Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Like to shop but don't like to spend money?

Our Religious Education books are being cataloged and organized, but we need shelves to put them on.  We hope to open our new library in the "Bride's Room" downstairs sometime this church-year.  If you can help shop for shelves, we can provide the specifications.  You won't need to spend your own money.

Please see Sierra-Marie, or contact her at 508-757-2708 ext. 105 or s mg erfao @fir stunit arian. com (take out all spaces) if you'd like to shop for shelves!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Kids' Ushers and Greeters

We are putting together a team of kids who would like to be greeters for families on Sunday mornings.  These kids will play a special role in helping us to welcome newly attending children into our morning activities.

If you would like to nominate your own child or another child you know for this fun and important kid-sized job, please contact Sierra-Marie at 508-757-2708 ext. 105 or s mg erf ao @ fir stuni tarian .com (please take out all spaces).

Greeters should be:
  • Friendly and fairly outgoing
  • Able to follow directions
  • Able to independently navigate the church building, or to do so with the accompaniment of an older child (or a parent who is willing to do it with them)
  • Eager to help newcomer children feel welcome at church
  • Able to come to church by 9:59am on Sunday mornings once or twice per month
Greeters will attend a training at which they will be given a special name badge and installed into their new job with some fanfare!

Intergenerational Valetine's Day Party!

This year Valentine's Day falls on a Sunday.  For this reason, we are planning a Church School-sponsored Valentine's Day ice cream social to take place during the fellowship/coffee hour after worship. 

We hope all congregants will plan to stick around on this day for the party.  Note: We will have a gluten and dairy free ice cream for those who have allergies.  If you can help contribute ice cream or low-allergen toppings, please be in touch!

If you would like to help, you can sign up to do so by contacting Sierra-Marie at 508-757-2708 ext. 105 or s mger fa o @ firs tuni tar ian. com (take out all spaces).  Here is what we need:
  • Music coordinators
  • Food coordinators
  • Decorations team
  • Activities coordinators
If you can't help in any of the above ways, please consider bringing in some food to share.

For Children and Youth: Sunday, January 31st

PreKindergarten, Kindergarten, and 1st Grades (Spirit Play): Our Spirit Play classes will be hearing an "indigo promise" story: "insist on a fair and peaceful world." The story is a congregational story from our Family Day of Service, which took place over Martin Luther King Day weekend. As always, our children will have worktime during which they can explore the morning story on their own, or a previous lesson.  PreKindergarten teachers will be Laura and Gina, Kindergarten teachers Renee and Carrie, and 1st grade teachers Jen and Joonu.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): This Sunday we will learn about the Chinese New Year by eating lucky food (and learning about the kitchen God), lighting red candles, and exchanging good fortunes.  Our teachers will be Gillian and Dave, and our parent helper will be Karen.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): This Sunday we will begin part two of our lesson on the Sermon on the Mount/Beatitudes.  See Matthew 7:12a, Luke 6:31, and Thomas 6:3.  The lesson is called "Treat others as you wish to be treated."  We will talk about potential service projects for our class and explore practical ideas for preventing and resolving conflicts.  Our teacher will be Cassie and our parent helper will be Christy.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): This Sunday with teacher Bunny and parent helper Nancy, our children will explore the concept of salvation and the theological spectrum from atheist to polytheism and more.  We'll have lively discussion, but this week we are going to be particularly focused on respecting one another as we each share our ideas. 

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): This Sunday we'll explore "calling and tradition" through the Simpsons in an episode focused on Krusty the Clown.  In the episode, Bart and Lisa learn that accrording to his father, Krusty was supposed to be a rabbi.  They seek to reconcile Krusty with his father.  The question we'll look at is, "how do we know what we are supposed to do with our lives?"  Tim and Helen will be leading the class.

9th-12th Grade (YRU2): Please be sure to be present this Sunday when we finish planning for the February 7th "Senior High Sunday" worship service. Our graduating seniors have selected the theme: "Where the Wild Things Are."  Please note that if you plan to participate in this service, you definitely should come to the planning meeting. Even if you don't plan to participate in the actual service, however, we hope you will come plan with us anyway!  Note: Also please save the date for a dress rehearsal of the service the afternoon of February 6th.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Middle School Families Please Save the Date!

Event sign-up and forms will be available on the youth ministry bulletin board in the First Unitarian dining room as of the coming weekend for the following event...

