From the Minister, Thu Sep 28

From the Minister

I admit I've been slower on the uptake than many of my colleague Unitarian Universalist ministers in grasping the damage of cultural appropriation. It's a difficult area for many. For one thing, cultural appropriation is often ambiguous. Diffusion of cultural aspects (dress, cooking, music, technology, ideas, language, et al) into other cultures has been going on throughout human history, and cultural borrowing and cross-fertilization can be positive. Imitating some aspect of another culture may be encouraged by some members of the imitated culture, discouraged by other members, and meaningless to still other members. So it can be difficult to tell what is problematic and what isn’t.

The boundaries of respectful regard for cultural differences are not fully defined, and they are evolving. In negotiating this terrain, it’s helpful to keep our eye on two key factors: power and safety. Who is exercising the power here? And how is the safety of people as they seek to live their lives by their own lights affected? For instance, there is near-universal agreement that white performers in blackface is not OK, though the practice was common for about 100 years (1830-1930) and continued into the 1960s. It was a time in which whites dominated, oppressed, and (in the early decades of that century) enslaved blacks. Whites had all the power. And blackface performances served to maintain and extend their power by perpetuating powerfully denigrating stereotypes of black people. The prejudice reinforced by such performances included that blacks were not even competent to theatrically act out the very characteristics that supposedly defined them. Thus the safety issue was clear: people so denigrated could be freely exploited, oppressed, stolen from, beaten, or murdered.

When cultural elements are copied from a minority culture by members of a dominant culture, there’s an important power dynamic to look at. This copying can be felt as mocking, trivializing, or distorting a meaning that may be of central importance to members of the minority culture. When the dominant culture copies and distorts in this way, less dominant cultures cannot protect their meanings. They may feel stripped of identity and, without the protective functions of identity, unsafe. The power of the dominant culture is reinforced by taking from minority cultures whatever it might think is “cool” – saying, in effect, “whatever is yours, we can take.”

Cultural elements in their context fit together into an expression of the culture’s experience. Appropriating certain elements necessarily removes them from their full context, and, when done by a dominant culture, with its broad influence, that appropriation dismembers the imitated culture. When current or historical oppression is a part of a culture’s self-understanding, imitators who have no experience of that oppression, but who temporarily ‘play’ at that culture are redefining the imitated culture against its will. Imitations that remove indications of a culture’s struggle for justice (by, say, representing only the cheerfully exotic) thereby discount and make more difficult that struggle. This has negative implications for the safety of, among others, justice workers whose claims have been discredited (consciously or unconsciously) before they could be made.

It’s not always clear what celebrates, honors, and empowers a culture and what trivializes and disempowers it. Indeed, it’s not always clear just what a culture is. But by looking at who has and is using power, and whose safety may be in jeopardy, we can be more effectively compassionate.

There's something else, even more important, to look at: the eyes and the heart of someone who tells you that something you're doing or wearing or saying is hurting them. We may not understand why they should be hurt, but it's highly unlikely that they're lying about their feelings. Understanding how something is hurtful may be helpful to us, but it isn't necessary. What's necessary is simply that we care enough about them to stop doing it.

Yours in the faith we share,


Let's Chat

On Tuesdays, 3-5pm, I'm going to be at an area coffee shop for anyone who might find that a convenient way to get together with their minister.
In October, I'll be at the Starbucks in Rye: 51 Purchase St.
In November, I'll be at the Barnes & Noble Cafe, City Center, 230 Main St, White Plains.
Drop by if you can!

You can also make an appointment to see me at CUUC, or invite me to visit at your place. Call Pam at the church office (914-946-1660) to schedule either.


The "Yom Kippur" sermon (Sep 24) is now posted, in three parts:
What's Wrong with You?
Upsides of Failings
Called to Repair Relationship

List of, and links to, Meredith's past sermons: HERE.
List of, and links to, Meredith's other thoughts and reflections: HERE.

Practice of the Week

Don't Be Alarmed. Don't underestimate the amount of background alarm in your body and mind. It's hard-wired and relentless, inherent in the collision between the needs of life and the realities of existence. While this alarmism has been a great strategy for keeping creatures alive to pass on their genes, it's not good for your health, well-being, relationships, or ambitions. Threat signals are usually way out of proportion to what READ MORE...

Your Moment of Zen

Propinquity. P.G. Wodehouse's series of Jeeves novels revolved around genteel country estates and comedic romances engendered by the propinquity (nearness, proximity) of those staying under one roof for a significant time. Right Ho, Jeeves (1934), includes this conversation between Bertie and Jeeves, his butler:
“What do you call it when two people of opposite sexes are bunged together in close association in a secluded spot meeting each other every day and seeing a lot of each other?”
“Is ‘propinquity’ the word you wish, sir?”
“It is. I stake everything on propinquity, Jeeves.”
Twenty-two years later, Ian Fleming's Diamonds Are Forever (1956) included a character telling James Bond, "Nothing Propinks Like Propinquity." This expression became an oft-used aphorism of diplomat George Ball (US Ambassador to the UN during the Johnson administration), and was later dubbed the Ball Rule of Power.
We become what/who we are near. We become our habits and those we hang around. The little irritants are our great chance. Is not everything staked on propinquity?

