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2019-04-26

From the Minister, Fri Apr 26

We made a promise. To mystery. And that promise calls us to neighborliness. I think that is the call that we – we who constitute Community Unitarian Universalist – answer and aspire to answer. It’s what we do in our being here, in our participation in congregational life: we answer the call to neighborliness and live into the promise we have made to mystery.

We Unitarians Universalists are a part of a covenantal tradition – a tradition of covenant with something that is more powerful than you or I, something mysterious that calls us to our better selves, something that we all sometimes stray from, but that ever-beckons us back to a truer path -- something that defines us as a people.

We covenant to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of every person – every being, I’d say. That’s the first of our seven principles. We covenant to respect the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part. That’s the seventh principle. The interdependence of existence, and inherent worth and dignity, are powerful. There is a quality of mystery and awe there. How could this be, this total interdependence, this inalienability from concern and respect? That’s why I say we’ve made a promise to mystery: because our covenant commits us to principles ultimately inexplicable.

Care, kindness, and compassion are, for us, rooted, after all, in our promise to uphold everyone’s worth and dignity because, mysteriously, it’s inherent – and our promise to respect the web of existence because, mysteriously, we’re an interdependent part of it.

Today, the notion that there are common goods that we can collectively realize, and that the form of our collective action is called government grows increasingly quaint. The trend to privatize everything from schools to prisons to health care means the wealthy get health care and education but no one gets the benefits we would all receive when more of our neighbors are educated and healthy.

We are not ready for details, for we have not yet coalesced around a vision, a dream. Recall that Martin Luther King’s dream was articulated in several of his addresses leading up its most famous expression in Washington DC in August 1963. Only after that dream exercised the imaginations of a significant number of people could we then follow with policy: the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the fair housing act of 1968.

For us today, says theologian Walter Brueggemann, “the prophetic task is not blueprint or program or even advocacy. It is the elusiveness of possibility out beyond evidence, an act of imagination.”

The name for imagining beyond evidence is: faith. Your presence here to be with each other, to make the unmarketable abundance of community, is the embodiment of our faith and hope.

With the wider culture around us sliding toward despair and desperation, all we need to see hope right now is to look around at CUUC on a Sunday morning.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Sacred Reading With sacred reading, the mindfulness given to the text is a reminder of the power and holistic character of the life within and beyond me. Something hitherto silent has been given voice within me.
READ MORE


Your Moment of Zen: Everyday Life It's not complicated. Practice includes everything, and zazen is central. De-centering the ego in zazen requires help from everyday life. De-centering the ego in everyday life requires help from zazen. One hand washes the other.

Case
Raccoon visited again from Cedarford and said, "My problem is how to use my practice in everyday life."
Raven asked, "What is your practice?"
Raccoon said, "Lots of zazen."
Raven said, "You probably can't use it."
Raccoon said, "Then what's the good of it?"
Raven said, "Zazen arises from vows; vows arise from an aspiration for realization; aspiration for realization arises from a profound sense of unsatisfactoriness; the profound sense of unsatisfactoriness arises from self-centered views. When you realize that right views are right for toads and centipedes, then your practice includes washing your meat."
Raccoon asked, "Then zazen's not central?"
Raven said, "The core."
Verse
Venturing forth, coming home.
Spring moon, autumn moon.
I long ago lost track of
Which was supposed to be which.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
RAVEN INDEX

Sacred Reading

Practice of the Week
Sacred Reading

Category: Worth a Try, Occasional, or Might Be Your Thing. Give it a try. Maybe this will become an occasional practice for you. Or it might become your central daily spiritual practice. Or maybe it won't. Try it once and see.

from Susan Ritchie, "Sacred Reading," in Everyday Spiritual Practice, abridged and adapted.

For a somewhat different approach, see "Spiritual Reading"

In my mid-twenties, I completed a doctorate in English. I could plow my way through an impressive amount of material in a relatively short time. I prided myself on being able to move through texts of all sorts, quickly identifying the valuable nuggets and throwing all else to the side.

Eventually, I realized that I was not reading as much as strip mining. It took me a long time to recover a way of reading that enhanced rather than impoverished my sense of the wholeness and beauty not only of the text but also of everything within and beyond my own self.

The spiritual practice of sacred reading has been empowering. I have not become, I should say from the start, any less of a critical reader. Sacred reading is not anti-intellectual reading. And yet my approach is different than it was in my days of high-yield mining.

With sacred reading, the mindfulness given to the text is a reminder of the power and holistic character of the life within and beyond me. Something hitherto silent has been given voice within me.

