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2019-10-17

From the Sabbatical Minister - October 17, 2019

O What a Piece of Work Are We!

How wondrous is the human mind and its infinite capacity, that we are able to learn and explore and think new things, that we are adaptive and adaptable, and that we can imagine not only all manner of things beyond ourselves – that is wondrous indeed.

I identify as a Universalist theist, finding myself fascinated by and informed by what I perceive as God’s love and our capacity for goodness. And part of that fascination draws me to a sense of awe about how our minds work – these minds can both ponder Mystery and build our human future.

I have these moments every now and then when I am taken completely aback by something a human has created or thought. Sometimes it’s amazement at the spectacle of skyscrapers on Fifth Avenue. Sometimes it’s awe as I video chat real-time with a colleague in England. Sometimes it’s realizing that an operation that once caused 8-inch scars and weeks in the hospital is now an outpatient procedure with a one-inch incision.

I was listening to a podcast about Charles Darwin recently and it was noted that Darwin was definitely a man of his age – like many upper class Victorians of the time, he was interested in art, nature, and science. But in 1859, Darwin made a rather simple observation that has absolutely changed how we perceive the world. That observation, of course, is evolution by natural selection. What struck me, however, was not the awesomeness of the theory that has since been proved as fact by biology, anthropology, paleontology, and other sciences. No, it was the fact that the human brain is so amazing that it can incorporate positively new ideas and actually adapt to new technologies.

In fact, our minds are so adaptive that how we learn, how we use new tools, how we process even more and more information is evidence of a mind that is constantly seeking to extend itself, to grab on to new tools it has never experienced before and merge with them. We wonder with horror at how easily people become glued to their smart phones, but it would be surprising to biologists if we didn’t – as we are, in some ways, natural-born cyborgs.

It is stunning when you think that we constantly incorporate life-shaping ideas such as evolution and heliocentrism… we take space travel as fact, not fantasy… we have spent centuries developing cars and combines and phones and lasers … we construct buildings that scrape the sky … we come up with ingenious ways to adapt to our changing climate… we know thousands more words and absorb more information in a year than we did in a lifetime just 100 years ago… and yet we are still human, in human communities, in human relationships, propagating the species and adapting to the world.

We humans, in human communities, also have room in our fabulous brains to create art and worship together, to be social and committed together. We naturally form in groups of like-minded people so that we can not only learn from one another but also strengthen our empathy and compassion, which helps us survive and helps us do the work of justice.

These brains and bodies are marvels – we celebrate them every time we say ‘hello’ or offer a seat or ask ‘how are you’ and care to know the answer. We celebrate them when we show care and kindness. We celebrate them when we share our joys and sorrows, when we share meals and hearts.

Oh what a piece of work are we, so marvelously wrought.

2019-10-16

This Week in Religious Education: October 14-20, 2019


COMMUNICATION
I am experimenting with different ways to communicate with families. This week, each class and the youth group received a specialized newsletter. You can see each newsletter by clicking below:

A SUNDAY OFF
This Sunday, October 20th, will be my first Sunday off. I will be unavailable after Friday evening's programming through Tuesday morning.

WELCOMING CHILDREN IN WORSHIP
Among the priorities outlined for me this year is building connection between the RE and sanctuary sides of the building. We have been inviting all adults in the congregation to serve as a classroom assistant in Sunday morning RE classes (you can sign up here). Youth Group is meeting on 3rd Fridays with other Faith Friday programs. And we are exploring with ways to make worship services more welcoming to children, especially whole congregation worship services when we are together the full hour.

In Children's Worship on October 6th, Lyra and I previewed themes and music that would be included in worship last Sunday so the children would have a deeper understanding about worship, making the sanctuary and service feel more familiar.

