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2020-02-27

Religious Education & Faith Development

NEW! 

Upcoming Sunday information and weekly Religious Education 
announcements will now be posted on our website and updated weekly. 


Click HERE for information about Religious Education this week. 

Click HERE for the weekly CUUC family announcements. 

From the Sabbatical Minister - February 27, 2020

Taking Care of Our Health


Questions swirl around in our minds and hearts, sometimes wildly so:

How can we keep ourselves safe? 
How can we keep those we love safe? 
How can we keep others safe? 

With news of the rise of the novel corona virus and its spread to these shores, these questions take on new meaning and urgency.  

At this time, there is no confirmed case near us. Still, it is good to practice caution and resilience. 

With that in mind, there are things we can all do; here are some practical tips to care for yourselves and each other:

  • If you haven’t yet gotten a flu shot, please do – while there is currently no immunization for this virus, improving your immune system is always useful.
  • If you are sick, stay home - from work, from school, from CUUC. You care not only for yourself this way, you care for those with whom you would have come into contact.  Not everybody you encounter has a strong immune system.  Consider the impact of your germs on others.
  • Reach out by phone or email to let someone know you are ill ~ whether that be a member of the Caring and Sharing Circle or me (Rev. Kimberley).  Just because you are sick doesn’t mean you have to be isolated.
  • Wash your hands often - ideally with non-anti-bacterial soap and running water.  If that is not available, then used an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. (There are bottles of hand sanitizer located all over the building.)
  • Maintain a social distance of three or more feet from someone who is coughing or showing other symptoms; check in with that person to see if they need help to ensure they are getting what they need to recover.
  • Opt for non-tactile ways of greeting one another – instead of hugs and handshakes, wave, elbow bump, use ‘the Force’, say 'Namaste', etc.
  • Notice how often you touch your face – we all touch our faces way more than you would ever think. Your awareness may help reduce this behavior, which is one of the ways any virus is spread.
  • Stock up on your regular medications (prescription and over the counter) – this will help both if you can’t get to a pharmacy for a long period of time, of if supply lines from China (where most of our medications are made) are delayed.  
As always, contact the Caring and Sharing Circle for any needs you may have.


At this time, there is no sign that there will be reason to panic in Westchester County; however, if the virus does spread such that government offices and schools close, we will look at closing as well, and if needed, will hold services online. 

Helen Keller once noted that, “security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of [humanity] as a whole experience it.”  This can be a hard truth to face. Yet there might be a different kind of safety. As Rev. Karen Johnston, minister at The Unitarian Society in East Brunswick, NJ, wrote, “there is a kind of safety –  a kind of well-being – we can craft: one that is worthy of our attention in an uncertain world. It is the safety that comes from living into connection – among those you claim as kin with the joy and power of deep radical inclusion; with neighbors in your proximity, known and yet to be known; in communities you cherish and sustain, and which cherish and sustain you.”

Lastly, if your anxiety about this, or anything else going on in the world, is at a breaking point, or just feeling too much, you are not alone. Reach out to someone you trust.  Risk connection.  Make some time to hang out with me.  

We’re all in this together.

~ Rev. Kimberley

2020-02-25

Music: Sun Mar 1


This morning’s solo piano selections feature the work of Catalan composer Federico Mompou. His six Charmes alude to the healing, spiritual properties of music. The French-language titles allude to putting suffering to sleep, penetrating, souls, inspiring love, healing, evoking the image of the past, and calling forth joy. The Cancion y danza No. 5 begins with austere religiosity, which gives way to dance-like, communal joy. Elsewhere the CUUC Choir is on hand with expressions of hope and empathy. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Charmes (Spells)
  1. Pour endormir la souffrance
  2. Pour pénétrer les âmes
  3. Pour inspirer l'amour
  4. Pour les guérisons
  5. Pour évoquer l'image du passé
  6. Pour appeler la joie
Federico Mompou
Opening Music: CUUC Choir, directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas
Poor Wayfaring Stranger 
Traditional, arr. by Linda Spevacek,

Interlude:
Cancion y danza No. 5
                                                            Mompou
Interlude:
The Promise of Holy 
Music by Jason Shelton, words by Gretchen Haley
     





2020-02-20

From the Sabbatical Minister - February 20, 2020


Can I Get a Witness?


You never know what a casual, off-handed comment will lead to.

In 2015, I was the ministerial intern at our congregation in Key West, Florida, which meant a mid-February Saturday featured shorts, sandals, and enjoying the sights and sounds of a beautiful island. One particular mid-February Saturday, I made a casual comment about who I am, where I work, and what I do, and three times, I found myself sharing the good news of Unitarian Universalism.

The first was outside the congregation’s yard sale. I must have looked like I belonged there, because a man stopped me and asked “what is this place?” I replied, it’s a Unitarian Universalist church. He seemed hesitant at first, and then said, “Wait, are you the Love people?” I smiled as he explained he’d been to a marriage equality rally in another state and saw our big yellow Side With Love banners. He said “Y’all are all right. I will definitely buy something.” I smiled again and said, “if you’re around on Sunday, you should come to a service.” He frowned for a moment, and I followed up with “we are all about love here. Doesn’t matter what you believe, only that you act in love.” He smiled finally and said, “now this is a church I could dig.”

He came at least once while I was still there, and I don’t know if he came back, but at least on that day, something clicked. And yes, he bought something.