Sacred reading – also called lectio divina -- has been an important mainstay of the Christian monastic tradition since the middle ages. The stages of the discipline have not changed.

1. Select a text. Scripture from one of the world's great religious traditions is one possibility. However you choose your passage—whether it be from scripture or from the bestseller list, whether it be by lectionary, inclination, or random chance—the only requirement is that you be prepared to be surprised.

2. Read it aloud. Over and over again. This might seem bizarre at first. But as one of the goals of sacred reading is precisely to restore a sense of bodied-ness to the reader, it is important to read the words out loud. This is to return to the medieval practice, where reading was done not with the eyes, but with the lips. Reading aloud allows the sounds to pull you from the safe confines of your head, back into your body, back into a fuller and fully sensual experience of the world and the text.

The mouth is the most important organ for this process, for what, finally, is sacred reading but a form of eating, an ingestion of other-than-earthly food? The spiritual literature of the middle ages referred often to reading as a form of ruminatio, or rumination -- a chewing of the cud. The words must be felt in the mouth. They must be masticated before they are thoroughly and wholly taken in.

The text is there to be taken apart and put back together a thousand times over. The holy lies in the activity and experience of the reader.

So speak the text out loud. Hear the sensuous combination of sounds: Hear them first not as mere vehicles of meaning, but as sounds. Feel how good it is to say them. Feel the mouth work its way around the vowels, feel the force of the consonants. Enjoy the very materiality of language. And repeat your passage over and over again. See if you cannot learn your text by heart.

3. Memorizing texts, unfortunately, has associations with a stale classroom. But to learn a text by heart, to know it, as we say, backwards and forwards—this is an important element of the spiritual discipline of reading. In learning a text by heart we truly remember it, and truly begin the work of taking those well chewed syllables and integrating them anew with each other and with our own selves. I have a friend, raised in no particular religious tradition, who when in a difficult or distressing situation finds himself mouthing under his breath a confused combination of the Twenty-Third Psalm and the Pledge of Allegiance. The result is both ludicrous and oddly comforting.

Perhaps it is not so strange that we should find such comfort from words repeated and remembered, for in the process words allow us to live for a while within their own music and their own rhythm. For a while we are embodied not only within our physical selves but also within time. Reading can extend the present moment and make it habitable. Those moments when we allow the text to animate us are a blissful relief from our usual sort of existence.

For a while I served as a chaplain on a hospital ward of Alzheimer patients, most of them quite advanced in their illness. Little would restore these patients to anything that we fully remembering adults charged with their care recognized as presence -- little, that is, but the Lord's Prayer, memorized by those folks as many as ninety years ago. Something sacred indeed was present when a roomful of desperate human beings, each lost in his or her own universe, would nonetheless come together, every last one of them, on "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, ..." only to have the brief light of presence flicker away at the end of the recitation.

4. Meditate on the remembered text. In the original understanding of meditation, in both rabbinic and monastic contexts, meditation on remembered texts was the only possible form of meditation. For them, meditation was a grappling with, a working of, the text by one's understanding and will.

Some practitioners of sacred reading recommend spending time imagining it. Recreate it, as well as you can, with sights, sounds, and smells, within your mind. Others suggest free associating on the text, bringing to mind events in your life that seem similar to the passage, and imagining the scene from the vantage point of different characters. Or you can try to feel the passage, deliberately using it to evoke and explore particular emotions. In time, you will find your own way of engaging the text.

The joy of sacred reading is that it is, finally, a way of giving voice within to something that was originally without.

* * *

2019-04-25

Religious Education: Sun Apr 28

Last Sunday, Easter, signified a highly religious time for Christians, and coincided with the uplifting Passover holiday for Jews. It should not be lost on anyone that both holidays celebrate victory over evil and life transcending death. In more of a figurative context, these holidays occur during spring and thus signify revitalization, rebirth, and resurrection of hopes, dreams, faith, and our communal connection to each other and the world. What better day to have the RE children celebrate life, exhibiting their childlike innocence in laughter, fun, and camaraderie. There were approximately 12 to 15 children who participated in Easter activities. Lyra Harada, our children’s music director, provided a backdrop with festive music as the students rotated amongst activities of dying eggs, decorating cookies, and decorating bags in which to carry their eggs. What next of course to round out the day but an egg hunt! This was a great time for all the children and adults as well. So now we look forward to this Sunday, April 28, which affords the congregation an opportunity to share in elements of a communal traditional Passover seder meal with each other. At the end of the service, all the RE students are invited to Fellowship Hall where - in Passover tradition – they will look for the afikoman, the hidden piece of matzo. Who will find it, I wonder?