If you attended whole congregation worship last Sunday, you might have noticed a few new things:
  • The PowerPoint slides now include clip art with pictures to help young children identify which part of worship we are in (thank you, Kim!); 
  • There was a special paper order of service for the children that included those clip art images plus puzzles on the back (click here to see it); 
  • There is a new children's area in the sanctuary where children can enjoy quiet activities while experiencing the words, music and rituals of our faith (our thanks to the Force family who donated the adorable bookshelf!). 
New Children's Area in the Sanctuary

FAITH FRIDAY: OCTOBER 18th
6:15pm Pizza & Community Dinner (RSVP by noon Friday at cuucevents@gmail.com)
7:00-8:30pm Programming:
  • Children's Journey Group & Adult Journey Group: We are exploring the theme of "Awe" this month. Packets for the adult group are online here
  • 8th-12th Grade Youth Group: The group is growing! Come for an evening of fun and games, and plan the October 27th children's Halloween party. 
  • Adult RE Class: You voted and Rev. Kimberley will be offering her class, Habits of the Heart, which begins this Friday! This will be a 6 session class on 3rd Fridays.
SUNDAY: OCTOBER 20TH
Classes and youth group meet this Sunday.  We begin together at 10:00am in the sanctuary. After the Time for All Ages story, we leave for classes and children's worship where we meet until 11:30am. Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up at 11:30am. Those 4th grade and older will be dismissed to head to coffee hour.
  • Childcare, ABC UU Values (room 32): Diane Keller and Hans Elsevier.
  • PreK-1st Grade, World of New Friends (room 33): The children are learning about Islam. Laura Sehdeva is leading and Rhonda Miller is the assistant. 
  • 2nd-3rd Grade, Passport to Spirituality (room 24): The children are learning about Judaism. Audra Russell is the guest speaker, sharing about her background in Judaism. Norm Handleman is the assistant.  [This class will be moving to room 43 in the next week or two. Stay tuned for more information.]
  • 4th-5th Grade, Bibleodeon (room 21): The class is discussing good and evil using the story of Cain and Abel. Suzanne Cacchione and Christine Major are leading. 
  • 6th-7th Grade, Neighboring Faiths (room 41): The class begins their module about Hinduism. Gail Johnston is leading and Tessa Forte is the assistant. **See the note below about the Sunday evening class visit to Woodlands Temple. 
  • 8th-9th Grade, Coming of Age (room 11): The youth are exploring images of the Divine from many traditions and discussing how those images might reveal something about the people who believe in them. They will also explore the nature of good and evil, whether those characteristics are innate or learned. Alex Sehdeva is leading discussion about what our UU values teach us about good and evil. Christine Haran is the assistant. 
  • 10th-12th Grade, Youth Group (room 14): Youth meet with Cyndi & Daniel Tilman to begin planning the children's Halloween party. 
Following worship, help Arturo celebrate his 18th birthday with a special party in the Fellowship Hall.  

Interfaith Learning Opportunity: CUUC is part of a local interfaith Faith and Justice collaboration. Our families are invited to Simkhat Torah at Woodlands Temple this Sunday, October 20th. We especially encourage 2nd-3rd & 6th-7th grade class families to attend. Woodlands Temple, 50 Worthington Road, White Plains, NY 10607.  6:40pm: Rabbi Billie & Rabbi Mara explain the purpose of Simkhat Torah. 7:00-8:30pm: Celebration!  RSVP sbrockus@gmail.com.

COMING UP
Sun Oct 20 & 27 - Hearts & Homes for Refugees is collecting outerwear for their winter clothing drive.  Gently used adult and children's winter coats; waterproof boots (especially boys'); boys' and men's hats, gloves, scarves.  New men's and children's socks, fleece throws and small blankets. Bring items to CUUC October 20th and 27th. Contact Karen Leahy with questions.
Sun Oct 27 – The youth group will host their annual children's Halloween party after worship! Games, music, treats, general spookiness... it should be fun!  Children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes for maximum fun.
Sun Oct 27 - While children are at the Halloween party, K-1st grade parents will meet for Elementary Our Whole Lives orientation with David Bowen. Parent orientation is mandatory for any child participating. The class is open to friends. Please share this trifold flyer.
Sun Oct 27 - Following our communal meal, please consider staying for the opening concert of this year’s Music at CUUC series in the Sanctuary, featuring Music Director Adam Kent. This family-friendly event will be prefaced by short music appreciation skits with our own Kim and Christian Force and Elias VanDette.
Sun Nov 3 – Healthy Youth Relationships Retreat for 6th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade, and parents/supportive adults (click here for the flyer; register here)
Sun Nov 17 – K-1st Our Whole Lives (OWL) Begins
Sun Nov 24 – COA Families offering the Stone Soup Community Meal & Lunchtime Discussion Groups

