Focus On a Book

Thanks to Susan and her expert children’s librarian skills , our small group of K-4th graders spent the entire 40 minute session reading and talking about this book!  IMG_1851I loved participating with the children and seeing how they thought through what appeared to be a simple book, but which was in fact a pretty complicated story about a mob of little acorn creatures who take and take until… well, I won’t spoil it, but I will say it took a lot of UU caring and sharing to get through to the end.   The pictures are awesome and a good message can be found.  Check it out here on Goodreads.  I’m not exactly sure I agree with the write-up, but go ahead check it out for yourself!  We filled up the whole time with looking at the pictures and talking about the story that we had no time for an activity which I think is a first.  And since it was just a day before our national celebration of MLK, our conversation turned to what MLK’s message was and why it was so important for our nation to hear.  What do you do when the crowd around you is acting on principles you don’t appreciate or believe in?

 

 

 

 

Gathered Here

silhouette-of-people-illustration-thumbnailThis past Sunday we had a whole congregation service based on being present together.  For the Time for All Ages we read Peaceful Piggy Meditation by Kerry Lee MacLean.  Following the Time for All Ages we read an excerpt from Thich Naht Hanh’s  You Are Here.  The point of both?  Be present, be aware of your breathing.  Be calm and focused on the here and now.

Can you guess what we did next?

We breathed in and out.

A minute seems like a very long time when you are focused on your breath.

And yet we did and we did it together.  Several times.  You could feel the energy in the room.  And in the quiet, there was the sound of us gathering in.  That sound is very special.  I suspect it is that sound of gathering that is what keeps people coming back every Sunday whether they know it or not.

Then we tried a walking meditation while singing the The Plum Village song I have Arrived which you can hear here.  I say we tried because so many people got up to walk that it was actually hard to move!  What a good problem.  Next time we will move in two circles to help us get going.

Thanks to all.

 

 

 

Setting Intentions – Happy New Year!

It is a new year.  A time when people often set goals and resolutions.  Last Sunday in RE, Lesley Smith helped our UU children do two mindfulness exercises.  The first was to imagine themselves in the future.  What would they be?  Who would be with them?  What would they be doing?  The children’s answers varied between the magical and the real.  A writer for fairies, a hovercraft driver, a princes in a castle with a unicorn, a historian.  The second activity focused on what it would feel like to be this you.  What would it smell, taste, look and sound like?

The third activity was an art project that involved embossing on tinfoil with sharpie pens.  Very satisfying.  The designs were supposed to represent their intentions for the year to come.  The results were beautiful.

Loving Kindness

Sunday, December 8th we began upstairs and during the Time for All Ages Rev. Rachael told us a story centered around the third principle.

3rd Principle: We believe that we should accept one another and keep on learning together.

Downstairs Lesley Smith worked with the children on learning a mantra that sends kindness to ourselves, to those we know and out into the world.

As you sit comfortably with your eyes closed, imagine what you wish for your life. We practiced saying four phrases out loud and then silently:

May I/you be safe.

May I/you be healthy and strong.

May I/you be happy.

May I/you be peaceful and at ease.

We repeated these wishes, directing them first to ourselves and then towards different people in our lives as follows:

  • Start by directing the phrases to yourself.
  • Next, direct the thought towards someone you feel thankful for or who has helped you.
  • Now visualize someone you feel neutral about—people you neither like nor dislike. Direct the thoughts to that person.
  • Next, direct the thoughts to someone you don’t like or who you are having a difficult time dealing with.
  • Finally, direct the thoughts towards everyone universally: May all beings everywhere be happy.

IMG_1535Following the good wishes we dropped different sized and weighted objects into a large bowl to watch the ripple effect.  Big kind acts = lots of ripples and splashes of kindness!  Little kind acts still make ripples.

We took a moment to acknowledge Jesus and his messages of inherent worth  and loving kindness.  Happy Birthday and Merry Christmas Jesus!

Green Slime and Gratitude

This past Sunday I knew UUSA member Janis Gray was giving the sermon and in it she was going to talk about a green slimy dessert that was a traditional part of her family Thanksgiving dinner.  Can you guess what I decided to do during RE?

Before I answer, I’ll let you know that during Joys and Sorrows we talked about how Thanksgiving is both a time of joy and a time of sorrow.  Many Native Americans call Thanksgiving the Day of Mourning and it is important that we acknowledge how terrible the Pilgrims were to the native people who lived on this continent before they arrived from Europe.  It is also important to remember that not everyone has enough food to eat or a warm place to sleep.  So, while we take the time to share a meal and family, let us not forget our past or our neighbors and friends who may not have enough.

Janis’s funny story about her family’s green dessert gave me the perfect excuse for us to make non-edible green slime!  It turns out green slime is easy to make and not surprisingly, a big hit with the children.  Here is the recipe:  two Tablespoons Corn Starch, one and a half Tablespoons dish soap and a few drops of green food coloring – mix, mix, add more soap, add more starch, keep mixing and kneading until you get the consistency you want.  The more you mix and knead, the better the slime becomes!

Once we got to the point where we could pull our slime and not have it stick to our fingers we took turns reading poems about gratitude in a book called Thanks a Million by Nikki Grimes.  The book has beautiful messages and pictures.

Between the slime and the gratitude poems I think the children are set for Thanksgiving!  Parents, you’ll be happy to know that this version of slime dries pretty quickly so you probably won’t be finding it all over your house.

