Friday, October 31, 2008

Daylight Savings Time ends Sunday!

Don't forget to "Fall Back" and set your clocks back one hour Saturday night.  You don't want to be early for church!  : )

Our Día de los Muertos ofrenda

Thanks to all those who attended our special Día de los Muertos chapel service last week.  It was wonderful to hear the joys and sorrows going on in your lives and spend some time honoring the beings we have loved and lost.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Peace Chapel Returns, Oct. 26, for "Dia de los Muertos."

Next Sunday, October 26, we will be having a children's worship service (Peace Chapel) on the theme of "Dia de los Muertos" or "Day of the Dead." This service will happen in lieu of regular RE classes.

Children and youth will gather as usual in the sanctuary for time for all ages at 11 am, but instead of going to their RE classes, children in preschool and up (and youth, if they wish) will go to the downstairs classroom for our Peace Chapel service.

We will be celebrating Dia de los Muertos by building an "
ofrenda" or altar to our beloved dead.  Please invite your kids to bring pictures or mementos of loved ones who have died to put on our ofrenda to be honored.

We will worship together for about a half hour, after which we will have arts and crafts stations where the kids will have an opportunity to create additional items for the ofrenda.

If you would enjoy attending peace chapel with your kids, please feel free to join us and bring your own mementos of your beloved dead.  We would also love to have your assistance in helping the kids with their art projects.  If you are willing to lead a station activity, please drop me an email by clicking
here.  We will have a station for decorating sugar skulls, one for drawing and one for creating "papel picado" or cut tissue paper banners, all to decorate the ofrenda.  After church we will welcome the whole church community into our classrooms to break bread with the children and teachers in honor of the holiday.

I hope we will see you there!

Additional resources for learning more about Dia de los Muertos:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Remember the Sabbath Day and Keep It Holy

by Karla Peterson

Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. Almost everyone knows this commandment. Many of us had no choice when we were kids (my dad was a Presbyterian minister). We know many of the commandments are common sense human values, but what about the Sabbath? Is that one just a historical artifact? Weekends can be a mad rush - packed with special events, birthday parties, lessons, sports, and church. They all seem worthwhile, fun or both. How to choose when there are inevitable conflicts? Becky asked me to write about the value I find in bringing my kids to church regularly. 

My sons Owen (7) & Perry (1.5) and I go to church almost every Sunday. There are exceptions (travel, illness, special friend's birthday party) but otherwise we come. Owen might ask "why?" sometimes and at this point I just tell him that is what we do. It's something I chose as a discipline because it would be good for us. And, much like people find with regular exercise, I have kept doing it because of the benefits. 

What are the benefits of being an active member at church? They can be harder to spot than the skills learned in sports or lessons. Owen has become part of the community at First Unitarian and that gives him more than just the seven principles. The community provides a framework in which to teach him the values and life lessons that are important to me. That framework is made up of people - the famous "village" that helps raise a child. Home and school and clubs can give a skewed view to the child that the world is just made up of kids like him and the adults who serve them. Church can be more balanced with its mixture of young/old, singles/couples/families, straight/gay, well off/struggling, black/white, abilities/challenges, and different faith traditions.

Here are some examples of things Owen is learning from his church community:

Respect and justice for all people - Owen has met all kinds of people at our church (homeless people, mentally challenged people, deaf people, blind people, Wiccans) and knows that they are all part of our church family. Although there are openly GLBT people everywhere now (in our neighborhood and working in Owen's school) church gives Owen much closer relationships with GLBT singles/couples/families. Of the five secret pals he has had over the years, one was gay and one was transgendered. He can see and ask about the differences ("But why can't they get married?") but he can also see the normality of their lives. If only more grownups could attend our church and learn that lesson! 

Self Discipline - Owen is learning to sit quietly and listen to a variety of music or a speaker. He is also learning to entertain himself quietly if he doesn't feel like listening. This is an important life lesson - you aren't always going to be entertained, but you can't disturb others.

Participation in community rituals - Like the routines we establish at home that give our children a sense of security, the rituals at church can be a comfort even if the size of our church seems large and imposing. The rituals that Owen enjoys are going forward for the children's story, lighting a candle of concern, singing songs, blending our waters for water communion, celebrating Springfest and Winterfest, and sharing joys and concerns.

