Sunday, January 20, 2019

Snowy Sunday January 20, 2019 -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A lovely morning of snow day worship and Spiritual Exploration! 

Amazingly, Jon Gailmor made the trek from Elmore and was a special treat to those at the 9am service. He got us all raising our voices together. I got the special treat of taking in service since my family was the only one at 9am! Joan offered a wonderful two part sermon--I hope you get to listen to it or read it later this week. 

A nice group of kids at the 11am service though.  One new family joined us since their church (and at least several other churches in town) were closed for the storm.  In the children's Spiritual Exploration, we passed the Wonder Box around and guessed what was inside.  A picture frame?  An ice cube?  A rock?  In the end, it held a microphone, symbol of the power of words.  

One of our new teachers, Brandon, read Martin's Big Words.  We talked about how things have gotten much better because of Dr. King and all the other brave people working for equality over the years.  But there is still work to be done.  We talked about how a legislator from Bennington, Kiah Morris, had to stop doing work she loved because of hateful things being said about her by someone in her town.  They made her feel too scared to keep going.  But collectively the movement needs to keep going, to make Vermont and the entire world a safe place for people of color.  We marched around the room to a civil rights song we learned, "Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around." 

Artists are needed in any movement, so we decorated a cardboard mural of some of Dr. King's inspiring "big words" alongside many colored hand prints. AND we did a small service project to honor Dr. King. We made some Care Kits to give out to folks who come to the Thursday night warming shelter this week (with toiletries that are often needed when you don't have a stable home--wipes, bandaids, tissues, deodorant, Q tips). Here's the video of the picture book, Martin's Big Words.

Amazing effort by everyone--hospitality team (check out our young usher today!), snow removal, worship team, nursery staff and LSE volunteers and the many others. We also sent out thanks to all of you who decided you couldn't make it. We missed you but we're glad you're safe!

Above and below: one of our new child members of the Hospitality Team.  Children make some of the best ushers and greeters.  Keep an eye out for these fabulous young people giving back to our congregation!  

Monday, January 14, 2019

Last Sunday Marked Mid-year Point for the 7th/8th Grade Our Whole Lives Class!

Becky, Mara, and Peter... These three phenomenal, caring, passionate, knowledgeable, fun people have been doing the ultra marathon of Spiritual Exploration volunteering this year and it is so behind-the-scenes I want to lift them up for you all to cherish! They are the 7th/8th grade Our Whole Lives sexuality education facilitators. This Sunday they passed the half-way point--session #13 out of 25 total!!! Nearly every Sunday they are in the Bell Tower room 10:30-noon. There they co-facilitate 1.5 hour informative OWL sessions for the twelve 7th and 8th graders. In addition to the facilitating, there's the preparation and co-planning time. Some congregations have had to turn to paying their middle school OWL facilitators, as it is so hard to find volunteers willing to do this big a lift. It's really phenomenal and we should all give them high fives wherever we see them around town. They do it because they love it, but appreciation is always nice. High fives due also to the youth and parents who've prioritized this learning in their lives!

Wondering what some of the learning happening in 7th/8th Our Whole Lives is? Here are recaps from the past two Sundays:
From Jan. 6th, Becky Webber writes:
Hello 7th&8th Grade OWL families,
This past Sunday, the group discussed Healthy (and Unhealthy) Relationships. We began by emphasizing the fact that everyone is at a different point regarding romantic relationships (already dating/having romantic feelings, not yet ready to think about having a romantic relationship, or not interested in romantic relationships at all), but that all relationships in their lives, including with friends and family, consist of many of the same components and can be healthy or unhealthy.
Youth identified their own "Deal Makers and Deal Breakers' (things that they absolutely want in a relationship and things that they absolutely will not accept in a relationship). We talked about some signs that an aspect of a relationship is healthy or unhealthy, noting some red flags that indicate a relationship might be unhealthy, and gave them some tools to evaluate their existing and future relationships.
We also discussed power and equality in relationships--the idea that in any relationship, there may be one person with more power because they are older, have more experience, have more popularity/status, are larger/stronger, etc. (Some relationships, like parent/child, teacher/student, or worker/supervisor, are inherently unequal.) 
Discussing their friendships and and romantic relationships, we noted that relationships with serious power imbalances are often unequal, and thus unhealthy. We reminded them that awareness of these power imbalances, whether you are the "low-power" or "high-power" individual in the relationship, is important, as it can help you to avoid pressuring or being pressured and make the relationship healthier.
This coming Sunday, we'll be discussing Relationship Skills....
~ 7th & 8th Grade OWL Team