Aitken's Case (Zen Master Raven)
The same evening that Gray Wolf appeared was also Cougar's first time at Tallspruce circle. Mole stayed underground throughout the zazen period that day, but poked his nose out for the discussion of karma.
After Raven's final response to Gray Wolf, Cougar asked, "Then is karma just cause and effect?"
Raven said, "Propinquity propinks."
Couger shook his head vigorously and said, "Sometimes it makes me irritated."
Raven said, "Your great chance."
Hotetsu's Verse
It's a murmuration of boomerangs
Doing what they are
Going around coming around
Less coordinated than starlings
They frequently bump
Leave marks and nicks
Work themselves pure
Previous Moment of Zen: HERE
Saturday Zen Practice at CUUC: HERE.

Other News This Week

RE News
Music News
CUUC Weekly News
This Week's e-Communitarian

RE News: Sun Oct 1

Lifespan Religious Education

This is the year in our two-year curriculum rotation that the 2nd-3rd graders learn about world religions. Historically at CUUC, this has meant a jaunt through the various cultures and religions presented in the curriculum Holidays and Holy Days. Over time in UU religious education, we have come to realize that... READ MORE  

Please see the following four (4) announcements:

1) This Sun Oct 1

K-5th grade start in Fellowship Hall to package the birthday bags for at-risk children served by the Food Food Bank for Westchester.
6th-12th grades start in their classrooms.

Pre-K - Chalice Children: Welcome
K-1 - Creating Home: Symbols of Faith
2nd-3rd - Sukkot
4th-5th - Bibleodeon: Introducing the Bible Part 2

6th-7th - Neighboring Faiths
8th-9th - Coming of Age Boston Trip Prep, UU history & heritage

10th-12th - Youth Group: Social Media

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

2) Parent-Teacher Meeting This Sun 8:45 a.m.
  • Discover our vision of RE and the specifics of each class
  • Meet your children's teachers
  • Bagel breakfast served and child care available

3) Child Dedication Oct 15
This Unitarian Universalist ritual honors your family's commitment to the congregation and a promise by the congregation to support and nurture your child's spiritual life.

The ritual is open to any young children in the congregation. Please contact me if you would like your family to take part in the ceremony.

For a further description of our ceremony and UU Child Dedications, CLICK HERE.

4) Want to Experience RE, But Not Ready to Teach?
We are looking for 2-3 volunteers to assist leaders on Special Sundays:
Sep 24 - Spiritual Practice; Oct 8 - Environmental Practice; Nov 12 - RE Veterans Day; Nov 26 - Fun Sunday; Jan 14 MLK; Feb 18 - Fun Sunday; Feb 25 - Alvin Ailey Dance; Apr 1 - Easter Egg Hunt; May 27 - Fun Sunday

Contact me at dlre@cucwp.org to find out more or sign up to assist.


Director of Lifespan Religious Education and Faith Development

Cultural Misappropriation in Curriculum

This is the year in our two-year curriculum rotation that the 2nd-3rd graders learn about world religions. Historically at CUUC, this has meant a jaunt through the various cultures and religions presented in the curriculum Holidays and Holy Days. Over time in UU religious education, we have come to realize that, although much of that curriculum is fun and interesting, it is problematic for us to implement. We have a greater awareness of cultural misappropriation. (Read more about misappropriation here)

Essentially, misappropriation means we are imitating or borrowing other cultures/religions without properly doing or honoring their customs and they have no authentic context for us. We end up playing at and with another people’s culture, often a people who have been historically oppressed. One of the obvious cases in Holidays and Holy Days is when the children make Islamic prayer rugs and then imitate Muslims praying. There are many other examples.

It is a tricky endeavor to teach world religions experientially and do it respectfully. We will attempt to do that with a new curriculum this year, Passport to Spirituality. It involves the children “traveling” to a place each Sunday where they learn about a prominent religion found there and one of its spiritual practices. The type of spiritual practice is then done in a UU version that does not try to reenact the specific ritual of the other religion., but rather honor the universality of that type of spiritual practice that is found in many religions. The children experience that practice and the value in it for them.

Most of the lessons are well thought out. However, there are still some potential misappropriation pitfalls. I will be consulting with people who understand these issues better than I do, so we can cover world religions in a way that is respectful and still a fun learning experience. Some activities from Holidays and Holy Days are done well and will be kept in our rotation.

This is a complex topic in Unitarian Universalism. We will not always get it right, but the values we uphold implore us to do the hard work of being conscious, continually learning, and do our utmost to honor the dignity of every culture and religion.