The second was at a beautiful hotel and restaurant called The Gardens, where my friend Will Johnson plays piano on Saturday afternoons. I try to go every week, to have a glass of wine and listen to some wonderful music. It had become a spiritual self-care practice for me and I miss it to this day. Because I am a Saturday regular, I had gotten to know some of the staff, including Amber, who ran the wine gallery. I came in to get some wine, and I said something offhand about how some weeks, this is as close to going to church I get, since I am a minister. Of course, she asked where, and then asked me what we believe. I got to share the good news of our non-creedal, covenantal faith. She smiled and said “I really miss going to some sort of church, but I am more Buddhist now and feel uncomfortable elsewhere.” I told her how we draw wisdom from the world’s religions, and that we believe we don’t have to think alike to love alike. She hugged me with relief and said, “I’ve been looking for you for years… and you’re right around the corner.” I promised to meet her next Sunday morning for coffee and bring her to the service.



The third happened just a few hours later. Because I didn’t have to preach, I decided to stop by another local establishment to see some friends and have one more glass of wine. Shortly after I arrived, a 30-ish couple, Harold and Leann, sat at the bar near me. We chatted lightly as they ordered some unconventional cocktails, and in the “where are you from” part of our small talk, I mentioned I serve a congregation in Key West and was there for a year. That led to the inevitable “where” and “what do you believe” questions, as well as questions about how to be loving to those who don’t believe as you do. 

We spoke for over an hour, and they began to identify more than a couple of friends who attend a Unitarian Universalist congregation in their home town of Milwaukee. I found their friends’ congregation online and gave them the service information. At the end, Harold asked me for my card, and said “I’ll email you after our first visit.”

Which he did. He said they were impressed, and felt welcomed, and planned to return. I don’t know if Harold and Leann ever became members, but that doesn’t matter.



While the word ‘evangelism’ carries connotations of pushiness in the name of religion, real, honest, compassionate evangelism isn’t difficult. People are longing to hear our good news – radical hospitality, freedom to search for truth, respect and regard for the earth and every living thing on it, space to explore and breathe and connect and do good in the world without threat of damnation. Almost by accident, I testified to our saving message to four different people, each of whom was hungry for us, searching for us, needing to hear about us. Sure, I didn’t start Saturday expecting to evangelize, but I am glad I did. I won’t know the long-term effects of these conversations, but it mattered in those moments.

I invite you to see what happens when you tell people about our good news and how CUUC has changed your life.

2020-02-18

Music: Sun Feb 23


This morning’s solo piano selections are intended to inspire thoughts of eternity on earth, or the godly spirit among humans.

Both Debussy’s The Sunken Cathedral and Richard Danielpour’s Persepolis allude to ancient times as conserved through ruins, the former in the world of mythology, the latter still intact as an archaeological site. Their music evokes the remote past through futuristic harmonies and blurred ambiance.

The Sunken Cathedral is based on a Breton myth concerning a temple on the Island of Ys off the French coast. The sanctuary is submerged, but, on clear days, its steeples can be seen peering out from the sea, the muffled sounds of priests chanting and organs playing wafting towards the mainland.

Persepolis was a city in ancient Persia. It was known by some as “the City of 100 Pillars” and by others as “the Site of 40 Minarets.” Richard Danielpour’s evocation is included in his
Enchanted Garden preludes for piano from 2009. The composer conceived these pieces as windows into his most remote memories, in this case channeling a relic of humanity and bestowing it with an eerie immortality.

Water images also inform the opening piece of today’s Centering Music, an African-American Spiritual arranged by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Here, the exhortation to “wade in the water” represents a universal impulse to embrace challenge through faith.

Ludwig van Beethoven must have felt a divine spark within to continue his creative life, even as he lost the sense most pertinent to it. The Bagatelles Op. 126 were his final solo piano work, written when the composer was completely deaf. The fourth of these short works seems to look back to earlier music, with its contrapuntal playfulness, and forward too, to the wild syncopations of Ragtime and jazz.

Frederic Chopin’s Twenty-Four Preludes also look back to Baroque traditions while blazing forward in their harmonic bravery and enigmatic brevity. The E-flat minor Prelude embodies the divine potential of the individual in the rich harmonic and polyphonic maze all miraculously fashioned out of a single unison voice.

Read on for programming details.  

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
Wade in the Water
                                                African-American Spiritual, arr. by Samuel Coleridge-Taylor
The Sunken Cathedral
                                                Claude Debussy

Opening Music:
Prelude in E-flat Minor, Op. 28, No. 14
                                    Fredric Chopin

Offertory:
Persepolis from The Enchanted Garden, Vol. II
                                    Richard Danielpour

Interlude:
Bagatelle in B Minor, Op. 126, No. 4
                                    Ludwig van Beethoven

Religious Education: February 18, 2020

NEW! 

Upcoming Sunday information and weekly Religious Education 
announcements will now be posted on our website and updated weekly. 


Click HERE for upcoming Sunday information. 

Click HERE for the weekly RE announcements. 


Last Sunday: February 16, 2020

The CUUC Hunger & Homeless Social Justice Team has been collecting backpacks and school supplies for the Brighter Futures After-School Mentoring Program.

