Widening Our Circle

Practice of the Week
Widening Our Circle

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

“Six degrees of separation.” You’ve probably heard the hypothesis that each person on Earth is connected by six steps or fewer to every other person on the planet. It appears to be not quite true – but close. In 2008, a study of billions of electronic messages found that any two strangers are, on average, distanced by 6.6 degrees of separation. In 2011, Facebook determined that 92 percent of its users were connected to each other through 5 or fewer “friend” links. Humans who don’t use Facebook or electronic messaging, especially those in isolated tribes, may well require more steps.

In any case, we are all interconnected more closely than we generally assume – and by much more than links of acquaintanceship. The Gaia hypothesis, developed in the 1970s by chemist James Lovelock and microbiologist Lynn Margulis, says that the entire Earth is one integrated, self-regulating, living organism. What we do to one part of the Earth, we do to the entire Earth. What we do to the Earth, we do to ourselves.
  • Drought in Africa churns up dust into the atmosphere. The dust travels across the Atlantic, and affects cloud formation over the Caribbean.
  • A man orders a burger. The burger, shipped from South America, came from a cow raised on land that was formerly part of the Amazon rainforest, now burned and cleared for grazing.
  • An empty plastic bag floats across a parking lot -- and ends up floating in the middle of the Pacific six months later.
There are also positive connections:
  • A woman purchases a bag of fair-trade coffee at her local co-op. Somewhere in Sumatra a father buys school books for his children with money earned from his small family coffee plantation.
  • A teenager, after learning of the crisis in the rainforest, decides to skip the trip to the burger place and packs a vegetarian lunch instead.
  • A couple serves locally grown food at their wedding reception, supporting the farmers of their foodshed in the process.
  • A retired man spends a Saturday morning cleaning up a stream with a conservation group, ensuring that hundreds of pieces of plastic will never make it to the ocean.
We are embedded within larger systems, upon which we depend for our very lives. Trees take in carbon dioxide and give off oxygen. Water evaporates, and then falls as rain. Cycles of ocean currents keep northern Europe warmer than latitudes alone would allow. Soil bacteria break down dead plant matter, making nutrients available for new growth. Fungi break down environmental toxins.

Not only are we a part of larger systems, we ourselves are a system. Our bodies function through symbiotic relationships with millions of helpful bacteria that digest our food and make our survival possible.

The choices we make ripple out from us and have implications far beyond our immediate community. The great challenge is figuring out those implications, and changing the way we relate to the world based on what we learn. Creating sustainable societies requires that we acknowledge and embrace our interconnection.


1. Degrees of Gratitude. Sit comfortably, and recall a meal you ate recently. Offer thanks for the people, animals, plants, and Earth systems that interacted to bring that meal to you. If you ate a cheese sandwich, give thanks for the person who made the sandwich, the cashier who sold you the bread and cheese, the dairy clerk, the baker, the workers at the cheese factory, the person who drove the milk truck from the farm, the farmer, the cow, the hay and the pasture that fed the cow, the sun for making the grass grow in the pasture, the flour mill, the wheat field, the soil in which the wheat grew, the rain that fell on the field – and the evolutionary process that brought into being cows, cheese-making bacteria, and the wild ancestor of cultivated wheat.

2. Mindful Choices. In your journal, describe one major area of your life as a consumer: food, clothing, holidays, travel, driving habits, or whatever. After describing your habits, interrogate them: Why do you do things the way you do? What obstacles stand in the way of making changes? Be honest and gentle with yourself -- change is hard. Brainstorm some do-able changes that could work for you. What are the spiritual implications of these changes?

3. How Wide Is Your Circle? Clear your altar space. Walk from room to room, and make a mental note of where the various objects in your home originated. Perhaps you have electronics from Japan, souvenirs from a Caribbean vacation, heirlooms from your family’s country of origin, a fair-trade knickknack from Africa, and some locally produced crafts. Choose several human-made items that originated from a variety of locales, and place these on your altar, thinking about the people who made these items and what life might have been like for them. What do you have in common? What is different? For several days, muse daily on the interconnectedness of it all.

