gently Used Children’s Book to Donate This Sun
K-5th grade children are asked to bring a book that was or is special to them to share during Children’s Worship and then donate to the Ecumenical Food Pantry for families who do not have gifts for the holidays.

Gently used toys and new/like-new stuffed animals are also needed.

Thank you for bringing joy to families in need this season.

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

3) 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 and the Christmas Eve Service.

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

4) Deck the Halls This Sun after RE
Join us in the sanctuary after RE to create and hang decorations. Fun for all ages and something families can do together!

Special goodies at Coffee hour provided by the RE Council.

4) Wisdom Reading & Study Group This Sun at 11:40
An opportunity for spiritual growth.

Join us to discuss Becoming Wise, by Krista Tippett, and related topics.
“...This is brilliant thinking, beautiful storytelling and practical insight.” - Brené Brown

“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. Bring a related reading of your own.

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

5) Wreaths for Sale This Sun
As part of a Boy Scout project, Will Zisson will be selling wreaths outside the main doors at CUUC after the service this Sun. Will is ready to help you decorate your door.

6) The Mitten Tree Is Coming 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.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

From the Minister, Thu Nov 30

Being a Unitarian Universalist means something. It's different from not being one. Whether you were born into this tradition, or "married into" it (discovered and joined as an adult), UU and you are now a part of each other. That means something. And what it means is constantly changing.

Like every tradition -- and, indeed, every family -- we have some things to be proud of and some things to be ashamed of. We're proud of the prominent Unitarians who worked for the abolition of slavery in the 19th century. One of them was Rev. William Furness, who served First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia. Another was Rev. Octavius Frothingham. We might prefer to forget, however, that when Rev. Furness preached against slavery in 1836, roughly half his congregation was outraged and incensed, and in 1855 Rev. Frothingham's congregation in Salem, MA pushed him out for his ardent support of Abolition. We're proud of our support of women's suffrage, and that Susan B. Anthony, Olympia Brown, and other prominent Suffragettes were Unitarian. We'd prefer to forget that for the most part these Suffragettes did not have the support of their congregations. In fact, the prominent Rev. Frothingham -- a hero among Unitarian Abolitionists -- wrote influential essays over the course of a quarter-century arguing against letting women vote.

We were, and are, proud of our presence and support in Selma in 1965. Five hundred Unitarian Universalists participated with Dr. King in that march from Selma to Montgomery, including over 140 Unitarian Universalist clergy -- 20 percent of all UU ministers in final fellowship at that time. Then, 1967-1969, we tore ourselves apart with in-fighting known among us as "the black empowerment controversy." (I gave a very brief sketch of it HERE.)

The world keeps changing. New understandings of what justice and respect require continue to emerge. Being UU has never been a guarantee of being on the right side of any social issue. The most powerful tool of our heritage, though, is a commitment to the possibility of learning and adapting.

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

I'll be out of town on Tue Dec 5. 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

Get Into Your Body.
James Joyce tells us in his short story, “A Painful Case,” that the story’s protagonist, a Mr. James Duffy, “lived at a little distance from his body.” Maybe you know the feeling. We all have bodies, but we might seek to distance ourselves from them. We might live in our heads, “at a little distance from” our bodies. This exercise is for reducing that distance. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Death. "At the point of death." Oh, is not right now that point? Are you not giving everything away? Are you not, continuously, 24/7, giving it all away?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Mole came to Raven privately and said, "We haven't talked about death very much. I'm not concerned about where I will go, but watching so many family members die, I'm wondering what happens at the point of death?"
Raven sat silently for a while, then said, "I give away my belongings."
Hotetsu's Verse
Bride of Christ, or of Frankenstein, or Groom of Gaia, or something --
We are all someways wedded to a large complexity
to whom our faithfulness will one day expire.
It, or She or He, will then remarry, eventually or soon,
and won't need our permission,
So I give it now, every day,
You may remarry, you may remarry, you may remarry.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Get Into Your Body

Practice of the Week
Get Into Your Body

Category: Occasional. These are practices suggested for "every once in a while." Some of them are responses to a particular need that may arise; others are simply enriching occasional enhancements to the spiritual life. All of them are worth a try at least once. And any of them might become a regular and central part of your spiritual practice.

James Joyce tells us in his short story, “A Painful Case,” that the story’s protagonist, a Mr. James Duffy, “lived at a little distance from his body.” Maybe you know the feeling. We all have bodies, but we might seek to distance ourselves from them. We might live in our heads, “at a little distance from” our bodies. This exercise is for reducing that distance.

First

Do a "Body Scan Meditation." About 10 mins. Lying down or sitting comfortably:

(a) Lower your eyelids – almost but not quite closing your eyes.

(b) Bring awareness to the body breathing in and out, noticing touch and pressure where it makes
contact with the seat or floor.