From Jan. 13th, Mara Iverson writes:
Today in 7th & 8th grade OWL we practiced communication skills because using our words and listening to others is the foundation for healthy, functional relationships. We learned about characteristics of active listening and practiced identifying good listening behaviors. We explored passive, assertive, and aggressive communication methods and determined that generally assertive communication is the most effective, but there may be appropriate times for aggressive or passive communication. Finally, we thought about times we have done things we didn't really want to because we were worried about a consequence of refusing. We discussed that sometimes we may have to consider what we really want and need and ask for it directly or tell someone no directly. And we practiced refusal skills.
Here are some videos with summaries of active listening, communication styles, and refusal skills.
Assertive Communication:
We will NOT have OWL next week. We return Sunday, January 27. Happy upcoming Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day!
7th & 8th Grade OWL Team

Sunday, January 6, 2019

January 6, 2019 -- Possibility: Focus on Welcoming a Friend with Tourette syndrome

January 6, 2019

Theme: We introduced January's worship theme of Possibility and learned the ASL sign (same as the sign for 'chance', 'opportunity', etc.) We mentioned that a new year always seems full of Possibilities of new, exciting things to come.    

Group Game: We had fun playing a few rounds of Cosiki which puts team work into the idea of Follow the Leader.  It's also a great way to practice NOT staring at someone.  They all wanted to play more rounds, so maybe have them teach it to you and play at your next big family gathering!  

Discussion:  In Cosiki you're supposed to always do just what the rest of the group is doing.  Lots of times in our world we're supposed to do what everyone else is doing, right?  (Ex. gym class practice certain moves, church or class, sit and listen.  It isn't always GOOD to do what others around you are doing (examples: if everyone were throwing candy wrappers on the ground you wouldn't want to do the same).  Some kids want to do what is expected, but they can't.  Sometimes it is just really hard for kids to be totally quiet or still, but there are some people--kids and grown-ups who really actually CANNOT be quiet or still because they have something called Tourette Syndrome (TS) or body or vocal tics and can't control certain impulses.  

Above: brainstorm by the 9am group.

Below: children paired up to see if they could resist the tickle of a feather.

At 9am we heard from Meredith Warner, a member of our congregation, who has helped someone in her life navigate body tics.  At the 11am service, a youth from U32, Willa, who is an official Tourette Ambassador shared her experience.  Both guests were extremely helpful.  Later this week I will share a short video of Willa's presentation with all families via email, so that families who weren't there might share with their kids (thank you Kenric Kite).   
  • What does TS look or sound like? First of all, tics are not ticks.  Not wood ticks or deer tics.  Ex. of body and vocal tics: shrugging, blinking, grimacing, or making loud sounds, spitting, even words that your not supposed to say.  The person is not trying to make the sound/movement, but they can't stop it.
  • What causes tics?  Doctors don't know for sure, but probably something in the brain or the nervous systems is not quite working right. It is like an allergy, just for that person and NOT contagious.    
  • A child in our congregation, Tristan Donlan-Kite, has started to have tics over the past couple of months and is really scared to come to church because of them.  He doesn't want to upset people or be laughed at or get in trouble.  He isn't sure he'd be welcome.  His mom, sister, and two friends from school were there at 11am to help us understand his needs better.  
  • As UUs, we have 7 principles we try to live by and the first 3 relate to this: 
1. The inherent worth and dignity of every person; (or "We welcome everyone.")
2. Justiceequity and compassion in human relations; (or "Bend kind in all you do.")
3. Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations; (Or "We are free to learn and grow together.")
  •  Is it Possible (monthly theme) to make kids with tics feel welcome?  Tristan would like to come back to the Children's Chapel, maybe even next Sunday, because Mrs. Koch is going to show her awesome slides from her adventures in the Arctic!  
  • Do you think we can make him feel welcome even if he's having some tics?  (We thought we could, especially if we try hard and all work together.). 
  • Brainstorm of ways to help included in pictures below:  
Activity: We had kids try to go awhile without blinking.  This gives the sensation of your body basically ordering you to do something, even though in your mind you're trying not to.  Finally, you can't help but blink.  At the 9am kids paired up with feathers and tried to resist itching their arm or face when someone gently touched it with a feather.  (Below: Abby Colihan, right, and Margaret Blanchard,left, were our 9am volunteers today.)