Group Activities

Create Your Own Visualization. Discuss the idea of interconnectedness as it applies to people, animals, and Earth systems. Then allow group members about twenty minutes alone to reflect on the many connections that exist in our world. Have them write a brief meditation or visualization that explores this theme. After the alone time, gather again and have a few participants share their creations with the group. Discuss insights that emerge.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • How is your life connected to the lives of those around you? What impact does your life have on theirs? What impact do they have on you?
  • What might the phrase widening our circle mean in different contexts? Can you widen your circle and simplify your life at the same time?
  • How are your connected both to people from your past and generations yet to come? How do choices and decisions ripple out over time?
  • Imagine a society where our interconnectedness with the Earth was honored and celebrated. What would such a society look like?
* * *

Music: Sun Jan 3


“Preludes” would seem to pieces with a sense of intention; they are pieces with a destination, pieces on a mission to introduce something else. Indeed, for centuries, preludes have functioned as improvisatory-sounding warm-ups for more formally structured fugues, as in the two volumes of Preludes and Fugues of J. S. Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, or as in the opening works of multi-movement suites, as in Schumann’s Carnaval. In the 19th century, though, composers like Frederic Chopin started to create cycles of preludes without any further compositional goal—preludes to preludes? Little by little, composers like Claude Debussy started using the term simply to refer to free-standing character pieces. In his two volumes of Preludes, in fact, Debussy provides titles to individual numbers at the end of each piece, like a sort of after-thought. His Preludes would seem to intend only what they evoke in retrospective. Read on for more programming details, and stay tuned for Rev. Meredith’s sermon for more thoughts about intentions and where they may or may not lead…..


Gathering Music: Adam Kent, piano

Prelude and Fugue in  E Major, W.T.C. I

                                 J. S. Bach

24 Preludes, Op. 28 (selections)


Centering Music:

Prelude in Ab Major, Op. 28, No. 17


Opening Music:

Prelude in F Major, Op. 28, No. 23



Musical Meditation:

“Des pas sur la neige” from Préludes, Book I

         Claude Debussy


Interlude I:
“La terrasse des audiences au clair de lune” from Préludes, Book II



Interlude II:

“La Puerta del vino” from Préludes, Book II




Parting Music:
“Preambule” from Carnaval, Op. 9

                        Robert Schumann


Minister's Post, Thu Dec 24

I am hesitant to say anything summative about the year 2020 when there is still a week of it left to go. A lot can happen in a week, which is one thing that the first 51/52nds of 2020 showed us.

A pandemic rages and ravages. A sitting president has, for nearly four years, pounded away at truth itself -- the very idea of a shared, evidence-supported (and therefore learnable) reality that (ahem) trumps the impulse to believe and declare whatever the ego finds gratifying to believe. Politicians have always fibbed some, but, friends, scale matters. And the scale of the mendacity coming from the White House ever since January 2017 has been staggering. Nor have we any confidence that healing is coming. The attraction of authoritarianism remains strong among a great number of neighbors.

All this. And.


It is the anniversary that we, by convention, celebrate -- of the time when, according to legend, God became flesh and was simultaneously human and divine. Christmas. There is a power in this annual celebration in the darkest days of the year that we should not ignore.

Like the shepherds in the carol of the first Noel, our eyes are cast to the east -- hoping against hope to see the rising of a star, a harbinger of the salvific power of truth somewhat more convincing than the Saturn and Jupiter aligning (though that is a loveliness not to overlooked!)

From around the globe scenes of conflict, strife, and war invade our consciousness. We are all the descendants of the hunter-gatherer tribes that were successful in battle against neighboring tribes, and the victors had more offspring than the defeated, so war-fighting came to be embedded in our DNA. Readiness to violence is not a bug of human nature – it’s a feature. But we know it isn’t the only feature. The Metta Sutta (from the Buddhist tradition) says: “As a mother protects her child, her only child, so with a boundless heart should we cherish all living beings.” That boundless heart was also necessary for our species survival, is also embedded in our DNA, and is also a feature of our species.

