Saturday, March 7, 2015

50 Years Ago Today: the Art and Discipline of Non-Violence

Today marks the 50th anniversary of the march on Selma, Alabama in support of voting rights for African Americans. The first person across the bridge was John Lewis. He was also the first beaten unconscious by police. This event, came to be known as Bloody Sunday and spurred many Unitarian Universalists to go to Selma and join in the struggle. See photos from then, here.

April 2, 1965, less than a month after he was attacked, John Lewis spoke at UUSS about his experiences in Selma. His visit to Schenectady was sponsored by our "Church Council" (AKA Board of Trustees) and the Schenectady branch of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC.)

At Unitarian Universalist Society Schenectady, members were well aware of what was happening and in support of Civil Rights. The Orders of Service from the months of March and April 1965 show a series of Sunday sermons and weekly talks about Civil Rights.

One of the organizations this church raised money for in 1965 was SNCC. And while I do not know if there is a direct link, we also funded, through the church, a position for a person who connected with young adults at the local colleges. It was college youth who made up SNCC.

You can hear John Lewis speak about Selma and the Art and Discipline of Non-Violence in what I found to be a very moving interview here.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ruby Bridges and Martin Luther King Jr's Legacy

Tomorrow is our annual celebration of the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. During worship we will hear from children at our church about their dreams.

There will be children's books on the subject of MLK JR and the Civil rights movement located around the back of the Great Hall. And there will be ACTIVITY bags for children who would like them during the service.

One book I only recently found is about the incredible story of 6 -year-old Ruby Bridges and her experiences as the only Black child attending a school forced to desegregate in New Orleans in 1960. The Story of Ruby Bridges, by Robert Coles will also be in the back of the Great Hall.

Watch this video interview with the author that has actual clips of Ruby Bridges attending school. It's sobering and sad to see what white adults are saying and doing. Yet, her response is to pray for them, because, she says, "they know not what they do."

Her strength to stand tall in the face of violence and taunting at SIX YEARS OLD came from her family and HER CHURCH. It gives me pause to think, could we do the same? As a church? As a family?

Here is Ruby Bridges speaking about her experience.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Our Whole Lives for kindergarten and first grade.

This year we are adding two more  Our Whole Lives classes for children and youth;  K/1 and 11/12th grade courses. OWL has become a cornerstone in our religious programming. It offers a really terrific curriculum that is life- affirming and science-based in it's approach.

We have two teachers, Joel Best and Dan Bernard, who have recently attended training for the K/1 OWL program. The training focused not only on the information, but considered developmental appropriateness with children. Joel and Dan will be assisted by Tina Dell and Sharon MacNeill;, both of whom are teachers in the K/1 classroom.

The first OWL meeting is mandatory. It's a parent/child orientation that takes place Sunday, January 25 from 10 AM -12:20. Lunch will be provided.

Soon we will be letting you know dates for the Tuesday evening 11th and 12th grade OWL program. That program will be led by Randy Jennings and Mindy Whisenhunt.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Standing at the Gates of Hope

I have had lots of conversations and also thought long and hard about how to respond to recent events in Ferguson and Staten Island and beyond. How do we respond to a racism that is systemic? What is the role of religious education? 

I have been making sure we have programs in place in January that address racism and identity in age- appropriate ways for children and youth. Our programs with children utilize the well- respected, anti-bias work of early childhood educators Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia G. Ramsey. The underlying intent of their anti-bias education is to, "foster the development of children and adults who have the personal strength, critical-thinking ability, and activist skills to work with others to build caring, just, diverse communities and societies for all."

What else are we called to do? Recently The Daily Good posted a piece quoting UU Rev. Victoria Stafford. Stafford calls on us to stand at the Gates of Hope.  "We stand where we will stand, on little plots of ground, where we are maybe “called” to stand (though who knows what that means?) — in our congregations, classrooms, offices, factories, in fields of lettuces and apricots, in hospitals, in prisons (on both sides, at various times, of the gates), in streets, in community groups. And it is sacred ground if we would honor it, if we would bring to it a blessing of sacrifice and risk"…

"Our mission is to plant ourselves at the gates of Hope — not the prudent gates of Optimism, which are somewhat narrower; nor the stalwart, boring gates of Common Sense; nor the strident gates of Self-Righteousness, which creak on shrill and angry hinges (people cannot hear us there; they cannot pass through); nor the cheerful, flimsy garden gate of “Everything is gonna be all right.” But a different, sometimes lonely place, the place of truth-telling, about your own soul first of all and its condition, the place of resistance and defiance, the piece of ground from which you see the world both as it is and as it could be, as it will be; the place from which you glimpse not only struggle, but joy in the struggle. And we stand there, beckoning and calling, telling people what we are seeing, asking people what they see."