Let us all revel in the arrival of spring and the re-affirmation or rebirth of our UU values. May the promise of tomorrow and our hopes and dreams dispel our transgressions and provide us with an abundance of compassion, respect, and spiritual growth.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, April 28
Grades 8-9 will start in class. All other grades will be in the sanctuary for our Passover service.

2019 Variety Show, Sat May 4, 5:00pm (pizza for performers at 4:30pm),
Variety Show Rehearsal, Fri May 3, 4:30-7:00pm (NOTE CORRECT DATE)
The 7th Annual Variety Show is one week away! How will YOU participate?
• Perform - contact Kate Breault (ksnowbro@gmail.com) or sign up in the RE lobby
• Bake - contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com)
• Donate Raffle Prizes - contact Kate (for example: restaurant gift certificates, bouquets of flowers, wine, movie gift cards, new games for kids, chocolates, etc.)
Remember the Variety Show is for EVERYONE, not just kids. Come have fun! Invite your friends! Proceeds from this year's show go to PrideWorks, supporting Westchester LGBTQ youth and their allies.

Faith Development Friday, Fri May 10, 6:15 Pizza & Salad, 7:00 Programs
Save the date for our next evening of community and spiritual growth. Programs include Faith Like a River Adult RE, and Family Journey Group for parents and kids. RSVP to cuucevents@gmail.com by 12 noon Fri May 10, so we know how much pizza to order.

Remember your Special Friends letters!

UU Summer Camps & Retreat Centers for Children, Youth, and Families
Unitarian Universalist retreat centers offer the opportunity to connect with UUs from around the country in fun and fellowship. Whether you are looking for a place to go as a family or somewhere for your kids to experience a fun camp, there are many amazing Unitarian Universalist summer destinations:

Ferry Beach is oceanfront in ME. ferrybeach.org

The Mountain is atop the Blue Ridge Mountains in NC. mountaincenters.org

The Rowe Center is in the Berkshire Mountains in MA. rowecenter.org

Sophia Fahs RE Camp is one week in August on Shelter Island. liacuu.org/Fahs

Star Island is a 46-acre island off the NH coast. starisland.org

Unirondack is in the NY Adirondacks. unirondack.org

Murray Grove is a Universalist retreat center nearby in NJ. murraygrove.org

UUMAC Retreat is one week in July at DeSales University in PA. uumac.org

CERSI is one week in July in Oberlin, OH. cersiuu.org

SUUSI is a weeklong multignerational event in North Carolina. suusi.org

2019-04-24

Music: Sun Apr 28


Instrumental music in the form of Joseph Achron’s “Hebrew Melody” and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s arrangement of the Spiritual “Wade in the Water” are included as part of our Sunday morning Passover celebration. The former needs no explanation; the latter alludes to the Exodus from Egypt, and the parting of the Red Sea, as the Israelites fled their former captors. Elsewhere, a wealth of Jewish and Passover-themed congregational singing comprises a large part of worship, and CUUC’s Choir is on hand with a Psalm setting from Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms and an arrangement of the traditional Hine Matov as a round. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Lyra Harada, violin; Adam Kent, piano
“Hebrew Melody”
                                    Joseph Achron

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Chichester Psalms, Movement III*
                                                 Leaonard Bernstein.

*Ps. 131:  Lord, Lord
               My heart is not haughty,
             Nor my eyes lofty,
                Neither do I exercise myself
                In great matter or in things
                Too wonderful for me.
                Surely, I have calmed
                And quieted myself,
                As a child that is weaned of his mother,
                My soul is even as a weaned child.
             Let Israel hope in the Lord,
                From henceforth and forever.

Ps. 133, vs. 1:  Behold, how good,
                          And how pleasant it is,
                          For brethren to dwell
                          Together in unity.

Offertory:
“Wade in the Water”
                                    Traditional Spiritual arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor

Anthem:
Hine matov uma nayim         
                                    Traditional Hebrew Round  

2019-04-20

From the Minister, Sat Apr 20

Somewhere along the line, you probably learned a certain interpretation of Easter – an interpretation that theologians call “substitutionary atonement.” It goes roughly like this: “Jesus' suffering on the cross is redemptive. He suffered and died that we might have life (i.e., he substituted for us in order to atone for us). Real love manifests as complete submission and self-sacrifice. God required of Jesus -- and may sometimes require of us -- passive acceptance of violence.”

As widespread as this interpretation is, I don't think this is really the message of Easter. The Easter message is to be risen, to be resurrected, to be transformed – to become more fully who you are. This is no easy thing because we carry shame. We are afraid. We have, in various ways and in varying degrees, been silenced from the full expression of who we are.

