2019-02-21

Religious Education News: Sun Feb 17, 2019

In spite of the fact there were no RE classes, students who came to CUUC with their families last Sunday enjoyed a morning full of high spirits, good food, and a celebration of music from our children’s music director, Lyra Harada.

An animated group of children came to room 41 ready for a full session with Lyra but anticipating, "what are we going to do?" A few looked pensive, some perhaps a tad bored, but for the most part, curious. Lyra took charge immediately and enthusiastically explained the two-part lesson. The first part had two teams answering questions or statements about musicians of color in honor of Black History Month. Using a flip chart, Lyra asked the group to identify their favorite performers of color, and before you knew it there was a cacophony of answers shouted out, from Aretha Franklin to Beyoncé, Michael Jackson to Gladys Knight. To further tease the participants, Lyra asked them to identify short snippets of the performers' music. All the students "got into the action," answering true or false by standing in the section of the room labeled as such. It really became a fun game!

At the completion of this segment they settled down to enjoy snacks while Lyra played a number of musical pieces and students tried to identify the name of the song and what movie or play it was from. It was a credit to Lyra to see how the kids jumped up and down with pride when they got an answer right and shouted over each other to produce a healthy competition. Certainly those people sitting in the lobby could attest to the fun going on in the room, judging by the voices emanating up the stairwell.

Our Fun Sunday was a delight as it showcased Lyra's thoughtful music presentation in the form of a fun, engaging activity. The kids related to the music, showed off their singing ability (one older student sang all the words to a Hamilton song - impressive to say the least!), and one first grader recognized a song by Phil Collins. (I don't think the child had even been born when the song came out - amazing!)

They say music is the universal language, and so the music with the kids transcended all ages and brought out the exuberance that only young people can demonstrate!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Feb 24
All ages are in Fellowship Hall for Alvin Ailey Dance Sunday.

2019 Variety Show, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
SAVE THE DATE: Our Annual Variety Show is always one of the most FUN fundraisers at CUUC, and the event where everyone, children to adults, pitch in and create meaningful ties to a social justice cause. Sign up in the RE lobby and get ready to rock! HELP WANTED: The Variety Show requires all hands on deck. PLEASE help by signing up to be our Bake Sale Director, or Head of Donations, or Pizza Dinner Coordinator. Learn more HERE. Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com). When the big jobs are filled, the smaller details fall into place and the fun can begin! ~ The Variety Show Team

2019-02-20

Music: Sun Feb 24

Anger—irrational, righteous, explosive—finds expression in the solo piano music performed at Sunday morning’s worship service. Sometimes characterized as a Titan shaking his fists at the Heavens, Beethoven seems to unleash a natural fury in the final movement of his so-called “Moonlight Sonata,” performed as part of the Centering Music. The Chicago-born Robert Muczynski contributes a short, punchy Prelude, which traverses the extremes of the keyboard of an insistent, menacing ostinato. In the Offertory, a movement from Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana provides a portrait of the fictitious character Johannes Kreisler in one of his fits of outraged alienation. In its central section, the piece mimics the rational development of a Bach fugal exposition, but the frenzied pace recalls the original meaning of the French word fugue: flight. Elsewhere, the CUUC Choir is on hand with less irritable creations, including Harold Arlen’s aspirational “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and the uplifting “Fill-a Me Up.” Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Piano Sonata No. 14 in C-sharp Minor, Op. 27, No. 2 “Moonlight”
                      III. Presto agitato
                                                          Ludwig van Beethoven

Prelude No. 6
                                                          Robert Muxzynski

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow"
                Music by Harold Arlen, Lyrics by E.Y. Harburg, arr. by Mark Hayes

Offertory:
Kreisleriana, Op. 16
                        VII: Sehr rasch
                                                          Robert Schumann

Anthem: Kim Armstrong Force and Ernest Kennedy, Soloists
"Fill-a Me Up"
                                                          Pepper Choplin

2019-02-14

From the Minister, Thu Feb 14

The 2018-19 UUA Common Read is:

This week, I’m looking at Chapter 9:
Kathleen McTigue, “Learning to Change: Immersion Learning and Climate Justice.”

