Religious Education: August 27, 2021

Religious Education & Faith Development
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains
August 27, 2021

2021-2022 RE Theme: Community, Wholeness, Discovering Our New Normal.

There's information below about in-person, outdoor worship & RE Sunday afternoons beginning September 12th! 

Takin' Care of Business
We ask all PreK-12th grade families to please complete a new registration form. This will assist us in planning classes and activities for 2021-2022.   Click here for the registration form.  Thank you!
Verify Your Newsletter Group(s)
All RE newsletter groups have rolled over, e.g., last year's 1st grade families have been moved to the the 2nd grade newsletter group.  Please use the "update subscription preferences" link at the bottom of this newsletter and follow the instructions to view your newsletter groups and verify that they are correct for the 2021-2022 school year.  We will occasionally send newsletters that are designed for specific age groups. 
*Kindergarten families, please add yourselves to the new 2021-2022 kindergarten list.  
*To sign up a NEW e-mail address, click here
Sunday Worship
Sun Aug 29, 10:00am ~ “The Origins of Happiness”
~ Rev. Meredith Garmon

Happiness means lots of different things, many of them impossible to measure. Suppose we focus just on one measurable: How satisfied with their lives do people say they are? What can we learn from the data about what brings this number up - and what lowers it?
To join our summer worship, click https://bit.ly/CUUC-SummerWorship or phone in (audio only): 1-929-436-2866 · Meeting: 336 956 2210 · 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 and subscribe!
Our Faith Family
With great sadness we share that Michael Baumwoll has passed away. Mike is the husband of Liz Nilsen-Baumwoll and father of Maya and Clara, who began attending CUUC in the fall of 2019. Our hearts are with the family for this devastating loss.
Connecting in Community
PlaceKeeping/RE Activities
“First Saturdays” PlaceKeeping Practice, Sat Sep 4 
Come help us care for our land and our children. One of the outdoor PlaceKeeping/Religious Education activities this fall will be to show students how a cord, a nail, and sidewalk chalk can be used to draw a personal mandala. After the morning woodchip wheelbarrow brigade September 4th, Bice will demonstrate the simple process for all who want to learn now and help us teach later this fall. Click to read more about the practice. Contact: Bice Wilson (bicewilson@gmail.com).
Outdoor Religious Exploration
In September and October, we may offer some online programming but most RE activities will be outside (subject to pandemic trends, volunteer availability, and weather).  We are excited to partner with the CUUC PlaceKeepers for some of the sessions to help the children and youth connect with our sacred grounds and build ongoing practices. 

September 12, 19, and 26, 4:00-5:30pm, Upper Parking Lot
During the in-person, outdoor worship services (see the box below), we will offer outdoor RE activities for children and youth, and Diane and Hans will offer childcare on the outside playground. Children and youth are welcome to attend afternoon worship or RE. Everyone will observe pandemic safety protocols, including wearing masks.
4:00pm: Meet in the upper parking lot then classes and youth group will move to their own areas on the grounds.  Information about the activities coming soon!
4:30pm: Worship begins in the lower parking lot. Bring your lawn chair. 
5:30pm: Pickup begins in the upper parking lot.  Children 5th grade and younger must be picked up by their adult.  Youth 6th grade and older will be send to the lower parking lot.  

If the weather is inclement or threatening and we need to cancel, we will send out an email and post a notice on the CUUC website.  If outdoor worship is canceled, RE is also canceled. 

Outdoor Worship
From the Reopening & Worship Committees
CUUC Together: Outdoor Afternoon Services, Starting Sun Sep 12, 4:30pm, Lower Parking Lot
Members and friends are invited to join together outdoors in the lower lot on Sunday afternoons for an in-person service that will be a more intimate version of the worship we streamed online that morning. Bring your own lawn chair or use the extra chairs we'll provide. Masks will be required and social distancing recommended. If the weather is inclement or threatening and we need to cancel, we will send out an email and post a notice on the CUUC website. Afternoon services are being planned for Sep 12, 19, and 26, and possibly beyond. They will also include outdoor RE activities for children and youth from 4:00-5:30. Watch for more details in the coming weeks! Contact: Ceighton Cray (creighton.cray@gmail.com)
Journey Groups
Time to Sign Up. Our Journey Groups are for exploring together, and spiritually growing and deepening, each in our own way. Journey Groups meet once a month, Sep through Jun, to examine monthly themes. You won't want to miss a single meeting! And even if you can only come occasionally, you'll find them valuable. Signing up does not commit you to attend -- it helps us plan. Many of last year's facilitators are returning. While you are welcome to rejoin a group you were in before, we encourage everyone to try a new meeting this year. Click here to sign up for a Jourey Group onlline. Click here for the September reading packet, "On the Journey: Curiosity."
Community Unitarian Universalist Congregation at White Plains  
468 Rosedale Ave · White Plains, NY 10605-5419

