News for

2018-11-29

From the Minister, Fri Nov 30

During this holiday season, we will frequently see, hear, and perhaps say the words, "Peace on Earth." Unitarians have been noticing that the words do not match the reality at least since Unitarian poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote the carol, "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day" in 1863: "For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men," wrote Longfellow. The challenge to us is to take the words, "Peace on Earth," to heart, reflect on what we've done in the past year to build peace, and what we will commit to do in 2019.

Let us attend, as well, to Justice on Earth, for peace and justice are intricately interconnected. There will be no peace without justice (for human beings systemically denied justice will agitate for it, including turning to violence when there is no other recourse) -- and, too, no justice without peace (for human beings under attack focus on defending themselves, not fairness to others). I take this not as a chicken-and-egg insoluble dilemma, but as indicating the need to gradually build both at the same time. On the "Justice on Earth" side, I recommend a book of that title.

Our Unitarian Universalist Association selects a Common Read every year, which all UUs are urged to read. The Common Read for 2018-19 is: Manish Mishra-Marzetti and Jennifer Nordstrom, Eds., Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class, and Environment (Skinner House Books, 2018). Here's what UUA says about it:
"At a time when racial justice, environmental justice, and economic justice are seen as issues competing for time, attention, and resources, Justice on Earth explores the ways in which the three are intertwined. Those on the margins are invariably those most affected by climate disaster and environmental toxins. The book asks us to recognize that our faith calls us to long-haul work for justice for our human kin, for the Earth and for all life. It invites us to look at our current challenges through a variety of different perspectives, offers tools to equip us for sustained engagement, and proposes multiple pathways for follow-up action."
The book is available from the UUA bookstore (HERE), or Amazon (HERE). Let's read it, talk about it, engage with these ideas, and learn how we can more skillfully contribute to the building of a world of justice and peace.

Peace and Justice to you -- on Earth and in your home this holiday season,
Meredith

Practice of the Week: Letting Go, Moving Forward /Ecospiritual. We let go. Of the idea of an endless, unlimited Earth. Of faith in silver-bullet solutions. Of our addiction to stuff, to consumerism, to symbols of success and status. Of quiet desperation. Of "more is better." Of thinking of ourselves and our actions as disconnected from the larger whole. Of outdated ideas and images. Of spiritual concepts primarily born from justifications of our own desires. We let go, and then let go some more.READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: Reading /Nothing wrong with reading, of course. Just don't let it get you all caught up in concepts. Read fiction: it tells the truth, though it comes at it indirectly. Read nonfiction, which also tells the truth and also comes at it indirectly. Everything written has something true to tell you -- maybe not what the words claim.

Your own life also communicates in this way.

Case
Granddaughter asked Grandma, "I've heard that some Zen teachers advise their students not to read. What is your opinion?"
Grandma said, "Read."
Granddaughter asked, "What should I read?"
Grandma said, "Watch for your name."
Turkey told Raven about this.
Raven asked, "How is that for you?"
Turkey said, "Dunno, Roshi. Books don't mean much to me."
Raven said, "You have your own works."
Verse
I found my name in Plato, for instance,
and in Rorty, Wittgenstein, Nussbaum, Dickens, Austen, Wendell Berry, and Garry Trudeau --
in Hesse, Laozi, Camus, The Amazing Spider-Man, and Arundhati Roy --
in Thurber, Thoreau, Dillard, Vonnegut, Brautigan, and the New York Times, for instance,
and in Hongzhi, Dogen, Dworkin (both Ronald and Andrea), Tom (both Robbins and Wolfe), and Irving (John, not Washington) --
in Woolf and Tolkien and Twain and Chas Addams and James Luther Adams,
For instance.
My name was on every page.
Because I wrote it there myself?
Possibly, but
The handwriting doesn't look like mine.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

Letting Go, Moving Forward

Practice of the Week
Letting Go, Moving Forward

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


There is a comfort in familiarity, even if it is dysfunctional or unpleasant. It is challenging work to deconstruct comfortable ways of being in the world, rethink identity, and let go of beliefs that no longer function for us. Challenging, yet necessary. And it is work our entire culture must do.

The large-scale transformation of the relationship of humans to the Earth is what Catholic Ecotheologian Thomas Berry called "the Great Work of our time." We must reclaim the Holy Ground; re-sacralize, re-sanctify, rebuild, and re-imagine everything. We have, perhaps, begun to shed the old, but scarcely imagined what to create in its place. We are at the turning of the tide, the pause between breaths. There are no certainties. We don’t know if the larger culture will ever be transformed – short of destroying itself. Yet here we are. Many of us have become aware of the necessity for “the Great Work,” and personal transformations of individual ways of being is under way. Regardless of what the culture does, we embrace our life's task, our own personal Great Work. And we let go.

We let go. Of the idea of an endless, unlimited Earth. Of faith in silver-bullet solutions. Of our addiction to stuff, to consumerism, to symbols of success and status. Of quiet desperation. Of "more is better." Of thinking of ourselves and our actions as disconnected from the larger whole. Of outdated ideas and images. Of spiritual concepts primarily born from justifications of our own desires. We let go, and then let go some more.

Having let go of so much, you may feel unsure of what happens next. It’s unsettling to be disconnected from the dominant cultural paradigm but to have no well-formed alternative in which to be grounded. This in-between place is a temporary but necessary stopover in the process of change. A new paradigm is emerging, replacing hostility and competitiveness with Earth community, balance, and cooperation. We take a deep breath, clasp hands, and turn.

