Monday, December 31, 2012

What's your local social action cause?

Mahatma Ghandi said, "Be the change you wish to see in the world."  A fundamental part of our faith development program is working toward social change - in the world and in the local community.

In the fall, our focus is global, raising awareness and money for UNICEF.  In the spring, our focus is local.  Last year, some of our children chose "Animal Rescue" as our local cause for the spring.  We raised money through our Easter Egg "money" hunt and we had some groups of children visit the Worcester Animal Rescue League.

This spring, we would like to extend the opportunity of choosing our faith development social action to the congregation.  What is your personal cause?  What local organization are you involved with that you would like to bring to our awareness?  Are you willing to speak up about this organization and cause?

On Sunday, January 20, youth coordinator Lesa McWalters and the YRU2 group are leading a social action-based worship.  We are looking for 3-5 members of the congregation (of any age) who will offer their personal cause and organization for consideration.  The congregation will have an opportunity to vote, and the cause that is chosen will be the focus of our Faith Development Social Action for the spring.  We will incorporate it into our Hogwarts Spring Spectacular (both in curriculum and in raising funds) and into our Easter Egg Hunt.  We do ask that the organization be locally based, in or near Worcester.  Those that are not chosen will still be getting exposure through our church community.

If you want to promote your cause, then please answer the following questions (in the words you would use if you were speaking to the congregation) and send them to Jessica Gray at by Wednesday, January 16.

  • What is your name?
  • What is the name of the organization you would like us to support?
  • What (specifically) does this organization do to make a difference in the local community? And in the world?
  • What does this cause mean to you personally?
  • Are you willing to participate in the social action causes relating to this organization throughout the spring?
  • Does this organization have a website or another way for us to learn more about it?

Thank you for being willing to make change in the world!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

January Multigenerational Opportunities

Dear Parents,

Happy Holidays!  The season has brought us many opportunities to worship and celebrate together.  I especially want to thank everyone who worked to make our Christmas Pageant and Hanukkah party a success last Sunday.

This Sunday (December 23) will be the last of our Faith Development classes until January 27.  This is not intended to be a "winter break" or a time for families to stay away.  Rather, we hope that your family will participate in the multigenerational worship opportunities we have between now and the end of January.

December 24 at 5:30 pm - The Christmas Eve worship is always open to families.  Between readings and songs, this is a time to be together as a community.  I will share a children's story called "Three Wise Women" by Mary Hoffman (one of my all-time favorite Christmas stories).  I hope you will join us.

December 30 - We do see this day as sort of a break for families to spend time together.  Happy New Year!

January 6 - We will return with a fantastic Winter Celebration, including a drama (any students who would like to be snowflakes and help make a wishing well, please join us at 9:45 and wear white or light colors if possible).  The story of this drama continues the story of Diana and her brother Jack that we began at the Autumn Celebration.  They will meet the Goddess Brigid (played by Ellen O'Neill Waite).  Jessica Gray will be preaching.

January 13 - This will be the farewell worship for Rev. Tom and Sue Schade, and we hope families will share in this farewell together.  Tom has been a fixture at this church for most of our children's lives.  Our teenagers will offer a message for Tom, and we will offer a gift made by the children.  All are welcome at the celebration luncheon after the service.

January 20 - Martin Luther King, Jr Worship - This is a time when our church turns to social action and civil rights.  The YRU2 will share readings from the classic Civil Rights stories, and we will explore together how we wish to make a change in the world.  Last spring we focused our local social justice efforts on animal rights and rescue.  What will we choose this year?  Come and make your voices heard!

Then, January 27 we will begin our classes again.  We will not have another multigenerational worship until mid-March, so students will have a good opportunity to connect with one another through this extended time of classes.

Our YRU2 and BYKOTA groups will meet according to their own schedules during this time.

I hope that all of our families have a happy, healthy holiday season, and I look forward to sharing the coming year with you.

Bright Blessings,
Jessica Gray
Director of Faith Development Ministries

When words don't seem like enough

It is so difficult for us to know what to say to children in the face of a tragedy like the shooting in Newtown, CT.  Many of you have struggled to find your own words, and some are probably fatigued at reading even more words.  I found the following to be very worthwhile - to read myself and to share with my own 5-year old (who has asked some questions).  It was written by Rev. Jan K. Nielsen at The Universalist Church in West Hartford, Connecticut.  I have changed only a few names to make it relevant for our children.

December 16, 2012
A Time for All Ages
·       Something happened last week that made a lot of people very sad. 
·       A person hurt some people, including some children. 
·       It was wrong for this person to hurt other people. 
·       Things like this don’t happen very often.
·       Most people are good and do good things.
·       But sometimes a few people do bad things and when they do, we all feel sad.  Sometimes after bad things happen, we also can feel scared or worried. 
·       When I feel sad or scared or worried, it helps me to talk to someone I feel safe with.  If you ever need someone to talk to about what you’re feeling, you might talk with someone at home or at school, or you can always talk to your parents, Ms. Jessica or your Sunday School teacher.
·       I want all of you to know that you have a lot of grown- ups around you who work very hard to protect you and keep you safe. 
·       I also want you to remember that each one of you is loved very much: your families love you, and Ms. Jessica, your Sunday School teachers,  and all the grown-ups here at church love you very much.    
·       When bad things happen, it helps to be with other people and do things together that make us feel better.   
·       When we are sad, it also helps to do what we can to help other people.  When we help other people, we feel better inside.  You might draw a picture or write a letter for the kids and families at the school.  
·       It’s good to help others but it’s also important to help ourselves by enjoying life and having fun doing all the things that make life special – like eating dinner at home or running and playing games or just sitting quietly with a book – and when we’re enjoying these times we don’t have to think about sad things; we can just let our hearts be happy right now, right where we are. 
·       We have inside us hearts, hearts that pump blood throughout bodies and help us to live.  We also have deep inside us our spiritual hearts that help us love other people and enjoy life.  
·       Our hearts, our spiritual hearts, are made to feel better after bad things happen -- and when we help each other and enjoy life and love each other, our hearts feel better. 
·       When we are sad, it helps all of us to be together in places like this where we can pray together and remind one another
o   that life is a very special gift and
o   that the most important thing we can do each day is to love one another.
·       I believe in a loving God who is with us always and is sad with us when we are sad and who is very happy when we help each other and love one another.    
·       And I believe that our prayers make a difference.  When we pray, we help each other and we also help ourselves to do God’s work in the world. 
·       A prayer I’ve been saying and one I’ve heard some of your parents saying the past few days is one most of us know by heart -- our benediction.  Let’s say it together: 
Go out into the world in peace
Have courage
Hold on to what is good
Return to no person evil for evil
Strengthen the fainthearted
Support the weak
Help the suffering
Honor all beings