Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Advent Spiral

This Saturday  from 5-7 PM is our Advent Spiral for children. The Advent Spiral is an opportunity for a quiet ceremony of reverence and love for children during this time of year.

We start with a gathering and potluck. When we begin the ceremony everyone is instructed in how it works. The children hear a story. Then, each child receives and unlit candle and walks, one at a time into a spiral made of evergreen boughs. At the center is a lit candle. The child lights their candle and walks back out, leaving their own lit candle at a place along the spiral. During the time the adults are around the spiral singing to each child as they walk the spiral.

The ceremony comes from the Waldorf tradition. It also fits in well with our Unitarian Universalist belief of a light inside each that can guide us on our own search for truth and meaning.  And the light of the chalice that symbolizes our shared community.

It is a lovely ceremony with ancient symbolism for this time of year. Symbolically it is a journey inside, in darkness, an opportunity to receive the light that is within us us, and to carry it out and set this light of ours on a path to light the way.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Winter Holiday season at FUSS

Please join us for Homemade Holidays this Saturday, December 3, 4-7PM! 
It's an all -ages fellowship event of craft and gift making! Create a wreath or swag from evergreens to take home or decorate the church. Make beautiful gifts to share for the holidays and crafts to decorate your home with.  Enjoy wassail or hot chocolate. The scents of this time of year are enticing!

$5 to make a wreath or swag. $1/ticket/craft to make a craft at the various craft tables. There's a wrapping station too! Childcare is provided. Bring box, tray or laundry basket to bring your treasures home in. Stay for the Holiday party that follows!

Sunday our festivities continue. Our Coming of Age youth will spend 1/2 the day in retreat at Stillpoint Interfaith Retreat Center exploring contemplative traditions. Our 4th and 5th graders will make cookies during the RE time that they will give serve to the congregation after the service and package up and share with our FUSS family at the Glen Eddy.

Stay for lunch then join us for Holiday Caroling - Sunday, December 4, 1 PM at the Glen Eddy, a retirement community where many from our FUSS family live. All ages welcomed! Children need to be accompanied by a parent or guardian

Later in the month is our Advent Spiral Walk for children on Saturday, December 17, 5- 7 PM. Children can experience their own quiet, seasonal ritual! Family potluck @ 5 PM. A story. Then, children can walk a spiral laid out with evergreens and light a candle at the center.

The Mitten Tree is one of our oldest holiday traditions at FUSS. People knit, crochet and purchase hats, mittens and socks we give to two local shelters, Bethesda House & Sojourn House.

We will again support Sojourn House, a second chance home for homeless women with children and pregnant women. Leave new, unwrapped gifts, toys and arts and crafts supplies December 4 thru December 18 @ table in back of the Great Hall. See sidebar for more suggestions.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Celebrating All Hallow's Eve

This Sunday is our annual All Hallow's Eve party!  As has been our tradition, children in our youngest classes rotate by class to different activities: games, stories, crafts and food.  This year our 6th and 7th grade class asked to lead an activity for the children in their classroom.

As I have already written about here, as a liberal religion, we are very deliberate about how we celebrate and share together in celebration. Halloween is a cultural holiday in the United States.  Where the candy that many of us hand out comes from is problematic because it involves child slavery in attaining the raw ingredients.

In pagan celebrations going back many, many years, Halloween, Samhain to the Celts, is an agricultural festival. It is a time when the veil between the living and dead is the thinnest. It is a time to honor our ancestors. Making an Ancestor Altar would be both appropriate to this holiday and important in acknowledging and discussing these big questions about life and death. We are all here only because of those who have come before us. An excellent resource on this holiday and other that I have found is Waverly Fitzgerald's, e-magazine, Living in Season.

Friday, September 9, 2011

A UU response to 9/11: Think Interfaith

“We need not think alike to love alike.” -Francis David, Transylvanian minister and early Unitarian.

This Sunday marks the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on this country. "Standing on the Side of Love," a UU public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression is asking UU's to Think Interfaith this Sunday.

Most elementary-aged children were not yet born when 9/11 happened. Yet, older children may hear about it in school. To discus the attacks with older children, a book recommended by a number of religious educators is, 14 Cows for America. It is a true story of the heartfelt response by the Maasai people to the attacks.