Monthly:
1st Friday Youth Group & Journey Group Facilitators
1st Saturday Journey Group Facilitators
2nd Sunday Journey Groups
3rd Friday Adult Journey Group, Youth Group, Children's Journey Group
2nd & 4th Sunday morning Youth Group (with some scheduling exceptions)

I look forward to seeing you! Tracy


Music: Sun Oct 20


This morning’s musical selections are all taken from the Lyric Pieces of Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg. These charming miniatures are frequently reflective of the composer’s Norwegian heritage and his immersion in the country’s folklore. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music:
Gade, Op. 57, No. 2
Berceuse, Op. 37, No. 1
Homeward, Op. 62, No. 6
                                                Edvard Grieg

Opening Music:
Arietta, Op. 12, No. 1
                                                            Grieg

Offertory:
Notturno, Op. 54, No. 4
                                                            Grieg

Interlude:
Peasants’ March, Op. 54, No. 2
                                                            Grieg

Time for All Ages:

2019-10-10

From the Sabbatical Minister - Thursday, October 10, 2019



In our Journey groups this month, we are asking you to describe an experience of awe. I’d love to share one of mine:

I was a teen, camping with my Girl Scout troop in northern Vermont. While we had pitched tents, the night was so warm and the sky was so clear, we opted to move our sleeping bags outside and lie underneath a blanket of stars. I was in that twilight stage of sleep when my eye caught something green and shimmery in the sky. I sat up with a start, unsure of what was happening, but soon I was enveloped in the beauty of the northern lights, the waves of color sweeping overhead, so seemingly close that I could almost touch the velvety sheets of blue, green, and purple lights. The universe felt so close, and I was enchanted by wonder. As others saw it, we shared a moment of feeling at once infinitesimally small and at one with the universe.

The next morning, our leader explained in detail the scientific phenomenon we had witnessed – that the aurora borealis was nothing more than charged particles from the magnetosphere colliding with atoms in the earth's upper atmosphere, absorbing extra energy that is expressed as light. Some of my fellow Girl Scouts were dismayed to know it hadn’t been a miracle – their bubbles had been burst like the kid who found out Santa isn’t real.

But for me, knowing that this could happen in such spectacular array left me even more in awe. I still remember that moment and the feeling of childlike wonder – wonder that led me to learn more about astronomy, which led me to learn more about mythology and ancient cosmologies, which in a way led me to ministry.

But it isn’t just scientific phenomena that evoke childlike wonder; it can be almost anything, big or small. You don’t have to see an event to be awed by it – perhaps it is a sound, like jingle bells around midnight on Christmas eve… or a touch, like your brother surprising you from behind as he returns early from war… or a smell, as you open the door to wafts of a still-baking apple pie … or a taste, like discovering a hint of mint in a Hershey’s kiss.

Sure, we may know intellectually that it’s our cousin playing with the bells, or our brother wanting to surprise us, or our roommate’s sudden impulse to bake, or simply our not paying attention to which chocolate we picked up. But it doesn’t make the moment any less special. In fact, it may be more special because we were caught off guard by something wonderful. Theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman encourages us to make room for these moments; he writes, “There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.”

It’s not hard to reclaim space for childlike wonder. It takes a little something like trust… or hopefulness… I call it faith. Faith in what? That’s up to you. But faith in something allows us to let go a little and trust the moment, even when we don’t know what the moment will bring. Faith lets us experience – with joy – the excitement of anticipation, the element of surprise, the appearance of the unexpected, the seeming impossibility of its happening. Even when we know the truth behind the stories, faith lets us lean a little into the wondrous.

Here’s to those moments of awe, that take our breath away, that provide a moment of joy, that remind us of our childlike wonder.


