2018-10-31

Music: Sun Nov 4


Thoughts of Election Day carry musical associations from diverse peoples and disparate eras. Legendary folksinger Woody Guthrie probably best summarizes a contemporary UU take on collective participation and shared responsibility in his “This Land Is Your Land”, performed this morning by Kim Force. Elsewhere, the music of a traditional Spiritual reminds us of the many peoples disenfranchised in our country’s paternalistic origins, while the music of Aaron Copland—a gay Jew from Brooklyn—reminds us of communities at once intensely invested in the American vision and, at the same time, still at risk. Leonard Bernstein, whose centennial is commemorated this year, furnishes a tender portrait of his one-time wife, the Argentine-born actress Felicia Montealegre, an example of many immigrant voices which contributed to the American fabric, and a Colonial-period riff on “Yankee Doodle” recalls the early years of a republic, still trying to define itself today. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
“Let Us Cheer the Weary Traveler”
            African-American Spiritual, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
Sentimental Melody
The Young Pioneers
            Aaron Copland

Opening Music:
“For Felicia Montealegre” from Four Anniversaries
                        Leonard Bernstein

Offertory:
Variations on “Yankee Doodle”
                        Traditional Colonial arr. by Anonymous

Interlude: Kim Force, vocals
This Land Is Your Land
                        Woody Guthrie

2018-10-30

The Vending Machine God

Practice of the Week
The Vending Machine God

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


The "gospel of health and wealth" declares that God wanted people to have the big house, car, boat, or whatever, and to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle. It’s is based on an old idea: that wealth is a sign of God's favor—and that the poor deserve to be poor. Never mind that it stood the core teachings of the Jewish and Christian scriptures on their head.

In “How Much Is Enough?" (HERE), we looked at concepts of status. Underlying the surface concepts of material status are more profound psychological beliefs that declare material things to be a source of deep contentment and life satisfaction. Whether or not we bought into the overt health and wealth gospel, it is not easy to let go of the paradigm of seeking contentment from material possessions. Especially since the turn of the twentieth century, advertisers have aggressively worked to convince us that we can find happiness and life satisfaction if only we purchase whatever they are selling. Since the early 1960s, they have used psychology in increasingly subtle ways, playing on our deepest longings for acceptance, love, inner peace, and contentment. It is impossible for us not to have absorbed at least some of this message. For working class people especially, the idea that wealth is a sign of God's blessing is particularly cruel. Fortunately, when we recognize the health and wealth gospel for what it is and bring it into our conscious minds, we can begin to let it go.

There are two aspects of faith in the Vending Machine God. The first aspect is believing in a health and wealth deity – i.e., an insert-prayers-get-stuff sort of God. This vision of God, along with consumerism as a whole, has been challenged by various groups who take seriously the social justice message of the ancient Hebrew prophets. One such group, Alternatives for Simple Living, issues publications confronting the excesses of holiday consumption and connecting voluntary simplicity with environmental causes.

The second aspect is more pervasive, and less obvious. It is the belief that deep satisfaction will come from the next purchase. The vending machine itself is the God. Endless pursuit of the next possession, experience, or situation to the exclusion of cultivating contentment in simple pleasures and grounding ourselves in the natural world is the adult version of being the kid at the vending machine. We chase illusions, oblivious to the utterly beautiful Earth on which we live. But the Earth is calling to us. It says: Let go, unlearn, come home.

Practices

1. Bookshelf Rethink. Sort through the various spiritual and self-help books you've accumulated over the years with an eye for what really resonates and what doesn't. Are there any health and wealth sorts of books in your collection? What do you recall about your life circumstances when you purchased or received them? Looking at them now, do they still have any value for you? After considering each book, ask yourself if there are any in the collection that you could let go of. Can they be given to charity? Maybe there's one that's so awful you want to send it straight to the trash. That's okay. It's entirely your choice.


2. Simplicity, Simplicity. Clear your altar of all decoration, and give it a good dusting. Look around your home at objects that might be suitable for placing on your altar. Choose one. Place it on the altar and simply sit and ponder it for a while. Consider the meaning that your object holds for you. What does it symbolize? Can you find several meanings to it? Leave it there for a week or so, and sit with it several times, pondering some more. See if other meanings come to light over time. After the week has passed, switch your object for another one and try the process again. Do not rush into switching objects, and do not purchase anything new for the exercise. Work only with what you have, and find or create meaning as you go.

3. Chart Your Journey. Take a sheet of plain white paper, and draw a horizontal line near the bottom of the page. Now, draw a vertical line up from the center of the horizontal one. On one end of the horizontal line, write the words spiritual confusion/frustration. On the other side, write spiritual contentment/peace. Now, starting at the bottom, where the horizontal line meets the vertical one, write your birth year. At the top of the vertical line, write the present year. Then draw a graph representing your own spiritual journey, marking a meaning line from the bottom to the top. The vertical line in the center represents a neutral state and the right and left edges represent opposite extremes. You'll probably end up with a wavy or zigzag sort of line that roughly shows the broad sweep of your spiritual life. Look at that broad sweep and consider your beliefs, practices, and life events. When were the times of greatest growth? They may have been the times of confusion and frustration. Reflect on the concepts of consumerism and materialism as you examine your graph. Consider whether there were times in your life when accumulating material things was very important to you. How do these times in your life relate to the spiritual aspects of your life?

Group Activities

Your Common Journey. Have each member of your group do the Chart Your Journey practice, above. Then gather together to share. You don't need to get into personal details unless you want to. Discuss any patterns you find

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • How does the insert-prayer-get-stuff God fit with the overall zeitgeist of the twentieth century?
  • Have you ever heard the message of any health and wealth preachers or advocates first hand? What was your reaction?
  • Have you heard any spiritual teaching that struck you as psychologically manipulative? Did it utilize any health and wealth elements?
  • Can simplicity also be a kind of abundance? How?