Religious Education in September

Our religious education programming for fall starts September 18! We will all gather in the Great Hall for worship. After the teacher dedication, children ages 4 thru grade 5 will go to children's chapel, and grades six and up will go to their programs. September 25 all our religious education classes meet in their rooms beginning at 10:30.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Guatemala: A brief photo essay

 July 22- August 1, 2011, 19 FUSS youth and 6 adults traveled to Guatemala to work with an organization called Safe Passage. Guatemala is a country of great beauty and great poverty.

 Our youth worked with children who live with their families around the garbage dump. The garbage dump in Guatemala City is the biggest garbage dump in Central America. Safe Passage provides support for the children in their school work, healthy meals, medical assistance. Most importantly they provide hope and opportunity to families living in extreme poverty. They serve over 500 children in over 300 families.
Our youth and adult chaperones worked all year to be able to make the trip. The money they raised also paid for a Quinceanera, a celebration for girls who were 15 years old. While we were there,  practiced waltzing and took the Quinceanera girls bowling. We also decorated for the celebration. When the day arrived, the 21 girls, their family and friends (170 people in all!) celebrated.

It was a beautiful ceremony and party.

We'll lead a worship service October 16 and share more about our experiences in Guatemala and with Safe Passage.

Thursday, July 28, 2011


I am posting this from Antigua, Guatemala. I am here with 19 UU youth  and 6 adults participating as support team members for Safe Passage. The days have been busy and full. If I could post pictures now I would.
The pictures would included our youth learning how to waltz in preparation for the Quinceneras, then learning a contemporay dance from the 15 -year old girls for whom we are here hosting this celebration.
There would be picture of smiling children hugging our youth who are working with them in English classes, playing games and reading stories. There would be pictures of our youth smiling too, while they taught second graders origami, lanyard making, mask making and beading.
There would be pictures depicting great poverty against a backdrop of beautiful, green mountains. Mayan women walking with great loads on their backs. Women older and stronger then me. Children carried close in colorful cloth slings. Spanish style buildings and squatter communities with homes built of whatever matierial they can gather from the nearby garbage dump.
Our youth have been spectacular here. We are a large group and have worked long and hard to be an intentional community together. We  worship together each night and different groups of youth lead.
As I work and play and learn and get very very tired, I keep hearing the words of an Aboriginal Activist float through my mind, "If you are here to help, you are wasting your time. But if you are here because your libreration is bound up with mine, let us work together." I think that's what we are doing as we see ourselves as global citizens.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

General Assembly in North Carolina, next, Phoenix!

Charlotte, NC

"We are not a religious tradition with a creed, but a religious movement that has always wedded social justice work to theology."—James Luther Adams

Over 4000 UU's came to GA in North Carolina this past June.  It seemed to me to represent the best of what Unitarian Universalism offers this world: radical self- awareness and questioning, spiritual practice, beloved community, all in the spirit of creating a world with more equity, justice and more joy. The local paper, wrote an interesting piece that made the front page. It was a tremendous experience and I am looking forward to sharing some of what I learned.
Next year, June 20 -24, 2012, GA is in Phoenix, AZ and it's a special "Justice" GA. You''ll hear lots about it in the year to come.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Celebrating May!

Sometimes, gathering together with all ages just to celebrate our community and the space we occupy can be an invaluable religious education experience. 
Last time we gathered for RE.. .
 Together we raked and weeded our space.

We prepared a yummy feast. While we ate we shared some of our memories from the past year in RE.

 We cleaned up our labyrinth and offered a bubble blessing!

If you were not there, we missed you! Hope to see you at RE Games day this Sunday our traditional all-ages extra fun celebration!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Religious Education this Sunday and beyond

We are coming to a close on this part of our RE year. Here's what's left:

May 29: Combined RE: Includes PreK thru Senior Youth
It's been a long, cold spring so we will celebrate our RE community together OUTSIDE!!! We'll be outside cleaning up and preparing for our celebration.  We'll celebrate our achievements in RE this past year. We'll dance and feast! We'll rededicate our walking labyrinth. Come and participate if you are in town.

June 5: A Holy Urgency: A Combined Multigenerational Worship in Round Lake.
Five UU congregations come together in worship. Five choirs sing together! Rev. Scott Alexander will travel up  from Florida to preach. Should be wonderful! Lunch afterwards by Brooks Barbeque. There is a vegetarian option. Please purchase tickets by 5/29. Yes, you can bring your own lunch.