2019-10-09

This Week in Religious Education: October 8-13, 2019

Sunday, October 13th
We gather at 10:00am for the whole congregation worship service.  Last Sunday in Children's Worship, Lyra introduced some hymns we'll sing this Sunday so the children are already familiar with them.  Join us for Rev. Kimberley's service about pie, then we'll eat pie during coffee hour!  Bring a pie to share - any type of pie will do, sweet or savory.  I'm trying my hand at a pear, walnut and blue cheese tart recipe Rev. Kimberley sent me - looks sooooo good.  RE classes and youth group do not meet.


Children's Area in the Sanctuary
Last March for the Westchester UU worship service held at CUUC, we offered a children's area in the sanctuary.  We will try that out again this Sunday for the whole congregation worship service.  The children's area offers a space and quiet activities where children can feel comfortable while experiencing the words, music and rituals of our faith.  

Parents, please consider arriving a few minutes early this Sunday so children can explore the children's area then be ready to settle in as worship starts.  There will be chairs around the children's area for parents to help monitor activity as the children learn to navigate a quiet activity space.  Do you have large-piece jigsaw puzzles and other quiet activities your kids aren't using anymore?  We can use them in the children's area. 

Congregants who find some moving about distracting might consider sitting on the other side of the sanctuary.  

Halloween Party
Are you ready for a Halloween party?  The youth group will host their annual Halloween party for children after worship on Sunday, October 27th.  Games, music, treats, general spookiness... it should be fun!  Children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes for maximum fun.  Youth: the planning sessions are Friday, October 18th, 6:30-8:30pm and Sunday morning, October 20th.

Youth Group Schedule
  • 6:30-8:30pm 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month (with some exceptions) for 10th-12 grade youth focused on themes the youth identify and the journey group theme of the month, using Ted Talks, documentaries and the Popcorn Theology curriculum;
  • 6:30-8:30pm 1st & 3rd Fridays includes 8th-12th grade youth with theme discussions continuing on the 1st Friday and a social, game night the 3rd Friday; 
  • 8th-9th grade youth will continue to attend the Coming of Age class Sunday mornings.
The next youth group meeting is Friday, October 18th, 6:30-8:30pm for an evening of fun and games, and Halloween party planning. 

Clothing Drive
Hearts & Homes for Refugees is collecting outerwear for their winter clothing drive.  Gently used adult and children's winter coats; waterproof boots (especially boys'); boys' and men's hats, gloves, scarves.  New men's and children's socks, fleece throws and small blankets. Bring items to CUUC October 20th or 27th. Contact Karen Leahy with questions.

Concert
Adam shares this announcement for his upcoming concert: On October 27, following our communal meal, please consider staying for the opening concert of this year’s Music at CUUC series in the Sanctuary, featuring Music Director Adam Kent. This family-friendly event will be prefaced by short music appreciation skits with our own Kim and Christian Force and Elias VanDette. The program includes the lush romantic music of Frederic Chopin and Franz Liszt. So, be sure to put our specially priced family concert tickets on your Shoppin’ List (moan…..). If your child would be interested in assisting with concert management—ushering, ticket collection, lighting—please contact Music Director Adam Kent

2019-10-03

From the Sabbatical Minister - Thursday, October 3, 2019

One of the blessings of our Unitarian Universalist faith is that we draw inspiration, wisdom, and insight from many sources. From the writings of prophetic people to our personal experiences of awe and wonder, from the great lessons of the world’s sacred texts to the great lessons of what it means to be human on this precious earth, we draw song, ritual, poetry, meaning, and connection.

This week, we draw on the sacred writings and rituals of Judaism as we celebrate this holy week, known as the Days of Awe.

For some among us, the rituals and celebrations of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are at the root of religious experience; for some, this may include elements that a younger self rejected and for others it may be the one thing that still connects adulthood to childhood. Celebrating them together, at CUUC, may offer a new experience of the rejected or lost religion of their youth; in her Wall Street Journal article “Religion for Adults Means Embracing Complexity,” Sarah Hurwitz argues that “mature forms of religion don’t traffic in simplistic or implausible answers” and that “seen through adult eyes, [these rituals] reveal layers of unexpected meaning."