Practices

1. Ritual of Release. On small slips of paper, write down old attitudes, ways of thinking, and beliefs that no longer resonate with your spirit. You may do this with an exclusively ecological theme, or also include other thoughts. These slips of paper symbolize what you are letting go. Place the papers in a fireproof bowl, take them outdoors and burn them. Reflect on the process of letting go, and its impact on you personally.

2. Rocks and Apples. For this visualization, make a recording of yourself read the following paragraph, with appropriate long pauses. Then sit comfortably in a place where you will be undisturbed for fifteen minutes. Relax, and slow your breathing. Close your eyes, continue breathing for a few moments, then press “Play”:
Imagine yourself walking a long, dusty road that continues off into the distance. In each arm is a heavy bags full of rocks, and on your back is a pack filled with more rocks. You have rocks in your pockets too. You can't seem to recall where the rocks came from or how you got them, but you have come to believe that they are important, and carrying rocks is what everyone does. As you trudge along, you realize how heavy the rocks are. You begin to think there is no good reason to keep carrying them. Still, you are nervous about setting them down, You take one rock out of your pocket and leave it on the side of the road. Nothing happens, except that your pocket is not as heavy. You go a little further, and then drop another rock. Again, nothing happens. You go a few more steps, and then dump the entire load from your pockets. It feels nice. You ditch the bags of rocks as well. Ahhh! It feels lovely to be unburdened. Walking now more quickly and comfortably, you pass an apple tree on the side of the road. You think about putting some apples in the pockets that are now empty. You remember the pack on your back and dump out all those rocks. You keep walking, encountering all sorts of wonderful people as you go. You journey on, light of heart and light of load. You feel happy.
After you complete the visualization, bring your awareness back to the present, and open your eyes slowly. Now, try the visualization again, without the recording, making your own variations to the scenario. Who might you encounter on the way? What else might you carry? Allow your own creativity the freedom to make it especially meaningful to you.

Group Activities

Letting Go. By this point, the twelfth segment of Ecospiritual practice, some sort of internal change has occurred in your group. Maybe it's a new attitude, or a rethinking of old ideas. Maybe some members have consciously changed their lifestyle in some way. Begin this group time by going around the circle and completing the phrases, “I've faced up to ..," and "I've let go of ..." Sing together an appropriate hymn or folk song. Then discuss the questions. Conclude with another song.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • What does the process of unlearning mean to you? How do you choose which ideas to let go of and which to keep?
  • Have you ever let go of something and felt unburdened and empowered by doing so? When? How did the process of letting go change you?
  • As you consider the whole idea of unlearning and letting go, are there some ideas or concepts that are worth holding on to? What is it about them that makes them special and worth keeping even as you let go of others?
  • What cultural ideas or attitudes have been the most difficult for you to unlearn? Is there anything in particular that causes a real struggle for you? What is it, and why do you think it is so?

* * *

2018-11-28

Music: Sun Dec 2


No, it’s not a typo. TWO pieces entitled “Curious Story” kick off December’s monthly theme of Curiosity. And, for those of you brimming with sufficient curiosity to arrive by 10 a.m., a family-friendly “Music for All Ages” presentation looks at the connection between invention and curiosity in music written by J. S. Bach for his eldest son nearly 300 years ago. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with music from diverse religious traditions. Read on for programming details.

Centering: Music for All Ages with Adam Kent, piano
Curiosity, Invention, and J. S. Bach

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
How Can I Keep From Singing?       
Traditional Shaker Folksong, arr. by Matthew Culloten

Offertory:
“Curious Story,” from Scenes of Childhood, Op. 15
                                             Robert Schumann
“Curious Story,” Op. 138, No. 9
                                             Stephen Heller

Anthem: 
Hiné Ma Tov*
Folk Song, Round from Psalm 133:1    1
*Translation:  Behold how good and pleasant it is for all to dwell together in unity.

Religious Education News: Sun Dec 2

The Thanksgiving holiday, now a memory, was for many a time replete with food, family, and relaxation. Our sense of community, thankfulness, and gratitude remains, however, as we enter the season of goodwill and peace. Last Sunday was an Arts & Craft Day for children and youth, led by Sabrina Cleary and Janice Silverberg. It was a marvelous experience as all ages enjoyed one another’s company and proudly demonstrated their creative talents by making beautiful ornaments and decorations. Janice had no difficulty holding everyone’s attention as she read The Grinch Who Stole Christmas to the sounds of munched cookies and other treats. It was a testament to our children and their interest and love of RE to see the diversity of ages coalesce into an animated group project. This Sunday, during Deck the Halls after service, the children and will have the opportunity to hang their works of art in the sanctuary for the entire congregation to admire. To prepare for our winter holidays, the “hanging of the greens” in the sanctuary has already been done. Craig Hunt and I were hoping to do this project together but logistics of my travel weren’t very conducive to a mutual time. My sincere thanks go out to him and his family who came in and did all the hanging despite Craig’s knee injury. Craig, your dedication was most appreciated - thank you for a job well done! Another exciting Sunday is underway on Dec 2. We will have Music For All Ages, a Wonder Box Story, classes, and then, last but not least, Deck the Halls at 11:30. Teachers, congregation, and family are welcome to decorate alongside the students. Looking forward to seeing you all!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

A Look at What’s Coming Up…

Opportunity for Young Voices to Sing with the Choir
Does your kid love to sing? Children and youth have an opportunity to join the CUUC Choir for a piece in their Winter Choral Concert on Sun Dec 16, at 12:30pm. The kids may rehearse with the choir on Sun Dec 2 and Sun Dec 9 from 9:30-10:00am. Choir director Lisa Meyer needs to finalize musical selections, so please RSVP to cuucre@gmail.com by Fri Nov 30.

