2018-03-30

From the Minister, Sun Apr 1

“When despair for the world grows in me,” Wendell Berry says, he turns to nature for solace. I, too, resonate with “the peace of wild things” – where “the wood drake rests” and “the great heron feeds.” After a while hanging out with the critters, though, duty and need calls me back into the human world. Is there anything among humans that lifts hope in answer to the despair of our times?

Answer: congregations. It is an awesome thing that you do, coming to and participating in CUUC. Just showing up Sunday after Sunday, and at other programs during the week, is huge.

Our ailing democracy needs more than fixes to our electoral system – necessary as those fixes are. We – Americans generally – also need work at opening our hearts to democracy as a way of life. At CUUC, we’re doing that work – and have been doing it since 1909. Here, as well as at congregations and other voluntary associations across the land, the arts, the skills, the heart-habits of democracy are cultivated and honed.

Being regularly at our congregation has helped you grow an understanding that we are all in this together, dependent on, and accountable to, one another. It has fostered appreciation of the value of “otherness,” and hospitality to the stranger, those who seem different.

Congregational life has taught you to creatively engage with tensions: both the internal tension of finding yourself doing something not precisely in line with what you’ve said you value, and the external tensions with people whose opinions differ from yours. Engaging those tensions, neither hiding them nor hiding from them, has helped you understand yourself and our neighbors.

In congregational life you have found your voice, known the satisfaction of contributing to positive change, and resisted narratives of your own powerlessness. You have created community, knowing that it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks, and that steady companionship of kindred spirits nourishes the courage we each need to speak and act as citizens.

Regular participation in congregational life is not the only way to do the work of opening one’s heart to democracy as a way of life, but it is the best way I know.

I am so deeply appreciative of – and I invite us all to appreciate together -- what an important thing, what an amazing thing, it is to decide to be a congregation together: to keep our well-beloved CUUC going; to stay at the table to hash out differences; to resist the many temptations to take our ball and go home when things get a little hairy; to hang in and let the friction rub us smooth; to discern finally the lovely and delightful in one another and the light shining through our cracks.

You come to CUUC, and you do that -- and it is such a great, hopeful thing that you do!

The numbers are dwindling of Americans participating during any given week in any congregation where people practice and learn the gentle and the rough and tumble arts of being a people. More Americans are staying home. Those that do venture to a faith institution are increasingly likely to attend a mega-church, where they see a good show every week but participate in no decision-making, no dialog, no real encounter with one another. And our country suffers from the decline of heart-habits of democracy.

This is a concern, of course, but I do not despair – for hope is reborn every time I step into our building and see you, the members and friends of CUUC, creating, deliberating, deciding, learning, building, growing together. The democratic traditions and customs that you keep alive at our congregation, week after week, may have ebbed in our country in recent decades, but by keeping them strong at CUUC you help them have a chance, soon, to begin again to grow throughout the land.

If I may say it in my native tongue: Y’all are awesome!

In love,
Meredith

In case you missed it . . .

Here's the sermon of Sun Mar 25:



New on The Liberal Pulpit. The Liberal Pulpit is a YouTube Channel HERE! Videos include the sermons starting on Feb 25.

This week's posts on "The Liberal Pulpit":
"We Don't Have to Choose" (On Being Animal, part 3)
"Democracy: Not Quiet and Orderly, but Exciting" (Daring Democracy, part 1)
"Democracy: The Spiritual Need" (Daring Democracy, part 2)
"The Workshops of Democracy" (Daring Democracy, part 3)
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. Let Go and Have Faith. (Occasional). For one week try letting go of something that you normally spend energy “shoulding” about or otherwise trying to control. Just let go of worrying and meddling with it. In other words: pick one thing that you habitually expend energy to control -- and then step back and let go of as much control as you can over that thing. Have faith that it will turn out OK (even if it isn’t what you would have thought you’d want).
Your Moment of Zen. Pain During Zazen. Black Bear came to see Raven one morning and said, "I have this persistent pain under my right shoulder blade. Shall I try sitting through it?" Raven asked, "Have you tried sitting through it?" Black Bear said, "It just gets worse." Raven said, "Maybe you should elevate your seat a little. Try sitting on a stone." Black Bear said, "It doesn't seem to help." Raven said, "Try lying down." Black Bear said, "Can I really do zazen lying down?" Raven asked, "How else can you do it?"

Zen Practice at CUUC: Sat Mar 31
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
Apr: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center, Eastchester
  • The two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
  • On the Journey, March: Wandering. HERE.
  • Sun Apr 29. A SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING HAS BEEN CALLED to vote on the proposal that Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation takes the following Position on Escalating Economic Inequity . . . read the position HERE -- it's about a 10-minute read.

    Or, if you like, you can listen to me read it out loud. (About 19 minutes, out loud.)


