Thursday, December 19, 2019

December 15, 2019 ~ No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant

Thank you to all who helped make this year's No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant come alive.  Here are some pictures to help with the memories, or for those who couldn't make it.  (More pics coming soon--waiting to get permission from some families that were new.) 

Whether you were a magi, angel, shepherd, star, a "team captain" for one of the groups, or part of the Holy Family--thank you!  Thank you to choir for their lovely music at 9am, along with UCM's talented Eliza Thomas on piano, and guest musicians Touissaint St. Negritude, Gahlord Dewald (together they are Jaguar Stereo!) filled the space.  

Thank you, Rev. Joan for your meaningful message that brought it all together, including these words by Howard Thurman, an African-American theologian, educator, and civil rights leader.

When the song of the angels is stilled, 
when the star in the sky is gone,
when the kings and princes are home,
when the shepherds are back with their flocks,
the work of Christmas begins:
to find the lost
to heal the broken,
to feed the hungry,
to release the prisoner,
to rebuild the nations,
to bring peace among the people,
to make music in the heart.
(The poem “The Work of Christmas” is from Howard Thurman’s The Mood of Christmas and Other Celebrations.)

Monday, December 16, 2019

December 8, 2019 -- Crossing Paths youth visit Bethany Church

The "Crossing Paths" unit on Christianity concluded Dec. 8th with a field trip to Bethany Church. The first iteration of UU youth visiting other faith centers was called "The Church Across the Street" and was published in 1947. This visit was literally that--to the church across the street!  

I (Liza) was leading Sunday morning programming at our own church, so couldn't join in the visit.  But many thanks to Jackie Dennison for taking these photos and the facilitators for these reflections.  Thank you to Rev. Amy and the people of Bethany for the warm welcome.  And thank you to the youth for being such great visitors once again. 

From Nancy Schulz:  Our group of 11 was warmly welcomed by Rev. Amy Pitton and others. The service lasted one hour and had many features akin to a UU service (announcements, joys and concerns, hymns, time for all ages, sermon) and notable differences, also. After some social time during coffee hour, we were guided by Rev. Amy to a separate room where our youth could ask questions. The Q & A time flowed nicely and everyone seemed relaxed. Some of their questions were: 

  • What is your favorite Bible story?
  • Why did you want to become a minister?
  • What do you like least about being a minister? 
When we returned to UCM, all had an opportunity to share impressions before we wrote short notes in a "thank you" card that will be mailed to Rev. Amy.  

Julie Bond's recap after the second session on Christianity:  

The youth seem to be now bringing in connections and questions from previous units, which is great. ie., questions about how Unitarian Universalism is related or not to Cristianity and Judaism, with some explanation that they are cousins, have some common origin/history or tenants and also trying to place them on a timeline to help them understand what came first, next, next etc. so they can begin to place Unitarian Universalism in their own mind and timeline seems to help (i.e., Christianity was born out of Judaism, Islam founded after and with reference to both these earlier religions, etc.). They have some cool connections and thinking around the content.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Traditions of the Winter Holiday Season -- A UCM compilation

In November our worship theme was "Attention."  We gave some attention to the UCM tradition of the Holiday Fair.  This has been a tradition in our church for over 100 years!  The children made play dough to sell in the Kids Room at the fair, and also decorations too!

I got the request from some families to find out ways to celebrate the holidays without spending lots of money.  It seemed like a great reason to continue giving attention to traditions, since many of these take little to know money, but are really what make the holidays special.  I hope this can be a compilation that we add to each year.

Thanks to everyone who submitted something!  I acknowledge that many of these traditions are centered around Christmas. While Unitarian Universalists come from many religious and cultural backgrounds, this is just what was submitted via the e-news link and Facebook in the short time frame I had to round them up.  I'd be thrilled to add some that include other holidays such as Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa, and others!  You can email me 100 words (ballpark) here.


Homemade Coupons - Sasha Thayer

Inspired by then Rev. Scudder Parker, decades ago when my daughter was young, we started exchanging "coupons" for various things as gifts. Within our family, a favorite was a batch of chocolate cookies. When my daughter got older and got her cosmetology license, another favorite was for a haircut. Every family is different, and will be able to come up with their own gift coupons. Perhaps for an elderly family member or friend, it's making lunch, or taking them on an errand, or folding their laundry. For a child, it could be an afternoon doing a favorite activity, or helping with a difficult task. A child making a coupon for a parent could offer to bring order to the sock drawer, or help stack wood.... And, of course, adding some kind of decoration to coupons is always well received, whether it's original artwork, or pretty stickers accompanying return address labels.

Sinterklass - Susan Koch

When our children were growing up, they always put their shoes out on the eve of Dec. 5th for St Nicholas to fill . Their Dutch dad celebrates Sinterklaas and kept up the tradition. In the morning they would find small chocolates and clementine oranges in their shoes. Sometimes Dutch treats would arrive( with help from Oma) and the family would have Dutch chocolate letters and windmill cookies( speculaas) at dinner time. Our family still takes a few minutes on that day to be in touch, and wish each other a Happy Sinterklaas!

Games -- Nancy Schulz

My four siblings and I live in different parts of the country. In lieu of being together, we create a different game each year that we all can participate in. This year the game involves writing trivia questions about our childhood, parents, relatives, etc. and submitting them to my sister. She'll compile the questions and send them out before Christmas and we'll all see how we each do. There are prizes in our games some of the time, but there are laughs all of the time.  