RE This Sun Dec 2
Grades K-7th start in the sanctuary for Music For All Ages and Wonder Box Story. Grades 8th-12th start in classrooms.

Deck the Halls this Sun Dec 2, after RE
Join us in the sanctuary after RE to hang the decorations we created last week. Fun for all ages and something families can do together!

Wreaths for Sale this Sun Dec 2
As part of a Scout project, Doyle and Callie Zisson will be selling wreaths outside the main doors at CUUC after the service this Sunday.

Holiday Giving Opportunities

Gently Used Children's Books and Toys Drive for the Ecumenical Food Pantry, through Sun Dec 9
Bring in gently used kids' books and toys for our collection to benefit clients of the Ecumenical Food Pantry. We are also collecting stuffed animals (must be new or like new). Contact: Mary Cavallero (marycava4@gmail.com) for information or to volunteer to distribute.

Gift Cards for Coachman Family Center, Sign Up Sun Dec 2 & Sun Dec 9; Bring In Wrapped and Tagged Gift Cards Sun Dec 16
Help a family at the Coachman shelter by signing up to purchase a $25 gift card for their school-age children. On Sun Dec 2 and Sun Dec 9, we will have lists available with the age and gender of the children, and the type of card they prefer. Please box and wrap the gift cards, tag with the child's name and room number, and bring to CUUC by Sun Dec 16. Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

Personal Items for Shelter Residents, Sun Dec 2 - Sun Dec 30
New socks, men's underwear (L & XL), women’s underwear, and toiletries will be collected throughout December for residents of local shelters. Posters from our Religious Education students help spread the word! Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

The Mitten Tree is Coming!
We will decorate the tree with your donations of mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for all ages and sizes. Share the gift of warmth! We will be collecting throughout December. Items will be given to the men, women, and children of local shelters: The Coachman Family Center, Open Arms, and Samaritan House. Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

Faith Development Friday, Fri Dec 7, Fireside Area & Classrooms
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 Friday.

2018-11-23

From the Minister, Fri Nov 23

As the Honduran migrant caravan, now identified as “The Exodus” (El Éxodo), makes its way toward the US, I wanted to let your know what our Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) is doing. UUSC:
  • is part of an interfaith coalition in regular communication with people accompanying migration
  • encourages your support for asylum-seekers on their journey through Mexico and arrival at the U.S. border, and for local welcoming organizations in El Paso, TX.
  • is helping arrange for volunteers at the Annunciation House in El Paso, for UUs able to volunteer for at least one week on site.
  • is helping arrange for UU clergy (those with some Spanish) to meet a need for clergy accompaniment of El Exodo through parts of Mexico.
Learn more!

Tell Congress to Protect TPS Holders: HERE
Love Resists: HERE
Consider taking the online course, "Changing Systems, Changing OUrselves": HERE
Read the UUSC report, "The Struggle for Human Rights and Transformation in Honduras: A Faith Delegation's Observations: HERE

Yours thankfully,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Feel Safer /Slogan to Live By.
Consider whether you deserve to feel safer: whether you are more braced against life, more guarded, more cautious, more anxious, more frozen, more appeasing, more rigid, or more prickly than you truly need to be. If the answer is yes, there are some ways to help yourself feel safer, so that a growing internal sense of calm and confidence will increasingly match the true reality of the people and settings around you.READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: The Middle Way /If I tell you that your question is a good one, don't you see that it is now answered?

Case
One evening Woodpecker asked, "What is the Middle Way?"
Raven said, "Good question."
Woodpecker said, "You're dodging my question."
Raven said, "You're dodging my answer."
"The Middle Way" refers to (a) harmonizing opposites such as the particular and the universal, relative and absolute; (b) the Eightfold Path

Verse
The good question, at home with an apt mind,
Brings forth offerings,
Yet is not put to rest.
Lives on and repeats, repeats.

The apt mind, at home with a good question,
Stays the course between destructions
of one side or the other.
To fix an answer breaks the question.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Raven 78

2018-11-21

Religious Education News: Sun Nov 25

There were no RE classes last Sunday so all the children and youth could join their families in our multigenerational Thanksgiving service, a celebration of the blessings, love, and friendship in our lives. It was particularly fitting to hear and participate in the “Amended” Thanksgiving Story, and better understand where we came from. That journey of Thanksgiving over the years has solidified and instilled the very fabric of the beliefs and principles of CUUC into each and every one of us. The youth as well as the adults offered up their cards of gratitude, which Rev. Meredith read. This was particularly moving as the essence of gratitude was tangible. Family and love amongst many other gifts in its repetition alone was powerful and impactful. As I sat in the service, I could not help but reflect on my own personal blessings and the enrichment I have obtained from them. I consider myself gifted to be part of this congregation. My professional and personal life has been exponentially transformed in coming to know the students, families, staff, and church members. I treasure the values of CUUC and treasure my tenure here as an unexpected, life-changing gift. These are my beatitudes for which I give thanks. Those thanks go out to all of you and so, I sincerely wish everyone a loving, peaceful Thanksgiving.

