CUUC

CUUC

2018-02-27

Music: Sun Mar 4

Sensitive, introspective utterances from Johannes Brahms’ final years are featured in the morning’s Centering Music, performed this week by CUUC Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas. Our own Kim Force treats us to “Beautiful City”, lyrics for which are provided below. The CUUC Choir is on hand as well, with timeless evocations of travel, adventure, and homecoming. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Intermezzo in E flat major, Op. 117, No. 1
Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118, No. 2
Johannes Brahms


Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Homeward Bound   
Marta Keen, arr. by Jay Althouse
     Mary Lane Cobb and Ted Kuczinski, soloists

Offertory: Kim Force, soprano
Beautiful City*
                                                Stephen Schwartz

Anthem:
The Road Not Taken  
 Music by Andrea Klouse, poem by Robert Frost  


* Lyrics:
Out of the ruins and rubble
Out of the smoke
Out of our night of struggle
Can we see a ray of hope?
One pale thin ray reaching for the day...

We can build a beautiful city
Yes, we can(Yes, we can)
We can build a beautiful city
Not a city of angels
But we can build a city for all

We may not reach the ending
But we can start
Slowly but surely mending
Brick by brick
Heart by heart
Now, maybe now
We start learning how

When your trust is all but shattered
When your faith is all but killed
You can give up bitter and battered
Or you can slowly start to build! 

2018-02-22

From the Minister, Thu Feb 22

Kudos and deep gratitude to Creighton Cray and everyone who has been involved in strategic planning for the last year. Creighton and his team have been talking to people from every sector and level of our congregation and have carefully identified four areas for us to work on. The one-page version (HERE) points us in some general directions -- it's now up to us to work out the details that will move CUUC in those directions.

I'm very impressed with Strategic Planning Committee's work. The four goal areas tell us what we most need to focus on if we're going to realize our vision -- as adopted last June: to become "a welcoming 'sanctuary without walls' that promotes diversity, fellowship, spiritual growth, and inspiration, while committing to people and the planet through social action and service." The thoughtfulness and commitment evident in work Creighton and his team have done is representative of the spirit that has permeated this wonderful congregation for over 100 years!

In love,
Meredith

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

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) 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.
  • Feb 6, 13, 20, 27: The TCC is in Irvington! Black Cat Cafe, 45 W. Main St., Irvington.
  • Mar: Rye: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Apr: Eastchester: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center
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

The Liberal Pulpit is a Youtube Channel! Check it out, and subscribe! HERE

This week's posts include all three parts of the Feb 11 sermon, "Love and Desire"
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Vegetarianism. Today, with few exceptions, chickens, pigs, and cows are considered to be here on earth only for human use and convenience, which often means that they endure terrible torture in the name of efficiency. There is no longer any sense of these animals being fellow creatures of this earth, no sense that the violence toward them is violence toward all life. The raising of livestock contributes to environmental damage and resource depletion. The grain and land devoted to producing beef and other meats are not available for raising plants, which could feed the world’s neediest people. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

The Dark Side. Lutheran pastor Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber once said: "Theologically I'm not liberal. What I see in a lot of what would be categorized as liberal theology is what we call a high anthropology, which is a very high opinion of human beings and what we can accomplish, like 'All the good of God is inside of you!' And I'm like, 'Are you kidding? It's dark in there!'" At a talk I once attended, Bolz-Weber mentioned that her path had led her briefly to Unitarian Universalism. She quipped, "Unitarians are so cute. They have this high, high view of human goodness. It's like they never read the paper." She's looking at you, Woodpecker!

Case
Next day, Woodpecker came around when Raven was cleaning up after a windstorm, and asked, "Do you think I could be a teacher?"
Raven looked her over. "What's the dark side?" she asked.
Woodpecker hesitated. "I'm not sure there is one," she said.
Raven turned away, saying "Then how can you be a teacher?"
Verse
"All in all, you're just another brick in the wall" (Pink Floyd)

Something doesn't and something does love a wall.
Protecting, preserving, nurturing --
Isolating, trapping --
Defining.
Liberation requires containment.
Your bounds manifest the boundless.
But how can a brick know how it is important
And how it isn't?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News
This week's e-Communitarian
RE News
Music News
Council of All Beings (Cindy)
Loving Animal Nature (LoraKim)
Practice: Vegetarianism (Might Be Your Thing)

Vegetarianism

Practice of the Week
Vegetarianism

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 Helena P. Chapin, "Vegetarianism," in Everyday Spiritual Practice, adapted.

The seeds for vegetarianism, my spiritual practice, were planted when I was young. I spent a great deal of time on my horse, in fields and woods, with few neighbors around. By the time I was ten, I had my own wildflower garden, full of carefully transplanted gems from the surrounding countryside. My father loved dogs, so we raised Golden Retriever puppies, while helping to deliver I don’t know how many litters of kittens. As an adult, raising a family became my focus, but, gradually over the years, without realizing it, I have returned to my life of connection with animals and the earth.