* * *

2018-10-26

From the Minister, Thu Oct 25

Here is what our UUA – our national Unitarian Universalist Association – up through 2016 had to say about Unitarians celebrating Day of the Dead / Día de los Muertos. The WorshipWeb section of UUA.org included this:
“Día de los muertos (Day of the Dead) is a festive celebration in memory of those who have died. Its origins in Mesoamerica go back over 3,000 years, even though it was shaped by two Roman Catholic holidays: All Saints Day (Nov 1) and All Souls Day (Nov 2). In Spanish, All Saints Day and All Souls Day are known as El Día de Todos los Santos and El Día de los Muertos, respectively. In southern and central Mexico, Día de los muertos entails many traditions: building private altars called ofrendas, honoring the deceased using sugar skulls, marigolds, and the favorite foods and beverages of the departed, and visiting graves with these as gifts. Visitors also leave possessions of the deceased at the graves. Some themes: remembrance, grief, cycle of life and death, honoring those who have gone before us. As a matter of cultural competency, WorshipWeb encourages our Unitarian Universalist congregations to use the Spanish name 'Día de los muertos,' rather than translating it into "Day of the Dead" in church announcements, programs, emails, etc. There are many holidays that retain their native language (Yom Kippur, Kwanzaa, Rosh Hashanah, etc.), and we seek to make this one of them.”
However, as I noted in our service in October 2016:
"There has been a conversation going on among Unitarian Universalists and in wider society about cultural appropriation – if and when and how to borrow from another culture’s traditions -- the boundaries around what is 'our culture' and thus 'ours' are not clear. Samhain is a Gaelic, European holiday – so it feels more like 'ours' even though many of us never set foot there. It’s tricky territory, and we negotiate it carefully."
Not only is it tricky and difficult, it’s also rapidly evolving territory. The sense of what is acceptable and what isn’t is contentious and fraught, and changing. By 2017, the UUA site had added a note that wasn’t there the year before:
“This holy day is a distinctly Mexican holiday, though some in other Latin American countries have adopted it. For that reason, it's neither respectful nor appropriate for white congregations to initiate its celebration in worship. In the words of Rev. Marisol Caballero, 'When white people "celebrate" el Día de Los Muertos not as the personal, invited guest of Mexicans, it feels to me like someone has crashed a family funeral or a wake.' To learn more about why UU congregations celebrating this day encroaches on the hurtful territory of cultural appropriation, please take the time to review the video in the sidebar.”
The referenced video runs one hour, and is titled "Decentering Whiteness in Worship." I am not sure what to think about all this, but I am thinking about it, and I hope you will also as we grow and learn and adapt together. In any case, even though we never did attempt to enact any of the rituals of Día de los Muertos, we titled the service "Día de los Muertos" from 2013-2016. Our aim was to acknowledge, recognize and respectfully honor the customs from other lands. Still, starting in 2017,  we’ve changed the title to All Hallows’ Eve.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit /New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Don't Take It Personally /When you think you've been targeted personally, you probably feel worse. The thing is, most of what bumps into us in life—including emotional reactions from others, traffic jams, illness, or mistreatment at work — is like an impersonal log put in motion by ten thousand causes upstream. Recognize the humbling yet wonderful truth: most of the time, we are bit players in other people's dramas. When you look at things this way, you naturally get calmer, put situations in context, and don't get so caught up in me-myself-and-I. Then you feel better. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Gossip /Mockingbird shows up today for the first time. It's not hard to believe that Mockingbird would like to gossip. It's unusual for a mockingbird, though, that he would feel remorse about that.

When early humans lived in bands of about 150 or less, gossip was a primary tool for social cohesion. Despite being sometimes divisive, the practice of monitoring the behavior of various third parties, and moralizing about it with various second parties generally helped keep group members in line. As a social species, it's what we do. That's why it's fun. A group of over 150, however, is too large to monitor and moralize about. Hence, gossip magazines today generally have a list of about 100-150 celebrities they're tracking. Groups larger than 150 need other tools for promoting social cohesion: shared ritual, story-telling (origin myths, morality tales), group music-making -- in a word, religion.

It's all dirt, though, right? Dirt is dirt.

Case
Porcupine was leading an orientation to the practice when Mockingbird dropped in. During the question period he said, "I have a tendency to gossip. I know it can be hurtful, yet I can't seem to stop."
Porcupine said, "It's fun."
Mockingbird said, "Yes, but at the expense of others."
Porcupine said, "Dirt is dirt!"
Verse
Bob fell off the wagon.
Susan lost her job.
Sally's Dan is flunking out.
That Keith is such a slob.

Sympathies and judgment
Served up over tea.
So nice to not have those folks' faults, but
What do they say of me?

So nice to not have faults like those
Except I fear I do.
I share in all those named above
And several others too.