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

A look at what’s coming up...

This Sun Nov 26
All ages in Fellowship Hall for Deck the Hall Crafts. Come help create the decorations for the sanctuary.

Opportunity for Young Voices to Sing with the Choir
Does your kid love to sing? Children and youth have an opportunity to join the CUUC Choir for a piece in their Winter Choral Concert on Sun Dec 16, at 12:30pm. The kids may rehearse with the choir on Sun Dec 2 and Sun Dec 9 from 9:30-10:00am. Choir director Lisa Meyer needs to finalize musical selections, so please RSVP to cuucre@gmail.com by Fri Nov 30.

Deck the Halls - Dec 2 after RE
Join us in the sanctuary after RE to create and hang decorations. Fun for all ages and something families can do together!

Holiday Giving Opportunities
Gently Used Children's Books and Toys Drive for the Ecumenical Food Pantry, through Sun Dec 9

Bring in gently used kids' books and toys for our collection to benefit clients of the Ecumenical Food Pantry. Help bring joy to parents who could not otherwise afford holiday gifts for their children. We are also collecting stuffed animals (must be new or like new) for the senior clients who enjoy one for themselves! Contact: Mary Cavallero (marycava4@gmail.com) for information or to volunteer.

Gift Cards for Coachman Family Center, Sign Up Sun Dec 2 & Sun Dec 9; Bring In Wrapped and Tagged Gift Cards Sun Dec 16
Help a family at the Coachman by signing up to purchase a $25 gift card for their school-age children. On Sun Dec 2 and Sun Dec 9, we will have lists available with the age and gender of the children, and the type of card they prefer. Please box and wrap the gift cards, tag with the child's name and room number, and bring to CUUC by Sun Dec 16. Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

Personal Items for Shelter Residents, Sun Dec 2 - Sun Dec 30
New socks, men's underwear (L & XL), women’s underwear, and toiletries will be collected throughout December for residents of local shelters. Posters from our Religious Education students help spread the word! Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

The Mitten Tree is Coming!
We will decorate the tree with your donations of mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for all ages and sizes. Share the gift of warmth! We will be collecting throughout December. Contact: Ray Messing (raymessing@gmail.com).

Faith Development Friday, Fri Dec 7, Fireside Area & Classrooms
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.

Music: Sun Nov 25

This Sunday’s musical selections might well be subtitled “Music for Meditation”. Through hypnotically steady rhythms, persistent intervals, and reliance on non-Western modal and pentatonic melodic formulae, all the works performed have the potential to free the mind of conventional constraints. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
     Bell-Ringing, Op. 54, No. 6
                                    Edvard Grieg

    Mouvements perpétuels
               I. Assez modéré
               II. Très modéré
               III. Alerte
                                    Francis Poulenc

Opening Music:
    Secreto from Impresiones íntimas
                                    Federico Mompou

Offertory:
    From Préludes, Book II
                La puerta del vino
                                    Claude Debussy

Interlude:
    From Préludes, Book II
               Bruyères

2018-11-16

From the Minister, Fri Nov 16

Religion begins in gratitude. It is the first and most basic spiritual practice and spiritual virtue. The difference between a secular and a religious orientation is not about what entities or supernatural powers do or do not exist – it’s about the attitude we have toward what exists, whatever it is.

Robert Emmons conducted a study in which he asked people to make journal entries once a week. He randomly assigned subjects to one of three groups: the first group listed five things for which they were grateful; the second group listed five hassles or annoyances that week; the third group, the neutral group, listed five events or circumstances that affected them, and they were not told to accentuate the positive or negative aspects of those circumstances.

In the first group, typical items included: The generosity of friends; The right to vote; The God-given gift of determination; That I have learned all that I have learned; Sunset through the clouds; The chance to be alive; My in-laws live only ten minutes away.

In the second group, typical items included: Hard to find parking; Messy kitchen no one will clean; Finances depleting quickly; No money for gas; Our house smells like manure; Burned my macaroni and cheese; Did favor for friend who didn’t appreciate it; My in-laws live only ten minutes away.

Emmons also asked subject to give an answer each week to two questions. One, rate how you feel about your life as a whole during the last week, from -3 (“terrible”) to +3 (“delighted”) Two, rate your expectations for the upcoming week, from -3 (“pessimistic, expect the worst”) to +3 (“optimistic, expect the best”).

At the beginning of the ten-week study period, the three groups were about the same in terms of how they felt about their life as a whole and what they expected for the upcoming week: about the same range of responses and about the same average response. By the end of the ten weeks, however, the gratitude group was scoring much higher on both how they felt about their life as a whole and on what they expected out of the upcoming week than either the hassles group or the neutral group.

It was remarkable, reports Emmons, how much difference it made to take just a couple minutes once a week to list five things one is grateful for.

Yours thankfully,
Meredith

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

Practice of the Week: Everyday Relationships /Might Be Your Thing. It's easy to see the sacred in the stars at night or in the emotion of a great Sunday service. But how about in your most damp and oozy moments of parenting toddlers? Or in your angriest moments of conflict with a partner? There. Right there is the sacred. Our everyday relationships are not automatically a spiritual practice -- but we can make them be a spiritual practice. READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Giving /We hear from Grouse today. We haven't heard from Grouse since #44, when she was asking about the good of practice, given that even long-time students and some teachers act selfishly and cause dissension in the community.