June 12: RE Games Day: An all ages FUN RE tradition!! 

Christine Carpenter returns with Circus Yoga! New this year we a have a 24' parachute. Hula hoops, jump ropes and MORE! FUSS Picnic after the party and worship service.

June 19: Summer RE starts!
These are stand alone classes for ages 5-10 every Sunday all summer.

Friday, May 20, 2011

RE Art Show

Mirrors in which they can see themselves,
windows in which they can see the world.
  • Lucille Clifton, African American poet, writer and educator

This artwork was created by First Unitarian Society Schenectady fourth-graders during their 2010-2011 religious education class: Windows and Mirrors.

The program, Windows and Mirrors, nurtures children's ability to identify their own experiences and perspectives and to seek out, care about and respect those of others. In their sessions the children unpacked topics that lent themselves to diverse experiences and perspectives—for example, faith heritage, public service, anti-racism and prayer. Windows and Mirrors teaches that there are always multiple viewpoints and everyone's viewpoint matters.

The children did guided work on individual Window/Mirror Panels in each session to explore looking inward and looking outward in terms of the session's topic. As a mirror, the panel reflects the individual child. As a window, it represents their view and connections beyond themselves to the congregation, other communities to which they belong and the world.

This artwork is hanging in the church sanctuary.  Turn right after entering the building. Go through the doors and you'll see the art on the wall on your right. Many, many thanks to our custodian, Helen, and RE teacher Dan Bernard who saw to its' display.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Reflections on candy and compromise

Ah traditions! Springtime, like fall is a season of contemplating change. Instead of life around us dying, we see new life again. We have many stories and rituals around these changes: daffodils, Easter bunnies, eggs and the story of the death of Jesus are a few. These are all powerful stories and at FUSS we work hard to honor traditions even as our awareness of what they might mean grows and changes. So too we sometimes let go of traditions that don't really serve our Unitarian Universalist values.

And, as is often the case change, does not come without some amount of debate and discussion.   It is an opportunity for deeper reflection around shared values and a chance to find common ground. This is definately the case with our Easter egg hunt. The RE Council made a decision to eliminate candy with the egg hunt and published this in Circuits and the OOS so that people would know about the change. There were lots of good reasons for this. Most parents try to limit the amount of highly processed foods like candy that their children eat. Most children receive an Easter basket with plenty of candy. For many children candy is particularly bad for them and their bodies react negatively to the excessive sugar, chemical additives and colorings. And, in terms of living out our values there are serious ethical considerations with much of the candy that is sold, namely it's connection to child slavery.

Our senior youth responded that they felt this was an important traditions that they were a part of. Each year it is the senior youth who hide the eggs.  After much discussion the compromise was this: children will hunt for eggs. We all agreed that along with hiding the eggs, searching for them was the most fun. Some of the eggs will have seeds in them. Once the children finds the eggs they will return them to the senior youth. When they do the senior youth will give the children a small bag of candy. The rabbit and egg candy is made by a local company. The earth balls are fair trade.

It is in all these ways: discussion, education, reflection, compromise, respect for each others opinions that we live out our values. I think this was a pretty good chance to travel that path.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Adult RE

We have four adult RE opportunities in March, besides the opportunities  to learn from leading classes and helping with children's chapel : )

Last A People So Bold discussion series meets Sunday, March 6 in the Emerson room from 12 noon – 1:15.

A World of Health: Connecting People, Place and Planet. A six-session brown-bag lunch series that explores "good health," the connections between human health and the environment, and how we can sustain both. March 13 – April 17, 12 noon – 1 PM. If you ordered a book they're in!  If you have not ordered a book, there will be some extras available at the first meeting.

UU Parent Discussion Group! Barb Norton will run an ongoing, monthly group. We'll continue using Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting, as a starting point and move from there. The next meeting is Sunday, March 20, 6:30 PM @ FUSS. Childcare is available. To sign up please contact Barb at bnorton46@nycap.rr.com or call 377-0205.

Living the Love: Exploring a Practice-Based Unitarian Universalist Faith. Lisa Temoshok will run an experiential UU class using movement, art, deep listening and discussion. Class will meet every other Saturday for four Saturdays: March 19, April 2, 16 and 30, from 9AM -12 noon at FUSS. Sign up with Melissa at fussdre@nycap.rr.com or call 387-9373.