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Minister's Post, Fri Aug 27

Dear Ones,

Plans are afoot (and at hand!) for an in-person service on Sep 12 -- outdoors and in the afternoon. Lower parking lot, at 16:30 (4:30pm), to be precise.

The 10:00 morning service will be on zoom, as usual. The afternoon service will feature the same sermon, somewhat different music, and attendees will be invited to speak Joys and Sorrows themselves, as well as offer their reflections at the end of the service.

I'm looking forward to it! Yours in the faith we share,

Covid Review

The Worldwide numbers are not reliable, and likely are greatly underestimating the actual prevalence of Covid-19. These numbers may nevertheless give us an indication of trends.

New Cases
New cases per day, worldwide:
Peak week, Apr 23-29: 828,292
Lowest since peak, Jun 15-21: 360,515
Week ending Jul 24: 530,741
Week ending Aug 26: 654,062

New cases per day, US:
Peak week, Jan 5-11: 255,830
Lowest since peak: Jun 15-21: 11,955
Week ending Jul 24: 55,209
Week ending Aug 26: 153,721

New cases per day, Westchester County, NY:
Week ending Jun 21: 11
Week ending Jul 24: 60
Week ending Aug 25: 190

Deaths per day, worldwide:
Peak week, Jan 20-26: 14,808
Lowest since peak, Jun 29 - Jul 5: 7,687
Week ending Jul 24: 8,217
Week ending Aug 26: 9,876

Deaths per day, US:
Peak week, Jan 7-13: 3,517
Lowest since peak, Jul 2-8: 242
Week ending Jul 24: 322
Week ending Aug 26: 995

Deaths per day, Westchester County, NY:
Week ending Jun 21: 0.1
Week ending Jul 24: 0.0
Week ending Aug 25: 0.3

New cases of Covid-19 are rising. In the US, the number of new cases per day is over 153,000 -- that's almost 13 times what it was on Jun 21. Deaths per day in the US are almost up over 1,000 again -- that's 3.2 times what it was on Jun 21. The delta variant surge is indeed alarming -- though there is a modicum of relief in the fact that while new cases are 12.9 times the Jun 21 rate, the deaths this last week were a much lower 3.2 times the deaths in the week ending Jun 21.

Compared to the peak numbers of new cases and of deaths (which both peaked last January), new cases per day are now up to 60% of the January peak, while deaths per day are less than 30 percent of the January peak.

Be careful out there!

Practice of the Week

Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else.

This week we have an Ecospiritual practice, sponsored by Community UU’s Environmental Practices Social Justice Team. The practice is to explore the issue we could call: “Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else.” Adapted from Rebecca James Hecking.

If the whole world lived a middle-class American lifestyle, it would take more than four Earths to provide the resources. This lifestyle can only be maintained if others around the world do not share it, and instead live in dire poverty.

None of this is the fault of us as individuals. Yet, we do have a responsibility to live with as much integrity and mindfulness as possible in our personal lifestyle choices. We need to say “enough” to our leaders and to the unrealistic notion that our standard of living should constantly rise. We need to say “enough” in our individual lifestyle choices.

Practices that go with this reflection include
1. A mindful fast.
2. Adjust your home altar this month to reflect a consciousness the less privileged.
3. In your journal, brainstorm ideas about possible lifestyle changes you could make.

For a Group Activity, host a hunger banquet. Do an internet search for “Oxfam Hunger Banquet” for all the instructions.

For more on the spiritual practice of exploring “Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else,” see the post: HERE.



Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else

Practice of the Week
Industrial Civilization and Everyone Else

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

On a bookshelf in my living room sits a bright and colorful book, full of interesting photos of children from around the world. In some cases, the authors chronicle small details of the child’s life, such as a favorite toy or food. I can open to any page and find something that catches my eye and holds my interest. The stories of the children’s daily lives are fascinating, and very personal.