When I was searching for a house four years ago, I found one with a spruce tree in front and a large cherry in back and a bare backyard in which to plan a Native American perennial flower garden. As the nursery workers promised, butterflies and birds are now my companions as I work among the flowers. This type of gardening requires composting, of course, and my vegan diet means I can use all the waste from my eating in an earth-enhancing way.

But this is getting ahead of myself. In 1991, while attending a conference, I came upon John Robbins’ Diet for a New America. Reading that book brought back my sense of closeness to nature and animals and convinced me to begin eating a plant-based – vegan – diet as a daily reminder of this connection. I was horrified by Robbins’s descriptions of the cruel and violent human behavior in our present-day food factories. Today, with few exceptions, chickens, pigs, and cows are considered to be here on earth only for human use and convenience, which often means that they endure terrible torture in the name of efficiency. There is no longer any sense of these animals being fellow creatures of this earth, no sense that the violence toward them is violence toward all life.

There are other compelling reasons to eat a plant-based diet. The raising of livestock contributes to environmental damage and resource depletion. The grain and land devoted to producing beef and other meats are not available for raising plants, which could feed the world’s neediest people. Finally, a low-fat plant-based diet is healthy for the human body, having been shown to prevent or to aid in healing many diseases. I have noticed that my diet is very similar to those prescribed for heart patients.

Eating a plant-based diet may make good sense, but it is not easy. In particular, food is a very emotional issue. People are fiercely protective of their eating habits and sometimes resent those who make different choices. Even organizations like Greenpeace refrain from discussing food choices as important to the protection of the environment because people will not contribute funds to a cause that asks them to change their diets. “EARTHSAVE, Healthy People, Healthy Planet,” founded by John Robbins, is the only environmental organization that links our food choices to the destruction of the earth.

Still, eating a vegan diet has become part of a satisfying spiritual practice for me. Part of this lifestyle is an attempt to live more according to the rhythms of nature. On a good morning, I rise with the sun, walk my dog, and begin to prepare my meals for the day. If I were cooking meals for a family, the additional time spent in meal preparation might not feel so life enhancing, but I live alone and find chopping and cooking healthy plant food to be a quieting experience, connecting me to the life forces of the natural environment. Also, recycling b composting means that my flowers and I share the same nourishment. Especially when I follow the meal preparation with slow dining in a favorite setting, there comes a mood of contemplation, of pondering life’s gifts, of being grateful to be alive. Thomas Moore writes,
“all eating is communion, feeding the soul as well as the body. Our cultural habit of eating ‘fast food’ reflects our current belief that all we need to take into ourselves, both literally and figuratively, is plain food, not food of real substance, and not the imagination of real dining.” (Care of the Soul)
In a later work, Moore says,
“it’s no accident that in our disenchanted times we have found hundreds of ways to short-circuit the production, preparation, and eating of food, and so it makes sense that to re-enchant our ordinary lives we could approach the supermarket, the kitchen, and the dining room differently, realizing that the extra time real food demands of us is not wasted but serves the soul.” (The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life)
I have found this to be so.

How does one begin the spiritual practice of eating a vegan diet? It depends on your personality. Once I made the decision, I did it immediately. Others with whom I have talked did it gradually – giving up beef first, then all red meats (pork, mutton), then chicken, then fish, then eggs and dairy – and some stopped after giving up only beef. Any reduction of meat eating will be a plus for your health, the environment, world hunger, and the treatment of animals.

What is important, in the end, is that each of us find some way to live with a depth of appreciation for our gift of life. To better serve the natural world – and therefore, the human world – is my daily effort. Even though it is often unpopular, the spiritual practice of vegetarianism has brought me peace of mind, better health, and a sense of interdependence with our earth and its creatures.

* * *
Resources:
The Vegetarian Resource Group
No Meat Athlete
Nutrition.gov on Eating Vegetarian
Vegetarian Society: Resources
Vegetarian Times

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



Council of All Beings

Cindy Davidson, Ministerial Intern

"Allow yourself to be chosen by another non-human life-form," we were instructed. For but an afternoon, I was not quite myself..... 

"I am the doe, hungry and frightened by the lack of nourishment I find this season in these woods. When will the growth return? Here, exposed in the clearing, dare I nibble in this well-watered garden of such strange things?" 

I was participating in an Earth Literacy retreat some twenty years ago at the Pendle Hill Quaker center outside Philadelphia. After days of discussions devoted to readings on ecology, environmental ethics and climate change realities, this particular afternoon was devoted to The Council of All Beings exercise. Having been instructed to wander the grounds, I noticed one deer making its way into and through the center's vegetable garden. From a respectable distance, I settled in for a good twenty or thirty minutes of simply sitting still and observing... no note-taking allowed! Many moments I was convinced we two Beings had made the kind of real eye contact that communicates, "I see you, respect and honor your Being"... at least that was my experience. This exercise in awareness, intuition and imagination did have me stepping outside my human identity and inhabiting what I imagined the deer's to be.

