Backpack Blessings

This past Sunday our morning began with getting the wiggles out – or some of them – on the playground. Eventually we settled and Reverend Rachael led us in some breathing exercises and then she talked about what a “blessing” was. What is a blessing? According to the dictionary.com a blessing is as follows:

blessing

bles-ing ]See synonyms for: blessing / blessings on Thesaurus.com🍎 Elementary Level


noun the act or words of a person who blesses.a special favor, mercy, or benefit:the blessings of liberty.a favor or gift bestowed by God, thereby bringing happiness.the invoking of God’s favor upon a person:The son was denied his father’s blessing.praise; devotion; worship, especially grace said before a meal:The children took turns reciting the blessing.approval or good wishes:The proposed law had the blessing of the governor.

Since we are Unitarian Universalists we encourage people to use the definition of “blessing” in the way that feels best.

In order to help us focus on our packs we each threaded a backpack charm – made by congregants – through a zipper or a loop of our bag. Then we took a few moments to think about what we hoped and wished for the coming year.

Following the blessing ritual we broke into two small groups. The elementary children and I read the book The Oldest Student, by Mary Walker. What is the connection to the day’s theme? Well, we often carry books in our backpacks and we like to celebrate people who are determined, no matter the odds, to learn. Check out the book – you will be amazed at Mary’s life story.

Welcome Back – Water Communion – Part 1

Saturday we opened the building for the first time since March 2020. We had four stations for people to work through. The people who felt safe enough to come and who could fit it into their busy schedule appreciated seeing the space after such a long time.

Part 2 – Sunday, September 12th – RE OUTSIDE!

Drop off – Sanitize, sign in and parents go to the meeting table.

Children – 10 minutes on the playground to get the wiggles out.

Meet under the trees as a large group – explain the three stations.

  1. Water pouring – who can get the longest water trail?
  2. How many drops fit on a penny? A nickel? A quarter?
  3. Water maze – can you get your drop through the maze?

Circle Time

UU chant – We are Unitarian, Universalists with open minds, loving hearts and the glow of generosity.

Check In

Story

Discussion – Remember the Connecticut River Clean Up??

Good bye!

September 11th – Water Communion Preparation Activities – Let the year begin!

Water Communion SATURDAY, September 11th (from 11 AM – 2 PM) – Come one, come all! You are invited into the sanctuary to bring water from a place in your life to add to our communal water.  In addition there will be special all ages activity stations in the sanctuary.  Please fill out this form by Friday at noon to choose a time slot to come to the UUSA. Even if you don’t plan to join us in person, it’d be helpful if you submitted a response to the form.

Below are the four stations that will be in the UUSA for people to interact with. Family and friend groups will be spaced out, windows will be open, people will be masked.

Religious Education Plan for September


Due to the unpredictable nature of Covid and life on earth right now, we are planning one month at a time.  This month we will be holding RE outside at Wildwood Elementary School from 9AM – 10 AM.  Parents will have the chance to meet in a small group for check-in and discussion.
This Sunday’s topic will be about… water!
Please follow our rules when attending RE:

  • Do NOT come if you have any symptoms of illness or if you have been in close contact with someone who has.  Be safe, not sorry.
  • Masks must be worn at all times by ages 2 and up.  (Exceptions will be made for non-verbal children.)
  • Adults and children will sanitize hands upon arrival.
  • Social distance will be maintained during activities.  (Adults should bring chairs for the small group session.)
  • For the safety of all, at this time we are not offering programming for children under 3. All children 3 and up must be able to separate from their guardians and must be masked.
  • RE will happen EXCEPT in pouring rain. Check your email if in doubt. Rebecca will try to send out a cancellation by 8AM.

In the very near future we will have an RE zoom option for those families who can not make it to our in-person sessions.
YoUUrs,

Rebecca

Flower Ceremony Part II

Come into this zoom space, this special place.  Be in this worship that is real, but not physical.  Feel the love, the gratitude, the sorrow and the joy.  See the hope and care reflected in the faces of our congregants, our minister and our staff.  We are here together.  Take a deep breath.  Clear your mind. Relax. Ready?  Set.  Zoom.

This was my reflection/introduction for the congregational flower ceremony slide show.

