By Joanne Dingus
For the last few years we have created a RE-Gift Store at our December Festival of the Season. Basically, the RE Committee collects gently used items from our members that would make welcome gifts for someone new. We arrange them on tables in the library during the festival, and kids get a chance to pick out gifts for their family and friends.
Last year, I brought the leftovers from our store to the Boys and Girls Club. It was such a hit that I decided to do it again this year. Because we had a couple of weeks between the festival and the date that I arranged to bring things to the club, I put out a new request for items to replenish the store. Many people responded, and I ended up with three large boxes of gifts for the event.
As soon as I arrived, a group of kids came over to my car and helped carry everything inside. I began to set things out onto the tables, and three teens jumped right in to help arrange things in a nice display. When it was time to let the kids start shopping, the teens also organized that, bringing a few kids over from the gym at a time. They were also very helpful in working with the younger kids to wrap up the presents.
I brought six dozen sugar cookies and three dozen Reindeer candy canes, and miraculously, all of them were gone by the end of the night. In fact, just about all of the items in the RE-Gift Store were taken as well. Each child had several gifts to give to their family. There were a lot of smiling faces when I left and lots of thank yous, too. I’d like to say thank you as well to all the people at the Fellowship who donated items for the store. Your generosity really made this a successful event.
I have learned that Lisa and Jonathan who I have worked with at the Club will be leaving and that there will be a new director in the new year. I hope we will be able to continue our connection with the club and bring the store back again next year.
Grow in Wonder — Connect in Love — Engage in Service — Inspire Generosity
By Maria Cory
"In the beginning God created…."
Sound familiar? Yes, these are the introductory words of the Christian Bible.
When Sunday Morning Forum facilitator Matt Thompson integrated the Book of Genesis into his two-Sunday series, a traditional theological study was not the purpose of his presentation. Rather, he used this foundational biblical book and another illustrative published work to discuss kinship patterns and how they relate to the Unitarian Universalist Second Principle: "Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.”
The most basic means of defining human relationship, instructed Matt, is through kinship. Charting the recurring ancestral themes in Genesis to help attendees visualize family structure, this articulate anthropologist described three categories of kinship:
The core of what makes us human is our families. As Matt brought to life the family dynamics depicted in Genesis, attendees observed both commonalities and dissimilarities of kinship across cultures and time, from the Old Testament to Twenty-first Century America.
Those real human emotions can present some challenges. As shown through the Genesis review, sibling rivalry, parents playing favorites, cheating and deceiving each other, and petty jealousies are all part of our human drama. "How we react to and with people is something that should give us pause," said Matt, "and as UU's, this intentionality is important as we relate to each other with kindness and respect"—which brings us full circle, back to the importance of living out the UU Second Principle.
In the beginning, God created…the family of humankind. So may it be.
"Humankind has not woven the web of life.
We are but one thread within it.
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.
All things are bound together.
ALL THINGS CONNECT."
"Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is the little voice at the end of the day that says, 'I’ll try again tomorrow.'"
-Mary Anne Radmacher
For many years when Abby was younger, I watched her on mornings before school and on Monday holidays. Recently, she and her younger brother asked if they could start coming to church with me. They like going to RE classes and making new friends.
As you may know, once a month, the middle and high school students attend service and sometimes a youth is scheduled to be layleader. After seeing Robert as layleader, Abby asked, “Can I do that sometime?”
“Sure,” I said and put her on the schedule.
The Sunday before her scheduled date, she stayed after services to practice reading the script from the pulpit with the mic. A couple adults kindly listened and offered suggestions; slow down, pause, breathe, etc.
As Sunday approached, Abby’s anxiety grew. She is a good reader but public speaking was new for her and there was the added pressure of inviting her Mom to come to our church for the first time.
The Friday before, she asked if she could do another practice session. So, we went through the script together a few more times. That Sunday morning, she was very nervous. About five minutes before the service started she asked, “What happens if I throw up?”
Knowing this was a possibility, I did my best to reassure her that she would be fine, but added, after noting the time, “If you really need to throw up, do it now!”
First service went relatively smoothly. She read a little too quickly and stood a little too far from the microphone. She looked to me several times to make sure she was doing everything right and overall, she did as well as many of our adult layleaders.
Second service, the pressure was off, or so I thought. She had received many compliments after first service and got to make her mom proud. But after children’s focus, when I returned to the sanctuary after walking the children to classes, I could tell something was up. Abby’s anxiety had returned.