McTigue spent 6 months in the 1980s in Nicaragua as a volunteer host for visiting US citizens encountering the realities of Contra violence. For many, the experience “completely changed their understanding, perspective, and actions – and in some cases, their lives” (97).

Experiential journeys aren’t always done well, but when they are, participants “see more vividly the ways our political and economic systems leave entire populations in the margins, both within our nation and around the world, and we begin to learn what it can mean to become effective allies to their struggles” (98).

Approaching climate change with a “justice lens” means learning about and accepting the leadership of the “voices, choices, and needs of these frontline communities most affected.” McTigue offers four guidelines:

1. Always work with a partner organization made up of the people who are directly affected. “They are in a position to tell us what they actually need from us, and though that sometimes feels incongruent with our expectations, we are far more likely to be of genuine use” (100).

2. Focus on justice rather than service. Service “helps people with an immediate and chronic need,” while justice involves seeking “to challenge and change the systems that give rise to that need in the first place.” Both are important, but the needs of justice are likely to be less tangible and satisfying than service labor. The people need us to hear their stories, “bear witness to their struggles and victories,” “honor the solutions they choose for themselves,” “look unflinchingly at the historic, systemic injustices that may continue to benefit us today,” and “go home prepared to roll up our sleeves and tackle those systems” (102).

3. Use a study framework before, during, and after the program. Before you leave, study up about the community you’ll be visiting and the background of your partner organization. During the encounter experience, study yourself – observe with curiosity the reactions you’re having. Continued study after you get home helps integrate your experience.

4. Ground the program and participants in reflection and spiritual practices. Group reflection helps collective wisdom emerge. Prayer or meditation quiets our inner noise and helps us be less reactive, more open – and able to set aside the urge to “fix it.” “We come up with a great idea that will surely make things better, like a scholarship program or a solar lamp project. As well-meaning as these ideas may be, if they spring from our own need to be of use and are not rooted in the wisdom of the host community, they are likely to have unintended negative results” (105).

Questions
1. Would you be interested in taking an immersion justice learning trip? (The UU College of Social Justice has a number of options: see uucsj.org)
2. What “immersion” experience with a frontline community might be available to you right here in Westchester?

For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
  1. Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
  2. Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
  3. Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
  4. Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
  5. Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
  6. Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age
  7. Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making
  8. Pamela Sparr, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves
Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit New:
See the video HERE



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: Explore Desire Through Renunciation Lent (which, in 2019, begins Wed Mar 6 and continues, excluding Sundays, through Sat Apr 20) is a tradition that invites us into the spiritual practice of renunciation and self-denial. This week's practice honors that tradition -- but with a twist. For this practice, there's as much over-indulgence as there is self-denial. READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: Blasphemy
Blasphemy. For the ancient Hebrews, blasphemy was the crime of undermining the rule of YHWH over the Jews, and was thus analogous to treason. Blasphemy was, until recently, generally forbidden by law in the US and Europe. Blasphemy was understood to be:
"denying the being or providence of God, contumelious reproaches of our Saviour Christ, profane scoffing at the Holy Scripture, or exposing it to contempt or ridicule" (Blackstone, Commentaries on the Laws of England, 1769)
or
"maliciously reviling God or religion" (Kent, Commentaries on American Law, 1826)
or
"speaking evil of the Deity with an impious purpose to derogate from the Divine Majesty and to alienate the minds of others from the love and reverence of God" (Lemuel Shaw, 1781-1861, Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court)
Raven declines to define the term, providing instead an example.

Case
One evening Woodpecker asked, "What is blasphemy?"
Raven said, "The Buddha Macaw was perfectly enlightened."

Verse
I.
Don't fall for it, friend,
That presumption that perfection is crystalline,
As fixed as Keats' Urn.
No, the perfection of a thing
Is its motion, its dance of
Flourishing, fruition, aging, decay --
Or it's nothing.
Gotama's perfection was a path.
It killed Jesus
To be nailed in place.