Anxiety is thus sustained,
Throughout the system felt.
Someone, perhaps, must do that job,
But maybe someone else.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon


Zen at CUUC: Oct 26-Nov 1

2018-10-24

RE News: Sun Oct 28

Last Sunday I was pleased to lead the children's worship for K-5 in Fellowship Hall. The children gathered around the chalice and one child was selected to lead the chalice lighting opening words, and another assisted me in lighting the candle. Excitement over Halloween was tangible as all the children gathered around in a circle and chose a partner to discuss what they liked the best about the holiday. After a minute or so they shared their thoughts with each other. Costumes and parties were a huge hit, but the hands-down winner was candy, candy, candy! We extinguished the chalice with all of us reading together the closing words and blowing out the flame as a group. The children immediately gathered around the piano to work with Lyra, learning the words of the song being prepared for Thanksgiving. We want to thank Mary Kingsley, mother of Arturo Cruz Avellan, who was kind enough to bring in a cake for Arturo’s birthday. He was very excited to share it with his friends in class 8-9. So we continue to move forward with many RE events scheduled in weeks to come. The teachers remain motivated as well as the students. CUUC religious education is nothing short of impressive!
Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

RE This Sunday, Oct 28
Grades K-7 K-5 start in Fellowship Hall for children’s worship and music with Lyra. Grades 6-12 start in classes. Halloween costume parade in the sanctuary at 11:10.

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group

To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Halloween Costume Parade & Fun, Sun Oct 28 - Wear your costume to CUUC!
At 11:10 all classes join the Halloween parade into the sanctuary. Then Youth Group will lead the children to the Halloween Monster Mash fun area in the red pod after the service. Kids will enjoy face painting, Halloween tattoos, pumpkin painting, "Dare to Guess" boxes, and more!

CUUC Auction "Under the Sea," Sat Nov 3, Doors open at 5:30pm, Tickets $45 - Kid's Auction included!
No need to worry about the cost of a babysitter... it's included with your auction tickets! While adults are enjoying their evening Under the Sea, children will be in the RE wing enjoying pizza dinner and their own Kids' Auction The "millions" will be flying as the bidding escalates - Do you spend it all now on the rainbow slinky or hold out for the colored pencils? RSVP by Wed Oct 31. CUUCRE@gmail.com.

2018-10-23

Music: Sun Oct 28


Día de los Muertos, reinterpreted at CUUC as a time for remembrance and spiritual communion, elicits a wide range of musical expression at Sunday morning’s worship service. Mary Lane Cobb performs “When October Goes”, an evocation of loss and memory with words by Johnny Mercer and music by Barry Manilow. For the Centering Music, Music Director Adam Kent performs the Danza del terror from Manuel de Falla’s ballet El amor brujo, based on an Andalusian gypsy legend of obsessive love and ghostly possession. A funeral march from Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 12 follows, along with two depictions of mischievous spirits from Norwegian folklore by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg. Finally, the Offertory features American composer William Bolcom’s elegant Graceful Ghost Rag, written in the aftermath of the death of the composer’s father. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Danza del terror from El amor brujo
                                                Manuel de Falla
Piano Sonata No. 12 in Ab Major, Op. 26
            III. Marcia funebre sulla morte d’un eroe
                                                Ludwig van Beethoven
March of the Trolls, Op. 54, No. 3
                                                Edvard Grieg

Opening Music:
Little Troll, Op. 71, No. 3
                                                            Grieg

Offertory:
Graceful Ghost Rag
                                                            William Bolcom

Interlude: Mary Lane Cobb, soprano
“When October Goes”
                                    Music by Barry Manilow, words by Johnny Mercer
-->

2018-10-18

From the Minister, Thu Oct 18

Christian writer Carroll Saussy has some wise word about anger:
"Befriend your anger. Then can you hear the deeper truth that anger is revealing. Sometimes anger tiptoes, a gentle wake-up call slipping into consciousness and building, building, building. 'I think I’m getting angry about this...'

Sometimes anger’s ring is musical – a clock radio with a snooze alarm to let you slowly rise to the brightness of its day. 'Maybe I am angry. Maybe I’m just tired.' Sometimes the sound’s a deafening clang – a jolt that throws you out of bed.

Befriend your anger. Only then can you decide the what and when and how of your reply.

Befriend your anger. Learn to stay with it, to play with it, to leap back to its roots. There you’ll find a child in fear and pain – and return, an adult with compassion.

Befriend your anger. When you feel the sting of others’ hurt, welcome the anger of hope: holy energy stirring in your soul, the work of Jesus in a hostile world – atonement.

Befriend your godlike anger, and be at peace." (The Gift of Anger: A Call to Faithful Action)
May it be so.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit /New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Trust In Yourself /Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Vows /This is Gray Wolf's third appearance. She first appeared in #22, when she asked for an explanation of karma. She showed up again in #59, when she questioned whether bushes and grasses could be enlightened.

The four Bodhisattva vows:
  • Beings are numberless; I vow to free them.
  • Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to end them.
  • Dharma gates are boundless; I vow to enter them.
  • Buddha's way is unsurpassable; I vow to embody it.
In the most literal sense, the vows can be kept, and must be kept. Someone making these vows can and must free every single being, end 100% of delusions, enter all of the infinite dharma gates, etc. A tall order!

In another sense, the vows are aspirational. You can't free all the beings, but try to free as many as you can. Continuously work on ending delusions, even though you'll never end them all. Always be watchful for dharma gates, and enter as many as you can. Try to embody parts of the Buddha way.

In a third sense, the vows cannot be kept, even partly. You can never free any beings, can never end a single delusion, or enter a dharma gate or embody any aspect of the Buddha way. Taking the vows is an exercise in humility, a liberating exercise in loosening the grip of the impulse to control.

In a fourth sense, the vows cannot be broken. No matter what you do, your every action in fact frees all the beings, ends all delusions, enters the infinite dharma gates (all of them at once), and embodies the Buddha way.