The Easter story, as I read it, is about making the courageous choice to break the silence, tell your truth, rise up out of shame, bear witness to the stories of others as they seek to break silence imposed by perhaps greater fear and shame. The death from which we may rise, from which we can help others rise, is specifically an entombment in fear and shame.

Crucifixion was the most cruel, violent, humiliating, and shameful punishment the Roman imagination could conceive. It was designed to instill fear, and to make anyone associated with the victim feel ashamed of themselves. For some of Jesus’ followers, it worked. Many of them abandoned Jesus and scattered after the crucifixion. The humiliation was too much for them. In their fear and their shame, they fell silent about the promise Jesus had made them believe in: a new social order, a Kin-dom of God.

Others, though – women, at first – broke silence. They broke silence first to simply lament what had happened. Giving voice to our lamentation begins to reclaim our own dignity and worthiness in the face of our loss. They broke silence to remember, to say a name, against all the shaming, fear, and humiliation that would bury it in silence. They broke silence to begin to tell stories that represented that the hope found in this man lived on. They broke silence to transcend fear and affirm community, to overcome violence by sustaining hope. They transformed humiliation into the strength of connection and in so doing resurrected life from death.

Against all violence to body or to spirit, against all fear and shame endured by us and by others, against all the protective strategies we ourselves devise to be safe, may we rise to accept and affirm and speak who we are. There is yet the possibility of transformation into who we are, unobscured by fear or shame. There is yet the possibility of justice, an end to violence, a new social order, a Kin-dom of God. This, I believe, is the message and the hope of Easter.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Practice When You're Distracted It's not that practice is directed, serious, and important and that distractions are something else. Practice is life, including everything in your life, even the distractions. When you think you are distracted, when you think you have forgotten about your practice, remember this slogan: Practice when you're distracted. You may well be distracted. But there's nothing wrong with that. As soon as you know your state of distraction, you are practicing. You have remembered your practice. READ MORE

Your Moment of Zen: Honor You owe it to the world to be you. The debt continuously accrues.
This is true: the debt is unavoidably, continuously paid; you can't help but be you. Yet this is also true: it takes practice to be you. Sometimes the practice happens, and sometimes the payment of yourself to the world is made more consciously and mindfully than other times. Shall we call this honor? Might as well.

Case
One evening Porcupine asked, "What is the place of honor in the practice?"
Raven said, "To be truly Porcupine takes practice."
Porcupine asked, "Come on, Roshi, you don't mean just to be true to myself!"
Raven said, "To everybody else."
Verse
The river, delivering
its tributes to the sea,
doesn't remember its
million years of practicing,
or how its canyon formed.
Or maybe
the current is the memory.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
INDEX

Practice When You're Distracted

Practice of the Week
Practice When You're Distracted

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.


As we have been saying, we're in training. We are training the mind, and training takes discipline. We have to try to pay attention, to stick to our commitments, to repeat the training disciplines (the slogans) many times, keeping on with them even when we don't feel like it.

But discipline is not what we think it is. It's not an unpleasant yoke administered by a drill sergeant, an obsessed and mean-spirited guy who screams at us when we fall down on the job, or by a harsh, scary Zen master with a big stick. Aggressive discipline like this isn't very effective for most people. It usually inspires its opposite. Every force produces a counterforce, and the harsher the discipline, the more inspired we are to rebel.

The discipline of mind training isn't like this at all. It's gentle, permissive, and easygoing. Because of this, it doesn't inspire rebellion. In fact, mind training understands that distraction and noneffort or countereffort is inevitable and must be used as part of the effort we are making. We don't struggle against it, we cooperate with it.

The discipline of mind training doesn't assume that relaxation and easygoing effort is counterproductive to the task or that it is possible for us to be on the beam all the time. The assumption is that we need to relax, we need to be spacious and open, and that this will help us train. Distraction isn't a problem. We have to learn how to practice even when we are distracted, to make the distraction part of the practice.

Serving a cup of tea requires a certain kind of effort. If you are too tense, you'll pour too much into the cup, and grasping the cup with nervous fingers, you'll spill scalding tea all over yourself. Instead, you need to be loose and easy. On the other hand, if you are too loose and easy and aren't paying attention to what you're doing, you'll lose your grasp on the cup and drop it. Finding just the right amount of ease and looseness, not too much, not too little, is a key element in the training. We have to learn how to keep the thread of our training going even in lax times, even when we're daydreaming, losing track of ourselves, or enjoying the ball game or a glass of wine. We have to stop thinking that at times like that we have set our practice aside and are taking a break – stop thinking that we are practicing when we are meditating or reciting the slogans and not when we are not. Make practice your whole life. There are no breaks. Or to put it another way, practice is just one long break from the tension and anxiety that we used to take for granted as the essential flavor of our lives.