In faith,



CUUC Weekly News: Sun Oct 1

Community Unitarian Universalist
Congregation at White Plains
Weekly News | Sun Oct 1, 2017

Science & Spirituality, Thu Sep 28, 11:30am, Fireside Area
A bi-monthly meeting to explore the relationship between science and spirituality. We meet the second and fourth Thursdays of each month. We are discussing Evening Thoughts by Thomas Berry and preparing for How the Mind Works by Steven Pinker. Join us! Contact: Yvonne Lynn (ylynn20@gmail.com).

Choir Open House, Sun Oct. 1, 11:35am, Sanctuary
Sit and sing with the CUUC choir immediately after coffee hour. Gather near the piano to sing a few rounds, beloved hymns, and accessible choral pieces and see what it is like to work with Choir Director Lisa Meyer, pianist Georgianna Pappas, and veteran members of the CUUC Choir. Enjoy an hour of singing, laughter, and joy. All are welcome; you do not need to be able to read music. Whether you are thinking of joining the choir or just wish to enjoy participating for an hour, come sing and enjoy some light snacks and camaraderie to finish off our time together. For more information, contact Lisa Meyer at choir@cucwp.org or call 516-299-2475 (daytime).

Young Adult Gathering, Sun Oct 1, 11:45a, Room 43
A Young Adults group at CUUC is forming! All interested members, friends and visitors in young adulthood who are interested in meeting one another and engaging on issues of faith and other interests in a mutually supportive environment are invited to participate. Help shape a group that makes a difference in your life and the life of the congregation. Questions? Contact Cindy Davidson (intern@cucwp.org, 781-710-1640) or Perry Montrose (dlre@cucwp.org).

Getting to Know You – Getting to Know One Another
Neighborhood Social Gatherings, Sun Oct 1, 4:00-6:00pm, Various locations
Join your neighbors and CUUC friends for a Neighborhood Social Gathering (no hidden agenda!). Some of your CUUC friends have graciously agreed to host an open house so we can all get to know one another a little better. Choose the home you (and any partners/children) would like to go to, RSVP to the host, then bring something sweet or savory for the table. That’s it! An easy way to enjoy one another’s company. For questions, contact: jane dixon (lilrhodie@gmail.com, 914-949-5919).
Janet and Steve Bear, 32 Lincoln St, Larchmont (jsbear1@gmail.com)
Lori Saccardi, 36 Wyndham Close, White Plains (lorisaccardi87@gmail.com)
Karen and Ray Schmitt, 790 Forest Ave, Rye (karenschmitt@alum.mit.edu)
Terri and Darwei Kung, 8 Rocky Ridge, Harrison (terrikung@yahoo.com)
Karen Leahy, 445 Gramatan Ave Apt HB2, Mt. Vernon (karenleahy101@gmail.com)
Gail Johnston, 134 Walworth Ave, White Plains (gjohnston@cahill.com)
Kim and Christian Force, 521 Sherman Ave, Hawthorne (kimforce@gmail.com)
Ingrid Hartmann, 30 Lake St Apt 7-I, White Plains (wwwingrid@webtv.net, IH63053@gmail.com)

Nurturing Our Children, Ourselves, and Nature, Sat Oct 7, 10:00am-3:00pm, CUUC
A workshop for educators and facilitators who lead multigenerational nature and animal experiences, and learning of all kinds. This workshop leads and demonstrates a new way of learning and community in a multispecies, multigenerational, and multicultural context. It addresses the disconnection between humans and nature, and provides tools for adults to help children who thrive when they are able to connect to nature and animals. This is a special opportunity for those facilitating Unitarian Universalist children and youth programs. https://www.meetup.com/Nature-as-Spiritual-Practice/events/242030271/. Co-facilitated by Rev. Dr. LoraKim Joyner (amoloros@gmail.com)

Music Committee Meeting, Sun Oct 8, 9:00am, room 22
Attention music lovers! CUUC's Music Committee needs your support. Our committee meets several times a year and remains in touch by e-mail in the interim. Our work supports all matters musical at CUUC, including the running of CUUC's Concert Series, assisting the Music Staff in planning music as part of Sunday morning worship, strengthening the role of music in our RE program, making annual budget requests to the BOT, and planning music for summer worship services. We invite all to attend our first meeting. We hope to see many of you there but—even if you can't make it—please let us know if you'd like to help out. Contact: Janet Bear (jsbear1@gmail.com) and Lois Holt (mediamomforlife@gmail.com).

The Fall Communitarian is Here! Read all about it! Our magazine-length newsletter is now posted on the website. Find articles on your ministry, religious education, board of trustees, social justice teams, committees, choir, concerts, and the annual auction. Click HERE.

LGBTQIA Social Justice Team Event: "Trans* 102" with Rhyrus Falcone, Sun Oct 22, 11:40am, Fellowship Hall
Join us for a recap and follow up to last year’s presentation Trans* 101 Talking Gender, followed by an LGBTQIA Social Justice Visioning session. Childcare available with advance request to marycava4@gmail.com by Sun Oct 15. Contact: Tony Arrien (arrien@optonline.net).