This Week's e-Communitarian

R.E. News: Apr 1

Music: Apr 1

RE News: Sun Apr 1

Lifespan Religious Education
The theme of the month for April is faith and it begins this Sunday on April Fool’s Day. Many UUs find faith to be foolish, when it is described as blindly following. However, the term contains so much more meaning than that, in a UU context. Paul Tillich in his book Dynamics of Faith defines faith as “the state of being ultimately concerned.” It is an orientation toward what matters most to you. Faith development theorist James Fowler talked of “faithing” as a process of wrestling meaning from life and subjecting it again and again to the scrutiny of our minds, the leap of our hearts, and the reality of action. It is about finding the meaning on which your life centers and deciding how to put that into action. Our UU faith community fosters that discovery. That’s no joke!

Please see the following six (6) announcements:

1) This Sun Apr 1
Easter Egg Hunt and Activities
Join us for our annual RE Easter festivities, including...
  • Easter Children's Worship
  • Egg Hunt
  • Cookie decorating
  • Easter crafts
  • Egg-and-spoon race and other games

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

2) Passover Help Needed
Help make the Passover Service and Meal a success.
We need kitchen help on Sat Apr 7 and Sun Apr 8. There are many roles for all skill sets.
To sign up, CLICK HERE.

3) CUUC Recipe Book
Send in your favorite recipe to be included, whether barbecued, baked, or poured, by April 7.

The recipe book will be sold at the Variety Show on Sat, May 12 and the two Sundays afterward, with all profits benefiting the New American Children's Cultural Enrichment Fund.

If you'd like you or your child to be included, please submit the following to Irene Cox at Irene.cox@gmail.com and Erin Foster at eefoster@aol.com:
  • 1 recipe
  • Your own introduction/description (up to 200 words): perhaps the story behind why you make it, what the dish or cooking in general mean to you.
  • A photo of you/your family in the kitchen or a picture you want to share with the congregation.

4) UU Common Read Discussion Sun Apr 15, 11:40
Hosted by CUUC Wisdom Reading and Discussion Group

We will discuss Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, one of the two books selected for this year’s Common Read. This optimistic book is for Americans who are asking, in the wake of Trump's victory, What do we do now? The answer: We need to organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

Facilitated by Rev. Meredith and Sabrina Cleary (clearytheory@gmail.com).

5) Save the Date for Bingo!
April 27 at 6:30
A night of pizza and community fun!
Help us out by donating a gift to our collection of prizes.
All ages welcome! $5/adult; $3/child; $15/family max. RSVP: cuucevents@gmail.com

6) Refugee Children Need Friends
The family that recently arrived from Afghanistan and is living in White Plains would like to make some new friends. Would you and your children like to meet them, maybe for a play date or shared outdoor activity? (The children are 4, 5 and 10.)

For more information, please contact Jane Dixon, lilrhodie@gmail.com.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-03-29

Let Go and Have Faith

Practice of the Week
Let Go and Have Faith

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.

For this exercise, we will consider faith in its aspect of trust.

For the Western religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam), faith involves trust in God. The core idea is that we don’t have to take responsibility for everything. How things turn out is, of course, an interactive mixture of what we do and what is beyond our control. Yet sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we control what we do not.

One of our “secret” strategies for control involves “shoulding.” I try to ensure that other people – or even inanimate objects – will behave in the way I want by clinging tightly to a belief that they should behave that way. Thus, when somebody (maybe me) fails to be and do as they should, and the result is that things don’t turn out as I want, I get upset. Trust (whether in God, or in society, or in the universe) involves letting go of trying to control everything – including letting go of shoulding. There are two levels.

Level A: Trusting that things will work out the way I want them to
Level B: Trusting that things will work out in a way that is really and deeply OK even if it’s very different from what I would have wanted.

“Level B,” of course, gets more to the essence of faith – which reminds us that acceptance as well as trust are central aspects of faith.

Your exercise, then, is:

For one week try letting go of something that you normally spend energy “shoulding” about or otherwise trying to control. Just let go of worrying and meddling with it. In other words: pick one thing that you habitually expend energy to control -- and then step back and let go of as much control as you can over that thing. Have faith that it will turn out OK (even if it isn’t what you would have thought you’d want).

Examples might be:
-If you always follow a recipe when you cook, try making something elaborate and original with no recipe.
-If there is some assignment that your assistant or co-worker carries out with your careful oversight, trying letting them "fly solo" this time.
-Trust your kid in a way you haven't before.
-Try giving your next presentation with fewer notes than you usually rely upon.
-Set aside time for being outdoors (beach, woods, etc.) -- but do not check the weather forecast -- avoid any source that might mention what the weather will be. If it rains, or is too cold (or hot), adapt on the fly.
-Or, if this is the sort of thing that would be novel for you, go into the city without a plan. Just see what catches your fancy.
-If you carefully pair your socks before putting them in the drawer, next time you do laundry, throw all the sock in the drawer loose.
-Go on a "news fast." For one week, read (watch, or listen to) no news media. Let the world take care of itself for a week.
-Pick something that you're a fastidious perfectionist about, and do a half-assed job one time. (Who knows? By aiming at "half-assed," it may turn out even better!)

