Break Out Worship – Love is…!

This past Sunday we had our annual break out service and once again we showed that worship can be “done” in many ways.  People of all ages came together around the theme of love.  At the end of the service we came back together and one person from each group gave a short summary of their break out group’s work.  The music group sang two songs “Dear World” and “I’m in Love with A Big Blue Frog.”  Many thanks to our two elementary age ukulele players who accompanied the choir!

Worship through Music – Brenda Miller & Alyson Miller – (Sanctuary)

Is it any wonder that nearly all of the music ever composed is about, or inspired by, LOVE?  Love and music are universal languages.  Whether sung or instrumental, music carries with it the often unspoken emotions of the composer and the interpreter. Led by some of our very youngest, we will learn a song called “Dear World” and hopefully a second song which speaks of love across the color spectrum – a humorous song with a social message.  Come, let us sing!  Prior experience not necessary!

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Worship through Service – Rebecca Fricke & Adrian (Craig’s Doors) – (Conference Room)

Giving of our time and resources is a large part of who we are as UUs.  This morning we will be sorting our hygiene donations for clients of Craig’s Doors as well as talking about how we can be part of the change.  In learning about the needs of our community we grow intellectually and in acting on our principles we grow spiritually.

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Worship through Art – Susan Rice – (Classrooms A and B)

Our First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person will be our starting point for today’s activities. Taking care of each other requires patience, love and hard work.  During this session we will be making Valentine Cards for the guests at Craig’s Doors.

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Worship through Conversation – Cindy Frado & Jade Lovett – (Willie Eaton Social Hall) 

There are many different kinds of love, but each of them requires a certain amount of attentiveness and proper care if they are to blossom into something of lasting beauty and endurance.  Today in worshipful conversation, we will explore and lift-up the many facets of love.

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We are all connected in wonder

This past Sunday we made rain sticks using the plans laid out in the Tapestry of Faith curriculum called Love Will Guide Us.  When our instruments were constructed I told the story provided called We Got Here Together.  After each line in the story the children made the rain sound.  The basic premise is that we are part of nature and nature is all connected AND this is truly something magnificent.  As UUs we spend a lot of time thinking about how we are all connected (7th principle) and this sense of wonder also is part of our first source which is explained like this: Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.  

The children and I talked about how science explains things around us, but we still wonder about a lot of things in our life.  We took turns talking about the things we wonder about.  Several children wonder if we are all dreaming that we are awake.  Interesting…  UUs do not have a doctrine that tells us how the world began and why.  It is up to each one of us to decide what we believe.

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In the beginning there was a seed of love

IMG_3322This Sunday I decided to do something different and actually use the UUA Tapestry of Faith curriculum.  For those of you who don’t know, Tapestry of Faith is a huge collection of UU lessons for all ages.  After some time searching I honed in on the 3rd Grade Unit called Love Will Guide Us and I decided to start with lesson one – how unlike me!  Lesson one includes a picture book called The Everything Seed which has beautiful illustrations.  The Everything Seed is a new origin story that promotes the idea that love was part of the beginning of the universe.

Here are some great follow up questions to go with the story.  Unfortunately, because of our time crunch we had to sacrifice an in depth discussion so we could move on to our seed craft.  As I am writing this, I have an odd sensation that I have said this before… maybe I should schedule RE till 11:45?  Anyhow, here are the questions:

  • I wonder what things were inside that Everything Seed? (Lead participants to list things in our universe.)
  • How do you think love came out of the Everything Seed? How love could be inside a seed?
  • What sorts of ways might our universe continue to unfold? What new things might grow out of the Everything Seed?
  • Why is it important we remember that we need to love each other and everything on Earth? (Lift up the meaning of the interconnected web of life to Unitarian Universalists.)

Most of the children were quick to say that the story wasn’t true and should have mentioned the Big Bang Theory.  So we did talk about what a myth was and how stories can represent truth.  One child did suggest that Love in the story was like God.  Several others pointed out that astronomers believe there are other universes.  There was so much more to say, but over to the tables we went.

