CUUC

CUUC

2018-01-18

From the Minister, Thu Jan 18

Twenty-seven intrepid CUUCers gathered after the Sunday service on Jan 14 to discuss the Statement of Conscience adopted at General Assembly, and whether our congregation should also adopt it.

While the group has no official status, they did suggest a support some amendments:

Amendment #1. Replace lines 220-21 with: "Look for opportunities to invest the congregation's money in socially responsible investment vehicles." (0 opposed).

Amendment #2. At line 206, replace "Assess" with "Examine." (1 opposed).

Amendment #3. At line 227, after "housing" replace the comma with a semi-colon and insert the word "opposing". (0 opposed)

Amendment #4. Insert a new bullet point between lines 214 and 215: "Ensure equitable compensation and respectful treatment of all consultants, contractors, and sub-contractors working for the congregation." (0 opposed)

Also proposed, but not supported: Delete the section consisting of lines 164-202. (1 in favor, 13 opposed).

See the Statement of Conscience, "Escalating Economic Inequity" HERE. (This version does not reflect the supported amendments.)

Further amendments still to be considered are posted as comments to the post HERE. You can also add a comment to this post to propose an amendment.

I love democracy! When UUs engage together in deliberative process, it's about the most fun I ever have in public. I get passionate about it -- and sometimes maybe I seem a little cranky, but that's part of the rough and tumble of hashing out issues with minds that are different from mine and therefore expand mine. Make no mistake: I'm having a great time! There is a kind of community that comes into existence when we meet in the space of democratic process -- ready to share our thinking, ready to be persuaded to change that thinking, and ready to yield lovingly to the majority even when we remain unpersuaded. Democracy IS community, and in that wondrous space all our differences are accepted even as our common cause is constructed. It's truly beautiful.

Be a part of the next deliberative meeting coming up soon to consider further proposed amendments. Stay tuned!

Keep up the good work!
Meredith

Check These Out!
  • The Common Reads for 2017-18 (yes, there are TWO): HERE
  • On the Journey: the January issue explores Resilience. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) was off on Jan 9 and resumes on Jan 16. The TCC takes me to a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Jan: The Cafe inside the Barnes and Noble at Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 680 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
  • Feb: The TCC comes to Irvington! Specific location TBA.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

Practice of the Week

Sewing. In the three years of disruptive predicaments, I made eight pieced jackets. Always as I stitched, I had an intuitive feeling that, though chaos exists, it need not define my life. Outside the sewing room, the twitching and fretting subsided. Any creative activity, practiced with intentionality and without concern for outcome or gain, evokes the spirit. Whether it be poetry, handcrafts, or music-making, there is a creative activity that speaks to every soul and has the power to heal and strengthen. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Make Sense. If practice does you good, then wouldn't practice make you more good -- i.e., better -- than people who don't practice? Unless maybe those others just naturally have the virtues that we who practice are trying to acquire? That must be it. We're the remedial class, trying to catch up with those others who are perfectly beautiful and wonderful without having to practice. Even so, those others occasionally need some inspiration. How can we help provide them with some? Just try to be a sensible turkey.

Case
One evening Raven took her perch on the Assembly Oak and said, "I worked with Jackrabbit Roshi for a long time, and there were certain things in his teaching that troubled me. I never asked about them, and finally I just came to the end and left. I think now that if I had spoken up sooner, it might have helped us both. So now I would ask you, is there anything in our program that troubles you?"
There was a long silence. Finally Turkey, a visitor that evening, spoke up. "I've been wondering," she said, "why it is that you don't have more songbirds in your community."
Raven said, "Maybe they're content just to inspire us from the trees."
Turkey asked, "How can they be inspired?"
Raven said, "Make sense."
Verse
Theirs to sing, flash color, beyond all sense.
Ours to plod, grind,
Justify our margins, rationalize our punctuation.
These too are pretty gifts, and we give them
As the finch gives hers.
Even so.
Is not this specialization an affront
To both song and reason?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Sewing/Needlework

Practice of the Week
Sewing/Needlework

Category: Might Be Your Thing. The practices here are not for everyone -- but one of them may be just the thing for you! Any of these might also be, for you, in the "Occasional" category, but are listed here because they are good candidates for regular, central practices.

from L. Annie Foerster, "Meditation by Hand," in Everyday Spiritual Practice, adapted, abridged.