You don't have to be perfect. You don't have to be on the beam every moment. Discipline isn't like that. There's a time for hard focus and a time for soft focus. It's not that practice is directed, serious, and important and that distractions are something else. Practice is life, including everything in your life, even the distractions. When you think you are distracted, when you think you have forgotten about your practice, remember this slogan: Practice when you're distracted. You may well be distracted. But there's nothing wrong with that. As soon as you know your state of distraction, you are practicing. You have remembered your practice. Distraction, laziness, indulging in stuck emotions like anger, jealousy, and so on, are all part of the practice. You fall down on the ground and you use the ground to get up. Using the ground to get up is remembering to notice the state you are in. As soon as you know your state, whatever that state is, you are practicing this slogan. You are back on the beam. You never actually lost track of it anyway. There are no distractions, after all.

* * *


When you begin to practice, one of the first things you notice is how distracted you are. It can seem as if a veritable avalanche of thoughts, fleeting moods, memories, plans, judgments, and all sorts of mental folderol is pouring through your mind continually. People say such things as “I was fine before I started meditating, but now my mind is just a jumble.” However, none of that is really new, it was just you never noticed before.

Practice uncovers how flighty the mind can be and how easily it is captivated willy-nilly by whatever arises: a thought, a sensation, a sound, any old thing. As we continue to observe the workings of our mind, its bobbing and weaving become familiar territory.

So what could it possibly mean to practice even while distracted? Isn’t the idea not to be distracted?

Here is where the interesting twist of this slogan comes in. Instead of waging a kind of battle with distractions you can co-opt them as supports for your practice. It is like setting a default tendency toward mindfulness so that the moment a distraction arises, it brings us right back. The instant we notice we have lost our attention, we have regained it. So for a well-trained mind, when sudden distractions arise, they do not interrupt your practice, but reinforce it.

Practice

During your daily activities, pay particular attention to the points at which you lose your mindfulness or your openness or your kindness. Notice the process of losing it and coming back.

* * *

2019-04-19

Religious Education News: Sun Apr 21

There have been many moving services conducted here at CUUC, but Sunday, April 14, was particularly noteworthy as we honored our companion friends in life with an Animal Blessing. What a delight to see several congregants with their dogs and cat, the animals happily mixing with everyone and announcing their presence with an occasional bark. Didn’t hear any feline opinions! The music performed by Adam Kent and guest cellist Caleb van der Swaagh was exquisite and lent such a serene and uplifting presence to the service.

I was privileged to speak on my reflections of this day, since a very large part of my life has been centered around animals. Their care has been my avocation as well as vocation, particularly when I was directing animal shelters. I have experienced moments and events that simply make one’s heart soar with joy, as well as actions that depict the baser side of humanity and break one’s heart into a million pieces. It is said that you pay a high price for love, especially with animals, but it has proven to be so, so worth it. I spoke about my cat, Brooke, who visited with the children during their service of the previous week. As a victim of unspeakable abuse at 2 years of age she has reached a milestone at 14, due in part to medical care but more importantly as a product of her resiliency and strength of spirit, which transcended any injustice leveled at her.

I came to the conclusion that the very attitudes intrinsic to animals align perfectly with our values as UUs and with values of all faiths. They demonstrate the example to us to accept everyone without exception, show genuine unconditional love, have patience and tolerance, be able to forgive, and take on the role of protecting the weak and innocent. When I look at animals both domestic and in the world at large, I often find the need to say a prayer for them. The operative word I assume for me is for, not to them or to a person. A prayer for me is an expression of love; my prayer tells the earth’s creatures that I will protect them and care for them. As I asked everyone in the congregation, hold your pets close to you and pray that you will love and protect them always. If your pet has passed, then pray that your love will abide always and that they will live in your heart and memory. For all those creatures that are lost, broken, and neglected, pray that they will find their way safely to refuge or a loving home. In the service there was an opportunity for the members of the congregation to express what they thought their pets would say to them if they could speak. The microphone was passed and many of the remarks were quite humorous, such as “Why do pills have to be shoved down my throat?” “I’m up, when do I eat?” etc. We also had congregants iterate what animals in the wild, sanctuaries, and farms would say, and many of the comments were poignant, such as “Why do you torture me?” “I lived here first for a long time,” “I have feelings, I experience pain,” etc.

