Rev. Sally Beth Shore, Guest Minister
Sally Beth recently led a UU College of Social Justice delegation that included UUCA members Tom Blanford and Cindy Threlkeld to the US-Mexican border in Arizona to witness how US Immigration policy plays out there. Today they share some of what they encountered there, as well as a glimpse of the situation concerning illegal immigrants in our own back yard. Can we make a difference for those facing the struggle to survive as they flee poverty, terror, and war?
Rev. Sally Beth Shore, Guest Minister
So how do you do Thanksgiving? And this time I’m not talking about the recipes. I’m talking about honoring the spirit of the day, and engaging in conversation with your loved ones about what is important to you. I find it helpful to focus on the spirit of the holiday, rather than the complex historical reality of its origin.
Many of us will be celebrating with family members or friends that come from different religious traditions. I know that because it did not used to be my habit to pause before a meal. I would be startled and embarrassed when the people I was with stopped to say grace, and I very slowly and quietly put down my fork and hoped nobody noticed. When I started seminary, I often got asked to pray, but I didn’t quite know how. But when everyone is holding hands and looking at you, you can’t really say, “I’m sorry, I haven’t had that class yet…!”
Even if you aren’t in seminary, you can avoid this sort of awkward moment by planning ahead. Especially if you are hosting the meal, you can start your own tradition, and explain it to the people who are at your table so that they know what to expect. It doesn’t have to be a traditional prayer before the meal. Depending on your setting and your own beliefs, you can do all kinds of different simple things, with adults and children, to bring your attention to the moment.
Here are some ideas:
- Focus on the things for which you are grateful, by going around the table and each saying something.
- Light a chalice. If you don’t have one at home, you could put a tea light or other candle in a small bowl, or use any candle flame and share a moment of silence or a short reading.
- You could try saying a spiritual or secular grace. Some ideas about gratitude are available in this article from the UU World http://blogs.uuworld.org/parenting/2010/11/15/if-you-want-grateful-children/, which also has a number of helpful links at the end.
- Ask your children if they have something they would like to say, or if there is something they learned in church or at school they could share.
Honestly, the possibilities are many, and limited only by your creativity. I am grateful for the sacred circle of this beloved community, and the ways we challenge each other to learn and grow together.
Singing is great, you may be saying, but HOW is it religious education or faith development?
I’ll start here: Our theology tells us that revelation is not sealed and is constantly unfolding; we are constantly learning how religious education can touch our children and youth, encouraging their open minds, loving hearts, and helping hands. Especially for young children, we have moved away from a “sit-down-and-listen” style of RE instruction and towards programming that reflects our understanding of child development, the variety of learning styles found in any classroom, and the changing landscape of recruitment of RE teachers/leaders (the need to do more with fewer teachers). We have recognized that art, contemplative practice, nature, drama, and Makerspace work provides excellent targeted opportunities for our children to process what they learn in our story-based Spirit Play.
Music has often been an option in Spirit Play but few leaders have been recruited, perhaps because folks don’t feel comfortable “leading” music if they aren’t professionals. Yet, music is a uniquely compelling way to learn, and research tells us that group singing increases bonding and fellowship. And we’ve known for some time that group singing makes us happier: it reduces stress, heightens endorphins, and relieves anxiety. But did you know that when individuals sing together, their hearts begin to beat as one Learning the songs and rhythms of our faith, and joining in the worship service to make a joyful noise together is another way to do religious education, building UU identity and faith community for our kids.
Our hopeful goal is to have the Singing Souls children’s choir be a regular choice for RE families at 9:15. We would love to be able to offer this opportunity all year long!
Singing Souls welcomes 2nd-7th graders for a special class in RE on Sunday mornings at 9:15. We will rehearse then and perform at both the December 20 Sunday service and the Christmas Eve service at 4 pm. Contact UUCA Interim Music Director Melody McGarrahan for more info, or just show up THIS SUNDAY at 9:15 downstairs in Religious Education!
Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister
We continue our exploration of what the teachings of Jesus have to offer to modern-day Unitarian Universalists. <i>Click on the title to listen…
Like many of you, my work and faith are intertwined. I work for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and use satellite data to study the global water budget. For the last 5 years, I’ve helped lead coordination of space agencies around the world to observe and understand essential climate variables through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS). I just ended my term as chair in our meeting in Kyoto, Japan, in the same international conference center where the Kyoto Climate Accord was reached 20 years ago to limit dangerous emissions of greenhouse gasses. That accord is up for renewal at the Paris climate conference that begins at the end of this month, the 21st Conference of the Parties or COP-21. You’ll be hearing a lot about COP-21 in the next few weeks as they negotiate a new treaty aimed at limiting greenhouse gas emissions. My role at the recent CEOS meeting in Kyoto was to present and win approval for our report on the use of satellite observations in climate monitoring, research and services.
Kyoto also the home to numerous Buddhist temples and Shinto shrines and Mara and I had a chance to visit some of them and their Zen gardens. This gave me some time to reflect on the role each of us can play in improving the environment. I’m proud that UUCA is a green sanctuary and of the special effort of the Welcome Project to capture and reuse the rainwater that falls on our campus and to move to LED lights. The sum of a lot of small things we do every day can and does add up to something larger. So, as we watch and hope for a new accord on limiting dangerous global greenhouse gas emissions, take a moment to reflect on what more you can do individually to improve the local environment.