Save the Date: “Reframing Westchester’s Housing Crisis,” Sun Oct 29, 11:45am, Fellowship Hall
Our guest speaker is Alexander H. Roberts, Exec Dir of Community Housing Innovations (http://chigrants.org/). CHI is the largest provider of housing for the homeless outside of New York City, with 1,000 people in its facilities each night. Co-sponsored by the Racial Justice and the Hunger and Homelessness social justice teams. Childcare available with advance reservation to admin@cucwp.org.

2017 Auction: A Night in Havana, Sat Nov 18, 5:30p, Tickets $40
This week: Everything you ever wanted to know about the auction but were afraid to ask! Each Sunday between now and November 18, the auction committee will be at coffee hour waiting to talk to you about anything-and-everything related to the auction. Maybe you are thinking about attending but not sure what to expect? Are you are wondering if a particular donation might work for us? Are you curious what this Bid-and-Bump thing is all about? Please stop by and talk to us. We'd love to chat!  To see FAQs, click HERE. For a list of donation ideas, click HERE.

Hurricane Relief Donations
As we plan our celebration of Cuban culture, we are keenly aware of how islands in the Caribbean are currently suffering from the devastation wrought by recent hurricanes. The UUA has established the UUA Disaster Relief Fund to assist congregations impacted by natural disasters in repairing damage, and to respond to the needs of members and communities in their efforts to recover. UUA staff is working closely with leaders in the Association's Southern Region, to ascertain where the need is greatest and distribute funds efficiently.

Did you know... CUUC relies on rain for our lawn, tree, and shrub irrigation rather than a sprinkler system. This prevents landscaping water waste.

The third part of our mission statement is to “engage in service to transform ourselves and our world.” Our goal is for each CUUC Member and Friend to participate on one team. This is an invitation, not an obligation, to be involved as you are able and as your time allows. Sign up in the lobby or online at cucwp.org/our-social-action-and-community-service. Which Social Justice Team would you like to be a part of? They all address important issues, so look for one that resonates most powerfully with you: Animal Advocacy, Economic Social Justice, Environmental Practices, Hunger & Homelessness, LGBTQIA Justice, Racial Justice, Refugee Resettlement, or Women's Issues. For information about individual teams, look for core members on Sundays wearing team buttons to identify them. For general questions, contact one of the Social Justice Coordinators: Jeff Tomlinson (jefftomlinson8@gmail.com), Mary Cavallero (marycava4@gmail.com), Pamela Cucinell (pamelajcny@gmail.com), Rev. Meredith Garmon (minister@cucwp.org).

Share the Plate for October: Animal Welfare
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, the Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team has been researching organizations that are helping unfortunate animals that have been injured, displaced, and adversely affected by disaster. This month half of our non-pledge donations will go to a nonprofit organization that recognizes how animals are often the most vulnerable and forgotten victims. The organization selected will be one that rapidly assesses an event, transports rescuers and equipment to the scene, and works hand-in-hand with local groups to address the crisis. We are pleased to announce that the amount collected will be matched up to $1,000 by a generous couple in our congregation who have chosen to remain anonymous. The Animal Advocacy Social Justice Team's purpose is to foster understanding and respect for the community and experiences of all species, and to open themselves and others to greater compassion and kinship with all animals.

At a recent meeting of the Social Justice Coordinating Committee we decided that a more formal process was needed for Share-the-Plate requests. There is no shortage of worthy causes and, while we’d like to honor all requests, there are only twelve months in the year.
Share the Plate requests should be made to the Social Justice Coordinating Committee (current members are listed below). Priority is given to requests of Social Justice Teams who have a long-term relationship with the organization they are recommending. For example, the Ecumenical Emergency Food Pantry and the Coachman Family Center in White Plains regularly receive the November and December Share-the-Plate because several members of the Hunger & Homelessness team have been working with these organizations for decades. Similarly, the LGBTQIA team has requested a month for PrideWorks, an organization that this congregation has been supporting for over ten years. The Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) has also been regularly approved due to its connection with Unitarian Universalism and the ongoing support of a number of CUUC members. Ideally, if congregants wish to suggest an organization, they should find a Social Justice Team or another committee that has a connection to their mission. Other requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis, if there is an available slot and a connection to CUUC. Social Justice Coordinating Committee: Jeff Tomlinson (jefftomlinson8@gmail.com), Mary Cavallero (marycava4@gmail.com), Pamela Cucinell (pamelajcny@gmail.com), Rev. Meredith Garmon minister@cucwp.org
Birthday Bag Update: In September the Hunger & Homelessness Social Justice Team collected birthday party supplies to be distributed to children in the Food Bank for Westchester's BackPack Program. We're pleased to announce that thanks to your donations we will be able to create over 100 Birthday Bags, all of which are needed by the Food Bank right now. Thanks to everyone who contributed! Contact: Amy Swiss (amyswiss@aol.com).

Sing, Sing, Sing -- with the CUUC Choir!  Rehearsals Tuesdays, 7:30-9:15pm, Sanctuary 
All voice parts welcome - you don't have to read music! We sing two Sundays a month and perform two concerts a year. Join full-time or part-time. Contact: Lisa Meyer at 516-299-2475 (daytime) or lisa.meyer@liu.edu.