Enjoy the time off school and work and remember, if you need help or support in any way, please do not hesitate to reach out to me.

 

Tasting Grief and Gratitude

This past Sunday we had a Whole Congregation service led by Rev. Rachael.  It was good to see the children looking interested, sleepy some of the time, alert most of the time, participating in the taste meditation focused on grief and gratitude.  Listen – ding – chew bread – listen – ding – chew bread (repeat 10 times!).  The challenge was to chew slowly and make the bread last.  Many many people lined up to drop a glass stone in the Joys and Sorrows vase.

I believe that children need to learn to sit through worship and ritual that isn’t all about them.  As a teacher I told my elementary school students that one of THE MOST important skills in life is to be able to sit still and look interested even when you are not.  It is my hope that in learning how to sit through worship children will learn to appreciate more and more of the service until one day they too are taken through the arc of emotions the Sunday worship leaders strive for when planning the service.

I am hoping Rev. Rachael and I can work together to do these types of services more and more.  This service was all hers and I was grateful to participate in it and share it with the children.  It was a service that was truly good for all ages.

Our sanctuary had only three seats empty.  Amazing.  To be able to worship with so many is a joy.

 

Universal Signs of Love

This past Sunday we explored the Second Principle by learning about the Side With Love campaign work that UUs have embraced as integral to our work.

“SIDE WITH LOVE LOVE IS A PUBLIC ADVOCACY CAMPAIGN THAT SEEKS TO HARNESS LOVE’S POWER TO STOP OPPRESSION. IT IS SPONSORED BY THE UNITARIAN UNIVERSALIST ASSOCIATION AND ALL ARE WELCOME TO JOIN.”

The Side With Love campaigners wear bright yellow t-shirts when they are out and about and I thought it would be fun for us to make our own.  We had a great time as you will see in the photo gallery below.

Talking About Race and Campaigning with Principles

This past Sunday we read the story Not My Idea, by Anastasia Higginbotham.  Not My Idea was difficult to read because conversations about race are hard, but oh so very necessary.  There are no easy answers, but the message is clear – children need to learn about our US history, white systems of power and supremacy and how racism affects people every day in every way.  Downstairs we talked about the book and the children talked about the fact that their parents often will not tell them what bad things are in the news and how this makes them feel.  I found this site which parents and guardians might want to check out.

Children’s Books

Following our check in we talked about voting and I read the book Vote FOR ME by Ben Clanton.  (Spoiler alert!)  Not surprisingly, the independent mouse who stuck to the issues won the storybook election.  After reading the story and thinking about the candidates’ behaviors I gave them the opportunity to crack open the dress up box, make up a character and pick a UU Principle to turn into a campaign slogan.  Since the Sunday’s group included children from Kindergarten up through 4th grade I was prepared for a wide interpretation of the activity, but in the end everyone got right to work and a few even took advantage of costuming to change their identities. 

What were the two top themes?  “Be kind in all you do and each person is important!

While the children were drawing I read the book Granddaddy’s Turn: A Journey to the Ballot Box, by Michael S. Bandy which is about a young boy who goes to vote with his African American grandfather who in the end was denied the vote because he could not read the constable’s illegal reading test.  At the end of the story the young boy, now an 18 year old young man goes to vote for the first time with a picture of his grandfather in hand.

Today is Election Day  – Go Vote!  Your voice counts!

“Vote for Purple Dog for President!!”

 

Cooking for Lucio

Last Sunday our RE children could tell me which Principles related to cooking for Lucio Perez, a Guatemalan man who has been in sanctuary at the First Congregational Church for the past two years.  In looking to link the corresponding principles I found this on the The First Parish in Lexington (MA) website:

Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, and Violet.

  • Respect the importance and value of each person
  • Offer fair and kind treatment to everyone
  • Yes to spiritual growth and learning together
  • Grow by exploring ideas and finding your own truth
  • Believe in your ideals and voice your vote
  • Insist on justice, freedom and peace for all
  • Value our responsibility in the web of life

The RE children named Principles 1,2,4,5 and 6.

After a very quick explanation we got right to work and divided into three stations – one for salad making, one for lasagna making and one for pie baking.  By the end of 45 minutes all of the children had taken a turn in the three stations and we had three significant dishes for one of our families to take home to bake and deliver on Monday.  Thank you to those who donated the food for us to prepare.  Lucio – we hope you enjoy the food!

UU UNO

This past Sunday was a whole congregation service centered on the UU United Nations Office, the work that the office does and the experiences of Ally (teen) and Kate (adult chaperone) at the past Spring Symposium.  You can check out this year’s Symposium here.  Rev. Rachael reflected on the work that the UUA has done, but also the work that remains to be done.  We were encouraged to take some deep breaths because, yes, there is a lot of work we still have to do.

During the TIME FOR ALL AGES Kate Rice read Intersection Allies: We Make Room for All by C. Johnson, L Council, and C. Choi.  I highly recommend this picture book for families interested in talking about how to be good allies. 

Building bridges between our divisions, I 

Reach out to you, will you reach out to me? With

All of our voices and all of our visions,

Friends, we could make such sweet harmony

During the service children had the opportunity to color in a visual Order of Service which had drawings that related to the different sections of the service, including the Gender Unicorn.  The worksheet shown below was included in the regular orders of service.

Image result for gender unicorn transstudent.org