As the bell sounded, I returned to the Art Studio which was abuzz with activity as we created masks and costumes to represent our chosen beings and awaited the beginning of the Council. It's not just children who immerse themselves in the imaginary, creative work of play and not just adults who attend Council meetings!

As the Council convened, we Beings processed in and one at a time addressed the gathered community to share our concerns and challenges. Each Being was acknowledged and affirmed by the others who responded, "We hear you." Several Beings of the human species were then invited to join the Council, and they took their places to simply sit still, observe and listen to the Beings speak their truths. When this exercise works well, the humans become increasingly concerned and alarmed, and then the Beings offer their various powers to support and encourage the humans to act on their behalf to effect positive change. In essence, The Council of Beings charges the humans to take up a ministry of environmental and animal advocacy.

In an ideal world, the next refrain would be "And they lived happily every after!" But it's not quite that easy! The reality, as I see it, is that each of us has a role to play to nudge our collective future story towards a planet where all Beings are heard and respected, a world where our compassion for and advocacy on behalf of all others brings healing and wholeness.

What role will you play? Your turn! Go and allow yourself to be chosen by another non-human life-form.

WANT TO KNOW MORE?? The Council of All Beings is both the name of a communal ritual and a series of workshops developed by Buddhist eco-activists John Seed (of Rainforest Action Network fame) and Joanna Macy in 1985 in Australia. Since then, it has been widely used by environmental educators and activists in educational and community settings for children and adults. You can read about the exercise online here or find it in several publications, including in Joanna Macy's recently updated book Coming Back to Life: Practices to Reconnect Our Lives, Our World.

RE News: Sun Feb 25

Lifespan Religious Education
Fred Rogers shared what his mother told him when scary events happened, “Always look for the helpers. There’s always someone who is trying to help.” This reassurance about the goodness of humanity is a vital message that we all need during crisis moments, such as the recent school shooting. It is important for children to know that they are loved and people are keeping them safe when the world seems to be a scary place. We also have to be cautious to not assume that they have specific fears and put our own anxieties onto them. If we ask and leave the lines of communication open, children will tell us what is on their minds. Our best responses are the ones that help them process events from wherever their focus is at the time. During a previous tragedy, I posted these resources for parents: CLICK HERE. Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood has the following resource on talking to children about scary news: CLICK HERE. Please let me know if I can be supportive as the children and adults in your family cope with the all too frequent violence in our society.

Please see the following three (3) announcements:

1) This Sun Feb 25
Alvin Ailey Dance Program for All Ages

LaToya is here again from the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater and ready to lead a fun, multicultural movement program that will appeal to all.

Meet in Fellowship Hall.

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

2) Special Friends Signup
We invite you to join us for this pal program that anonymously matches children and adults in the congregation to get to know each other.

After exchanging six letters over ten weeks, you get to meet your pen pal at the Pancake Brunch on May 6. The letter exchange begins on March 4.

Please email me at dlre@cucwp.org to sign up.

3) Metro NY Junior High Youth Con Registration
March 24-25 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY.
This event is for youth in grades 6-8 and a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth.

For more information please CLICK HERE.

To register please CLICK HERE.

For questions about event programming please contact Denice Tomlinson at denice1uu@yahoo.com
For questions about event registration please contact Charlie Neiss at cneiss@aol.com

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-02-21

Music: Sun Feb 25


Creatures great and small, fast and slow, loud and soft---we’ve got ‘em all in Sunday morning’s music at CUUC this week. In our Centering Music, French composer Jacques Ibert provides a tender portrait of golden tortoises from his Histoires for solo piano, followed by Franz Liszt's depiction of St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds. The CUUC Choir is on hand with a fun example of Renaissance-era word painting as well as a more contemporary appropriation from the avian kingdom. Two amusing numbers from Camille Saint-Saens’s Carnival of the Animals are featured in the Offertory. Read on for programming details.

