Monday, December 10, 2012

Helping out during the Holidays

Religious Education is collecting gifts, thru December 23, for the moms and children at Sojourn House during Christmas. Sojourn House is a homeless shelter for women and children, located nearby on Union St. Families stay for differing amounts of time and receive help finding permanent housing. Many are women escaping domestic violence and so they arrive with nothing.

Because of the nature of the shelter and the differing situations of the women and children who arrive, there is no way to know exactly which families will be there over Christmas. So we ask for an array of gifts for different ages. These are families that are not connected to any holiday adopt a family programs. so our gifts really do matter.

Most of the children who stay with their moms at Sojourn House are young. But occasionally there are older children and teens. I do check with Sojourn House staff a few days before Christmas just to see if there are any older children. When there are, I make an extra effort to see that there are appropriate gifts for them too.

Since this coming Sunday is Revels, we will have a basket, located near the church office, for donations. It is there all week so people can drop off donations any time the church is open.

The last Sunday we collect, December 23, we will have a table at the back of the Great Hall.

Gift Ideas for Sojourn House: 

For Babies: onesies, sleepers, baby lotions, baby body wash, baby powder,  rattles, teething and soft toys, sippy cups, clothing.

For Children: trucks, matchbox cars, dinosaur/animal figures, baby dolls in strollers, blocks/building sets, play dough, crayons, coloring books, magnetic letters, Puzzles, Books, non-toxic arts and craft supplies, board games, craft kits (bracelet making, mosaics etc), playing cards

For Moms: comforter sets/blankets, bathrobes, slippers, body wash/lotion sets, (no candles or anything that burns). gift cards to Price Chopper and Walmart, children’s dvds, notepad & pen sets, alarm clocks or regular wall clocks. Things moms spend a lot of money on: diapers (mostly size 4 and 5), wipes, bus passes for transportation, and snacks. Things to start up an apartment: Tupperware, pots/pans, dish towels/cloths, shower curtain...

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Holiday Presence: the gifts of spiritual practice

For the past two weeks in religious education we have explored spiritual practices with our elementary- aged children. We practiced yoga with postures, breathing and meditation. We worked with labyrinths and snow globes! Last Sunday the children heard a story for Advent and created Advent wreaths to bring home. They learned a song to sing as they light a candle each week.

Spiritual practice take time. And the beauty is, when we slow down, when we practice slowing down, other things in our lives become more manageable. Time becomes a little more spacious. Spiritual practices can help to anchor us in trying times. They can help us slow down and focus on what is truly important. Spiritual practices center us and allow us to be of greater service to the world. They allow us to better live out our values.  

Practicing with your child/children can be a way to build and sustain a life-affirming habit. Make a habit of it when things are going well and it will be there for you when things are not. Cultivating spiritual practices with children can be a simple as practicing gratitude daily. Or pausing once during the day, maybe at the end of they day, to consciously breath. The practices and value of breath awareness are well- documented. Simple breathing practices can lead to meditation practices.

Many of us have some time off during this holiday season. Consider making mindful presence, starting a spiritual practice, a present of this season.

Here are some resources if you are interested in reading more. But the most important part is making time for a practice.

Playful Family Yoga, by Teressa Asencia
Planting Seeds: Practicing Mindfulness With Children, by Thich Nhat Hahn.
Anh's Anger, by Gail Silver

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

RE-thinking Thanksgiving

As Unitarian Universalists we are called by our theology and our history to create beloved community. The work of creating community includes deep, deliberate and thoughtful consideration of the traditions and practices we teach and pass on. Re-thinking Thanksgiving, and the stories that are taught along with it, is an opportunity to consider some of these stories.

With Columbus Day and Thanksgiving, we have a strong cultural narrative repeated in many places. It goes something like this:  Columbus discovered America. Eventually, white Europeans settled here in what we know as the Northeast, aided  by Native Americans, who were acknowledged in the first Thanksgiving celebration.

For children, these stories are often the first stories they learn about encounters between different cultures and races. These stories are, by and large, narratives of “progress” and the “manifest destiny” of white Europeans to inhabit this space.  They are full of inaccurate, racial stereotypes that do a great disservice to Native peoples and to the actual stories.