Greeters Needed

Make our Sunday visitors feel welcome - come a little early to share your smile and a warm greeting. You can sign up for one or more Sundays HERE https://beta.doodle.com/poll/6ikqnmsu9p9rx8xu. Contact: Jane Dixon(lilrhodie@gmail.com).

Journey Group Signups
Life is a journey, and the CUUC Journey Groups are a vital way to deepen our understanding of life and strengthen our connections to one another by exploring monthly themes together. This year’s themes are Forgiveness, Death, Mindfulness, Embodiment, Resilience, Love, Wandering, Faith, Truth, and Justice. Sign up using the sheets posted in the entryway, or online at http://www.cucwp.org/journey-groups. Even if you can only attend a few of the monthly meetings, please do sign up – Journey Groups are how we help each other become the people we most want to be!

Caring & Sharing Circle
If anyone knows of another among us who is in need of a caregiver, please contact Janet Giewat (914 617-2137 or bean1a2@aol.com) or her backup Adine Usher (914 328-2307 or adinevictoriaray@gmail.com).

In the Community
Important Voter Registration Deadlines. The last day to register to vote for the November 2017 election is October 13. If you want to change party affiliation to vote in the 2018 primary, the deadline is October 13. If registering by mail, the form must be received by October 18. If you are honorably discharged from the military or have become a naturalized citizen after October 13th, you may register in person at the Board of Elections in White Plains through October 27. You must register as a Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary in 2018. Form: http://www.elections.ny.gov/NYSBOE/download/voting/voteform.pdf.

This Week at CUUC
Thu Sep 28 - 11:30am Science & Spirituality
Fri Sep 29 - 6:30pm Journey Group-Families
Sat Sep 30 - 9:00am Metro NY YAC; 10:00am Zen; 10:00am Strategic Planning; 4:30pm Rental: WCHJ
Sun Oct 1 - 8:45am Parent Teacher Meeting; 9:00am Economic SJT; 9:30am Nursery Care; 10:00am Worship; 11:15am Coffee Hour; 11:30am Choir Open House; 11:30am Auction Committee; 11:30am Welcome Committee; 11:45am Young Adult Gathering; 4:00pm Neighborhood Sunday
Mon Oct 2 - 6:30pm T’ai-ch’i; 7:00pm Rental: We Persist; 7:00pm Rental: Straight Spouse Network; 8:00pm Rental: Amnesty International
Tue Oct 3 - 7:00pm Rental: WCSPP; 7:30pm Choir rehearsal
Wed Oct 4 - 7:30pm Program Council
Thu Oct 5 - 9:30am Rental: League of Women Voters; 7:30pm Journey Group Facilitators
Fri Oct 6 - 7:00pm Rental: WCSPP
Sat Oct 7 - 9:30am Nurture Nature MultiGen Workshop; 10:00am Zen; 12:30pm Journey Group Facilitators; 1:30pm Rental: WCHJ
Sun Oct 8 - 9:00am Music Committee; 9:00am Refugee Resettlement; 9:00am LGBTQIA meeting (tentative); 9:30am Nursery Care; 10:00am Worship; 11:15am Coffee Hour; 11:30am Environmental Practices; 11:40am Animal Advocacy

CUUC Contacts
Minister: Rev. Meredith Garmon, minister@cucwp.org, 914-946-1660 x3
Director of Lifespan Religious Ed. & Faith Development: Perry Montrose, dlre@cucwp.org, 914-946-1660 x4
Community Minister: Rev. Deb Morra, community-minister@cucwp.org, 914-830-1509
Community Minister: Rev. LoraKim Joyner, amoloros@gmail.com, 914-948-1696
Ministerial Intern: Cindy Davidson, intern@cucwp.org, 781-710-1640
Congregational Administrator: Pamela Parker, admin@cucwp.org, 914-946-1660 x2
Bookkeeper: Diane Pearson, cuucwpbookkeeper@gmail.com, 914-946-1660 x5

Board of Trustees
Board Chair: Dean Silverberg, dsilverberg@ebglaw.com, 212-351-4642  
Vice Chair: Karen Dreher, kmdreher55@gmail.com, 914-235-7845
Treasurer: Chris Kortlandt, kortlandtbunch@gmail.com, 914-834-7112

Social Justice Coordinators
Jeff Tomlinson, jefftomlinson8@gmail.com
Mary Cavallero, marycava4@gmail.com
Pamela Cucinell, pamelajcny@gmail.com

Other News This Week

From the Minister
RE News
Music News
This Week's e-Communitarian


Music: Sun Oct 1

As I kid, I had a morbid fascination with great composers who died young. Chopin at 39, Mendelssohn at 38, Purcell at 36, Mozart at 35, Schubert at 31—I could recite them all. The Rock world would seem to trump them all, with Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix not surviving their 27th years (Amy Winehouse, too!). On the other hand, the Grim Classical Reaper claimed Pergolesi at 22 and the Spanish composer Arriaga at only 19! I can’t summon a “yay” for their untimely deaths, but I can manage one for all they achieved in their short times on earth.