Caring and service - Once the relationships with people in the church are established there are plenty of opportunities for teaching caring and service. When one of Owen's classmates had an extended illness he wrote a get well note for him. When people in our Neighborhood Circle have been ill or hospitalized we try to pay them a visit. When someone we know dies we try to go to the memorial service. This has helped Owen see the blessing of health as well as the circle of life long before he has to deal with the death of a loved one.

There are lots of ways to be involved in the life of our church that complement and enhance participation on Sunday morning. But if you are interested in increasing your level of involvement you can start by making Sunday morning a priority. Come a little bit early and meet the choir people as they get a cup of coffee, play with your toddler in the nursery and get to know the other parents, find a task your child can help with like greeting people on the steps, or light a candle together for a sick friend.

Envision the relationship you want with the church community for yourself and for your children and then make it happen!

Friday, October 3, 2008

The Choose Church Challenge

This will appear as the DRE's column in the church newsletter, the Beacon, next month, but I wanted to share it here as well...

Are you an ACLU member?  A Sierra Club member?  A member of a political party? Are you an NPR member?  Do you have a gym membership?  Are you a member of your professional association?  A Safeway Club member?  Are you a member of a credit union?  A member of AAA? A National Aquarium member?  Membership has become a marketing technique for non-profit and for-profit organizations alike.  We crave a sense of belonging. Most of us would much rather be "members" than "customers" or "donors," even if this is simply a semantic difference.  This trend, however, does make it more difficult to explain and comprehend what it means to be a church member.  

It wasn't many years ago that being a member of a religious community was a given.  The congregation was your social circle, your spiritual home, your avenue for making a difference in your community, your support network for difficult times, and the validator of your rites of passage.  Like a lot of "golden ages," this milieu had its drawbacks.  In being the single location where families had so many of their needs met, the congregation had a kind of power that wasn't always positive.  Today, people have myriad ways of meeting the needs that congregational life used to serve.  Though this is a good thing in general, something is lost as well.

While today's families benefit from having a wide variety of places to learn and grow and give back, the resources they have available to give haven't significantly changed.  As a result, we have lots more options, but less money and time to devote to the many organizations we are part of.  Church now must compete for your time and money.  Sadly, when the church "loses" this competition (when your family doesn't pledge or when soccer trumps RE class and worship) it makes church less valuable for all.  

Being a church member is more than writing a check each month and more than coming to church and more than serving on a committee or teaching a class.  But when any one of those things slip off the radar, the whole congregation is the worse for it.  The absence of your time and your money dramatically change our congregation.  

On the bright side: the presence of your time and your money can make a powerful difference in our congregation as well.  Want proof?  Try this: Choose Church for 90 days.  

What does it mean to Choose Church?  Three simple, though not easy, steps:

1. Sit down with your family for the following math exercise: add up all your income before taxes and determine 2.5 percent of it.  Divide this number by 12 to determine your monthly pledge and multiply by 3 to determine your pledge for the 90 days of Choosing Church.  If you're already pledging that amount or more than that, congratulations--you're a Choosing Church pro!  If, however, this number is more than you currently pledge, commit to raising your pledge to this amount for at least 90 days.  Contact the church office to set up your payments.

2. Come to church every Sunday for 90 days, except in cases of illness or custody agreements.  It may sound like a lot, but try it for 90 days as a kind of social science experiment.  Immersing yourself regularly in the Sunday church experience will give you a perspective that you simply cannot get unless you practice it.  When the 90 days are up, look back to see what that felt like and let me know.

3. Join a committee or neighborhood circle.  Most church groups meet about once a month.   Give a church group a chance for 90 days.  If you need to know what groups there are to choose from, visit or call the office for more information.

If you're interested in the Choose Church Challenge, you can get started right away!  I look forward to seeing you more and hearing about how it is going for you.  Good luck!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Halloween Party, Oct. 30—Save the date!

Plans are underway for our annual Halloween Party, this year brought to you on a new date and time!  We will be gathering Thursday evening, October 30, from 5:30 to 8:00 pm.  Hopefully this will allow families to attend the popular Patterson Park Lantern Parade the last Saturday in October since our church event won't be a time conflict as it has in past years.  

Coordinated this year by church member, Matthew Viator, we have big plans for our event.  With all the fun activities you've come to expect, plus some new surprises, it promises to a great evening for all ages.  Bring a spooky potluck dish to share and come ready to show off your FABulous costumes.  We'll see you Oct. 30 for a Halloween Eve you won't forget!