For others among us, the Days of Awe are a mystery, or misunderstood, or seemingly “not for us.” As a gentile myself, I was never invited into the mysteries of these holy days. Yet my Unitarian Universalism invites me – and others – to learn and experience these rites and prayers that show us what it means to forgive and be more gentle to each other and ourselves. Celebrating the Days of Awe in a spirit of honor and covenant with those for whom the Days of Awe are central allows all of us to draw wisdom and solace from them and strengthen our collective spirits.

Our service this week is the first of many that will explore our sources – traditions, texts, rituals, perspectives, ways of making meaning. As the Committee on Ministry continues its study of CUUC’s spirituality and theology, these services will invite you to both experience and interrogate your connections to the various sources from which we draw wisdom.

Additionally, in our Friday Faith Formation series, we’ll explore this further – through spiritual practice and other exercises, we will seek spiritual deepening. I hope you will join us on third Fridays from October through March.

Now… some of you may be wondering why this Days of Awe service is my first with you all; it’s admittedly an unusual start for me too. In other sabbatical ministries, I start with some fun, and some pie. And I can assure you there will be fun and pie next week. But there is something special about celebrating the Days of Awe with you right from the start – after all, it’s a new year (5780 in the Jewish calendar), and so we get to start off anew, letting go of old ways of being, old grudges, old attitudes, and open ourselves to new ideas and new experiences.

By starting this sabbatical period (and here’s a tip: it’s your sabbatical too) on a new year, we get to create anew an atmosphere of excitement and wonder when great things happen, and generosity and forgiveness when things go… differently than expected.

But most of all, this Sunday we get to make an important connection: for the next six months, as written in the Book of Ruth, “your people are my people.” I am honored and excited to be starting this time with you – to learning about you, your ministries, your spirituality, your joys and sorrows, your faith.

L’shanah Tovah!


2019-10-02

This Week in Religious Education: October 1-6, 2019

(Friday, October 4th youth group update written in purple.) 

NEW! All adults have the opportunity to get to know our children and youth this year by serving as assistants in RE classes. No preparation required! Just spend an hour with our amazing children and youth while you fulfill our Safe Congregation practice of having two adults with our young people at all times. Read the Guidelines for RE Class Assistants online here.  Then click here to view available dates and volunteer. There's no need to create a SignUpGenius account. Just click on an open date, click on "Submit and Sign Up" at the bottom of the page, and enter your name and e-mail address. Thank you!

Youth Group Schedule
We are working with youth to rebuild youth group this year and will be making some adjustments along the way as we experiment with programs and find a balanced schedule. We are considering the following revised schedule and will discuss it with youth this Sunday:
  • 6:30-8:30pm 2nd & 4th Sundays of the month (with some exceptions) for 10th-12 grade youth focused on themes the youth identify and the journey group theme of the month, using Ted Talks, documentaries and the Popcorn Theology curriculum;
  • 6:30-8:30pm 1st & 3rd Fridays includes 8th-12th grade youth with theme discussions continuing on the 1st Friday and a social, game night the 3rd Friday; 
  • 8th-9th grade youth will continue to attend the Coming of Age class Sunday mornings.

Adult RE Update
You voted and the results are in! Rev. Kimberley will offer the class, "Habits of the Heart" during Faith Friday on the 3rd Friday of each month. The class begins this month, Friday, October 18th. Please let me know if you plan to attend the series. Then, watch for RSVP requests for each 3rd Friday so we know how much pizza and salad to order.

Class description: We don’t have to be Zen masters or devout monks to be spiritual. In this course, we will explore methods for spiritual deepening, take stock of our spiritual identities, and experience a variety of spiritual practices that we can use to achieve a sense of wholeness and satisfaction, deepen our faith, and make meaning in these uncertain times.

*Watch this space for updates week-to-week.


FRIDAY, October 4th
  • Journey Group facilitators meet with Rev. Kimberley at 7:30pm in classroom 41
  • Youth Group program has been moved to SUNDAY, October 6th. Youth Group will not meet tonight. Information is included below.
SATURDAY, October 5th
  • The Zen group meets at 10:00am in classroom 24. 
  • Journey Group facilitators meet with Rev. Kimberley at 12:30pm in the parsonage. 