II.
Blasphemy and idolatry.
Cure each other --
And leave you just as sick.
Choose your poison.
Case by Robert Aitken, adapted; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC, Sat Feb 16: SEE HERE

2019-02-13

Religious Education News: Sun Feb 17, 2019

This past Sun Feb 10 was the tremendously exciting “kick off” to our upcoming Variety Show. All the students (with the exception of 8-9 OWL, who voted in their classroom) were in attendance in Fellowship Hall for the Big Vote to select which organization will receive the proceeds from this annual RE fundraiser. Liz Suvanto, our lead facilitator, told the children about the event and described the three nominated groups to be considered. She showed brief videos on each and conducted a great exchange of questions, answers, opinions, and other feedback. Each student got stickers, which they placed on their voting card to show which group they felt was most deserving. Liz reminded everyone, including the adults in the room, that a tremendous amount of work still has to be done on the bake sale and donation drive. Everyone seemed really pumped! We are awaiting the final count and will soon announce which organization won. The Teacher Enrichment Luncheon workshop took place in Fellowship Hall at 11:45 with director of faith development Perry Montrose and me. The discussion centered around feedback from the teachers on problems to be solved, concerns to be shared, and of course ideas to create the most meaningful and engaging classroom experience for both the students and teachers. Perry accentuated that in a successful classroom teachers lean less on conversation and more on leading the class in activities that foster a fun and enjoyable lesson. The paramount theme was that RE classes should not be school, but a spiritual exercise. Each teacher was then asked to recall a mentor in their life and select attributes of that individual. I filled a flip chart with a plethora of the adjectives used to describe these people, and we all agreed that most of these descriptions should apply to our RE teachers. Many more topics continued to unfold, and of course time ran out. However everyone enjoyed the workshop and requested more, which Perry and I will be planning. Thanks to all the teachers, and congregants such as Liz, for their enthusiasm, dedication, and desire to see CUUC become even more alive with a sense of community. Thanks also to Perry for his endless energy and knowledge, which he so unselfishly shares with us all. Great job, everyone!

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator

Looking ahead...

RE This Sunday, Feb 17
All ages are in room 41 for Fun Sunday activities.

2019 Variety Show, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
SAVE THE DATE: Our Annual Variety Show is always one of the most FUN fundraisers at CUUC, and the event where everyone, children to adults, pitch in and create meaningful ties to a social justice cause. Sign up in the RE lobby and get ready to rock! HELP WANTED: The Variety Show requires all hands on deck. PLEASE help by signing up to be our Bake Sale Director, or Head of Donations, or Pizza Dinner Coordinator. Learn more HERE. Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com). When the big jobs are filled, the smaller details fall into place and the fun can begin! ~ The Variety Show Team

2019-02-12

Music: Sun Feb 17


Thoughts of deepest desire prompt this morning’s musical selections, which include two songs by African-American composer Jeraldine Saunders Herbison, performed by our own Mary Lane Cobb. The Centering Music includes excerpts from Robert Schumann’s Kreisleriana, a work written during years of yearning and frustration between the composer and his fiancée Clara Wieck. In a letter to Clara, Schumann writes of the Kreisleriana: ““I'm overflowing with music and beautiful melodies …You and one of your ideas play the main role in it, and I want to dedicate it to you – yes, to you and nobody else – and then you will smile so sweetly when you discover yourself in it.” Then, he dedicated the published work to Frederic Chopin.

Franz Schubert’s Sehnsuchts Waltzer takes its nickname from the deep desire it has communicated to generations of listeners, and Felix Mendelssohn himself subtitled his Song without Words in A-flat Major “Duetto,” an apt description of its intertwining, lyrically straining lines. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Kreisleriana, Op. 16
            I. Ausserst bewegt
            II. Sehr innig und nicht zu rasch
                                                Robert Schumann

Opening Music:
Sehnsuchts Waltzer, Op. 9, No. 2
                                                Franz Schubert

Offertory:
Song without Words in A-flat Major, Op. 38, No. 6  “Duetto”
                                                Felix Mendelssohn

Interlude: Mary Lane Cobb, soprano
From Five Art Songs for Voice and Piano
            “We Met By Chance”*
            “I’ll Not Forget”**
                                                Jeraldine Saunders Herbison

*”We met by chance this man and I.
He looking-seeking-straining to communicate
And finding few who cared to listen
I listened and found pleasure in his words.”
William Curtis

