Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Making Promises

A Story for All Ages by Becky Brooks

Once upon a time there was a fox named Ralph and a platypus named Gene, both of whom lived in a very large city and neither of whom had very much money. They both put ads in the paper and online to try to find a roommate. That's how they found each other. When they met for the first time, it was okay. Gene had a very clammy handshake, but Ralph didn't mind. Ralph stared very intently when he was listening, but that didn't bother Gene. They both decided that they would be roommates and share a small apartment near the park.

The very first night after they had moved in, Ralph stumbled over the boxes that Gene had left in the middle of the floor. Grumble grumble grumble, he said in a fox-like tone of voice. Later that night Gene walked into the living room in his favorite pajamas and Ralph laughed out loud, pointing out the small holes along the seams where the fabric was worn out. Grumble grumble grumble, he said with a low platypus sound, and went back to his room.

The next morning Ralph was pouring himself some cereal and noticed that Gene had left the milk on the counter overnight and it was all warm. There oughta be a law, Ralph grumbled. Later that day Gene slipped and fell in the kitchen where Ralph had just waxed the floor without letting him know. There oughta be a law, Gene muttered.

That night when Ralph got home, Gene greeted him at the door and waved a piece of paper around in his fist—"We've gotta have some rules!" he shouted. Ralph pulled a piece of paper out of his own pocket and shouted right back—"Oh yeah? I got some rules of my own!"

Ralph's rules were:

1. No leaving anything in the middle of the floor—Exclamation point!

2. Food should stay in the refrigerator—Exclamation point!

Gene's rules were:

1. No laughing—Exclamation point!

2. No cleaning—Exclamation point!

"Fine!" said Ralph.

"Fine!" said Gene

So for the next two weeks no one put anything on the floor. For the next two weeks no one opened the refrigerator. For the next two weeks no one laughed. And for the next two weeks no one cleaned anything.

Oddly, this strict adherence to the rules didn't make anyone happy. One morning they were sitting at the table—not eating breakfast because they had already eaten all the food outside the refrigerator. And they agreed that the rules weren't working out as well as they had thought. They sat there for a long time, not knowing what to do.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you about waxing the floor," said Ralph. "Next time I'll let you know."

"Promise?" asked Gene.

"I promise," said Ralph.

And that's when they got a very good idea. Instead of rules for how they would treat each other, they made promises.

Gene promised to take good care of the things that they shared, to put away the milk so it wouldn't go bad and keep the floor clear so no one would trip on anything. Ralph promised too.

Ralph also promised to be kind because that's how he would like other people to treat him. Gene promised too.

They both promised to talk to one another if something was bothering them, and to talk about decisions together so that each of them would have a vote.

They thought of a lot of good promises, all through the day and all through the night. Just when he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer, Gene thought of one more promise. "I promise to be the best roommate ever," he said. But Ralph furrowed his brow. "I don't know if I can promise that," he said, "but I can promise to try." And that was their favorite promise of all.


One of the things that I think is really special about Unitarian Universalism is that we make some great promises. Some of these are promises that we say to each other with words and some are promises that we practice with our actions. We promise to be kind and to treat people and animals and the earth with respect. We promise to make decisions together and to take care of the things we share, like our church building and the hymnals and the trees out front. What other promises do we make to one another? How can promises help us be better neighbors, better community members and better friends?

Adult Religious Education Classes this Fall

Fall at First Unitarian Church of Baltimore is packed with ways to make deeper connections in our community. Click here to download a full calendar of events and programming for October. Here are a few highlights. Click on the titles to view or download a flyer about any the following:

(Wednesdays, Oct. 7-Nov. 18, 7-9 pm) Led by Becky Brooks.
Search through your own religious history and spiritual development in order to identify the values and beliefs that form your core faith identity. Through discussion, exercises, homework, and reflection, participants will create spiritual autobiographies, examine the ways we make meaning in our lives, and develop a personal credo statement.

(Wednesdays, Oct. 21-Dec. 9, 7-8:30 pm) Led by Doreion Colter.
We will examine the history of the Pre-Nicene church. We will be examining the first three hundred years of the church and its struggle for survival. We will be examining its practices, beliefs, doctrines, and the nature of faith tempered with reason that is "faith based upon reason."

(Sundays, Nov. 1- 22)
Participants will be matched into Pen Pal Pairs and each Sunday (Nov. 1-22) will bring in a letter for their "Pal" written on a topic announced the previous Sunday. Matches will be announced by Oct. 25, along with the topic for the first week's exchange. This is a great way to get to know a fellow congregant better while thinking deeply about "Big Questions."