14th Annual UU Middle School Youth Rally
for youth in grades 6, 7, and 8

March 6, 2010 9am-4:30pm in Hartford, CT
Snow Date March 13, 2010

 If you are from a UU congregation in the Clara Barton District--
 Whether there are 2 youths or 20 in your group--
 Whether you have an organized junior youth group or not--
YOU are invited!

Advance registration and payment is required.
But it’s easy.

Step 1: Let your DRE know.  Give your DRE the registration fee.

Step 2: Do nothing. 
The DRE will arrange for chaperones and send in money.

Step 3: Bring your parent authorization form to the rally.

DEADLINE for payment: February 17, 2010
Cost for youth and their adults:
$20 each by deadline and $25 each after deadline

Remember the DEADLINE for payment: February 17

Note: the adult:youth ratio is 1:5.
If your parent can help as a chaperone, have your parent speak with your DRE.

 Events for the Day To Be Announced:
In the past, there have been workshops such as
making silly putty
swing dancing
balloon animals and hats
plaster face masks
bead macramé
pasta making
creative problem solving
and music.
The workshops this year will be similar and FUN!
Everyone gets to participate in 2 workshops.
There will also be plenty to eat (veg and non-veg).
We open with an in-gathering celebration.
We close with a youth-led worship service.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Future of YRU2

The future of our high school youth group, YRU2, depends in part on having adult volunteers who will serve with the group over the coming year. Several long-term volunteers are finally
"retiring" from this role as of June, and while we have two new volunteers who have enthusiastically agreed to join the team, in order to be ready to start the group back up in the fall, we will need at least two more volunteers.

If you might be interested in working with our high school youth, and you have been an active participant in our congregation for at least six months, please contact Director of Religious Education Sierra-Marie Gerfao at s mgerf ao @ fir stuni tarian. com (please remove all spaces) or 508-757-2708 ext. 105 to explore whether this is a good volunteer match for you. Final decisions about volunteers are made by the youth group members.

Report Back From the Family Day of Service

On Martin Luther King Monday, despite heavy, wet snow, several of our families gathered to make a meal to bring over to Sherry's House and Activity Center for children with cancer and their families.

We made three big pans of "cheesy twice baked pasta," a huge salad, many dozens of oatmeal-chocolate-chip cookies, and several pumpkin-blueberry muffins as well as a big pumpkin-blueberry bread loaf.

The children enjoyed cutting, mixing, measuring, and stirring, and then they enjoyed running around and playing together. They were having so much fun, and we adults were enjoying gabbing, so we didn't read the story Bear Gets Sick together or make cards like we anticipated. However, Sherry's House is extremely thankful for the meal, which also included a bunch of sandwich triangles brought in by one of our families who couldn't make it on Monday due to the snow.

Thanks to everyone who participated! We know the families over at Sherry's House will enjoy the food and will be glad not to have to worry about at least one meal during their busy treatment schedules.

For Children and Youth: Sunday, January 24

PreKindergarten, Kindergarten, and 1st Grades (Spirit Play): Our Spirit Play classes will be hearing a "blue promise" story: "believe in and share your ideas, and listen as others share their ideas." The story is called Wanda's Roses. As always, our children will have worktime during which they can explore the morning story on their own, or a previous lesson.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): This Sunday we will discover Powamu, also known as the "Hopi Bean Planting Festival," which is generally celebrated in January or February. You can begin to explore more about the Hopi people of the four corners area of the United States here.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): Please join us for the first of a multi-part lesson on the Beatitudes: Sermon on the Mount. What were some of Jesus' vital teachings? What did he believe to be virtues? We'll begin uncovering these teaching's this Sunday.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): We will continue this week the lessons on Unitarian Universalist heritage. We have been having interesting conversations in our class about the meaning, beauty, and problems in the historical Unitarian belief in one God and the historical Universalist belief in universal salvation. This Sunday, we will begin by asking, "what is salvation anyway?"

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): Please join us for the first week of our redesigned class! We will begin a nine week series of Simpsons episodes and discussion on "The Gospel According to the Simpsons." We'll start with some "old testament" stories. Please join us and let us know what you think of our new lessons.

Note: This Saturday is also our BYKOTA (middle school youth group) sleepover starting at 6:00pm and ending Sunday at 9:00am. Don't forget your sleeping bag, permission slip, money to contribute toward the meals, and a snack to share.