**”In a single file, my brain has set a list of things I’ll not forget.
A sudden rain on roof or barn,
The greyness on a bark of Beech,
Some cowbells heard through morning fog;
The barking of a country dog that knows no fright and
Yet must talk back to the night.
I’ll not forget the wood-smoke smell of pine,
Or the cowbarn when the hay was new.
I’ll not forget the thrill of Love or You!”
Max Ellision



2019-02-07

From the Minister, Thu Feb 7

The 2018-19 UUA Common Read is:

This week, I'm looking at Chapter 8: Pamela Sparr’s essay, "Transforming Unitarian Universalist Culture: Stepping Out of Our Silos and Selves.” Sparr relates that when she taught about climate justice at a summer institute, she had been warned that participants didn’t want to be “bummed out.” Anyone who speaks about environmental issues faces that question: how to be inspiring rather than paralyzing or depressing. This is what I have said and firmly believe: reality is never depressing. Depression comes from attempts to block out reality. When those attempts fail and awareness seeps in, mixing and conflicting with our desire for denial, depression is the result. Embrace of reality – with no desire to deny any of it – is many things: fascinating, challenging, invigorating, even oddly peaceful. Reality may be beautiful, dangerous, or both. But reality can never be depressing.

Still, embracing reality is no easy thing. I’m not always great at that myself. But when I’m bummed out or just bored, I ask myself, “what is the reality here that I’m resisting rather than embracing?”

Sparr’s approach is to call for:

(1) a bolder prophetic imagination. We need to speak, among ourselves and to others, in visionary ways, showing humanity a better version of itself, offering moral clarity, and an unflinching insistence on justice.

(2) the courage and capacity to talk religiously. UUs are disproportionately involved in environmental organizations, yet when we show up for this work, our UUism is often invisible. “Our challenge is to move out of our secular skin and to wear our UU skin all the time” (83) – to claim our identity and authority as religious persons. Grounded in our faith, a moral language of hope and justice takes the center – and proposed technical solutions move to the periphery. This means UUs must get comfortable and articulate in about our profound sense of the sacredness of all life, the dignity and worth of every person and every threatened species, our wonder and awe and the interconnected mystery of existence. Faith-rooted solidarity is based on knowing that “my well-being is totally and irrevocably tied up with yours. My liberation is dependent on yours” (84). Acting religiously means that the opposition is never demonized, never “othered,” always loved.

(3) getting out of our silos. Racial injustice, climate change, sexual harassment and abuse, LGBTQ discrimination, environmental degradation and species extinction are all interconnected and all have the same solution: building a world of justice and equality. We can’t let ourselves get into a “single issue” silo.

(4) radical relationship building. “We are going to have to stretch ourselves to befriend and collaborate with many different types of people and movements, including those with whom some of us may feel theologically uncomfortable” (90).

(5) becoming more countercultural. Current culture is characterized by a disconnect from nature and a casual acceptance of power hierarchies (and thus of the injustice and inequality that necessarily inheres in institutionalized hierarchy). Our denomination must transform itself into one that is thoroughly counter to these characteristics.

Sounds to me like a five-fold approach for embracing reality.

Questions.
Do you know how to go about doing any of these five? Which ones? How?

For my reflection/summary on previous chapters, click the title:
  1. Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
  2. Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
  3. Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
  4. Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
  5. Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
  6. Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age
  7. Kathleen McTigue, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making
Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit New:


See the video HERE



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: Claim Desire This week -- for each of the seven days of the week -- take 10 minutes at the beginning of your day (or at bedtime the night before), to identify one thing you want out of the coming (or next) day. In the midst of all the obligations ahead of you, what one desire do you want to make room for in the day ahead? READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: Method In 1820, John Keats (1795-1821) wrote to fellow poet Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) admonishing Shelley to
"be more of an artist, and ‘load every rift’ of your subject with ore. The thought of such discipline must fall like cold chains upon you, who perhaps never sat with your wings furl’d for six Months together."
"Load every rift of your subject with ore" alludes to a line in Faerie Queene by Edmund Spenser (1552-1599):
"And with riche metall loaded every rifte."
Keats meant that a poem ought to pack every line dense with meaning and layers of nuance. Raven's variation -- "stick kernels in every cranny" -- suggests that a teacher and mentor find teachable moments everywhere and in everything.