And, in that spirit, the works by Franz Schubert in Sunday morning’s Centering Music and Offertory are from the composer’s final compositions, a set of three piano sonatas completed within a few months of his passing.

CUUC’s Choir is also on hand with contemplations on mortality by Paul McCartney and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Piano Sonata in C Minor, Op. Posth.
            II. Adagio
                                                            Franz Schubert

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Here Today 
                                                            Paul McCartney, arr. by Ed Lojeski 

Piano Sonata in B-flat Major, Op, Posth.
            III. Scherzo: Allegro vivace con molta delicatezza
                                                           Franz Schubert

Address to the Moon  
                               Music by John Purifoy, Poem by Nathaniel Hawthorne 


Common Reads: 2010-17

In 2010, the Unitarian Universalist Association began selecting an annual Common Read. "A Common Read invites participants to read and discuss the same book in a given period of time. A Common Read can build community in our congregations and our movement by giving diverse people a shared experience, shared language, and a basis for deep, meaningful conversations."

The UUA Common Reads, 2010-11 through 2016-17:

2016-17: William Barber, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement Is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear. CLICK HERE.

At a time when divide-and-conquer politics are exacerbating racial strife and economic inequality, Rev. Barber offers an impassioned, historically grounded argument that Moral Mondays are hard evidence of an embryonic Third Reconstruction in America.

The first Reconstruction briefly flourished after Emancipation, and the second Reconstruction ushered in meaningful progress in the civil rights era. But both were met by ferocious reactionary measures that severely curtailed, and in many cases rolled back, racial and economic progress. This Third Reconstruction is a profoundly moral awakening of justice-loving people united in a fusion coalition powerful enough to reclaim the possibility of democracy-even in the face of corporate-financed extremism.

In this memoir of how Rev. Barber and allies as diverse as progressive Christians, union members, and immigration-rights activists came together to build a coalition, he offers a trenchant analysis of race-based inequality and a hopeful message for a nation grappling with persistent racial and economic injustice. Rev. Barber writes movingly-and pragmatically-about how he laid the groundwork for a state-by-state movement that unites black, white, and brown, rich and poor, employed and unemployed, gay and straight, documented and undocumented, religious and secular. Only such a diverse fusion movement, Rev. Barber argues, can heal our nation's wounds and produce public policy that is morally defensible, constitutionally consistent, and economically sane. The Third Reconstruction is both a blueprint for movement building and an inspiring call to action from the twenty-first century's most effective grassroots organizer.

Drawing on the prophetic traditions of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, while making room for other sources of truth, the book challenges us to ground our justice work in moral dissent, even when there is no reasonable expectation of political success, and to do the hard work of coalition building in a society that is fractured and polarized.

* * *
2015-16: Bryan Stephenson, Just Mercy. CLICK HERE.

A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix our broken system of justice -- from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.

Bryan Stevenson was a young lawyer when he founded the Equal Justice Initiative, a legal practice dedicated to defending those most desperate and in need: the poor, the wrongly condemned, and women and children trapped in the farthest reaches of our criminal justice system. One of his first cases was that of Walter McMillian, a young man who was sentenced to die for a notorious murder he insisted he didn’t commit. The case drew Bryan into a tangle of conspiracy, political machination, and legal brinksmanship—and transformed his understanding of mercy and justice forever.

Just Mercy is at once an unforgettable account of an idealistic, gifted young lawyer’s coming of age, a moving window into the lives of those he has defended, and an inspiring argument for compassion in the pursuit of true justice.

Rev. Meredith Garmon's sermon, "Just Mercy": CLICK HERE.

* * *
2014-15: Paul Rasor, Reclaiming Prophetic Witness. CLICK HERE.

In Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, Rasor argues that conservative Christianity is not the only valid religious  voice in our national social policy. His book invites Unitarian Universalists to explore and claim our c ontribution, as religious liberals, to the pressing moral and ethical debates of our contemporary world.

This year's selection is an elegantly written, 105-page gem. Rasor observes that many liberals are uncomfortable with talking about our faith as the well from which spring our social justice commitments. The book includes insights from our theological heritage and our history that have bearing for us today, and calls us to prophetic, faith-based justice work.

In Reclaiming Prophetic Witness, Rasor argues that conservative Christianity is not the only valid religious voice in our national social policy. His book invites Unitarian Universalists to explore and claim our contribution, as religious liberals, to the pressing moral and ethical debates of our contemporary world. This elegantly written, 105-page book, is a gem. Rasor observes that many liberals are uncomfortable with talking about our faith as the well from which spring our social justice commitments. The book includes insights from our theological heritage and our history that have bearing for us today, and calls us to prophetic, faith-based justice work.

Rev. Meredith Garmon's sermon, "Reclaiming Prophetic Witness": CLICK HERE.

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2013-14: Saru Jayaraman, Behind the Kitchen Door. CLICK HERE.