They brought the supplies to RE last Sunday and talked with the children and youth about the challenges some families have to purchase school materials. The children and youth then
filled the backpacks with the school supplies and attached friendly hand-written notes for the recipients.

Thanks so much to Amy Swiss for coordinating donations and for including RE children and youth in the project.

Amy writes: Thank you everyone! Our backpack drive was a huge success! The RE kids - and many adults - were incredibly engaged in the project this morning and had a blast stuffing the backpacks and writing notes of encouragement to the recipients. We "stuffed" over 70 backpacks and also collected a large additional box of supplies to donate. We delivered everything last Sunday afternoon to be distributed to the Brighter Futures After School Mentor Programs around Westchester. The program was extremely grateful for our generosity, and I'm personally so grateful to be a part of such a caring and generous community ~ Amy Swiss

You can read about the Brighter Futures After-School Mentoring Program online HERE.




2020-02-14

This Week in Religious Education: February 13-20, 2020

Sunday, February 16

Childcare (room 32, yellow hallway)
Children are welcome in worship and we offer a quiet activity area in the sanctuary where they can be comfortable while experiencing the words, music and rituals of our faith. Diane, Hans and Sophie also welcome children into childcare, room 32 in the yellow hallway. You are welcome to bring comfort items from home. Please let Diane know if your child has allergies or specific needs.

Religious Exploration
We begin together in the sanctuary at 10:00am. After the “Time for All Ages,” children, youth and volunteers leave for Religious Exploration and meet until 11:30am.  Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up in their rooms. Those 4th grade and older will be dismissed to head to coffee hour at 11:30am.

PreK Children are welcome in the sanctuary for worship where they can enjoy the children's area with quiet activities, or in childcare (room 32, yellow hallway).

K-1st grade Our Whole Lives (room 33, yellow hallway)
Children continue learning about families. This Sunday, they learn about the miracle of birth in the context of starting a new life and expressing human love. David B is leading and Janet W is assisting.

2nd-3rd grade Children's Worship (Fellowship Hall)
Children gather with Tracy B and Amy S to learn about the Brighter Futures After School Mentoring Program and fill backpacks with donations the Hunger and Homeless team collected. Lyra H will also lead a music activity.

4th-5th grade Children's Worship (Fellowship Hall)
Children gather with Tracy B and Amy S to learn about the Brighter Futures After School Mentoring Program and fill backpacks with donations the Hunger and Homeless team collected. Lyra H will also lead a music activity.

6th-7th grade World Religions (room 41, green hallway)
Many of us find spiritual inspiration in our experiences of nature.  All of us have ancestors whose cultures and spiritual practices centered on the patterns of life they inhabited. Bice W is a long standing member of CUUC who practices in the contemporary earth tradition. He is a PlaceKeeper on CUUC’s hillside and wetlands as part of that practice and leads CUUC’s Days-In-Place. He will be offering the neighboring faiths class access to this tradition this Sunday. Chris B is assisting.

8th-9th grade Coming of Age (room 11, red hallway)
Erin F is continuing discussion about Unitarian Universalist theology. Youth will have the opportunity to draft and share "elevator speeches" about UU beliefs.  If you were asked to describe Unitarian Universalism during a brief elevator ride, what would you want people to know? Charlie M is assisting.

10th-12th grade Youth Group (room 14, red hallway)
Youth group meets with Daniel and Cyndi T to continue planning for the March 8th youth-led worship service.  There are some important decisions to be made, especially about music so the musicians can begin practicing.  We hope many youth will participate in this planning session!

RE Newsletters: If you would like to receive one or more RE newsletters in your e-mail, sign up HERE.  For this week's newsletters, click the class or group link above.

Connecting in Community

RE Assistants
Assistants Needed in RE 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. Click HERE to sign up or e-mail Tracy (CUUCWPTracy@gmail.com).

Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad
Wednesday, February 26, 6:30pm
Thomas H. Slater Center, 2 Fisher Ct, White Plains
A free interactive program for all ages, co-sponsored by the MLK Freedom Library, Greenburgh African-American Historical Alliance, and the 400 Year Project. See flyer HERE. Contact: Barbara Mair (barbara.k.mair@icloud.com)

Faith Development Friday
Friday, February 21st join us for our monthly evening of learning, spiritual growth, and community. 6:15pm Pizza & Salad Dinner; 7:00pm Programs, including "Habits of the Heart" Adult RE, separate Adult and Children's Journey Groups, and Youth Group. We will also host an Appreciative Inquiry session to review Rev. Kimberley's ministry, which will be led by Lara Campbell. RSVP to CUUCevents@gmail.com by noon on Thursday, February 20th so we'll have enough food and materials for all. The February Journey Group theme is God; packets are online here.

Life of Our Congregation Festival
Sunday, February 23 during Coffee Hour in the Sanctuary, we will have a Life of the Congregation Festival! It's part committee fair, part social action, part meet and greet. While you enjoy a marvelous coffee hour hosted by our Caring and Sharing Circle, add (or update) your photo for the membership directory, help make our hymnals a little more inclusive, check to make sure your family is registered for RE or complete a RE registration form, and find ways to participate in community that fit your schedule and interests.

2020 Variety Show
Saturday, May 2, 5:00pm
This will be our 8th 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. Please mark your calendars for SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 23rd - it is the most important date in the initial planning of the show because the children and youth will hear about 3 organizations and get to cast their VOTE to choose the recipient of the variety show proceeds. Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com) or Kate Breault (ksnowbro@gmail.com) for more info.