Caroling door-to-door 
Mentioned by Kris Pavek, Elaine Ball, and Tory Rhodin

Tory said, "That is our family's tradition as well! My best friend when I was a kid and I both came from big families, and we went carolling around our neighborhood with all our brothers and sisters. One of my sweetest memories is when some Italian neighbors invited us in and we sat on their living room floor in front of the Christmas tree and creche, singing in harmonies."  

Risengrød (rice porridge) - Irina Markova 

After my family immigrated to USA from Danmark when I was 10, we continued to celebrate Danish traditions. One was the whole family all eating a big bowl of “risengrød “ ( Rice porridge made with milk, sugar and cinnamon.). The person who found the one almond in the porridge got a marcipan pig as a prize. Some of the risengrød was always shared with animals including the rats in the attic.
(Years ago I shared this risengrød tradition with the entire UCM congregation !) 
After the meal , everyone held hands and danced around the Christmas tree which was lit with live candles.  

One version of the recipe is here.  

A special book each year - Rachel Nelson

We get a new Christmas book each December, and we read them together throughout the month. It is usually a picture book, with one exception. We chose a chapter book one year.

We started with the traditional 'Twas the Night Before Christmas and worked from there. We have a dinosaurs' version, a pop up book wherein Santa's sleigh is broken, 
and many more. We never did any Christian Christmas stories as it doesn't align with our views... which led me to start writing some books myself.
My favorites are probably the ones that were specific to Utah and the Vermont version. Our selection mirrored our move, so it was fun and personal. I think they're called "Santa's Coming To (insert state here)". We truly love The Twelve Days of Christmas though, as we each chose our own pages to read...and we sing them. It sort of stuck and the kids remember their own lines/pages each year. (They also do a new funny voice each round.) 

Cutting down a Christmas Tree - Mary Alice Bisbee

My brother, father and I always went up towards our sugar house in Waitsfield, below Bald Mountain to pick out the best spruce tree we could find, cut and drag down for our Christmas tree in the living room.

New Year's Eve Memory Jar reading - Liza Earle-Centers

This is a newer tradition in our family. My first year working at UCM I needed an activity for the church kids to do on New Year's.  I found Memory Jars. The idea is that throughout the year you add notes of special times that you want to remember.  It could be something small like "Cadence made delicious pancakes for the family!" or something big like, "Lincoln joins the Gospel Choir." Make sure it has a central location in your home, with scrap paper and a pen or pencil nearby.  At least once a month try to sit down and remember a few highlights of the recent weeks. We read them aloud as a family on New Year's Eve, to cherish the past year. Then I put them in an envelope labelled with that year, and save it for decades of nostalgia to come!  Works for individuals too! 

December 3, 2019 ~ Culmination of Understanding Antisemitism workshop

It was an honor to learn alongside all these thoughtful people last night as UCM hosted neighbors from Beth Jacob Synagogue for a special evening. Many thanks to all--participants and facilitators--who helped make this series possible. UCM co-facilitator, Gail Falk shares these thoughts: "The culminating session of our series on Understanding Antisemitism was an evening of rich, lively exchange. Sixteen people from Beth Jacob gathered with 11 UCM participants in the Children's Chapel Tuesday 12/3/19 to tell one another what we had learned and examine questions our separate discussions had raised.
Both groups had delved into the long history and many-faceted aspects of antisemitism. The Beth Jacob participants shared insights into what it is like to be Jewish in Vermont. The UCM group had wrestled with the deep complexities of the relationships between Palestinians and Israelis.
We identified ways non-Jews can be allies to lessen the impact of antisemitism, such as
  • Not scheduling important events or meetings on Jewish High Holidays
  • Speaking up for school holiday celebrations that give everyone a sense of belonging
  • Confronting and interrupting hate speech and antisemitic stereotypes
  • Showing up for Jewish joy, not just Jewish horror
  • Be curious, ask questions.
Participants from both congregations talked about how much they had learned from the sessions and particularly appreciated our joint meetings. Many of us were eager to continue our exchanges – there is so much more to learn and talk about together. We look forward to future gatherings in 2020."

Owls take over the church!!! (10th-12th grade O.W.L. Overnight)

On Friday November 22nd there were not just pigeons on the steeple, there were owls soaring through the sanctuary.  The three facilitators and eight families who are part of this year's 10th-12th grade Our Whole Lives sexuality education program were fabulous!  Parents and youth pitched in for a delicious taco dinner to kick off the evening, followed by a 2 hour workshop session (incredible focus for a Friday evening) and then time to socialize until just before midnight. Parent chaperones and the youth all agree to some overnight guidelines and the youth made great choices.  The kids always have the best time just getting to be kids in the big, beautiful, vast sanctuary space--somersaulting down the center aisle, leaping across the chancel.

Many thanks to everyone who helped out on so many levels to make the overnight possible!

Here are some photos of the overnight, though mainly it is around meal times:

Above: Julie and Jen help with dinner clean-up.  

Above: Bill and Kairn were our fearless chaperones who stayed through the night for the campout on the chancel.  

Waking up. Fueling up for a 2 hour morning workshop session!

Yes, that is a someone in chicken pajamas.  These kids couldn't get any cooler!!!!

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...