Saturday, October 26, 2019

October 25, 2019 -- Crossing Paths Evening Sessions and Taco Dinner

Last night 12 marvelous middle schoolers, four fantastic facilitators, and a posse of parents put together an awesome evening of spiritual exploration and community building. Many thanks to everyone who made it possible! 

The Crossing Paths kids had their final session of their first unit on Unitarian Universalism. In pairs or trios they did a fun scavenger hunt around our building. They begin this yearlong study (including visits) of other faiths, with this intensive unit on our own UU faith. Other highlights: 

  • taco bar dinner with contributions from families including homemade organic corn tortillas that were still warm (thank you Lucia and Erin Aguayo)
  • a session launching their unit on Judaism that included breaking a pot with a hammer and then engaging in the process of repairing it with a glue gun
  • late night card games and other games in the Bell Tower Room. 

Here's a snippet from the lesson plan, to explain about the broken pottery activity to illustrate the Jewish idea of Tikkun Olam. They visit Beth Jacob Synagogue on Fri. 11/8 after one more session of study. 

There are several ways Jews work to repair the world and make it whole. One of the primary ways is through “mitzvoth,” which are good deeds or commandments that Jews do and follow. Today, we focus on one way of doing this work of good deeds and repair: “Tikkun Olam.”
Using the below Leader Resources, explain the idea of Tikkun Olam to your youth. Be sure to highlight that Tikkun Olam represents a distinctive Jewish attitude towards life: The idea that the world can be made better by human action. This may not sound that radical to UU youth. But it’s worth reminding them that not all religions believe that human action can fundamentally improve the world. 

One simple but sweet explanation of Tikkun Olam is here:

The Broken Pieces in Front of Us: Sculpture Activity
After explaining the concept of Tikkun Olam, create a group sculpture representing the work of Tikkun Olam and the meaning it has for our own lives.
Break a medium-sized pot or vase. The goal is to avoid shattering it and instead end up with 8-12 pieces that can be easily glued back together. 

One way is to this is to cover the vase/pot with a towel and hit it gently with a hammer a few times.
Once it is in pieces, invite the youth to think of one way they are being invited to offer kindness, healing or repair to others and the world. What opportunity for repair is sitting right in front of them? With that in mind, ask the youth to take one broken piece and decorate it in a way that symbolizes the “repair work” or act of kindness they want to do in the coming week or month. Use glitter glue or silver and gold Sharpies to represent the divine light attached to the shattered shards. Then use E-6000 glue or glue guns to repair the vase/pot/bowl.
Place it on your worship table when done.
Have the youth share what their piece represents.

More pictures from the evening:

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

High School Youth Group Gleans Apples for Community Lunch

High School Youth Group Picks Apples for Community Lunch
A small but spirited group enjoyed the lovely fall weather recently to glean local, organic apples.  One of the youth posted on Front Porch Forum to see who in the community might like help picking from their trees.  Both respondents were happy and grateful to have the youth keep all that they could pick.  They will be donated to UCM's Monday Community Lunch. 

Thank you to the youth, their trusty advisors, and Janet Poeton for her picking pole!  

The next youth group gathering will be Sun. November 3 (not Oct. 27th), 10:30am-12:30pm to make applesauce in the UCM kitchen.  Mmmmm.  Any 9th-12th graders are welcome for fun and service!

In the meantime, any youth group members are invited to sit as a group to take in the Diwali multigenerational service this Sunday (Oct. 27th).  Ruby will be acting out the role of Ravana, the demon-king, in the Story for All Ages.  If you want to sit as a youth group, just look for Elizabeth Peebles on the piano side of the sanctuary, several pews back.  

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Oct. 15, 2019: Launch of "Understanding Antisemitism" Discussion Group

Above: Our fabulous facilitator team!
Shaina and Erica (middle) are from Beth Jacob Synagogue
and Gail and Sam (far left and right) are from the Unitarian Church of Montpelier.