Columbus did not discover a land any more than Romans discovered the lands they conquered. He committed genocide of the entire native population he first came into contact with. Based on the stories by historians and biographers who admired him, Columbus was brutal and cruel. Do we really want to celebrate this story in this way? Around the United States, many communities have begun celebrating Indigenous People's Day instead of Columbus Day.

The stories of European conquest and Native American resistance are far more complex and relevant to our lives today.  They are stories of resistance and endurance and connection.

There are stories of the Iroquois League of Nations as one of the first examples of democracy. The peoples who became known as the Iroquois united under a man called the Peacemaker. They continue even today to teach these stories that speak to peace as a way to resolve conflict and support the health of the earth and the next seven generations of humans to come.

We can acknowledge a troubling past as way to move forward. We can also acknowledge that Native peoples are still here, living in towns and cities, as well as some of their ancient ancestral lands.

In upstate New York we have a rich heritage, thanks in part to the Iroquois, of democracy and peacemaking. These are stories full of gratitude for the earth, the air, the water, animals and humans. 

2013 marks the 400th anniversary of the first agreement between Europeans and American Indian Nations of Turtle Island (North America.) Recorded on the Two Row Wampum belt, is a covenental agreement that the peoples live in friendship, peace and in parallel, “as long as the grass is green, as long as the rivers flow downhill and as long as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west.”

FUSS Religious education will be participating in the Two Row WampumRenewal Campaign: Honoring Native Treaties/ Protecting the Earth. We can learn the stories from this land and be grateful for all that we have here.

Friday, October 26, 2012

All Hallow's Eve Party Sunday 10:30 -11:30 AM

It's that time again! Dangerous Dangling Doughnuts returns at our annual All Hallow's Eve party this Sunday. The children in grades preK-6 will be at Waters House and rotate thru party stations. They are welcome to come in costume. There will be snacks and crafts, stories and education. At the end, the children will parade over to the Great Hall and meet parents there.

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. As part of RE and our party, children will have the opportunity to learn about trick or treating for UNICEF. They'll also learn about fair trade chocolate.

As I've written around this holiday.........

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.

Enjoy your special celebrations!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Religious Education October 14 and 21

SEVENTH PRINCIPLE PROJECT: COMPOSTING: Religious Education can be a messy endeavor! Sunday October 14 and October 21,  preK thru grade 4 will help build a composting system for FUSS! We will be outside, so please have children dressed for the weather. They will be building and learning about composting as well. They are being led in this project by Gary Feinland and FUSS Master Composters: Nancy Benz, Nancy Peterson and Robin Schnell. This is a combined effort on the part of RE, Buildings  and Grounds, and Green Sanctuary.

RIDDLE and MYSTERY: Grades 5/6 will continue their exploration of "big" questions while they begin filming in their newly created "news studio."

POPCORN THEOLOGY: 10:30 -11:45 AM. Over the next two Sundays Grades 7/8 will watch the movie, Bruce, the Almighty, and have a chance to think about and discus prayer and "Who has the power?"

SENIOR YOUTH: Grades 9 -12 meet in the senior youth lounge.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Sacred Land at Cohoes Falls Returned to Iroquois

Today's local paper, the Times Union, has  piece on the sacred land at Cohoes Falls where the world's oldest united nations began. This is a story some of our children at FUSS learned in RE and a site they visited last June. It is part of the story of the Peacemaker.

THIS SATURDAY, October 6, you can be part of the RETURN of this sacred land to the Iroquois by Brookfield Renewable Energy Company!
  • At 10 AM you can hear a traditional Thanksgiving Address
  • At 10:15AM hear the story of the Mohawks in Cohoes by Akwesasne Mohawk Doug George Kanentiio.
And more!

Its all at Cohoes Music Hall, 58 Remsen St, Cohoes, NY 12047

Check out the Hiawatha Institute for Indigenous Knowledge for more info.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Compost Happens at FUSS!