9th-12th Grade (YRU2): We will begin planning for the February 7th "Senior High Sunday" worship service. Our graduating seniors have selected the theme: Where the Wild Things Are. This promises to be a lot of fun to plan. Please note that if you plan to participate in this service, you definitely should come to the planning meetings. Even if you don't plan to participate in the actual service, however, we hope you will come plan with us anyway!

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sunday, January 17th: An Intergenerational Worship Service

This coming Sunday in celebration of the Martin Luther King holiday, we will worship as a congregation of all ages. There will not be children's classes, including "OWL" and high school youth group. Instead, we will go to the sanctuary together and worship through:
  • A story
  • A "skit"
  • Readings led by some of our youth
  • And of course, music!

The homily will include reflections on King's struggles as a young adult. In consideration of the upcoming service, we hope that you will talk with your children with your children about King. It is also wise to continually talk to your children about race (here is a helpful article on why white parents tend not to talk about race and why they should, and here is a great blog on issues of anti-racist parenting) .

When children arrive on Sunday, they should pick up a worship workbook on their way into the sanctuary. There will also be a quiet sensory/kinesthetic object that comes with the workbook.
Finally, it is helpful to speak ahead of time to your children about what a worship service is like. For very young children, it may be helpful to bring a couple small, silent toys or books for them to access as needed. If your child would like to help with ushering or some other aspect of the service, please get in touch with the Faith Development office.

Family Day of Service Updates

On Martin Luther King Day weekend (this coming weekend), the Religious Education department will be sponsoring a "family day of service."

This is an opportunity for kids and adults to get out together and do things to benefit the community. This is the best context in which our children can learn the value of hope and action. If you plan to be in town Martin Luther King Day weekend, please plan to participate in this event with us. Participation is open to all. We especially hope families with children will participate.

We will have 1-2 projects going Sunday afternoon, and 1 project Monday (a holiday) morning so you can choose the best time and day for your family. The projects will be announced throughout this week as their details are hammered down. This blog post is a placeholder for those announcements. See below for announcements to date. Please check in here through this week and plan to join us for one or more projects!
TUESDAY Breaking News: First Project Announcement

The American Cancer Society Hope Lodge of Worcester, a "home away from home" for cancer patients undergoing treatment needs folks to come take down their outdoor Christmas lights, roll them up neatly on cardboard, and put them away for storage. We gather and head over there Sunday after coffee hour.

They also have a storage room that needs to be emptied so that things can be placed back in a more organized fashion and would welcome folks back on Monday afternoon if they want to help with that.

THURSDAY Breaking News: Second Project Announcement

Sherry's House and Activity Center for children with cancer and their families is in need of meals for families who are at the house or families outside the house who are strained by the drain of treatment schedules for their children's cancer. They also appreciate cards for the children in the house. Participating families in this project should each bring something to contribute to the preparation of the meal. Donations of toilet paper and paper towels for the center are also most welcome. We will do this Monday at 10:00am at the church.

Currently in exploration of opportunities for Haitian relief as well as other opportunities.

Saturday Breaking News: Third Project Announcement

Please note this is another Monday project, not another Sunday project as anticipated. Volunteers for this project must be twelve and over, but it is a great activity for families with older children. Please consider participating in a community-wide event from 9:00am-noon at the Webster Square Daycare Center. There are four classrooms with toys and cubbies in need of cleaning. Information about this event was passed onto us by United Way. You can sign up here.

BYKOTA Sleepover Announcement

BYKOTA (our middle school youth group) is having a sleepover here at church on January 23rd. We'll watch movies, play games, and eat lots of pizza. You should vote for your top three choices for movies to watch from the below list. You can mail your vote back to the church or bring it to church and give it to one of your BYKOTA advisors.
  • Yes Men
  • Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
  • She's the Man
  • Lars and the Real Girl
  • Roan Inish
  • Coraline
  • Forrest Gump
  • Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • Stardust
  • Edward Scissor Hands
  • Phantom of the Opera
  • Walle
  • Independence Day
  • Clover Field
  • My Sister's Keeper
  • Matrix
  • Lord of the Rings
  • Fast and Furious
  • Rush Hour
  • The Forbidden Kingdom
  • Sleepy Hollow
  • Dodge Ball
  • Blades of Glory
  • 13 Going On 30
  • 17 Again

We'll play Rock Band and dodge ball, and we'll have a short worship service in which we'll reveal the secret meaning of BYKOTA. Permission forms have been mailed. The overnight begins at 5:00pm.