The simplicity and deep spirituality of this service came through with a resounding message that could not be ignored: if we make a covenant with all living creatures to rescue them, protect them, and be their voice, I believe we not only uplift our humanity, but simply become better people. To quote St. Francis of Assisi, “Not to hurt our humble brethren is our first duty to them, but to stop there is not enough. We have a higher mission – to be of service to them whenever they require it.”

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, April 21
All grades start in the sanctuary for our Easter worship service.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! Buy RAFFLE TICKETS on Sunday; PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Kate Breault (ksnobro@gmail.com).

2019-04-17

Music: Sun Apr 21


Easter and the spirt of Regeneration are embodied in the richly contrapuntal, harmonically complex, spiritually enlightened music of J. S. Bach. The hyphenated Bach works allude to Ferruccio Busoni and Egon Petri, pianist-composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, who arranged Bach’s organ and choral works for solo piano. The CUUC Choir is also on hand, with stirring selections to match the burgeoning season. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Prelude and Fugue in E Major, W.T.C. I
                                                J. S. Bach
“Awake, the Voice Commands”
“I Call on Thee, Lord”
                                                Bach-Busoni

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Come to the Music    
                                                Joseph M. Martin    


Offertory:
“Sheep May Safely Graze”
                                                Bach-Petri

Anthem:
Set Me As A Seal        
                                                             René Clausen    

2019-04-11

Religious Education News: Sun Apr 14

Sun Apr 7 was an opportunity for me to facilitate the children’s worship for RE classes K-7 in Fellowship Hall. In anticipation of the Sun Apr 14 Animal Blessing service, I chose to explore animal-related issues. After we lit the chalice Rev. LoraKim Joyner spoke to the children about her mission as a veterinarian rescuing parrots in Central America. We showed a brief documentary on the work being done to save and rehabilitate these gorgeous feathered creatures, and protect them from harm and possible extinction at their hands of poachers. The K-3 classes returned to their classrooms and the remaining 4-5 and 6-7 students engaged with me in a conversation about animal care and animal rights. I conducted a very animated activity on whether certain animal “facts” were true or false, such as “Cats and dogs misbehave out of spite”; “Cats get cavities”; “Cats sneeze when they get a cold”; “Dogs need jackets in the winter”; etc. The children were quite good at this game and were surprised at some answers. They were particularly insightful when they related stories of their own pets. We then talked about my background as a veterinary technician and the things vet techs do nursing animals. I have also served as the director of an animal shelter so we discussed the important rescue work done by shelters and what supplies shelters need most. I proposed that we sponsor two shelters in the area, the Humane Society of New Rochelle and Paws Crossed in Elmsford. I placed cards in a basket, which the children then pulled out and identified as items on a shelter wish list that we could collect and bring to the shelters. Our UU principles came into play as we talked about compassion and respect for others and why animals are so important to our world and to people. I showed the kids a short YouTube documentary on people who are homeless and have pets. The children responded deeply to it and, I feel, really understood the plight of the people in the video and the love they had for their companion animals. The last discussion of the morning addressed the actions of people, how some are kind to other humans and animals, and others are not. The children were again reminded of the need for compassion and the belief that there is recovery, hope, and even resiliency in some cases. I then described the true story of a 2-year-old cat brought into a NYC shelter where I happened to be one day. She had been rescued by a young construction worker who had chased away some kids who had been kicking her. I took her back to my shelter where she eventually recovered from several fractures but was left with brain damage and neurological deficits. I adopted her and with much love, attention, and medical care she has lived to be 14 years old. She is blind in one eye and loses her balance but my little “slip and slide” is a survivor. At the end of my story I asked everyone to sit on the floor in a close circle and told them I’d be right back. To the kids’ surprise and utter amazement, I came in with my Brook, who I had brought in especially for this lesson. She became the center of attraction, was petted by everyone, and reciprocated with loving head butts. The students got to see and enjoy a literal miracle of rescue in every sense of the word. Brook, like so many animals, pets, and wildlife who are broken and abused, survives sometimes due to the enormous strength of their spirit and their love for us humans. It was a wonderful exercise for the children to experience the intrinsic bond that we have with animals and to understand the need to respect our shared place on this planet. I was so proud to witness the love, concern, and true understanding demonstrated by all the children. In that Sunday’s lesson in particular, they were young warriors and ambassadors of the very principles that Unitarian Universalism is founded on.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, April 14
All grades are in the sanctuary for our multigenerational Animal Blessing service.

Faith Friday, Fri Apr 12, 6:15pm, Fellowship Hall
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include Adult RE and Family Journey Group. Adults may also just come for a slice and unstructured social time together. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by 12:00 noon on Fri Apr 12.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! Buy RAFFLE TICKETS on Sunday; PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Kate Breault (ksnobro@gmail.com).