NOTE: Do exercise reasonable prudence in selecting something to let go of. Stepping back and trusting your toddler to make it across a busy street by himself would probably not be a good choice.

For Journaling

Write about the experience. What was hard about it? What was surprisingly easy?
.

* * *

2018-03-27

Music: Sun Apr 1

Easter Sunday music at CUUC opens with works from religious and secular traditions by J. S. Bach, who saw all artistic creativity as an expression of the divine. The Offertory features a seasonal favorite by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with a Pete Seeger classic and a festive salute to the holiday. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Sheep May Safely Graze      
                                                J. S. Bach arr. by Egon Petri
Partita No. 1 in Bb Major, BWV 825
                        Sarabande and Gigue
                                                J. S. Bach

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Turn, Turn Turn       
 adapted by Pete Seeger, arr. by Roger Emerson  

Offertory:
To Spring, Op. 43, No. 6
                                                Edvard Grieg

Anthem: Ernie Kennedy, soloist
Easter Parade           
Irving Berlin, arr. by Mac Huff

2018-03-22

From the Minister, Thu Mar 22

In 2018, we've had a "Faith Development Friday" once a month. We've had three so far, and the April event will be on Fri Apr 13. It's great! We gather for dinner and fellowship at 6-ish, and programming starts at 7:00. I've been having a great time leading an exploration of aspects of UU history. On Fri Mar 16, we looked at the role of reason in our tradition -- its triumphs and pitfalls. On Fri Apr 13 we'll be looking at reform movements: the role of intentional efforts to make change, how intentional change tends to include unintentional change, how theology and institution interplay as each makes changes -- and how all this manifests in our UU history. Fascinating stuff!

Our you can choose to go to the Journey Group: Barbara Montrose facilitates the adult group, and Perry leads the kids group. There's also just the option of just enjoying social time with fellow CUUCers.

One Friday a month, CUUC is the place to be! You'd probably enjoy being a part of it.

In love,
Meredith

Sun Apr 29. A SPECIAL CONGREGATIONAL MEETING HAS BEEN CALLED to vote on the proposal that Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation takes the following Position on Escalating Economic Inequity . . . read the position HERE -- it's about a 10-minute read.

Or, if you like, you can listen to me read it out loud. (About 19 minutes, out loud.)



  • The two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
  • On the Journey, March: Wandering. HERE.
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
Mar: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Rye
Apr: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center, Eastchester
New on The Liberal Pulpit. The Liberal Pulpit is a YouTube Channel HERE! Recent Videos: Feb 25: "On Being Animal" (Animal Advocacy)   *   Mar 4: "Spirituality of Money"   * Mar 11: "Wandering"
Recent posts on "The Liberal Pulpit":
"So They Won't Change Me" (Reflection with video link)   * Our Animal Condition" (On Being Animal, part 1)   * "The Greatest Cruelty on the Planet and the Worst Mistake in History" (On Being Animal, part 2)
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. Aspire to the Impossible (Slogans to Live By). We’d be selling ourselves short if our aspirations weren't so lofty as to be impossible to fulfill. Just keep making effort in the direction of fulfillment of the aspiration but don't expect to complete the job. You will always have more to do. To commit to something you actually could accomplish is such small potatoes for a lofty, sacred human being like yourself.
Your Moment of Zen. The Way Things Are. Raven took her perch on the Assembly Oak and said, "The problem is that one thing seems to lead to another." Owl asked, "Isn't that the way things are?" Raven said, "Not really."...

Zen Practice at CUUC: Sat Mar 24

R.E. News: Mar 25

Music: Mar 25




RE News: Sun Mar 25

Lifespan Religious Education
Spring is officially here! The weather may not have represented our hopes for spring, but the warmth of community on Sunday certainly will. Join us for a special musical guest and interesting classes that include social action, an earth-centered tradition, Easter reflections, welcoming, and new self-discoveries.

Please see the following six (6) announcements:

1) This Sun Mar 25
K-5th start in sanctuary for Music for All Ages with special guest Melody of Dragon.
6th-12th start in classroom.

Classes
Pre-K-1 - Creating Home: Comings and Goings
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Boston (Unitarian Universalism: Social Action)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Jesus & Easter
6th-7th – Neighboring Faiths: Wicca
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Faith Statements
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) UU Common Read Discussion This Fri Mar 23, 7pm (Pizza at 6:30), Fireside
Hosted by CUUC Wisdom Reading and Discussion Group

We will discuss Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, one of the two books selected for this year’s Common Read. This optimistic book is for Americans who are asking, in the wake of Trump's victory, What do we do now? The answer: We need to organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

Pizza will be served at 6:30. Please RSVP to cuucevents@gmail.com.

Facilitated by Rev. Meredith and Sabrina Cleary (clearytheory@gmail.com).

3) Easter Egg Hunt and Activities Next Sun Apr 1
Join us for our annual RE Easter festivities, including...
  • Egg Hunt
  • Cookie decorating
  • Children's Worship
  • Egg-and-spoon race and other games
We need helpers to make the cutout cookies that the children will decorate. Please contact me at dlre@cucwp.org if you are able to make some ahead of time.

