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!

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.

 

CT River Is Part of Our Web of Life

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!!

 

And so we begin another year together…

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 be… the Connecticut River.

Sometime the Top Doesn’t have the Best View

 

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!

Rebecca

Flowers and More Flowers!

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.

Rebecca

 

flowers

Memorial Day Walk to the Park

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.