Needlepointing, the drawing of pictures in wool on a canvass ground, has been, for me, a spiritual practice not unlike meditation. The cadence of the needle entering and exiting the canvas is a soothing heartbeat, releasing me from my own body. The wool yarn is a tactile reflection, rough and strong, tying me to the physical world. The sensuous colors are as healing as a rainbow, weaving in and out of the mesh, evoking the spiritual dimension. The varied patterns and pictures that emerge are silent witnesses to the act of co-creation. The discipline of needlepointing, like the practice of staring at a candle or counting breaths, focuses the mind, making it more preceptive, less scattered.

I have discovered that working a segment of needlepoint at meetings helps me be more attentive, les likely to interrupt another speaker, more thoughtful in my own responses. The steady rhythm of the work kept my mind steady as well, kept me from jumpint to conclusions or misunderstanding another point of view.

Through needlepoint meditation, my life was emerging day by day as smooth and rhythmical as the needlepointing itself. Then I was tripped by a temporary crisis. Just when I might have needed their comfort most, my needle and yarns were difficult to take up, no longer soothed me, didn’t focus my thoughts or give me pleasure.

I put my needlepointing away. At meetings, my restless fingers tapped on the table. My empty hands massaged each other, attempting to console one another, to no avail. My restless and fidgety body reflected the feverish activity of my brain, which was seeking a solution to my problems, turning over impossible resolutions, never at rest.

My silent meditation practice, twice a day, continued, helping me have courage to plough through the storms of crisis and mudslides of everyday life. But I missed the additional spiritual grounding the needlework had given me.

One day, with a block of free time, I felt an unfamiliar urge to begin a quilt. I began cutting and arranging pieces of cloth. The fragments reflected my disjointed thinking; the mess I made flinging cottons about the sewing table matched the messiness of my life.

The project became an obsession. Every free moment I could find was spent in the sewing room, cutting and piecing, laying out designs and fitting them together. Twenty-seven different fabrics and hundred of tiny pieces were sewn into an emerging pattern. My frenzy of fabric and threads allowed no negative thoughts, no despair, no doubts, no judgments.

On the day I held up the completed garment, I felt a familiar sense of peace. I was as calm as I had been when was needlepointing, as whole as when my life was not burdened by conflict. I understood bodily that I can make order out of chaos – in my life as well as in my sewing.

In the three years of disruptive predicaments, I made eight pieced jackets. Always as I stitched, I had an intuitive feeling that, though chaos exists, it need not define my life. Outside the sewing room, the twitching and fretting subsided.

Any creative activity, practiced with intentionality and without concern for outcome or gain, evokes the spirit. Whether it be poetry, handcrafts, or music-making, there is a creative activity that speaks to every soul and has the power to heal and strengthen.

Needlepointing had been a social meditation, one I could do in company, one that would help me listen attentively, but not get in the way of my participation. During my crisis, I needed solitude. Cutting and sewing requires a dedicated space and more room than a lap, so it forced me to be alone and allowed me to turn inward.

Some recommendations:

Try not to be concerned with how much you have accomplished or how much there is to be done. Stay in the moment of creation – let it fill you and feed. You. Let yourself feel the colors, hear the sounds, discover the meanings of your medium. Allow your creation to be part of yourself and yourself to be part of your creation.

Be as good as you can be, but do not judge the outcome. This is not easy: we tend to equate our own worth with false comparisons or become disgusted with our mistakes. Let the ripping out of inaccuracies – the erasing of words or the remolding of clay – be as creative as the rest of the process. There is joy in this re-creating if you let go of impatience.

When your medium is not right for a particular moment, allow yourself to choose a new one – or let a new medium choose you. Be willing to put away an unfinished project to start a new one. One day it will be right to return to it.

Your creation will let you know when it is finished if you listen with your heart. When completion occurs, celebrate it: display it, share it, give it away. Celebration is part of the spiritual practice – a way to honor your creative spirit without arrogance or judgment.

Creativity requires imagination, and the faith that what can be imagined can be made. In creativity we are most alive.