Grouse refers to an exchange between Mole and Raven in #32: Mole asked, "I'm wondering what happens at the point of death." Raven sat silently a while, and then said, "I give away my belongings."

Those things that are left -- after giving away belongings, and after death -- those things are your self, you know.

Case
Grouse spoke up at a gathering and asked, "Mole said that a while back you said that you give away your belongings when you die. I've been brooding about this, but it still isn't clear to me."
Raven said, "What isn't clear?"
Grouse said, "Is there anything left?"
Raven said, "Oh, lots: the moon, the wind, the crickets."
Verse
The Long and the Short of It

Belongings belengthen.
What I belong to and
What belongs to me,
Fix my placement,
Post grief-tinged desires,
And stretch me long between.

Moon, wind, and crickets
Draw me up short again.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC: Sat Nov 17

Everyday Relationships

Practice of the Week
Everyday Relationships

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.

from Jane Ellen Mauldin, "Everyday Relationships," in Everyday Spiritual Practice, abridged and adapted.

It's easy to see the sacred in the stars at night or in the emotion of a great Sunday service. But how about in your most damp and oozy moments of parenting toddlers? Or in your angriest moments of conflict with a partner? There. Right there is the sacred. Our everyday relationships are not automatically a spiritual practice -- but we can make them be a spiritual practice.

In college, I came to picture the spiritual path as involving extensive stillness, quiet, and meditation. My route to enlightenment, however, took a big detour into family responsibilities. I am so busy making school lunches, doing laundry, driving to boy scouts and dance lessons – and working full time outside the home -- that my longed-for hour of daily meditation is still just a pipe dream.

With much trial and error, I've developed a spiritual practice of everyday relationships, to satisfy my hunger for spiritual growth in the relationships to which I'm deeply committed. My method has four parts.

1. AWARENESS

It's easy to gulp down the coffee in the morning with a quick look at the newspaper and an almost peremptory "howdy" to your partner or spouse across the table. This doesn't qualify as awareness! Take a long look at your sweetie, at least once before you or they run out the door. Do the same for the other people you care for -- your parent, or child, or even yourself. Really look at these people. Know that they are there. Know that you are near them.

If we are lucky, we might sometimes get our loved one's awareness, too. I was barreling down the highway in my minivan not long ago, five minutes late as always. Suddenly, my twelve-year-old beside me stopped humming along to the radio and burst out: “Look, mom!” He pointed to the sky above us. The setting sun, behind a cloud, was streaming radiant pink, blue, and gold rays of light in every direction. The color filled the sky as if the sun, behind the cloud, had intensified its usual brilliance tenfold. "Oh, mom," said my awed son, "I don't think I will ever forget this!" His awareness focused mine. I don't think that I will ever forget it, either.

2. APPRECIATION

Appreciate the present moment. Anyone who has ever lived with a baby knows that they are very good at calling us to live in the present moment. Anyone who has cared for an ill family member, or a parent fading with Alzheimer's, knows that the present moment is very precious and is truly the only reality we have. Now. Here.

Appreciation requires slowing down. If we rush through the task of wiping, feeding, assisting, then we miss the moment and we miss being alive during that time.

Treating everyday relationships as a spiritual practice requires seeing the holy in those relationships right in the middle of the busy-ness and messiness. Not long ago during a rainy winter morning at the doctor's office, with the ancient magazines and a blaring TV, my young children begged to read books and chew on them, respectively. They coughed enticingly into my face. I was overstimulated and anxious and impatient with waiting. Then I realized/remembered that living in the moment means THIS moment. I didn’t like being in that moment, on the vinyl waiting room chair, sneezing and wiping runny noses, but there was holiness there, whether I liked it or not. The spiritual task is to notice the holy in every moment.
“Jesus said, ‘Split the wood and you shall find me. Lift the stone and there I am.’ (Gospel of Thomas 77)
3. NONATTACHMENT

A spiritual practice of everyday relationships, as spiritual practices generally do, helps us wean ourselves from attachments.

For example, I am very attached to my expert idea of what kind of person I want my husband to be. He ought to think like me, act like me, and always come to the same logical conclusions that I do. I am, of course, often disappointed. When I expect my husband to live up to my ideal of him, I get a pretty good understanding of how attachment is the source of suffering. If we keep hoping that reality and real people will fit our idealized standards, we will always be disappointed. If I can let go of my attachment to what I want my husband to be and do, I move toward unconditional love. And unconditional love -- compassion, without expectations or attachment -- is, many teachers say, both source and result of spiritual growth.

4. COMMITMENT

Every spiritual path entails challenges and difficulties. We will not grow, deepen, and achieve greater knowledge and understanding unless we are committed to sticking with our practice. For the spiritual practice of everyday relationship, that means a commitment to the relationships, and to approaching them with awareness, appreciation, and nonattachment.

Commitment makes possible a depth, wholeness, and peace that we cannot otherwise achieve. I’m not suggesting committing yourself to an abusive situation. If that’s where you are, I hope you’ll take steps to get out. But if a relationship is worth keeping, it’s worth full commitment. Reminding myself several times a day of my commitment is a key component of my spiritual practice of everyday relationships.

Commitment is a practice that can continue even long after the one to whom we have committed has died. Commitment creates an opportunity to practice awareness, appreciation, and nonattachment.

Sometimes I catch myself thinking of parenting and partnering as duties that take me away from a more spiritual time. When I slow down and pay attention, though, another truth becomes clear: The wiping, listening, cleaning, hugging, holding, forgiving, helping with homework, and driving to Little League are all activities within which we can find connection and renewal, if done with awareness, appreciation, nonattachment, and commitment.