Sunday Morning Greeters
We would love to have families greet Sunday morning before worship. Children and youth are an important part of our community and it would be wonderful to include them in greeting members and guests! Your family would be in place 9:45-10:15am. Contact Jane Dixon (lilrhodie@gmail.com) to sign up for a Sunday.

Especially for Youth

PrideWorks for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies
Wednesday, March 18th at Pace University, Pleasantville
Registration is now OPEN!  This is the 20th anniversary of the conference and there is a special $20 student registration rate.  Many youth attend with their school's GSA; others attend on their own.  The Westchester UU congregations are a major sponsor of the conference and have a significant presence.  CUUC members volunteer to greet arriving buses with our UU welcoming banner, tend our UU info table, or volunteer for one of many other tasks. Contact: Tracy Breneman (cuucwptracy@gmail.com), Tony Arrien (arrien@optonline.net) to volunteer. More information and conference registration HERE.

Metro NY Junior CON
March 28-29 at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair, NJ
Registration is now OPEN! This event is for youth in grades 6 through 8 from Metro NY UU congregations.  Con = conference, a 24-hour event where junior UU youth meet. We have fun, make, do and learn stuff. We eat. We get to know each other. UU’s from all over the Metro area attend. The retreat is led by YRUU senior youth. RE teachers and parents attend as advisors. This event is held every spring and fall.  Click here for a flyer with more information.
Register here: https://www.uua.org/central-east/events/youth/mny-jr-youth-con-montclair-nj-320
For questions about event programming please contact Denice Tomlinson (denice1uu@yahoo.com).
For questions about event registration please contact Charlie Neiss (cneiss@aol.com).

Thrive Youth of Color Event
May 15-17, 2020 at the First UU Society of Albany
Registration is now OPEN!  Unitarian Universalist Youth of Color (High School age People of African Descent, Caribbean, Indigenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latina/o/x and Hispanic, Middle Eastern/Arab and Multiracial) are gathering for a weekend of connection and fun at the first ever Thrive Weekend. It’s like a bite-size version of the week-long Thrive Leadership School where YoC gather to worship, feast, play, and engage in what it means to be YoC in their communities and the UU faith. The weekend will include a day of service and learning at Soul Fire Farm. Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. They raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. They bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice.
For more information and to register, click HERE.

Metro NY Senior High CON
Save the date: April 24-26, 2020
Hosted by the Shelter Rock congregation
Stay tuned for more information...

Summer 2020 UU Camps and Activities

River Rising - Fantastic Youth Leadership Building Opportunity (rising 9th-12th graders)
July 5-11 at the UU Church of North Hills near Pittsburgh, PA
July 27-August 2 at Main Line UU Church near Philadelphia, PA
Registration is now OPEN for the UUA's Central East Region 2020 River Rising Youth Immersion Experiences! Through covenant, collaborative leadership, skill building, games, silent reflection, personal challenges, spiritual practices and many magical moments both planned and not, we grew stronger, resilient and capable of facing the future. Read more here and register here. Deadline for scholarships is June 1st.  Click HERE for additional information and to register.

Camping in the Grove (rising 4th-7th graders)
August 2-6, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, NJ
Registration is now OPEN! Five days of fabulous camp fun with a healthy dose of UU religious education and history. The 2020 camp theme is "Hand in Hand," which was the name of the ship John Murray arrived on 250 years ago bringing Universalist religion to North America from Europe. Camping in the Grove is for children and youth entering 4th through 7th grade in the upcoming fall.  Additional information and to register, click HERE.

Adventures Head (rising 8th-10th graders)
Mid-July, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, NJ
This program will offer exciting service opportunities and outdoor adventures to youth who have aged out of Camping in the Grove and to all youth of adventurous spirit.  We will be learning firsthand how we put our values to work in the world! More information coming soon on the Murray Grove website.

Sophia Fahs RE Summer Camp
August 23-29, Camp Echo, Burlingham, NY
Sophia Fahs camp offers an intergenerational UU community that provides enjoyable, practical and spiritual experiences in a safe, beautiful and natural environment that will inspire children, youth and adults to explore their identities: personal, communal and Unitarian Universalist.  Registration opens March 9th on their webpage.

In the Coming Weeks
  • Friday, February 21st - Faith Friday programming: Youth Group, Adult RE Class, Adult Journey Group, Children's Journey Group. Dinner at 6:15pm. Programs 7:00-8:30pm. RSVP by e-mailing cuucevents@gmail.com and let us know which group you are attending. 
  • Sunday, February 23rd - Children and youth will hear about three potential recipient organizations for proceeds from the May 2nd Variety Show. Then they will cast their VOTES to choose the recipient. 
  • Sunday, March 1st - Children attend a music activity. The 6th-7th grade World Religions and Neighboring Faiths class is visiting a nearby congregation. The 8th-9th grade Coming of Age class and Youth Group meet. 
  • Saturday, March 7th - Youth Group pulpit practice.
  • Sunday, March 8th - Whole congregation youth led worship service. Remember to spring forward for daylight savings!
  • Adult Journey Groups meet monthly on the 2nd Thursday and Friday, the 3rd Thursday and Friday, the 4th Sunday and Wednesday, and the 4th Thursday. Click here for more information and the February On the Journey packet. The theme this month is God.  