Then we brainstormed:

How to respond to in helpful ways when someone you're with is having tics:
1. Ignore it.  Pretend it isn't happening. Stay focused on what you're already doing.
2. Don't say stop it because they can't help it.
3. It's okay to give a little space for his body to move.
4.  Teach others who don't know.  Quietly say, "They can't help making those sounds or movements.  Try to ignore it.  He's not trying to be mean.  He really doesn't want to be doing those tings."
5. Get to know the person!  

What NOT to do: 
1. Don't laugh.
2. Don't stare.
3. Don't mutter about them.
4. Don't point.
5. Don't make fun of them or mimic them.
6. Don't take it personally if he says your name and a bad word or makes a face.  
7. Start using those bad words if that is the tic.
  • We role played some things that we do in the Children's Chapel while Meredith modeled a loud vocal tic.  The children did well not staring and staying calm and focused on the group activity.  They are all ready to be teachers for other kids next week--kids who weren't here this week--to welcome Tristan back to church if there at the same service together.  
What might the tics look like?  One hard part about Tourette syndrome is the tics are always changing.  Right now his tics are an urge to spit, so he may be using a cup or handkerchief to spit into.  Also, swearing  - often combined with a person's name— someone who is sitting near him or someone who has just walked in the room.  He's been repeating what others say and sometimes scribbles on other’s drawings.  Sometimes hitting himself in the face. 

Want to continue the conversation?  
  • What is a vocal tic or body tic?
  • Is it a bug?
  • What are examples of what a tic looks or sounds like?
  • Can't the person just stop doing it?
  • What can the rest of us do to help someone who is struggling with tics? 
  • What is the sign-language for Possibility?  Do you think it is Possible to make Tristan feel welcome at church again?  What will you do to help?
  • What are other things somewhat similar?  (People who stutter, or people with Parkinson's are two examples.) 
Next Sunday: Lessons from the Arctic--What's Possible When We Venture to Other Places?  Susan Koch, 1st grade teacher at Union Elementary, will share her slideshow of her adventure to the far north, to the Arctic!  It will be a great chance to practice focusing on the activity at hand, and not on the person having body/vocal tics.  Hope you can make it!  


Upcoming Events: 
Family Night for any UCM Families (long-time or brand new): Feasting, Fun, and Brainstorming
Fri. Jan. 18, 5:45-7:30pm. A chance to meet other parents and learn how we might be better able to support one another in this amazing and challenging work of parenting, and raising compassionate, conscious children in touch with their own spirituality.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Building Your Own Theology

This past Sunday marked the second session of an Adult Spiritual Exploration small group called Building Your Own Theology.  It was a lively discussion, I was told, and participants left enlivened by the thoughtful sharing that occurred.  The group will continue to meet once a month through the winter and into the spring.  
Rob McIntyre describes the course this way: "We might think of this as an adventure, for each of us, of looking at our personal history and story in the light of the various traditions of liberal religion. The questions are difficult but important -- how we live and die, what we value, and who we trust. The answers are the answers that make sense to each individual in the group. There is no certainty, but faith is possible without certainty – perhaps only possible without certainty." 
A shorter session of Building Your Own Theology was offered last spring, addressing different topics and questions.  If we do offer another group in the future and you would like to participate, please email Liza so we keep you in the loop.   Rob McIntyre, Kate Plummer and Gail Falk will share the facilitating role over the course of the year.

