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2019-12-30

Music: Sun Jan 5


This morning’s Centering Music includes two early compositions by the Estonian composer Arvo Pärt, as a nod to the nation’s Singing Revolution explored in our worship service. The Offertory is one of Tchaikovsky’s charming seasonal evocations, written on a monthly for the St. Petersburg musical journal Nouveliste. His musical depiction of January is prefaced by these verses by Pushkin:
A little corner of peaceful bliss,
the night dressed in twilight;
the little fire is dying in the fireplace,
and the candle has burned out.
Elsewhere, several of Dmitry Shostakovich’s Twenty-Four Preludes, Op. 34 commemorate the work of a composer working under the constraints of Soviet censorship. Shostakovich’s resistance can be discerned in his unique artistic voice, which he never lost in the face of official reproval. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music:
Zwei Sonatinen, Op. 1
            Sonatina No. 1
I.               Allegro
II.              Larghetto
Sonatina No. 2
I.               Allegro energico
II.              Largo
III.            Allegro
Arvo Pärt


Opening Music:
Prelude in C-sharp Minor, Op. 34, No. 10
                                    Dmitry Shostakovich

Offertory:
By the Fireside, Op. 37, No. 1
                                    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Interlude:
Prelude in E-flat Major, Op. 34, No. 19
                                    Shostakovich

2019-12-24

From the Sabbatical Minister - December 24, 2019

In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”). Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

“The Christmas Song”


Tonight, the last night of Advent, is a night of connection, of quiet excitement, of comfort and joy. And while this is often impossible for people to find on this night, there is a song that brings back memories and offers some comfort in these hard times – “The Christmas Song” made famous by the incomparable Nat King Cole:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire
Jack frost nipping at your nose
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir
And folks dressed up like Eskimos

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe
Help to make the season bright
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow
We’ll find it hard to sleep tonight

They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toy and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is gonna spy
To see if reindeers really know how to fly

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety two
Although it’s been said
Many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you

Songwriters Barry Anthony Andrews and Robert James Wills tapped into something that we are only learning about in the United States – the Danish concept of hygge (pronounced (HUG-geh).

Loosely translated, hygge is coziness and togetherness. But it’s more than that. Hygge is more of a mental coziness, an effect of how we are together. Blogger Louise Thomsen Brits describes hygge as

“The art of building sanctuary and community, of inviting closeness and paying attention to what makes us feel open hearted and alive, to create well-being, connection and warmth, a feeling of belonging to the moment and to each other, celebrating the everyday.
“In our overstretched, complex, modern lives, hygge is a resourceful, tangible way to find deeper connection to our families, our communities, and our earth. It’s an uncomplicated, practical method of weaving the stuff of spirit and heart into daily life without sentimentality then taking time to celebrate it on a human scale. 
“Hygge is about appreciation. It’s about how we give and receive. Hygge is about being, not having.”

In our personal lives, we know the power of hygge – gathering around the table for a shared meal, reading in a comfortable chair, wrapping up in blankets on a blustery afternoon, seeking shelter from the rain under a shop awning, baking pie in a warm kitchen, watching a favorite movie with a cat on your lap, watching the sunset with someone you care for. The things that keep us alert and aware and anxious – the phone, the newspaper, Facebook – are distinctly absent in these moments of personal hygge.

But hygge is not just an absence of things that might be overwhelming. It is in fact a very practical way of creating sanctuary in the middle of very real, hard, complicated life. It is “a kind of enchantment – inviting in warmth, simplicity, connection –making space for the heart and the imagination.” Hygge acknowledges the sacred in the secular – that there is something extraordinary in the ordinary.

But hygge is more than stuff; it intangible – it’s not just a comfortable space, it’s a comfortable experience. It’s freshly baked pie and the smells that evoke memories. It’s a warm fire and time to read. It’s a snuggly quilt and someone to cuddle with. In hygge, the stuff and the space create a sanctuary for our bodies and our spirits.