This past week I began to think of flowers and gardens as metaphors for life.  I thought of how the flowers in our flower ceremony come from all different places, the way we do when we join together.  Some of the flowers come from carefully tended beds and some come from beds, like in my garden which I like to joke is designed around the concept of the survival of the fittest.  Some may come from really hard places like between the cracks in a sidewalk.  In the process of thinking about this I found this quote by Anne Lamott, which came from her book Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

“The garden is one of the two great metaphors for humanity.

The garden is about life and beauty and the impermanence of all living things.

The garden is about feeding your children, providing food for the tribe.

It’s part of an urgent territorial drive that we can probably trace back to animals storing food.

It’s a competitive display mechanism, like having a prize bull, this greed for the best tomatoes and English tea roses.

It’s about winning; about providing society with superior things; and about proving that you have taste, and good values, and you work hard.

And what a wonderful relief, every so often, to know who the enemy is.

Because in the garden, the enemy is everything: the aphids, the weather, time.

And so you pour yourself into it, care so much, and see up close so much birth, and growth, and beauty, and danger, and triumph.

And then everything dies anyway, right?

But you just keep doing it.”

We have spent this past year on zoom.  I can tell you I had more than a few moments where I thought to myself, really, can I really do this another Sunday?  Maybe you asked yourself this same question or maybe you had a different question you asked yourself.  But we just kept doing it and we did it together for 42 Sundays.  Oh we had glitches.  We had some long moments when the video didn’t play or someone couldn’t unmute, but for the most part we all managed to pull off “going to service” without actually going anywhere! 

Then, last Sunday was like that moment when the rain stops and the clouds split open and the sun streams down.  Last Sunday many of us gathered outside our meetinghouse to exchange flowers, make art, and sing songs together. One person did not plan last Sunday.  I can tell you because I was part of different groups who brainstormed what our first outdoor time could be like.  At first it was just exchanging flowers and getting our pictures taken. But then somebody said, what if we have an art project, and somebody else said, what if the RE classes get to see each other in person, and somebody else said, what if the choir can sing together, and it just got bigger and bigger! 

So last Sunday was Part I of the Flower Ceremony and this Sunday is part II.  Lea, our Congregational Administrator Extraordinaire spent most of last Sunday taking pictures and during this past week she made a slideshow of us with our flowers to bring that joyful moment into this one.  Thank you to those who could not attend last Sunday’s event, but who sent in photos.  And if you were unable to attend in person or send a photo, please know you are still part of our ceremony, because you are here today.

The past few Sundays…

May 9th – Happy Mother’s Day! No RE!

May 16th – Youth led Worship which you can find here:  https://youtu.be/4jtiu1z3bc8

May 23rd – Volunteer Recognition

Saying this year has been a challenge is an understatement, but sometimes it is hard to encapsulate an experience in just a few words.  At the same time, challenging situations like the pandemic can bring out the best in people and I believe that we have experienced that in the RE program.  

Let me start by saying thank you to Jacy.  Jacy is dependable and unwavering in her enthusiasm and dedication to her preschool program.  She developed a zoom routine that the preschool families showed up for consistently throughout the year.  The young children got so used to talking and following along on zoom that some of them probably would have gladly taken over as host if Jacy had let them!  Jacy also stepped in to be my second adult during the elementary zooms and she was a wonderful colleague and facilitator.  She always added to the discussions either with comments and questions and she gave me good ideas and feedback during our debrief.

I would like to thank Theo Stanforth for his volunteer time.  Theo was Jacy’s volunteer Preschool helper and he helped her almost every single Sunday that we had RE.  This was Theo’s second full year with the program and we are going to miss him very much, but we know that he has bridges to cross and new experiences to be had.  

Thank you to Ed Tick for leading the elementary Greek Myth and UU Principles RE Zooms.  I thought the way Ed connected the myths with our principles was wonderful.  The lessons often involved drawing and during the telling, Ed encouraged the children to tell him what they knew about the myths and other myths from other parts of the world.  When Ed first volunteered he did not know that he was going to be facilitating over zoom and I am so grateful he agreed to adapt to the new format.

Thank you to Brooke Burrows and Anne Louise White for their thoughtful and enthusiastic facilitation of the Youth Group Zoom.  This was a difficult year for youth and the monthly meetings were a time for expressing joys and sorrows, but also a time to play games, think about the future and make an important decision.  Last summer someone gave back some money that they had kept on behalf of the youth group many many years ago.  This year’s group was tasked with figuring out what to do with the money.  They have decided to donate to the Survival Center, Arise and use a portion of it to help fund a small end of year celebration which will include fire and ice cream.  I am so grateful for the youth for their dedication and the hard work they put into the service they led last week.