Monday, December 10, 2018

December 9, 2018 ~ Mystery, Wonder, and Advent

Theme: We carried on with December's worship theme since Mystery/Wonder are part of so many of December's holidays.  We talked about Advent as a season of waiting... for Christmas which began as a time to celebrate the birth of Jesus.  Things we do while waiting:  sing carols, open advent calendars, light advent wreaths.  Also: 
  • Set up Nativity scenes: During that time of waiting we might set up Nativities.  We looked at three different examples of Nativity sets.  Ask your child to describe them to you.    
  • Hear the Christmas story: More details on this below.  We'll do this again on December 23rd, with the No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant.  We talked about coming dressed as shepherds, angels, or magi.  
  • Share gifts for those in need:   Just as Rev. Joan's Story for All Ages mentioned that "The Messiah is among us."  We can all act in a way that cherishes the worth and value of those around us and celebrates the spirit of love that Jesus represents.  There are two local families in need that we've signed up to help through Neighbors Helping Neighbors.  11am preschoolers made cards for these families that anyone participating can sign.  All the other children made "wishing stars" and helped put them on the tree, and during coffee hour many helped find people to sign up for getting the gifts.  

Follow-up questions: 
1. For those who celebrate Christmas, Advent is a time of waiting. What are other times we have to wait for exciting days to come along?  

2. If you took a 'wishing star,' make a plan for finding the gift and wrapping it (make sure to put your star on the outside so we know what it is).  If you didn't take a star, ask "What is something generous we as a family could do for others this season?  (Invite someone who lives alone over for dinner?  Make cookies for your mail carrier or the crossing guard?  What are the kids' ideas?). 

3. If you have a Nativity set, tell the Christmas story using the pieces. 

More on the stories from yesterday:


Read stories: We read A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith. I love the illustrations and the perspective of the narrator as Rebecca, the neighbor girl who eventually becomes a friend of Jesus, but we talked about how their would NOT have been people with blond hair Bethlehem or Jerusalem at that time.  

We looked at the pictures in this book, to see illustrations of people with darker skin and dark hair, more like what the real Mary and Joseph might have looked like.  That book is called The Most Precious Gift by Marty Crisp.  It was a different story than the basic one, so we didn't read it but I'll get it back to the library soon so you can!


Next Sunday:
  • We will explore the Winter Solstice through songs and activities.  One group will help make cranberry sauce for the Community Lunch Holiday meal the following day.   

Above: Margaret Blanchard (left) and Pam Cameron (right), 
two of our fabulous Sunday morning Spiritual Exploration leaders.

Above: LSE leader, Liz Meehan, reads A Christmas Story by Brian Wildsmith while Nancy Schulz and the preschool pair for the day look on.  

Above: Instead of playing the game "hangman" we played "snowman."  Same fun theme without the connection to lynching.  

December 5, 2018 Film Screening: Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North

Many thanks to everyone who came out for a moving and thought-provoking evening together.  This was a continued collaboration between our own Lifespan Spiritual Exploration and the Central VT SURJ (Showing Up for Racial Justice) and it is really exciting to see what happens when we combine forces.  Thank you to Kathy Johnson for co-facilitating. 

Thirty-six people, ranging from age 8 on up to elders, gathered to watch the film.  Nearly all stayed to participate in both small and large group discussion afterward.  Because this is a much bigger topic than can fit into one evening, we are hosting a follow-up discussion on Wed. Jan. 23, 6:30-8:30pm.  If you didn't make it to the screening, but would like to come to the follow-up, please let Liza know if you would like to borrow the film to see before then.   

"In the feature documentary Traces of the Trade: A Story from the Deep North, filmmaker Katrina Browne discovers that her New England ancestors were the largest slave-trading family in U.S. history. She and nine cousins retrace the Triangle Trade and gain powerful new perspectives on the black/white divide.

Given the myth that the South is solely responsible for slavery, viewers will be surprised to learn that Browne’s ancestors were Northerners.

From 1769 to 1820, DeWolf fathers, sons and grandsons trafficked in human beings. They sailed their ships from Bristol, Rhode Island to West Africa with rum to trade for African men, women and children. Captives were taken to plantations that the DeWolfs owned in Cuba or were sold at auction in such ports as Havana and Charleston. Sugar and molasses were then brought from Cuba to the family-owned rum distilleries in Bristol. Over the generations, the family transported more than ten thousand enslaved Africans across the Middle Passage. They amassed an enormous fortune. By the end of his life, James DeWolf had been a U.S. Senator and was reportedly the second richest man in the United States.