This is what I see. UU Rev Rebecca Parker wrote an essay, "Not Somewhere Else But Here: the Struggle for Racial Justice As A Struggle to Inhabit My Country," that has always resonated with me. Her descriptions of growing up white in this country are similar to my own. She writes of alienation and the "white mind-set" that can grow up not knowing, or ignoring, the violence and exploitation in this country's history, as well as "the resistance, creativity and multiform beauty of my country's peoples" She writes of the primordial violence that lies beneath wealth and privilege. A recent discussion with my daughter led to our researching prison population numbers and realizing that this country of  the "free" imprisons more people than any other country in the world.

Parker and others argue that we need to begin with remedial education for all of us. We need to know our country's history. And, Parker says, "theology must direct us, like Eve, to taste the fruit of knowledge and gladly bear the cost of moving beyond the confines of the garden."

Here are some specifics. Join us at UUSS for six Tuesday evenings, 1/13/15 - 2/17/15, 7 - 9 PM viewing and discussing the UU history DVD series, Long Strange Trip. Read Howard Zinn's, A People's History of the United States and Ronald Takaki's, A Different Mirror. I am exploring possibilities of doing this as a group read. To understand both the strengths and weaknesses of UU's participation in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and how it changed us,  join us Monday, February 23 at 7PM for a discussion of Mark Morrison-Reed's book, The Selma Awakening.

Readings on Race and Privilege:

Learning to Be White, by Thandeka

Soul Work: Anti-Racist Theologies in Dialogue, by Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley and Nancy             Palmer Jones
What If All the Kids Are White: Anti-Bias Multicultural Education with Young Children and              Families, by Louise Derman-Sparks and Patricia G. Ramsey
A People's History of the United States, by Howard Zinn
A Different Mirror, by Ronald Takaki

Friday, December 5, 2014

Homemade Holidays! Dinner! Holiday Party!

Enjoy the season with your faith community Saturday beginning at 3 PM!  Prepare for the holidays, feast and fellowship with friends!

During this often busy time of year Religious Education Council hosts an afternoon of holiday crafting!  From 3 - 6 PM there are crafts for all ages, really! And for the very littlest ones, there is childcare available.

This year we have jewelry- making, card -making, ornament-making, orange pomander making, beeswax candle making and evergreen wreath making stations! You can even wrap your gift at a wrapping station.

There will be light snacks and Wassail available during the afternoon. For those staying for the APC sponsored  Holiday Party, there will be vegetarian chili and bread available to eat.

We ask, to cover expenses, one dollar per craft. Five dollars to make a wreath.

Winter Spiral

Short December days and long nights offer many opportunities to turn inward with quieter practices. One way to experience this turning inward is with ritual.

A ritual enacted in many ways at this time of year is a lighted spiral walk. It is called an Advent Spiral or Winter Spiral Walk.

For the past 7 years we have offered this walk to children during this season. It always seems so important to practice slowing down in the midst of an often hectic time of year. And firelight has a mesmerizing quality to it!

Children in grades 2-4 made simple lanterns as they arrived Sunday morning. 

The entire ritual is done with quiet music playing in the background. Children walk one at a time into a spiral of evergreens holding an unlit candle in a lantern. At the center their candle is lit by an adult helper from the central fire. (Children were given an option of LED lights which some chose.) As they walk out of the spiral they leave their lit candle on one of the stars placed on the floor along their path.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Service Sunday

This is Sunday is our annual Service2Service worship! We will have a brief worship and then lots of opportunities to share in the work of service.

The Senior Youth Group will be serving pizza after the service as a fundraiser.

There are activities for all ages and abilities. Here are a list of activities planned for Sunday.

Leaf raking with your own tools at the homes of two UUSS members:
(Maps available at the SAC table.)

Schenectady Home Furnishings. Starting at 11:30 we will
meet there to put together kit furniture. Pick up directions
at the SAC table after the service.

Book drive for recycling unwanted books (hard back or
paperback.) Bring to the church.

Clean up Steinmetz Park just north of UUSS.

Assemble bags of personal care products for the homeless.
It's not too late to bring supplies!

As part of care packages, sign cards for senior youth
graduates attending college.

7th and 8th graders will be making 100 bag lunches for
Bethesda House to be delivered the same day.

(Evening Opportunity)  SICM Harvest for the Pantry.