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.

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...