* * *

2018-11-15

Religious Education News: Sun Nov 18

As we get closer to Thanksgiving, it is so appropriate and meaningful to continue our journey towards hospitality on so many levels. I had the pleasure of assisting Perry in the Children’s Worship for all ages in Fellowship Hall. The service revolved around Veteran Day Activities, most especially focusing on the concept of service. Perry asked all the students to draw a picture of some kind act or gesture of service they had offered someone else. Each then got up, introduced themselves, and described their “service.” Perry and the students talked about how we welcome and care for people coming to our congregation. Groups took turns going out to speak with Jane Dixon and learn about the work of our Welcome Committee. The students then suggested things we can do to at CUUC to create an even more welcoming environment. Perry created small cards for the group to color and write messages to those RE students who haven’t been seen for awhile. There followed a truly insightful discussion with the students about the things they thought made them happy and comfortable at CUUC, and the things that did not lend to their desire to be here on Sundays. More than one student agreed that getting up on Sunday morning was hard. One even suggested we have services and classes on a Tuesday at around 3 PM! Totally serious, yet so funny. Perry’s facilitation of this service and activities really bore witness to the genuine honesty of feelings and opinions of the children and youth. They clearly expressed a sense of camaraderie and desire to help others in the congregation, as well as visitors. What better way to convey a community-minded sentiment than with a card saying “We miss you, please come back"!

Michele Rinaldi
Religious Education Coordinator

A look at what’s coming up…

Sunday, Nov 18th – All ages in the sanctuary for our Multigenerational Thanksgiving

Sunday, Nov 25 – Fun Sunday/Deck The Halls Crafts

(there are no RE classes)

Gently Used Children's Books and Toys Drive for the Ecumenical Food Pantry, Nov 18 to Sun Dec 9
Beginning this Sunday, you may bring in gently used kids' books and toys for our collection to benefit clients of the Ecumenical Food Pantry. Help bring joy to parents who could not otherwise afford holiday gifts for their children. We are also collecting stuffed animals (must be new or like new) for the senior clients who enjoy one for themselves! Contact: Mary Cavallero (marycava4@gmail.com) for information or to volunteer.

Stay tuned for information on our other holiday Opportunities for Giving, including the mitten tree and gift cards for children of the Coachman Family Center.


Music: Sun Nov 18

In keeping with our desire to comprehend the Thanksgiving story from the perspective of Native Americans, several of this morning’s musical selections stem from the so-called American Indianist movement. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, a number of American classical composers attempted to evoke or incorporate themes from Native American culture in their work. Although their intent was to pay tribute to this unique artistic tradition, by definition they appropriated indigenous resources into the Eurocentric musical style of the time. Arthur Farwell and Edward MacDowell were among the leading exponents of this style. Other works by MacDowell are featured as well, including his evocation of the pilgrims’ Puritan origins in his New England Idylls, and a direct reference to the year of the Plymouth Rock landing in one of his Sea Pieces.

Our own Lisa Meyer and Georgianna Pappas offer a statement about hospitality from the pen of Leonard Bernstein, whose centennial is celebrated this year. And the CUUC Choir is also on hand with traditional holiday fare. Read on for programming details.

Prelude: Adam Kent, piano
Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2                          
                                             Edvard Grieg
“From Puritan Days” from New England Idylls, Op. 62
“From an Indian Lodge” from Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
“A.D. 1620” from Sea Pieces, Op. 55
                                    Edward MacDowell

Special Music: Lisa N. Meyer, soprano; Georgianna Pappas, piano
“My New Friends” from The Mad Woman of Central Park West
Leonard Bernstein.


Anthem: The CUUC Choir
Hey, Ho Nobody’s Home  
Traditional Folk Song  arr. by Greg Gilpin 
Offertory:
From Impressions of the Wa-Wan Ceremony of the Omahas, Op. 21
                  VII: Song of Peace
                  Arthur Farwell

Anthem:
Homeward Bound 
Marta Keen, arr. by Jay Althouse
Mary Lane Cobb and Ted Kuczinski, soloists

2018-11-09

From the Minister, Fri Nov 9

Sabbatical? Sabbatical! Yes! I will be on a six-month sabbatical from 2019 Oct 1 until 2020 Apr 1.

That's still almost 11 months away, but I just want everyone to be aware that it's coming. Herewith a bit of a FAQ:

Q: Is this normal?

Very. I wish it were more normal in other lines of work -- I think lawyers and doctors and bankers -- and their clients and patients -- would also benefit if they had sabbaticals. As it is, professors and ministers commonly have sabbaticals to go do something different. For professors, it's typically travel and study. Ministers might do that, too.

Among full-time UU ministers sabbaticals are very common. Here's the language in the Letter of Agreement that CUUC and I have -- it's very typical of what is in most such Letters of Agreement between UU ministers and the congregations they serve:
"Sabbatical Leave: The Minister will use sabbatical leave for study, education, writing, meditation and other forms of professional and religious growth. Sabbatical leave accrues at the rate of four weeks per year of service, with the first leave to be taken no sooner than five years from the date of first employment with the Church. Successive leaves may be taken after three years of service. Not more than six months of sabbatical leave may be used in any twelve-month period."
Q: You've been here that long already?