4) Passover Help Needed
Would you like to help with the Passover Service and Meal?

If you have an interest in Passover or simply enjoy being in the kitchen, please contact Perry at dlre@cucwp.org.

5) CUUC Recipe Book
Send in your favorite recipe to be included, whether barbecued, baked, or poured, by April 7.

The recipe book will be sold at the Variety Show on Sat, May 12 and the two Sundays afterward, with all profits benefiting the New American Children's Cultural Enrichment Fund.

If you'd like you or your child to be included, please submit the following to Irene Cox at Irene.cox@gmail.com and Erin Foster at eefoster@aol.com:

• 1 recipe

• Your own introduction/description (up to 200 words): perhaps the story behind why you make it, what the dish or cooking in general mean to you.

• A photo of you/your family in the kitchen or a picture you want to share with the congregation.

6) Refugee Children Need Friends
The family that recently arrived from Afghanistan and is living in White Plains would like to make some new friends. Would you and your children like to meet them, maybe for a play date or shared outdoor activity? (The children are 4, 5 and 10.)

For more information, please contact Jane Dixon, lilrhodie@gmail.com.

Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Aspire to the Impossible

Practice of the Week
Aspire to the Impossible

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.
To dream the impossible dream /To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow /To run where the brave dare not go
To right the unrightable wrong /To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary /To reach the unreachable star.
(lyrics by Joe Darion)

In the words of the founder of the Hongzhou lineage of Chan, Mazu Daoyi (709–788), the fruition of Chan practice is a fluid "harmony of body and mind that reaches out through all four limbs...benefiting what cannot be benefited and doing what can’t be done." ("Chan Buddhism," Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

Aspiration is a vow or commitment. In the Zen tradition, practitioners regularly recite “The Four Bodhisattva Vows”:
Beings are numberless; I vow to free them (all).
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them (all).
Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them (all).
The Buddha way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
Thich Nhat Hanh's version is:
However innumerable beings are, I vow to meet them with kindness and interest.
However inexhaustible the states of suffering are, I vow to touch them with patience and love.
However immeasurable the Dharmas are, I vow to explore them deeply.
However incomparable the mystery of interbeing, I vow to surrender to it freely.
These are certainly very impractical commitments. In fact, they are literally, precisely impossible to fulfill. But why not have aspirations so lofty they are impossible to fulfill? We’d be selling ourselves short if our aspirations were any less lofty. The trick is to keep on making effort in the direction of fulfillment of the aspiration but not to think that you will actually complete the job. Do not be dismayed or discouraged by this “failure” – instead be encouraged by it. This is a good approach because you will always have more to do and always be spurred on by the strength of your commitment. To commit to something you actually could accomplish is such small potatoes for a lofty, sacred human being like yourself.

The Four Bodhisattva Vows are extravagant and enthusiastic. They are the vows of one who is committed to becoming awakened for the benefit of others. While “bodhisattva” is a Buddhist word, I think it stands for something more basically human. We all want to be compassionate, giving, loving people at the bottom of our hearts. This is a human, not a Buddhist, aspiration. We would all like to serve others, to feel for others, to love others with everything we’ve got. We would all like to be a light for the world.

We might admire people who are wealthy, famous, or skillful in some way, but these things are not difficult. If you are born with some talent, a little luck (which might include the luck of being – by native temperament or by habit trained into you since childhood – hard-working), and you know the right people, you, too, can have one or more of those attributes. Many people are wealthy, famous, skilled, or all three. Much more difficult and much more wonderful is to be someone committed to compassion, to service, to love. Not someone that many people know about and talk about but someone who has the almost magical power of spreading happiness and confidence wherever she or he goes.

What a vision for your life, for your family, to be a light for those around you! To think of everything you do, every action, every social role, every task, as being just a cover for, an excuse for, your real aspiration: to free every being, end every delusion, learn wisdom from every moment – to spread goodness wherever you go. This requires no particular luck other than the good luck to be the sort of person willing to take on impossible aspirations – even if everything goes wrong in your life, even if bad luck befalls you at every turn, you can still adopt an aspiration similar to the Bodhisattva vows. No special skills or special contacts with “important” people are needed. Anyone can do this. We can all do this. This is the aspiration we should all cultivate for training the mind.

People often complain to me that they don’t have time for spiritual practice. In today’s busy world, it seems that we can barely cover the basics, let alone refine our lives further with spirituality. When spiritual practice is an item at the bottom of our long to-do lists (embedded in task-accomplishment apps on our smartphones), it is very hard to get to it – and usually we don’t. My answer is simple: spiritual practice is not an item on the list. It is not a task we do. It is how we do what we do. It’s a spirit, an attitude. Practice is not something we are doing over and above our life. It is our life. It is the way we live. We can live by striving toward unfulfillable vows.
And the world will be better for this, that one man . . .
Strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable stars.
For Journaling

What unfulfillable vow will you make with your life? In your journal, reflect on this and re-write the Bodhisattva vows – or Don Quixote’s aspirations as sung in “Man of La Mancha” – into vows that you want to commit to pursuing (not achieving or keeping). Then, once a week, look back on the previous seven days and reflect on ways that your aspiration mattered – to you or to others -- or simply moments during which you recollected your vows.



