Thursday, January 26, 2012

This Sunday (1/29) in Faith Development

This Sunday (1/29) our younger classes will continue their exploration of the UU Promises with the story "A Name on the Quilt," an Indigo Promise story. See the attached take home page.
Our "Advanced" class will continue their exploration of UU Hymns.

Teachers for this Sunday are:
PreK and K - RED: Lou (S) an Audrey (D)
PreK and K - ORANGE: Jody (S) and Jen (D)
1st Grade YELLOW: Kelley (S) and Gina (D)
2nd Grade GREEN: Meredith (S) and Phil (D)
3rd Grade BLUE: Seth (S) and Jen (D)

The 4th-5th Bibleodeon class will begin learning about Moses. Teachers are Joyce and Henry.

This Sunday's 6th-7th grade lesson, "Dead Ends," deals with the subjects of death and loss. In my experience this has been a very meaningful class for a lot of students. The class will be taught by Gerri and Christy, with a special guest who has personally experienced loss in his own life.

Our 8th grade Coming of Age class will make final preparations for their Coming of Age service on Sunday, 2/5.

See you on Sunday!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

This Sunday (1/22) in Faith Development Classes

This Sunday our younger Spirit Play classes will return to the UU Promises with a story about the Blue Promise: "Believe in and act on your ideas, and listen as others share their ideas." The story is called "Wanda's Roses." Please see the take home page attached.
Our third grade Advanced Spirit Play class will begin a three-part exploration of the hymnals we use in our church.
Spirit Play Teachers for this Sunday are:
Red (PreK-K): Carrie (S) and Tania (D)
Orange (PreK-K): Shari (S) and Sersia (D)
Yellow (1st): Katherine (S) and Kelley (D)
Green (2nd): Phil (S) and Jen (D)
Blue (3rd): Laura (S) and Seth (D)

Our 4th-5th grade Bibleodeon class will have a lesson on Joseph (part 2). This important biblical patriarch had a fascinating story before and after the coat of many colors. Teachers for this week are Marilyn and Joyce.

This week in our 6th-7th grade Compass Points class the topic is "Transitions" with Christy and Gerri teaching. This is a powerful lesson about the transitions in our lives, preparing for next week's lesson about death and dying. The purpose is to give the youth an opportunity to explore the transitions they will face in life as growth experiences.

Our 8th grade Coming of Age class will begin "Finalizing the Credo" in preparation for the Coming of Age Sunday on Feb. 5. The teachers for this Sunday are Fran and Ellen.

See you on Sunday!

Hogwarts Camp Preview Party!


On Sunday, February 5, we will have an exciting launch to our Summer Camp program by hosting a "preview party" in Unity Hall from 2-4 pm. This event will have activities for all ages.

You can also check out the recently updated webpage: http://www.imaginedcollective.org/hogwartsworcester.html
(and I've also published the camp fees on the webpage now).

Preview Party for
February 5, 2-4 pm
At First Unitarian Church
90 Main Street, Worcester, MA
Camp dates: July 9-20, 2012
At the Preview Party:
· Meet the Headmistress Iris Imaginoria (who has been directing Hogwarts camps in other locations for 7 years)
· Kids can sample some activities
· Parents can ask questions and get info
· Potential staff can get more info and apply
· Registration opens!
For much more info (and registration links):
Two-week Hogwarts Camp includes:
* Hogwarts castle! Diagon Alley!
* Get sorted into your own unique house.
* Quidditch & the House Cup competition.
* Owl Post, Magical Activities Room, and the Room of Requirement
* Exciting Classes: Magical Creatures, Transfiguration/ Charms (art), Defense Against the Dark Arts (drama), Incantations (music), History of Magic (literature), Divination (meditation), Potions (science) and more…
For Students Entering Grades 1st-12th
Before and after care will be offered. Camp fees will be comparable to other Worcester camps (with discounts and scholarships available).
Register early! Fees increase in April.


I am looking for some volunteers for the preview event. Are you thinking of volunteering for the actual camp and want to try out how it might feel to be a Professor? Or are you not available during the week but willing to lead a simple activity during the preview? Activities will be similar in depth to those at the Halloween Festival or Hanukkah party. Costume pieces will be provided (unless you want to wear your own - always welcome). I also need help setting up that afternoon after church. Please let me know if you are willing to help by E-mailing me at jgray@firstunitarian.com.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Results of Congregational Poll

On Sunday, November 20, our 6th-7th grade Compass Points class took a "theological poll" of the congregation. Each participant was encouraged to "vote" for three statements out of fourteen. Some chose to split their votes in half. The class members also voted. While this is just a snapshot based on those present that Sunday, it is interesting to see. If you were not there on this particular Sunday (or even if you were), take a moment to look closely at the following list. Where would you vote? Do these statements inspire you to think more about the big questions? The following are listed in order (those with the most votes first):