Starting this Sunday, Master Composters from FUSS will lead a three- week project with our PreK thru 4th graders. The children will learn about and BUILD a composting system for FUSS. The compost bins will be built near the parking lot. Classroom teachers will be there to assist and other adults are welcome. Compost building days are Sunday: September 30, October 14 and October 21. Please have your child dress for the weather. We will be outside.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

RE starts September 16

Our full RE schedule starts tomorrow! Everyone begins in the Great Hall. We will have a teacher dedication and then senior youth, 7th&8th grade OWL, and 5th &6th grade go to their classes and meeting rooms.

Grades preK thru 4 will celebrate International Day of Peace, together, in the dining room. We gather outside to rededicate our Peace Pole and finish with a healthy snack.

Parents of 7th and 8th graders can attend a parent orientation for Our Whole Lives (OWL) beginning at 12 noon in Waters House. Pizza and salad will be served.

Senior youth interested in the trip to Guatemala should plan to attend the informational session with a parent. Meeting will be held in the Emerson room.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Fall 2012 Religious Education programs for children and youth

Religious Education programs start September 16 !

Creating Home: Pre K/ Kindergarten (ages 4 -6)
In Creating Home children explore the deep sense of sacredness, the beauty of hospitality, and the gift of loving relationships that a home can represent. As they actively explore the concept of home, they create a community home in their meeting space. They learn to identify their Unitarian Universalist congregation as a home. The program introduces children to Unitarian Universalist heritage, including rituals, songs, and traditions of our faith, and stories about Unitarian Universalists whose words, songs, and deeds have helped to shape the faith home that participants share. You can view the full curriculum here.

 Keepers of the Earth: Grades 1 and 2 (6 to 8 year olds) 
Keepers of the Earth is a Unitarian Universalist religious education program that comes from a curriculum of stories and environmental activities created by local Native American storyteller Joesph Bruchac and Michael Caduto. Keepers of the Earth allows children to explore spirituality in the natural world. Children will spend part of each class time outdoors (unless there is severe weather) and should come dressed to explore outside.

Toolbox of Faith: Grades 3 and 4 (8-10 year olds)
Toolbox of Faith invites third and fourth- grade participants to reflect on the qualities of our Unitarian Universalist faith. Qualities such as such as integrity, courage, and love, are tools they can use in living their lives and building their own faith. Each session uses a tool as a metaphor for an important quality of our faith such as reflection (symbolized by a mirror), flexibility (duct tape), and justice (a flashlight). You can view the full curriculum here.

Riddle and Mystery: Grade 5 and 6 (10-12 year olds)
The goal of Riddle and Mystery is to assist fifth and sixth- graders in their own search for understanding. Riddle and Mystery aims to teach participants to accept, appreciate and celebrate mystery, ambiguity and contradiction as part of human life and the starting points of religion. Together with their adult leaders, the class will create their own news studio and videotape and edit a news show. Their time together will involve both concrete and abstract work as they create the set, learn to use equipment, and consider the importance of questioning thought to Unitarian Universalist faith and its value in personal and communal life. You can view the full curriculum here.

    Our Whole Lives for grades 5 and 6 : Winter of 2013. There will be an 8-week Our Whole Lives (OWL) program offered to the class as part of our FUSS RE vision of fostering healthy community by teaching sexual health together with ethical values. A parent orientation is required and there will be an information session in the late fall/early winter.

Our Whole Lives (OWL): Grades 7 and 8 (12-14 year olds)
OWL is a year -long healthy sexuality program offered by trained facilitators from our  FUSS community. OWL offers positive, comprehensive, and age-appropriate sexual educational programming. This program fosters the development of sexual health and ethical values as it nurtures the worth and dignity of all participants.  It fosters equitable, healthy relationships through values-clarification activities, teaching communication and decision-making skills.  Children are encouraged to value themselves and act on their values throughout their whole lives.

This class REQUIRES a parent orientation and signed parental consent. There will be a schedule set by the advisors and handed out at the parent orientation. Because of the nature of the class, drop-ins are not allowed. There will be Sundays when OWL is not offered and the class will engage in other activities that are welcoming to drop-ins.