The enslavement of Africans was business for more than just the DeWolf family. It was a cornerstone of Northern commercial life. The Triangle Trade drove the economy of many port cities (Rhode Island had the largest share in the trade of any state), and slavery itself existed in the North for over 200 years. Northern textile mills used slave-picked cotton from the South to fuel the Industrial Revolution, while banks and insurance companies played a key role throughout the period. While the DeWolfs were one of only a few “slaving” dynasties, the network of commercial activities that they were tied to involved an enormous portion of the Northern population. Many citizens, for example, would buy shares in slave ships in order to make a profit.

The film follows ten DeWolf descendants (ages 32-71, ranging from sisters to seventh cousins) as they retrace the steps of the Triangle Trade, visiting the DeWolf hometown of Bristol, Rhode Island, slave forts on the coast of Ghana, and the ruins of a family plantation in Cuba. Back home, the family confronts the thorny topic of what to do now. In the context of growing calls for reparations for slavery, family members struggle with the question of how to think about and contribute to “repair.” Meanwhile, Browne and her family come closer to the core: their love/hate relationship with their own Yankee culture and privileges; the healing and transformation needed not only “out there,” but inside themselves.

The issues the DeWolf descendants are confronted with dramatize questions that apply to the nation as a whole: What, concretely, is the legacy of slavery—for diverse whites, for diverse blacks, for diverse others? Who owes who what for the sins of the fathers of this country? What history do we inherit as individuals and as citizens? How does Northern complicity change the equation? What would repair—spiritual and material—really look like and what would it take?"

Monday, December 3, 2018

December 2, 2018 - Mystery, Wonder, and Chanukah

Theme: We introduced December's worship theme of Mystery/Wonder and learned the ASL sign for Mystery and for Wonder (Awe).   We mentioned that many of the December holidays have some Mystery and Wonder in them.   

Story: We read the book Eight Hanukkah Lights.  The children noticed each page is a different family with a different menorah.  We talked about how Jewish families may have slightly different ways they celebrate.  Some children knew a little about Hanukkah already, for some it was very new.   

Activity/Choice time:
  • A traditional game associated with Hanukkah is the dreidel game.  Many kids were eager to play with pennies that Danner brought in.     
  • Many kids made collage menorahs while I summarized the picture book The Christmas Menorahs, based on this true story from Billings, MT.  
  • We all signed one collage menorah that read, "Happy Hannukah!  Love from your friends at the Unitarian Church."  I will bring this to Beth Jacob Synagogue this week.      

Above: The dreidel game was exciting.  
It was moving
how readily kids shared their gem pieces when other players were running out.

Above: Playing dreidel with pennies!

Want to continue the conversation?  
1.  I think the kids will be excited to share their new knowledge.  You could ask them:
  • What is the sign-language for Mystery?  For Wonder?
  • When does Hanukkah start?  (This year it starts tonight--Dec. 2nd.)
  • How many nights does it last? (Eight nights, to remember the eight days the oil in the temple lasted, all those years ago.)
  • What is the Menorah?  (The sacred candle holder used during Hanukkah. Menorahs come in many shapes and sizes.). 
  • Why are there 9 candles if it only lasts eight nights?  (The 'shamash' candle is lit each night, and used to light the other eight.)  
2. Consider attending a local event:  
  • At 5pm on Monday, on the Statehouse lawn, there will be a lighting of the Statehouse Menorah.  
  • Our friends and neighbors at Beth Jacob Synagogue encourage anyone in the community to join them for a Hanukkah Party next Sunday, the last day of Hanukkah.  From noon-2pm. (see invite below) 
Screen Shot 2018-12-02 at 8.29.40 AM.png
3. Here is a video, "What is Hanukkah" if you want to watch as a family.  It is pretty fast-paced but fun, and probably upper elementary age kids will get more out of it than younger ones.  I enjoy the closing question. 

Snowy Sunday January 20, 2019 -- Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

A lovely morning of snow day worship and Spiritual Exploration!  Amazingly, Jon Gailmor made the trek from Elmore and was a special trea...