SUNDAY, October 6th
Classes meet this Sunday and we have our first Children's Worship service. We will all begin in the sanctuary at 10:00am. After the Time for All Ages Story, we leave for classes and children's worship where we meet until 11:30am. Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up at 11:30am. Those 4th grade and older will be dismissed to head to coffee hour.

  • Childcare, ABC UU Values (room 32): Diane Keller and Hans Elsevier. 
  • PreK-5th Grade, Children's Worship (Fellowship Hall): Lyra and me. Approximately seven times this year, I will lead a full hour Children's Worship service. This is an opportunity for children to experience worship adapted for their needs. We will follow the order of service used during whole congregation worship services and Lyra will teach upcoming hymns we will sing in the sanctuary. We hope this will make whole congregation worship services more meaningful and familiar for the children. They may even get to pick hymns for future whole congregation worship services!  Extending the theme of worship we will begin in the sanctuary, Children's Worship this Sunday is about the Jewish Days of Awe.
  • 6th-7th Grade, Neighboring Faiths (room 41): Audra Russel is visiting the class to share her background in Judaism. Her experiences and stories will help deepen the youth's understanding about Judaism and bring the religion to life. Chris Breault is assisting.
  • 8th-9th Grade, Coming of Age (room 11):  The youth continue exploring where they are on their faith journey, identifying the gifts, talents and friends they have which can help them along their journey. Alex Sehdeva is leading and Christine Haran is assisting. 
  • 10th-12th Grade Youth: Youth Group will meet Sunday morning with Cyndi & Daniel Tilman. The program includes check in, discussing a possible October 27th Halloween party for the children, watching Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Ted Talk, "Danger of a Single Story" and discussing how knowing only one aspect of someone's experience or identity limits our understanding and potential for connection. Youth will also identify themes they would like to explore this year. 
Coming Up in RE:
  • Sun Oct 13 – We will experiment again with a children's area in the sanctuary for the whole congregation worship service. Parents are invited to sit in the chairs placed around the area to offer the children support. Those who find shuffling or little voices distracting might sit on the other side of the sanctuary. 
  • Sun Oct 20 – Arturo's Birthday Party
  • Sun Oct 27 – Children are invited to wear their Halloween costumes to church
  • Sun Nov 3 – Healthy Youth Relationships Retreat for 6th-8th grade, 9th-12th grade, and parents/supportive adults (click here for the flyer; register here
  • Sun Nov 17 – K-1st OWL Begins 
  • Sun Nov 24 – COA Families offering the Stone Soup Community Meal & Lunchtime Discussion Groups
Monthly: 
  • 1st Friday Youth Group & Journey Group Facilitators
  • 1st Saturday Journey Group Facilitators
  • 2nd Sunday Journey Groups 
  • 3rd Friday Adult Journey Group, Youth Group, Children's Journey Group 
  • 2nd & 4th Sunday morning Youth Group (with some scheduling exceptions)
I look forward to seeing you! Tracy

2019-10-01

Music: Sun Oct 6


Ermst Bloch and Max Bruch: their names may summon up a wad of phlegm, but they are best remembered for producing some of the most poignant Jewish-sounding music in the classical repertoire. We are honored to welcome back to CUUC cellist Caleb van der Swaagh to perform their music, including Bruch’s celebrating arrangement of the traditional Yom Kippur Eve prayer Kol Nidre. The CUUC Choir is also on hand with a Hebraic song arranged by Greg Gilpin, and a powerful statement of faith in the midst of vulmerability by K. Lee Scott. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Caleb van der Swaagh, cello; Adam Kent, piano
From Jewish Life
            Prayer
            Supplication
            Jewish Song
                                                Ernst Bloch

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
“Out of the Depths I Cry To Thee
K. Lee Scott  



Anthem:
Ha Shalom                                   
 Greg Gilpin


Special Music:
Kol Nidre, Op. 47
                                                Max Bruch