1) We can use science and reason to understand our universe. (29.5 votes)

2) There is a spark of divinity in each of us. (27.5 votes)

3) I find God in nature. (25.5 votes)

4) God is present in the relationships among people. (21 votes)

5) There are probably as many ideas about God as there are people. (19.5 votes)

6) God is my conscience calling me to make the world a better place. (17 votes)

7) God and the universe are the same. God is everything and everyone. (15.5 votes)

8) Creation is ongoing and we are co-creators with God. (13.5 votes)

9) God cares for us and listens to our prayers. (10 votes)
TIED WITH
10) There is no way to know whether or not there is a God. (10 votes)

11) My beliefs about Jesus make me feel closer to God. (8 votes)

12) There is no such thing as God, and even the word is meaningless. (6 votes)

13) God created the universe and then let it run itself (4 votes)
TIED WITH
14) God is like a loving mother who sustains us and all life. (4 votes)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Central Massachusetts High School Youth Conference


Date of Con: Friday Feb 10 5:30- Sat Feb 11 2:30pm
Theme: I Got UU Babe
Open to: High School grades 9-12 Central Mass max 50 people
(Snow Date: Feb 24)

Registration: Ends Jan 31st
Fee: $25 (includes 3 meals and a t-shirt)
Scholarships available - just ask

To Register: Youth Registration Form
(Please note: you must have your parents to give their electronic signature and must know which adults will be attending from your church)
Adults click here (an adult must accompany every five youth)

Details of Con:
•Get to know UU youth from other churches in a comfortable environment.
•Meet throughout with your "touch groups" to touch base about your experience.
•Youth-led workshops including: Drama, Art, Martial Arts, and more.
•Opportunities to engage in Social Action together based on "Standing on the Side of Love."

•Schedule:
FRIDAY FEB 10
Arrive between 5:30 and 6:30pm. Teens are assigned a "touch group" color and sign up for workshops.
6:30-7pm Opening..Get introduced, opening game, rules and regs, covenant, schedule.
7- 7:30 Dinner
8pm-8:45 Workshops 1-5
These may include: 1. Writing- Gianna 2. Music- Lyndon 3. Zentangle- Katie/Alison 4. Improv- Nick 5. Origami- Ben/Stefan
9:00- 9:45 Workshops 6-10
These may include:6. Crafts- Gianna 7. Theater- Nick 8. Photography- Joannah 9. Martial Arts- Tong Ya 10. Worship Workshop- Calum
9:45-10:15 Get set up for overnight..... and ready for worship
10:30pm Worship - Deepening/sharing
11:00 Ready for bed...appropriate sleepwear and set up in areas per choice...There will be a video games room, quiet board games room, and movie room.
Suggested lights out at 1 am.

SATURDAY

9:00-9:30 Breakfast

9:30-10 am Packed up and cleaned up

10-11:15 am Hang out down time with voluntary workshops offered from 10-11:15am which may include: 11. Yoga and or dance - Rowan 12. Ultimate Frisbee- Lyndon, Cameron, Robbie, Drew, Sam (outside of good weather or indoor nerf in fellowship hall) 13. henna tatoo- Alison/Katie 14. Handstands- Bruce 15. group photo/ memory portraits- Joannah/ Natalie
11:30 Social Action Workshop - "Standing on the Side of Love"
12:30 LUNCH
1:30 Wrap up and Clean up. Check-out.
2:30 Depart

Join us! Contact Robin Caracciolo robin.caracciolo@gmail.com for more information.

This Sunday (1/5) in Faith Development

Welcome back to the next portion of our faith development year! We had a lot of fun over the holidays, and now we're getting back to classes.

The story for all of the younger classes this week is the General Promises, Part 2. It is a continuation of the Promises lesson we did early in the year. The 7 UU Promises (or Principles) are the covenant by which we live as Unitarian Universalists. They are basic guidelines or actions that reflect and reinforce the values agreed upon by UU churches.

Teachers are:
Red: Audrey (S), Lou (D)
Orange: Jody (S), Shari (D)
Yellow: Katherine (S), Hope (D)
Green: Phil (S), Meredith (D)


Our 3rd Grade "Advanced" Spirit Play class will have a lesson on Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.

For their work time, they will prepare to "lead" a protest during the MLKJ worship service next week. They will choose an issue collectively that they feel is important - what is something that they think is unfair that they want to protest. The point of this is to give the students a visceral experience of how it feels to protest on an issue they really care about, even if it is just a mock exercise.