* * *
If Don Quixote's "quest" seems a bit ridiculous, consider the impossible aspirations of hopelessly overpowered resistance movements. Resistors may see themselves as having no chance to actually win -- yet they commit to "fight the unbeatable foe." Zbigniew Herbert's moving poem, "The Envoy of Mr. Cogito," is based on his experience in the Polish resistance against Nazi occupation. See the poem and my reflection on it: HERE.

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

2018-03-21

Music: Sun Mar 25


Melody of Dragon returns to CUUC with a program of traditional Chinese music. Read on for programming details, background on the group and the specifics works performed.
Melody of Dragon:         
                                                                                   
                                                                       

Centering Music:   Melody of Dragon-- Chen, Tao (dizi); Xia, Wen-Jie (erhu); Liu, Li (ruan)
In A Festive Mood
Jasmine Flower         
                                                            Folk Songs
Raindrops on the Plantain
                                                Cantonese

Opening Music:
The Purple Bamboo:            
                                    Silk & Bamboo Music

Music for All Ages: with Melody of Dragon

Offertory:
Autumn Moon over the Placid Lake
                                                            Cantonese

Interlude:
Journey to Gusu                                                                   
Jiang  Xian-Wei

Postlude:
Step By Step             
                                                Cantonese


About the Music:

1. In A Festive Mood                                     Folk Song
A popular song in East China. It’s often played at festivals, celebrations or any joyous gatherings.

2. Jasmine Flower                                                                              Folk Song
Famous folk tune with beautiful melody, a tasty song of Silk & Bamboo music style.

3. Raindrops on the Plantain                                                           Cantonese Music
One of the most popular compositions from the early period of Cantonese instrumental music, this piece abounds with the beauty of southern China.  The lively rhythm evokes the sounds of raindrops falling on the plantain leaves as the tree sway in the breeze.

4. The Purple Bamboo                                              Silk & Bamboo Music
This lively tune is a folk song popular south of the Yangtze River. Traditionally, the main melody is played alternately by the dizi, the strings and the plucking instruments and is an example of the Silk & Bamboo Music.

5. Autumn Moon over the Placid Lake                    Cantonese Music
Cantonese music is a distinctive school of Chinese folk music. It is highly descriptive, characterized by vitality and inventiveness and usually played by a small group where each player extemporizes on the same tune and the leader, playing the goad, sets the pace. Set in the great seaports of southern China, Cantonese music was exposed early to western influences.

6. Journey to Gusu                                                                Jiang  Xian-Wei
Elegantly rounded tones and fluid melodic phrases capture the scenic beauty of the Jiangnan region.

7. Step by Step:                                                         Cantonese Music
This piece is drawn from the Cantonese School of Music, a regional school of Chinese folk music. It is highly descriptive, characterized by vitality and inventiveness and usually played by a small group when each player extemporizes on the same tune and the leader, playing the gaohu, sets the pace.

About Melody of Dragon:
Melody of Dragon, Inc., a Chinese music ensemble based in New York City, was founded in 1998, by four virtuoso musicians from the leading conservatories in China in order to introduce and promote Chinese musical repertory in the United States. The ultimate purpose of Melody of Dragon is to build a bridge of musical and cultural exchange between China and the United States.
Melody of Dragon maintains a full itinerary of concert performances and educational programs for schools and the general public. The members of Melody of Dragon are Chen Tao, master of the dizi (Chinese bamboo flute) and the ensemble's director; Chen Sisi , world-class soloist of the yangqin (hammered dulcimer); Zhang Bao-Li, master of the erhu (two-string fiddle); Liu li, renown performer of the guqin (ancient seven-string zither).
For more info, please visit: http://www.melodyofdragon.org/


2018-03-16

From the Minister, Thu Mar 15

I'm so impressed and proud of the work of our SJTs (Social Justice Teams)!

Our Women's Issues SJT supported the Planned Parenthood Day of Action in Albany on Tue Mar 13. Anne H, John C, Mary C, and Deb M were in Albany lobbying our representatives on behalf of reproductive justice.

Our Environment SJT has been working on making our congregation a recognized "Green Sanctuary" -- including congregational involvement in local efforts on behalf of environmental sustainability. They are helping CUUC focus on food scrap recycling, and are organizing a tour of the Ulster County facility for that -- it's on Apr 4. The hard work of Janet B, Charlie M, Joe M, and the rest of the team has been awesome!

Our Economic Inequality SJT has brought us a proposal for CUUC to take a position on that issue. Details are necessary -- since merely "we're in favor of equality" doesn't say much -- and details we have. Working from the Statement of Conscience adopted at the last national UU General Assembly, this SJT has held forums on Jan 14, Feb 4, and Mar 11 to consider the proposal and suggest amendments. The product of these labors is HERE. A special congregational meeting has now been called for Apr 29 for the congregation to vote on whether to adopt this proposal. Pat L, Jim W, Randy M, and Jeff T have provided commitment and energy to make this happen. Excellent work!

