Monday, November 30, 2009

"Good Without God" Public Talk with author, Greg M. Epstein

Young Adult Ministry, First Unitarian Church of Baltimore and Baltimore Coalition of Reason present "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe," a public talk by Greg M. Epstein. Epstein is the Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University and author of the just-released best-seller, Good Without God (HarperCollins, 2009).

Sunday afternoon's event will begin at 3:00 with a Reception and Book Signing, followed at 4:00 by a Public Talk and reading.

All are welcome. Free admission. Childcare provided.

Big Question of the Week

All people everywhere wrestle with the big questions in life.  On the heels of our first ever Big Questions Letter Exchange program, each week we'll propose a "Big Question of the Week" for you to think about, comment on, and talk about with your friends and family and kids.  This week's Big Question:

How do you wrestle with the Big Questions of life?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

December Calendar of Events Available

Download your own copy of December's Calendar of Events at First Unitarian by clicking here.

Solstice Service Choir Accepting Members!

An invitation is extended to anyone interested in singing with the choir at the Solstice Service on December 21st at 7pm to attend a rehearsal on Monday evening, December 14th, from 7 until 9 pm in the Pratt Parish Hall.  We will also meet before the service to “warm up” at 6pm.  Contact Jim Houston.

Winter Solstice will be celebrated with a seasonal ritual at the First Unitarian Church of Baltimore, Charles and Franklin Streets at 7 p.m. Monday, December 21. The ritual will include songs, poetry, drama, and symbolic extinguishing of the old year’s fire and lighting of the new.

Join in turning of the wheel of the year. Celebrate the dance of the cosmos and the return of the light. Welcome the New Year. Bless the newborn babes. Give thanks for seasonal blessings. Taste the sweetness of life.

Ancient peoples around the world marked this event—in structures, stories, and feasts. Come and carry on the earth-honoring tradition! Children and infants are warmly welcome.  Food and fellowship will follow in the Parish Hall on Charles Street.

The ritual was created by Patricia Montley, author of In Nature’s Honor: Myths and Rituals Celebrating the Earth (Skinner House Books), whose several op-ed pieces on seasonal holidays have appeared in the Baltimore Sun.

Got Talent? Share it!

Our first multi-generational talent show, First U’s Got Talent! will premier on Sunday, February 7 from 1:30-3:30pm in the Parish Hall.

Come for lunch and stay for the show, to see our talented teens, tweens, children and tots – along with families with other adults, performing all kinds of fabulous acts.

If you would like to schedule a group or solo act, please sign-up at the Welcome Table in the Parish Hall or contact Lee Dix.

Youth members: we are seeking a master of ceremonies for this fabulous event!  If you are interested in becoming our emcee, please contact Lee Dix as soon as possible.

All participants should plan on attending the rehearsal on Saturday, Feb. 6, 1:30-3:30.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Big Question of the Week

All people everywhere wrestle with the big questions in life.  On the heels of our first ever Big Questions Letter Exchange program, each week we'll propose a "Big Question of the Week" for you to think about, comment on, and talk about with your friends and family and kids.  This week's Big Question:

Is there anything in life that you consider "sacred?" 
What and why?

First Unitarian Church Advent Retreat

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.  Download a flyer for this event here.

To register online 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.

Loaves and Fishes

by Becky Brooks

People forget how amazing it was even before the loaves came out.
Five thousand souls,
ten thousand eyes
ten thousand ears
straining to see, straining to hear the Rabbi

A space of time spent together to learn,
three days of stories and songs and prayers
three days of transforming themselves
inside out
to build a home inside themselves
for the holy, for god, for their own soul
to dwell
three days fed
by the Rabbi’s love.

And at the end of a day
the sun setting behind him,
Jesus the Rabbi looked out at the crowd
ten thousand eyes
on him, only him
heavy on him like a tiger on your chest
tight around him like a bandage,
and the air left his lungs
and his voice faded into the wind.

He turned to the
six disciples on his right, and the
six disciples on his left

“They are hungry, ” he said,
“How much food is left?”

The bushel looked completely empty at first,
but leaning closer in, they saw
rested on the bottom of the basket
seven loaves
two fish
five thousand empty mouths.

The Rabbi saw
six heads shaking on his right
“Not enough,” they said
six heads shaking on his left
“Not enough,” they said.

Five thousand, waiting.

The Rabbi said, “The people will know what to do.”
The Rabbi said, “Pass them along.”
The disciples took out the loaves and the fish
and handed them to the people
in the front of the crowd.

Sarah took a loaf of bread, and broke it into
two pieces.
She turned to hand a piece back, and
looked into the eyes of those around her,
the souls built from love,
and all her hunger left her,
rose from her
up into the sky

She held her hands out to another, now
two pieces of one loaf
“Pass them along,” she said,
And she was fed,
full again with everything she needed.

The people knew.
“Pass them along,” they said,
“Pass them along.”