And it is intentional. Hygge doesn’t happen by accident – as Brits says, “it’s an attitude, a considered practice. It takes effort to hygge.” Hygge is, as author and former monk Thomas Moore writes, “a theme that can be lived amid all the other dimensions of an engaged human life.” It doesn’t seek to hide the darkness but rather provide a light that reminds us the darkness of pain, sorrows, and troubles is not all there is.

We need this reminder more than ever. It can be so easy to get caught up in the 24/7 news cycle and remain shocked, hurt, angry, scared, almost to the point of being inured to the horrors so that we lose sight of the acts of resistance we must take up – and lose sight of our souls – and the lessons that Advent teaches us to stop, be still, and give thanks.

This song – this beautiful song, bringing to mind memories of roaring fires and hot cocoa, of snuggling under blankets and singing carols together, comfort and anticipation– wrapped in Nat King Cole’s honeyed baritone, is hygge.

There is little more to say - so, like Cole, I offer this simple phrase: Merry Christmas to you.



2019-12-19

From the Sabbatical Minister - December 19, 2019

In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”). Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

“Winter Wonderland”

What do Bing Crosby, Doris Day, Kenny Rogers, Radiohead, Air Supply, Merle Haggard, Aimee Mann, Selena Gomez, and the Polyphonic Spree all have in common?

Of course, they’re just a few of the over one thousand performing artists who have covered the 1934 classic “Winter Wonderland” – written by Felix Bernard and Richard Bernhard Smith. It’s a classic, to be sure. And while it’s not specifically a Christmas song, it does get a fair amount of air play this time of year.

The song is about a couple enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful winter day, and they let their imaginations run away with them as a snowman turns into a minister and we learn of their love for one another.

It’s really a song about love.

Which, of course, is one of the themes of Advent – love. As we sing in Mark Belletini’s translation of O Come Emmanuel, “Emmanuel shall come within as Love to dwell.” We’ve talked a lot about waiting this month, and I think that when we wait in love, we wait with a hopefulness, a gentleness, a kind of grace. This song clearly highlights young love – two people who found themselves and have their own future together:

Later on we'll conspire
As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid the plans that we’ve made

As we wind down to the end of 2019, I expect many of us have ideas and plans for 2020; do they bring you anxiety or curiosity? Are you waiting in frustration, in fear, in anger? Or in love? When we wait in love, we can see the ‘beautiful sight’ of the snow glistening as we pause. And we see not loss but newness:

Gone away is the bluebird
Here to stay is a new bird
He sings a love song as we go along

Advent invites us to hopefulness, to a loving perspective. May your waiting be blessed with love.

(And while you wait, listen to one of my favorite versions of this song by the incomparable Ella Fitzgerald.)




2019-12-18

This Week in Religious Education: December 18-25, 2019

HOLIDAY PAGEANT THIS SUNDAY
Whole Congregation Worship Sunday. There are roles and fun for everyone in the holiday pageant! We are celebrating Solstice, Hanukkah and Christmas. You can come dressed in Star Wars costumes, continuing the CUUC tradition. And there will be a special surprise, not to be missed! No RE classes or Youth Group.  *We need to borrow lightsabers for the pageant. Label your items so they return home with you.

CHRISTMAS EVE SERVICE
Rev. Kimberley has planned a beautiful Christmas Eve service, Tuesday, December 24th at 5:30pm. Join us for this lovely evening. Those participating should be there by 5:00pm for a walk-through. *Youth light the Christmas Eve tapers! Contact Tracy to let us know you will participate (CUUCWPTracy@gmail.com) and arrive by 5:00pm for the walk-through.

