This past Sunday was dedicated to the UU’s First Principle: The inherent worth and dignity of every person. Or as the children like to say, “Each person is important.”
We started the morning upstairs for the beginning of service. Reverend Rachael read a story about a snowflake that I have heard many variations of, but this particular version was found in the book A Lamp in Every Corner. The moral of the story (as they say) is that no flake is the same and many flakes are significant. Downstairs we continued the discussion, but instead of snowflakes we talked about people. I asked, if we are all important and worthy, then what do we do when someone is behaving badly? How should we deal with a person who is not being kind? Is someone who is a bully still important? Still inherently worthy? The children came up with a variety of strategies including asking an adult for help, avoiding the person and talking to the person.
We then split into two groups. The younger children read the story I’m New Here by Anne Sibley O’Brien which is a wonderful book about children from other countries coming to America and starting at a new school.
The older group started a people map which is an idea I got from Tapestry of Faith. In order to help them understand how important people are in their lives we started out by identifying everyone in our immediate family and then moving on to extended family, friends and people we know in town.
Principle Challenge! Learn the UU Principles by heart at some point this year! Younger children can learn the simplified version and I encourage the older children to memorize the more complex version. At the end of the morning I handed out a principle accordion flyer. If you and your child did not get one, come and find me!
This past Sunday we talked about the Jewish High Holiday of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is a time of rejoicing, a new year celebration and also a time for personal introspection. It is a time to forgive and ask for forgiveness. We were fortunate to have a mother from Israel come in to talk about her experiences growing up celebrating the holiday and to share our sweet treat of apples and honey.
We then did two different mindfulness exercises. The first exercise was centered around the Rosh Hashanah ceremony called Tashlich which means to “cast off.” For this activity we wrote down something we wanted to forgive ourselves for and forget on a little piece of paper and then we threw the paper into a bowl of water and watched our words float, wash out and sink. We incorporated quiet thinking time as we watched our words become soggy and unreadable.
The second exercise was based on mindful eating. I placed a plate of apples and honey in the center and asked the children to talk about eating and tasting and all the different parts of the body that help us smell and taste. (It was difficult with the food in the middle!) Then we took a minute and a half to chew and smell and taste our apples and honey. After one slice we spoke again and then we tried it again.
To end the day I read the book New Year At the Pier by April Halprin Wayland.
The Thursday before this past Sunday, youth, children, parents, Rev. Rachael and I made over one hundred backpack charms using twine and beads of all kinds. Then this past Sunday we had a whole congregation service that involved Reverend Rachael blessing everyone’s backpacks, totes, purses, gym bags, knitting bags – things we all carry with us out into the world. During our time for all ages Rev. Rachael asked what a blessing was and without too much prompting a few children announced their ideas. The charms were passed out and then Rev. Rachael asked us to close our eyes (or not) and send our good thoughts (prayers) to our handy objects.
Here is a blog I found written by a UU about how people can think of the word “blessing” in a non-secular way: https://www.uuchurchmuncie.org/redefining-blessing/
The second major event of the Sunday was when the Coming of Age youth came up with their parents and their childhood objects. Jenn Chylack, Rev. Rachael and I led a short ceremony during which the youth handed over their beloved object for their parents to keep safe for a year while the youth are on a journey of discovery. There were more than a few moist eyes in the room.
This past Sunday we discussed Climate Change upstairs and downstairs we talked about the Connecticut River which flows by our neighboring towns, including Sunderland and Hadley. The CT River is an incredible watershed system that starts on the Quebec and Vermont border and runs all the way down to the Atlantic eventually joining the salt water in Connecticut. On Saturday the 28th of September the UUSA will be joining the Connecticut River Conservancy in a massive cleanup initiative that they organize every year. To prepare for that work I thought we should get to know the river and how our work connects to the UU principles.
To prepare for the clean up day we talked about the plants and animals that live along and in the river. I handed out small print outs of about 20 different species to the kids who were sitting in a circle. I then asked them to think about what their animals ate or who ate their plants and when a connection was made we passed a ball of yarn and strung a yarn link between the two. Soon we had a web of crisscrossing yarn to symbolize the connections between the plants and the insects and the fish and the birds and the mammals. Then we talked about what would happen if pollution started to effect different species and one by one the connections were broken. When we were left with nothing but a pile of snipped yarn I asked how the activity helped to demonstrate one of our principles. A few of the older children knew the answer. The seventh principle of Unitarian Universalism states, ” Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.”
After this activity I had two more for the children to do. The younger children looked at photos of the river and drew pictures. The older children wrote letters to Dunkin’ and Cumberland Farms because it turns out that a lot of the plastic and Styrofoam that is picked up from the river comes from those two stores! Hey Dunkin’ and Cumberland – stop serving food in plastic and foam!!
This past Sunday was our Water In Gathering Ceremony. (For more on the original water ceremony click here.) Our new minister, Rev. Rachael, changed a lot of things around including the chairs. We were all facing each other like we were in a really big wide boat! And for the first time in years we had an inter generational service to celebrate coming back together. We have a lot to look forward to this year and I look forward to sharing my Sundays with all of you.
This coming Sunday we will start upstairs and be sung down and our topic of the morning will Ge… the Connecticut River.
This past Sunday some of the Sanctuary Keepers, their families and I went to the top of Mt. Orient in Pelham. When we got to the good view a few kids realized that we were not at the top and I even though I told them the top did not really feel like a top, I agreed to take them while the others settled in for lunch. Another 100 feet on the two explorers agreed that the top was “just trees” and we could go back.
Sometimes when you get to the top of something you realize that the “best” spot or moment was actually found on the way up…
Have a wonderful summer everyone!
This past Sunday we held our annual flower communion and the sanctuary was filled with the scent of summer and the colors of fellowship and hope. The children participated in helping to bring the flowers into the sanctuary and then helped to distribute them later on in the service.
Rev. Steve spoke about the origins of Flower Communion which the UU summarizes here.
We also took the time to recognize our graduated high school senior, Anna, who is heading off into the world and our two preschoolers who are graduating to the elementary RE program.
Thank you to all who have helped to make our RE year special. This summer we will provide Child Care during our services except the last Sunday of the months of June, July and August.
The Sunday of Memorial Day weekend we took a walk to the nearby public park to enjoy the sunshine. Yes, the slides were too hot, but the swings were fun, the fairy house was simple to construct with a lot of helping hands and several children played gaga using the shade of a tree as the boundary. We ate our snack of watermelon, blueberries, strawberries and cookies and then it was time to go back to church.
Children explored two different concepts in mindfulness, the striving brain and the experiencing brain. Children learned that every time they notice a thought or a feeling that they were practicing mindfulness! We talked about striving thoughts and how they can grab on to each other like monkeys. We played “Drop the Monkeys” while discussing the effects of busy thoughts on our bodies. Next we read the book “Slowly Slowly” by Eric Carle and later noticed how slowing down can help to calm a busy mind. We played close attention to our body and breath sensations while moving slowly. Later we played games that used movement and music to practice slowing down and speeding up.