(c) When you’re ready (no rush), begin by bringing attention to the bottoms of your feet. Spend a
minute or two exploring what sensations you’re having on the bottoms of your feet. Sensations
might include buzzing, or tingling, pressure, tightness or temperature, or anything else you notice. If
you don’t notice any strong sensations or things feel neutral, simply notice that. Just tune in to
what’s present, as best you can, without judgement. The main point is being curious and open to
what you are noticing, investigating the sensations as fully as possible, and then intentionally
releasing the focus of attention before shifting to the next area to explore.

(d) Move to the tops and sides of the feet, and repeat (c). Then to the ankles, shins, calves, knees,
things, and so on all the way up your body.

(e) Each time your attention wanders, simply notice that this is happening, then gently and kindly
direct your attention back to exploring sensations in the body.

(f) After you’ve reached the top of your head and spent a minute exploring the sensations there,
take a few moments to expand your attention to feeling your entire body breathing freely.

(g) When you’re ready, raise your eyelids and move gently back into the rest of your day.

Second

Do a Movement Exercise. About 5 mins. Find a suitable spot and “move in a way that feels expansive to
you. Open your arms wide, or raise your hand in a high five, or mimic Steve Martin doing his ‘wild and
crazy guy’ shoulder shimmy. Sync that movement with your breathing and notice how that changes
your mood. How did that feel? Do you notice a change in your thinking or energy level?” (Steve
Sisgold)

Third

Bodily Connect to Your Roots. 10-15 mins. (From Steve Sisgold, Whole Body Intelligence). The aim
of this exercise is to discover unconscious movement patterns – increasing self-awareness, and
affording you with choice to change those patterns (which you can’t do if you aren’t aware of them.)
Have your journal handy. Put it to the side, within reach. Sitting comfortably:

(a) Bring to mind the primary person who took care of you – Mom, Dad, Grandma – when you were
small. Choose whoever influenced you the most before age 6.

(b) Close your eyes and, in your mind’s eye, visualize how that person moves or moved through life.
Take a deep breath in and out as you do this, then open your eyes.

(c) Mimic any gestures you recall that person making. She may have swung her hands, scrunched her
nose, or exhaled with a puff when she was frustrated. As you do this, notice what sensations and
emotions you feel.

(d) Get up and walk the way you remember that person walked. After you walk like that, take a
moment to pause and reflect. You are beginning to piece together your movement history.

(e) Write down in your journal: What sensations, emotions, and discoveries do you notice when you
take on the movements of that person? Which of these discoveries are still present in the way you
move through life today? What movement patters or trains did you learn from your parents or
primary caretakers that you would like to change?

From the Ministerial Intern, Thu Nov 30


Waiting by candlelight 

December brings a month’s worth of different holiday celebrations, with their varied activities and traditions. Hanukkah, Christmas, the Winter Solstice, and Kwanzaa are the ones most familiar to me. 

Candles and candlelight are a shared characteristic of these different winter holidays, each with its own symbolism and meaning. They spread their light and dispel the darkness as they burn in the menorah, the advent wreath, and the Kwanzaa kinara, or are lit from the Yule log. 

This Sunday is the first Sunday of Advent, the four-week period of waiting and expectancy in the Christian tradition that precedes Christmas. For those who celebrate Christmas, advent wreaths help mark the passage of the four weeks with candles that signify hope, love, joy and peace. These themes provide a focal point for reflection and contemplation on the larger meaning of the holiday.

It’s easy to lose the larger meaning of any holiday when we become wrapped up in the stress, busyness and expenses of gift giving, entertaining, travel, and visits with family and friends. Rather than trying to “survive” the Christmas season, Rev. Jake Morrill, who identifies as a Christian UU, asks us to consider,

What if it wasn’t only a choice between misery or merry? What about a third option: an adequate Christmas. An adequate Christmas would have you calm and open, taking it in, accepting whatever is.

 … Treat the holidays as sacred time. Turn your attention toward tradition, toward spiritual practice, toward encouraging and welcoming God like you haven’t before. Slow it all down like you might be, in some way, attuned to the pace of the Eternal.                                                                                                                            (An Adequate Christmas, UUA Braver/Wiser blog)

In recent years, I’ve reclaimed the advent wreath tradition of my childhood church. Lighting those candles in my home in the evening is a different spiritual practice from my usual. Those candles do slow me down and invite reflection and contemplation on hope, then love, joy and peace. The warm glow of candlelight takes the chill out of the air and sheds light on what really matters.

May you, too, find an adequate holiday, whatever your tradition or spiritual practice, and the calmness and openness to embrace what is most important and meaningful to you.

