Minister's Post, Fri Dec 24

Dear Ones,

It has been quite a year – the first 51 weeks of it. A pandemic rages and ravages. I said that last year, and for some moments there this year we thought we were through it. Even just a week ago, we thought we would be celebrating Christmas Eve together in person – as well as on Zoom. Omicron had other ideas.

As 2021 nears its close, our politics seems as divided and dysfunctional as ever. 5.4 million people have died worldwide from Covid-19 in the last almost-two years. There is a refugee crisis. Over 80 million people have been forcibly displaced as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations or events seriously disturbing public order.

On Wednesday, two days ago, the United Nations’ World Food Program said it was reducing food rations for 8 million people in Yemen. Families on reduced handouts will receive barely half of the daily minimum ration. The cuts will push more people into starvation. In Burma/Myanmar, the genocide against the Rohingya continues.

All that. And yet.


In the midst of these disheartening times, in the midst of winter, we arrive again at 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.

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 Lovingkindness 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.

Yours in the faith we share,

Join a Journey Group: http://cucwp.org/journey-groups

I.C.Y.M.I. (In Case You Missed It)

The Dec 19 worship service, "Dickens' Carol":

You can read the text here: "Dickens' Carol".


Training in Compassion #5: Rest in Openness of Mind

Sometimes it's called not knowing. Why would we have to know everything all the time? We don't! There's no need to figure everything out. We can just be alive. We can breathe in and breathe out and let go and just trust our life, trust our body. We can just return right now to ourselves. To our actual concrete presence, in the body, in the breath, in the mind and heart. If we had the confidence that this were possible at any moment, then we would feel much more at ease with our lives and it would be easier and happier to take care of all our complicated problems.

Maybe the easiest way to rest in the openness of mind is also the simplest way: just stop and take a breath. One breath, maybe two or three. You could do this now. Take a breath and return to the openness of mind. Breathing in, breathing out, and in the feeling of the breath noticing whatever is there and letting go of it, easily, gently.

Even if you are bored with yourself, even if you have some disturbing things going on in your life that produce disturbing thoughts and feelings in you, it still is possible in this precise moment to notice breathing, notice the body, notice the feeling of being present in this moment of time. This will relax you. This is what it feels like to rest in the openness of mind.

See the full post: "Rest in Openness of Mind."


Here it is, your MOMENT OF ZEN

Zen emerged when Buddhism from India spread to China and took on influences from Daoism. (There was no formal merger of institutions of Buddhism and Daoism, thus it is said that Buddhism and Daoism "shacked up," and Zen is their illegitimate love child.) Less recognized is the influence of Chinese Confucianism on the emergence of Zen.

"The rectification of names" is a Confucian idea that stresses that a stable social order depends on ensuring that words correspond to reality -- or at least to consensually shared understanding. In the Analects, Confucius writes:
"A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve. If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things. If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot. Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect." (Book XIII, Chapter 3, verses 4–7, trans James Legge)
Raven here invokes the Confucian idea -- though more for "getting one's own house in order" than for social order.

On the one hand, words are but fingers pointing to the moon. Don't mistake the finger for the moon.

On the other hand, the finger is our "pointer." It matters that we're pointed in the right direction.

Even so, back on the first hand, when it comes to enlightenment, "realization is not like your conception of it; what you think one way or another before realization is not a help for realization" (Dogen).

On the other hand again, Dogen also spoke of the need to arouse the aspiration for enlightenment -- which necessarily involves some conception, howsoever vague, tentative, and inevitably ultimately wrong.

During snacktime one afternoon, Black Bear asked, "How can I realize enlightenment?"
Raven asked, "What do you mean by 'enlightenment'?"
Black Bear said, "You know what I mean."
Raven said, "Fix up your terms and your path is fixed up."
Black Bear asked, "How can I fix up my terms?"
Raven said, "Your own intimate terms."
Knife scrapes butter over toast
Morning sun slants across the table.
Through the window: spring leaves, a few flowers.
Beside the coffee: a folded paper telling
Today's effects and causes of
Unhappiness, of names sliding apart.

This is a knife.
It, and my hand, spread that butter.
There is the light, the sun.
The leaves are green, flowers yellow, white, purple.
These names are right.
What is there to get wrong?

In a minute I'll unfold the paper,
Let in the day's chapter,
Slanted as the light,
Looking for clues to what is asked of me.
One must be careful
When there is this much to love.

Case by Robert Aitken; introduction and verse by Meredith Garmon

December 26, 2021: Religious Education

Religious Education & Faith Development
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains
December 26, 2021

2021-2022 RE Theme: Community, Wholeness, Discovering Our New Normal.
Covid Safety Update
Earlier this week, Joe Majsak and Christian Force sent an announcement to the congregation letting us know that the Board of Trustees and Building Reopening Committee have suspended all in-person gatherings at CUUC to ensure the safety of our community. Our Christmas Eve celebration, all Sunday worship/Religious Education classes, and other gathering on our buildings and grounds have returned to virtual, Zoom format. Click here to read the full announcement. 
1st-9th Grade Classes Resume January 9th.
The RE Council has been discussing the shift back to online programming. We are currently planning to offer 1st-9th grade RE classes on Zoom during 10:00am Sunday worship with staggered log in: 1st-5th grades log In at 9:50am; 6th-7th grades log In at 10:00am; 8th-9th grades log In at 10:10am. If attending RE and worship at the same time would create a challenge for your family in terms of needing multiple devices and additional bandwidth, please let Tracy know (cuucwptracy@gmail.com). We want programming to be as accessible as possible.