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



RE News: Sun Jan 21

Lifespan Religious Education

Last Sunday, CUUCer Amy Nathan shared a story with the children about the integration of a Baltimore amusement park, which coincided with the “I Have a Dream” speech. Amy has written a book about the historical moment when black and white children shared a ride on the carousel. After the story, we engaged the CUUC children in a discussion of how racism still plays out in our society today. Then the children filled out carousel horse cards to share the unfairness that they want to change and what their work will be to help make this a reality. These were hung from our "Freedom-go-round." This Sunday, adults are invited to add to our justice carousel in the RE foyer, so look for it when you come to Chili Brunch. We can be the new Freedom Riders that are needed to end inequality and injustice.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Jan 21
K-5th & Youth Group start in the sanctuary for Music for All Ages and Wonder Box Story.
6th-7th starts in the kitchen for Chili Brunch.
8th-9th starts in their classroom.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Book of Ruth
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: India (Jainism-meditation)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Joseph 1
6th-7th – Chili Brunch
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Identity: Unitarian Universalist Values
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) Chili Brunch This Sun
More chili is needed!
Support the 6th-7th grade social justice fundraiser by contributing a crock pot of chili. Please email Liz Suvanto at elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com if you are able to bring chili this Sunday.

Join us for the heat of chili and the warmth of community.

Cost: $5 per Adult, $3 per child, $15 max per family.

3) Faith Development Friday Tomorrow Jan 19
Please RSVP to cuucevents@gmail.com so we know how much pizza to order and the number of participants for each of the three groups.

6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

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

You may also join this workshop online via Zoom videoconferencing by going to https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.

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

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

4) Children's Choir Signup
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will be leading a CUUC Children's Choir. There will be rehearsals two Sundays a month from 11:30-12 to prepare to sing at a service in the sanctuary.

This is a great opportunity to explore spiritual development through music and develop music proficiency.

Please register your children for choir by emailing me at dlre@cucwp.org.

5) Neighboring Faiths Experience
Are you interested in learning more about different religions?
Would you like to share your experiences and knowledge of your faith background?
Join the Neighboring Faiths class to explore your own faith development as you support our 6th-7th graders. Contact me at dlre@cucwp.org for more information.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-01-16

Music: Sun Jan 21


In our Music for All Ages this Sunday we remember a famous incident of racial injustice that lead to a groundbreaking moment in civil rights history. In 1939, Marian Anderson was one of the United States' most successful classical vocalists, but the Daughters of the American Revolution had refused to permit Anderson, an African-American woman, to sing to an integrated audience at their Constitution Hall. Through the support of first-lady Eleanor Roosevelt, Anderson instead gave an open-air performance from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial to a crowd of more than 75,000 people. Her first song was  "America" with the powerful closing stanza: "Let freedom ring." (You can hear the broadcast of her concert HERE.) Music by African-American composers is reflected throughout this Sunday's musical selections. The works derive from the worlds of jazz and ragtime, and feature popular favorites by Scott Joplin and Duke Ellington. Valerie Capers, the first blind graduate of The Juilliard School, has been a frequent musical guest at CUUC. "Billie's Song"—an allusion to Billie Holiday—is from one of her pedagogical collections.
Click here to see part of  Music Director Adam Kent’s recital in honor of the Black Lives Matter movement at CUUC last year, including several of Joplin’s rags: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5uJYr2S1_4c


Music for All Ages with Adam Kent:
          Marian Anderson's 1939 Concert at the Lincoln Memorial


Opening Music:
          Billie’s Song
                                                Valerie Capers

Offertory:
          Birmingham Breakdown
                                                Duke Ellington

Postlude:
          The Entertainer
                                                Scott Joplin

2018-01-11

RE News: Sun Jan 14

Lifespan Religious Education

And the seasons they go round and round/And the painted ponies go up and down/We're captive on the carousel of time/We can't return we can only look behind/From where we came/And go round and round and round/In the circle game -Joni Mitchell

Whether in our personal lives or the culture surrounding us, time does not stand still and change comes. However, we do circle back to themes we dealt with previously. We are just in a different moment in time, so our view is changed as we come around again to that topic. Such is the case with racial justice. We are still grappling with the issues of racism that have been around for ages. Our questions, however, are framed somewhat differently, as we look behind from where we came. We understand something differently, even if we are still dealing with the same issue. Our hope is that we can create lasting justice, as we travel up and down in the circle game. This Sunday in RE, Amy Nathan shares the story from her book about the Baltimore carousel that became a national symbol for change. Children will consider what change still needs to happen and how they might play a part in that, as new Freedom Riders.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Jan 14 - Racial Justice Sunday
K-7th grades are in Fellowship Hall for our special racial justice program.

Author Amy Nathan will show slides and tell the story of the integration of a Baltimore carousel that coincided with Rev. Dr. King giving his "I Have a Dream" speech. We will use the carousel story and imagery to reflect on the action we can take now to create change. Join us to make the CUUC Justice Carousel.