2017-11-28

Music: Sun Dec 3


Music suggestive of hope is featured in this morning’s Centering Music. Colombian composer Adolfo Mejia’s delicate Prelude, subtitled “Luminosidad de aguas”, was originally a harp solo, but works effectively in this piano transcription. American composer William Bolcom’s “Waitin’” is a tender hymn, which offers spiritual solace to all who toil in faith. The morning’s Offertory, Chopin’s so-called “Raindrop” Prelude, also holds forth the hope of transfiguration as its serene opening material returns after a turbulent central section. CUUC’s Choir is also on hand with a celebratory Alleluia as well as a timeless expression of love from The Beatles. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Kim Force, soprano; Adam Kent, piano
Preludio “Luminosidad de Aguas”
                                    Adolfo Mejia
Waitin’
                                                William Bolcom

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
I Will 
John Lennon and Paul McCartney, arr. by Roger Emerson 
                       
Offertory:
Prelude in D-flat Major, Op. 28, No. 15 “Raindrop”
                                    Frederic Chopin

Anthem:
A Festive Alleluia 
Mary Lynn Lightfoot

Begin the Ecospiritual Path

Practice of the Week
Begin the Ecospiritual Path

Category: Ecospiritual. These practices are oriented toward developing our spirituality through our connection with our planet home and our responsibility to care for it.


Awakening is a a challenging 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. To continue with things as they are is a recipe for global suffering, destruction and death. Sooner or later, our culture will change. The only question is whether we will change voluntarily and preserve a livable Earth for future generations, or keep our blinders firmly in place and ensure catastrophic ecological collapse in the lifetimes of our children and grandchildren.

In his masterwork, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, renowned mythologist Joseph Campbell describes the hero's journey as a process of leaving the normal world behind, journeying into a symbolic wilderness or underworld, confronting the demons or monsters that reside there, and then returning victorious with wisdom to share with others. You are embarking on such a journey. The monsters you will confront are real. Facing the reality of the state of the natural world is daunting. Leaving behind the mindless consumerism that passes for genuine culture in our day and age, you may feel as youth you are quite alone in the wilderness without ever leaving home. You will be transformed and changed in ways you might not be able to imagine here at the beginning.

You will also find joy in unexpected places, and discover that you are a member of Earth's family in ways you might never have realized. You will find that you are a part of a larger community of heroes who dare to imagine and create a different sort of world. You will claim your birthright as a being who embodies the consciousness of the planet, and embrace your part in healing the Earth.

The Ecospiritual path roughly parallels Campbell's concept of a hero's journey:
  1. We separate ourselves from the paradigms of the everyday world, and confront the hidden realities of business as usual.
  2. We shed the dysfunctional mindsets that keep us trapped. Like the ancient Babylonian goddess Inanna, who shed the trappings of her power and status as she journeyed to the underworld, we too will let go of the illusory ideas that keep us bound to an unsustainable cultural paradigm. We move to the depths, and in so doing we break free.
  3. We face a turning point. We have confronted the demons and lived to tell the tale. We find ourselves on the cusp of transformation, ripe for rebirth, and begin to ground ourselves in the deep wisdom of the Earth.
  4. Finally, we emerge with a new vision, ready to recreate our culture from the inside out.
Now it's time to begin. These first exercises are designed to create a little psychological space for the inward journey to come. They are ways to honor your own process and bless your own story. Choose one or more of these practices and make a beginning. You are embarking on a her's journey of the spirit. Give yourself a hero's sendoff. Huzzah!

Practices

1. Start a Journal. Start a new one. The Ecospiritual Path will offer you many journaling prompts and questions for reflection. When you're ready, make your first entry by taking a look at your world at this moment in time. Go outside. Make a note of the date and time. Observe the world around you. What is the weather like? What flowers are in bloom? From which direction is the wind blowing? Do you see any birds? Insects? Write it all down. Sketch a little if you're so inclined. Capture this moment, right here and right now, at the beginning. Check in with yourself, and reflect on your feelings about the path ahead.

2. A Mindful Walk. Step outside your front door. Take a deep breath. Now go. Walk at leas fifteen minutes away, and then back again. This is not an exercise walk. Don't go at a fast clip. Don't disconnect by listening to music. Take the world as it is. Meander. Walk at a sow to moderate pace, and actively observe the world around you. What do you see? What do you hear? How much of what you sense is natural, and how much is human-made? Do you like all you see? If you could change part of it, what would you change? Think, observe, and walk. When you arrive home again, take another deep breath and come back into your normal world.

3. An Opening Ceremony. Mark this beginning in some small but significant way by creating a meaningful and unique ceremony. Offer a prayer. Recite a poem aloud. Make a small offering out in the world. A handful of birdseed laid at the foot of a tree could represent a gift to the Earth. A small bouquet of flowers tossed into a stream could symbolize the beginning of your spiritual journey. What resonates with your soul? Keep it simple, and make it personal. Perhaps write about it when you're done.