LGBTPQIA+ SUPPORT DURING THE HOLIDAYS 
While many are celebrating the holidays, many are also struggling with families who make it difficult to share their full selves or celebrate their loves, or families who have rejected them. To our LGBTPQIA+ family of all ages and stages: You are whole and holy, and you are loved. PFLAG offers these suggestions for taking care of yourself and navigating gatherings. Know you are not alone. Click here for links to hotlines and other support. If you need a message of unconditional love and affirmation, read this fierce message of support from S. Bear Bergman and know you can call or text Rev. Kimberley (518-423-1964) and Tracy (914-434-7539). Allies and Upstanders, your support is needed! PFLAG offers suggestions for friends and family. The Ossining LGBTQ Alliance shares this guide for being a LGBTQ Ally during the holiday season.

K-1st GRADE OUR WHOLE LIVES
A fundamental goal of the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program is to forge a strong partnership between CUUC and home, and a strong bond between parent and child. After each class, families receive the Homelinks discussion page and corresponding OWL Parent Guide session so you can continue the conversation at home. Here are materials for the class David led last Sunday: Session 3, Healthy Bodies, Safe Bodies Homelinks and Parent Guide.

IN THE COMING WEEKS
  • Sun Dec 29 – Begin in the worship service at 10:00am then children and youth will leave for an activity. Lyra Harada is introducing musical instruments for fun and spiritual expression. Laura Goodspeed and Laura Sehdeva are assisting.  
  • Fri Jan 3 – No Youth Group.
  • Sun Jan 5 – Whole Congregation Worship. No RE or Youth Group. 
  • Sun Jan 12 – K-1st Grade Our Whole Lives; 2nd-5th Grade Children's Worship; 6th-7th & 8th-9th Grade Classes. 10th-12th Grade Youth Group meets at 10:00am then continues at 11:45am for youth-led worship planning with Tracy & Rev. Kimberley. 

COMING SOON
Updated Spring 2020 schedules for classes, youth group and CUUC events!

RE NEWSLETTERS
Ahead of Sundays when classes and youth group meet, each class and group receives their own individualized weekly newsletter. If you would like to receive one or more RE newsletters in your e-mail, sign up here.

We have wonderful programs planned for you. On the way home, we hope you will share about your conversations and activities. Active interest demonstrates support for each others spiritual growth and affirms our shared journey in faith community.  I look forward to seeing you!

in fellowship, Tracy

2019-12-12

From the Sabbatical Minister - December 12, 2019

In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.”

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”). Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

"Peace Carol"

In 1979, in the midst of the energy crisis, the Iran hostage crisis, and the coldest winter we’d ever seen, a gentle, funny, and perfect little Christmas special showed up on television – John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together.

In this one hour special that later become a beloved Christmas album (and remains my favorite), we were treated to a very funny “Twelve Days of Christmas,” a reggae version of “Christmas Is Coming,” Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem rocking out on “Little Saint Nick,” and a tender duet of Rowlf and John singing last week’s song, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

But the song that stands out for me – and speaks to me of the peace we seek in Advent – is “The Peace Carol,” written by 60s folk musician Bob Beers:

The garment of life, be it tattered and torn
the cloak of the soldier is withered and worn
But what child is this that was poverty-born
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

The hope that has slumbered for two thousand years
the promise that silenced a thousand fears
A faith that can hobble an ocean of tears
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

Add all the grief that people may bear
Total the strife, the troubles and care
Put them in columns and leave them right there
The peace of Christmas Day

The branch that bears the bright holly
The dove that rests in yonder tree
The light that shines for all to see
The peace of Christmas Day

This song reminds us that we bear all kinds of pains, sorrows, and troubles – and that this season invites us to make space for beauty, for love, for light, for peace. I imagine that in 1979, with the energy crisis raging on, with the memory of Watergate still lingering, with turmoil in the Middle East resulting in Americans being held hostage in Iran, with inflation rising and an election on the way, this song mattered.

And it still matters. Maybe even more now than ever, as we find ourselves in a time of crisis and unrest. For me, this song reminds me that in the midst of the busy-ness, and in the midst of the anxieties this season can bring, there is peace to be found when take a moment to stop, be still, and give thanks.