I know! The time does fly. Yes, in summer 2019, I will have finished six years. I'll be in need of stepping back and rejuvenating and reflecting on ideas for the next six years.

Q: Has CUUC ever had a minister go on Sabbatical?

Rev. Carol Huston (served CUC 2001-2011) had a sabbatical, I understand. Jef Gamblee, who had just finished his ministerial internship as the sabbatical began stayed on to serve as the Sabbatical Minister. I don't know if Rev. Shannon Bernard (served CUC 1985-1998) ever took sabbatical. I hope so!

Q: Who will be our Sabbatical Minister?

The Board and I are working on that question. We do not, as yet, have anyone lined up. But we do expect to bring in a Sabbatical Minister for those six months.

Q: What will you be doing?

I have long yearned for the experience of an extended period of uninterrupted Zen practice. In fact, the six-month monastic training period is a requirement in many Zen schools for becoming a Zen teacher. I'm not seeking any Zen credentialing, but I figure there's a good reason for the requirement. I have chosen a Zen monastery in Oregon where I will be in residence -- living like a monk for six months.

Q: Will the experience change you?

No doubt!

Q: Will you come back?

Yes. I promise.

Q: What if we really like the Sabbatical Minister and don't want you to come back?

Then we will have some talking to do! I'll be very happy for you that you had such a good experience while I was away. In the end, of course, you, the members of the Congregation, as always, have the power to call and dismiss ministers as you see fit.

Q: Are you worried about that scenario?

No.

Q: Why is it called "sabbatical"?

The root is the same as in Sabbath. Literally, it means "ceasing." Traditionally, farmers would let any given field lie fallow every seventh year as a way to avoid depleting the soil, and allow it to absorb new nutrients. So the tradition developed of people taking every seventh year to "lie fallow."

Q: Do you need to lie fallow?

Now that you ask, I find that, yes, a feeling of need for fallow time does seem to be calling my name with increasing insistence. I sure will miss all of you, though!

2018-11-08

Religious Education News: Sun Nov 11

Happy late fall everyone as we approach the close of autumn and move toward winter. Last Sunday was another great day in RE. Liz Suvanto and I led Children's Worship in Fellowship Hall with grades K-3. Liz did an interesting twist on our monthly theme of hospitality by showing the children how to greet one another in other languages. An interactive exercise followed with children pairing off and demonstrating hospitality by way of a hug or handshake or even a bow. Then they introduced themselves to someone other than their partner and shared their greeting. Right after, Lyra was ready to rehearse the hymn “We’re Gonna Sit at the Welcome Table,” which we will all be singing at the multigenerational Thanksgiving service on Sun Nov 18. Lyra also spent time in class with grades 2-3 and had them join in singing “Yankee Doodle.” Grades 4-5 and 6-7 and their teachers did a terrific job cleaning up the triangle gardens in the RE wing. In honor of Election Day and voting, grades 2-3 made their own posters encouraging people to vote and at the end of services marched with them through the sanctuary extolling the wish for everyone to vote. It was by all standards a lively, animated Sunday!

Michele Rinaldi,
Religious Education Coordinator

Looking at what’s coming up…

RE This Sun Nov 11: All ages will be in Fellowship Hall for RE Veterans Day activities.
Service, Welcome, and Care - Our Veterans' Day Weekend RE program will focus on service, especially how we welcome people into our congregation and care for them. Children and youth will engage with the Welcome Committee to learn about their service and give input into what else we might do to be a welcoming place for everyone. Help us reimagine the RE foyer and also send cards to those we haven't seen in a while.

Faith Development Friday, Fri Nov 9, Fireside Area, 6:15 PM Pizza and Salad Community Dinner, 7:00 PM Programs, 8:30 Coffee and Chat
An evening of spiritual growth, learning and community. Programs include: “Faith Like A River” Adult RE (You may also join the program online via ZOOM video-conferencing: zoom.us/j/2898507899); Family Journey Group where parents discuss the monthly theme while children have related activities; Social Time for Adults where people may just chat and be together (this week in room 41) after the meal. Everyone may stay for coffee and conversation after the programs. RSVP by 4:00 PM Fri Nov 9 to CUUCEvents@gmail.com.

Music at CUUC presents “Robert and Clara: A Domestic Drama,” All–Schumann Piano Recital featuring Adam Kent, Sun Nov 11, 12:00 noon, Sanctuary
A family-friendly concert including appearances by CUUC’s Kim Force and Craig Hunt. Childcare available with advance reservation to concert@cucwp.org. Tickets at cucwp.org/concert-series.

RE Next Sunday: Sun Nov 18 - All ages in the sanctuary for our multigenerational Thanksgiving worship.

2018-11-07

Music: Sun Nov 11


“Hospitality and the Stranger” seem to be embodied in the life and music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828). Alienated from his family over his choice of career, and estranged from much of society because of his sexuality, Schubert nevertheless found a close circle of admirers in the artistic community of Vienna. His incomparable Lieder and numerous short piano works—like the Impromptu and Moment Musical heard this morning—were performed at intimate home gatherings known as Schubertiades. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with a Ghanaian folk song, which encourages inclusivity, as well as the prayerful “Open My Eyes”, based on a text by Clara H. Scott. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Impromptu in C Minor, Op. 90, No. 1                                 
                                                Franz Schubert

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Tue, Tue (Come Sing a Song)*    
Ghana Folk Song arr. by Sonja Poorman and Berta Poorman
Kim Force, soloist

*Translation: Come sing a song, oh come sing along.
                       Come dance along, oh come dance along.
                         Come on and join us all together, come celebrate!
                         Come on and join us all together on this new day, Hey!
                         Oh, on this new day!