Group Activity

Get 3 or more people together. Grab some trash bags and head out to a public area that could use a little TLC. Maybe it's a neighborhood in your town with abandoned houses. Maybe it's a park that's seen better days. Don't make a big deal of it; just go. Pick up litter for an hour, and then come back to your meeting place and have some refreshments and group reflection:
  • What does the word "environmentalism" mean to you? Does it have positive or negative connotations? Or both? How about the word "Earth"? Doe the meanings vary a lot among the group members?
  • When in your life have you experienced an opening ceremony of any sort? What was it like? How does this compare to your previous experience?
  • Offer a prayer or a wish for a healed and restored Earth. Each participant can share her own wish such as, "I wish the oceans overflowed with fish again," or "I wish more trees would be planted for those that have been cut down." Don't force participation from shy members; just keep the prayers or wishes flowing. 
  • Wrap it all up with one big group wish or closing blessing.
* * *

Next Ecospiritual Practice: Face Ecological Reality

2017-11-23

From the Minister, Thu Nov 23

I grew up Unitarian Universalist. I grew up in the Southeast: in Virginia, North Carolina, Alabama, and Georgia. In adulthood, I lived in Atlanta, Georgia; Waco, Texas; Charlottesville, Virginia; Nashville, Tennessee; Rochester, Minnesota. That was all before I became a minister. However strange a new town might feel, however adrift in unfamiliar streets and customs I might be, I would look up the local Unitarian Universalist congregation in the Yellow Pages. (Anybody remember Yellow Pages? It’s what us old timers used to use before there was the internet.) I would show up on Sunday morning and there I would be among my people. I would be home.

Yet even I, born and raised Unitarian Universalist, would occasionally have a certain experience. It must be even more common among the many people who do not come to Unitarian Universalism until adulthood. I’m talking about those times of looking around the room – around the sanctuary on a Sunday morning, or at a committee meeting, or a potluck dinner – and thinking: Who ARE these people? They’re a little bit weird, and a little bit perfectly ordinary. Who are they really?

Unitarian Universalists today are the inheritors of a long and a deep and a rich tradition of free and thoughtful people making together religious community. To know who UUs are -- to know who you are, if you're a UU -- it helps to know about that tradition. The better we know our tradition, the better we know who we are.

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith
  • The November issue of On the Journey explores Mindfulness. Get it at CUUC or HERE.
  • Check out the two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
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.
  • November: Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains
  • Dec 12 & 19 (I'll be out of town on Dec 5 & 26): 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.

This Week on The Liberal Pulpit

This week: the conclusion of the "The Mindfulness Fad," some truths about Thanksgiving (adapted and expanded from the Sun Nov 19 Dialog presented with George Stonefish), and the first part of "Income Inequality" (the Nov 12 sermon)
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Own Your Nobility. It is a rare and precious thing to be a human being. That's why we send money overseas in times of disaster, why we know it is wrong to take a human life. The heritage, the legacy, of being human is to manifest wisdom, compassion, and lovingkindness, to be fully worthy of our lives, worthy of admiration and celebration. This is your nature, my nature, the... READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Enlightenment. You have fires of passion and desire. Spiritual growth is not about putting out your fire. It's about building a fire ring, and maybe a bank of earth to protect your fire from too much wind. Containment doesn't put your fire out, but sustains it, protects it from burning out of control and burning itself out. The moon of enlightenment is at the center of everything about you.

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
One day when they were sitting around having a snack, Woodpecker asked Raven, "What is enlightenment?"
Raven said, "I won't deny it."
Woodpecker asked, "What will you affirm?"
Raven said, "Containment."
Woodpecker said, "What kind of containment?"
Raven asked, "What about you?"
Woodpecker hesitated.
Raven said, "The moon is not on the fringes."
Hotetsu's Verse
The boundless inhabits, accepts bounds --
Seeps out, becomes boundless.
Love takes to the containment of a heart
So as to beat out its uncontainability.
Thus the thingness of things arrives already gone.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Nov 26
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
This week's e-Communitarian

Own Your Nobility

Practice of the Week
Own Your Nobility

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.


Mind training begins with getting in touch with our deepest, best motivation. As human beings we are inherently noble -- inherently motivated to see life truly, generously, magnanimously. This is our human birthright, our human capacity. It is why every human community from the dawn of time to the present has had some form of wholesome, salvific spirituality. But the pressures of life and the persistence of human folly, embedded as these are in our societies and our communities (and therefore also in our own minds and hearts), can obscure our noble motivation to be wise and compassionate. That's why we need to remind ourselves of our noble heritage as human beings and step up to embody it.

Probably our biggest challenge in spiritual practice is not that we don't have the time or the talent or the focus or the right atmosphere or setting. Probably the biggest challenge is simply that we don't take ourselves seriously enough. Though we may believe that spiritual practice is a good idea and self-transformation a possibility, when it comes down to it, we don't really think it's possible for us. Or maybe we actually don't want to transform. Especially if our lives are noticeably unsatisfactory. But at the same time, we don't. Our motivations are mixed. So we can't be truly serious about our practice. Owning our nobility, we step into seriousness.