I couldn’t say anything because we were in the two minutes of silence following the pastoral prayer. But a few adults began motioning and whispering to Abby to start the offering. She looked to me for confirmation and I mouthed “not yet.” The adults continued to offer their instructions. I tried to quietly let the adults know they were wrong while letting Abby know she was right but I was too late. When the silence was over and it was time for Abby to announce the offertory, her emotions took over and she shut down, broke down and ran out of the sanctuary.
After delivering the words for the offertory myself, I went looking for her. She had locked herself in a bathroom stall, sobbing.
I did what I could to tell her she hadn’t done anything wrong. She was doing it all right and although the adults were trying to be helpful, they were the ones who had gotten it wrong.
I told her to take some time, and that when she was ready, if she wanted to, she could come back and finish the service. I really did not expect what happened next. But a couple of minutes later, she walked right back into the sanctuary and took her seat on the chancel. She announced the last hymn and stood by the guest minister, facing the whole congregation. At the end of service, he thanked her for being layleader and everyone applauded.
After the services, Abby told me that I had made a mistake. I hadn’t fully explained the difference between first and second service sharing of Joys and Sorrows versus Pastoral Prayer. She told me she had read the intro meant for first service only, while I was out of the room with the kids. That was why the other adults had launched into rescue mode. I was right; the adults had gotten it wrong, myself included.
On the drive home Abby surprised me with one more question, “Can I be layleader again next week?”
Prayer: May we be grateful for the lessons of courage and resilience given so freely. May we remember that learning happens when mistakes are made. And may we hear the roar of courage in each little voice.
**Note—I am working with the Sunday Services Committee to schedule Abby and other interested youth as layleaders in the new year.
See you in the RE!
Happy Birthday to all our members born in December!
If you are a member and have a birthday in December that we overlooked, please contact Bobbie Schilling; email@example.com.
Services include sermons preached by Rev. Andrew Clive Millard unless otherwise noted.
December 3rd: “Hope is here.”
For what do you hope this season? What is it that really matters to you? What do you wish to see in the world? What do you wish to do in the world? What do you need from the world that will truly nourish your soul, sustain you into an uncertain future, and give you the strength to embrace your better self?
December 10th: “Faith is here.”
In what do you have faith in life? What is it that gives you a sense of being truly at home? Where can you find a quiet moment to calm your mind, to rest your body, and to renew your spirit? How can you offer that to others, smoothing out the wrinkles in our complicated lives, stepping back and taking stock in how we are in the world?
December 17th: “Joy is here.”
What brings you joy? What is it that lights up your eyes, that quickens your step? Who are the people that delight you, that put a smile on your face when you see them? How do you find joy in what you do? How do you bring joy to those around you, near or far, friends or strangers?
Special music for Hanukkah will be provided by the ChorUUs!
December 24th (9:30am and 11:15am): “Love is here.”
How do you love? Does love touch you, hold you, fill you, fling you into the world? Whom do you love? Are there family members or friends, close to you or far away, living or departed, their faces in your heart? Does your love reach out, to heal, to soothe, to comfort, to feed the hungry and warm the cold?
Special Services for Christmas Eve!
5:00pm on December 24th: “Finding Refuge”
7:00pm on December 24th: “Celebration in Words and Music”
We hold two services on Christmas Eve! The earlier is a family service exploring the path of finding refuge through story, song and an interactive challenge; the later celebrates the season through poetry and prose. Both services feature traditional Christmas carols and will conclude with the beloved ceremony of passing the flame.
Special music will be provided by the UUFP’s fabulous musicians!
December 31st: “New Year’s Resolutions”
New Year’s is a rather strange little holiday. Is it mainly a way to extend the festive season for an extra week? A chance for some adult revelry after the Santathon? What makes January 1st such a big deal? It has no major astronomical or historical significance, so why has it become the start of the New Year? And what have resolutions got to do with it all? Jim Sanderson will explore the New Year celebration and invite your participation in an end-of-year ritual.
UUFP President Jim Sanderson is a long-time Unitarian Universalist. He has served as chair of the Sunday Services Committee, as UUFP Vice President, and as a Fellowship Circle facilitator. Before joining the Fellowship, Jim served as the locally ordained minister of the Jenkins UU Fellowship in Petersburg and for a decade as chair of the Religious Education Committee at First Unitarian in Richmond. A retired librarian, Jim has a strong passion for UU history, finding much in our past that can inform our present and future.