I look forward to seeing you!
in fellowship, Tracy

2020-02-13

From the Sabbatical Minister - February 13, 2020

After Life

In the last couple of weeks, several people have asked me “why is there nothing about the afterlife in our On the Journey packets this month?” It’s a good question, and the short answer is “the packet can only be twelve pages long” – but the longer answer is that it’s a huge topic, especially for Unitarian Universalists, with our many ideas about what happens when we die, and I wanted to focus our conversations this month about the nature and understandings of what some call God.

That being said, you may still be wondering about what Unitarian Universalists think happens when we die and I’d like to offer some thoughts.

The truth is, while we don’t have just one answer, we do still want closure. We don’t care what the story is, we just want to know. Yet we’re never really going to know until we are dead. If we know anything.

So what are we saying? On UUA.org’s page about memorial service, we say
“Unitarian Universalist views about life after death are informed by both science and spiritual traditions. Many of us live with the assumption that life does not continue after death, and many of us hold it as an open question, wondering if our minds will have any awareness when we are no longer living. Few of us believe in divine judgment after death. It’s in our religious DNA: the Universalist side of our tradition broke with mainstream Christianity by rejecting the idea of eternal damnation.”
Well... okay... I suppose if we’re looking for how UUs view the afterlife, we can, at least in part, look at the beliefs of our Unitarian and Universalist forebears. The Unitarians were Christians who believed in salvation but did not buy that Jesus was God, rather that, to quote William Ellery Channing, “that he was sent by the Father to affect a moral, or spiritual deliverance of mankind; that is, to rescue men from sin and its consequences, and to bring them to a state of everlasting purity and happiness.” And what is that state of everlasting purity and happiness? Channing explains that  “We conceive of heaven as a state where the love of God will be exalted into an unbounded fervor and joy; and we desire, in our pilgrimage here, to drink into the spirit of that better world.”
On the Universalist side, heaven is seen similarly – a place of Glory, as Hosea Ballou would describe it. The biggest difference between early 19th century Unitarians and Universalists was the mechanisms for salvation itself, and the state of one’s soul. For many on the Unitarian side, and even some Universalists, there was punishment, or at least purgatory, after death, where a soul could work out their sin issues before going to that state of everlasting purity and happiness. But for the Death and Glory crowd, heaven was instantaneous – we work out our stuff here on earth, then all souls go to heaven. No punishment, no holding pattern – just... heaven.

Now I should pause here to consider the idea of heaven in this context; for those familiar with the Lord’s prayer as found in the Christian gospels, it says “thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” A common understanding of heaven is that it is this world, perfected. The unfallen Eden. Paradise. All that we can imagine, all that we imagine that God intended earth – and us – to be, if only we hadn’t exercised our free will.

It’s not a bad image, although it still feels like we’d be subservient to God, the ruler of the kingdom of heaven, and it’s not an image I suspect modern Unitarian Universalists hold.

So let’s consider some other ideas. One I have loved is from CS Lewis, in his book The Great Divorce. In this short allegory, he proposes that when someone dies, they are introduced to heaven as though they are tourists, given a chance to talk to those who have gone before, but mostly to see heaven for what it is – reality, intensified. In Lewis’s imagination, earth is but a pale, ghostly imitation of what is real. His protagonist cuts his feet on the sharp grass, dodges falling leaves as though they are bullets, and is blinded by the intensity of the colors and sounds. In this allegory, heaven is More Real – and takes some getting used to.

I am also fond of the myriad proposals found in David Eagleman’s book Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives. In these 40 very short essays, Eagleman proposes scenarios like this:

  • The afterlife is reuniting with the cast of our life’s play...
  • We are microbes that God doesn’t even notice, and so we think there is no afterlife...
  • Heaven is highly bureaucratic and that god “often invites over men like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mahatma Gandhi, and together they sit on the porch drinking tea and lamenting about movements that swept over the tops of their founders.”
  • “When you die, you are grieved by all the atoms of which you were composed...”
  • “Everything exists in all possible states at once”...multiple lives in parallel – eating and not eating, working and not working, in relationships with everyone and no one...
  • There is an underlying code – a matrix, if you will, and we are granted the...opportunity to view the underlying code” – the giant collection of numbers.
  • The afterlife is soft – the walls, the floors, everything is cushioned. “A hard surface is impossible to find.”

And those are but a few of the forty perspectives – and they are only forty, out of billions – maybe 7 billion or so? Because I suspect there are about as many perspectives on the afterlife as there are human beings on earth. Maybe more than that, because everyone who has died has had their own perspective too.

The joy of Unitarian Universalism is that we don’t have to have any one idea about this; rather, we can lean into what makes sense for us, what helps us tell the story we have no way of knowing is true or false until we die

So let me share mine – which is just one opinion.

I don’t know what the afterlife is like, really, and I can only guess that it is like that scene in the film Contact – which we’ll be showing on the 18th – where Jodie Foster’s character exits the wormhole to see the universe with all its galaxies and stars and planets and things unimaginable to us, and in her awe and wonder, she says “I had no idea...” That the incredible, indescribable love that awaits us is so overwhelming, even the worst person would find themselves embraced in that utter awe and wonder.