It is a rare and precious thing to be a human being. That's why we send money overseas in times of disaster, why we know it is wrong to take a human life. It's wrong not just because it is illegal, but because human life is sacred, precious. The heritage, the legacy, of being human is to manifest wisdom, compassion, and lovingkindness, to be fully worthy of our lives, worthy of admiration and celebration. This is your nature, my nature, the nature of every human being. In this we are all the same. No one is more worthy, more sacred, than you are. And you are no more worthy, or sacred, than anyone else.

Given this as a basis for our life, we can be perfectly aware of our many faults. Faults are perfectly natural, like earthquakes or floods. They may have bad consequences sometimes, but they are to be expected. The more we can learn to anticipate their periodic eruptions, the better off we will be.

But along with these various faults, at the same time, deep within us is this beautiful, noble human heritage. The reason for honoring and attending to our great saints and spiritual exemplars the world over is not to set up their supposed perfection as a reproach to us. It is the opposite. Their example shows us what we could be and what we are. To own your nobility is to remind yourself every day of who you really are. None of the world's great spiritual exemplars has ever said, "Look at me, how great I am; pay attention to me!" All have said, "I am what you are."

True nobility is not about lording it over the peasantry. For example, the Dalai Lama is owning his nobility when he says, as he often does, "I'm just a simple monk. I'm trying my best." I believe he really means this, and he's embodying noble simplicity. He's trying his best to practice. And if we admire him, what we are really admiring is not him but this potential within ourselves for such humble nobility.

For Journaling

Describe how and when, in the last 24 hours, you owned your nobility.

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

From the Ministerial Intern, Thu Nov 23

“Over the river and through the wood,” the well-known setting of “A New England Boy’s Song About Thanksgiving” by Unitarian Lydia Maria Child certainly captures a child’s excitement and anticipation en-route to the family feasts. “Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!”

“Onto the highway and to the mall…” might be the start of an additional verse in a modern revision as Thanksgiving starts the countdown to winter’s gift-giving and party planning season. Already promotions for Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Giving Tuesday are dominating the airwaves and social media. And my mailbox has been overflowing with too many catalogs, sometimes addressed to my children! The time has come again to gather them up, log-on to the free service, Catalog Choice, and stop that flow. (Yes, it works!)

I'm not alone, I know, in resisting the push to commercialize our holidays. Efforts like Friday’s Buy Nothing Day and alternative gift fairs that benefit non-profits catch my attention. One online collection of resources I particularly like and recommend for folks and families that want to reduce their consumption, waste and stress is the Simplify the Holidays campaign at New Dream.org. There you’ll find tips for prioritizing connection with friends and family over consumption, including an online calendar feature, a short video to share to spark conversations, and a Simplify the Holidays Pledge.

For a longer, good read, check out one of my favorite reminders of what’s most important this season in this excerpt of an early work about putting joy back into the (Christmas) season by Bill McKibben, from his book Hundred Dollar Holiday.

2017-11-22

RE News: Sun Nov 26

As we learned from our Native American guest last week, George Stonefish, Thanksgiving history is filled with misconceptions and fraught with the horror of genocide that make an unsure footing for celebration. For many people, the personal celebration of the holiday is dampened by loneliness or family difficulties. Gratitude can be tinged with the sadness of loss and struggles that have yet to be overcome. We realize that thankfulness is not something to take for granted because we find it through a thicket of life's uncertainties. In this year's moment of Thanksgiving, I wish you warm connections that provide physical and spiritual nourishment. May you be blessed to receive whatever opens your heart to gratitude when it is most difficult to find.

1) This Sun Nov 26. K-9th grade are in Fellowship Hall for Deck the Hall Crafts Part 1. Come help create the decorations for the sanctuary. Youth Group will meet in the Youth Room to discuss Thanksgiving history and realities.

2) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive. Imagine the joy you can bring to parents who cannot afford holiday gifts when you enable them to give to their children. Please bring gently used children's books and toys for the Ecumenical Food Pantry. New/like-new stuffed animals are also needed.

Please bring donations to the RE Lobby through Dec 3. On that Sunday 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.

3) Deck the Halls - Dec 3 after RE
Join us in the sanctuary after RE to create and hang decorations. Fun for all ages and something families can do together!

An opportunity for spiritual growth.

Join us to discuss Becoming Wise, by Krista Tippett, and
related topics. “...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. Bring
a related reading of your own.

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

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Music: Sun Nov 26

A belated musical Thanksgiving greeting from your Music Director this Sunday morning at CUUC, with seasonal favorites and works connected to the holiday and its spirit.



Sunday's Music
Adam Kent, piano

Centering Music
A.D. 162
Edward MacDowell

Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2
Edvard Grieg

Variations on Yankee Doodle
Anonymous American Colonial

Opening Music
Slow Dance
Aaron Copland

Offertory
Autumn Song, Op. 37, No. 10
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Interlude
November, Op. 37, No. 11 "In the Troika"
Tchaikovsky



2017-11-16

From the Minister, Thu Nov 16

From the Minister

Please read! There are TWO important books for this year's UUA Common Read:
- Mitra Rahnema, Ed. Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry
- Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want

See HERE for more info and to order them both.