Raven's final remark in this segment echoes a haiku by Basho (1644-1694):
With awe I beheld
All the new green leaves of spring
Glittering in the sunshine
Case
Gray Wolf seemed to attend meetings against her better judgment. One evening she came by anyway and said, "In every service I renew my vow to save the many beings, but, really, how can I do that?"
Raven said, "It's your precious keepsake."
Mallard asked, "How can a vow be a keepsake?"
Raven said, "It reminds you of a loved one."
Gray Wolf sat back and said nothing further.
Owl spoke up and said, "We also vow to waken to the countless gates of the Great Law. I always thought that vow meant I should study all the teachings, but now I'm not so sure."
Raven said, "See all the new green leaves glittering in the sunshine!"
Verse
The morning sun behind the branches of black leaves
Promises promises
Long since broken, long since fulfilled.
Nothing is more beautiful,
Nothing less.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 19-25

Trust In Yourself

Practice of the Week
Trust In Yourself

Category: Slogans to Live By: Carry these reminders at all times. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.


Sometimes these “Slogans to Live By” can seem to contradict. This is because we are so likely to take a good thing too far, until it becomes a bad thing.

For example, this week’s slogan, “Trust in Yourself,” and a previous slogan, “It Comes Down To: Don’t Be Stuck on Yourself,” (HERE) point in opposite directions. The previous slogan told us not to insist on seeing everything from our own point of view, think of others, expand our lives. This one says that only you can determine what is happening in your life and what to do about it.

Slogans must be applied with delicacy. What's good medicine for one person is poison for another; what's right in one situation is wrong in another; what works today may not work tomorrow. Life is full of nuance and indeterminacy. To assess what is going on and know what to do, you must constantly adjust and refine. If you seem to be knocking your head against a wall, then it is time to take a breath and ask yourself what is going on.

In this process of creatively training your mind, where does your feedback come from? Who or what do you trust to keep you on track? This slogan tells you to trust yourself.

Others can see things about you that you don’t see, and their perspective can be a big help. There are holes in your self-perception. But even with these holes, you see more of yourself than any other person can see of you. In the final analysis, only you can evaluate and understand your own practice. It's your own sense of your life that makes your life. If you give over that responsibility, then you become a wobbly person, constantly looking to the right and to the left to see what you are supposed to be doing and thinking.

If other people's opinions of you feel diminishing or elevating, it's only because you have vacated your own opinions. No one likes to be criticized, disrespected, or judged by others in an uncomplimentary light. But when it comes to basic self-worth, only you are the judge. But judgment is a tricky thing. “Trust In Yourself” doesn't mean allowing self-judgment. Self-judgment, as we usually experience it, is corrosive and unhelpful.

What is self-judgment anyway? If you study it, you will see that most of the time it involves comparison: one's self is unworthy compared with others, who seem to be perfectly fine. We feel our inadequacy in relation to others—we imagine how others would judge us, and we internalize those judgments. Self-judgment is a sneakily internalized function of outside forces. The self to trust in is the self that is not self-condemnatory, that loves itself and is absolutely trustworthy. It may have a negative assessment of this or that, but this is a useful, not a crushing, assessment. However negative it may be, it helps the process of learning. If you detect self-judgmentalism, ask yourself, "Who is judging whom?" Ask this question again and again until you have found a bit of ease. This slogan is not, as it might seem on the surface, promoting conventional self-reliance. It is not opening the door to self-judgment. It is gently urging us to a profound sense of inner balance, to a deeper connection with the intimacy of mind.

There's a Zen adage: "When alone, practice as if you were with others, and when with others, practice as if you were alone.” When you're with others, try not to be an actor playing the part of yourself. We use the persona we take to be our social self as an unconscious way of distancing ourselves from our truer and more intimate selves. “Trust In Yourself” means that instead of doing that, we should try to imagine that other people are not other people, not outside our mind, not scary, and that they therefore do not require our performance. Imagine that others are actually parts of your own mind, not outside entities who need to be impressed or appeased. They are actually as intimate with you as you are with yourself. If you can situate yourself with others imaginatively in this way, you can be very relaxed and easygoing, you can be trusting and unafraid, because being with others feels like being with yourself. There's no need to be special or distinguished in any way. If your feeling is that others are you and you are they, your impulses will be socially acceptable and even kind. It is a great relief to practice like this. Social anxiety nearly disappears.

On the other hand, when you are alone, try not to sink into the usual dull subjectivity that comes when you imagine that no one is around, no one can see you, you're hiding, invisible, and so can safely be a dim-witted idiot, with the radio and television simultaneously playing as you whack mindlessly away at the keyboard of your computer or mobile device. Instead, imagine you're in the middle of a crowd, a crowd of good, kind, serious people who like you and inspire you to comport yourself with the same degree of dignity that they do. Surrounded by such people, naturally you feel at your best. You pay attention to what you are doing and you take care of things with appreciation as soon as they arise. Imagine feeling this way when you are alone, inspired and elevated by your own company!

In many ways, contemporary culture teaches us to be ashamed, embarrassed, and uncomfortable with ourselves: confused and self-clinging. It is a great achievement of consciousness, this feeling we have of being a person. Practicing this slogan may be tricky, and we can't expect it to suddenly change the long habit of how we have been feeling about ourselves, but it is a start. It will shake things up a bit. It will show us where we are stuck and how to go forward.

* * *

See also: Judith Lief, Lojong Slogan #20, "Of the Two Witnesses, Hold the Principal One" -- HERE

Practice

Pay attention to the loneliness of experience. Notice the difference between seeking for confirmation and direct witnessing. What makes you trust or distrust your own experience?