Senior Youth Group: for grades 9 to 12 (14-18 year olds)
Our youth group meets each Sunday morning beginning at 10:30 AM in the Youth Lounge (the basement of the main building).  Our youth group is open to the youth of our congregation and their friends. Our advisors work in collaboration with the youth; all working toward empowering the group to be youth-led and directed. Youth group focuses on five components: social action/justice, worship, activities and fellowship, learning, and leadership opportunity. Members may also participate in district and continental events, including District Youth Conferences (Cons) and the Youth Caucus at General Assembly. Cons are held throughout the year at various UU congregations throughout our district. These weekend youth retreats offer opportunities for friendship and spiritual reflection in addition to workshops, worship, dances, shared meals and communal living.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Three Sisters Garden at FUSS

We are growing a Three Sisters Garden in religious education this summer!

The Three Sisters (corn, beans, and squash) garden originated in this part of the world with the Iroquois or Haudenosaunee (hah-dee-no-show-nee) - "People of the Long house." Three Sisters gardens have been planted by traditional Native American gardeners in many different regions of North America.

The traditional Three Sisters garden forms an ecosystem by creating a community of plants and animals. This system creates a beneficial relationship between the three plants- each plant helps the others grow. There is much wisdom to be gained in doing this work together and considering, from the practical to the philosophical, the aspects of this Three Sisters garden.

Along with the work of maintaining the garden, the class is hearing wisdom stories from the Iroquois peoples, starting with Chief Jake Swamp's, Giving Thanks.

Summer RE is open for ages 5 -10 years, from 10:30 -11:15 AM, Sundays, thru August 26.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Great Story at Cohoes Falls

This past Sunday our 4th and 5th grade class wrapped up their RE year with a visit to a sacred site: Cohoes Falls.

 There they heard the story of The Great Peacemaker who performed a feat of supernatural strength at the falls, and in doing so, convinced the Mohawk people to become the founders of the Iroquois League of Nations or Confederacy.

A portion of the land, across the Mohawk River from where the class stood, has been returned to the Mohawk people only in the past year.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Building our sustainable community

FUSS will host From Scratch Club's FOOD SWAP next Wednesday, May 16 at 7PM!!! Tickets are free but you must have a ticket to participate. Get your ticket here. As I write this there are only 11 tickets remaining!!!

What is a food swap you say?

Food swaps are happening all around the country. This NY Times piece talks about it's beginnings and one person's experience. People get a ticket to participate. There is is no charge to get a ticket, but there's an optional $2 donation at the door. This is not a money-making event. It's a community- building event. It's about learning to exchange what you can make with your neighbors.

I have for a number of years watched the movement towards sustainability and regionalization grow across the country and in this area. I  have been impressed with an online site that started two years ago called, From Scratch Club (FSC.) As they describe themselves, they are about "making food matter." Their reach is deep and broad in the Capital District and their website has grown to become a presence in the area. Their values are values many UU's hold dear. An article recently appeared in the Times Union about them.

During this same time, I have sought to create meaningful, community opportunities around sustainability here at FUSS. For the past two years I have considered ways to create community doing things together, like canning or making cheese or sauerkraut. From Scratch Club seemed a perfect venue for this. They do not have locations in Schenectady while their locations in Saratoga and Troy have been very popular. They are launching DIY cooking schools too!  So I reached out to the FSC founder and suggested FUSS as a possible place to host some Schenectady events.

And she agreed! So,  join us in building local community, trading goods you make or grow yourself May 16, July 18 and September 19.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

FUSS Collaborative Easter Egg Hunt

This from our illustrious RE Easter committee!

This year we are conducting a COLLABORATIVE Egg Hunt based upon many of our seven principles! Please review these with your child prior to Sunday.

1. Each person is important. (Everyone is part of our community) 
2. Be kind in all you do.  (Find eggs for each other) 
3. We're free to learn together.  (Have fun)
4. We search for what is true.  (Equality matters) 
5. All people need a voice.  (and some eggs) 
6. Build a fair and peaceful world.  (Be fair, help each other and everyone will feel good) 
7. We care for Earth's lifeboat. (Make sure to pick up all those plastic eggs)

Here is how the Egg Hunt will work: After the Sunday worship service, children “Preschool” through “Coming of Age” (this would include Preschool, Kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and those kids in the “Coming of Age” group) should report to the Hall between the Kitchen and Dining Room.