See below for a translation of the fable of St. Francis of Assisi preaching to the birds from The Little Flowers of St. Francis

See https://www.facebook.com/adamkentmusic/videos/10155208691011752/ for Adam Kent’s performance of Liszt’s Legend of St. Francis Preaching to the Birds.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
La meneuse de tortues d’or from Histoires (The Leader of the Golden Tortoises)
                                        Jacques Ibert
Deux Légendes   
1.   St. François d’Assise: La prédication aux oiseaux*
                           Franz Liszt

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Counterpoint of the Animals (ca. 1500)
Adriano Banchieri, arr. by Norman Grayson
Offertory:
from Carnival of the Animals
The Elephant; Royal March of the Lion
                                   

                                      Camille Saint-Saens
Anthem:
Rockin' Robin  
words and music by J. Thomas, arr. by Roger Emerson




From "The Little Flowers of St. Francis of Assisi," 1476

The humble servant of Christ, St Francis, a short time after his conversion, having already assembled and received many brothers into the Order, was much troubled and perplexed in mind as to what he ought to do; whether to give himself entirely to prayer, or now and then to preach the Word. Through his great humility, he had no opinion of himself or of the virtue of his prayers; and, wishing to know the will of God, he sought to learn it through the prayers of others. Wherefore he called to him Brother Masseo, and thus addressed him: "Go to Sister Clare, and bid her from me to set herself with some of the holiest of her sisters to pray the Lord that he may show me clearly whether he wills that I should preach or only keep to prayer. Then go to Brother Silvester, and ask of him the same favour."

Now Brother Silvester had been in the world, and was the same who had seen in vision a golden cross come out of St Francis's mouth, whose height reached up to heaven and its breadth to the farthest extremities of the world. Brother Silvester was so holy, that whatever he asked of God was granted to his prayer, and very often he held converse with the Lord; so that St Francis revered him greatly. Then Brother Masseo did as St Francis had commanded him; carrying the message first to St Clare, and then to Brother Silvester, who set about praying immediately; and, having received the answer from the Lord, returned to Brother Masseo, and said to him: "The Lord says, go and tell Brother Francis that he has called him to this state not to save merely his own soul but that he may produce fruits in those of others, and that through him many souls be saved."

Having received this answer, Brother Messeo returned to Sister Clare, to ask what she had learnt from God; and she told him that she and all her companions had received from God the same answer as the Lord had given to Brother Silvester.

Then Brother Masseo hastened to St Francis to bring him these answers; and St Francis received him with great charity, washing his feet, and serving him at dinner.

When the repast was over, he called Brother Masseo into the forest, and, kneeling down before him, put back his hood; and crossing his arms on his breast, he said to him: "What answer dost thou bring me? what does my Lord Jesus Christ order me to do?"

Brother Masseo answered: "The Lord Jesus Christ has revealed both to Brother Silvester and to Sister Clare, that it is his will thou shouldest go about the world to preach; for thou hast not been called for thyself alone, but the the salvation of others."

Then St Francis, having received the answer, and knowing it to be the will of the Lord Jesus Christ, arose with fervour, saying, "Let us go in the name of God"; and taking with him Brother Masseo and Brother Agnolo, both holy men, he let himself be guided by the Spirit of God, without considering the road he took.

They soon arrived at a town called Savurniano, where St Francis began to preach, first ordering the swallows, who were calling, to keep silence until he had finished; and the swallows obeyed his voice. He preached with such fervour, that the inhabitants of the town wished to follow him out of devotion; but St Francis would not allow them, saying: "Be not in such haste, and leave not your homes. I will tell you what you must do to save your souls." Thereupon he founded the Third Order for the salvation of all; and leaving them much consoled and well disposed to do penance, he departed thence, and reached a spot between Cannaio and Bevagno.

And as he went on his way, with great fervour, St Francis lifted up his eyes, and saw on some trees by the wayside a great multitude of birds; and being much surprised, he said to his companions, "Wait for me here by the way, whilst I go and preach to my little sisters the birds"; and entering into the field, he began to preach to the birds which were on the ground, and suddenly all those also on the trees came round him, and all listened while St Francis preached to them, and did not fly away until he had given them his blessing.

And Brother Masseo related afterwards to Brother James of Massa how St Francis went among them and even touched them with his garments, and how none of them moved. Now the substance of the sermon was this: "My little sisters the birds, ye owe much to God, your Creator, and ye ought to sing his praise at all times and in all places, because he has given you liberty to fly about into all places; and though ye neither spin nor sew, he has given you a twofold and a threefold clothing for yourselves and for your offspring. Two of all your species he sent into the Ark with Noe that you might not be lost to the world; besides which, he feeds you, though ye neither sow nor reap. He has given you fountains and rivers to quench your thirst, mountains and valleys in which to take refuge, and trees in which to build your nests; so that your Creator loves you much, having thus favoured you with such bounties. Beware, my little sisters, of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praise to God."

As he said these words, all the birds began to open their beaks, to stretch their necks, to spread their wings and reverently to bow their heads to the ground, endeavouring by their motions and by their songs to manifest their joy to St Francis. And the saint rejoiced with them. He wondered to see such a multitude of birds, and was charmed with their beautiful variety, with their attention and familiarity, for all which he devoutly gave thanks to the Creator.