What is a symbol?  We talked about how people like to represent ideas with pictures and we named a few.  I asked them to come up with their own symbol of love and to use the seeds I provided to decorate the symbol.  Most did not need any prompting and I have photo evidence below.  While we were busy gluing seeds onto our designs I told them about the sermon going on upstairs which was about Sanctuary.  We talked about Lucio Perez, the Central American who has taken refuge in the First Congregational Church down the street, and how we can use love to help guide us in our justice work.

I made a seed design too.  I used the symbol the author included on every page and I offered to let the children sign their names and I told them I would give the card to Mr. Perez so he can know that we are thinking about him and hoping things will work out for him.

Love is a force we all need to learn how to channel for good.  

It’s time to March!

This past Sunday, in honor of MLK, the RE children made signs that they will be able to hold in the upcoming Women’s March in Northampton.  Come join the UUSA at the march!

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To start the lesson off we talked about Dr. King’s work and the fact that he studied a famous man called Henry David Thoreau who was baptized in a Unitarian Church.  Despite the fact that Thoreau rejected the church, many of his friends were Unitarians and today UUs hold him up as a someone to be honored for his actions and beliefs.  Dr. King, early in his schooling considered becoming a UU, but eventually settled on maintaining his Southern Christian traditions.  Dr. King also looked carefully at Ghandi’s political work as a source of inspiration.  I also took a few minutes to show the children images of people in Amherst who are working hard on social justice issues such as member Hwei Ling Greeney, the people at the Amherst Survival Center and the Pioneer Valley Workers Center.

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2018 – A New Year to fill with Happiness!

For the past two weeks I have taken a blog break.  Since Christmas fell on a Sunday this year we did not have a regular RE session and I went on vacation with my family.  I heard the Christmas Eve Family Service was a full house and the electric candles were beautiful.  Several of our children stepped in to pose as angels, Mary and Joseph.  The following Sunday was New Year’s Eve and we did not have RE.  So, this past Sunday was the first time back for many of us!

calendar-2-uu.jpgTo usher in the new year each child received a calendar* for 2018 and I gave them the following options:  They could graffiti on the photos with permanent markers, add in the special dates (like birthdays), glue on our 7 principles throughout the months (one per month), take old calendar photos to collage onto the new calendar, and finally if they did not like their 2018 calendar, they could make a new calendar using old calendar photos and photocopies of 2018 months.

Honestly, it was a bit of a raucous morning!  I think the combination of being back after acalendar-uu.jpg long break and permission to graffiti contributed to the high level of glee and silly talk, but then don’t we all need some time just to be silly?  I meant to talk about resolutions and using our principles to guide us, but after one attempt to redirect I decided to let the kids direct the conversation.

*To do this activity you will need to collect free calendars from the congregation and your friends – many nonprofits send calendars out as part of their end-of-year appeals and they are perfect for this activity!

 

The 2018 horses calendar was made by kindergartner who very carefully chose photos of cats and horses from two separate 2016 calendars.  She only had time to glue three months onto big sheets of construction paper, but she took the rest of the photocopies and the old calendar photos home to finish the project.

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This past Sunday the UUSA was closed due to the snow storm so I went out to the woods with friends, our dogs and my husband.  On the hike my friend told me that she knew someone who used to say that she worshiped in the “Church of the Blue Dome.”  On that morning I certainly appreciated the “blue dome”  and all that was under it.  The brilliant white snow, the slow circling hawks, the way our footsteps crunched through the snow and the wet flakes drifting down from the tree branches.  I hope all of you enjoyed your day too!

This coming Sunday we will be combining our Hanukkah service with our RE Solstice Service.  Yes, it’s going to be all about light.

Hope to see you there.

Meditate Upon a Star

This past Sunday Lesley led us in an exercise that involved closing our eyes and imagining a star…  Lesley used a mindfulness activity written by Susan Kaiser Greenland:

“In this visualization we imagine there is a special star in the sky that helps us relax our bodies and quiet our minds.  
Imagine that there is a star in the sky that is just for you.  It can look like anything at all – it can be any color, be made out of any material, and it may change from moment to moment, day to day, just as everything changes. Sometimes large and sometimes small, sometimes bright and sometimes dim, your star is always there. Let’s feel the warmth of the star on our bodies.