8th-12th grades attend the service focused on Unitarian Universalist racial identity and justice work. Chandeerah Davis, our Youth Program Coordinator, will be giving a reflection during the service, along with members of the Racial Justice Team and Rev. LoraKim Joyner. The youth will gather after the service to debrief and respond to "My work for freedom is..."

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

2) Children's Choir Signup
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will be leading a CUUC Children's Choir. There will be rehearsals two Sundays a month from 11:30-12 to prepare to sing at a service in the sanctuary.

This is a great opportunity to explore spiritual development through music and develop music proficiency.

Please register your children for choir by emailing me at dlre@cucwp.org.

3) Neighboring Faiths Experience
Are you interested in learning more about different religions?
Would you like to share your experiences and knowledge of your faith background?
Join the Neighboring Faiths class to explore your own faith development as you support our 6th-7th graders. Contact me at dlre@cucwp.org for more information.

4) Faith Development Friday - Jan 19
Please RSVP to cuucevents@gmail.com so we know how much pizza to order and the number of participants for each of the three groups.

6:30 Pizza dinner
7:15 Spiritual centering
7:30 Programs that include…

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

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

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

5) Chili Brunch Jan 21
The heat of chili and the warmth of community.

Hosted by the 6th-7th grade class to support their social justice projects.
Please email me if you would like to bring a pot of chili to support the class.

Cost: $5 per Adult, $3 per child, $15 max per family.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-01-10

Music: Sun Jan 14


In recognition of MLK Day, Sunday morning’s musical selections include works by composers of African descent or connected to African-American traditions.

Hale Smith’s “Faces of jazz” is a collection of teaching pieces for piano students, designed to introduce jazz rhythms and harmonies. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was an English composer of African ancestry who is especially remembered for his collection of “Twenty-Four Negro Melodies”, first published in 1905. These solo piano works use melodies connected to the African continent, the Caribbean, or the world of American Spirituals, and cast them as romantic-style solo piano pieces. “Take Nabandji” is a Southeast African tune, and the Bamboula is a traditional African dance popular in the West Indies.

May Aufderheide is remembered as one of the premiere female exponents of Ragtime. Her “Dusty” rag of 1908 was such a hit, that her father,  an Indianapolis-based loan broker, inaugurated his own music publishing firm!

Click here for a preview of “Dusty” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35ZQcSRwHkg


Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Take Nabandji                        
                                 Southeast African, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
From “Faces of Jazz”,
            My Scarf Is Yellow; The Broken Saxophone; Scrambled Eggs and Ernie; That’s Mike; An Asphodel for Marcel; Goin’ in a Hurry; Come to My Party
Hale Smith

Opening Music:
The Bamboula
                                                West Indian, arr. by Coleridge-Taylor

Offertory:
Dusty              
                                                May Aufderheide

2018-01-05

From the Minister, Thu Jan 11

White fragility is a condition of white supremacists like Richard Spencer, David Duke, and those people who marched in Charlottesville with tiki torches to defend confederate monuments. Not us Unitarian Universalists. Right?

Well, speaking just for myself, I am complicit, and sometimes I do have a defensive reaction about that. On the other hand, in a lot of ways we Unitarian Universalists also have a good head start to build on.

We aren’t reactive against people of color in positions of leadership – we don’t have a presumption of white authority that that challenges. Nor do we presume white centrality -- we go to and enjoy movies in which people of color drive the action but are not in stereotypical roles.

We understand that group membership is a significant part of who one is, and we acknowledge that access to jobs, housing, and education remains unequal between racial groups.

It doesn’t bother us when a fellow white person declines to provide agreement with our own racial perspective. We hold no expectation of white solidarity.

We are glad to get feedback about any behavior of ours that might have a racist impact, regardless of intent. We don’t cling to a cherished notion of white racial innocence, and we understand the concept of negligence: that a person can be blameworthy for harm done even if they don’t intend any harm. A swimming pool owner doesn’t intend for the neighbor’s kid to drown in it, but absence of intent to harm isn’t enough. They’ve got to take positive action to make sure the harm doesn’t happen – put up a high wall around the pool. We understand our obligation to learn what words and actions are hurtful and avoid them because we know it’s not enough to intend no harm. We exercise due diligence to avoid unwittingly doing harm. This diligence includes actively seeking out and reading essays and stories by people of color so that we better grasp what harmful impacts we might have regardless of our intent.