Coming Sun Apr 22: An All-Westchester UU Worship service! The congregations of First Unitarian Society of Westchester (Hastings), The UU Fellowship of Northern Westchester (Mt. Kisco), The UU Congregation of the Hudson Valley (Croton), Fourth Unitarian Society of Westchester (Mohegan Lake), and Community UU Congregation (that's us!) are planning to hold shared worship together -- at Maryknoll Center, 55 Ryder Rd, Ossining, NY (24 min from CUUC, says Google Maps). Mark your calendars!

Yours in the faith we share,
Meredith

The November issue of On the Journey explores Mindfulness. Get it at CUUC or HERE.

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.
  • November: Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains
  • December: 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.

This Week on The Liberal Pulpit

This week parts 1 and 2 of "The Mindfulness Fad" went up:
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Mindfulness. Mindfulness is a kind of remembering, remembering to be here, to be present to pay attention to this moment of life. When w bring awareness to this moment we know what we are doing and we know we are alive. It’s not so much that our fantasies, daydreams, and desires are not a natural part of life, rather it’s that we are so unaware of how much time we spend preoccupied with these thoughts. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Mythology. Bodhidharma was the semi-legendary human (470? - 532) who supposedly came from India to China and took up residence at Shaolin Temple and Monastery. His practice and teaching blended elements of Indian Buddhism and Chinese Daoism into what is now known as Zen. He is credited as not only the founder of Zen, but also of kung fu. Historically, this is highly unlikely -- hence Porcupine's question. ("Traditionally Bodhidharma is credited as founder of the martial arts at the Shaolin Temple. However, martial arts historians have shown this legend stems from a 17th-century qigong manual known as the Yijin Jing." -Wikipedia) How does mythology collapse into practice?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
Raven took her students to see Stag Sensei, who taught kung fu at Bentpine. Stag gave a little talk and showed them some of the exercises.
Then in the Founder's Glade they bowed before a large stone in the form of Bunnydharma.
Back home that evening, Porcupine asked, "Was Bunnydharma really the founder of kung fu?"
Raven said, "That depends on your mythology.
Porcupine asked, "What is your mythology, Raven?"
Raven said, "I bow."
Hotetsu's Verse
"Everybody needs to believe in something. I believe I'll have another beer." (Fear)

The believing's in the doing. The holy
Emerges from the worship. Trees
From sylvics, dendrology, forestry, timbering, carpentry.
On the question of what is really,
The steadfast practice needs not opine.
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Nov 19
RE News
Music News
From Ministerial Intern
This Week's e-Communitarian

RE News: Sun Nov 19

Lifespan Religious Education

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." - Melody Beattie

In our spiritual home, may you turn one stranger into a friend this weekend, whether at the CUUC Auction or the Thanksgiving Service.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Nov 19
Multigen Thanksgiving Service
  • Stories and drumming with a Native American guest
  • Cornbread and Cider Ritual
  • Children's Choir singing
There will be a children's song rehearsal at 9:30 a.m. in the sanctuary. 
Children can practice the chorus to the song by CLICKING HERE.

Please have children dress nicely (no jeans and casual t-shirts) to perform their song.

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

2) Food Collection This Sun
Please bring non-perishable items for the Ecumenical Food Pantry to the Thanksgiving service this Sunday.

Bring your items into the sanctuary and we will have a moment in the service to gather the items.

Especially needed: spaghetti, tomato sauce, cold cereal, tuna fish, peanut butter, canned veggies & fruit, mac and cheese.

Cash/check donations are needed at this time of year. We will be collecting those as well, or send checks to Ecumenical Food Pantry, PO Box 2037, White Plains, NY 10602.

For more information, contact: Vicky Van Wert (victoriavanwert@gmail.com)

3) Kids' Auction

4) Holiday Giving Opportunity - Gently Used Children’s Books and Toy Drive
Sun Nov 5 to Sun 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 Sun Nov 5.

On Sun 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.

5)Room for One More This Thanksgiving?
Make a place for an international student! Our congregation is again partnering with One to World to find host families to welcome students to their Thanksgiving dinners. A wonderful experience for both students and hosts! Contact Jane Dixon at lilrhodie@gmail.com.

Sincerely,  
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Mindfulness

Practice of the Week
Mindfulness

Category: Supporting Practices: observances that support and expand developing spirituality.

Adapted from James Austin, "Mindfulness," in Everyday Spiritual Practice

The experience of being mindful is not new to any of us. We may not have used the word mindfulness to describe our experience, but each waking moment requires some degree of this quality of awareness. We could not function in the world without knowing our experience from moment to moment.