Last night our friends at Beth Jacob Synagogue welcomed about 8 of us UCMers warmly with apples and honey, time in the outdoor sukkah they've created, and rich time of sharing and listening in small groups. Here are some pictures from the evening, along with words from Gail Falk, one of the UCM facilitators. We'd LOVE to have more participants and you can still join by coming to the 2nd of 5 sessions next Tuesday. Gail shares her motivation to facilitate here, entitled Why "Understanding Antisemitism" Now?

"My mother was Christian, and my father was Jewish, so if religion is a matter of genes, I am half Jewish. But I grew up in a secular household, where we defined ourselves by our politics, not our religion. Those were the post-World War II years, when we though the defeat of the Nazis had left virulent antisemitism in the dustbin of history, and that what traces remained could be handled by the Anti-Defamation League.

As an adult, I worked hard to study and combat racism and sexism, and like many in this church I’ve worked hard to confront and overcome homophobia and Islamophobia. But through the years, antisemitism seemed to be an out-dated “ism” – and something I didn’t need to worry about.

Until two years ago we saw Nazis marching in Charlottesville,

Until the Women’s March leadership fractured over accusations of antisemitism,

Until the Christian and Jewish far rights appropriated the term to discredit critics of Israeli government policy, and

Until …. a year ago in October, 11 worshipers were murdered in a synagogue in my home neighborhood in Pittsburgh, just 10 blocks from where I grew up.

Still, after all this, I didn’t hear my friends or fellow church members grappling with the rise of antisemitism beyond blaming it on our president. The people I admired were focusing (with good reason) on racism. As for myself, I didn’t have a coherent way of thinking about a basket that contained Steve Bannon and Louis Farrakhan and the loner synagogue shooter Robert Bowers andHungarian Prime Minister Orban.

Then Michelle Clark passed along to the LSE a link to a curriculum called Understanding Antisemitism written by Jews for Economic and Social Justice. Michelle suggested that it was something that might interest our congregation.

I read it, and suddenly I had a framework for all my confused thinking. I learned much I didn’t know, and I became very keen to share the curriculum with other UUs. It’s taken a year, but we are now starting a course called Understanding Antisemitism. Along the way, friends of friends at Beth Jacob reached out to partner with us, and we are offering discussions in tandem at the two congregations.

We had an inspiring joint session on Tuesday night at Beth Jacob and realized that none of us is alone in being confused and challenged as we try to understand the many shapes in which antisemitism appears. Our next three sessions will be in separate caucuses – one here at UCM, and one at Beth Jacob. Sam Clark and I are facilitating the sessions at UCM. Then we will have a a 5th culminating session to talk together about what we have learned and how to work together in the future.

There is still time to join in. It is a busy time for our congregation, but this is a unique opportunity for us to partner with our neighbors at Beth Jacob, and we would love to have a few more participants. If you are interested, contact me at, or call me at 595-4614." More details also here:

Sunday, October 13, 2019

October 13, 2019: Abenaki and Caring for the Land

Sunday Oct. 13, 2019
Today's focus: Abenaki and Caring for the Land
Spiritual Theme: The Abenaki people who have lived here on this land for thousands of years have a strong sense of belonging to the land and for caring for it.
  • We went around and shared gems of Joy and Concern.  They were GREAT listeners and shared some meaningful things
  • Children who hadn't signed our covenant yet got to sign it
  • We talked about the theme of "Belonging" and came up with a gesture to show how it feels (like hugging yourself)
  • We acted out elements of an Abenaki Creation Story and watched the short video narrated from the graphic novel.  It was neat to hear the Abenaki language spoken!
  • We broke into groups, with options being 1) to make storyboards using leaves, sticks and stones to recreate images from the creation story or 2) to transplant flowers (gently--not like the stone people in the story) from the side yard into pots for people to take home and care for during the winter. 

Continue the conversation at home:  
  • Ask if they can retell you any parts of the Abenaki Creation Story (some of them took home a few coloring pages of it, so you could look at it together, or watch the 2 min. video).  
  • Why were the stone people destroyed by the Creator?
  • How were the people of the ash trees (who became the Abenaki) different?  What are things we can do as people to live more gently on the earth like the people of the ash trees?

Peace is Something We Do

This piece was written in September 2011, shortly after the floods caused by Hurricane Irene.  I could have written it this week.  At the ti...