And – if that isn’t true, and it certainly may not be – I still think we see evidence of the afterlife, every single day, amongst each of us. We carry the DNA of our parents, and their parents before them, generation after generation, going back as far as time. WE are their afterlife. And all of our children and children's children, our friends and colleagues, our lovers and companions, our helpers and healers – we are their afterlife too. And when we tell their stories, when we look at their photos, or say that thing they always used to say, or listen to their favorite song, or fill out their name on a form, or see someone who reminds us of them – they are alive. In us.

This is why we do the rituals – wash the body, hold a wake, play the bagpipes, scatter the ashes, cry at the gravesites, gaze at the picture. This is why we build memorials and monuments. This is why we honor the dead
To give them – and us – a sense of the afterlife.

To complete the story.

2020-02-11

Music: Sun Feb 16


Few composers intuited the interconnected web of existence more profoundly than Claude Debussy. Somehow, the whole world and its peoples seemed accessible to him through his incomparable imagination.

This morning’s Centering Music begins with La puerta del vino, an evocation of a gateway into the mighty Alhambra fortress in Granada, Spain, the last stronghold of the Arabs on the Iberian peninsula. Apparently, Debussy was inspired by a postcard sent to him by the Spanish composer Manuel de Falla.

Ondine speaks to the under-water domain of playful mermaids with their dangerous powers of seduction, while Bruyères alludes to the wild heather clinging to the Brittany coastline.

The remaining selections are all taken from Debussy’s collection Children’s Corner, written in homage to his daughter Chouchou. Jimbo’s Lullaby” is probably a mispronunciation of the famous circus elephant Jumbo, cast here in a subtly Asiatic pentatonic sing-song. “Golliwogg’s Cakewalk” speaks to the composer’s fascination with the world of American Vaudeville, even as it reminds us of the ethnic stereotyping once deeply ingrained in the dominant culture. Even as prophetic a composer as Debussy was still a product of his times, it would seem. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano
La puerta del vino
Jimbo’s Lullaby
Ondine
                                                            Claude Debussy


Opening Music:
The Little Shepherd
                                                            Debussy

Offertory:
Golliwogg’s Cakewalk
                                                            Debussy

Interlude:
Bruyères
                                                            Debussy

2020-02-06

This Week in Religious Education: February 6-13, 2020

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Welcome Sophie! 
We are delighted to welcome Sophie Major to our childcare staff through June. Sophie grew up in this congregation and is excited to serve in this role. She has a warm, gentle and fun nature the children will love, and she'll be great support for Diane and Hans. Welcome, Sophie!

Childcare 
Children are welcome in worship and we offer a quiet activity area in the sanctuary where they can be comfortable while experiencing the words, music and rituals of our faith. Diane, Hans and Sophie also welcome children into childcare, room 32 in the yellow hallway. You are welcome to bring comfort items from home. Please let Diane know if your child has allergies or specific needs.

10:00am: We all start in the worship service at 10:00am then children, youth and volunteers leave for Religious Exploration classes and Youth Group. Children 3rd grade and younger must be picked up in their classroom. The Coming of Age class will remain in the worship service then have a sermon and discussion with Rev. Kimberley following worship - meet in the chancel area.

PreK Children are welcome in the sanctuary for worship where they can enjoy the children's area with quiet activities, or in childcare (room 32, yellow hallway).

K-1st grade Our Whole Lives (room 33, yellow hallway)
K-1st grade children continue learning about families. This Sunday, they explore how families nurture babies emotionally and physically, and talk about how babies arrive in families through birth or adoption. David B is leading and Tom R is assisting.

2nd-3rd grade Passport to Spirituality (room 43, green hallway)
The children continue learning about Hinduism. Last week, Susheela introduced the religion and shared her experience growing up in the Hindu faith.  This Sunday, Karen L will deepen the children's learning and teach a special activity that the children can take home and share with family members. Adine U is assisting.

4th-5th grade Bibleodeon (room 21, blue hallway)
The children will discuss ideas about believing in the Bible and learn about prophets in the Hebrew stories. In particular, they will learn the story of Jonah, then explore what UUs say about belief and how they decide for themselves what to believe.  The children will have an opportunity to create sculptures that represent stories they previously learned.  Alex Z is leading and Janice S is assisting.

6th-7th grade World Religions (room 41, green hallway)
The class begins a new unit this Sunday about Indigenous spirituality and religion, exploring the relationship Indigenous Peoples have with the earth and how that is connected to their spiritual growth. Chris B is leading and Mirjam N is assisting.

8th-9th grade Coming of Age (room 11, red hallway)
This Sunday, the youth continues exploring UU theology by attending the worship service and listening to Rev. Kimberley's sermon about God, then having a short sermon discussion with her following worship.  This is a wonderful opportunity for them to hear a UU sermon about God, then ask the Minister questions. Youth will meet Rev. Kimberley in the chancel area of the sanctuary following worship for a 20 minute discussion.

10th-12th grade Youth Group (room 14, red hallway)
Youth group meets with Daniel and Cyndi T to continue planning for the March 8th youth-led worship service.  There are some important decisions to be made, especially about music so the musicians can begin practicing.  We hope many youth will participate in this planning session!

RE Newsletters: If you would like to receive one or more RE newsletters in your e-mail, sign up HERE.  For this week's newsletters, click the class or group link above.

Connecting in Community

RE Assistants
Assistants Needed in RE 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. Click HERE to sign up or e-mail Tracy.