We also appreciate hearing people of color talk directly about their own racial perspectives. At the same time, we don’t demand that people of color tell their stories and answer questions about their racial experiences, because that would be expecting people of color to serve white people.

We aren’t bent out of shape by the suggestion that our viewpoint comes from a racialized frame of reference. We aren’t reactive about such challenges to our objectivity.

Right?

Well, yes. That is right — mostly. I like that about us. We Unitarian Universalists do pretty much understand those things. We’ve got some work to do – I have some work to do – to understand some of those things more fully and to grow further less reactive to certain challenges, to grow less complicit in sustaining the systems of our white privilege. But from what I see – and I know my vision has a racial bias and isn’t entirely trustworthy, but from what I see – we’re well ahead of the curve of white Americans generally.

Our faith, then, calls us to do two things: continue our own work and get ourselves even farther ahead of the curve, learn more, become even more racially resilient and even less reactive, less complicit, even better allies of people of color. Second, our faith calls us, as our congregation’s vision statement says, to be a sanctuary without walls that promotes diversity. Outside of these walls, we can do a better job of challenging the presumptions that are still too prevalent in our country at large – presumptions of white centrality, white authority, white innocence, and white objectivity. Unitarian Universalism IS a force doing that in the world – AND we can do it more.

Keep up the good work!
Meredith

Check These Out!
  • The Common Reads for 2017-18 (yes, there are TWO): HERE
  • Statement of Conscience: Escalating Economic Inequity. Read the statement: HERE. Do you agree with all of it? Or would you amend, delete, or add parts? Please leave a comment HERE.
  • On the Journey: the January issue explores Resilience. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) was off on Jan 9 and resumes on Jan 16. The TCC takes me to a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Jan: The Cafe inside the Barnes and Noble at Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 680 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
  • Feb: The TCC comes to Irvington! Specific location TBA.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

New on The Liberal Pulpit

New posts include part 2 of the "Embodiment" sermon:


And the first in a projected series of posts reflecting on the essays in the Common Read book, Centering


Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Face Ecological Reality. The first big step on the spiritual journey ahead is to come face-to-face with the truth of our ecological problems. This shifts our perspective and priorities, but it can be painful. Just as the loss of a single field caused my children to grieve, when we fully grasp what we as a species have done to our only home it can be heart-wrenching. If you are not crying a few tears or losing some sleep over these issues then you haven’t truly faced them. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Veneration and Worship. Not both. Not neither. Exactly one. Pick one -- or one picks you. Do you look up or down?

Case
Woodpecker said, "I'm like Owl, still thinking about our visit to the Little Church in the Grotto. I wonder, what's the difference between veneration and worship?"
Raven said, "One makes your tummy warm, the other doesn't."
Woodpecker asked, "Which is which?"
Raven said, "Not my business."
Verse
I worship as an intransitive verb.
I venerate transitively.
Everything is one thing;
Every thing is another.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Face Ecological Reality

Practice of the Week
Face Ecological Reality

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


Nearby my home is a discount supermarket. It's a boxy thing with a big parking lot, and it looks pretty much like thousands of others of its kind. It sells all sorts of discounted foods, processed and shipped from unknown far away factories, along with selected cheap toys, clothes, and household gadgets mostly from China. It sits next to a pond, originally a reservoir for a now-defunct water treatment plant. Across from the reservoir used to sit a century-old farmhouse.

Where the supermarket stands used to be a small grassy field. If you stood facing away from the road looking toward the pond, the area seemed almost untouched. Trees that surrounded the pond shielded the farmhouse from sight. When my children were little, we discovered a family of geese that returned to that field near the pond every year to build a nest and raise a brood of goslings. We delighted in seeing the fuzzy babies grow into awkward half-feathered youths.

One day bulldozers began clearing the ground. The farmhouse was torn down, the field dug up, the trees ripped out, the grass paved over. We never saw the geese again, the pond is now littered with trash, and all that’s left of the field are a few scraggly weeds tough enough to survive a regular diet of exhaust fumes and road salt. Less than a quarter mile away stands an empty building that formerly housed a supermarket.

This loss is personal. It’s also symbolic of millions of losses around the world. To say that we are destroying the planet is a cliché – and after hearing it yet again, the daily obligations of our lives return, and we set aside the latest doom-and-gloom report and go to work, cook our dinner, and walk the dog. The true magnitude and severity of the issues facing us gets lost amid our busy lives.

