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Faith Development Friday

Faith Development Friday
Fri Sep 20
An AWESOME evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community


Please RSVP to
We need to know how much pizza to order and booklets to print!

6:15p Pizza & Salad Community Dinner
7:00p - 8:30p Programs

Faith Like a River -- Final Session
Led by Rev. Meredith Garmon.
Join the exploration of what Unitarian Universalism is! Who are we? What is our story?

In this last session, we'll explore our how we have spread "the good UU news." We'll learn about individuals and groups that carried the good news of Unitarianism, Universalism, and Unitarian Universalism to new populations; explore Unitarian Universalist "evangelism"; and reflect on how to continue to engage our faith's history to bring Unitarian Universalism to future generations.

If you have a chance to look at the stories and hand-outs beforehand, you may find that helpful.

ZOOM from home. At 7:00, click this link: to join the "Faith Like a River" class from home.

Family Journey Groups
Parents discuss the monthly theme, COVENANT, while children meet separately for related activities. (Adults without children are also welcome to join the parents' group.)

The "COVENANT" issue of On the Journey is HERE.

Social Gathering
Adults may continue their mealtime conversations and spend some unstructured time together with fellow CUUC-ers.

After the programs: Sharing coffee and further chat.

From the Minister, Thu Sep 19

Dear Ones,

In 2011-12, our congregation -- then CUC (Community Unitarian Church) -- began a search for a next minister. A search committee was selected, and one of its early orders of business was guiding a process of drafting a "Congregational Record" that would tell prospective ministers what sort of congregation CUC was. The final document is about 20 pages long.

By late 2012, our CUC Congregational Record was complete. I read it, expressed my interest in serving the congregation thus described, . . . and the rest is history.

In 2012, asked, "To what degree does the congregation possess a dominant theology?" here's what we said:
The congregation can best be described as non-theistic. Humanism and Buddhism are as important as Christianity and Judaism in shaping our religious/spiritual beliefs and practices, which also honor family and community rituals and traditions. Most of us believe in the interdependence and interconnectedness of all things and that people live on only in memory and accomplishments. Very few of us were raised as UUs; our most common prior religious affiliations include Roman Catholic, Protestant and Jewish.
Our Congregational Record noted that New York life can be fast-faced, that our members' lives were "very active with extensive obligations and opportunities," and added:
This is all the more reason we come to CUC, for a time of pause, reflection and friendship.
The Record stresses community:
This sense of community - cohesive, sustaining, and enduring - is one of our primary strengths and values, and as important to any description of our congregation as demographics and statistics. CUC is "our" congregation. We take pride in our century long history, and we even take pride in the fact that the community has successfully navigated periods of strife and disruption.
We described the role of Sunday morning worship this way:
The most important reason most congregants cite for attending CUC is Sunday "worship services." We value Sunday services because they provide intellectually stimulating and challenging sermons, celebrate our common values, and offer an opportunity for an uplifting emotional experience that includes personal reflection and meditation. The sermon is the most significant element of the worship service for us. Music, including our regular pianist, our choir and guest performers, is also an essential and integral part of our worship experience.
The Record describes many, many other aspects of our congregation. But these are the parts that the Committee on Ministry and I -- and Sabbatical Minister Rev. Kimberly Debus -- would like to update and substantially flesh out. Who are we now? Why do we come to CUUC? As we head into the 2020s, what are the major and the minor theological and spiritual orientations in our congregation today? About which religious questions do we want to know, experience, and explore more -- and to which questions are we pretty satisfied with the answers we've got?

Many of us were drawn to the "pause, reflection, and friendship" -- and to community as "our primary strength and value." We like worship to "provide intellectually stimulating and challenging sermons, celebrate our common values, and offer an opportunity for an uplifting emotional experience." I expect that that's still true, but can we dig a bit deeper? Can we look hard at such questions as:
  • What do you imagine spiritual growth and faith development might look like for you?
  • What kind of healing might congregational life afford you?
  • As a spiritual seeker, what can you say about what you are seeking?
  • What are you yearning to do more of to develop peace and wisdom?
With questions like these, answers must necessarily be fuzzy and bit vague. We cannot provide much detail about where we're headed until we get there. Still, let us turn these questions over and see what we might learn about ourselves and one other.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit

Find videos of many past services at our Youtube channel: HERE

This week, a new video went up from the Sep 15 service:
  • Invocation, Prayer, and Sermon: "Climate Strike!"
This video is below. You can also find it at our Youtube channel, along with many others.