Having finished his sermon, St Francis made the sign of the cross, and gave them leave to fly away. Then all those birds rose up into the air, singing most sweetly; and, following the sign of the cross, which St Francis had made, they divided themselves into four companies. One company flew towards the east, another towards the west, one towards the south, and one towards the north; each company as it went singing most wonderfully; signifying thereby, that as St Francis, the bearer of the Cross of Christ, had preached to them and made upon them the sign of the cross, after which they had divided among themselves the four parts of the world, so the preaching of the Cross of Christ, renewed by St Francis, would be carried by him and by his brethren over all the world, and that the humble friars, like little birds, should posses nothing in this world, but should cast all the care of their lives on the providence of God.


2018-02-20

Loving Animal Nature

Rev. LoraKim Joyner

We can't save the world unless we love every part of it.

Unitarian Universalists have a First Principle, declaring our covenant to affirm and promote "the inherent worth and dignity of every person." Some change the ending to "all beings," so as to include nonhuman species as well. Either way, I often hear how the First Principle is a "slam dunk," -- that of course we see the worth and dignity of other individuals!

I think that perhaps cognitively we see other individuals' worth and dignity, but our behavior doesn't always match cognitive assent. Behavior is an embodied, effectual, and largely subconscious affair. Our actions, words, and thoughts are often at odds with our conscious affirmations, especially if we are under stress or our needs are not getting met.

Furthermore, we have been acculturated to fit into a society that "hierarchalizes" the “other” into subhuman or less worthy categories so that certain groups can exert power, domination, and control over economic resources. In other words, we have much work to do to actually treat all as if they had inherent worth and dignity.


Start with yourself: you have inherent worth and dignity. Yet how often do you find yourself thinking or behaving towards yourself uncharitably? Loving the remarkable, beautiful being that you are means loving all of your animality. You come to notice and love the animality of others, too. By animality I mean the sensing, feeling body responding to the world. The perfection of who we are is much more than the images of ourselves that our culture teaches us. By love I mean being open to the needs and feelings of others without judgment. This is empathy. "Observing without judging is the highest form of human intelligence" (J. Krishnamurti). Such empathy connects us deeply to life and nourishes us, others, and our relationships and goals.

All of us can grow in three intelligences: emotional intelligence, social intelligence, and multispecies intelligence. With these intelligences we consider how we, other humans, and other species are feeling and what we are needing. We can train ourselves to be more impartial, scientific observers by quieting our narrow loops of judgment, and instead translate everything into feelings and needs. The world needs us to do this inner work.

The inner work of accepting of all of who we are -- all that it means to be great apes who live and die imperfectly -- is necessary for the outer work to preserve and cherish life and well-being. Any part of ourselves that we seek to exile, or marginalize -- any part that we don't like about ourselves, that we label “wrong” or “not part of the whole” -- is a part we will also wish could be excised from others. This is the root judgmentalism upon which hierarchicalizing is built -- and the result is a society that exploits beings and extracts health from the environment for the privilege of a few.

We evolved to have a loving animal nature -- able to be fierce and protective when we need to be, but fundamentally seeking to be attuned intimately to and in relationship to life around us without judgment. By loving our animality, we open ever more greatly to the biology, needs, feelings, and subjective experience of all -- and we move towards co-liberation. Undoing certain of our enculturation's limits frees us as well as all beings.


Liberation must be co-liberation, and it will take intentional work: to learn to live without fear and die courageously; to embrace the reality that our animality is shared and interdependent with all life; to remove hierarchal evaluation of others. The rewards of this work are great. Through this work I have welcomed the many to a flourishing life, become aware of nature's returning embrace, felt my real belonging.

2018-02-15

From the Minister, Thu Feb 15

Valentine's Day was also the beginning of Lent. The former, we might say, is about indulging certain passions, and the latter about giving up certain passions. Did you have any trouble deciding which to indulge and which to begin foregoing for the next 46 days (traditionally, 40 days, because Sundays aren't counted)?

Whenever Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day are co-incident (on average, about once every 30 years), then, a month-and-a-half later, Easter will be on April Fools Day. You might want to be on the look-out for pranks involving eggs. Or those yellow marshmallow chicks.

Something about these paradoxical coincidences speaks an important truth. Is there not something sweepingly joyous about expressing passions even while letting go of passions – as if every day were both Valentine’s Day and the beginning of Lent? Is there not something perfect and right about the resurrection of life and hope and salvation in the very midst of a giant practical joke?

Life is shot through with paradox -- of which Valentine's/Lent and Easter/April Fool's represent two manifestations. Psychiatrist Irvin Yalom speaks of the four existential dreads: death, responsibility for our freedom, aloneness, and meaninglessness. We'd rather not pay attention to these dreads -- but they are the very things to which we most need to pay attention if we are to emerge at last into a way of being that truly loves this life, loves this world, and loves our fellow travelers. Attention to these dreads also takes us into the paradoxes of a full life of fullest love. Dwelling continuously on death, we come to genuinely apprehend the wonder and miracle of this brief life. Grasping that we are responsible and blameworthy for everything, we learn to stop constructing self-blame as a shield against responsibilities right here and now. Beholding the ineradicability of our aloneness, we open more and more to others. Falling willingly into the abyss of absence of permanent meaning, we are able to create ever-evolving, ever-richer temporary meanings.