Industrial civilization is killing the planet. Civilization itself may fall; the Earth may be uninhabitable for our great-grandchildren. Let that sink in. Imagine the human suffering between now and then if that future unfolds. We are consuming resources faster than the Earth can renew them, and poisoning the planet. The “Fertile Crescent” – the land where civilization began – is now mostly desert, incapable of sustaining its population without resources imported from elsewhere. Ocean “dead zones” are vast, glaciers are melting, forests are clear-cut.
“This way of living – industrial civilization – is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread exploitation and degradation of the natural world.” (Derrick Jackson)
Until very recently, we could walk away from this degradation and move on to the next place to exploit, the next virgin wilderness.

It's hard to grasp. We do not see ocean species die off from our beach chairs. The rainforest and arctic are very far away. Toxic radioactive waste will contaminate the earth for more millions of years than we can comprehend. Humans evolved to connect much more with individual human-interest stories (and cute goslings) than with abstract scientific reports and graphs. Moreover, scientific inquiry is complicated and messy and requires technical expertise to understand. Thus, the average non-scientist uncomprehendingly slips into denial.

The first big step on the spiritual journey ahead is to come face-to-face with the truth of our ecological problems. This shifts our perspective and priorities, but it can be painful. Just as the loss of a single field caused my children to grieve, when we fully grasp what we as a species have done to our only home it can be heart-wrenching. If you are not crying a few tears or losing some sleep over these issues then you haven’t truly faced them.

Can we open our hearts? To step out of denial is to be vulnerable, tender, open, exposed. We mourn the loss of a single tree, grieve for goslings, for rainforests, for oceans. We grieve for the Earth and for ourselves.

Practices

1. Earth’s Story in Miniature. Find a place in your area like the paved-over field and polluted pond: somewhere that used to be wild but has been destroyed to make way for human commerce. Spend time observing how things are now. In your journal, describe how the place used to be. What gifts did the place offer to humans and non-humans before it was transformed? What value did it have that cannot be expressed in dollars?

2. Parking Lot Meditation. Drive to a shopping center during business hours and park somewhere near the edge of the lot, facing the center. For 10-15 mins, simply observe: note people’s comings and goings, vehicles driving in and out. Then close your eyes and imagine the land as it was before humans existed. What would it look like? Form a vivid, detailed picture. Then open your eyes and spend 10 mins more observing. This time hold your imaginings of the pre-human era and the current reality together in your mind. Reflect on how these two images interact.

3. From Nature to Machine. Decorate your altar with objects from nature such as stones, shells, bark, acorns, leaves, driftwood, or found feathers. Over the course of a week, remove one object at a time and replace it with a manufactured product (e.g., a plastic bottle, piece of paper, cell phone, car key, pen, etc.) As your altar changes, reflect on how the sense of sacred space changed with the replacement of each item.

Group Activities

Name Your Fears. Each person in the group names at least one fear about the future related to ecological issues. Think not only of your fears for all of humanity but your personal fears as well. Be specific. After each person speaks, the group responds with, “We acknowledge your fear.” At the end, the leader offers an appropriate closing, acknowledging the fears of the whole group. The group sits together in silence for 7 mins before ending the session.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • How has the world changed since you were a child? Is the place where you grew up cleaner or dirtier now? What encroachments on previously wild land have you seen?
  • Have you ever heard a news story about the environment that scared you? What was it?
  • If the Earth itself could speak to us, what would it say?
* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practice of the Week Index"

2018-01-04

From the Minister, Thu Jan 4

Last June, Unitarian Universalists adopted a Statement of Conscience on Income Inequality. (Read it HERE).

Should our congregation endorse this statement? Should we revise it, and then adopt it?

I suspect that we aren't all in perfect agreement about every provision of the Statement of Conscience. I'd love for us to have meaty, meaningful debate.

We will have an opportunity for engaging each others' thoughts on the various questions raised by the Statement of Conscience -- on Sun Jan 14, after the worship service.

Real debate! Democracy in action! What CAN we do to address the growing income inequality in the US? What is ours to do?

We need to know which provisions are the most important ones to debate. Please leave a comment on the post HERE and let us know what deletions, additions, or changes you'd like to suggest.

Plan to attend the Forum/Debate after the service on Sun Jan 14. There we'll have a chance to express pro and con views on amendments on specific provisions of the Statement.