Congregational Survey
The Committee on Ministry is evaluating how we support our spiritual development and needs your input. The survey should take 10-15 minutes and responses are confidential. You can take the survey online HERE until February 10th. Contact Tom Wacht with questions (tjwachtesq@aol.com).

Life of Our Congregation Festival
Sunday, February 23 during Coffee Hour in the Sanctuary, we will have a Life of the Congregation Festival! It's part committee fair, part social action, part meet and greet. While you enjoy a marvelous coffee hour hosted by our Caring and Sharing Circle, add (or update) your photo for the membership directory, help make our hymnals a little more inclusive, check to make sure your family is registered for RE or complete a RE registration form, and find ways to participate in community that fit your schedule and interests.

2020 Variety Show
Saturday, May 2, 5:00pm
This will be our 8th 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 kids get ready to vote on February 23 for which organization we will support. HELP WANTED: It takes a village to run this event and requires all hands on deck. Please help by signing up to be our Head of Donations or Pizza Dinner Coordinator. Contact Liz Suvanto (elizabethsuvanto@hotmail.com) or Kate Snow Breault (ksnowbro@gmail.com). When the big jobs are filled, the smaller details fall into place and the fun can begin!

Sunday Morning Greeters
We would love to have families greet Sunday morning before worship. Children and youth are an important part of our community and it would be wonderful to include them in greeting members and guests! Your family would be in place 9:45-10:15am. Contact Jane Dixon (lilrhodie@gmail.com) to sign up for a Sunday.

Especially for Youth

Regional Senior High CON
Saturday, February 15th, 9:00am-8:30pm
UU Congregation of Rockland
February 9th is the deadline to register! CONpassion will be a day long conference (con) event planned by youth with the support of adults. At heart a youth con is an experience in building covenantal community. It is an immersive UU community experience where youth find love and acceptance. Our con theme and focus will be love and compassion. It will incorporate community building, fun, worship, spirituality, and youth leadership. This is a one-day CON for 9th-12th grade youth.  Youth Deans are Tracy K and Luke J.  Registration closes February 9th so REGISTER NOW. Youth registration, click here.  Adult registration, click here.

PrideWorks for LGBTQ+ Youth and Allies
Wednesday, March 18th at Pace University, Pleasantville
Registration is OPEN for PrideWorks!  This is the 20th anniversary of the conference and there is a special $20 student registration rate.  Many youth attend with their school's GSA; others attend on their own.  The Westchester UU congregations are a major sponsor of the conference and have a significant presence.  We hope many of our youth will attend and adults will volunteer at the conference.  Our DRE, Tracy Breneman, is on the PrideWorks Board and can answer questions.
More information and register HERE.

Thrive Youth of Color Event
May 15-17, 2020 at the First UU Society of Albany
Registration is now OPEN!  Unitarian Universalist Youth of Color (High School age People of African Descent, Caribbean, Indegenous, Asian and Pacific Islander, Latina/o/x and Hispanic, Middle Eastern/Arab and Multiracial) are gathering for a weekend of connection and fun at the first ever Thrive Weekend. It’s like a bite-size version of the week-long Thrive Leadership School where YoC gather to worship, feast, play, and engage in what it means to be YoC in their communities and the UU faith. The weekend will include a day of service and learning at Soul Fire Farm. Soul Fire Farm is a BIPOC-centered community farm committed to ending racism and injustice in the food system. They raise and distribute life-giving food as a means to end food apartheid. They bring diverse communities together on this healing land to share skills on sustainable agriculture, natural building, spiritual activism, health, and environmental justice.
For more information and to register, click HERE.

Metro NY Senior High CON
Save the date: April 24-26, 2020
Hosted by the Shelter Rock congregation
Stay tuned for more information...

Summer 2020 UU Camps & Activities

River Rising - Fantastic Youth Leadership Building Opportunity (rising 9th-12th graders)
July 5-11 at the UU Church of North Hills near Pittsburgh, PA
July 27-August 2 at Main Line UU Church near Philadelphia, PA
Registration is OPEN for the UUA's Central East Region 2020 River Rising Youth Immersion Experiences! Through covenant, collaborative leadership, skill building, games, silent reflection, personal challenges, spiritual practices and many magical moments both planned and not, we grew stronger, resilient and capable of facing the future. Read more here and register here. Deadline for scholarships is June 1st.  Click HERE for additional information and to register.

Camping in the Grove (rising 4th-7th graders)
August 2-6, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, NJ  Registration is OPEN!
Five days of fabulous camp fun with a healthy dose of UU religious education and history. The 2020 camp theme is "Hand in Hand," which was the name of the ship John Murray arrived on 250 years ago bringing Universalist religion to North America from Europe. Camping in the Grove is for children and youth entering 4th through 7th grade in the upcoming fall.  Additional information and to register, click HERE.

Adventures Head (rising 8th-10th graders)
Mid-July, Murray Grove, Lanoka Harbor, NJ
This program will offer exciting service opportunities and outdoor adventures to youth who have aged out of Camping in the Grove and to all youth of adventurous spirit.  We will be learning firsthand how we put our values to work in the world! More information coming soon on the Murray Grove website.