May this Lenten season be a time of wonderful paradox for you: gainful loss, rich poverty, indulgent abstention, and intoxicating sobriety.

In love,
Meredith

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

The TCC (Tuesday Coffee Chat) 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.
  • Feb 6, 13, 20, 27: The TCC is in Irvington! Black Cat Cafe, 45 W. Main St., Irvington.
  • Mar: Rye: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Apr: Eastchester: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center
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

We have a Youtube Channel! Check it out, and subscribe! HERE

This week's posts include all three parts of the Feb 4 sermon, "All Your Need is Love"
Index, with links, of past sermons: HERE.
Index, with links, of other reflections: HERE.


Practice of the Week

When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions. Sometimes people are irritating! They’re incompetent, or liars, or loud mouths, or bullies – maybe all of the above. If you regularly interact with people, these judgments about some of them are likely to arise. How do you put up with people who push your buttons (even though you’re the one who keeps those buttons active)? By learning how to view “difficult” people with compassion, you’ll feel better – and may even help the annoying person. There are two questions that can almost instantly transform irritation into forgiveness, and judgment into understanding. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen

Outside History. We last heard from Badger 18 episodes ago (HERE). As we learned then, his family responsibilities prevent him from regular attendance at the circle. History -- your personal history, your family's history, your culture's historical background, the evolutionary history of your kind and of all kinds, the universe's history -- is the accumulation of moss on a stone. When the storm waters of transformation have washed away the accumulated moss of your delusions and the clean rock underneath is exposed to the world, does this moss-less condition represent something better? Self-improvement is not the same thing as self-realization -- but what exactly is the difference?

Case
Badger had been busy again, looking after his family. One evening after his return, he asked, "Is there really something to understand beyond the way to be a better person?"
Raven said, "Outside history."
Badger asked, "In a vacuum?"
Raven said, "Where the freshet washed away the moss."
Verse
The way to be a better person: utterly inscrutable.
But stand under the history that is outside you --
The co-arising with which you are interdependent.
And stand under what is outside of history --
The undying, unborn, unconditioned,
about which even these negations mislead.
See what happens.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Previous Moment of Zen
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE

Other News
This week's e-Communitarian
RE News
Music News
In Good Conscience, Democratically (Cindy)
Practice: When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions (Slogans to Live By)

In Good Conscience, Democratically (Thu Feb 15)

Cindy Davidson, Ministerial Intern


The sign at the front door that's greeted me since I returned to CUUC two weeks ago reads: Economic Inequity: Shall CUUC make a Statement?"

Make a statement? Most days, my inner response is, "Sure! Why not?"

But today, in the aftermath of the many statements being made in the media, on my Facebook threads and in emails about the need for sensible gun control, making a statement begins to feel so utterly insufficient. Certainly, those statements that merely life up "prayers and thoughts" on behalf of those who have suffered are inadequate. Just like our "American problem" of gun violence and yet another horrific mass shooting in another public school, confronting the problem of economic inequity in all its complexity can seem so overwhelming and resistant to solutions. Why bother with a statement?

One of the things we do well as Unitarian Universalists is to call ourselves and others into accountability around an issue and to deliberate upon how we might take responsible action, individually and collectively. Even as we honor and hold the pain of others, we move forward towards realizing a more fair and just world with our commitment to "deeds over creeds." And, our process is crucial to our endeavors.

I was reminded of the value of the democratic process within our faith community when I joined in the latest congregational forum to discuss the denominational statement crafted and passed by the delegates at our 2017 General Assembly. As participants here raised particular points and language choices in the original statement, they were discussed and then either modified or affirmed by the vote of those present.  This is the kind of collective justice-making that asks us to wrestle with the tension between upholding our individual, personal convictions and practices and upholding the ideal ends and good of the collective body.

I found myself wondering, "Is debate and discussion enough?  How can the process of re-crafting this statement help us best serve the mission and vision of CUUC? Will the congregation come to agreement on possible actions?" And, of course, the biggest question .... "How might we move from a  statement and its many calls to actions into responsible action that impacts the larger community?"

Take a look -- whether it's your first, second or third -- at the statement, as currently amended.

Ask yourself, What speaks to me?

Where do I see CUUC's mission and vision aligning with the statement?

How does this work with others in the denomination inspire or focus my individual efforts and our congregational commitments?

I want to hear what you think!

















When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions

Practice of the Week
When People Annoy, Ask Yourself Two Questions

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.


Sometimes people are irritating! They’re incompetent, or liars, or loud mouths, or bullies – maybe all of the above. If you regularly interact with people, these judgments about some of them are likely to arise. Maybe you even have annoying people in your own family or house.