(Saturday, Dec. 5) Led by Rev. David Carl Olson.
Our minister presents an opportunity to consider the classic Biblical texts of the preparatory season before Christmas. Considering the words of the Hebrew prophets—especially understood by the writers of the early Jesus movement—we will spend a half-day in retreat with singing, visual art, commentary and meditation.

To register online for any of the classes above or to request information regarding our other ongoing groups for Adults, click here. For a registration form to download and print instead, click here. Return completed print forms to Becky Brooks any Sunday during coffee hour or mail to the church office (1 W. Hamilton St., Baltimore, MD 21201). If you have any questions about the Lifespan Religious Education programs at First Unitarian, contact Becky Brooks.

Kids' Month

Did you know that October is Kids' Month in Downtown Baltimore?

Special events all over Downtown include art activities at The Walters, a Kids' Fun Run, BSO concerts, and much more. Check out a full listing at the Downtown Partnership Website on their Kids' Events page.

Here at First Unitarian, October will wrap up with one of our most popular events for both kids and adults: our Annual Halloween Party, Friday, Oct. 30, 6-8 pm. You won't want to miss it!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Building Your Own Theology Begins Oct. 7

Religious education is the cradle-to-grave process by which we grow our theology.... The essential thing is not so much how one labels these values (for example, whether one uses the term “God” or not), but that these values be understood and made real in the life of the person. This program is largely built on undertaking these tasks.

Richard S. Gilbert

Building Your Own Theology invites you to search through your own religious history and spiritual development in order to identify the values and beliefs that form your core faith identity. Through discussion, exercises, homework, and reflection, participants will create spiritual autobiographies, examine the ways we make meaning in our lives, and develop a personal credo statement. We will meet for seven consecutive Wednesday evenings, Oct. 7–Nov. 18 on the following topics:

Oct. 7 — Your Religious Odyssey

Oct. 14 — Varieties of Liberal Religious Experience

Oct. 21 — Human Nature: Some Self-Understanding

Oct. 28 — Ultimate Reality: Creating an Honest God

Nov. 4 — Ethics: The Importance of Being Good for Nothing

Nov. 11 — We Are the Meaning Makers

Nov. 18 — So What?: Imperatives of My Theology

Building Your Own Theology will be led by Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Becky Brooks. Childcare will be provided on request. Limit 15 participants.

When: Wednesdays, Oct. 7–Nov. 18, 7:00–9:00 pm

Register online here or contact Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Becky Brooks.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gardening is a Good Place to Start.

by Molly Ruhlman

Yesterday I knocked down a giant interconnected web craftily spun by a spider between our compost bin and the beans. Not very kind to the spider, but necessary if we were to walk around the beans to the tomatoes and pick our produce. The spider will only build another, I imagine. The web reminded me of the other giant interconnected web; The Unitarian Universalist one, of course, and of my hope that this messy little garden could teach Zoe everything that it means to me.

Perhaps it is too much to ask a modest backyard garden to teach a child about thankfulness, interconnectedness, and morality. But, here is a story about why I think it is worth a try.

Our backyard is a wild, overgrown, semi-cultivated children’s museum of educational opportunity for a toddler. Before she was born I daydreamed about gardening together. She would play on a blanket or be strapped to my back while I planted, weeded, and harvested. We would talk about where food comes from. Watch it grow out of the ground. Thank the worms that helped the dirt. Taste food right off the vine. Some of this came true in practice.

I want my daughter to understand that food is not something that magically appears in a grocery store. I want her to be aware that everything we do depends on people we do not know, plants, animals, rain, bugs, and our actions too. I do not want her to take things for granted. I would like her to think of the whole lifecycle of everything we use and the impact of our actions. There wouldn’t be so much darn litter in our neighborhood if the kids (and adults) had some respect for the things they used and some awareness of what happens after they toss it on the ground. I would like Zoe to learn respect, awareness, and thankfulness. A good place to start is to plant a garden.

I am not much of a gardener. I only started a garden maybe five years ago. It is messy and weedy and not everything grows the way it should. But every year we eat something that comes from our backyard and each year I have some additional success (and additional failures). I am learning. I want my daughter to learn from the get go.

What is she learning? Right now our biggest lesson is distinguishing between red and green tomatoes and only picking the red ones. But I don’t stop her from exploring and picking, even if it is a green tomato or a not-yet-finished eggplant. She will learn. And as she does we will talk about where the food that we buy at the store grows – who takes care of those plants? What water do they use to give the plants a drink? Is it from a rain barrel like we have at our house? Where does the water come from when it comes out of a hose? How did the food get to this store? How did this cereal get in this box? Did it come from a plant? If we can’t plant cereal in our garden, where does it come from?