So like those shepherds we look to the east to see what may be rising. We pray that love will more abundantly become flesh and dwell among us,that compassion will more luxuriantly flourish in human hearts.

We have made some discoveries. The divinity of humankind is the humanity of God. Everyone who serves love is the child of God, and everyone who bears love is the parent of God. This, we celebrate. In the bleakness of winter, we celebrate these discoveries, cloaked as they may be in the garment of legend. God is not greater than life, and life is not less than God.

In this season, in these times, then, let every cradle be visited by the three good monarchs of Faith and Hope and Love. Then Christmas shall be with us always, and every birth shall be the birth of God among humankind, and every child a Christ child, and every song a song of angels.

Practice of the Week

For the winter, we'll be highlighting some SLOGANS TO LIVE BY. While the "Might Be Your Thing" practices featured in autumn might also NOT be your thing, these slogans are for everyone -- reminders to carry with us at all times; little nudges that nudge us in the direction of spiritual health and fulfillment. These practices don't require setting aside a separate substantial chunk of time -- but they will slow you down a bit (and that's a good thing.) Resolve to get stronger at living by these maxims, day by day. Sometimes make one of them the focus of your daily journaling.

For the first week of winter, our SLOGAN TO LIVE BY is: See the Good in Yourself. The post about this slogan explains why and how this slogan is so important and so helpful.


Music: Sun Dec 27


Happy to be virtually with everyone for these meditative musical selections from A Tempo with Adam concerts. Wishing you all peace and joy this holiday season and better times ahead,



Centering Music: Adam Kent, piano


                                    Federico Mompou


Opening Music:

Sheep May Safely Graze

                                    J. S. Bach arr. by Egon Petri


Musical Meditation:
Beloved Jesu, We Are Here

                                    J. S. Bach arr. by Harriet Cohen


Interlude I:
Bell-Ringing, Op. 54, No. 6

                                    Edvard Grieg


Interlude II:
Preludes in F# Major and Eb Minor, Op. 28, Nos. 13 and 14

                                    Frederic Chopin

Parting Music:
Graceful Ghost Rag

                                    William Bolcom



Religious Education: December 18, 2020 (Spring 2021 Information)

Religious Education & Faith Development
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains
December 18, 2020
2020-2021 Religious Education (RE) theme: JUSTICE & EQUITY
Supporting our young people in understanding justice issues, articulating their values, and engaging in faith in action with CUUC Social Justice teams.

Coachman Gift Cards

The Coachman Family Center in White Plains provides housing for families experiencing homelessness. For over 25 years CUUC has been providing holiday gifts for the children who live at the Coachman. 

Only 25 left to go! Help us reach our goal of giving a $25 gift card to each of the 200 school-age children at Coachman Family Center. Mail checks to CUUC with the memo “Coachman Gift Cards.” Or donate online here, selecting “Coachman Gift Cards” from the dropdown. Learn more about our gift card collection here. Contact Jacy Good (goodjacy@gmail.com).

Thank you for helping make a child's holiday a little more special.

Christmas Pageant This Sunday

“Zooom Goes The Christmas Pageant”
Sunday, December 20, 10:00am
Zoom Room 2210

Get ready to dress up and participate at home. Is this the year you're going to be one of the Wise Monarchs? Or a shepherd? Or an angel?
Maybe you'd like to be Mary for this year's pageant -- or Joseph. Or one of the animals -- sheep, goats, horses. We'll be in Zoom Room 2210 (rather than our usual webinar zoom), so we can see each other if we choose to turn our video on as we participate in the pageant from home this year. 
Click here to join our Sun Dec 20 Online Worship
or phone in (audio only): 929-436-2866 · Meeting: 336 956 2210 · Passcode: 468468
After worship, stay in the same Zoom for our Virtual Coffee Hour