Changes in the 7th-8th Grade Class

Dear Parents of 7th and 8th Graders,

We have evaluated how the Popcorn Theology class is going and decided to make some changes starting next week. Instead of watching movies in parts over the course of several weeks, this class will watch clips and spend most of their classtime doing discussions and activites related to the theological questions that arise from the clips. For the coming nine weeks, the clips will be from Simpsons episodes.

This would be a good time for a student who has been reluctant to participate in this class to try it again. While we recognize that this makes for a long morning for those students also participating in the "Our Whole Lives" sexuality class, we hope that a number of the kids will participate because the material is engaging and should be a lot of fun.

We'll check back in after several weeks of the Simpsons to see how things are going.

Thanks for your patience,

A Glimpse Into Church School

Ever wish you could be a fly in the wall in our Church School classes? Last Sunday, I was able to visit most of our classes. Here are some glimpses:

  • Our prekindergarten class had sixteen children present. The kids barely had room for their work mats. They had to be very careful to respect one another's space, and someone laughed and said we had enough now to split into two prekindergarten classes.

  • All of our Spirit Play classes heard the story The Empty Pot by Demi. They heard this story as a "green promise lesson" (fourth promise of our Unitarian Universalist covenant: grow by searching for what is true and right). The story had some beautiful props, including several small clay pots with flowers in them. One of the pots was empty. The children in first grade wondered if birds had taken the seeds.

  • Our second and third grade class got busy acting out the story of Rosa Parks and the bus boycott. They moved around the chairs in their classroom and took turns playing the different parts of the story. They were very engaged!

  • Our fourth and fith grade class was also busy acting out a story. They were learning about who Jesus chose as his companions. When I came to visit them they were dressed in costumes and were broken into groups and having discussions about the roles.

  • The sixth graders had some very important conversations! When I entered the room, they were reading Matthew 25, which several of them had heard read at Ken Waugh's memorial service. They read from several varied translations of the Bible. For a while they chatted about whether good works should always be done for God. Then they struggled with the idea of damnation, which led to a discussion of historical universalism (belief in universal salvation). One student wondered aloud about theological disparities between historical unitarianism and universalism. When I left the room they had just begun to discuss that.

  • The seventh and eighth grade classroom was darkened, as they were watching "Lord of the Rings" as discussion material.

  • Later, approximately twelve 9th-12th graders were gathering to have lunch with two potential new youth group advisors. They decided not to go sledding, as only two youth were available for the afternoon.


Monday, January 4, 2010

Family Day of Service

Did you join First Unitarian Church in part to have a community in which to raise your children where people were making a difference together?

If social justice and community work are a part of your passions, we need you! On Sunday, January 17th, the Religious Education department will be sponsoring a "family day of service" in honor of Martin Luther King Day.

We need:
  • ideas for things our families can get involved in on that day
  • organizers to help get families involved
  • liasions between organizations and participating congregants

Families, if you plan to be in town Martin Luther King Day weekend, please save that Sunday on your calendar and plan to participate in this event with us. More information will be made available as soon as possible. Bring cameras if appropriate, as we want to document this work for our children. Please note that Sunday the 17th is also going to be an all ages worship service on Martin Luther King.

BYKOTA Event(s)

Dear Families of Middle Schoolers,

All of our First Unitarian Middle Schoolers are most enthusiastically invited to participate in our middle school youth group, which we call BYKOTA ("by-coat-uh"). Please let us know if your middle school youth is not on the BYKOTA mailing list but would like to be.

We have our annual BYKOTA overnight for active BYKOTA youth group members on Saturday, January 23rd. This is when the secret meaning of "BYKOTA" is revealed. Event details were sketched out at the BYKOTA meeting last Sunday and will be mailed home soon in permission form format. Please plan to attend this event. Early RSVPs are welcome at 508-757-2708 x. 105 or s mge r fao @ fi rstunitar ian .com (take out all spaces).
Note: There was some discussion at the group's business meeting on Sunday about inviting friends to the overnight. While we welcome and encourage friends to join us for many of our BYKOTA events, we can't accomodate friends coming to the overnight, particularly since this is when we reveal the meaning of "BYKOTA."

Below is the calendar published at the start of the year. It includes all BYKOTA meetings and events planned to date.