Imagine that everyone thought about all the steps in the long long chain that brings a person Cheerios in the morning, and everything else that we eat, and everything else that we do.

Gardening together is a good place to start.

Family Meeting, Sept. 13, 9:00 am

Each year the start of Religious Education classes begin with a flurry of activity — which class will my children be in? what will they be studying? how do I register? how can I be involved?

This year, please plan to attend a [brief] meeting for all families with children and youth, Sunday, Sept. 13 at 9:00 am. We will go through a brief overview of each of this year's Religious Education Classes, invite children to make their own nametags and get their photos taken, register for the program and answer any questions you may have about the year. Childcare will be available for infants and toddlers, older children are invited to attend along with the adults.

We will adjourn in time for families to join the annual Pancake Breakfast in the Parish Hall before our multi-generational worship service. I hope you'll join in the fun as we kick off the year with a festive Sunday morning!

See you in church!

Register your children and youth for Religious Education

Religious Education classes for children and youth are right around the corner, beginning Sept. 27.

Registering for the RE program has never been easier. To fill out the quick and eco-friendly online form, simply click here. You will also find the same link under "Children and Youth RE Links" in the sidebar to the right.

If you prefer to complete a paper form, you will find a downloadable copy by clicking here. Simply complete the form and return it to Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Becky Brooks at church before Sept. 27.

Thank you!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Welcome Home!

Though the stage for our Religious Education Program for Children and Youth looks quiet, behind the scenes, things are humming. We are looking forward to welcoming our new settled minister, Rev. David Carl Olson this Sunday and a month full of exciting new ventures await. For a printable, refrigerator-postable calendar, download a September Events page here.

Here are some highlights for the month:

Sunday, Sept 6,
11:00 am — Worship
Rev. Olson's first Sunday in the pulpit will welcome us back to our usual fall schedule of worship in the sanctuary at 11:00 am. All ages are welcome. Childcare is available in the downstairs classrooms for children who do not wish to remain in worship. Following worship we will enjoy light refreshments as we welcome Rev. Olson to our community.

Sunday, Sept 13,
9:00 am — Family Meeting
Parents and children are invited to learn about our Children's Religious Education program for 2009-10. This will be an opportunity for the whole family to learn about classes, register for the program, take fall photos, make nametags and ask any questions you may have about RE. Childcare will be available for infants and toddlers, but all children are encouraged to attend.

9:30 am — Pancake Breakfast
The Board of Trustees invites the Whole Community to this annual welcome back breakfast in the Parish Hall.

11:00 am — Multi-Generational Worship (Homecoming/Water Communion Service)
To celebrate our annual Water Communion service, bring a bit of water representing your journeys this year, whether inward or outward, metaphorical or physical. Childcare is available, but all children are welcome to attend.

Saturday, Sept 19,
9:00 am — Religious Education Classroom Clean-Up
Work out your enthusiasm for the start of a new church year by coming to help clean up and organize the children's classrooms in time for the start of Religious Education classes next week. There will be tasks of all sorts for ages 8 and up. Clean up has never been this much fun! Bring the whole family!

Sunday, Sept 20,
11:00 am — Multi-Generational Worship (Community Installation of Rev. Olson)
When a new minister arrives, the whole community is asked to make and accept promises as we move into a covenantal relationship with Rev. David. Children, youth and adults will all be asked to participate. Childcare is available, but all children are encouraged to attend. A welcome reception will follow the worship service. There is sure to be cake!

Sunday, Sept 27,
11:00 am — Religious Education Classes Begin!
As has been our practice in recent years, the whole community will gather for worship together in the sanctuary for a Time for All Ages, after which children and youth will be sung to their classes. Our Nursery, Sprouts, Maiasaurs, Explorers and Youth Group will all meet. Parents, please pick up your children from their classrooms at 12:30. Youth will join social hour on their own when their group time ends.

Here's looking forward to another great year! Upcoming events and opportunities include our annual Halloween Party, the introduction of a multi-generational hand chimes choir, a children's Christmas Pageant, an All-Church Talent Show and much, much more! If you haven't already, be sure to subscribe to this Blog via email or RSS feed on the sidebar to the right.

See you in church!

Chalice Lighters Sought

Every Sunday in Unitarian Universalist congregations all over the world, we light the chalice to kindle the flame of community. This fall we will be welcoming families with children and youth to light our chalice each Sunday. If your family would like to light the chalice during worship, contact Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Becky Brooks to schedule a Sunday.