Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Jan. 18th: Honoring Dr. King

On Mon. Jan. 18th many families took time to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day in some way or other.  Liza sent an email with many ideas for ways to honor Dr. King's life.  One parent said they spent about two hours one evening, listening to the songs and hearing the stories that were in these resources!  

Some families from UCM decided to help the Monday Community Lunch by baking cookies!  These will supplement the 40 to-go meals given out every Monday at a pick-up in our parking area. We got so many that we have frozen some and are set for several weeks!  THANK YOU to all the families who participated in this service project.  Cookies welcome to be dropped off anytime on Liza's porch (397 Elm St.) with a label saying "UCM Community Lunch" with your name and any allergens (nuts, wheat, eggs).   

Above: Janet Poeton, a UCM Community Lunch Coordinator, prepares to package some of the home baked goods made by the congregation! 

Jan. 12th Presentation: Successfully Managing End-of-Life Issues and Challenges


Over 30 of us from UCM gathered virtually on Zoom to learn more about how to be more in control of your own end-of-life care.  Many thanks to Final Exit Network board member and volunteer presenter, Gary Wederspahn, for his very informative presentation.  The Final Exit Network is a non-profit organization that provides many free resources on their website as well as a rich array of services to those who become members.  Thanks also to Judith Hinds for connecting us with Gary. Judith longtime member of UCM and also a volunteer with Final Exit Network.  Find out more about Final Exit Network here. 

Stuffed Animal Sleepover: A celebration of Imagination and Community building


Since our January theme is Imagination, we thought we should have a little fun in the church building to kick-off the new year!  Even though we humans can't be together right now, our stuffed animals can!  We spent December getting the word out to all the kids and youth and 22 different animals joined in the fun.   

Click here for video: Just Imagine: a stuffed animal sleepover


Creating ritual at home: families and others make ice lanterns!


The care packages that families received at Thanksgiving included a #10 can as the packaging. This aligns with our 7th principle (taking care of the Earth) in that it is reused and recyclable, AND it can be used to make ice lanterns!  Families are seeking ways to add magic to the holidays in a time when we can't do many of our usual traditions because of the pandemic.  Liza and Marissa made this simple video (below) to share how it works. Click here for video: How to make an ice lantern

They're a great addition to any Winter Solstice ritual, or any holiday really--even when it isn't winter!  Check out the great lanterns made by families and individuals.  Here are some of the quotes from them, 

"We made some this weekend thanks to you. My boys are really excited to light them tomorrow." 

"So very excited!"

"James is so excited for the ice lanterns tonight!! They were fun to make and we made two for our neighbors."

"Thank you for the care package for the holiday season. We really appreciated the thought and creativity that you put into it and we enjoyed many of the activities. Making ice lanterns was our favorite new tradition this year, and Julia really enjoyed the magic of the process and the light from the lanterns at night! "

Above: Ice lantern by Elena and Eileen

Below: Ice lanterns by Ellie and Dina 

Above: Ice lanterns by Siena and Sharon 

Below: Ice lanterns by Janet

Above: Ice lanterns by James and Hannah


Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Dec. 15, 2020 ~ High School Youth Group Treat Exchange and Holiday Party


Lemon bars, ginger bars, chocolate chip cookies, rolled jam tarts, snickerdoodles, gourmet from scatch marshmallows, pudding and more! All nut and gluten free and delicious!!! These youth really know how to host a (virtual) Holiday Party!

It was a very safe and QUICK drop-off process, which including picking up a craft bag that youth advisor Elizabeth Peebles had pre-assembled. Thanks to everyone who added good cheer and tasty treats! (My apologies! While trying to black out names of the youth, I accidentally left a black-out box on a face!!!! Ah. Can't seem to undo it. So sorry!)

Photo above: Youth group members busily work on cutting paper snowflakes while visiting and feasting during the holiday party.

Photo below: Finished snowflake masterpieces! (My apologies! While trying to black out names of the youth, I accidentally left a black-out box on a face!!!! Ah. Can't seem to undo it. So sorry!)

Dec. 13, 2020: Exploring Hanukkah (Children's Chapel with Sarah Rosenthal)


We had a nice group in the Children's Chapel (virtual) today!  It's GREAT to have so many parents join, (and also FINE if you don't).  Thank you to Sarah Rosenthal for really helping us better understand the origin and traditions of Hanukkah. And the Trees of the Dancing Goats is a fabulous story!

Optional follow-up ideas: 

Play dreidel (see the instructions from the care packages).  You can use pennies, M & Ms, nuts, etc. as the currency!