Case
Porcupine began special consultations with Raven.
One day he asked, "What is your method?"
Raven said, "Evident."
Porcupine said, "You purvey the obvious?"
Raven said, "Stick kernels in every cranny."
Hotetsu's Verse
I.
Nature's method is none
Profligacy is not methodical.
Survival of the fittest
Might be a method if nature
Had a measure of fitness
Other than surviving.
She doesn't. Hence:
Survival of those that survive.
Tautologies aren't methods.
Nature's method is none.

II.
The stars of Orion know about method, and what is evident.
The broad, slow river knows.
Though there are no crannies, and no kernels with which to fill them,
They are always full.
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and Verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC, Sat Feb 9: SEE HERE

2019-02-06

Religious Education News: Sun Feb 10

Last Sunday was again a remarkable demonstration of the commitment and dedication of this congregation. The Hunger and Homelessness team came to Children’s Worship for the “stuffing” of backpacks. This project was spearheaded by Amy Swiss who did an outstanding job in pricing and purchasing beautiful, quality backpacks. There were at least 70 packs as well all the school items to go into them, a virtual candy store of folders, pencil bags, notebooks, and binders. Amy spoke to the children about the purpose and importance of this charitable project and explained how they would be helping children less fortunate. With all the bags and items laid out on tables, an assembly line of sorts got rolling. The children also drew cards with best wishes and tied them to the backpacks. Thanks to the many volunteers, including Diane Keller, Christine Haran, Liz Suvanto, Janice Silverberg, Hans Elsevier, Laura Sehdeva, Johanna Bauer, and more. These adults guided the students in filling the bags. It was amazing to see children of all ages right down to the toddlers completing their tasks. In the end there was a mountain of packs on a table surrounded by all the children and adults for a well-deserved photo! I couldn’t help but think that we all carry invisible backpacks every day of our lives. Although unseen to the eye, they nonetheless carry something within us. There are heavy packs that feel like a few boulders. Such heaviness is the sorrow, hurts, and grief that we all experience and often have difficulty releasing. Then there are the lightweight, diaphanous packs that literally fly in the air like a flag waving in the breeze. They carry our joy, our love of life, and our inspiration. The packs that in my mind signify all the children, teachers, and congregants are the ones that don’t lie suspended off our backs but instead are woven and intertwined into our very essence and souls. They are not backpacks, but rather mantles of our belief system. They are truly the very fabric of UU principles: caring about others, love and sincerity, and respect for all humanity. Our students’ enthusiasm, joy, and pure innocence in responding to others’ needs was a singular affirmation of all that is worthwhile at CUUC and the RE program.

Michele Rinaldi
RE Coordinator


Variety Show Vote during RE Children's Worship, Sun Feb 10, 10:00am, Fellowship Hall
What organization will win this year's Variety Show donation? This Sunday we decide! All Religious Education students vote during Children's Worship (the 8th-9th grade OWL class will vote in their classroom). So parents, be sure you bring your children to CUUC to cast their ballots! Contact: Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com).

Seeking Adult Pen Pals
Our Religious Education students are waiting for a few more adults to sign up to be their pen pals for our Special Friends program. We anonymously match students in RE with adults in the congregation to exchange six letters over nine weeks (we have topic guidelines to make it easy). Won't you help? Email RE@cucwp.org.

2019 Variety Show, Sat May 4, 5:00pm
SAVE THE DATE: This year will be our 7th Annual Variety Show (WOW!), always one of the most FUN fundraisers at CUUC. It is also an event where everyone, children to adults, can pitch in and create meaningful ties to a social justice cause. So work on your act and get ready to vote on Sun Feb 10 for which charity we will support this year. HELP WANTED: It really takes a village to run this event, and just like in the past 6 years, the 2019 Variety Show requires all hands on deck. PLEASE help by signing up to be our Bake Sale Director, or Head of Donations, or Pizza Dinner Coordinator. Learn more HERE. Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com). When the big jobs are filled, the smaller details fall into place and the fun can begin!

