When Debbie and I were raising our children, Thanksgiving was always a big deal, with guests often joining our family for a big meal. But with our daughters now adults and leading busy lives we’re finding that they’re often not around at the end of November. So, as an alternative we’ve been experimenting with traveling to interesting locations within a drivable distance over Thanksgiving weekend.
This year we chose Savannah, Georgia, a location we like not just for the interesting history and architecture, but also for the natural beauty surrounding it. The salt marshes and tidal islands represent a stunning but fragile ecology endangered by global warming and coastal development. So, Debbie and I like to make a point of seeking out “eco-tours” of the area to acquaint ourselves with the wilder side of these gems while they’re still around. This time we got out to Wassaw Island, a federally-protected isle that has never been cut and so offers views of what the undeveloped coastal landscape is really like. It was a fascinating and delightful tour.
This experience got me reflecting on a dimension of our Welcome Project that hasn’t received much attention. While it’s true that our Welcome Project has disturbed much of this site, our planning team wanted to be sure that we remain good stewards of the land we occupy. For one thing, we are trying to assure that as much as possible rainwater that falls on our site remains on the site to recharge the groundwater and be available for our trees. Ordinarily, when developers build plazas like the one off Edwin Place they install drains that guide rainwater away from the site. Rather than doing that, we created rain gardens off Edwin Place and behind Jefferson House that will capture and retain that water as well as water from our roofs, allowing it to be drawn back into the soil and made available to native vegetation planted above it. In fact, if you look at all the plants added to our site, you’ll notice that they’re all natives indigenous to our region.
All of this is an important way that we continue to live our Seventh Principle affirming the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part. We can make a difference on our own site and be examples of the kind of practices that serve the Web of Life.
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?
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.
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.
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 McGarrahanfor more info, or just show up THIS SUNDAY at 9:15 downstairs in Religious Education!