Mindfulness, in this sense, is allowing our experience to be accepted into consciousness, letting us know what we are doing, providing the feedback to permit taking an action, performing a skill, or learning something new. Of course we always know on some level what we are experiencing, where we are, and what we are doing at any given time. It is also true that the degree to which we are really present in our experience varies a great deal throughout the day. There are many moments when the mind seems to be somewhere else completely!

Imagine carrying a full cup of hot tea from one room to another. You would pay attention to the cup, being aware of whether or not the tea was about to spill. You might slow down your walking speed or use two hands. The feedback of knowing what you are doing and the effect on the tea in the cup can all happen because you are present and focused in that moment.

There are also some moments when we are usually not very mindful. These moments are likely to occur when we think that what we are doing is not very interesting, or seems automatic because we have done this a thousand times before. So we let the mid drift off while we wash the dishes. “I could have done that in my sleep,” we say – and sometimes we did.

Mindfulness is a kind of remembering, remembering to be here, to be present to pay attention to this moment of life. When w bring awareness to this moment we know what we are doing and we know we are alive. It’s not so much that our fantasies, daydreams, and desires are not a natural part of life, rather it’s that we are so unaware of how much time we spend preoccupied with these thoughts.

Our mind has a mind of its own and easily wanders off into some fantasy of the future or some evaluation, judgement, or remembrance of the past. All this time, we sacrifice what is right in front of us: this present moment. If we do this repeatedly, our minds become a very busy place to live, running back and forth from past to future, while our experience of the present moment becomes shallow and unfulfilling.

We are often compulsive thinkers, never giving ourselves a rest from a constant inner conversation. In addition to our internal chatter, we receive a stream of language, read or heard. It becomes very easy to unconsciously assume that experience begins when we begin verbally describing it.

When the quality of mindfulness is stronger, we are more likely to see the process of thinking itself. In our more mindful moments we see the train of thought and its power for pulling us away from present experience. We begin to value drinking in sensory experience in a nonverbal way.

When there is too much thinking going on, it is hard to remain open and accepting of our experience. Both the outer world and our inner landscape is more lush when we are more aware. We have a more spacious mind, one which is less dismissive of nonverbal experience.

Unpleasant Experiences

Some experiences are unpleasant: intense grief, for example. When we try to avoid being with an emotion, by distracting ourselves or blotting out the experience with alcohol, we only lengthen the time it takes to work through the difficult emotion. Anger and fear have the power to take us over, to consume us. Being more mindful in this situation means we are more able to know what we are doing. We are able to step back a bit and really know that we are angry. This knowing creates a bit of space that can protect us from acting unwisely. When we are able to be with anger or fear, to hold it with our awareness even though it is unpleasant, it has less power over us.

Pain

Mindfulness practice is used in stress reduction and chronic pain clinics around the world because it has been shown that people can often lessen their suffering dramatically by becoming aware of and letting go of their resistance to the unpleasant sensations in their bodies. The automatic response to discomfort is for muscles to tense up, to want to push away the painful sensations. But tension and resistance only create more suffering. If we then add to that a mental script that supports our personal sense of suffering (thoughts of self-pity, for example), we have moved even farther away from easing our situation, by adding mental tension.

By becoming aware of these automatic responses, people can learn to relax and let go of some physical and emotional resistance to their situation. Patients report that they are surprised at how much of their suffering was caused by their resistance. When all the extras that are added on to a painful situation are stripped away, so that only the actual physical sensations are left, there can be less suffering.

Boredom

When we are patient enough to be even with our experience of boredom, we find it often transforms. We may find that the boredom was acting as a cover for some other more subtle unpleasant emotion that we did not want to experience. There may be something new to learn about ourselves if we choose not to immediately reach for a distraction, not to immediately run from the unpleasantness of boredom.

How

How do you get more mindful? See the Practices of the Week titled "Be Mindful"and "Cultivate Mindfulness."

There's also a helpful introduction to getting started with mindfulness practice: HERE.

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



From our Ministerial Intern: Thu Nov 16

Green Care, Veterans, Pine Mulch and Blueberries

I had the pleasure of spending time with children and youth in the RE program this past Sunday as part of a special program focused on honoring our veterans and learning about strategies and programs for healing visible and invisible wounds. With a nod to mindfulness, our monthly theme, we discussed how we often instinctively head to nature and the out-of-doors to cope with upsetting feelings and calm our nerves. I shared the basics of nature as a source for healing, from the immune-system bolstering and stress-reducing compounds we inhale when forest bathing to the good-for-you-bacteria that help reduce depression when we play - or work - in the dirt.
 
“Green Care” is the more user-friendly term of what is known as “horticultural therapy,” the practice of using gardens and plant-based activities for therapeutic purposes. Perhaps you have seen healing gardens incorporating a variety of scents, textures, plants and pathways on the grounds of hospitals or rehabilitation centers? Or, have experienced this directly by tending your own garden or being a Placekeeper at CUUC on occasions like Days in Place?