Our LGBTQ SJT has been at work renewing CUUC's "Welcoming Congregation" status. Our Refugee Resettlement SJT has put out an amazing effort (see my column HERE). The Hungry and Homeless SJT works tirelessly all year, and is especially visible in their efforts during the Nov-Dec holidays. The Animal Advocacy SJT is behind revisions to CUUC's response to mice in our vicinity -- and encouraging that the fare at our congregational brunches involve less cruelty. The Racial Justice SJT continues to raise consciousness and shift culture.

In so many, many ways we are simply, impressively, carrying out our mission to "engage in service to transform ourselves and our world." We are living our Unitarian Universalist values and acting in love to make our world better, kinder, more sustainable. It's inspiring -- and humbling.

In love,
Meredith

  • The two Common Reads for 2017-18: HERE
  • A Special Congregational Meeting has been called for Sun Apr 29. On the agenda is a Proposal that CUUC take a position on Escalating Economic Inequity. See the proposal HERE.
  • You may suggest changes to the proposal, but for your suggestion to be considered on Apr 29, it must be submitted by Apr 8. To submit a change -- or simply comment -- add a Comment to the post HERE.
  • On the Journey, March: Wandering. HERE.
Minister's Tuesday Coffee Chat. I'm at a coffee shop (almost) every Tuesday from 3-5pm. I invite you to drop by and chat.
Mar: Starbucks, 51 Purchase St. Rye
Apr: Barnes and Noble Cafe, Vernon Hills Shopping Center, Eastchester
On The Liberal Pulpit. The Liberal Pulpit is a YouTube Channel HERE!
Index of past sermons: HERE.
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Practice of the Week. How Much Is Enough? (Ecospiritual Practice). Our present bases of status are not only hazardous to our financial security but also to our collective ecological security. And we know it. We all know intellectually that endlessly increasing consumption is unsustainable for the Earth.
Your Moment of Zen (Raven Tale #46). One morning Porcupine came to Raven privately and asked, "What is Raven Roshi?" Raven said, "I have this urge to prey on newborn lambs." Porcupine asked, "How do you deal with it?" Raven said, "I'd be disoriented without it."

Zen Practice at CUUC: Sat Mar 17

R.E. News

On Wandering and the Places You'll Go (Cindy)


RE News: Sun Mar 18

Lifespan Religious Education

Many of us were heartened by the high school youth around the country who walked out of school on Wednesday to demand gun control after another shocking school shooting. We were inspired by their passion and maturity. This Sunday, our CUUC high school youth share their reflections on the topic of passion. They will be sharing their passions and hoping to stir yours. Be sure to walk into the sanctuary this Sunday to witness the powerful, creative spirit of our youth.

Please see the following seven (7) announcements:

1) This Sun Mar 18
K-5th start in sanctuary for Wonder Box Story at Youth Service.
6th-7th starts in classroom.

Classes
Pre-K - Chalice Children
K-1 - Creating Home: Our Worship Home
2nd-3rd - Passport to Spirituality: Iran (Baha'i: Kindness)
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Moses Part 2
6th-7th – Neighboring Faiths: Native American Spirituality with special guest George Stonefish
8th-9th – Coming of Age: Writing Retreat at Murray Grove
10th-12th – Youth Group: Youth Service

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

2) Passover Service Discussion - This Sun 11:40
Do you have a connection, family heritage, or interest in Jewish traditions? Join us to help plan this year's Passover Service and Meal that is happening on April 8. We welcome your ideas and input.

Meet in Room 41 at 11:40 this Sun, Mar 18.

3) Metro NY Junior High Youth Con Registration - Don't Miss Out!
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

4) Refugee Children Need Friends
The family that recently arrived from Afghanistan and is living in White Plains would like to make some new friends. Would you and your children like to meet them, maybe for a play date or shared outdoor activity? (The children are 4, 5 and 10.)

For more information, please contact Jane Dixon, lilrhodie@gmail.com

5) Faith Development Friday - Mar 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 the theme of wandering (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 Social Night and Service Prep
Join us for a night of fun and preparing for the Youth Service on Sunday!

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.

Also stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.

6) UU Common Read Discussion - Fri Mar 23, 7:30pm, Fireside
Hosted by CUUC Wisdom Reading and Discussion Group
We will discuss Daring Democracy: Igniting Power, Meaning, and Connection for the America We Want, one of the two books selected for this year’s Common Read. This optimistic book is for Americans who are asking, in the wake of Trump's victory, What do we do now? The answer: We need to organize and fight to protect and expand our democracy.

Buy a copy after Sunday’s worship and join us!

Facilitated by Rev. Meredith and Sabrina Cleary (clearytheory@gmail.com).