Music: Sun Feb 10


In keeping with this morning’s sermon on Grief and Denial and their connection to the Babylonian Captivity, a musical depiction of the 137th Psalm—“By the Rivers of Babylon”—is featured in the Centering Music. The composer is French orthodox Jew Charles-Valentin Alkan, who is purported to have died when crushed under the weight of the Talmud, which tumbled upon him from his bookshelf, when he reached for a volume. Also included in the Centering Music is a tribute to Black History Month, in the form of a charming early work by Afro-Cuban composer Tania León. The Offertory acknowledges Valentine’s Day this week, with “portraits” of two of the important women in the life of Robert Schumann, Clara Wieck (who would become his wife), and an earlier romantic partner, Ernestine von Fricken. As if brokering a peace between the two rival lovers, the composer Chopin makes a fleeting appearance. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with a favorite American folk song and a Valentine message attributed to the Roman philosopher Seneca: “If you want to be loved…..love!” Read on for programming details, and see below for the complete text of Psalm 137.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Rondo a la Criolla
                                                            Tania León
Super Flumina Babylonis*
                                                            Charles-Valentin Alkan

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Shenandoah
Traditional American, arr. by Brad Printz

Offertory:
From Carnaval, Op. 9
            Chiarina
            Chopin
            Estrella
                                                            Robert Schumann

Anthem:
Si vis Amari*
Jerry Estes
*Translation: “If you want to be loved, love.”

*Based on Psalm 137
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

2019-02-01

From the Minister, Fri Feb 1

This week I'm reflecting on Kathleen McTigue’s essay, "Drawing on the Deep Waters: Contemplative Practice in Justice-Making” – Chapter 7 of the 2018-19 UUA Common Read, Justice on Earth: People of Faith Working at the Intersections of Race, Class and the Environment.

UUs, notes McTigue, “agree broadly that any religion worth the name should help shift our behaviors and actions toward the greater good.” This, she says, “is necessary and laudable, but insufficient.” McTigue explains five reasons we need to do the inner as well as the outer work.

1. Spiritual practices ground us in something bigger than ourselves. “We are connected to and are part of a vast unfolding that we cannot entirely grasp.” Living is not a private affair of the individual – we belong to each other and the universe. When we waste time, we are squandering the universe’s opportunity. This spiritual awareness also helps us attend to care for our fragile planet.

2. Spiritual practices help us stay in the present moment. Incessant stories play out in our heads. If you pay attention to it, you’ll be appalled at your “monkey mind” – the repetitive, boring, and judgmental running commentary going through our heads virtually every waking moment. “Spiritual practices help quiet the noise in our own heads.” This reduces our reactivity and thus reduces internal conflict within a justice movement that occurs when we trigger each other’s unexamined emotional reactions.

3. Spiritual practices cultivate the qualities we most want to bring forward. “Despite what we aim for in our moments of high aspiration, we get caught up in the small stuff. Spiritual practices help tilt us back toward our aspirations.”

4. Spiritual practices remind us that the things we most want to change in the world also exist in ourselves. “If deep inside us we are seething with anger, how shall we be peacemakers? If deep inside us there are the seeds of greed, how will we shift the grotesque chasm between the rich and the poor? Spiritual practices keep us hones, mindful of the fact that the change we want to work for in our world need to be undertaken with a willingness to be changed ourselves.”

5. Spiritual practices help sustain us through confusion and despair. “Despair, discouragement, helplessness, and confusion may all still go parading through our hearts – but spiritual practices help us hold them within a larger context. . . . In the long arc toward justice, our best efforts are just one small part. This allows us to hold even our despair within the larger frame of this lifetime work. Grounded again in hope, we can then bring that hope back out with us, to all the others who are struggling to find their way in this beautiful, fragile, difficult world.”

Questions
1. What’s your spiritual practice, and how does it integrate with your justice work?
2. Have you had experiences in your justice work where you later wished you’d been more spiritually grounded?