People may be annoying, irritating, or hurtful for various reasons. Maybe they have very low self-esteem due to having experienced a traumatic upbringing. Because they didn’t receive the love they needed as a child, they use destructive and desperate measures to gain recognition as an adult. Moreover, they are usually unaware of the effect of their behavior on other people. After all, what they really want is love, and their way of behaving certainly doesn’t lead to that result.

People are usually pretty good at detecting when you are annoyed with them – even if they didn’t foresee how their behavior would trigger your annoyance. Your annoyance, then, may cause them to feel more threatened, which may make them still more annoying. If, however, they sense that you accept and understand them, they may calm down and be easier to deal with. The problem is: accepting and understanding can be extremely difficult when you’re annoyed!

How do you put up with people who push your buttons (even though you’re the one who keeps those buttons active)? By learning how to view “difficult” people with compassion, you’ll feel better – and may even help the annoying person.

There are two questions that can almost instantly transform irritation into forgiveness, and judgment into understanding.

Question #1: Ask yourself, “What pain must this person have experienced in the past in order to act so desperately now?”

After asking yourself this question, try to imagine the answer. It’s unlikely you would have enough information to know, but that doesn’t matter. Jut imagining a possible answer does the trick. Was the person you find annoying unloved as a baby? Was he mistreated by parents or teachers? Perhaps she was criticized and rejected by everyone, and what you’re seeing is the result of her pain. By imagining people as helpless, hurt little infants, you will likely feel some compassion for them. When you open your heart and let compassion in, your annoyance ends. You can’t feel compassion and understanding at the same time as annoyance and irritation. Imagining the other person’s pain will also help him feel less feel less threatened by you.

Question #2: Ask yourself, “How is that person’s behavior like something that I do?"

Often we feel the most irritation at people who have an annoying behavior similar to one of our own – one that we try to hide from ourselves. Seeing how their behavior is like something that you do creates instant forgiveness and compassion.

Example: I used to get livid at a housemate who made a lot of noise in the kitchen. I thought he was incredibly inconsiderate of others. One day I confronted him about the clashing of pans and cupboards that he created. He shot back, “Well look who’s talking. If your stereo isn’t blaring, you’re wailing on your guitar or singling off key.” Indeed, he was right. Because I didn’t want to think of myself as inconsiderate of others, I projected all my stuff onto to him.

Awareness of how you do something similar to the person with whom you’re annoyed gives you the space to understand and forgive. The more specifically you can pinpoint a behavior you do that is like the one that bothers you, the more understanding you are likely to be.

“Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?” asks Jesus (Matt 7:3, Luke 6:41). Looking at the “log in your own eye” will make you sympathetic to the plight of the person you had previously judged.

Will being understanding and compassionate to difficult people allow them to walk all over you? No. It just gives you a clearly and larger perspective on their behavior. The two questions help you better comprehend the situation. With a clear mind and an open heart, it is easier to see the appropriate action to take. Instead of adding fuel to the fire, these two questions help healing begin.

Ultimately, we are all very much alike. We’ve all experienced being in a nasty mood, and most of us have even treated other people like dirt on occasion. When we’re in such a state of mind, it is only through understanding and caring that we are pulled out. These two Compassion Questions are powerful and can instantly transform your judgments into forgiveness and acceptance.

Precisely because they are so effective, you may notice yourself resisting use of the Compassion Questions. After all, compassion means no longer enjoying the gratifications of judgmentalism and self-righteousness. Thus, it may help to ease yourself into this practice. Don’t try it, at first, with people that make you absolutely livid. Start with people who just mildly annoy you. Once you see it can work with people you slightly judge, progress at your own pace to use the Compassion Questions with people who really push your buttons. As you get good at turning annoyance into compassion, you will be helping to heal your own heart as well as others’.

For Journaling

Use your journal this week to practice working with the two Compassion Questions. Recall a past encounter with an annoying person. In your journal, write a description of what might be the annoying person's pain. Then describe how the annoying behavior is similar to something you do.

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

RE News: Sun Feb 18

Lifespan Religious Education

In today’s world, relatives tend to live farther apart, lives are busier, and children’s activities are more structured. This means there are fewer opportunities for intergenerational connection. A congregation is one of the places where that enriching interaction can happen. Our Special Friends Pen Pal Program intentionally connects CUUC children and adults in a fun, simple way. Contact me to sign up to have a pen pal this spring. Six letters are exchanged anonymously through the Special Friend mailboxes at CUUC and then you get to meet at the Pancake Brunch on May 6. Join us for this meaningful program.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Feb 18
All ages are in Fellowship Hall for a special music enrichment program with Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director.

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

2) Faith Development Friday - Tomorrow Feb 16
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community

RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com
by 12:00 noon Fri Feb 16
so we know how much pizza to order and the number of participants for each group.