7)


Sincerely,
Perry
Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

2018-03-15

On Wandering and the Places You’ll Go

Cindy Davidson, Ministerial Intern

Our monthly theme of wandering and our annual giving campaign’s theme of “Let’s Journey Together” has me daydreaming … my mind meanders here and there… Oh, where are the places you’ll go? We’ll go?

In Dr. Seuss’s 1990 book, Oh, the Places You’ll Go! the protagonist “you” in the book is portrayed in the drawings as young boy who wanders on life’s journey. Never having been a young boy myself, I’m asked to translate the disconnect between the “you” I hear and the images I see in the book; the visual learner in me bristles at the non-sight of my “you.” (Ever notice how some stories are better heard than read, or the “feels good when I’m included” factor in the “we” and “they”?)

Perhaps you’ve had a similar experience when taking in a story, film or work of art told through or by the personage or identity of someone very clearly “unlike-me.” I try to “let it go” and use these occasions as opportunities to practice perspective-taking. After all, isn’t that what we are challenged to do every day of our lives? Especially in this gathered, covenantal community?

In Dr. Seuss’ story, “you” and we the readers arrive at the “The Waiting Place,” waiting for something to happen and for the journey to continue towards resolution. Waiting for something to happen – suspense! Will it be by another’s actions? Our own? By happenstance, by plan? So many possibilities!

Whether we journey and wander in search of spiritual fulfillment and the realization of our highest ideals as part of our individual quest or as part of a collective endeavor, I think we would do well to recognize and follow our passions. I’m reminded of African American theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman’s words, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. What the world needs is people who have come alive.” Perhaps we would do well to interpret this “you” in both the singular and the plural: What the world needs is for every UU congregation to go and do what makes it come alive.

In this month’s Journey Group packet, Emilie Wapnik’s TED talk on "Multipotentialites" resonates with me deeply as a person who has wandered vocationally and avocationally my whole life. I wonder though, what if the “you” in this story is the collective you (y’all! yins!) and we think of this congregation as the vehicle for unleashing our multiple potentialities in service to the world? Casting a common vision of being “a sanctuary without walls that promotes diversity, fellowship, spiritual growth and inspiration, while committing to people and the planet through social action and service” is a good and exciting start and reflects well your collective passions and ways you come alive. Getting there -- moving from the waiting place onto the pathway forward -- will it happen by happenstance, miracle, or strategic planning?

How will you, I mean you, yes you, be in the middle of this story?

How Much Is Enough?

Practice of the Week
How Much Is Enough

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


Not long ago, my family had an old clunker of a car that we jokingly referred to as “the rust bucket,” or just “the bucket.” It was small, got good gas mileage, was used mostly for short trips, and was about fifteen years old and looked its age. It got so awful looking that our kids were embarrassed to be seen in it. If they needed to go somewhere, they would beg for us to take the minivan instead. Mostly we acquiesced, but occasionally the kids were forced to ride in the bucket, much to their dismay.

My personal concerns about the bucket centered mostly on its potential to break down at inopportune times, but I confess that there were moments when I felt a little twinge of what my kids expressed. A small, deep-down part of me wanted to hang a large sign on the bucket that read something like, “We’re trying to save the earth’s resources!” My feelings about the bucket are not something I’m proud of, but they are revealing.

My feelings are evidence that I am still embedded in a culture that equates status with expensive stuff. I cannot remove myself from my culture completely. Not all cultures are like ours in this respect: some accord more status for wisdom or generosity, and very little for material possessions. Ours, however, is a culture where we judge others by their evident wealth. To one degree or another, we all experience pressure to keep up appearances we deem appropriate to our social standing. Even in the midst of an economic collapse, people struggling to pay their bills may go to great lengths to keep up the illusion of prosperity.

Tragically, dysfunctional American concepts of status are spreading. The nouveau riche class in emerging industrialized countries (China, India, for example) is increasingly enamored with conspicuous consumption, and the growing middle class follows their lead.

Our present bases of status are not only hazardous to our financial security but also to our collective ecological security. And we know it. We all know intellectually that endlessly increasing consumption is unsustainable for the Earth.

What others thinks of us will always matter. We want to be valued and respected. We want to be held in high regard by those around us. We want people, even strangers, to judge us favorably. These desires are as old as humanity itself and form the bedrock on which all the cultural pressures pile up. The work before us is not to try to change the bedrock (an impossible task) but rather to change the culture – to shift the way we accord status. This will be difficult, but not impossible.

Practices

1. Neighborhood Walk. Who are the proverbial “Joneses” where you live? What about them qualifies them for that moniker? Take a walk around your neighborhood. Mentally note what seems to constitute status. House size or style? A certain type of car? Perhaps the regular comings and goings of a decorator? Maybe in your area, status is even a little eco-oriented, such as solar panels on the roof. If you live in a city, how is status expressed for apartment dwellers? Location? Or something else? How might status be expressed differently in a blue-collar neighborhood than a white-collar one? Does the state of the economy influence expressions of status? What might people be trying to express through their outward symbols of status?