For my reflection/summary of previous chapters, click the title:
  1. Jennifer Nordstrom, "Intersectionality, Faith, and Environmental Justice"
  2. Paula Cole Jones, "The Formation of the Environmental Justice Movement"
  3. Sheri Prud'homme, "Ecotheology"
  4. Sofia Betancourt, "Ethical Implications of Environmental Justice"
  5. Adam Robersmith, "Cherishing Our World: Avoiding Despair in Environmental Justice Work"
  6. Peggy Clarke, Matthew McHale, "Becoming Resilient: Community Life for a New Age
Yours in faith,
Meredith

The Liberal Pulpit New:
See the video HERE



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: Prayer with Beads Whatever else it might be – a conversation with the Divine, an internal dialog, a practice of calming and centering -- I think of prayer as a journey into and through the Mystery. The beads are strung in a circle, reminding us that our journey is neither linear nor a one-time-only event. READ MORE.

Your Moment of Zen: Honesty To get more muscles, use your muscles; acting confident helps you feel confident; per Aristotle, to become courageous, do courageous things. This is not about fooling others or yourself or pretending you know what you don't. It's about character formation, not expertise development. It's about being intentional and practicing it until it gets easier. Feeling compassionate may be the cause of an act of compassion -- or it may be the result.

Case
Black Bear came to a meeting late and said, "I'm feeling frazzled after dealing with my cubs. What if I don't feel compassionate?"
Raven said, "Fake it."
"That doesn't seem honest," said Black Bear.
"It doesn't begin with honesty," said Raven
Hotetsu's Verse
The stream occluded or not;
The fox hungry or fed,
The star shining steadily or exploding nova,
See how they never lie?
How they tell nothing but the truth,
Never concerning themselves with honesty?
Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and Verse by Meredith Garmon
Zen at CUUC, Sat Feb 2: SEE HERE
RAVEN INDEX

Prayer with Beads

Practice of the Week
Prayer with Beads

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 Erik Walker Wikstrom, "Prayer," in Everyday Spiritual Practice, abridged and adapted.

Several years ago, I began developing my own prayer practice, tied neither to a specific religious worldview nor to any one set of religious symbols. It’s a framework that can support a variety of religious beliefs without depending on any.

The practice I developed uses prayer beads, bringing a tactile involvement to prayer and providing focus and direction. I use a loop of twenty-eight beads: a large centering bead, four medium-sized beads, and twenty-three smaller beads.

Whatever else it might be – a conversation with the Divine, an internal dialog, a practice of calming and centering -- I think of prayer as a journey into and through the Mystery. The beads are strung in a circle, reminding us that our journey is neither linear nor a one-time-only event.

Any good bead or craft can provide the beads and teach you how to string them together. I encourage even the "craft challenged" to string their own. Make it yours. String the beads in this order:
  • large bead (Centering),
  • four small beads (warm-up),
  • first medium bead (Naming),
  • five small beads (breath prayer),
  • second medium bead (Knowing),
  • five small beads (breath prayer),
  • third medium bead (Listening),
  • five small beads (breath prayer),
  • fourth medium bead (Loving), and
  • four small beads (cool-down).
Connect the cord back to the original large bead, completing the circle.

Once you have assembled your bead circle, here is the process for practicing with them.

CENTERING: Start with the large bead, centering yourself for the journey. Breathe in and out several times, calming the body and quieting the mind. You might sit quietly with your breath, recite a "breathing gatha" or chant, or sing a favorite hymn ("Spirit of Life," "Voice Still and Small," and "Find a Stillness" all work well). When you feel ready, move on.

NAMING (Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving): The first medium-sized bead is for Naming the Holy. Give voice to what you consider Holy or where you have felt the Divine in your life. You might use the names of gods and goddesses from the world's religions and you might make up your own. (For example: "Ancient and Ageless Spirit: known in many ways, by many names and by no name at all – Holy Sanctamataba, Mother and Father of All; Gods and Goddesses of old; all Buddhas throughout space and time; Spirits, Saints, and Sages; Wise Women and Men".) Alternatively, call up the attributes that you ascribe to the Sacred or name whatever feeds your soul. This is also the place for you to lift up all for which you are thankful at this moment, all the blessings and miracles in your life, all the joy in your living. Take your time.

KNOWING (Prayer of Confession): The second medium-sized bead is for Knowing yourself. Reflect on your life as it is today, identifying places that call for reconciliation, atonement, or self-correction. We are all a mixture of saint and sinner, and this stop on our journey is an opportunity to see and know yourself in all your subtle shadings.