Spring 2021 Sunday RE Classes 
We are excited to share spring 2021 RE information with you!  We will continue to meet online, 2-3 times each month on Sundays after worship.  When conditions permit, we may schedule some in-person gatherings, outside and observing safety measures. We continue partnering with youth and leaders from the Rockland UU congregation, and this spring also with youth and leaders from the Croton UU.
PreK-K Community
Diane and Hans will host PreK/K playdates on the CUUC playground when conditions permit and may have some online activities.  Stay tuned for information. 

K-4th Grade Classes
Spring justice and solidarity areas include LGBTQIA+, Race, Indigenous, Immigration and Climate.  We look forward to inviting guest speakers to enhance discussions and build community with the children.  

5th-12th Grade Classes
We were scheduled to offer Our Whole Lives (OWL) classes this year but we cannot offer comprehensive sexuality education online due to challenges around confidentiality and support.  We are not offering OWL online, but we are supporting related topics.  Our spring schedule will include conversations about healthy relationships and communication, consent, boundaries, bullying and social media, gender identity, sexual orientation, managing and transforming conflict, decision making, living into our values and justice making.  Omitting intimate aspects of sexuality, these classes will explore the ways in which we understand ourselves and carry our values into equitable relationships with others.  We will use some materials from the OWL curriculum but we are not offering comprehensive sexuality education while we are online

Class groups are 5th-7th, 7th-9th, and 10th-12th grade.  7th graders can choose the younger or older class.  All will discuss the same topics at age appropriate levels. The spring justice and equity focus in 5th-12th grade classes will be LGBTQIA+ justice, while continuing to support 8th Principle and other racial justice initiatives. 


Parents and Caregivers Classes
We have a wonderful curriculum for adults to accompany the youth classes, Parents & Caregivers as Sexuality Educators.  This offers adults an opportunity to recall and explore their own experiences as youth, and to be intentional about how they want to support the youth in their lives who are navigating their own evolving identity and relationships.  In separate classes, adults and youth will discuss the same topics as a way to support conversations at home.  Materials will be included in the weekly RE newsletters for those who cannot attend online.  Adults are welcome to participate even if they do not have a youth participating.  

January 3rd Parent Mtg
Join us Sunday, January 3rd at 12:00pm for an overview of the spring classes and a mid-year check in.  We have plenty to share with you, including a list of class topics, and we'd love to hear from you!

Zoom Room 8428
Phone (audio only): 646-558-8656 · Meeting ID: 817 388 428 · Passcode: 468468    

Mark Your Calendars

Spring RE overview, class dates and times, and Zoom links are on the 2020-2021 RE Schedule, which you can always find on our webpage, cucwp.org. 

Our CUUC web calendar will also have Zoom links for all events.  This is also available on our website.  

K-12th Grade Class Dates: January 10, 24 & 31; February 14 & 28; March 14 & 28; April 11 & 25; May 16 & 23; June 13.  

Parents and Caregivers Class Dates: January 10, 24 & 31; February 14 & 28; March 14 & 28; April 11 & 25; May 16.

All log in to Zoom Room 8428 
then each class meets in their own breakout room.
K-4th class meets 11:40am-12:15pm
5th-7th class meets 11:40am-12:40pm
7th-9th class meets 11:50am-12:50pm
10th-12th class meets 12:00-1:00pm
Parents & Caregivers class meets 12:00-1:00pm

CUUC Dance Video

Let's have some fun! Terri and the Past Prime Time Dancers invite you to participate in a dance video.  All are welcome to contribute videos or photos to the project.  Click here for instructions. Videos/photos should be submitted to Terri by January 1.
Our LGBTPQIA+ Family

The holidays can be especially difficult for those who are not able to share their full selves or celebrate their loves with families of origin, or who have been rejected 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. You can also text or call Tracy for a friendly ear (914-434-7539).
ALLIES: PFLAG offers suggestions for friends and family. The Ossining LGBTQ Alliance shares this guide for being a LGBTQ ally during the holiday season. 