The print version of the sermon, slightly revised, was divided into four parts and posted at The Liberal Pulpit:

Sun Sep 15: "Climate Strike!"

Practice of the Week: Relax /When you get stressed or upset, your body tenses up to fight, flee, or freeze. That's Mother Nature's way, and its short-term benefits kept our ancestors alive to pass on their genes. But today — when people can live seventy or eighty years or more, and when quality of life (not mere survival) is a priority — we pay a high, long-term price for daily tension. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Liberation /In #111, Woodpecker asked, "What does it mean to cross to the other shore?" I commented then that Woodpecker should know better than to ask such questions, but Raven answered, "Flowers crowd the cliffs." Nevertheless,  in #112, Woodpecker asked, "What is the Way?"

Unable to grasp the many kind explanations Raven has already given, Woodpecker now asks yet another variation on the same question. Raven, whose compassion knows no bounds, patiently explains.

Helping Raven arrange the flowers before a meeting, Woodpecker asked, "What's liberation?"
Raven said, "Another couple of daffodils on this side, I think."
Woodpecker said "You're not answering my question."
Raven said, "Daffodils."
The orange five-ball, rolling across the green felt,
Its vector determined by
angle and magnitude of the force that acted upon it:
So utterly free, so totally liberated.
I, watching, cue stick in hand:
Another matter.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC News


Music: Sun Sep 22

In recognition of this week’s Climate Strike, Sunday morning’s music is provided by CUUC parishioners and Choir Pianist Georgianna Pappas, who is subbing for Music Director Adam Kent. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Georgianna Pappas, piano
Toccata in E Minor
                                                            J. S. Bach

Opening Music: Kim Force, Christian Force, Liz Laite, and Georgianna Pappas, vocals
Psalm 23
                                    Arranged by Bobby McFerrin

Allemande from French Suite No. 6 in E Major
                                                            J. S. Bach

“Where Do I Go?”
                                    Music by Galt MacDermott
                                    Words by James Rado and Gerome Ragni


This Week in Religious Education: Sep 17-23

September 17-23, 2019

We had a wonderful start to RE last Sunday!  Most of the RE volunteers were on hand for the first day of classes and youth group.  Many parents visited classes during coffee hour to meet teachers and youth advisors, to hear about plans for the year. 

Children and youth made name tags.  These will be kept on the felt strips on the end of the coat rack, next to the carousel with adult name tags.  We ask everyone to wear their name tags so we can greet each other by name. 

NEW: All adults have the opportunity to serve as assistants in RE classes this year.  No preparation required, just spend an hour with our amazing children and youth while you fulfill our Safe Congregation practice of having two adults with our young people at all times.  See below for the class that needs you this Sunday and e-mail me to volunteer ( Soon there will be a list of all available dates. 

FRIDAY, September 20th
Rev. Garmon and several CUUC members are participating in the Climate Strike.  Watch the newsletter for information about when and where to gather. 

Faith Development Fridays begin this week at 6:15pm with community dinner.  RSVP by e-mailing so we know how much pizza and salad to order.  Groups meet 7:00-8:30pm.  The September theme is Covenant (click here for the packet)
  • 8th-12th Grade Youth Group: Cindy Tillman, Daniel Tillman, Jason Stoff and Imelda Cruz Avellan are meeting with youth to discuss opportunities this year and a group covenant, as well as the Climate Strike.  Then they'll play games so bring your favorite board game to share!
  • Children's Journey Group: I am leading with Diane Keller. We will discuss this month's topic of Covenant, play games, and then wind down for the evening.  Bring your favorite board game to share!
  • Adult Journey Group: Alex Sehdeva leads the adult group as they explore the monthly theme.
  • We are looking for leaders for the 6th-8th grade group; e-mail me to join the team.
SUNDAY, September 22nd
Classes meet again this Sunday.  We will all begin in the sanctuary at 10:00am.  Following the child dedication, we will leave for classes, which meet until 11:30am.  Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up in the classroom.  Those 4th grade and older will be dismissed to head to coffee hour at 11:30am. 
  • Childcare with Diane Keller and Hans Elsevier.
  • PreK-1st Grade World of New Friends: Laura Goodspeed is leading the lesson about Unitarian Universalism as a starting point for learning about other religions. Donna Vought is the assistant. 
  • 2nd-3rd Grade Passport to Spirituality: Norm Handelman is leading the lesson about Unitarian Universalism as the children start at home before they launch into a year of 'travels.' We need an assistant/second adult for this class. No preparation required, just enjoy an hour with the children. E-mail me to volunteer (
  • 4th-5th Grade Bibleodeon: Suzanne Cacchione and Christine Major are introducing the Bible as the class begins to learn stories from Hebrew and Christian scriptures. 
  • 6th-7th Grade World Religions and Neighboring Faiths: Nicole Turygin and Muhammad Loutfy are leading discussion about Unitarian Universalism as the youth begin a year of learning about many religions and spiritual practices.
  • 8th-9th Grade Coming of Age: Denice Tomlinson and Alex Sehdeva are leading a discussion about spirituality as the youth begin a year of exploring their spiritual journey. They will also discuss the question posed by the Committee on Ministry about what they need in faith community. 
  • Youth Group does not meet Sunday since they are meeting Friday evening. 
On your way home from worship, RE classes, journey groups and committee meetings, I encourage you to share thoughts around these three questions:
  1. What did I learn about Unitarian Universalism?
  2. What did I learn about the way Unitarian Universalists think and see the world?
  3. What did I learn about the way we act and behave as Unitarian Universalists, as we are in relationship with each other?
I look forward to seeing you!