JUUnior Youth Overnight

for 6th, 7th and 8th graders
@ First Unitarian Universalist Society Albany
405 Washington Ave, Albany NY 12206

From 12 noon Thursday, April 21-
10AM Friday, April 22
Includes: youth service project, games, duct tape workshop, evening youth worship.

Cost: $20

Sign up required by March 15.
Contact Melissa @ 387-9373 or FUSSDRE@nycap.rr.com
with questions or to sign up.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A People So Bold: Theological Roots, Part One

This Sunday, following Sundae Sunday, we'll begin an Adult RE discussion of Unitarian Universalist theology with respect to social justice work. We will work from the book, A People So Bold. There are copies available to purchase and we'll discus from the book beginning with the third session. The video clips are great and provacative, the book is even better.

For the first two session all you need to do is show up, watch and discuss. If you can't attend, or if you want a sneak peak, start with the You Tube link above. We'll watch and discus "Theological Roots" and "Theological Wings." In the posted You Tube videos they are broken up into parts, so you need to scroll through to click on and watch all of them. But, really, I hope you'll join Priscilla and I and our FUSS community in a powerful and important discussion about social justice work and Unitarian Universalist theology.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Service as Our Prayer

Many committees and councils have been working together to create a special worship service January 30th. There are six projects you can read brief descriptions of and sign up at mysignup.com/fussinaction. Welcoming Congregations will have a card writing station for you to write your legislators in support of marriage equality.

The Religious Education Council is collecting items to make welcome bags on January 30th for adults and children coming into Sojourn House, a homeless shelter for women with children, and Bethesda House, a drop-in center for homeless people. See the column on the right for supplies we are collecting.

There are many ways you can participate. You can bring donations for the welcome bags. This Sunday there will be box in the back of the Great Hall to collect any donations. You can simply come for the worship service on the 30th and be part of the energy and charge to practice service as our prayer. You can stay a few minutes after the service and write a postcard with Welcoming Congregations. You can stay for a luncheon to benefit our Soup Kitchen work. You can stay through all of this and then go choose a project to do with other FUSS congregants.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

MLK JR /Non-Violence/Non-Violent Communication

This weekend is Martin Luther King Jr weekend. It is a time to celebrate his life and reflect on the meaning of his words and wisdom.

Both Children's Chapel and our adult worship service will explore his wisdom. We'll start together in the Great Hall. Everyone will hear the story of The Good Samaritan and we'll consider, "who is our neighbor?"

In Children's Chapel will explore MLK Jr's legacy of non- violent resistance. One approach I'll take is to ask, Have you ever wondered why people fight? Have you been in a fight yourself? How did you feel? Were you angry?

We'll explore ways to practice being peaceful and how what we say matters: the power of words as a way to peace.

A first, important step that we can all do is to learn to communicate in a way that is non-violent. Marshall B. Rosenberg PhD has a lot to offer in his work on non-violent communication. For children, here is an excellent site with free e-books that are inspired by the work Rosenberg has done and are geared for children.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year! Adult RE in January!

The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting.

January 9 and 23, 2011. 5- 7:00 PM. Potluck with childcare.

Sharing our personal religious and spiritual beliefs with our children is not indoctrination. It is offering the wisdom and insight that they eagerly seek from us-just as they look to us for guidance when choosing between right and wrong courses of action. If we are vague and ambiguous when our children ask us theological questions, we lose our opportunity to have a positive influence on them in this area. Eventually, they'll stop asking us religious questions and look for answers elsewhere.-from Tending the Flame

Please join our discussion on raising Unitarian Universalist children and supporting both our children and ourselves in deepening our own understanding of Unitarian Universalism as we live out our faith. We'll start from the book of the same name: Tending the Flame: The Art of Unitarian Universalist Parenting, by Michelle Richards.

For both sessions, children in childcare will be provided with opportunities to create some of our UU symbols with various art projects. Please register for this so we have enough material on hand.

Copies of the book are available for $12.70 from Melissa MacKinnon, Director of Religious Education. To request a book or register for childcare, contact Melissa at melissa.dre@gmail.com or 387-9373.