LATKES--Try the recipe from the care packages, send me a pic!  Here's a fun song to get you dancing in the kitchen with the Maccabeats a capella group, called The Latke Recipe.  

MENORAHS--Keep adding a paper candle to those menorahs each night. I'd love a nice picture of any of those kids with their menorahs too!  They're beautiful!!!

Virtual visit--Click here to see all the ways you can connect with Beth Jacob synagogue for their live Hanukkah programming this week.  They very much welcome anyone to join them.  There's a Cooking Class today, at 3pm today (Sunday), and a Family Concert on Tuesday.  

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Next Sunday: We'll have a cozy Solstice gathering before our Multigen service at 10am  We invite the children to come having made a fort of some kind to Zoom in--blankets, cushions, under a table... let them take the lead with their creativity!  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Dec. 6th Children's Chapel: What does it Mean to Be a People of Stillness?

Theme: What does it mean to be a People of Stillness? We talked about how this time of year can feel really busy, and full, like when you plug in a power tool.  I had an electric pencil sharpener and electric toothbrush both going at once to show how crazy it can feel if you get too busy shopping, cooking, crafting, and doing all the other holiday tasks!  

To tap into the holy, sacred part of this holiday season, our faith calls on us to "unplug" whenever possible and be present.  Mindful Movements can slow our minds and bodies to be more present and aware.  Susan Koch led us in three mindful movements.  Two are in the video below. (10 mins.) and then just a fun, playful one by Liz Benjamin!  

Click here to learn and practice two mindful movements with Susan and a fun, silly movement with Liz (Shoo Fly, Don't Bother Me)!  

💗 Thank you to the families who joined and to Liz and Susan!  

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Upcoming: THIS Sat. 4-4:30pm No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant... Zoom style!  Set up a fun background or bring your pet along for this lighthearted telling of the Christmas Story.  More info and ideas here.  Find us via the same "Join Children's Chapel" button you use each Sunday at or here:


Sun. Dec. 13th, Children's Chapel, 9:15-9:45am
Sarah Rosenthal joins us to share a picture book about Hanukkah and to share from her own practice of celebrating it.  Bring the dreidel from your care package in case we have time to touch on playing dreidel (it's pretty hard to play via Zoom but we can practice spinning it!) Click "Join Children's Chapel" at at 9:10 or so.  

Early Winter: Over 60 Holiday Care Packages Delivered to Support Our Families


Photo (above): LSE Committee Chair Beth Merrill and her assistant make kits for families to make a milkweed cradle and acorn baby.  

Photo (above): LSE Committee member, Liz Benjamin, assembles the UU Jingle Bell Door Hanger kits that help teach the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism!

Many thanks to the tremendous team effort behind our 60+ Holiday care packages that have headed out to families this week. The LSE Committee was a great help with brainstorming and assembling (masked and on separate days)--Marissa along with other junior members Maizy and Waylon. Also the adults on the committee: Ginnie Humphreys, Liz Benjamin, Kate Spring, Beth Merrill. Also, much thanks to the nearly 20 Care Network volunteers who helped with deliveries. 
I can't imagine we were able to do this perfectly (who is perfect anyway) so please let us know if we left you off our list and we'll get you one!  

Here's what was in them:
Dear families,
Things are hard. I know you’re all riding so many waves of emotions. So much time apart from friends and relatives, so much waiting and worry is exhausting. And yet there is so much promise and love and creativity around us too, so much potential for another world to be born. You and your children, and all the children in our communities, are in our prayers. May all that is holy surround you and hold you during this holiday season.
Here’s a care package to add some joy and special moments to this very different holiday season. You’ll find:
  • Gratitude practices for thanksgiving and beyond
    • Ideas for sharing gratitude: Conversation Starters for the dinner table or Gratitude Tree
    • Thank You Card -- stamped and ready to go. Showing thanks is a form of prayer! Decide as a family on who you will surprise with some snail mail appreciation!
  • A Kit to Make-your-own UU Jingle bell door HAnger
    • 7 pipe cleaners--one for each of our 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism
    • A jingly bell
    • A bookmark of the 7 Principles 
    • Day-by-day instructions
  • Hanukkah materials
    • A dreidel and instructions on how to play
    • A paper Menorah and cut-out candles
    • Latke recipe and link to Maccabeats “The Latke Recipe” 📷
  • Milkweed cradle kit Christmas is a celebration of the miracle of the birth of baby Jesus and hope for a better world. Make this beautiful woodland cradle for a centerpiece or to lay on the branches of a holiday tree. Directions: Coat the inside of the milkweed pod with a thick layer of glue. Use the cloth triangle to “swaddle” the
  •  cotton ball and place it in the pod on the glue. Hold tight for one minute to set. Put some thick glue on one side of the acorn and position it as the head of the baby. Let set.
  • Paper snowflake Cutting these is a bit of a spiritual practice for me--the wonder of the unfolding and of course mindfulness that each one is different -- like each person -- and therein lies beauty! May these be a reminder of winter’s beauty and call us outside to enjoy it with our families!
  • Peppermint lifesavers to remind us that all this hard work of wearing masks and staying apart, we are showing deep care for our community and literally saving lives.
  • Re-Usable plastic cover for bowl/plate Enjoy as a reusable, earth-friendly alternative to Saran wrap for the delicious leftovers from your holiday meals!
  • Ice lantern (made with the BIG tin can) Use the tin can that your care package comes in to make a beautiful ice luminary or lantern. It can be a beautiful centerpiece (on a plate to catch the water as it melts) for any special meal or a beautiful element outside around your house for Winter Solstice (Dec. 21st) or maybe Christmas Eve. Leave one as a surprise for friends or neighbors outside their house. You can re-use the can to make multiple ones, or make a big one with a 5 gallon bucket. (I’ll make a video soon, but you can also do a search on youtube.)
** Many thanks to Nancy and the rest of the kitchen staff at Union Elem. for cleaning and saving these cans! **
With love,
Liza and the LSE Committee members (and junior members):
Beth Merrill and Maizy, Kate Spring and Waylon, Ginnie Humphreys, Liz Benjamin, Margaret Blanchard, and Marissa