Beginning about seventy years ago, hospitals and programs for war veterans began including veterans as active gardeners in a variety of programs meant to support emotional and spiritual healing. As they connect to the meditative nature of gardening and become creators of peaceful places, veterans credit their observations of plant life with showing them ways that life can continue beyond their military experiences. Green Care programs like these can also help veterans cope with loneliness or isolation by connecting with them with one another, re-establishing a sense of trust, building community and fostering a sense of usefulness and purpose.

More recently, a variety of farming programs for veterans have sprung up across the country integrating vocational training and mental health support services.  Farming is a good career option for many veterans, and is a way to be physically active and re-capture the sense of being part of a group unit sharing the same experience. For veterans who chose to take on a family farm, the venture often plays a role in helping heal and strengthen the family.

In Sunday’s class, Perry shared selected portions (0-4:48 and 6:24-8:20) of a video of Veteran’s Farm in Jacksonville, FL where we heard first-hand testimony of the healing effects of Green Care from combat veterans farming blueberries and raising poultry. Check it out!

Bice Wilson shared a lesson about CUUC’s grounds, inviting everyone to become Placekeepers. With the help of other adults, the children and youth spent time tending to our inner courtyards, trimming shrubs and bamboo and raking up pine needles and leaves. Having just learned that “all waste is food,” they took the pine needles and leaves down the hillside and mulched the recently transplanted blueberry bushes near the firepit, seeding visions of a bountiful summertime harvest.

Afterwards, we enjoyed a detour and well-deserved “Place sitting” on the hillside. Do you know the pathway that leads to the Place where the stream emerges from the stone wall? Have you enjoyed the calming effect that comes from sitting out of doors there, listening mindfully and – a ha! -- hearing the sound of the water or the rustle of the leaves in the breeze?

How and where does Green Care enter into your practices of mindfulness? What peaceful Place awaits your discovery or creation?

2017-11-12

2017-18 Common Reads: Centering; Daring Democracy

In 2010, the Unitarian Universalist Association began selecting an annual Common Read. "A Common Read invites participants to read and discuss the same book in a given period of time. A Common Read can build community in our congregations and our movement by giving diverse people a shared experience, shared language, and a basis for deep, meaningful conversations."

For 2017-18, two Common Read books have been selected:

1. Mitra Rahnema, Ed. Centering: Navigating Race, Authenticity, and Power in Ministry. CLICK HERE.

This anthology, a joint project of the UU Ministers Association's Committee for Antiracism, Anti-oppression, and Multiculturalism (UUMA-CARAOMC) and Skinner House Books, is the first book to center the stories, analysis, and insight of Unitarian Universalist religious leaders of color as they explore how racial identity is made both visible and invisible in Unitarian Universalist communities.

In October 2015, a group of distinguished UU religious professionals of color gathered together in Chicago, sponsored by UUMA-CARAOMC, to embark on a radical project. The conference worked from the premise that discussions of race in Unitarian Universalism have too often presupposed a White audience and prioritized the needs, education, and emotions of the White majority. The goal was to reframe UU anti-oppression work by putting the voices, experiences and learnings of people of color at the center of the conversation. The resulting book captures the papers that were presented and the rich dialogue from the conference to share personal stories and address the challenges that religious leaders of color face in exercising power, agency, and authority in a culturally White denomination.

The editor, Rev. Mitra Rahnema, is a biracial Iranian American lifelong Unitarian Universalist. She is currently offering her ministry at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Long Beach, California. Prior to Long Beach she served communities in Grosse Point, Michigan; Mission Viejo, California; and Kansas City, Kansas. She is currently a member of the UUMA-CARAOMC. She has dedicated her life toward building vibrant and engaged anti-oppressive communities.

STUDY GUIDE (28 pp.)

2. Frances Moore Lappé and Adam Eichen, Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want. CLICK HERE.

This optimistic book on the importance of democracy itself examines the anti-democracy movement that led to the Trump presidency, then offers a vision and call to action to save the democracy we thought we had and to take our civic life to a place it has never been. What do we do now?
Organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

With our democracy in crisis, many Americans are frightened and uncertain. So, the legendary activist Frances Moore Lappé, and organizer-scholar Adam Eichen teamed up to tell the underreported story of a "movement of movements" arising to tackle the roots of the crisis. The authors view the Trump presidency as a symptom of a shocking anti-democracy movement and expose the events that drove us to this crisis. But their focus is on solutions: how people from all backgrounds, committed to an array of social-justice causes, are creating a canopy of hope, what Lappé and Eichen call the "democracy movement." The arising democracy movement's innovative and inspiring strategies are enabling millions of Americans to feel part of something big, historic, and positive.

Democracy is not only possible but essential to meet the most basic human needs for power, meaning, and connection; joining the democracy movement is thus a daring and noble undertaking calling each of us.

STUDY GUIDE (31 pp.)

For past Common Reads, 2010-11 through 2016-17: CLICK HERE