UPLIFT Trans/Nonbinary Monthly Gathering

Every fourth Tuesday, 8:00pm, UPLIFT monthly drop in gatherings are focused on trans, nonbinary, and other not (completely or at all) cis UUs.  Join us to connect with other trans/nonbinary UUs and co-create support and community across our faith. This space is intentionally multi-generational. It is open to and welcoming of trans/nonbinary elders as well as children, youth, and young adults. Standard UUA online safety measures apply to ensure all people under 18 are able to attend. Meetings are not recorded, and participation, as well as what is shared, is confidential. There is no requirement to appear on video or to otherwise maintain “conventional” appearances. 

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/UPLIFTtransN-B.  Youth under 18 need to fill out this permission form for attending online UU events.  Contact: Adrian Ballou, aballou@uua.org.

Those who identify as Black, Indigenous or a person of color (BIPOC) are invited to join the Central East Region's BIPOC gathering. This is an opportunity for lay members and leaders of color, and religious professionals of color to be in community. Our conversations focus on topics like wellness and resilience and our goal is to center BIPOC experiences and create space to explore our UU experiences. Please email Sana Saeed (ssaeed@uua.org) for zoom information. 

UU BIPOC Caring Collective

The UU BIPOC Caring Collective is a sacred space of compassion and care for Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. This year has rocked our BIPOC communities and lives in unconscionable ways. We invite you to come into a beautifully coordinated online sacred space, held by BIPOC UUs. This is a place for respite, listening, sharing or silence. You may even enter and find a space filled with song, poetry, prayer or reflection. We will do our best to have whatever you need for the time you’re there. Mondays & Wednesdays & Saturdays, 3-5pm & 7-9pm. Thursdays, 7-9pm. Special hours during the week of December 21st: 3-6pm on the 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th. Please register at bit.ly/UUBIPOCCare.

Holiday Cards for Caring & Sharing
~ A Couple Addresses Still Available ~ 

CUUC Caring & Sharing is preparing their annual holiday baskets. Goodies will be dropped off so we do not need volunteers to deliver and visit.  We do, however, need holiday cards for each person.  If you would like to write and mail a holiday card, contact Tracy for a recipient (cuucwptracy@gmail.com). 
Ecumenical Food Pantry
In November we make our once-a-year appeal for direct donations to the Ecumenical Emergency Food Pantry of White Plains. Since March, the number of people served has soared and it is now estimated that one in five in our county are nutrition insecure. Learn more here. Mail checks to CUUC with the memo “Food Pantry.” Or to pay online at cucwp.org, click the yellow Donate button, then "Use this donation for," select "Other," and type in the Note "Food Pantry." A small percentage of online donations go to PayPal fees; you may choose to increase your donation by a few dollars to compensate. Contact: John Cavallero (jcwpny@gmail.com)

Donate New & Used Items
NEW items for Samaritan House 
USED items for Grace Church 
Drop off at CUUC now through January 10th
NEW items to be donated: There is need for mittens, gloves, hats, scarves, socks and underwear.  Large and X-large items for men are especially needed.  Also, new toiletries for shelter residents, including shampoo, lotion, razors and deodorant. 
USED items to be donated: There is need for winter clothing such as warm sweaters, coats, hoodies, pants, boots, etc. for men, women, and children. 
Donations can be dropped off now in front of CUUC’s doors, in the Rubbermaid containers.  Please use large white plastic bags and clearly mark "Used" or "New."  New and used items must be kept separate. 
For further information call Samaritan House (914-948-3075) or 
Ray Messing (914-592-4497).  Your support is deeply appreciated!

Stay In the Know
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains  
468 Rosedale Ave · White Plains, NY 10605-5419