You may find it helpful to review the sermon of Sun Nov 12 on "Income Inequality": START HERE.

Thank you!
Meredith
Check These Out!
  • The Common Reads for 2017-18 (yes, there are TWO): HERE
  • Statement of Conscience: Escalating Economic Inequity. Read the statement: HERE. Do you agree with all of it? Or would you amend, delete, or add parts? Please leave a comment HERE.
  • On the Journey: the January issue explores Resilience. Pick up a copy at CUUC, or view it HERE.
Let's Chat

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) is CANCELED for Tue Jan 9.
Every other Tuesday, I'll be at a coffee shop from 3-5pm -- for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
  • Jan: The Cafe inside the Barnes and Noble at Vernon Hills Shopping Center, 680 White Plains Rd, Eastchester
  • Feb: The TCC comes to Irvington! Specific location TBA.
Drop by if you can! You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit your home. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.

New on The Liberal Pulpit

New posts include: the conclusion of last November's "Income Inequality" sermon, the beginning of December's "Embodiment" sermon, and the 34 questions of the "Questions" service.
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Take the Resilience Inventory. Do you constantly learn from experience? Have good relationships? Express feelings honestly? Sit in silence? Practice acceptance? Have self-esteem? Practice forgiveness? Have emotional flexibility, Find purpose? Expect things to work out well? Assessing yourself in these areas in these areas will show you where to focus in building your resilience. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

First Person Singular. A couplet from FitzGerald's translation of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131): "Some little talk awhile of me and thee, /there seemed -- and then no more of thee and me." A different translation renders Khayyam's Persian as: "Behind the veil there is much talk about us, why /When the veil falls, neither you remain nor I." We do talk about ourselves. I talk about me, I talk about you, you talk about you, you talk about me, we all talk about each other. And yet there is no one there. And yet it would be foolish to try to get through a day without a sense of self and others. And yet that's an illusion. And yet necessary. And yet, and yet. Also, wolverine's are extraordinarily fierce; how is fierceness relevant?

Case
Wolverine came by unannounced one evening in early autumn.
"Hello," said Raven, "I'm Raven."
Wolverine said, "The Roshi is meeting this one for the first time."
Raven said, "Is that so? What happened to the first person singular?"
Wolverine said, "No-self has appeared."
Raven said, "Could've fooled me."
Verse
To watch a movie, two pointers
Moviegoers follow effortlessly:
Remember it's an illusion, and
Forget it's an illusion.
Let yourself be taken in, and
Step back out again.
Be in that reality, while
Knowing it isn't real.
To have a self, the same two pointers.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News for Sun Jan 7
RE News
Music News
The e-Communitarian
Practice: Take the Resilience Inventory

RE News: Sun Jan 7

Lifespan Religious Education

Happy New Year! I am looking forward to the time we will have together in 2018. What covenant will you make as a family in the New Year? Individual resolutions have a low success rate, but what if you create an intention as a family and remind each other of the commitment? If you decide to try this exercise, I would be curious to hear what you decided to do as a family for 2018, or at least for January. So, will it be keeping the car clean, not raising voices to each other, going on an adventure, eating dinner together often, or something else? May your family resolutions bring added joy and fulfillment to your lives.

Please see the following five (5) announcements:

1) This Sun Jan 7
K-5th start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship that includes an offertory for a social justice cause.
6th-12th start in their classrooms.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Hearth and Home
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Japan (Shintoism)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Jacob
6th-7th – Judaism Intro
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Good vs. Evil
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) 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.

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

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

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

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

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

5) Chili Brunch Jan 21
The heat of chili and the warmth of community.

Hosted by the 6th-7th grade class to support their social justice projects.
Cost: $5 per Adult, $3 per child, $15 max per family.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-01-02

Music: Sun Jan 7


Spiritual resilience is embodied in a variety of ways in this Sunday’s musical selections at CUUC. Following an incomparable career as a barn-storming virtuoso pianist showman, Franz Liszt focused increasingly on spirituality as he matured, eventually taking minor orders in the Roman Catholic Church. The second of his “Two Legends” for solo piano relates the tale of St Francis of Paola who crossed the Strait of Messina to Sicily treading upon the waters, when he and his traveling companions were refused passage in a commercial vessel. Liszt described the story in a letter to Richard Wagner thus: "On his outspread cloak he strides firmly, steadfastly, over the tumultuous waves - his left hand holding burning coals, his right hand giving the sign of blessing, His gaze is directed upwards, where the word Charitas surrounded by an aureole lights his way.”