* * *

2018-10-17

RE News: Sun Oct 21

Our second Faith Development Friday, facilitated by Perry and Barbara Montrose and Rev. Garmon, segued into a busy Sunday, October 14 . The day’s agenda began with a productive RE Council meeting. The council members reviewed September RE activities, discussed plans for Social Justice Sundays and Veterans Day, organized OWL classes, and assigned tasks for Thanksgiving Sunday. Future efforts will include updating registration data and providing outreach to families. Perry was here presenting the Wonder Box Story during the service. It was an original, delightful story using colored crayons to better understand diversity. I had the opportunity to be part of classroom activities, and was especially impressed by the wonderful “mirror” exercise done by Laura Goodspeed and Lex Suvanto with K-1 students. What I observed in 8-9 grade OWL was intriguing, especially the responses the students gave to very probing questions. The weather was so pleasant that the 2-3 class went outdoors to enjoy the yard and sang together “This Little Light of Mine.” Truly, our RE students, Perry, and teachers are collectively the light of CUUC!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

RE This Sunday, Oct 21
Grades K-7 K-5 start in Fellowship Hall for children’s worship and music with Lyra. Grades 6-12 start in classes

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group

To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.

Halloween Costume Parade & Fun, Sun Oct 28 - Wear your costume to CUUC!
At 11:10 all classes will join the Halloween parade into the sanctuary. Then Youth Group will lead the children to the Halloween fun area in the red pod after the service.

Music: Sun Oct 21


CUUC Choir Accompanist Georgianna Pappas offers arrangements of hit show tunes with a political “edge” for the morning’s Prelude. Her Offertory selections include two of Rev. Martin Luther King’s favorite Spirituals. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with statements of hope and consolation. Read on for programming details.


Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
“I Am Easily Assimilated” from Candide
                                                Leonard Bernstein
“Send In The Clowns” from A Little Night Music
                                                            Stephen Sondheim
“You've Got to Be Carefully Taught”/“Children Will Listen” from South Pacific and Into The Woods
                        Rodgers & Hammerstein and Stephen Sondheim

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
“Hallelujah”     
 Leonard Cohen, arr. by Roger Emerson   
Mary Lane Cobb, soloist

Offertory:
“There Is A Balm in Gilead/Precious Lord, Take My Hand”
Traditional and George Allen Nelson and Thomas Andrew Dorsey

Anthem:
“Nine Hundred Miles”   
American Folk Song, arr. by Douglas E. Wagner

2018-10-11

From the Minister, Thu Oct 11

Sociologist Milton Bennett has developed a framework of different ways that people react to cultural differences. In which of these stages would you say you are? (Here's a kicker, though: most people imagine themselves at one stage higher than they actually are.)

Stage 1. Denial of difference. One experiences one's own culture as the only “real” one. Other cultures are either not noticed at all or are understood in an undifferentiated, simplistic manner. One is uninterested in cultural difference, but when confronted with difference, seemingly benign acceptance may change to aggressive attempts to avoid or eliminate it. Most of the time, this is a result of physical or social isolation, where one's views are never challenged and are at the center of their reality.

Stage 2. Polarization provides defense against difference. One has dualistic us/them thinking, frequently accompanied by overt negative stereotyping. In Version A, one’s own culture is experienced as the most “evolved” or best way to live. One will openly belittle the differences between their culture and another, denigrating race, gender or any other indicator of difference. One is openly threatened by cultural difference and likely to act aggressively against it. In Version B, this is reversed. One’s own culture is devalued and another culture is romanticized as superior.

Stage 3. Minimization of difference. The experience of similarity outweighs the experience of difference. One recognizes superficial cultural differences in food, customs, etc, but emphasizes human similarity in physical structure, psychological needs, and/or assumed adherence to universal values. One overestimates one's tolerance while underestimating the effect (e.g. “privilege”) of one's own culture. One approaches intercultural situations with the assurance that a simple awareness of the fundamental patterns of human interaction will assure success of communication.

Stage 4. Acceptance of difference. One’s own culture is experienced as one of a number of equally complex worldviews. One accepts the existence of culturally different ways of organizing human existence, although one does not necessarily like or agree with every way. One can identify how culture affects a wide range of human experience, and one has a framework for organizing observations of cultural difference. One will eagerly question others, reflecting a real desire to be informed, and not to confirm prejudices. The key words of this stage are “getting to know” or “learning.”

Stage 5. Adaptation to difference. One's worldviews expand to accurately understand other cultures and behave in a variety of culturally appropriate ways. One effectively uses empathy and frame-of-reference shifting to understand and be understood across cultural boundaries. One has the skills to act properly outside of one’s own culture and is able to “walk the talk.” As facility at smoothly shifting among cultural worldviews increases (sometimes called "Stage 6, Integration"), one's sense of identity expands and one sees oneself as “marginal” (not central) to any particular culture.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: Start a Joy Collection / 1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day. 2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. 3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: She Doesn't Know / Lines from the Heart Sutra:
"Form is no other than emptiness; emptiness no other than form.
Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form.
Sensation, perception, mental reaction, and consciousness are also like this.
All things are essentially empty -- not born, not destroyed; not stained, not pure; without loss, without gain."
Our brains are so full of biases -- confirmation bias, correspondence bias, self-serving bias, belief bias, hindsight bias, etc. Yet this is what allows us to be the social creatures that we are, bonding with and caring about each other. We love our tribe and would be lost without them. But our brains our built to pay a cost in true understanding for the blessings of tribal bonding.

Brown Bear and Raven seem to suggest that we say what we need to say to affirm our vital connections -- but don't believe it. We really don't know. We don't know anything. We are beings built for love, not knowledge -- so don't believe anything you think. "Only don't know" is the way.