Teachers:
Blue: Gina (S), Laura (D)

This Sunday our 4th-5th grade Bibleodeon class will have the first of a two-part lesson on the biblical patriarch Joseph. Teachers are Alison and Colleen.

This Sunday our Compass Points (6th-7th grade) class will have a lesson on Sacred Texts. Teachers are Gerri and Christy.

This Sunday the Coming of Age class will have a lesson on "Learning to Lead Worship." This is moving us toward their quickly approaching Coming of Age worship service (scheduled for February 5 - mark your calendars now!). Teachers will be Ellen and Rich.

See you on Sunday!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Celebrate Winter: From Darkness into Light

By Jessica S. Gray
Director of Faith Development Ministries



Today we celebrate winter. My personal experience of winter has certainly changed in the past few years. I have lived most of my life in the south, so winter meant the world got a little colder. But snow was never a significant part of my winter experiences. Snow was an anomaly - something truly wonderful that almost never happened.


In the Carolinas and Tennessee, it snowed maybe once or twice a year. Everyone would stop whatever they were doing and enjoy it. Then the snow would melt and life would go on. In 2008 it snowed at our home in Louisiana – the first time it had snowed in Baton Rouge since 1989. It was gone by noon.

Then I spent last winter in Connecticut with my family. I remember the excitement of the first fresh-fallen snow. The entire world was covered in glistening white. Ariana was so excited to play in the snow, and she immediately made snow angels, snowballs, snow men.


But then the snow never left. Before it fully melted, more covered it. And more and more. Ariana tired of the snow by the time the banks were taller than she was. The snow plows pushed the mountain of snow at the end of the street until it was taller than our house. As the snow built higher and higher along the sides of the road, the world felt smaller and smaller. Claustrophobia set in. Rhye and I built new muscles as we shoveled and shoveled and shoveled. I adjusted and readjusted my work schedule every time the daycare was closed – sometimes 2 or 3 days a week. The glistening white was long gone. All we saw was gray.


How can we celebrate winter? Isn’t it something that we just endure, looking forward to moving on into more pleasant seasons? The winter solstice is at the very beginning of winter, and yet it celebrates the turning point, the movement from the darkest time of the year back into the light. This whole festival season is about celebrating the light in the midst of darkness – decorating our homes and streets with electric lights, lighting the candles for Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa. Setting off fireworks for New Year’s.

One of my favorite passages about light comes from a 1990s TV show called “Northern Exposure.” Set in small-town Alaska, the town’s resident philosopher Chris says: “Ever since we crawled out of that primordial slime, that’s been our unifying cry – more light. Sunlight, torchlight, candlelight, neon, incandescant, light to banish the darkness from our caves… Light is more than watts and foot candles. Light is metaphor... Light is knowledge, light is life. Light is light.” (Click here to see the video)

Our struggle against darkness comes not only from outside, but also from within. At Hogwarts Camp I teach a class called “Defense Against the Dark Arts.” For any of you familiar with the Harry Potter books or movies, it’s a very important class. I teach that the very real dark arts in our world can come from different sources. Some of the darkness comes from outside, from other people or circumstances outside of our control. But the most dangerous dark arts are the ones that attack from within.

In a Tibetan Buddhist text about fear, the shadow or darkness is called the “demon of doubt.” Whenever things don’t go as we expect, doubt creeps in. Have I done something to cause my current negative circumstances? Am I just not good enough? Doubt can lead to depression, which for some completely paralyzes the mind as if it is frozen in a glacier. How can we thaw these doubts? The Buddhist antidote for the demon of doubt is the pure light of awareness. The tantra teaches that each person has within all of the qualities of an enlightened being. Our suffering hides us from our true nature. When we are truly aware of our own value, this awareness breaks through the ice that has surrounded us, giving us hope and freedom from the demon of doubt.

Even in the darkest and coldest winter, you hold within you the light of your own uniqueness and wonder. You can break free from your demon of doubt.

But is there a place to honor the cold, the dark, the winter? All things have value, including the darkness. What would happen if we look for beauty in the winter rather than hibernating and hiding from it. The cold is a time to rest, a time to reflect, a time to prepare for what is to come. The snowflakes themselves remind us of our inherent worth and value. Each of the snowflakes at the front of the sanctuary was made a child in our Faith Development program. Each one unique. We teach the first principle of Unitarian Universalism, the inherent worth and dignity of all people, at the core of all of our classes. Just like the snowflakes in our story (see below) – each snowflake different, each snowflake beautiful, each snowflake counting for something, in its own way. We can choose to be like the cardinal, shaking off the cold in discomfort and ignoring the winter. Or we can choose to be like the chickadee, paying attention to the beauty of the winter, honoring the uniqueness of each person, each circumstance, each moment – the magic and wonder of the snow.