One photo of a little boy is included without a story, just a caption giving his name, Nicodemu, his age, 8, and his country, Tanzania. That photo still draws me in every time I look at it. Nicodemu is half-smiling and looking off into the distance, away from the camera. He is wearing what looks to be a dirty cast-off rag that has been draped and knotted into a robe of sorts. The sandals on his feet don’t fit very well. He holds two long sticks, perhaps used for herding or as walking sticks. Perhaps he was part of a loving family and had his most basic needs met, despite his appearance. I hope so. My heart breaks every time I lay eyes on his picture. More than once, his image has brought me to tears. When I see him, I want to give him a hug and a good meal.

Of course, I know he is only one child of millions but statistical knowledge of “the millions” doesn’t touch us like an image or story of one child. We are hard-wired by evolution to respond to individual people, not statistics. Nicodemu has become a powerful symbol for me of the “rest of the world,” which remains mostly out of sight. I’ll never know what happened to him, but I expect that my thoughts and prayers will turn to him from time to time for the rest of my life.

If the whole world lived a middle-class American lifestyle, it would take more than four Earths to provide the resources. This lifestyle can only be maintained if others around the world do not share it, and instead live in dire poverty. Resources are extracted, exploited, and unequally shared. The reasons are complicated and subject to much debate, but this is the situation. Americans have a lot compared to Nicodemu, even those who live on a tight budget. We have way more than anything resembling our fair share, while others have so little. In fact, one of the biggest problems facing us globally is that the developing world aspires to a middle-class American standard of living, and those of us who have that keep raising the bar for ourselves.
“The citizens of wealthy nations demand that their leaders continue to raise their standard of living – and they must do so simply to avoid unemployment and please business.” (Peter Seidel)
So the disparities become every greater.

None of this is the fault of us as individuals. We no more could control the circumstances and locations of our births than Nicodemu could control his. We were lucky. While we cannot be blamed for the circumstances that led us to where we are today, we do have a responsibility to live with as much integrity and mindfulness as possible in our personal lifestyle choices. We need to say “enough” to our leaders and to the unrealistic notion that our standard of living should constantly rise. We need to say “enough” in our individual lifestyle choices. We owe Nicodemu and the millions like him nothing less.


1. Mindful Fast. Consider fasting for a day or even just a single meal. If you are medically able to do so, set aside a day to fast – preferably one in which you don’t have a lot of obligations. A quiet, solitary retreat day is ideal. Spend some time in contemplation, meditation, or prayer. When you break your fast, do so gently and slowly with simple foods. As you fast, note the sensations of your body. Do they stay the same throughout the day, or do they change? Reflect on the feeling of hunger – what meaning does it hold for you? Contemplate the haves and have-nots. Does the experience of the fast influence your thinking? How?

2. Altar: Child of Empty Bowl. Find a photo of a child from a poor country. Place it on your altar for several days, along with an empty bowl. At your altar, consider what this child’s daily life might be like. Don’t romanticize. Acknowledge aspects that may be positive, but don’t gloss over the tough stuff either. Write your thoughts in your journal.

3. Journaling: Brainstorm Lifestyle Changes. Brainstorm ideas about how you can make lifestyle changes that better reflect your values. Don’t censor yourself. In your journal, write down anything that comes to mind, no matter how wild and impossible it may seem. Brainstorm for at least ten minutes. Then set aside your list for a day or so. When you come back to it, ask yourself: "What ideas resonate most strongly? What changes can I make?" Make them.

Group Activities

Host a Hunger Banquet. At an Oxfam Hunger Banquet participants are randomly assigned to an income class. A few, assigned to a rich table, are fed a complete meal with food to spare. A few more receive a simple meal of beans and rice. The majority are seated at poor tables, where they are given a small portion of rice alone. The dinner is a powerful catalyst for discussing issues of wealth distribution. See Oxfam's INFO HERE.

Questions for Group Conversation:
  • Why do we respond to stories and photos of individuals who experience suffering, while ignoring suffering on a large scale?
  • Why do well-intentioned solutions from rich countries sometimes backfire in poor countries and end up making poverty problems worse?
  • How would you explain to a poor child from a poor nation why the world is the way it is?

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Previous Ecospiritual Practice: Cogs in the Machine
Next Ecospiritual Practice: The Problems of Progress