Photo: Grouping the packages by neighborhood on my front porch for safe, outdoor and socially distanced pick-up by the Care Network volunteers.  

Photos below: Some of our nearly 20 dedicated Delivery Volunteers from the UCM Care Network:

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Nov. 22, 2020 ~ Learning from our Abenaki Neighbors

Melody Walker Brook taught us many valuable lessons this past Sunday, including that the ancestors are always with us, what a feather can teach us about resilience, and that creation knows you and loves you and supports you!

Melody is a citizen of the Elnu Band of the Abenaki and an educator, artist, mother, and activist. There were 41 of us all together with Melody (not counting pets who were there). We would have a hard time fitting that many of us into the Children's Chapel on a Sunday morning!

Reach out to Liza if you would like to see a recording of our time with Melody. It is 30 mins. but really worth a listen if you can spare the time. She sings some songs in Abenaki too! Wliwni, Melody! Thank you!

Continuing to learn from our Abenaki neighbors, we were honored with Bryan Blanchette as a guest musician for worship! Bryan let me ask him a few questions for the Time for All Ages. Since the topic of worship was Why We Gather: Soul Food, I included portions of our conversations that touched on gathering and food.

Brian discusses what it mean to him to gather with others in the indigenous community, the difference between a Powwow and a gathering, and more.  

Bonus video: I couldn't leave out what I found to be also really inspiring in our conversation, when Brian discusses what it is like to be Singing New and Traditional Songs in the Abenaki Language.

Nebizon: A Visual Celebration of the Western Abenaki Language


“If you don’t know the language, you’ll only see the surface of the culture…the language is the heart of the culture and you cannot separate it.”

–Elaine Ramos, Tlingit

Visit our church yard during the month of November to celebrate the living language of the Western Abenaki people.
As a way to honor Indigenous Peoples Day, several families responded to an invitation to illustrate words in Western Abenaki, the indigenous language of these hills and valleys. This idea came out of a correspondence with Chief Don Stevens of the Nulhegan Band of Coosuk Abenaki. It connects with the new legislation passed into law that will include Abenaki place names on state park signage in Vermont.  
Our question as a congregation for the month of November is "What does it mean to be a people of Healing?" We hope you'll come visit to experience this offering of 'nebizon.' Nebizon is the Abenaki word for 'medicine.' Special thanks to the Abenaki and non-Abenaki language learners / teachers who share their thoughts, and also the artists of all ages and Claudia Clark, Dell Waterhouse, and Anne Ferguson.

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Nov. 16th ~ Kick-off of Bridging Program for H.S. Seniors


Look at these beautiful smiles! We just kicked off the Bridging program with these three high school seniors! What a gift to hear their reflections on memories made from growing up and coming of age within our UCM church community. I got teary and want to thank you all for being a congregation that treasures our young people and makes them feel welcome and loved and seen for who they are. Thank you, John Poeton, for your great co-facilitation. We'll have three more sessions during the church year and then the Bridging ritual during worship in the spring.

Our opening words from Ann Patchett, in What Now? 