Advent points us toward peace – peace of mind, peace of the present moment, peace for our world.

Watch this performance from the original TV special:


2019-12-11

This Week in Religious Education: December 11-18, 2019


FRIDAY, DECEMBER 13th 
Faith Friday, 6:15-8:30pm. Click here for the December packet. RSVP by Thursday noon via e-mail at CUUCEvents@gmail.com
  • Adult Class, Habits of the Heart, led by Rev. Kimberley
  • Adult Journey Group led by Alex Sehdeva
  • 8th-12th Youth Group led by Cyndi & Daniel Tillman and Imelda Cruz Avellá
  • Children's Journey Group led by Tracy Breneman and Diane Keller

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 14th
  • 3:00-5:00pm - Gingerbread House Decorating at the Rockland UU Congregation in Pomona, NY (click here for the flyer). RSVP by December 11th. 
  • 3:00-5:00pm – CUUC is participating in a new Youth Interfaith and Justice Leadership Lab. South Presbyterian Church invites 6th-12th grade youth to gather and hear from Dale Williams, Executive Director of Midnight Run, about finding common ground with the homeless. Youth will then wrap holiday gifts for distribution on the Christmas Eve Midnight Run. Meet in the Fellowship Hall of the Church, 343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry. Parking on the street or off Washington behind the Church. All are welcome. Snacks will be served. RSVP to learninglab@southpres.org or call Marie-Louise, Interim Director, 917-647-7881. 

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 15th 
Childcare is available at 9:30am. We begin every Sunday in the sanctuary at 10:00am. Music Director Adam Kent invites children and youth to find a nook under the piano where they can enjoy the centering music he plays before worship, 10:00-10:10am. Following the Time for All Ages, children leave for RE classes, which meet until 11:30am. Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up in their classroom at 11:30am; children 4th grade and older will be allowed to leave for coffee hour. Youth Group is attending worship. Community meal and winter concert following worship. 

RE NEWSLETTERS 
On Sundays when classes meet, each class receives their own weekly newsletter. Click on the class below to read this week's newsletter. If you would like to receive one or more RE newsletters in your e-mail, sign up here

IN THE COMING WEEKS 
  • Sun Dec 22 – Whole Congregation Worship Sunday: Holiday Pageant. There are roles for everyone! Or come dressed in Star Wars costumes, continuing the tradition. And there will be a special surprise, not to be missed! No RE classes or Youth Group. 
  • Tues Dec 24, 5:30pm – Christmas Eve worship service. Rev. Kimberley is planning a beautiful Christmas Eve service that will include many voices. We invite children, youth, young adults, adults and families to participate by reading short passages during the service. Contact Tracy to volunteer. 
  • Sun Dec 29 – Lyra Harada is leading a multiage activity, introducing musical instruments for fun and spiritual expression. Laura Goodspeed and Laura Sehdeva are assisting. 

LGBTPQIA+ SUPPORT DURING THE HOLIDAYS 
While many are celebrating the holidays, many are also struggling with families who make it difficult to share their full selves or celebrate their loves, or families who have rejected them for doing so. To our LGBTPQIA+ family of all ages and stages: You are whole and holy, and you are loved. PFLAG offers these suggestions for taking care of yourself and navigating gatherings. Know you are not alone. Click here for links to hotlines and other support. If you need a message of unconditional love and affirmation, read this fierce message of support from S. Bear Bergman and know you can call or text Rev. Kimberley (518-423-1964) and Tracy (914-434-7539). Allies and Upstanders, your support is needed! PFLAG offers suggestions for friends and family. The Ossining LGBTQ Alliance shares this guide for being a LGBTQ Ally during the holiday season. 