Offertory:
Moment Musical in Ab Major, Op. 94, No. 2
                                                            Schubert

Anthem:
Open My Eyes    
Words by Clara H. Scott, Music by Sara R. Nussel and arr. by Douglas Nolan

2018-11-02

From the Minister, Fri Nov 2

My theology of prayer is not that some external person-like (i.e., having beliefs and desires) hears prayers and takes them into account when deciding events. It’s true that I do address my prayers to something -- I address them to the ground of being, or the source of healing and wholeness we call by many names, or the spirit of love, or the community-forming power.It’s also true that I address these addressees as if they were person-like. As if. But I do this because orienting myself as if I were addressing a person signals to my ultra-social brain that I’m saying something I want to be important to me. In prayer, I express my gratitudes and my hopes, and thereby orient myself. Prayer is the way I remind myself of how I want to live.

Voting works the same way. It’s like prayer. Indeed, a vote IS a prayer. I don’t do it because it “makes a difference” – the chances that any candidate I vote for will win by one vote are vanishingly tiny. I vote, as I pray, as a way of expressing to myself the values I hope to live by.

Both prayer and voting also have the effect of making me feel a part of something bigger than myself – that I am held in a relationship of accountability and responsibility. These are the relations in and through which our lives have meaning.

Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit

Index of past sermons: HERE.
Index of other reflections: HERE.
Videos of sermons are on the Liberal Pulpit Youtube Channel: HERE

Practice of the Week: The Vending Machine God /Ecospiritual. Whether or not we bought into the overt health and wealth gospel, it is not easy to let go of the paradigm of seeking contentment from material possessions. Especially since the turn of the twentieth century, advertisers have aggressively worked to convince us that we can find happiness and life satisfaction if only we purchase whatever they are selling. Since the early 1960s, they have used psychology in increasingly subtle ways, playing on our deepest longings for acceptance, love, inner peace, and contentment. We can't avoid the message.READ MORE.
Your Moment of Zen: Anger /Sometimes anger is petty. Just stare at that anger for a couple minutes, and it goes, "Oh, sorry, never mind" and it slinks away. I'm not saying suppress it. Just look it right in the eye and see what it's made of.

But there is also noble anger: the energy to stand against injustice. You can stare at this anger, and it'll stare you down because it knows it is righteous. This anger is your friend -- giving you the energy fire for standing up for what needs standing up for.

Case
When the community was discussing ethics after zazen one evening, Black Bear remarked, "I have a hard time dealing with my anger."
Raven said, "Check it out afterward."
Black Bear said, "What good will that do?"
Raven said, "It might have been Great Bear's anger."
Verse
When Great Bear's grievance commands redress
The autumn wind in the leaves takes notice.
Coyote thinks of somewhere else to go.
Badger pauses from her digging.
Later, rain washing the hillside
Seems to take greater than usual care.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC: Sat Nov 3

2018-11-01

Religious Education News: Sun Nov 4

It feels like fall… a nip in the air, colorful foliage, and of course Halloween and Thanksgiving rounding out the festivities. The ghosts and goblins have departed the building but they and other characters were a sight to see in our children’s Halloween Parade through the sanctuary last Sunday! Everyone from nursery babies to our Youth Group participated. Many many thanks to Chandeerah Davis, Julie Gans, and Youth Group for creating the wonderfully fun Monster Mash experience for the children after service!

Michele Rinaldi
Coordinator of Religious Education

RE This Week: Grades 5-8 OWL, Fri Nov 2, 6:30 PM Pizza Dinner, 7:00–9:00 PM Class

RE This Sunday: Sun Nov 4 - Grades K-3 start in FH for Children’s Worship, including music with Lyra. Grades 4-7 meet in RE lobby for triangle garden clean up. Grades 8-12 start in classrooms.

Looking Ahead:

Faith Development Friday, Fri Nov 9, Fireside Area, 6:15 PM Pizza and Salad Community Dinner, 7:00 PM Programs, 8:30 Coffee and Chat.
An evening of spiritual growth, learning and community. Programs include: (1) “Faith Like A River” Adult RE (facilitated by Rev. Meredith), exploring the people, ideas, and movements that shaped our faith heritage. You may also join the program online via ZOOM video-conferencing: zoom.us/j/2898507899; (2) Family Journey Group where parents discuss the monthly theme (facilitated by Barbara Montrose ), while children have related activities (facilitated by Director of Faith Development Perry Montrose). Adults without children are welcome in the parents’ group; (3) Youth Group Gathering for fun and games with fellow high schoolers; (4) Social Time For Adults where people may just chat and be together (this week in room 41) after the meal. Everyone is welcome to stay for coffee and conversation after the programs. RSVP by 4 PM Fri Nov 9 to CUUCEvents@gmail.com.

RE Next Sunday: Sun Nov 11 - Veterans Day Special Sunday–Focus on Service. All grades start in Fellowship Hall for activities.

Music at CUUC presents “Robert and Clara: A Domestic Drama,” All–Schumann Piano Recital featuring Adam Kent, Sun Nov 11, 12:00 noon, Sanctuary. A family-friendly concert including appearances by CUUC’s Kim Force and Craig Hunt. Childcare available with advance reservation to concert@cucwp.org.