Behind the Kitchen Door "reveals how restaurant workers live on some of the lowest wages in America and how poor working conditions—discriminatory labor practices, exploitation, and unsanitary kitchens—affect the meals that arrive at our restaurant tables. The author, who launched a national restaurant workers organization after 9/11, tells the stories of ten restaurant workers in cities across the United States as she explores the political, economic, and moral implications of eating out: What’s at stake when we choose a restaurant is not only our own health or “foodie” experience but also the health and well-being of the second largest private sector workforce—10 million people, many immigrants, many people of color, who bring passion, tenacity, and insight into the American dining experience.

"Behind the Kitchen Door invites Unitarian Universalists to intentionally consider their practices in restaurant dining. It makes visible the lives of people who are subject to discrimination and oppression based on economic status, race, ethnicity, gender, and/or immigration status. Common Read groups are encouraged to let Behind the Kitchen Door inspire follow-up action, such as advocacy for just working conditions for restaurant workers, as part of a commitment to ethical eating. Use the UUA's economic justice resources to learn about minimum wage campaign and actions you and your congregation can take to help." (UUA Website).

Rev. Meredith Garmon's sermon, "Behind the Kitchen Door": CLICK HERE.

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2012-13: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow CLICK HERE.

Once in a great while a book comes along that changes the way we see the world and helps to fuel a nationwide social movement. The New Jim Crow is such a book. Praised by Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier as "brave and bold," this book directly challenges the notion that the election of Barack Obama signals a new era of colorblindness. With dazzling candor, legal scholar Michelle Alexander argues that "we have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it." By targeting black men through the War on Drugs and decimating communities of color, the U.S. criminal justice system functions as a contemporary system of racial control — relegating millions to a permanent second-class status — even as it formally adheres to the principle of colorblindness. In the words of Benjamin Todd Jealous, president and CEO of the NAACP, this book is a "call to action."

Called "stunning" by Pulitzer Prize–winning historian David Levering Lewis, "invaluable" by the Daily Kos, "explosive" by Kirkus, and "profoundly necessary" by the Miami Herald, this updated and revised paperback edition of The New Jim Crow, now with a foreword by Cornel West, is a must-read for all people of conscience.

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2011-12: Eboo Patel, Acts of Faith. CLICK HERE.

Acts of Faith is a remarkable account of growing up Muslim in America and coming to believe in religious pluralism, from one of the most prominent faith leaders in the United States. Eboo Patel’s story is a hopeful and moving testament to the power and passion of young people — and of the world-changing potential of an interfaith youth movement.

Patel, a former Rhodes scholar with a doctorate in the sociology of religion from Oxford, is the founder of the Interfaith Youth Core, an organization that unites young people of different religions to perform community service and explore their common values. Patel argues that such work is essential, manifesting the faith line that will define the 21st century. Patel's own story is more powerful than the exhaustive examples he provides of how mainstream faith failed to reach young people like Osama bin Laden and Yighal Amir, the assassin of Yitzhak Rabin. With honesty, Patel relates how he suffered the racist taunts of fellow youth, and, in response, alternately rebelled against and absorbed the religion of his parents — Islam — but in his own way. Meanwhile, he continued to pursue interfaith work with vigor, not quite knowing his end goal but always feeling in his gut that interfaith understanding was the key. This autobiography of a young activist captures how an angry youth can be transformed—by faith, by the community and, most of all, by himself — into a profound leader for the cause of peace.

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2010-11: Margaret Regan, The Death of Josseline. CLICK HERE.

Dispatches from Arizona—the front line of a massive human migration—including the voices of migrants, Border Patrol, ranchers, activists, and others

For the last decade, Margaret Regan has reported on the escalating chaos along the Arizona-Mexico border, ground zero for immigration since 2000. Undocumented migrants cross into Arizona in overwhelming numbers, a state whose anti-immigrant laws are the most stringent in the nation. And Arizona has the highest number of migrant deaths. Fourteen-year-old Josseline, a young girl from El Salvador who was left to die alone on the migrant trail, was just one of thousands to perish in its deserts and mountains.

With a sweeping perspective and vivid on-the-ground reportage, Regan tells the stories of the people caught up in this international tragedy. Traveling back and forth across the border, she visits migrants stranded in Mexican shelters and rides shotgun with Border Patrol agents in Arizona, hiking with them for hours in the scorching desert; she camps out in the thorny wilderness with No More Deaths activists and meets with angry ranchers and vigilantes. Using Arizona as a microcosm, Regan explores a host of urgent issues: the border militarization that threatens the rights of U.S. citizens, the environmental damage wrought by the border wall, the desperation that compels migrants to come north, and the human tragedy of the unidentified dead in Arizona’s morgues.

Pathway to Membership

For the Powerpoint slides click here.

At General Assembly 2011 (Charlotte, NC), one of the workshops I attended featured Mary Jones and Kaaren Anderson describing what they do at the UU Church of Rochester, NY.

Fortunately, the presentations were videotaped, and you can watch them too! I have embedded them below.