I look forward to seeing you! 
in fellowship, Tracy



Music: Sun Dec 22

Arrangements of popular Christmas tunes from around the world are included in this morning’s musical selections. Tchaikovsky’s evocation of the holiday is the last in his set of pieces for each month, written for a Russian musical journal. Liszt’s The Christmas Tree is dedicated to his granddaughter Daniela von Bülow, and reflects the composer’s growing religiosity in his late years as well as a decidedly sentimental streak. Donald Waxman was a twentieth-century composer of pedagogical materials for piano students. His collection A Christmas Pageant presents many well-known carols from diverse cultures in modernist harmonic garb. Our own Rev. Kimberley and Kim and Christian Force form an inspired vocal trio for Stephen Schwartz’s “We Are Lights,” his special Chanukah song. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Christmas, Op. 37, No. 12
                                        Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

From A Christmas Pageant
“Bring a Torch, Jeannette, Isabelle,” “Good King Wenceslas,” “We Three Kings,” “Deck

the Halls,” “O Let Us Sing,” and “Yule’s Come and Yule’s Gane”
                                        Donald Waxman

Opening Music
From The Christmas Tree
                 “Psallite”
                                        Franz Liszt

Offering and Offertory
From The Christmas Tree
                 “Adeste fideles”
                                         Liszt

Musical Interlude
From The Christmas Tree
                 “Old Provençal Christmas Song”
                                          Liszt

Song: Rev. Kimberley Debus, Kim and Christian Force, vocals
                   “The Chanukah Song” (We Are Lights)
                                         Stephen Schwartz

2019-12-10

Music: Sun Dec 15


This morning’s musical selections reflect a meditative outlook on Christmas iconography and on the holiday season. Expressions of thankfulness come to us from the nineteenth-century Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg as well as the contemporary American songwriter John Bucchino. Franz Liszt’s The Christmas Tree, a collection of pieces written for his granddaughter, provide a surprisingly delicate setting of traditional tunes, and a wistful waltz from the Russian composer Vladimir Rebikoff’s ballet The Christmas Tree is featured in the Offertory. “Que li darem?” is a Catalan Christmas carol, which glosses the spirit of the Three Magi, as they reflect on the gifts they will bring the baby Jesus. Read on for programming details.
Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Thanks, Op. 62, No. 2
                                                            Edvard Grieg
From The Christmas Tree
Slumber Song
Old Times
                                                Franz Liszt


Opening Music:
From The Christmas Tree
The Shepherds at the Manger (In dulci jubilo)
                                    Liszt


Offering and Offertory:
Waltz from The Christmas Tree, Op. 21
                                                Vladimir Rebikoff


Musical Interlude:
“Que li darem?”
Traditional Catalan, arr. by Joaquin Nin-Culmell

Musical Interlude: Rev. Kimberley Debus, vocalist   
“Grateful” from Urban Myths
                                                John Bucchino

2019-12-05

This Week in Religious Education: December 4-11, 2019


FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6th
8th-12th Grade Youth Group, 6:30-8:30pm making holiday paper chains and other decorations for the sanctuary. RSVP with Cyndi & Daniel Tillman in the GroupMe chat or by email at cccdtil@aol.com and dtillman13@gmail.com.
 
SUNDAY, DECEMBER 8th
Childcare is available at 9:30am. We begin every Sunday in the sanctuary at 10:00am. Music Director Adam Kent invites children and youth to find a nook under the piano where they can enjoy the centering music he plays before worship, 10:00-10:10am. Following the Time for All Ages, children and youth leave for RE classes and youth group, which meet until 11;30am. Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up in their classroom at 11:30am; children 4th grade and older will be allowed to leave for coffee hour.
 
CHRISTMAS EVE OPPORTUNITY
Rev. Kimberley is planning a beautiful Christmas Eve service that will include many voices. We invite children, youth, young adults, adults and families to participate by reading short passages during the service. Contact Tracy to volunteer.
 
RE ASSISTANTS NEEDED
All adults have the opportunity to serve as assistants in Religious Education 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. The 8th-9th Grade Coming of Age class needs an assistant this Sunday. Click HERE to view all available dates - then volunteer!
 
