Westchester Youth Alliance Event (Perry's Ponderings)

As we watch the violence in the Middle East unfold, as well as other recent atrocities, it makes us wonder if voices of peace, understanding, and interconnectedness are stronger than the misfired angry noise of intolerance that envelops these embattled places. Although the seemingly unending waves of violence can be so disheartening and overwhelming, it is vital that we continue to speak up with a strong message of solidarity in peace across cultural differences. There is an opportunity to share that message and honor the tragic loss of life in the current conflict by attending the Interfaith Memorial and Prayers for Peace and Healing at Manhattanville College this coming Wed Jul 30 at 7:00pm.

Earlier this summer, three Jewish Israeli youth were kidnapped and killed on their way home from school. Soon afterward, one Muslim youth was abducted and murdered. The uncle of Naftali Frankel, one of the Jewish youth, was integrating his business by bringing in more Palestinians. Naftali’s uncle reflected, "There's no doubt that people who kidnap young kids are destructive and they hurt the Palestinian cause as equally as it's hurting the Israeli cause. It doesn't help anyone. So, am I surprised? No, I'm saddened. But that's reality. Does that mean I feel bad things about the good people I work with, among the Palestinians? No. These are good people.” (Read CNN article HERE) When people see each other’s humanity the conflict is changed for the better.

The whole world is concerned and watching the Middle East conflict. As a Jewish Unitarian, I feel the torment of the struggle, recognize the complexity of the situation, and know the real resolution will come from the power of thoughtful moderate voices. The extremists on both sides do not allow for any lasting solution because their answers do not include recognition of the humanity of the other side as being primary. Ideology over humanity will always set us back. Accepting the value in our differences and focusing on our capacity for love moves the world in a positive direction.

In response to the threatened Quran burning by extremist Christians, UCC minister Rev. Chuck Curry stated, “Religious traditions are, at their core and center, traditions of peace, reconciliation and understanding.” The keynote speakers on Wednesday from all three Abrahamic faiths will no doubt echo Rev. Curry’s sentiment. I look forward to hearing speakers from various congregations spread the word that religion need not be intolerant to unite people in faith and community. In fact, the opposite is true, as we profess every time we speak our Unitarian Universalist values.

Please join me and the Westchester Youth Alliance, who is helping to sponsor the event, so we may listen and be heard.

Wednesday, Jul 30
West Room, Reid Castle
Manhattanville College campus
2900 Purchase Street
Purchase, New York, 10577

See the Westchester Youth Alliance Web Page HERE and their Facebook Page HERE.


Leading Out Learners of All Ages (Perry's Ponderings)

Sofia, Youth Representative on the RE Council and an active member of Youth Group, is helping me reorganize the REsource Room and the DLRE office. I am grateful for Sofia’s hard work over the past week. One of our tasks is to go through the Religious Education library, book by book. It is really interesting to see the array of books in the collection from the early 1900’s to the present. During our sorting endeavor, Sofia and I are seeing a snapshot of a cultural evolution.

Many books about those who are handicapped, people of other cultures, Native Americans, African-Americans, LGBTQQA persons, the elderly or speaking to family issues, do not meet current standards of cultural appropriateness and understanding. However, these books were often on the cutting edge of social ideological advancement at the time they were written. They illustrate that our understanding of what it means to respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person is affected by the culture at large and an ongoing evolution.

Reverend Mark Morrison-Reed gave the Sophia Lyon Fahs Lecture (religious education focused) at General Assembly (see video and transcript here ). Rev. Mark is an expert on Unitarian Universalist history and multiculturalism who inspires with his thorough knowledge, but also with his heartfelt investment in what he is saying. In the mission of the Fahs Lecture it states, “The speaker's role is to address some aspect of the sacred work of "leading out" learners of all ages.” Rev. Mark is moved by what he speaks about and you join him on the ride. He went through the history of early to mid-late twentieth century religious education curricula, UU hymnals, other denominational writings, and leadership assignments to illustrate that although we were advancing in our methods and philosophies of religious education, as well as voicing support for social causes, we were mostly stagnant when it came to including people of color in our publications and leadership positions.

Although Unitarian Universalists spoke about issues of equality, we were somewhat blind to our own omissions in the area. Even while we protested the social norms, we were slow to shift them in our own world. While we struggled with some of these advancements, however, Unitarian Universalists religious education instilled in children the values of equality, the dignity and worth of every person, the freedom of individual exploration, and the responsibility to change the world around you. It did this through a teaching method that emphasized wonder and experiential learning, as opposed to content, so children could empathize and see the picture through a relational lens. As a result, each generation evolved in its ability to turn ideals into action, leading to our involvement in the Civil Right movement and our continued growth in addressing equality issues within our denomination and the world around us.

You will be proud to know that when I spoke to Rev. Mark afterward, he remembered CUC having significant integration early on and making inclusion a part of congregational life. As Sofia articulated the cultural relevance and value-setting of each book in our sorting exercise, I was reminded of the evolution in cultural sensitivity and multicultural competency that we see as each new generation comes into adulthood. May we all keep the flame of inclusion burning bright at CUC through awareness and understanding.


Love Reaches Out and Thinking Together (Perry's Ponderings)

The theme of this year’s Unitarian Universalist General Assembly (GA) was Love Reaches Out and it was expressed in many forms. There were workshops about how we can connect with each other through recognizing and respecting our differing identities. Other workshops explored how we live out the transforming power of love within our congregation and outside its walls.