We have one BYKOTA business meeting per month. This is when we plan for our events. We encourage all BYKOTA youth to participate in these meetings. Our meetings are on the first Sunday of every month at 9:00am-10:00am in the Diane Mirick Room-- room one-- except in April (see schedule). The remaining meeting schedule is below:

February 7, 2010
March 7, 2010
April 11, 2010 (moved from first Sunday due to Easter)
May 2, 2010

In addition to one monthly meeting, we also have one monthly event. Events range from social activities to service projects. Below are the tenative plans remaining for the year.
  • January 23rd: Our annual sleepover at church. Come hang out with us for a special worship service as well as games, movies, or other fun and plenty of FOOD! Pickup is always Sunday morning at 9:00am.
  • February 28th: We'll head over to the climbing wall together, get to know one another better, and climb away!
  • March: During worship we will spend one Sunday collecting donations for the Carty Cupboard food pantry. We collect the donations in a shopping cart we push down the aisle of the sanctuary. Exact date to be announced.
  • April: Activity to be decided by our group still.
  • May 14th: We'll have a year-end FEAST at church with lots of food. We'll play some games and have a special ceremony to say "goodbye" to our 8th graders who are graduating from the group.

YRU2 Tubing at Ski Ward this Sunday!

Note: This event has been rescheduled.

High School Youth are invited to come snow tubing this Sunday. We'll leave the church after our "potential new advisor luncheon" at 1:00pm and arrive back at 4:30pm. Bring snow-worthy attire to change into and water, sunscreen, chapstick, or anything else you'll need. Your permission form will arrive in the mail this week, so bring that too (signed by your parents please).

Please also bring $12 in cash (cost is $22, so we'll pitch in $10 from YRU2 funds for all active YRU2 participants). If this cash amount is problematic for you, don't worry. We can cover you with a partial or full scholarship...we just need to hear from you in advance of Sunday. Please speak with either Sierra-Marie at 508-757-2708 x. 105 or s m ge rfao @ fi rstunit ar ian. com (take out all spaces) or advisor and event coordinator Diane Pingeton.

Calling All Graduating High School Seniors!

Graduating High School Seniors:

You are invited to join us this Thursday 6:30-8:30pm for a special pre-planning meeting for Senior High Sunday, which will take place on February 7th. We'll work on the theme of the worship service, and you'll get a lot of help on getting started writing your homily. We'll order pizza. Bring some fruit, a salad, or a dessert item to share with our small group. See you there!

For Children and Youth: Sunday, January 10, 2010

PreKindergarten, Kindergarten, and 1st Grades (Spirit Play classes): "When the Emperor announces an unusual test to choose an heir-- the child who raises the best flowers from a seed given by the Emperor will be his successor-- Ping unaccountably, is unable to get his seed to sprout." --Kirkus Reviews. This Sunday's story is taken from the book The Empty Pot by Demi. It is a "green promise" story: grow together by searching for what is true and right in life. Our preschool teachers will be Suzanne and Kelley, kindergarten teachers Carrie and Lee, and first grade teachers Joonu and Amy.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): This Sunday we will celebrate Martin Luther King Day. This is a good preparation for our intergenerational worship service on Martin Luther King the following Sunday. We'll hear stories and do some acting. Our teachers will be Gillian and Dave, with parent helper Matthew.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): We will makeup our lesson missed for the snowy day of December 20th. Our lesson explores the person Jesus. With Henry Keyes and another teacher TBA, and through costumes and drama, this Sunday we will discover how Jesus chose his close companions. See Matthew 4:18-22, Mark 1:16-20, and Luke 5:1-11 and 8:1-3.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): This Sunday let's come back together as a class. We'll revisit our covenant, begin work again on our video project or other projects set aside for the holidays, talk more about the time capsule project, and begin to look at our curriculum again where we left off: examining the ins and outs of our faith.

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): We will be making some mid-course adjustments to our curriculum. We have noticed our movie selections have ended up a little on the "heavy side," so although we will watch some "Lord of the Rings" this Sunday, we will also talk about some adjustments to our movie schedule for the spring. Bring your ideas! Note: we may begin watching select scenes from the movies, rather than whole movies. Ken and Helen will be leading.

9th-12th Grade (YRU2, Senior High Youth Group): This Sunday we are hosting a lunch for potential 2010-2011 adult advisors for our youth group. If you are an active adult member of the church who has an interest in this volunteer work in the church, please contact Sierra-Marie at 508-757-2708 ext. 105 or s mg er fa o @ fir stuni tari an. com (take out all spaces) to discuss whether this might be the right volunteer match for you. After our lunch, we'll be going to Ski Ward for tubing. Parents of youth please note that permission forms will arrive in your mailbox this week.