6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00pm Programs Begin...

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 program online via Zoom videoconferencing by going to https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.

Family Journey Group
Parents gather to discuss this month's theme of love (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 parents’ group.

Youth Group Game Night
Hang out in the Youth Room for a special night of fun. Gnomes welcome!
Games will be provided but feel free to bring your favorite. The foosball table will be active!!!

Social Time for Adults
Those who would like more time to chat and just be together are welcome to continue hanging out in Fellowship Hall after the meal. Come to simply get to know your fellow CUUCers better, without specific programming.

3) Special Friends Signup
We invite you to join us for this pal program that anonymously matches children and adults in the congregation to get to know each other.

After exchanging six letters over ten weeks, you get to meet your pen pal at the Pancake Brunch on May 6. The letter exchange begins on March 4.

Please email me at dlre@cucwp.org to sign up.

4) Metro NY Junior High Youth Con Registration
March 24-25 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Shelter Rock in Manhasset, NY.
This event is for youth in grades 6-8 and a fun opportunity to connect with other UU youth.

For more information please CLICK HERE.

To register please CLICK HERE.

For questions about event programming please contact Denice Tomlinson at denice1uu@yahoo.com
For questions about event registration please contact Charlie Neiss at cneiss@aol.com

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-02-14

Music: Sun Feb 18

Sunday morning’s musical selections open with one of Catalonian composer Federico Mompou’s delicate Charmes, or Spells, in this case “to inspire love” in keeping with February’s worship theme. Black History Month is commemorated in the remaining works with music by composers of African descent in a variety of styles. R. Nathaniel Dett’s Cinnamon Grove consists of four movements, each of which is prefaced by an inspirational citation from a distinct literary source. The second movement is headed with these lines from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali: “When thou commandest me to sing, it seems my heart would break with pride; and I look to thy face, and tears come to my eyes.” The fourth section alludes to these lines from a song found in Religious Folk Songs of the Negro: “Oh, the winter’ll soon be over, children; Yes, my Lord.”

In contrast to Dett’s classical leanings, the remaining works are popular examples of Ragtime by the legendary Scott Joplin.

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


Read on for programming details.


Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
From In the Bottoms
            No. 3 Honey
From Cinnamon Grove
            IV. Allegretto
                                                R. Nathaniel Dett
Maple Leaf Rag
                                                Scott Joplin
           
Opening Music:
Charmes (Spells)
            IV. …pour inspirer l’amour
                                                Federico Mompou

Offertory:
From Cinnamon Grove
            II. Adagio cantabile
R. Nathaniel Dett

Interlude:
The Entertainer          
                                                Scott Joplin


2018-02-08

RE News: Sun Feb 4

Lifespan Religious Education

The Variety Show Planning Team received many amazing recipient proposals from the CUUC Social Justice Teams. The planning team then chose three of those organizations for the children and youth’s vote last Sunday. Although the Variety Show only raises money for one organization, we plan to bring the other causes into RE in other ways, including wonderful proposals from the Animal Advocacy Team. The three choices for the vote were:

  • Brighter Futures After-School Mentoring Program provides individual and group tutoring for at-risk children who are homeless or from very low-income families.
  • PrideWorks presents an annual conference for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer/questioning (LGBTQ) youth, their allies, and the adults in their lives.
  • Refugee Resettlement Fund gives the gift of cultural, athletic and artistic opportunities to refugee families, especially their children. 100% of the money donated goes directly to the families.
The vote is in and the winner is...the Refugee Resettlement Fund.
Keep an eye out for all the ways you can participate in raising money for this good cause.

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Feb 4
K-5th grades start in Fellowship Hall for Children's Worship.
6th-12th grades start in classrooms.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Our Ancestral Home
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: North America (Native American-song and dance)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Moses 1
6th-7th – Neighboring Faiths: Hinduism Introduction
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Belief Panel
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) Teacher Enrichment Luncheon - This Sun Feb 4, 11:45-1:15
"Creating a Welcoming and Inclusive RE Ministry"
An important training for all teachers that includes check-in and topics such as:
  • Can We See the World Through the Child’s Eyes?
  • Strategies to Make RE Less Like School
  • Teaching to Different Ways of Learning and Knowing
  • Creating Moments of Transcendence
Please RSVP to dlre@cucwp.org; let us know if you will need childcare.

3) Children's Choir This Sun - 11:30
Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Director, will meet with children at 11:30 after RE for a Children's Choir session.

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

Please let us know if your children will be attending by emailing me at dlre@cucwp.org.

4) Save the Date for Our Next Faith Development Friday, Feb 16
Faith Like a River Adult RE, Family Journey Group, and Youth Social Night all happen at the same time on the third Friday of the month.

The first one was well attended and a big success. Please mark your calendars for out next gathering on Feb 16.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development