The Waterfire event in Providence, a festival with bonfires on the river that attracts thousands of people, had a strong Unitairan Universalist presence as part of GA last Saturday. UU involvement included the Love Tent and a circle of luminaries offering the opportunity to share how you spread love in the world. Non-UUs saw our values in action and were drawn into the wider circle we created on this particular weekend. (Read more about UU Waterfire here. What does “love reaching out” look like for you?)

Throughout GA there were the amazing worship services with thousands of Unitarian Universalism from all around the country. It was incredible to be in an expansive arena, yet feel intimately connected to all those people around you. GA brought us together in that space, but it was the thread of our common values and the welcoming intention of reaching out that created the real feeling of togetherness.

I just attended the Jewish wedding of a relative upon my return from Providence. The officiating rabbi told the couple that there are three levels of friendship. There are friends with whom you share common interests, those who share your worries, and the friends connected through overlapping values. The rabbi remarked that the couple were fortunate to have all three of those bonds, including the strongest one of common values. He made it clear that did not mean they think alike, but only that they think together - meaning that they share thoughts and figure it out. When they think together they can reach their common goals.

In our new “marriage” at CUC, I look forward to sharing our interests and addressing the matters on our minds within and beyond our walls through our shared values. We treasure our diversity of thought and backgrounds, while we hold common values that bring us together. The joy of the connections we form within that context is a light that shines from our spot on the hill and shows in our actions as we make our way through the world. See that joy come to life in this video of a hymn sung at GA . It will be a pleasure to begin sharing that joy and meaning with you.


CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun May 11

By LoraKim Joyner

A koan from the Zen tradition:
The disciple was always complaining to his master, "You are hiding the final secret of Zen from me." And he would not accept the master's denials. One day they were walking in the hills when they heard birds calling and singing.
"Did you hear the bird sing? said the master.
"Yes" said the disciple.
"Well, now you know that I have hidden nothing from you."
Nature as Spiritual Practice means connecting with all of nature, which includes humans. Spirit means that we keep nothing hidden from ourselves, and try to see what is normally hidden.

We are all that is around us: the tree, the bird. We are the world.
They who bind to themselves a joy
Do the winged life destroy
They who kiss the joys as it flies
Live in eternity's sunrise. (William Blake)
I once asked a bird, "How is it that you fly in this gravity of darkness?"
She responded, "Love lifts me."

On our bird walk today we were reminded that every day is Mother's day. We know this generally from the nesting activities of the birds around us, and in particular because one mother robin chided us relentlessly when we passed under her nest on one of the ladders behind the sanctuary. Later during the service the choir and Rev. Garmon were accompanied by a pair of particularly noisy wrens building a nest in one of the nest boxes right outside the sanctuary.

It is not just the reproductive fervor of the fauna on the grounds that tells us it's spring, but also the sudden splurge of color, leaves, and ground cover everywhere you look. Yes, new life is before us, but so is the ending of life. This too was part of our bird walk, for we encountered a black-throated blue warbler who apparently had died after hitting one of our large sanctuary windows. This motivated several bird walk attendees to make a plan to put up stickers on the windows so birds will be less likely to hit them and become injured. Nearly a billion birds die each year from hitting building windows in the US. We hope we can save a few lives from being lost this way. Though there was sadness, we enjoyed the fine weather, conversation, and song as we engaged in avian spiritual practices to nourish us so that we can in turn heal the world.

Please join us for our next bird walk, Sun Jun 11, 2014.

Today’s sightings:

2 Common grackles
1 Titmouse
2 Carolina wren
4 Mourning doves
4 American robins
4 House Sparrow
2 Northern cardinals
3 Red-bellied woodpeckers
3 American goldfinches
1 Baltimore oriole
2 Yellow-rumped warblers
1 Black and white warbler
1 Black-throated blue warbler (dead)
1 Black-capped Chickadee
1 European starling
3 Canada Geese
1 White-breasted nuthatch
1 Northern flicker
1 unidentified swallow
2 House finches
1 Brown-headed cowbird
1 Blue jay
1 Downy woodpecker

Additional birds seen during the week on the grounds:

Ruby-throated hummingbird
Magnolia warbler
White-throated sparrow
Song sparrow

CUC Bird Walk Report: Sun Jun 15

By LoraKim Joyner

Today we walked in beauty. Well, actually during all our nature walks we are surrounded by beauty, but today we lifted up the practice of seeing beauty, both without, and within. Of human beauty, we had 8 individuals, and of avian beauty we beheld 17 species. We were especially on the lookout for parent birds with their fledged chicks, not because it was father’s day but because it is baby bird season. Have you noticed? The only family we could recognize were the young grackles being fed by their parents. In seeing them, we were fed as well. With so many alert sets of eyes we got to see a number of treasures, even though summer can be a slow time for seeing birds because migration has ended. But the summer residents are here, such as a new species we recorded for our grounds – a pair of chimney swifts flying high over the crowns of the trees. Swifts, one of the oldest of all bird species, are remarkable in that they spend most of their life on the wing, even to sleep!

Thanks to all, avian and non, who made this such a lovely, pleasant morning. We will take July off and meet again on Sun Aug 24.

Bird List:

American robin
Red-breasted nuthatch
English house sparrow
Song sparrow
House finch
Northern Cardinal
Chimney swift
Common grackle
European starling
Black-capped chickadee
Carolina wren
Red-bellied woodpecker
Mourning dove
American goldfinch
Northern flicker