As the starlight shines on your forehead, feel your forehead relax and all the stress and strain of the day fade away.  Then imagine that the starlight shines on your shoulders, your arms, your hands, your chest, your back, your belly, your lower back, your legs, your ankles and your feet.  Finally, imagine that your whole body is resting in the warmth of the starlight.” 

 

We turned off the lights and pretended to be outside on a warm summer’s night or wrapped up in a snuggly sleeping bag on a cold winter’s night.

Our art project involved wooden sticks and glue.  This coming weekend we will add tissue paper.  We used two different designs to accommodate the age range we have and in the end, I think everyone successfully made both kinds of stars.  One boy remembered he learned how to make a star without glue and that was super cool!

 

We will use the same mindfulness exercise in our RE December Solstice service on the 17th and we will hang our finished stars on the chalice table for everyone to enjoy.

We will also sing following songs with the congregation:

Twinkle Twinkle – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yCjJyiqpAuU

Twinkle twinkle little star

How I wonder what you are

Up above the world so high

Like a diamond in the sky
Twinkle twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are

 

Shine on Me – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rO5oDiZ1VKE

Shine on me

Shine on me

Let the light from the lighthouse

Shine on Me

 

Great Big Star – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS23bzABGko
Great big stars way up yonder
Great big stars way up yonder
All around the world gonna shine, shine.
All around the world gonna shine, shine.

Home

Last Sunday Rev. Frado told a story about a mouse without a house and how other forest animals who at first refused to house him eventually did what they could for him.  Rabbit gave tufts of fur to keep him warm and Squirrel gave him an acorn from the family stash.  Mouse wakes up to receive these generous gestures and realizes that he will need to rely on his community to stay warm and fed until he can make a new home.

972238Downstairs we continued with the theme of doing what you can and treating people with respect and dignity by reading A Lady in The Box by Ann McGovern.  In the story two children start to help Dorrie, a homeless woman, who lives in a box near their apartment house.  Eventually they tell their mother why things are going missing from their home and the mother gets involved in helping too.

If I had more time I would have asked the following questions:

  • How would you feel if you had to rely on a stranger to provide your lunch every day?
  • How does it feel when you are hungry and you have to wait to eat?
  • What are ways we could help those who are hungry?
  • What do you think would be the hardest part of not having a home?
  • If you did not have a place to live, what things would be most important to you? Where would you sleep? How would you stay clean?
  • What things are you grateful for? Are these things you need to live or things that are simply nice to have?

IMG_2872Instead we had a short conversation about the Town of Amherst, the UUSA and the children help homeless people in our area and then we moved on to the art and poetry project because our time was running out.  Before breaking up to do the activity we wrote and acrostic poem using the word “HOME.”  Then I gave some rather loose directions.  The children could draw a picture of their home or a home and if they wanted to, write a poem of their own.  I ended circle by saying that feeling grateful for what we have actually helps us to help others.

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Pete Seeger Sang for ALL of us

This past Sunday we had a Whole Congregation service.  While I know it is difficult for some children to sit still, I believe that is important for the children to be upstairs about once a month so they feel like they are part of our community and so the adults see the children as part of our worshiping community.  I do not expect children to pay attention the whole time and I am confident they are getting something from the service even as they stay busy with the “Busy Bags.”  Parents, it is my hope that you will take the opportunity to talk about the service with your children.  What was it about?  What did it mean to them?  What did it mean to you?  Hopefully you can encourage them to lay the busy bags aside for longer and longer periods of time, until one year, they won’t need to be busy with their hands, but instead use the time for contemplation and good listening for the whole hour.

PEteThis Sunday’s theme…

Folksinger and activist Pete Seeger became a UU later in life because he was looking for a group with which to sing, and he liked the community his local UU church gathered together. Our all-congregation worship will take the form of singing together, in community, familiar Seeger songs about issues of importance and beauty.