J. S. Bach’s boundless Lutheran faith is on display in an introspective chorale-prelude arranged for piano by Ferruccio Busoni, and the poignant African-American Spiritual “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” is performed as a set of variations for piano by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Finally, the morning’s Offertory speaks not to any overtly religious theme, but provides testimony of Ludwig van Beethoven’s imperturbable resilience in the face of the cruelest of disabilities. His Bagatelle in b minor is among his last works for solo piano—music written from a state of near-total deafness.

Read on for programming details.

Visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_GcDsqkOcjI for a live performance of Liszt’s Legende No. 2 by Alfred Brendel.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Deux Légendes
            II. St. Francis of Paola Walking on the Waves
                                                            Franz Liszt

Opening Music:
“I Call On Thee, Lord”
                                    J. S. Bach, arr. by Ferruccio Busoni

Offertory:
Bagatelle in B Minor, Op. 126, No. 4
                                                Ludwig van Beethoven

Interlude:
Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child
                        Traditional African-American, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor


Take the Resilience Inventory

Practice of the Week
Take a Resilience Inventory

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.

From First Unitarian Church of Albuquerque, NM, drawing on:
Al Siebert, “13 Ways to Develop Your Resiliency";
Brad Waters, "10 Traits of Emotionally Resilient People,";
a Harvard Medical School symposium, HERE.

Take this resilience inventory. Read the qualities listed below. For each quality, mark a + (plus) by the ones at which you world rate yourself as reasonably proficient. Mark a ^ (up arrow) by the ones in which you don’t feel proficient and want to work on.

_____ Constantly learn from experience. James Joyce said, “A man of genius makes no mistakes; his errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.”
  • Consider some difficult experiences you havehad in your life. Ask yourself: What is the lesson to be learned here? Think of a key lesson you have learned from a stressful experience that you later applied to another situation.
_____ Have good friendships, loving relationships. Talking with friends and family diminishes the
impact of difficulties and increases feelings of self-worth, self-confidence and connectedness.
  • Think of a time when talking to someone made a dramatic difference to you as you were going through a difficult situation.
_____ Express feelings honestly. Highly resilient people can express anger, love, dislike,
appreciation, grief – the entire range of emotions honestly and openly. They can be vulnerable with
those they trust and can also suppress their feelings when they believe it best to do so.
  • Think of a time when were you able to express your feelings clearly and openly.
_____ Willing to sit in silence. We are masters of distraction: TV, overeating, abusing drugs, gossip,
etc. We all react differently; some shut down, others ramp up. Somewhere in the middle is
mindfulness, one of the oldest forms of healing and resilience building.
  • How well are you able to be mindful? What might you do to improve this quality in your life?
_____ Practice acceptance. Pain is painful, stress is stressful, and healing takes time. When we’re in
the middle of it, we want the pain to go away. Acceptance is not about giving up, it’s about leaning in
to experience the full range of emotions, trusting that we will bounce back.
  • How well are you able to accept your emotions when you experience a major setback?
____ Have solid self-esteem. Self-esteem is how you feel about yourself. It acts as a buffer against
hurtful statements and destructive events. It is based on inner factors such as attributes, values and
principles rather than external factors such as job title, income level, physical attributes, and others’
opinions.
  • Complete this sentence: 3 things I really like about myself are:...
_____ Practice forgiveness. There is a strong correlation between forgiveness, hope, and
depression. We may not forget what happened, but we can forgive.
  • Think of a situation when you have forgiven someone (or yourself), and that forgiveness has enriched your life in some way.
_____ Mentally and emotionally flexible; comfortable with contradictory personality qualities.
Being both strong and gentle; sensitive and tough; logical and intuitive; serious and playful, etc. are a
few.
  • List a couple of contradictory personality qualities you have.
_____ Find purpose or meaning. Viktor Frankl said that to live happily, humans don’t require the
absence of suffering, but “the call of potential meaning.”
Recall a time when you found and focused
  • on the meaningful parts of a misfortune or struggle you experienced.
_____ Expect things to work out well. Look for the joy. Research shows that people who cultivate
positive emotion generally deal much better with adversity.
  • Find new things to be grateful for, focus on the good, exercise, meditate, do random acts of kindness. If you already practice some of these, think about how they affect your life. Which other practices might you consider adding to your life?
* * *
For list of all weekly practices: "Practices of the Week Index"