RE NEWSLETTERS
On Sundays when classes meet, each class receives their own weekly newsletter. Click on the class below to read this week's newsletter. If you would like to receive one or more RE newsletters in your e-mail, sign up here.
IN THE COMING WEEKS
  • *Fri Dec 13 (not Dec 20), 6:30-8:30pm – Faith Friday: Rev. Kimberley's class, Habits of the Heart; Journey Groups for adults and children; 8th-12th Youth Group. Click here for the December packet.
  • Sat Dec 14, 3:00-5:00pm - Gingerbread House Decorating at the Rockland UU Congregation in Pomona, NY (click here for the flyer). RSVP by December 11th.
  • Sat Dec 14, 3:00-5:00pm – CUUC is participating in a new Youth Interfaith and Justice Leadership Lab. South Presbyterian Church invites 6th-12th grade youth to gather and hear from Dale Williams, Executive Director of Midnight Run, about finding common ground with the homeless. Youth will then wrap holiday gifts for distribution on the Christmas Eve Midnight Run. More information and a RSVP contact below. 
  • Sun Dec 15 – All begin in worship at 10:00am then leave for classes. The Youth Group is attending worship. Community meal and winter concert following worship. 
  • Sun Dec 22 – Whole Congregation Worship Sunday: Holiday Pageant. There are roles for everyone! Or come dressed in Star Wars costumes, continuing the tradition. And there will be a special surprise, not to be missed! No RE classes or Youth Group. 
  • Tues Dec 24, 5:30pm – Christmas Eve worship service. Rev. Kimberley is planning a beautiful Christmas Eve service that will include many voices. We invite children, youth, young adults, adults and families to participate by reading short passages during the service. Contact Tracy to volunteer.

YOUTH INTERFAITH AND JUSTICE LEADERSHIP LAB
CUUC is participating in a new Youth Interfaith and Justice Leadership Lab with the Westchester Muslim Center, South Presbyterian Church and Woodlands Temple. Saturday, December 14th, 3:00-5:00pm, 6th-12th grade youth are invited to attend a presentation with Dale Williams, Executive Director of Midnight Run, where he will talk about finding common ground with the homeless. Dale was homeless in NYC as a young man. He will share his story, what the Midnight Run means to those who are homeless and ways of engaging with those we serve on the run. After Dale’s talk, we will wrap holiday gifts for distribution on the Christmas Eve Midnight Run. Saturday, December 14th, 3:00-5:00pm in Fellowship Hall, South Church, 343 Broadway, Dobbs Ferry. Parking on the street or off Washington behind the Church. All are welcome. Snacks will be served. RSVP to learninglab@southpres.org or call Marie-Louise, Interim Director, 917-647-7881.  




LGBTPQIA+ SUPPORT DURING THE HOLIDAYS While many are celebrating the holidays, many are also struggling with families who make it difficult to share their full selves or celebrate their loves, or families who have rejected them for doing so. To our LGBTPQIA+ family of all ages and stages: You are whole and holy, and you are loved. PFLAG offers these suggestions for taking care of yourself and navigating gatherings. Know you are not alone. Click here for links to hotlines and other support. If you need a message of unconditional love and affirmation, read this fierce message of support from S. Bear Bergman and know you can call or text Rev. Kimberley (518-423-1964) and Tracy (914-434-7539). Allies and Upstanders, your support is needed! PFLAG offers suggestions for friends and family. The Ossining LGBTQ Alliance shares this guide for being a LGBTQ Ally during the holiday season. 


I look forward to seeing you!

in fellowship, Tracy

From the Sabbatical Minister - December 5, 2019


In the Christian tradition, December 1-24 is the season of Advent – understood as a time for considering the coming – and the second coming – of the Christ; it ends on Christmas Day, with the words from the Book of Revelation, “joy to the world, the Lord is come.” 

But in the meantime – the month is filled with waiting: waiting for joy, waiting for hope, waiting for peace, waiting for love, waiting for the child, waiting for grace.