I invite you now to contemplate your own experiences of winter. Think about the times you played in the snow as a child – building snow men, snowball fights, ice skating, sledding – whatever joyful things you can remember. Think about gathering around a fire with family or friends, drinking hot chocolate or warm cider, as the feeling returns to your fingers. Contemplate your own inherent light within. Children, I invite you to come forward to make your own “magic snow” which you can take home . Think, honor, remember, and take joy in this journey through the cold, dark winter. This journey from darkness to light.


“The Weight of a Snowflake”
by Janeen K. Grohsmeyer

This story takes place in the woods in winter time.
On a winter afternoon filled with fresh, white snow falling from above, a chickadee perched on a thin branch of a maple tree and watched the snowflakes fall.

A bright red cardinal flew over and landed near by.
"What-cha doin??" chirped the cardinal.

"Watching snowflakes," said the chickadee.

The cardinal cocked his head to one side. "What for?"

"They’re pretty. And each one is different! I haven’t seen two that look the same."

"A snowflake is a snowflake is a snowflake, that’s what I say," said the cardinal. "And they’re cold. Me, I can’t wait for spring. This winter stuff is for the mammals…most of them have fur on their toes!"

The chickadee nodded, so that the little black cap on her head bobbed up and down, but she didn’t say yes and she didn’t say no.

White snowflakes fell all around them.

The cardinal put his foot down and hopped sideways on the branch to get a little closer to her. "What-cha doing now?" he said.

"Counting snowflakes," said the chickadee.

The cardinal cocked his head to the other side. "What on sky for?"

"I was wondering how many snowflakes this branch will hold."

"Don’t worry about it, that’s what I say," said the cardinal. "Snowflakes don’t weigh anything."

"Not anything?"

"Well.... almost not anything. Snowflakes weigh next to nothing. They don’t count for anything, and they’re all the same." He clacked his strong beak once, twice, and then again. "You know what, little chickadee? You should find something else to do, that’s what I say."

The little chickadee nodded, so that the little black cap on the head bobbed up and down, but she didn’t say yes and she didn’t say no. After a minute, the cardinal clacked his beak once more, then flapped his strong red wings and flew away.

The chickadee stayed where she was, perched on the thin branch of the maple tree and counting the snowflakes as they fell. White snowflakes fell all around her. More snowflakes fell, each one different, each one beautiful. Some of them landed on the branch…snowflake after snowflake each one weighing almost nothing, but each one counting for something.

Because as the chickadee counted snowflake number ten thousand three hundred and three, that branch broke from the weight of the snow.

The chickadee fell with the branch, but only for a moment, for she flapped her wings and flew up into the snowflakes that fell from the sky, each snowflake different, each snowflake beautiful, each snowflake counting for something, in it’s own way.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Mandala Dance Circle Schedule

The Mandala Dance Circle meets every Thursday from 6-7:30 pm in Unity Hall. All are welcome, even those with limited physical abilities. The primary dances are based on Tara, the Tibetan Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Compassion and Power. Tara manifests in 22 specific forms. Beginning with January, we will be working through the 22 Taras as they manifest in five colors. We will also celebrate each of the earth-centered Sabbats through rituals every six weeks.

The schedule is as follows:

January 5 – Root Tara - Wisdom, Compassion, Power

January 12 – Green Taras

January 19 - Green Taras

January 26 –Green Taras

Feb 2 – Imbolc Ritual

February 9 – White Taras

February 16 –No Dance

February 23 –No Dance


Mar 1 – Jess out – White Taras

March 8 – White Taras

Mar 15 – Jess out - White Taras

March 22 – Ostara Ritual

March 29 – White Taras

April 5 – Gold Taras

April 12 – Gold Taras

April 19 – Gold Taras

April 26 – Red Taras

May 3 – Beltane Ritual

May 10 – Red Taras

May 17 – Red Taras

May 18-20 – Special Weekend Retreat with Prema Dasara – The Full Mandala Dance of the 21 Praises of Tara

May 24 – Black Taras

May 31 – Black Taras

June 7 – Black Taras

June 14 – Complete Enlightenment

June 21 – Litha Ritual


Green Taras:
Wisdom, Compassion & Power, Impeccable Virtue,
True Refuge

White Taras:
Creative Wisdom, Serene Peace, Transformer of Poison,
Remover of Sorrow

Gold Taras:
All Victorious, Sublime Intelligence, Destroys Negativity, Auspicious Beauty, Bliss & Joy

Red Taras:
Swift Protection, Worthy of Honor, Joy & Laughter, Irresistible Truth,
Destroyer of Attachment, Radiant Health

Black/Blue/Purple Taras:
Invincible Courage,
Distributor of Wealth, Ferocious Compassion