2019-04-09

Music: Sun Apr 14

Besides animal-themed solos by Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg and the French composer Camille Saint-Saëns, this morning’s musical selections include one of Beethoven’s greatest chamber works performed by guest cellist Caleb van der Swaagh. To learn more about Caleb, visit calebvanderswaagh.com. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Caleb van der Swaagh, cello; Adam Kent, piano

Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2
                            Adagio con molto sentimento d'affetto -- attacca -- Allegro fugato
                                                  Ludwig van Beethoven

Opening Music:
“Little Bird”, Op. 43, No. 4
                                                  Edvard Grieg

Offertory:
Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Major, Op. 102, No. 2
                          Allegro con brio
                                                 Beethoven

Interlude:
“The Swan” from Carnival of the Animals
                                                Camille Saint-Saëns

Postlude:
“The Elephant” from Carnival of the Animals
                                                 Saint-Saëns

2019-04-05

Walking as a Spiritual Discipline

Practice of the Week
Walking as a Spiritual Discipline

Category: MIGHT BE YOUR THING: These practices 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 being a central practice.


In 2011, my partner, Jane, and I undertook a pilgrimage on Spain’s Camino de Santiago, a pilgrimage route since the Middle Ages. Each day brought a new adventure. We traveled alongside olive groves or eucalyptus forests, luxuriating in nature, or beside a crowded highway dangerously close to traffic.

We walked for hours every day. Meeting basic needs for food, water, and bathroom breaks required more planning and energy than we were used to. And each afternoon, we stopped at an albergue, a Spanish hostel for pilgrims, and followed our routine: showering, washing clothes, resting feet and treating blisters, having dinner. Yet each place was different. We were strangers, but we had a place, a role: pilgrims – recognized by natives and fellow pilgrims alike.

The journey is social, historical, cultural, and physical. What makes it spiritual? For me, it was the centering, what I came to call “Camino mind” -- a state in which I walk tuned into my surroundings and open to what may come, radically aware of unpredictability. We can't plan for each event that may happen. We can only bring our full selves to what happens, rejoice in gratitude for the gifts, and rise to the challenges.

There's a saying: you don't do the Camino; the Camino does you. We are made by the way that we go, shaped by the experiences we have. I bring this awareness to the walking I do every day -- and to the way I live my life.

Getting Physical

For me, the way to the spiritual is through the physical. Time at the gym calms and centered me. The discipline of tai chi taught me how to meditate. And the greatest and most versatile tool of all? A simple walk.

Walking as a spiritual discipline differs from, but can be integrated into, walking for transportation. Practitioners as diverse as Buddhist Thich Nhat Hanh and Christian Bruce Epperly have written about the benefits of walking as meditation practice. A walk strengthens the connection with my body and with the world around me. It clears my mind, centers my emotions, and stimulates my imagination. It slows me to a humane pace and restores perspective.

Slowing Down

Contemporary Westerners spend most days at hyper-speed. Being trapped in such a culture, we forget that our species evolved in a much slower world. Recovering that slow pace opens us to our own beings.

Walking returns me to the slower-paced world. Often in daily life, I find my mind flitting here and there. When I slow down and walk, I try to be exactly where I am. It may take me ten or fifteen minutes to begin to slow down and let the sights, sounds, smells, and sensations engulf and capture me. I admire the texture of the bark of a tree, note the different shades of brick on a house, encounter wisps of the sweet smell of honeysuckle, feel the slants of the pavement beneath my feet, wonder at the diversity of angles of roofs in the same block, hear the giggles and shrieks of children as I approach the playground, feel the cool breeze or the hot sun on my skin. With this type of beginner's mind, searching for what is new or different, even the most familiar routes become an adventure.

Daily walks engage me with the passing of the seasons and changes in my neighborhood. I see the buds slowly growing, until one amazing morning a flower pops out. I notice the shop that's changed its color scheme and see progress in rebuilding the burned-out townhouse. I feel and hear the crunch of dead brown leaves beneath my feet.

I learn my neighborhood, its weather patterns and its people, my neighbors. I discover the native flora and fauna, even in the city.

Slowing to a humane speed as I move allows my brain to slow. Thoughts come, as they will, and I notice them, but do not engage with them. I label them as thoughts, and release them, letting them skim the surface layer of my brain like leaves floating on a stream or clouds traversing the sky. I notice where I am and what is right here before and around me.

Connecting with the Body

Walking, I bring attention to my body – notice my posture, rate of walking, how my hands and arms move. I attend to what my body may be signaling about what I’m feeling. As I age, I notice the twinges of arthritis. I've learned to modify my movement, maybe stopping to stretch, or massage a wrist that feels tender. What do I need to do to take care of this, the only body I have?