It is in this time of Advent that we take time – and fortunately, we have music libraries filled with holiday songs to make the waiting less difficult (sometimes filling us with nostalgia, sometimes bringing us cheer, and sometimes annoying us – I’m looking at you, “Little Drummer Boy”).  Over the next four weeks, I’ll be exploring the themes of Advent  through the lens of some of my most beloved and cherished holiday songs.

“Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”


This is a beautiful song, written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the movie musical Meet Me in St. Louis, and most famously sung by Judy Garland. We hear the song a lot, often with lyrics rewritten to be more cheerful; singer Frank Sinatra purportedly asked the songwriters “The name of my album is ‘A Jolly Christmas’; do think you could jolly up that line for me?”

Here are the lyrics we are most familiar with:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Let your heart be light
From now on our troubles will be out of sight

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the Yuletide gay
From now on our troubles will be miles away

Here we are as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Gather near to us once more

Through the years we all will be together
If the fates allow
Hang a shining star upon the highest bough
And have yourself a merry little Christmas now

In the original lyrics, the song is a bit grittier, and with good reason. The family in our story have just learned from their father that they’ll be moving from St. Louis to New York just after Christmas. The youngest child (played by Margaret O’Brien) is forlorn, and Esther (played by Garland) sings her a song of comfort.

In the original lyrics, we look forward with hopefulness:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
NEXT YEAR ALL our troubles will be out of sight

And we accept the reality of the present moment:
Through the years we all will be together
if the fates allow
UNTIL THEN WE’LL HAVE TO MUDDLE THROUGH SOMEHOW

With those two original lyrics, we get to the heart of Advent’s message of hope. We know that things won’t always be the way they are, and we know that the meantime can be a mean time. But we also know that even if things will never be the same, there will be reasons to celebrate. Hope thrives when we accept what is true and look forward, when we open ourselves to the grace of the present moment and know that this struggle is not all there is.

For me, this song is a helpful reality check in the midst of the extraordinarily cheerful songs that seem so treacly or cloying. As we grow older – growing up to be adults, watching our children grow up, watching our lives change with the passing of each year – we can still find a way to hope for the light of family, friends, love, and comfort to return.

Advent points us toward hope – hope for relief, hope for positive changes, hope for the light to return, hope for our futures and the futures of those we love. And whether we have to muddle through or can celebrate, or some mixture of both, hope helps us see the grace all around us.

Watch the original scene from the film, with Garland and O’Brien, and have yourself a merry little Christmas:





2019-12-03

Music: Sun Dec 8


Music for Advent Sunday begins with a glance back to the Lutheran tradition embodied in J. S. Bach’s Cantata Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland (Now Comes the Heathens’ Savior), written to mark the start of the liturgical year in Weimar in 1714. Another transcription from one of Bach’s cantatas is featured in the Offertory. Unitarian composer Béla Bartók’s charming settings of ten Rumanian Christmas carols follows, a typical example of the composer’s ethnomusicological research. A poignant Catalan Christmas carol, El cant dels ocells (The Song of the Birds) is the morning’s Opening Music. The tune may be familiar to parishioners as the cellist Pablo Casals’ signature encore. Elsewhere, our own Mary Cobb offers up William Bolcom’s touchingly tender “Waitin,’” and the CUUC Choir is on hand as well. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music:
Nun Komm, der Heiden Heiland
                                                J. S. Bach arr. by Ferruccio Busoni
Rumanian Christmas Carols, Series I
                                                Béla Bartók

Opening Music:
El cant dels ocells
                                                Traditional Catalan, arr. by Joaquin Nin-Culmell

Offertory:
Sheep May Safely Graze
                                                J. S. Bach arr. by Egon Petri

Music for “An Advent Suite”
CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
How Long?
                                                Mark Miller
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel

Mary Lane Cobb, soprano
Waitin’
                                                            William Bolcom