2. Journaling: Childhood Walk. Take an imagined mental walk down the streets of your childhood neighborhood. Visualize each house or apartment building, along with the cars, gardens, and people. In your journal, describe your childhood neighborhood and reflect on such questions as: Who had the fanciest house? Were all the houses similar? Who were the “Joneses” of your childhood? As a child, how did you perceive the people who lived around you? Were you the top dog or the underdog? Did your family’s economic status have an impact on how you were perceived? Was the neighborhood mixed in terms of income, or more homogenous?

3. Altar: Inner and Outer Life. On one side of your altar, place three or four items that symbolize your outer life and how the world perceives you: your work, your socioeconomic status, your home, or any aspect of your identity that is open to the public eye. On the other side, place three or four items that symbolize your inner life: aspects that are more personal and private. These may be religious or spiritual symbols, or items that represent any part of your life that the world does not see. Leave the items separated on the altar for a few days. Spend some time observing your creation and musing on its meaning. Next, remove any items that do not represent what you consider to be the real you. What’s left? Is it a mix, or are the items now only from one side? Leave the new arrangement in place for a few days and muse on what it says.

Group Activities

What’s Your "Bucket"? Group members each share a story of when they were compared to others regarding material status or possessions in an uncomfortable or unfavorable way. At the end of each story, the other group members mention noneconomic qualities they see in the person who just spoke (e.g., friendliness, compassion, creativity).

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • Many religious traditions contain parables, stories, or proverbs about the dangers of judging by outward appearances. What does your faith say on the subject?
  • Have you ever been in the home of someone who was very status conscious and wealthy enough to fully express it? What was your emotional response to the experience? Were you at all envious?
  • If you have children, how do concepts of status affect their world? Do they feel pressure to keep up with the junior Joneses? How?
  • How does our present culture reinforce concepts of status based on material possessions? What might status look like in a culture that truly valued ecological sustainability?

* * *

Previous Ecospiritual Practice: Turn Away from Mindless Living
Next Ecospiritual Practice: Cogs in the Machine

2018-03-09

Time Change!

A special musical message from our nonmusical staff:



Gods of Sleep and Goddesses of Slumber
Help us not be late, we ask.
Changing clocks, one forward number
May we not forget this task.
Choir members, preachers, teachers
All will deeply grateful be
If on time we get to CUUC!

Little White Envelopes


“Money is the root of all evil” -- A corruption (pun intended) of the Christian scripture (1 Timothy, verse 6:10): “For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.” (NRSV)

It was a rare Sunday to leave for church, all of one block away, without our little white custom-printed and carefully filled out envelope in hand. Inside, our weekly tithe, soon to join others in the shiny brass collection plates lined in red velvet. My father was among the men who would open all those envelopes and carefully count and record the collection each week. Perhaps that helps explains my fondness for those little white envelopes I  don’t find often these days in UU congregations.

I don’t recall any discomfort then around talking about money in church like the discomfort I’ve encountered since. You knew what was expected and you did your best to meet that expectation. 10% or a commitment to “working towards a tithe.” Little white envelopes. Use them weekly. Just do it. If you fell short during hard times, not so bad. If you fell short by withholding out of an “eagerness to grow rich,” well, that was a matter between you and your maker or conscience.

My experience of tithing as a transformative spiritual practice, rather than a duty, occurred not in my childhood years in the United Methodist church­­­, but in my home UU congregation some fifteen years ago. I remember well that first year when I stepped up my giving significantly. I took the challenge of tithing literally and pledged 10% to the church. (Since that year, I’ve gone with the so-called “UU tithe” …. 5% to the church and 5% to other non-profits.)

It felt good to give generously then, and it still does. Researchers and testimonials confirm there is delight and joy in being generous with our gifts of time, talents and treasures. Certainly, there have been times when honoring my commitments has been difficult. Times when I fell short and needed to regroup and come back to the practice again. For me, it has been a dynamic process and an inward journey of sorts that challenges me to continually orient and discipline myself towards practicing simplicity, resisting the pull of consumerism, and placing people before things. Choosing to live into theologies of abundance, gratitude and sharing rather than scarcity, fear and withholding can be both daunting and emboldening! By tithing, I was reminded of who I strove to be and how I sought to be a part of the change I wished to see in the world.

In her writings on tithing as a spiritual practice, UU Rev. Rebecca Parker shares these words from Steve De Groot that capture the essence of my own experience:
“I tithe because it tells the truth about who I am. …. a person who has something to give. … a person who has received abundantly from life. … a person whose presence matters in the world. … a person whose life has meaning because I am connected to and care about many things larger than myself alone. If I did not tithe, I would lose track of these truths about who I am. By tithing, I remember who I am.”

I wonder – is there room in your life for a serious practice of intentional giving?  Not that clich├ęd “giving until it hurts,” but giving until it transforms your heart, your mind, your understanding of your place in the world and the way you relate to others and your community?


-- Alexander, Scott W., ed. Everyday Spiritual Practice: Simple Pathways for Enriching Your Life. "Spiritual Practice for Our Time," Rebecca Parker. Skinner House Books: Boston, MA. 1999.