Big thank you to the Religious Education Ministry.  During our monthly meetings it was clear to me that the members were under an incredible amount of strain.  All of them have children and all of them are in education.  And despite the pressure they showed up to support the program and me.  I am so grateful for their energy, their ideas and their devotion to the UU.

I would like to thank Lea for her administrative support and expertise.  Brenda for her music and Reverend Rachael for her ongoing support.  Rev. Rachael and I meet weekly for an hour and usually we start off the morning saying, “we don’t have much on the agenda” and the next thing we know the hour is up and we have covered a dozen topics pertaining to the Society, RE, ministry, UUism, world politics and occasionally the weather.  I am grateful to be part of a strong team willing to do whatever it takes to make our organization the best it can be.

Last but not least, I would like to thank the children, youth and parents and guardians for sticking with Zoom and being such conscientious zoom attendees.  I know how hard it is to stay focussed, to feel connected and to learn online.  And I know that as the weather warms up, the sun shines, the gardens grow and the water warms up, it is harder and harder to keep focussed on the screen.  Please know that RE is planning for programming outside this summer!  It will be good to see everyone in person and if you can not come to summer events, we are hoping to be in person this fall.  

I will end with this quote:  “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow” — Melody Beattie

Yes, this year was challenging and yes, Zoom is less than ideal.  But I am so very grateful we were able to hold our program together as much as we have and that is all thanks to the people I have mentioned by name and the countless people I have not named.  Blessed Be.

May 30th – Memorial Day Weekend – No RE!

Eighth Principle work in RE

This was the reflection I read this past Sunday during the Time for All Ages.

5-2-21 – 8th Principle Work in RE

As is often the case, schools and children begin working on social justice and climate issues before the movements take hold in the larger society.  I believe it is the same for the 8th Principle which in kid language can be summarized as We will work to end racism. The UU Religious Education curriculum has been emphasizing the 8th Principle work for years and all of my DRE workshops over the past six years have had an Antiracism lens.  

Jacy and I have incorporated antiracism and anti oppression work into many of our lessons.  It is not hard to do and it is the right thing to do.  Some will argue that we do not need the 8th Principle because our 7 Principles do not accommodate racism.  And yet, the 7 Principles have existed for decades, our faith for decades longer and still there is racism and racist structures in the UU.  Often it helps to be extremely blunt about what your intentions are in order to get things done.  The 8th principle gives us that clarity and reinforces the work that many UUs think is essential to our faith.  When our children hear, “We will work to end racism” they can be assured that our faith cares deeply about them, their friends and family of color and their community.

I will end by showing you the graphic I used during our February lesson on the 8th Principle.  I’m sure many of you have seen it before, but some of you might be surprised to see an extra box or two.  Take a moment to really look at it and think about what the pictures mean.  

I will end with these two questions: How do you stand behind the fence?  And what do you want to do with the fence? 

Celebrate Earth Day Every Day

Here is a quick video explanation about the origin of Earth Day.

Taking care of the earth is part of the UU faith and deeply embedded in the 7th Principle which states Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. And we need to remember that Environmental Justice is entwined with Racial Justice. Climate change is already affecting our black and brown friends, family and neighbors at a faster rate. It is up to white people to use their privilege and power to change laws and behaviors that will limit our CO2 emissions and clean up the earth. You are never too young to start lobbying your representatives for change!

Activity suggestion – make a list of all the things you can RECYCLE, REDUCE and REUSE. Start saving today.

Easter Around the World

Last Sunday Rev. Rachael accepted my challenge and explained Easter in about 5 minutes during our Time for All Ages. Not easy to do! There are a lot of videos, mostly cartoons, that attempt this feat, but I thought we should hear it straight from our UU Minister’s mouth. It was a lot to take in and I am not sure how much was absorbed by young and old, but that’s how these important holidays go. We build our understanding of the holidays as we grow.

In our RE Zoom we talked about the Easter story and then I showed the children photos of how Easter is celebrated around the world. I used this blog for most of my information and then searched the internet for images. We ended with images from Antigua, Guatemala. I was lucky enough to see their traditions first hand in 1999 so I could talk about what it was like to be there.

We ended up talk about how it can be fun and interesting to learn about other religions and the travel it could involve. During Covid it is hard to remember what traveling was like, but one day we will have that option again!