From the Minister, Fri Sep 13

Dear Ones,

Prayer for the climate won't lower the CO2 or other greenhouse gases in our atmosphere -- except, perhaps, indirectly. Prayer is the activity by which we orient our intentions. Prayer for the climate is an exercise by which we remind ourselves that our planet matters to us, that the humans and other animals threatened and immiserated by climatic shifts matter to us, that the well-being of future generations matters to us. If we begin with, and return often to, re-orienting our intentions toward mitigating climate change, we become more likely to participate in actions to realize our hopes.

Therefore, let us pray.

These words of prayer are from Interfaith Power and Light:
We Hold the Earth.
We hold brothers and sisters who suffer from storms and droughts intensified by climate change.
We hold all species that suffer.
We hold world leaders delegated to make decisions for life.
We pray that the web of life may be mended through courageous actions to limit carbon emissions.
We pray for right actions for adaptation and mitigation to help our already suffering earth community.
We pray that love and wisdom might inspire my actions and our actions as communities so that we may, with integrity, look into the eyes of brothers and sisters and all beings and truthfully say, we are doing our part to care for them and the future of the children.
May love transform us and our world with new steps toward life.

Yours in faith,

The Liberal Pulpit

Find videos of many past services at our Youtube channel: HERE

This week, new videos went up from the Sep 8 service:
  • Installation of DLREFD Tracy Breneman (5:16)
  • The Welcome, Invocation, Prayer, and Reflection of our Walter Celebration Ingathering Service (16:02)
These videos are below. You can also find them at our Youtube channel, along with many others.

Installation of DLREFD Tracy Breneman. (Don't know what DLREFD stands for? The video explains).

Welcome, Invocation, Prayer, and Reflection of our Walter Celebration Ingathering Service, Sep 8:

Practice of the Week: Work with Your Biggest Problem First /You don't need to overcome your biggest problems overnight, nor should you defer them to another time. Pay attention right now to what bothers you the most about yourself in your relationships to others and trust that simply by paying attention, little by little you will see what you need to do. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Hide Yourself
"Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, 'Teacher, order your disciples to stop.'
He answered, 'I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.'" (Luke 19:39-40)
The stones are shouting in any case. You pour out from everything in the universe, as the whole universe pours out from you. Nothing can be hidden.

One evening Wolverine appeared and said, "I've been thinking about hiding myself and fasting."
Raven kicked a twig at Wolverine and said, "Hide yourself in that."
Wolverine stepped behind Black Bear and said, "I'm hidden."
Raven said, "Piffle. You don't even dream of my meaning."
Wolverine was silent.
Woodpecker spoke up and said, "What is your meaning?"
Raven said, "Good question, Wolverine."
We named our car Blue,
and pronouned her
as one does to recognize a personality,
part intrinsic, part projection,
as personalities are.

We wondered at the borders.
When the CD player stopped working,
Was that Blue? Or just Blue's?
"Where does a personality stop?"
I asked my spouse,
after I'd slid in a CD to no effect.
She turned on the left blinker, slowed for a turn,
and said to the oncoming traffic,
"Nowhere to hide."
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC News


Work with Your Biggest Problem First

Practice of the Week
Work with Your Biggest Problem First

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.

