The Dark Hours

“I love the dark hours of my being,” writes the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. “My mind deepens into them. There I can find, as in old letters, the days of my life, already lived, and held like a legend and understood. Then the knowing comes: I can open to another life that’s wide and timeless.”

This is a time of year that invites us into the dark hours of our being: not necessarily sorrow or gloom, but a more contemplative, reflective state of mind. Even as our Internet feeds fill with holiday ads, our minds and hearts feel drawn to follow our body’s advice to pull in and nest a bit. The advance of literal darkness, the shortening of days and with it the chill of winter, makes us a little sleepy, a little less sharply focused and invites a longer perspective on our lives.

It’s a good time to take stock and maybe attend to some of the mania that can drive us day to day. In the days of our lives, already lived, what lessons can we find? What is tugging for our attention that merely saps our spirit, that distracts us from that which truly feeds us? How might we organize our lives to better attend to that?

Mine is a job that often demands rapid-fire multitasking – planning worship one moment, arranging a pastoral call next, then completing a board report, or making a connection for a social justice event, and more. It’s important work, but sometimes it pushes me pretty hard. So, I am drawn to questions like: What tasks need my attention now? What can wait and what of this can I share or pass on to others? And on a larger scale, for us as a congregation, what is called of us now? What are we positioned to take on?

In the dark hours of the year it is a good time to create space for these questions as well as for the fallow times in our lives when we need to ease up on the accelerator. This work of ours is something we are in on for the long haul. Let us create space for it so that rested and refreshed we can, as Rilke puts it, open to life that’s wide and timeless.

Rev. Mark Ward, Lead Minister


Wishes Met and Wishes Made

It’s holiday time!  Let’s talk turkey…, Wish Lists!  (Still working on leftovers ?).  First off, I’d like to report on our amazing generosity from last year.  We were able to buy EVERYTHING on the list!  So thank you, thank you, thank you!  Technically, we haven’t spent all the money from last year because some of it went toward plantings and we’ve been slowly buying new plants all year long.  The final chunk helped buy the plants and mulch for the new pollinator garden.

A funny thing happened to my Wish List this year.  Well, not funny, more like astounding.  I had started my list just when we got a substantial donation from a lovely, generous, long-time member.  So, that donation covered several items that would have been on the list but that we no longer need—because we have them!:  20 new hymnals; the completion of the hearing sound loop in the choir area of the Sanctuary (new technology has allowed us to do something we could not do just 3 years ago); video equipment to be used to record in the Sanctuary; with the remainder being applied to the long-term (i.e., expensive) project we have in mind for the yard between the main building and the Memorial Garden, now to be known as the “Main Building Backyard Project.” (It will be awesome when it’s done, I promise.)

But fear not! (Holiday spirit, right?) I still have a Wish List for this year!  Just like for the solar panel project, you may donate to a particular item in any amount you desire.  However, please designate your donation to the WISH LIST so we can use it for any item on the list if we need to.

The List!

Nursery changing table – $100
     Our hand-me-down table is in sad shape.
Entry sign for the Memorial Garden – $500 
    The current one is peeling AND has “church” instead of “congregation” in the name.
Furnish a designated “teen space” in RE Commons – $500
    Every church needs a hang-out space for teens, and the way we are spread across campus, there is no place in the main building for that.  Our great RE folks have set aside an area in RE Commons now, but we need to get some seating for it and make it cool.
Screen the movie, The Mask You Live In, at UUCA, and open it to the community – $500
    The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the “boy crisis” and tactics to combat it. The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men.  We think it’s an important movie for both our UUCA and greater community.
Install LED lights in Sandburg Hall – $1,000 more!
    Who could object to brighter, dimmable lighting in Sandburg Hall?  We’ll change out those 30-some-year old fluorescent fixtures.  This project will cost $2,000 but Ken Brame and Judy Mattox have offered a $1,000 match, so all YOU need to do is come up with $1,000 more.  We can do it!
Compost Now – $1300
    Between bear raids and the fact that getting food waste out of the landfill is environmentally correct, we’ll be using Compost Now to collect our food waste every week from the main building and 23 Edwin Place.  This service will cost $2500 a year but I’ll manage to get it officially into the budget next fiscal year.  This will pay for the unbudgeted amount this fiscal year.
Pavers from lower parking lot to Memorial Garden – $4,000
    Instead of pouring concrete, we want to use pavers like the ones on our front patio to make a handicap-accessible path to the Memorial Garden.  This is another part of the Main Building Backyard Project.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration

Multi-generational What?

Last Sunday a group of adults and children gathered in the RE 4 to continue working on the giant masks for this year’s Christmas pageant. One of our youngest UUs joined an adult in choosing colorful ribbons and gluing them to the horn of the Unicorn mask. At another table, a group of children and adults with the help of local puppeteer Jennifer Murphy created another mask. They used balls of newspaper held together by packing tape to mold the face of an old wise man which they covered with strips of paper saturated in paper maché paste. As I observed everyone creating, laughing and conversing I thought about how what I was witnessing exemplified multigenerational community building. Yes, multi-generational; all ages together. Other activities like the talent show or group singing in the tree house at The Mountain during this year’s October congregational retreat in which all ages gathered, cheered each other on and sang together also contribute to building multigenerational community. They help us get to know each other and appreciate the diverse needs we each have as we participate in the life of our congregation.

We are making progress in working together to dismantle the “upstairs, downstairs divide” between children and adults. I am grateful that UUCA is willing to take on this challenge. This divide meant faith formation for children usually occurred downstairs in the RE Commons. For adults, it happened upstairs in worship or adult programs. More frequent whole congregation services provide opportunities for all ages to engage in faith formation through the practice of communal worship. Children receive the message that worship is for them, too, and they witness the rituals, songs, and rhythms of worship. There may also be more opportunities for all ages movement or clapping to accompany stories, songs or meditations.  I invite you to experiment and “do when the spirit says do.”  

At times the energy level and engagement of our youngest UUs may be distracting. And, yet they are a reminder of the gift of the children’s presence among us. The discomfort we may feel is normal and a reminder that the work of inclusivity calls us to de-center our individual needs so that all of us may share the worship space. This can be challenging and is part of the process of faith formation.

Opportunities for multigenerational connection also occur during weekly Wednesday Thing programming. The planning team is scheduling regular all age events such as story yoga, game nights, creative dance, art projects, and multigen choir. There are many opportunities for multigenerational engagement at UUCA that will let our children know that they are important members of our community and strengthens their UU identity.

During this month of gratitude, I am grateful to be on this journey with you. I hope you will explore how we can continue to build multigenerational community and support lifespan faith development at UUCA. I welcome opportunities to hear your ideas and feedback. I also invite you to participate in future whole congregation worship services and multigenerational programs.

If Thanksgiving is a time for celebration, may it be a joyous, delicious occasion shared with loved ones. If it is a day of mourning a loss or grieving the injustice done to native peoples know that you are held in our hearts. Below is a link to a few conversation starters that may enliven conversation around the dinner table. Enjoy!

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development

Conversation starters