In the Coming Weeks

  • Monday, February 10th, 7:30pm - The RE Council is meeting for a mid-year check in of RE programming. 
  • Sunday, February 16th - All begin in worship at 10:00am then leave for RE classes and youth group. Some of the children's classes will have Children's Worship with Tracy and Amy Swiss to learn about the Brighter Futures After School Mentoring Program and fill backpacks with donations the Hunger & Homeless team collected. 
  • Friday, February 21st - Faith Friday programming: Youth Group, Adult RE Class, Adult Journey Group, Children's Journey Group. Dinner at 6:15pm. Programs 7:00-8:30pm. RSVP by e-mailing cuucevents@gmail.com and let us know which group you are attending. 
  • Adult Journey Groups meet monthly on the 2nd Thursday and Friday, the 3rd Thursday and Friday, the 4th Sunday and Wednesday, and the 4th Thursday. Click here for more information and the February On the Journey packet. The theme this month is God.  

I look forward to seeing you!
in fellowship, Tracy

From the Sabbatical Minister - February 6, 2020

Many Paths

There's a story often told about four travelers who each take the path they think will lead them to God - one follows the tree-lined path, one follows the rocky path, a third follows the flowery path, and a fourth follows a paved path. They all leave, sure theirs is the right one, all singing a different song. When they arrive, finding the God they seek, they also find one another. And they find that their individual songs were just harmonies, and together they make beautiful music.

That’s really what it’s about. Coming together. In this story, people were looking for answers, and following different paths, and found that they were looking for – well, maybe not the same thing exactly, but something that connected them to one another. And just as the travelers sang different parts of a song but found harmony, we don’t lose our individuality by coming together. Instead, we find harmony and connection, and often we find new answers to our questions.

This is why we have religious communities, like this one. We carve out one hour out of 168 each week because we want to deepen our faith and our compassion and our connection to not only ourselves but to Mystery, to learn how to be together, and to find new ways to think about reality and our place in the world. We may not know that’s what we’re looking for, but that’s what gathering together like we are doing this morning is all about.

Worshiping together helps us make sense of the world and allow for spiritual experience. There are so many things – chanting and singing, meditation and sitting still, dancing and reading – that all contribute to both our collective and individual sense of the sacred. These things aren’t random and help us bring the ideas and the feelings and the questions we have into a big conversation with the ideas and the feelings and the questions of many others.

And then, when we all come together – welcomed in peace, honoring our differences, we begin to see that we might be able to do something together.

You see, we can be individuals, with all our unique voices and ideas. But when we say “we can join our voices together not just as different parts of a song but in one song” – we become strong.

This is the power of the resistance movement. The power of the Climate Change Strike. The power of the immigration justice protests. The power of the women’s march. The power of #metoo. The power of the Poor People’s Campaign. The power of the civil rights movement.

Whether we are individuals in a small congregation speaking with one voice against hate, discrimination, and violence – or we become part of a larger group in our community, in our state, or in our country, speaking with one voice, we can make a difference. We don’t lose ourselves – we are still individuals. But we use our strength, our ability, our passion, and yes, even our questions, to make a difference.

As Unitarian Universalist theologian Rebecca Parker writes,
The choice to bless the world can take you into solitude to search for the sources of power and grace; native wisdom, healing and liberation. 
More, the choice will draw you into community, the endeavor shared, the heritage passed on, the companionship of struggle, the importance of keeping faith, the life of ritual and praise, the comfort of human friendship, the company of earth, its chorus of life welcoming you.
None of us alone can save the world. Together—that is another possibility, waiting.
Together.

No matter how old or young we are – the only hope we have is by being together, working together, knowing that whatever our individual paths, we must travel together if we have any hope of saving the world.

2020-02-04

Music: Sun Feb 9


Unitarian composer Edvard Grieg once wrote, “Composers like Bach and Beethoven erected churches and temples on the heights. I wanted only to build dwellings for people to feel happy and at home.” Grieg’s intimate, folk-derived Lyric Pieces for piano are the embodiment of nature-based, approachable theology. “Bell Ringing,” the opening piece of the Centering Music, presents other-worldly sounds and harmonies in an impressionistic haze, while “Woodland Peace,” the Offertory music, seems like an intimate dialogue between humans and the vastness of nature.

Elsewhere, Edward MacDowell, a leading composer of the so-called New England School, furnishes tender portraits of floral scenes in his Woodland Sketches. MacDowell is among the first generation of classically-oriented American composers especially associated with the New England Transcendentalist movement. The Afro-Canadian R. Nathaniel Dett provides the following seasonal sentiment to preface the last movement of his Cinnamon Grove suite, also included in the Centering Music: “Oh, the winter’ll soon be over, children,--Yes, my Lord!”

The CUUC Choir is on hand as well,  with expressions of Earth-based theologies. Read on for programming details.

Centering Music:
Bell-Ringing, Op. 54, No. 6
                                                            Edvard Grieg
From Woodland Sketches, Op. 51
            To a Wild Rose
            To a Water-lily
                                                            Edward MacDowell
From Cinnamon Grove
            IV. Allegretto
                                                            R. Nathaniel Dett

Anthem: CUUC Choir directed by Lisa N. Meyer and accompanied by Georgianna Pappas

For the Beauty of the Earth
                                                            John Rutter

Offertory:
Woodland Peace, Op. 71, No. 4
                                                            Grieg

Anthem:
For the Earth Forever Turning
                                                            Kim Oler