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?"      ~www.tracesofthetrade.org

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) 
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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. 

Summer Events

  Thank you for your interest in connecting this summer. Below you'll find more details! Cookout for UCM Families & LSE Volunteers ...