Five thousand hungry people
had all they needed that day,
looking in the eyes of their neighbors,
one whole body.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Adult Religious Education — Call for Class Proposals

The Adult Religious Education Team selects the course and event offerings for our Adult RE programming at The First Unitarian Church of Baltimore.  Proposals are now being accepted for courses, events and ongoing groups for the Adult RE program for Winter quarter 2010 and beyond.  Anyone can submit a proposal and all proposals will be considered.  If you have an idea for a course you would like to lead, or if you have an idea of an event you'd like to see us offer even if you can't lead it yourself, submit a proposal to have our team consider it for the program. Proposals are considered on a quarterly basis.  Our quarters are as follows:

Winter (Jan-Mar) — proposals considered in early December
Spring (Apr-Jun) — proposals considered in early March
Summer (Jul-Sep) — proposals considered in early June
Fall (Oct-Dec) — proposals considered in early Sept.

The deadline for submitting a proposal for the Winter quarter of 2010 is Nov. 24.  To submit a proposal, use our online form by clicking here or download a printable proposal form here.  Printed forms can be mailed to the church (attn: Becky Brooks; 1 W. Hamilton St., Baltimore, MD 21201) or dropped off at the RE table after church on Sundays.

We await your suggestions!

Building Your Own Theology Class, Week 5

Our topic for Session 5 of Building Your Own Theology was Ethics.  Each participant was asked to develop a list of Ten Ethical Commandments as homework for this class and we spent a good deal of time creating a master list: Ethical Commandments 1-10, 11-20, 21-24.  Though this list wasn't completely comprehensive, it was a good start in representing the ethics and values present in our group.  

We then played a game where situations were posed to the group and individuals had to pick one commandment that they would look to in order to make a decision about what to do.  We played several rounds of that, first with individuals making decisions on their own, then pairs, then groups of three, groups of six and finally the whole group together.  Which of those groupings would you think would be most efficient?  Surprisingly, the group felt decision-making groups of three were the most efficient and comfortable. Group members reported that making decisions in groups enabled the process to go more quickly, though we did agree that some compromise may be involved.  How do you make ethical decisions?

Rev. David joined us and towards the end of class, led an excellent discussion about whether congregations can make unified decisions regarding moral questions?  Is it possible for a congregation like ours to take a public moral stand on an issue?  What does that process look like? What is gained? What is lost?  

With only two sessions left in our Building Your Own Theology class, we are making our way towards the final assignment, which will be to compose a personal "credo" statement or statement of belief or faith. Our homework for the next session is to spend some time reflecting on big questions:

• How should people treat each other?
• How do you know how to do the right thing?  (what informs your ethical choices?)
• What is the role of God (if any) in your life and the rest of the universe?
• What gives you hope?
• What is the purpose of your life? 

(click here to download a worksheet with the interview questions.)

For access to all class readings and worksheets, visit our folder for the class.  Readings are taken from Richard S. Gilbert's Building Your Own Theology and are available online only for the limited duration of this class and for educational use only.

Christmas Pageant 2009 Plans Are Underway!

Last year, First Unitarian held its first Christmas Pageant in recent history, under the direction of Rebecca Wald and dozens of volunteer actors, singers, musicians, costume and set designers and behind-the-scenes helpers.  Plans are now underway for this year's pageant, an adaptation of Barbara Robinson's "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever."

If you would like to participate this year or if you want to learn more, please plan to attend our Christmas Pageant Interest Meeting, Sunday, Nov. 15 at 12:45 in the downstairs Religious Education classrooms, where we will gather for lunch as Rebecca describes the production and the volunteer roles available.

The rehearsal and performance schedule will be as follows:

Sun., Dec. 6, 9:30-10:30 am — Rehearsal 1
Sun., Dec. 13, 9:30-10:30 am — Rehearsal 2
Sun., Dec. 20, 9:30-10:30 am — Rehearsal 3
Wed., Dec. 23, 6:00-8:00 pm — Dress Rehearsal (time is subject to change by popular demand if necessary)
Thu., Dec. 24, 6:00-7:00 pm — PERFORMANCE

Child, teen and adult volunteers are needed!  There are acting and musical roles for children and teens and musical and behind-the-scenes jobs for teens and adults.  If you would like to participate, there's a job for you!  If you would like to be involved but cannot attend the Nov. 15 interest meeting after church, contact Director of Lifespan Religious Education, Becky Brooks.

Second Sunday Theology Talks

Sunday, Nov. 8 at 12:45 will be the first meeting of a new program, Second Sunday Theology Talks.  Our minister, Rev. David Carl Olson will meet with anyone interested in an open discussion about our Congregation, Unitarian Universalism, and themes raised in recent sermons. All are welcome!

To explore the meaning of membership in our community, we offer Beginnings, a half-day retreat together with congregational leaders on Saturday, January 16.  Speak to Rev. David for more details.

To attend Second Sunday Theology Talks, simply drop by the downstairs Religious Education classrooms at 12:45 this Sunday.