Pre-K, K, 1st, 2nd and 3rd graders will line up on the Dining Room side of the Hall (please refer to signs). 4th, 5th, 6th, and older will line up on the Kitchen side of the Hall (please refer to signs). We will PAIR older and younger students in groups of TWO. Each person will be given a specific count of eggs that they may find and the TWO must work together to find both of their specified number TOGETHER. Find ONE egg for the youngest kid FIRST then you may alternate finding eggs for each other! BOTH kids must participate.

Once EVERYONE has their number of eggs please return to the back patio near the doors to:
1. Open eggs
2. Return the plastic eggs
3. AND receive a BONUS prize!

 If there are any concerns or special requests regarding your children’s needs, please contact our Egg Hunt Leaders, Roz Dahl or Lara Turney. Thanks for your cooperation!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Religion and the Empathic Society

Video from KarmaTube

I found this 10 minutes video thought provoking and relevant to our Unitarian Universalist values.  In this stunningly visual and cohesive ten-minute video, Jeremy Rifkin defines the empathic civilization -- and suggests that if we can imagine that possibility, we can save our species and our planet. "Empathy is grounded in the acknowledgment of death and the celebration of life, and rooting for each other to flourish..."

Monday, March 19, 2012

(WE)RE Standing on the Side of Love!

It's been a busy few weeks here at First Unitarian Society Schenectady! Here are some photos from the Trevor Project discussion panel that RE partnered with Welcoming Congregation to offer.

We had over 55 youth and adults stay for the panel discussion and a really excellent panel of presenters. The Schenectady Gazette covered the earlier event with the youth too!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Late winter happenings...

Hope this late winter-time, and for many a school-vacation break, finds you with time and space to enjoy what is most important to you! FUSS is still busy with opportunities to gather, serve, learn and grow in community.

This Sunday we have religious education classes for children and youth!

This Sunday night, February 26,  from 5-7 PM we are showing the film,  The Other Side of Immigration. This award-winning film asks why so many Mexicans leave home to work in the United States and what happens to the families and communities they leave behind. Through an approach that is both subtle and thought provoking, the film challenges audiences to imagine more creative and effective immigration policies. The film will be shown in the Great Hall and followed by a discussion. The film is free and open to everyone.

Sunday, March 11th, the Trevor Lifeguard Project is coming!  Welcoming Congregation and RE are partnering to host this workshop for youth in grades 6-12 during regular RE hours. Morning sessions for youth will be followed by a luncheon and panel discussion for youth, their parents, and interested allies in the FUSS community. There will be an opportunity to ask questions with guest professionals from the greater Capital District, including Chad Putman, Board President of Rainbow Access Initiative and local coordinator for The Trevor Project. The luncheon is free; please RSVP to Melissa by March 8th. Look for a fuller description in the March issue of Circles.

Sundae Sunday is coming!  Our annual multi-generational event, Sundae Sunday, will take place Sunday, March 18 this year. Senior youth will scoop ice cream to raise money towards their trip to New Orleans.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy New Year!

This Sunday, uh, tomorrow, is our young adult worship service. This is our second year offering this service. We will also have a lot of music that will include our youth as well.

The service is titled, Being and Becoming. I am looking forward to hearing what some of our young adults will share during their reflections.

As I thought about it, I think we are always always in that process. No matter what our age, we can change and grow. At some ages it is more transparent than others, like when we're younger. We also all need to learn how to just "be," right here right now. Honestly, I think that's the harder part these days. A lovely book for children and interested adults on this very topic as it relates to our animal pets is, Guardians of Being: Spiritual Teachings from Our Dogs and Cats.

As I reflected on this some more, I realized that what I wanted to share during our story for all ages time is not really a story, but a metaphor, about our relationships to each other. It's called Indra's Web.

Our 6/7 class will meet Sunday to plan for their roles the following Sunday, January 15, in the worship service and Children's Chapel.

The rest of our RE classes and senior youth group will resume for 2012 on January 15!