Adapted from Norman Fischer, Training in Compassion, "Work with Your Biggest Problem First."

What is your biggest problem -- that is, the thing that bothers you the most about yourself in your relationships to others? Just pay attention to it. The light of attention will gradually guide you to the corrective.

Decompensation -- originally a medical term for "the inability of a diseased heart to compensate for its defect;" more broadly, "a loss of ability to maintain normal or appropriate psychological defenses, sometimes resulting in depression, anxiety, or delusions" -- affects us all. We all have our own preferred tendency for decompensation -- which is to say, each one of us is given our own personal gift of craziness. Some get angry, some depressed, some anxious. Some are meddlesome, some lazy, some hyperactive, some distractible.

One of the insights of mind training (and it comes as a great relief) is that there is no normal. We are all abnormal, each in our own delightful way. The trick is, first, to accept this, and next, to have some idea of the most important ways in which you are abnormal.

Let's say it's anger. You anger easily, and when you are angry you are miserable, and you inevitably say and do stupid things for which you later feel remorse and shame -- and you've been this way all of your life. Very well, now you are aware of your personal gift, your treasure. Shunryu Suzuki had a saying:
"For a Zen student, a weed is a treasure."
Rather than seeing your problem with anger as a personal defect to be hidden or overcome, you see this weed as a treasure. You don't resolve to work on other things and save this most difficult one for later. You resolve to pay attention to it now and keep on paying attention until, through your continued attention over time, things begin to change.

Later, something else will be your biggest problem. It's always something. Attend to whatever is biggest right now.

You don't need to overcome your biggest problems overnight, nor should you defer them to another time. Pay attention right now to what bothers you the most about yourself in your relationships to others and trust that simply by paying attention, little by little you will see what you need to do.

Adapted from Judith Lief, "Work with the Greatest Defilement First."

This is a great slogan for procrastinators. It is all about looking into those things we avoid, that we put off, that we somehow never end up dealing with. In particular it is about defilements. But what are defilements?

Defilements refer to patterns of thought, habits, and emotions that sap our energy and keep us from thriving. Defilements prevent us from awakening our wisdom or compassion. They pollute what is by nature pure, and block our instinct to grow and develop. They are powerful inner obstacles. Of course we may have outer obstacles, as well, but the idea is to start with what is close at hand, something we could actually have some influence over.

On a mundane level, you may notice that some things always seem to end up at the bottom of your to-do list, and just stay there. Sometimes they migrate to a new improved to-do list, but once again they end up on the bottom. With this slogan, you remind yourself to shake this pattern up and to go straight to the most difficult task. Although we may have a variety of things to do, it is pretty easy to figure out what that particular task might be. We can feel the quality of avoidance in our bodies.

At a deeper level, this slogan challenges us to analyze what really sets us back. Persistent self-analysis is necessary to expose our core obstacles and get to the root of what holds us down. It challenges to dig deeply enough to uncover our greatest defilements. And having done so, we need to stick with that defilement and keep working on it until we are free of it.

This slogan also points to an on-the-spot way of working with our situation in which we do not put anything off, but we deal with whatever defilement arises simply and directly. That is, in cooking up compassion, nothing is moved to the back burner.


What patterns of thought or habit do you have that block your development of wisdom and insight? What is your most consistent and frequent roadblock? Take some time to reflect on this and on how you might begin to work with it.

* * *


Music: Sun Sep 15

New York City native Edward MacDowell (1860-1908) became the first professor of music in the history of Columbia University. He celebrated the natural world in much of his piano music, and several works from his Sea Pieces and Fireside Tales are included this morning in recognition of our growing consciousness of climate-change issues. MacDowell was fond of providing short original verses to preface his piano music, which are reprinted below. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with two beloved classics. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
From Sea Pieces, Op. 55
            “To the Sea”
Ocean thou mighty monster
            “From a Wandering Iceberg”
An errant princess of the north,
A virgin, snowy white,
Sails adown the summer seas
To realms of burning light.
The stars are but the cherubs
That sing about the throne
Of gray old Ocean’s spouse,
Fair Moon’s pale majesty.
A merry song, a chorus brave,
And yet a sigh regret
For roses sweet, in woodland lanes---
Ah, love can ne’er forget!
                                                Edward MacDowell

Anthem: The CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
           American Folk Song/arr. by Brad Printz

From Fireside Tales, Op. 61
        “From a German Forest”

“Turn, Turn, Turn”
        adapted by Pete Seeger/arr. by Roger Emerson