Case
Raven took her perch one evening and told the story that a visitor had once come to Brown Bear and asked, "What is the meaning of 'form is no other than emptiness'?"
Brown Bear had replied, "I don't know. It's a line in an old sutra."
When Raven had said this, Owl asked, "Brown Bear knows the sutras very well. How could she say she didn't know?"
Raven said, "She doesn't know."
Owl said, "But she's a great teacher. She's our grandmother in the Great Law."
Raven said, "She really doesn't know."
Verse
What is the meaning of your
"What is the meaning of...?"?
Say more of what is biting you.
I have various potions in my apothecary;
Tell me about your bug, and I'll select
A bottle for you.
They are all placebos, still
The telling is treatment,
And the rituals of care.

It is a brave physician
Who withholds these ministrations,
Avers there is no cure,
And casts the patient out to
Live with the terrifying condition
Of having no disease.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 12-18

Music: Sun Oct 14


Diversity finds rich expression in music. Sunday morning’s selections include works from Spanish, Norweigian, Rumanian, and African-American traditions, all part of the U.S.’s richly varied ethnic fabric. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Evocación and El puerto from Iberia, Book I
                                                Isaac Albéniz

Opening Music:
Norwegian Melody, Op. 12, No. 6
                                                          Edvard Grieg

Offertory:
Rumanian Dances
Dance with Sticks; Waistband Dance; On the Spot; Hornpipe; Rumanian Polka; Quick Dance
Béla Barték

Intlerlude:
The Entertainer
   Scott Joplin

2018-10-10

RE News: Sun Oct 14

Last week’s Spiritual Practice Sunday was a beautiful exercise in fostering respect and admiration for our environment, respect for ourselves, and nurturing of spirit. Our deepest gratitude and appreciation goes to Bice Wilson, Martin Alberti, and Lyra Harada for presenting a wonderful morning for the children. There were at least 26 students in attendance, including two children who hadn’t been here before. They began by sitting on the floor with Bice, who fully commanded and fascinated them with his storytelling. He has gift of drawing the children in and enveloping them in the moment. He then led the group outdoors to experience “hidden” places like our hiking trails and the pond, which he beautifully embellished with factual stories and songs. Back inside, the children were given a presentation on Buddha and the path to Nirvana by Lyra Harada. The last exercise was conducted by Martin who gathered the students in a tight circle for meditation. He showed them how to assume the lotus position and then instructed them to look at the lit candle, take a deep breath, then close their eyes and remember the image of the candle for a minute or two. The students were so focused and quiet that, as the saying goes, you could hear a pin drop. The activities really seemed to touch a chord with the children. It was remarkable how attentive and respectful they were throughout, yet also engaged and enthusiastic. Thanks also go out to Christine Haran and Laura Goodspeed, our RE Council co-chairs, for facilitating the day and attending as well. We look forward to classes resuming on Oct 14 and having Perry with us to present the Wonder Box story during services.                     
Michele Rinaldi, RE Coordinator

RE This Sunday, Oct 14
Grades K-7 start in the sanctuary for a Wonder Box story. Grades 8-12 start in classes.

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.
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Faith Development Friday, Fri Oct 12, CUUC
We meet in room 41 for this month's evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. RSVP to CUUCEvents@gmail.com. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner, 7:00pm Programs, including:

"Faith Like a River" Adult RE - Session facilitated by Rev. Meredith. The class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. If you can't attend in person, you can join online via Zoom videoconferencing at https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.
Family Journey Groups - Parents discuss the theme of faith, facilitated by Barbara Montrose, while children have their own group, facilitated by Perry Montrose, Director of Faith Development. Adults without children are welcome to participate in the parent group.
Youth Group Social Night - High school youth gather for a night of fun. Bring a friend!

Adults may also just share dinner and then stay to chat and be together, without specific programming. We welcome all to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.

Build Your Joy Collection

Practice of the Week
Build Your Joy Collection

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 Ann Richards, "Collecting Joy as a Spiritual Practice," in E. W. Wikstrom, editor, Faithful Practices: Everyday Ways to Feed Your Spirit, abridged and adapted.

I have struggled to recognize joy my whole adult life. I have always veered toward the pessimistic and skeptical. Then one day, when I was working for Rev. Ginger Luke, she encouraged me to leave my computer and come out with her to the front lawn. I was feeling overwhelmed with work and didn't want to stop typing, but grumbling to myself, I followed her.

There, alongside the walkway leading to the church was a small, lonely purple flower. I thought it sort of sad and underwhelming and was considering something polite to say when I looked up at Ginger. She brightened looking at it; her mouth became a dimple-punctuated smile. "Look! Look!” she exclaimed. Her joy was contagious. Walking back indoors, I didn't have a dowdy office; I had a shared space with my excellent friend Beth. I had good music on and was making progress with my projects. I felt joyful.

I began to conscientiously collect moments of joy that I could relive and treasure as a way to awaken joy in myself. Collecting moments of joy has become a spiritual practice for me.

1. The day-end review. Your joy collection begins by reinforcing the collection in your memory. Lying in bed at night, most of us think about events in our day. Instead of stewing about mistakes committed or rudenesses endured, make an intentional practice of reviewing moments of joy experienced that day.

2. Artifact collection. Start deliberately collecting movies, videos, books, music, art, photos, or writings that express joy. I now have a file on my computer marked "Joy" for email artifacts to review on days when I'm feeling blue and a collection of video artifacts on YouTube at home for the same purpose.