Changing the way I walk can adjust my emotions and open me up to deeper levels of awareness. When I notice my shoulders are hunched and relax them, lifting and opening my chest, suddenly I can see the sky instead of the side walk before me. As my body changes, my feelings change. I release the tension, anger, and fear and open myself to joy. I notice the clouds drifting across the blue sky and feel glad to be alive. As my posture changes, I breathe more deeply and find a centered calm as I move.

I practice balance as I walk, noticing as the weight shifts from one foot to the other. Where in my foot does the weight fall—heels, toes, in between? How does my body respond when I hit uneven ground? When I'm going uphill or down? How do I adjust my speed? My stance?
I learn about my body, how it's related to my thoughts and emotions, and how it responds to the world as I walk. I feel the connection of my skin to the movement of the air. I adjust my pace to meet the terrain. I become part of the world I am walking through.

The discipline of attentive walking brings me awareness, connection, and wisdom.

See also: Michelle Greene, "The Practice of Attentive Walking" (FlowingFree.org)

For Journaling

In your journal, whether you take up walking as a regular discipline or not, reflect on these questions:
  • How often do you slow down enough to really notice? What activities help you slow down and notice?
  • How does your body show you how you're feeling? How can you be more aware of it?
  • What would it mean for you to think of your next trip as a pilgrimage?

* * *

Religious Education News: Sun Apr 7

Last Sunday the hills may have been alive with the sound of music, but at CUUC, there was also the “ching–ching” of money coming our way in response to our canvass kick-off service. The revamping of The Sound of Music to “The Sound of Money” was not only original (written by Rev. Garmon) but entertainingly executed by Kim Force and the ensemble. It brought a lot of laughs and hopefully lots of giving to help us dream our dreams and live our mission. RE as always was very busy and quite interesting. Lyra Harada, our Children's Music Educator, provided a well-received lesson in the grade 4-5 and 6-7 classes. Students had the opportunity to hear a diverse selection of music from Mendelssohn to Mozart. They were provided the chance to vote for one out of four female composers, but then vote if the male in each of their lives took the credit! Quite thought provoking and definitely an original twist… The grade 2-3 class I observed led by Norm Handelman and Doreen Rossi was very interesting. The session was “Is there a God?” A difficult topic or concept by any measure, and appropriately predicated by reminding the students of our fourth principle, which is the belief that each person is free to search for what is true and right. The children were invited to talk about what they have heard or read about God, and were asked what or who God was. Many of the children were remarkably insightful and described God in a variety of ways: spirit, the earth, the air, love, etc. The class was beautifully facilitated by the teachers and set the stage for the accompanying lesson next week. Time has a way of eluding us in RE every Sunday and that is due in part to the depth and breadth of classroom activities and engagement. We are looking forward to the arrival of April and the many more CUUC and RE events that come with it!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, April 7
Grades K-3 start in the sanctuary, grades 4-5 in Fellowship Hall, grades 8-9 in their classroom, and youth group in the sanctuary.

Faith Friday, Fri Apr 12, 6:15pm, Fellowship Hall
Our evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Community Dinner; 7:00pm Programs; 8:30pm Coffee. Programs include Adult RE and Family Journey Group. Adults may also just come for a slice and unstructured social time together. All are welcome to stay after the programs to share coffee and a chat. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by 12:00 noon on Fri Apr 12.

2019 Variety Show Fundraiser, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
Help us get ready for the fun! PERFORMERS (adults AND kids) sign up in the RE lobby; BAKE SALE sign-ups: Contact Benetta Barnett (benettabarnett@hotmail.com); RAFFLE PRIZE DONATIONS: Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com).

2019-04-03

Music: Sun Apr 7


April’s monthly theme of Renewal finds expression in this morning’s solo piano selections, which include a wealth of inspirations from the natural world and Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg’s celebration of regeneration in the Offertory. Francis Poulenc’s lively reworking of Renaissance-era courtly dances in a more modern, dissonant idiom represents a specifically musical sort of renewal. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Suite Française
         I. Bransle de Bourgogne, II. Pavane, III. Petite Marche Militaire, IV. Complainte,
         V. Bransle de Champagne, VI. Sicilienne, VII. Carillon
                               Francis Poulenc

Opening Music:
“To a Wild Rose” Op. 51, No. 1
                              Edward MacDowell

Offertory:
Bruyères (Heather)
                             Claude Debussy

Interlude:
“To Spring” Op. 43, No. 6
                             Edvard Grieg