We are are exploring online programming for 8th-12th grade Youth Group. Diane may offer stories or dance parties for young children. Online Children's Story Time with Barbara returns Thursday, January 6th at 7:15pm. And, we might play D&D online (see the box below). 

Please watch upcoming newsletters for additional information and
bookmark the RE schedule posted here - this page will always have the most up-to-date schedule and information. Click here for a .pdf of that page, showing the revised January & February RE schedule.
More than ever, we are grateful for your understanding and patience as we continue making adjustments around the unfolding pandemic. 
Happy Holidays!

Christmas Eve Service
*Online Only*

Friday, December 24th, 5:30pm
In the spirit of love and with commitment to care for the health and safety of all, we will hold our Christmas Eve service online only.  Join us at 5:30pm in Zoom 2210 (our Coffee Hour Zoom) where we can see one another as we share story, songs, and candlelight virtually.

We recommend that you set up your computer -- or any device you’ll be using to connect to the service -- in a darkenable room. Also, have a candle handy and a way to light it. Click here to join the online Christmas Eve service, or call (audio only): 929-436-2866, Meeting ID: 336 956 2210, Passcode: 468468.
Up On the Rooftop

If you have someone eagerly awaiting Santa, you can watch their flight around the world on the 24th with NORAD's Santa tracker. So fun!

Let It Snow
Upcoming Sundays
Religious Education classes and activities are on break for the holidays.
We look forward to seeing you for online RE January 9th!

December 26th Worship
*Online Only*

December 26th, 10:00am
~ Rev. Meredith Garmon
The Swahili word, "umoja" means unity -- and it's the theme of the first of the seven days of Kwanzaa.
Our story is Seven Spools of Thread: A Kwanzaa Story by Angela Shelf Medearis. Enjoy these Kwanzaa coloring pages as you hear a story about how family members can pull together, for their own good and the good of the entire community, demonstrating the seven principles of Kwanzaa. 

This morning's worship will be pre-recorded. Join us on Zoom at 10:00am and greet others in the live chat stream. To join, click https://bit.ly/CUUC-Worship, or phone in (audio only): 646-876-9923. Webinar: 761 321 991, Passcode: 468468. 
Orders of service are e-mailed and uploaded to our website prior to each Sunday.  Revisit past services anytime at our YouTube Channel.
January 2nd Worship
*Online Only*

January 2nd, 10:00am
“Question Box” 
~ Rev. Meredith Garmon
It's our sometimes-annual question box service. Bring your questions, and I'll offer an answer. Will it be a satisfactory answer? We'll all find out.
Connecting in Community
Dungeons & Dragons
UU Style

Calling all Adventurers! Tracy and Raquel attended a D&D training with a group of UUs and it was fun! They suggested some modifications that ground play in UU values.

Do we have any players or DMs out there? Would you be interested in playing? All ages and experience levels are welcome! If we have someone to act as DM, or a couple people to partner in the role, we would play online until we can meet in person again. D&D allows players to have adventures full of endless possibilities and surprises as they create a story together.  If you are new to D&D, read more about it here. If you’re interested in participating, contact Tracy (cuucwptracy@gmail.com). 

Holiday Giving

We are collecting donations that will spread some holiday cheer. Thank you for helping brighten the season for those in our local community! 
Appeal for Minister's Discretionary Fund - The need for the Minister’s Discretionary Fund has been greater than usual and our fund balance has become low. The fund allows Rev. Meredith to provide confidential assistance to those experiencing financial hardship. Please consider a donation to help us replenish the fund and once again give our minister the ability to help others. Make checks out to CUUC with the memo “MDF” or “Discretionary Fund.” We are also accepting donations of Shoprite gift cards, which can be left in the black plastic bin on the office door.

Beds and Mattresses Needed - The Refugee Resettlement Team is looking for immediate donations of bunk bed, double/queen bed frames, and twin and full/queen mattress sets for one our Afghan refugee families. Contact Paula Meighan (paula.meighan74@gmail.com) or Robin Rocchi (robinandal@verizon.net).

Mitten Tree - Share the gift of warmth by donating mittens, gloves, hats, and scarves for all ages and sizes. As the building is now closed, you may drop off donations on the porch of Mary Cavallero's home by Sunday,  Jan 2. She lives at 42 Wyndham Close, White Plains, NY 10605. This is the first right on Bryant Ave from North Street. 

Personal Items for Shelter Residents - We collect new men's and women's socks, underwear, and toiletries throughout December, for residents of local shelters.

Coachman Gift Cards - Help us buy a $25 gift card for each school-aged child at the Coachman Family Center, a local shelter for families experiencing homelessness. Donate at our table after worship through Dec 19, or mail checks to CUUC with the memo "Coachman Gift Cards." You can also donate online at cucwp.org by clicking Donate and selecting "Coachman Gift Cards." We will purchase the cards and deliver them to the approximately 200 children at Coachman. Contact Jacy Good (goodjacy@gmail.com).
For up-to-date information, schedules, and Zoom links, visit the RE overview and schedule. You may also consult our CUUC website calendarFamilies participating in childcare through 12th grade RE, please submit 2021 registration (click here for the form). Read All CUUC Announcements in the Weekly e-Communitarian Newsletter
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains  
468 Rosedale Ave · White Plains, NY 10605-5419