Part 1: Mary Jones (Director of Member Services, UU Church of Rochester)(9:11)

Scott Tayler and Kaaren Anderson were called as co-ministers, and Jen Crowe as associate minister in 2004. In 7 years (2004-2011), the Rochester congregation grew 36% from 727 members to 990 members. (See what averaging 4.5% growth per year can do if you keep it up for seven years!)

Everything is mission driven.
Thus, the pathway to membership arises organically from the mission.

Here's the mission:
"Healing spiritual disconnection by helping each other:
listen to our deepest selves
open to life's gifts, and
serve needs greater than our own."
Notice that the mision is NOT about what the church offers or what our church does. The mission is about what we are inviting people to become.

Central question: Who are we asking you to become?

A Unitarian Universalist church asks members to become people who LISTEN, OPEN, and SERVE -- someone who heals spiritual disconnection by engaging with others to:
LISTEN to our deepest selves
OPEN to life's gifts, and
SERVE needs greater than our own.
At Rochester, the staff spent some time operationalizing the mission into a sequential step-by-step process. At the end of that process, the member has become someone fully engaged in listening, opening, and serving.

Newcomers follow the systematic pathway to/of membership, and that pathway is the model for the long-time members, too. Getting the long-time ("seasoned") members re-oriented to UU is important. A mission can't function as a real mission unless everyone is on the same "operating system." (Including clarity of expectation for pledging-- 3 to 5 percent of Adjusted Gross Income.)

Get the first three months of membership very mapped out for new members. This prevents "wandering in the wilderness." The newcomers should always know the next step.

At Rochester, the paid staff total on the membership team is 35 hours/week, consisting of:
  • Director of Member Services (15 hrs/wk)
  • Membership Database Administrator (10 hrs/wk)
  • Director of Lay Ministries (10 hrs/wk)
Also involved: The minister and the volunteer lead of the Hospitality Team.

Part 2: Mary Jones (10:38)

Steps Along the Path to Membership

1. Welcome the visitor. The Membership Director is the "Master Connector" -- has high visibility, up in front of the congregation every Sunday. Newcomers always hear from just the one person. That consistency is very helpful for newcomers.

2. UU 101: Newcomer Orientation. A class of 45-mins, after service on many Sundays (at least twice a month -- preferably every Sunday). Led by Membership Director. Keys: short, frequent, and low commitment. (Can drop in, no advance registration). This class begins the introduction to the listen, open, serve mission; asks people where they came from and how they came to us; provides a tour of the church; and invites participants to the next step.

Visitor follow-up: Invite them to a specific event.

3. Starting Point Class: an 8-hour class (sometimes offered in two 4-hour blocks on consecutive Saturdays; sometimes offered in four 2-hour classes on a weekday evening). Offered 3-4 times a year.
This is led by the minister. It introduces people to listening, opening, and serving. Participation in the Starting Point Class represents an increased commitment.
This is the boat to get people across the lake.
From Starting Point, they go either to Journey Groups or to membership class (UU 201) -- preferably both.

In the last couple hours, we explain journey groups, and ask them to continue the journey by joining one of our journey groups.

4. Journey Groups. These can be interest groups -- writing group, a Buddhism study group, etc. However, also create a new journey group out of the people who were in each the Starting Point class.

Part 3: Mary Jones (5:51)

The step of joining a journey group is a step of DEEPENING commitment. Step 5 invites them to BROADEN commitment.

5. UU201: Membership. Led by minister. Covers expectations and benefits of membership -- and covers some governance and finance matters. Not a long class because the main work has already been done.

Upon joining we get their gifts and talents info entered into database. Then we connect them with the leaders of the groups they're interested in.

Watching the Back Door.
Measurement of visits is important.
Ongoing touchpoints: Call every member at the 6-month anniversary and the 12-month anniversary of joining. Use a telephone survey to assess how they are integrating.

- Recognize service.
- Hold a special service of recognition for the seasoned members.

Part 4: Rev. Kaaren Anderson (co-minister, UU Church of Rochester)(8:17)

Resource: Andy Stanley podcasts.

Resource: Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger, Simple Church

Map out the steps from beginning to end -- then you can look to see where you're losing people.

Small groups are essential. Journey groups usher our people toward the soul matters covenant groups.

From Integration to Leadership:

1. "Creating Disciples": You want your members to be able to understand the mission -- articulate and help others come on board with it. That's "discipleship."

2. RE-START: seasoned members need to be brought into the same operating system. We ask the long-time members to take the Starting Point Class.

3. Leadership training.
In house is leadership training is helpful (instead of having to send folks away to a UU Leadership school).

Steps of leadership: A member can't be on the governing board, or other high-level leadership, until they've done some "early leadership," then progressed to "ministry leadership."

1. Early Leadership: project leader; RE teacher; group facilitator.

2. Ministry Leadership: Pastoral Care Team; Task Force leader; major project leader.

3. Church Leadership: Board member or officer; nominating (leadership development) team; fundraising chair; capital compaign leader.