LISTENING (Contemplative Prayer): The third medium­sized bead is for Listening, opening ourselves to what nondiscursive revelation may come. Be still and listen to the Divine spark, the Buddha-nature, that is inherent in us all. Gaze on an icon, statue, or mandala, or lower your eyes and follow your breath.

LOVING (Intercessory Prayer): The final medium-sized bead is for lifting up those we know (and those we don't) whose lives have pain and need. Hold them in your consciousness, bring them to your awareness. We don’t do this so that God will know about people's needs; we do it to make sure we know.

Four small beads separate the Centering and Naming beads. At this entry to the prayer journey, you can honor the four directions (one per bead), take the four Boddhisattva vows, or recite a four­line poem which moves you. At the end, four more small beads separate the Loving and Centering beads, mirroring the first four, as you open the circle, thank the directions, repeat your vows, and bring yourself gently back to the everyday world.

Five small beads separate the medium-sized beads. With each of these beads you may use a "breath prayer," a two-line phrase that is said in rhythm with the in- and out-breaths: for example,
"Breathing in I develop calm and equanimity;
Breathing out I find peace and joy"
Or
"Lord Jesus Christ
have mercy on me"
Or
"Great Mystery
I seek to know."
Many traditions extol the virtues of repetitive, set prayers over which the practitioner has no control; this kind of praying removes ego-involvement from the composition process, preventing you from getting caught up in eloquent or flowery phrases. Repetitive prayer has great power; try it and see.

Centering, Naming, Knowing, Listening, and Loving. This is a journey of taking the time to find a quiet place in your life, setting in the front of your awareness the Holy and Sacred miracle of life, seeing your self within that reality as full and whole, tuning your sense to hear inner wisdom, and then turning your loving attention to the needs within and around you.

This entire prayer bead practice can take anywhere from thirty to sixty minutes. Shorten or lengthen it depending on available time and your own sense of need. I carry my beads with me wherever I go and often find myself fingering them in meetings or in line.

Sometimes I spread out the practice through the day, using the medium-sized beads as break points, picking up later where I'd left off. At least once a week I journey the full circuit in one sitting. The discipline of regularity over a long period serves us well when times of grief and loss come -- as they inevitably do.

* * *

On the Journey: Desire

The Feb issue of On the Journey has arrived! HERE
This month, UU Journey Groups will be exploring DESIRE. Don't miss it, and don't miss your Journey Group meeting to get together to work with this theme!

The Feb issue of On the Journey features
  • poems from a child, a teen, a young adult, Sinclair Shafer, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Bhartrihari
  • a quotations page of 27 provocative, witty, or trenchant remarks
  • Epictetus on Disciplining Desire
  • A Buddhist perspective on Aspirations vs. Cravings
  • Meredith's column: "Desire: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly"
  • An article on addressing our addictive behaviors
  • 10 suggested TED talks
  • a page of intriguing questions
  • a spiritual exercise for the month
The Questions Page. Select one or two questions about which to share your thoughts or musings with your Journey Group.
  1. Is life calling you to nurture someone else’s desire? How can you help another lean in to the hungers and hopes budding inside them?
  2. What about the desire to be true to yourself? We so often get lost trying to meet other people’s desires that we forget our own.
  3. When was the last time you let yourself fall freely and fully into desire? Are you ready to go all in?
  4. Are you muting the voice of desire because you’re afraid of what it is asking of you?
  5. Is it possible that God speaks to us in and through our desires? Is it possible that prayer doesn’t mean talking to God at all, but instead simply listening to our dreams?
  6. How is your relationship with the desire to consume? Is it consuming you more than you’d like? More than you are willing to admit? Why not ask someone to help you stop? Very few of us can control unhealthy desires on our own.
  7. What do you want to be remembered for? What do you long (desire) to leave behind?
  8. When was the last time you showed your love that you enjoyed them, not just loved them?
  9. Do you desire yourself – in the sense of loving yourself? In the sense of enjoying being with yourself?
  10. Do you remember your childhood desire? (Did you promise yourself you’d never forget it?)
  11. What’s your question? Is there another question about desire that’s niggling at you?
The link to the current and all past issues of On the Journey can always be found at cucmatters.org/p/journey-groups.htm