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.

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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.

Mystery Boxes and Mindfulness

IMG_2840As a warm up this week, children practiced mindful walking as a strategy for bringing their attention to the present moment. They did two kinds of focused walking, first they noticed  the sensations involved in the process of walking.  Secondly, they included a wish of gratitude with every step and sent a wish of thanks to others.

Our main focus for the day was a game called “Mystery Box”.  Children took turns guessing what was inside a mystery box.  After we found out what was inside we noticed how it feels when we don’t know the outcome of a situation or the answer to a question. Anxious, excited, and frustrated were all feelings that children described.   After a couple of rounds of the games, one child noticed that the feelings didn’t change the outcome of what was in the box.  Later we prepared “mystery envelopes” so that children could play a version of the game at home with their families.

 

The game Mystery Box was inspired by the Mindful Living work of Susan Kaiser Greenland.

Samhain: A Celtic Service of Remembrance

For the last Sunday in October, the whole congregation called the Directions and created sacred space.  In the sacred space we hung our leaves on the Tree of Life and had a spice cookie and cider communion to remember those loved ones who have gone before us.

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In the Celtic tradition, Halloween attire was acceptable and encouraged. Adults and kids came dressed in costume and some brought their carved pumpkins to decorate the sanctuary for the hour.

Special thanks to the teens who met on Saturday night.  The teens helped to cut out all of the leaves and bake the soul cakes!

Don’t Label Me!

This past Sunday we discussed what it means to be prejudiced and also what it means to be tolerant.  We then brainstormed all the labels we could think of and as we brainstormed we wrote the words down on bricks and before we knew it we had covered our drawing person up.  Then we talked about how to get to know people so that we can describe them for who they are instead of trying to sum them up in one word.  For each idea we thought of, we removed one brick till we could see our person.

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Following our discussion we watched Dr. Seuss’s The Sneetches which led to more discussion about how we label each other and the harms that labels can cause.  Our final discussion centered on what kind of minster the children would like the Ministerial Search Committee to hire.  The children listed some very admirable qualities!

Funny

Serious

Good at telling stories.

Interested in knowing each person in the congregation.

Good at talking.

Nice.

An Apple a Day…but which kind tastes best?

In the context of the Human Sexuality and Safer Congregation themes this past Sunday, RE read Just Because I Am by Lauren Murphy.  Just Because I am is a gentle, but comprehensive illustrated picture book about taking care of yourself and others.  It delves into saying yes and no, eating healthy and recognizing your feelings of happiness, sadneIMG_2703ss and anger.  It encourages children to look for comfort and understanding and it invites children of all ages to think about their self-respect.  1st and 2nd Principle!

IMG_2702Following the serious discussion we had some fun tasting the apples Jacy bought at her local farmers market.  After tasting each kind (maybe a few times) we rated them by 1st, 2nd and 3rd best tasting.  Then we did some math to try and figure out what our dots meant!  We talked about how the favorite apple is not found in supermarkets and how we need to take care of our environment and biodiversity, including the diversity of our fruit and vegetable crops – Principle 7!

In the afternoon I spent four hours with Kate and six senior youth building at the North Amherst Habitat for Humanity site.  It was hard work, but very satisfying.  Five out of the six youth hadn’t held a hammer probably more than a few times, but they managed to put up siding on three out of the four sides of an attached shed!  Good job youth! – Principle 2!FullSizeRender

 

Indigenous People’s Day

Drums_for_sale_at_the_National_Museum_of_the_American_IndianThe Native American Spirit

The Reverend Cynthia A. Frado led the congregation in a celebration of the wisdom of Native American Elders. With Rev. Frado, the congregation consecrated a Medicine Wheel and listened to the sound of the drum.  Rev. Frado hoped “the drum beats would carry people to that place where the heartbeat of nature speaks to your own spirit.”

 

What’s your 11th Commandment?

What would you say the 11th Commandment should be?  This past Sunday we talked about the Ten Commandments and how they were similar and different from the UU IMG_2604Principles.  Then we read The 11th Commandment which is  filled with children’s ideas and drawings of what they think the 11th Commandment should be.  My group thought it was interesting that the children featured were from many different kinds of faiths, but they were all basically saying the same thing – we should be good to each other.

Our activity was not exactly related, but in the spirit of creativity and reuse and recycle, I gave the children each 8-10 Guest at Your Table boxes that were left over from the past years’ campaigns.  I suggested they could write the Commandments or our Principles or their own thoughts on the sides, but most just wanted to build without guidelines. IMG_2601

There was a lot of glue involved and some colored paper and tape.

 

Perhaps “Have fun together!” should be the 11th Commandment?

And in the spirit of having fun together, the High School Youth group took a hike up Bear Mountain at the Notch.  We had a heartfelt discussion about how walking and being outside can be a worshipful experience.  We checked in and we talked about things we can do to let our representatives know we don’t agree in nuclear weapons and war.  One of the teens suggested looking online for sites that provide scripts for different topics and representatives’ contact information.

Thanks to all the teens who participated!

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Minding Stones

This week children used stones as part of their practice bringing their attention to the present moment.  They experimented with using their senses as a tool for focus, noticing the sight and feel of stones.  Children tried it a couple of different ways, both guided and using a chime as a signal.   Later children chose a special stone to keep in a pocket to as a special reminder of qualities  that they would like to develop. All kids enjoyed using acrylics to paint the rocks with special symbols.