I have certain guidelines for selecting items for my joy collection:

I don't include mere happiness, peace, or serenity. It’s not always easy to tell the difference, but look for things that inspire unbridled, unbounded joy -- things that engross you with positive feeling, that you can focus on only a moment and everything else is shut out – things that leave you with a warm feeling and a smile, even when the experience is over. Look for enthusiasm, unmitigated élan: the wide-eyed, panting, bop, bang, boom of Animal the Muppet playing the drums. (There is an interview with Animal viewable online, and he says that the two things he loves the most in this world are drums and bunny rabbits. He's a fictional character, but I believe him! His drum playing gives the viewer a vicarious thrill. I’m no drummer, but watching Animal do what he loves gives me a new sense of what joy can be.)

Joy is infectious, so look for it in others. It’s infectious even if the other person is joyful about something that wouldn’t make you joyful. For example, the Edwin Hawkins Singers exude joy in their great gospel song, "Oh Happy Day." I'm not a born-again Christian, and I don't share the religious fervor that inspired Edwin Hawkins to write this song. It doesn't matter. I can hear their joy, and that lets me take it on for myself.

Byrd Baylor's beautiful picture book, I'm in Charge of Celebrations explains how she creates her own holidays based on the moments in her life she most wants to remember. I added this artifact to my joy collection the very first time I read it. I have also adopted the book’s approach. To be be in charge of my own celebrations, I don’t include in my collection memories or mementos of events where joy may have been a heavy expectation. I don’t include weddings or births, for example. The holiday season can feel like a tyranny of prescribed joy. I often do experience joy at weddings, births, and holiday celebrations, but I leave this joy out of my joy collection, which is reserved for items not freighted with expectation.

Another sort of joy I exclude from my collection are victories that came with someone else’s defeat. I have worked hard on political campaigns, for instance, and my candidates sometimes win. That kind of joy is worth remembering and savoring, but I don't include those moments in my spiritual practice collection because someone else was miserable.

3. Sharing. With technology we can have a further communal practice of sharing these artifacts. We are privileged to be able to hear live music -- every Sunday morning, even if at no other time. The joy is, in part, from experiencing it together. With the internet we can hear at any time Anna Maffo's version of Songs of the Auvergne, or Katrina and the Waves' “Walking on Sunshine.” But can we have it as a shared joy? Sure! We can share artifacts of joyful experiences with others.

The spiritual practice of collecting moments of joy has grown for me as I share them with the people I love. They may not feel the same sense of joy I do when listening, looking, and sharing, but they do get to know a little more about me, and I have the wonderful feeling of enjoying those moments again with those I care about.

Share links of your favorite music to friends you haven't seen in a while, share photos of your joyful moments in nature with homebound congregants, or read a poem over Skype to a friend. To keep the moments that bring you true joy to yourself is a lost opportunity. Here, I'll share one with you right now: if you haven't heard John Mayall's harmonica solo in “Room to Move," you must!



For Journaling

In your journal, reflect on these questions:
  • How do you define joy in your life? How do you know it when you experience it?
  • Do you tend to really take note of the moments of joy in your life, or are they overshadowed by more difficult things and times?
  • What is the difference between "joy” and “happiness"?
  • How might you integrate a practice like this into your own life?

2018-10-04

From the Minister, Thu Oct 4

In January 2007, LoraKim and I were living in Gainesville, Florida, so of course we watched the NCAA football championship game that month, and of course we rooted for the home team Florida Gators against the Ohio State Buckeyes. When Florida, slight underdogs going into the game, won 41-14, I was glad. All around me the town was celebrating. Post-game shows seem to like to include fan reaction segments -- don't ask me why. They cut to a scene in Columbus, Ohio and showed a woman bedecked in OSU red and white. She was dejected, of course. In fact, she was crying. The broadcast cut back to a Gainesville bar, and two young men who had just seen on the bar TV the shot of the Ohio woman crying. The young men gleefully jeered and mocked her.

That was the moment I lost interest in college football. I'd been a football fan all my life, and I understood that jeering and mocking the opposition before the game -- and a certain amount of gloating afterward from partisans of the victor -- were to be expected. Yet I was unprepared for the delight I saw being taken in another's pain: the evident pleasure in cruelty for its own sake. The brief shot of those celebrating Gator fans haunted me. As I processed my horror, a more extreme example of the same phenomenon rose to mind: the photos I'd seen from the 1920s of smiling, celebratory white faces at the lynching of a black person.

All of this came back to me this week as I read Adam Serwer's article, "The Cruelty is the Point," and Lili Loofbourow's "Brett Kavanaugh and the Cruelty of Male Bonding." Cruelty, directed toward women, apparently functions as a bonding mechanism for some men, a means "for intimacy through contempt." Oh, dear God.

Political theorist Judith Shklar is credited with saying "liberals are the people who think cruelty is the worst thing we do." I am quick to distinguish a religious liberal and a political liberal, recognizing that many people are religiously liberal and politically conservative. I don't know if viewing cruelty as "the worst thing we do" is actually any less prominent among political conservatives than political liberals, but Shklar's point resonates with me as a characterization of religious liberals. Moreover, I have always appreciated that Shklar's way of putting it avoids claiming that liberals actually are less cruel -- just that, when we are, or discover that we have been, we think of it as "being at our worst."

My life as a Unitarian Universalist has kept me in the company of people with an intuitive revulsion to cruelty -- people who see cruelty as, indeed, worse than, say, betrayal, dishonor, subversion, or desecration -- which, of course, are also unfortunate. I'm so grateful to all of you who keep this place going, who give your lives to sustaining a liberal religious community, who see cruelty as the worst thing we do and therefore see care and kindness as the best and who keep lit the flame of care and kindness as the supreme value. During these times when cruelty -- and, perhaps more distressing, the celebration of cruelty -- seems to be ascendant, the only hope I see is . . . you -- the people who side with love. Thank you. You're lifesavers!