When you leave this place, . . .  be sure to come back.  Coming back is the thing that enables you to see how all the dots in your life are connected, how one decision leads you another, how one twist of fate, good or bad, brings you to a door that later takes you to another door, which aided by several detours--long hallways and unforeseen stairwells--eventually puts you in the place you are now. 


Every choice lays down a trail of bread crumbs, so that when you look behind you there appears to be a very clear path that points straight to the place where you now stand.  


But when you look ahead, there isn’t a bread crumb in sight--there are just a few shrubs, a bunch of trees, a handful of skittish woodland creatures.  


You glance from left to right and find no indication of which way you are supposed to go. 

And so you stand there, sniffing at the wind, looking for directional clues in the growth patterns of moss, and you think, What now?  

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Sun. Nov. 1st ~ Outdoor Children's Chapel: Samhain Celebration


Much gratitude to the eight wonderful families who joined in our Samhain Celebration this past Sunday.  We braved the elements and delighted in one another's company and the fire!  To be able to safely gather we wore masks, socially distanced, had a sign-in sheet and kept our numbers below 25.  Because of the rain, we actually split into two shifts, 2-3pm and 3-4pm.  We began with a chalice lighting, followed by spoken call and response of the UU hymn "Oh We Give Thanks." 

Oh, we give thanks for this precious day,

For all gather’d here, and those far away;

For this time we share with love and care,

Oh, we give thanks for this precious day.

Oh, we give thanks for the old and young,

For a time of wonder, joy, and fun

For all we give as we grow and live,

Oh, we give thanks for the old and young.


We introduced ourselves and shared something we're thankful for.  Responses ranged from thankful for snow, fire, good health, the harvest, the Old Shelter we stood under and those who built it, and more!   

We introduced where Samhain originated, with the Celtic tribes of ancient Europe.  We looked at the Wheel of the Year and other holidays they celebrated, according to nature's cycles. We enacted a bit of life back 2000 years ago, perhaps of a small Celtic village in what we now call Ireland, planting our crops and tending them, with hopes for enough food to make it through the winter, and the relief and celebration when we were able to produce a big harvest.  Both a joy and gratitude, mixed with a worry of the long nights and the hardships and perhaps worry due to a belief in evil spirits that might come near when the veil is thin, between Oct. 31st and Nov. 1st. 

Above: Wheel of the Year (image credit:

Above: We took time to add treasure to our Samhain altar -- photos or mementos of friends or ancestors who have died, and harvested fruit / veggies, flowers.  We took a collection of items for the local food pantry, so we can practice the age-old tradition of sharing an abundant harvest with those in need.  

Above: Families brought donations to share the "harvest" at the Food Pantry.

We built fairy houses to keep those spirits out, on the edge of our village.  We wrapped herbs to dry, which would have been our medicine and seasoning for our food, and a bit of beauty from dried flowers.  (We wrapped cat mint from our church gardens!) Some went journeying and found items on a scavenger hunt: sign of an animal, a nut or berry, something beautiful, and something dead!  

We closed with a time to share how their projects / explore time went and a ritual.  We each thought of something in our habits or thoughts that we'd like to actually let go of, to let die away in this season of plants returning to the soil.  And then we thought of an intention or hope that we'd like to plant, as this is also nature's big time of planting seeds for next spring.   We put these thoughts into a leave that we then took turns tossing into the fire, to set the intentions out into the world, as well as holding them in our hearts.  

Closing words:

Samhain prayer for children

Samhain is here, cold is the earth, as we celebrate the cycle of death and rebirth.

Tonight we speak to those through the veil, the lines between worlds are thin and frail.

Ghosts and spirits in the night, magical beings rising in flight,

owls hooting up in a moonlit tree, I don't fear you and you don't fear me.

As the sun goes down, far to the west, my ancestors watch over me as I rest.

They keep me safe and without fear, on the night of Samhain, the Witches' New Year.

(from, author unknown)

After our second group's gathering, I spoke the words to one of my favorite songs of this season, "Who are the Witches" by Bonnie Lockhart. Marissa helped me sing the version that has been passed down to me over the years, which I prefer since it doesn't place witches only in the past, and it also allows for all genders to have a little witch identity! Here it is (recording by Marissa and Liza).

The whole gathering wore wooden name tags.  At the end of each event outdoor event this year, everyone gets a gift of a Memory Bead to add to the name tag.  Each event has a different color connected with it.  Our pumpkin carving service project for the Enchanted Forest was an orange bead, for example.  Since Samhain is the start of the long, dark nights, and also sometimes called "the witches New Year," and witches wear black, this day we got a black Memory Bead.

Jan. 18th: Honoring Dr. King

On Mon. Jan. 18th many families took time to honor Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Day in some way or other.  Liza sent an email with many ideas...