Gratefully, so gratefully yours,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit / New this week:
Index of past sermons: HERE. Index of other reflections: HERE. Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE
Practice of the Week: Rethinking Genesis / At Genesis 3:17 God curses the Earth. The soil is literally cursed, and Adam must then struggle to extract a living from it. Instead of experiencing Earth as holy, which was (and is) the norm for indigenous cultures around the world, the cultural heirs of Genesis viewed the Earth as a vehicle for punishment, an enemy, a cursed thing, filthy and corrupt. The Earth-as-enemy idea became less overt but the underlying paradigm remained. Total mastery of the Earth became a driving vision of the Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution....READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Follow Your Bliss / "Follow your bliss" is Joseph Campbell's phrase. Campbell explained:
"If you follow your bliss, you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. Wherever you are — if you are following your bliss, you are enjoying that refreshment, that life within you, all the time."
To discern your bliss requires sacred space,
"a room, or a certain hour or so a day, where you don’t know what was in the newspapers that morning, you don’t know who your friends are, you don’t know what you owe anybody, you don’t know what anybody owes to you. This is a place where you can simply experience and bring forth what you are and what you might be. This is the place of creative incubation. At first you may find that nothing happens there. But if you have a sacred place and use it, something eventually will happen."
Your true "employers" -- the true bosses of your life, in whose service lies your authentic vocation -- is that which is alive in you, simultaneously universal and unique.

Think of something you do -- something that is both as ordinary and as magnificently special as a robin singing in an oak tree. That's it. That's your bliss. It might not have seemed like much, but that's it. Follow it.

Case
Grandma was chatting with Turkey at Vinecot, when Granddaughter made a surprise visit. That evening after supper, when they had caught up with each other's news, Granddaughter said, "Now that I've finished school, I don't know what I will do next."
Grandma said, "Follow your bliss."
Granddaughter said, "That sounds selfish."
Grandma said, "Your employers don't all have desks and files."
Next evening, Turkey asked Raven about Grandma's advice.
Raven said, "It's like Brown Bear said: 'The Robin sings in the oak tree; the finch sings in the madrone.'" [See Raven 5]
Turkey did not respond.
Woodpecker asked, "Aren't they distractions?"
Raven asked, "From what?"
Turkey seemed to come to herself, and gobbled.
Raven said, "Like that."
Verse
What makes a distraction?
The brain doing something,
Then thinking it shouldn't have?
I'm not saying your inner moralizer
Might not have a point,
just that maybe there's
Another angle.
What the brain did,
It did pursuing
its need and bliss.
Distraction isn't following
the wrong thing
But following
At a distance.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Zen at CUUC: Oct 5-11

RE News: Sun Oct 7


Last Sunday, Sep 30, was a living testament to the vigor, dedication, and spiritual commitment of parents, staff, and teachers. The Parent-Teacher Meeting was the first event of the day, facilitated by Perry Montrose, our Director of Faith Development, and me. Perry led a thought-provoking exercise: remember a time or event when you were a child or youth that was a joyful and transcending moment. The group shared a diverse collection of memories and personal experiences, a “journey discussion,” that helped the adults understand and relate to the children’s feelings and connections. The K-5 grade children started their instruction with Lyra Harada, our Children’s Music Director, learning the song “Circle of Life” in preparation for our Thanksgiving service. Perry concluded the children’s worship with a chalice lighting activity on the theme of “letting go” where each child had an opportunity to share a thing they wanted to let go of. Later, the parent orientation for the Our Whole Lives (OWL) class gave me the opportunity to better understand and truly appreciate the depth and complexity of this important curriculum. The facilitators asked probing, relevant questions, and the parents offered an engaged integration of opinions and feedback. The culmination of the Sunday activities left me once again impressed with the integrity and excellence of CUUC’s RE program.

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

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Religious Education this Sunday, Oct 7
All ages meet in Fellowship Hall for Spirituality Sunday, which will include music, a nature walk, and meditation.

2018-19 Curriculum: Pre-K - Chalice Children; K-1st - A Discovery Year; 2nd-3rd - Affirmation Year; 4th-5th - Toolbox of Faith; 6th-7th - Riddle & Mystery; 8th-9th - Our Whole Lives; 10th-12th - Youth Group
To view a spreadsheet version of the RE Calendar, CLICK HERE.
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Faith Development Friday, Fri Oct 12, CUUC
An evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. RSVP to admin@cucwp.org. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner, 7:00pm Programs, including:

"Faith Like a River" Adult RE - Session facilitated by Rev. Meredith. The class explores the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. If you can't attend in person, you can join online via Zoom videoconferencing at https://zoom.us/j/2898507899.
Family Journey Groups - Parents discuss the theme of faith, facilitated by Barbara Montrose, while children have their own group, facilitated by Perry Montrose, Director of Faith Development. Adults without children are welcome to participate in the parent group.
Youth Group Social Night - High school youth gather for a night of fun. Bring a friend!

Adults may also just share dinner and then stay to chat and be together in Fellowship Hall, without specific programming. We welcome all to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs.

2018-10-03

Music: Sun Oct 7


Sunday morning’s music features the talents of the CUUC Choir and their Director Lisa N. Meyer, Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas, and our own Kim Force. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Three Preludes
 Allegro ben  ritmato e deciso
Andante con moto e poco rubato
Allegro ben ritmato e deciso
George Gershwin
Sometimes I Feel Like A Motherless Child
 Spiritual arr. by Noreen Sauls

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer
Simple Gifts 
Aaron Copland, arr. by Irving Fine


Offertory: Kim Force, vocals
1492       
Nancy Schimmel
Anthem:
Song of Freedom  
American Spirituals arr. by Victor C. Johnson