Monday, March 31, 2014

Hunger 101: RE and Social Action Council

This past Sunday was Social Action Sunday for our children in grades 1-5 ; 21 children participated in a morning of worship and social action.

Children's Chapel provides an opportunity to introduce our children to some of the rituals of our Unitarian Universalist faith. This includes chalice lighting and sharing of joys and sorrows, along with singing and story telling. It is about sharing ritual and community and getting to know one another better.

Almost every children's chapel includes a story. This Sunday the children heard a Japanese & Chinese folk tale, The Difference between Heaven and Hell. This story can be found in our online UUA Tapestry of Faith curriculum here.

Using curriculum from Atlanta, Georgia's Community Food Bank, Hunger 101, we talked about food and its importance both in celebration and good health. We talked about  "food insecurity, hunger and poverty," and what those words meant. As part of a discussion about unequal distribution and redistribution of food, children experienced a creative snack activity led by Jennifer D'Arcy .

During this time of Children's Chapel children learned about CROP Walk. You can join this year's Schenectady CROP Hunger Walk. Join team: UUSS, led by Gary Feinland, Sunday, May 4th at 1:30pm at Emmanuel Friedens Church, 218 Nott Terrace, Schenectady. The walk is 5 K or 3.1 miles Register online or via paper registration.

After Children's Chapel, we worked with Robin Schnell from our UUSS Social Action Council and put together 42 bags of "friendship soup!" Robin came up with a great plan and things quickly settled into a lovely time working together on a valuable social action project.

Partnering with other councils and programs in our church and local community can help us all learn about and find more ways to participate in important social issues in our communities. And that is part of what it means to "live into our faith." It includes living into those cherished beliefs of a just community and finding ways to work towards it together.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Social Justice Sunday: Hunger

This Sunday grades 1-5 will have a children's chapel dedicated to the issue of hunger. There will also be a social action project they can participate in following their chapel time that is in collaboration with the Social Action Council at UUSS.

Hunger and food insecurity is a serious issue in our Schenectady community. One of the ways faith-based groups such as ourselves rally together and raise money for programs designed to end hunger is through the annual CROP walk. This year's walk is May 4 and leave from nearby Emmanuel- Friedens Church.

This Sunday, children will hear from one RE child who has taken up the issue of hunger and will be participating in this year's CROP walk.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Unitarian Universalist youth leadership development opportunities

We have a lot of wonderful opportunities for UU youth leadership development in the coming months! There is District Assembly, March 29. There is UU United Nations Office Intergenerational Spring Seminar on, "Rights of Indigenous Peoples," April 2-5. Probably the biggest event is the UUA's General Assembly (GA), held this year in Providence, RI, June 25 -29. GA has some of the best workshops, worship and music Unitarian Universalism offers. There is a youth caucus too and youth's voices are valued in the work of the UUA that takes place during GA. 

All of these events offer wonderful opportunities to meet UU youth and adults from all over the region/country and be inspired by the potential and possibilities of our faith!

The Religious Education Council wants to support youth in attending these events. REC  offers financial assistance with money from the Aninger Scholarship fund. The Aninger Application is rolling and if your child is interested should be completed ASAP. It can be found here.

There is also financial support available from the UUA. The UUA youth application for GA needs to be submitted by March 31. It is here

Friday, March 7, 2014

The Green Man

Last Sunday I shared a story called, The Green Man. I have been wanting to tell this Celtic nature-spirit story for a long time. To me it is a story upholding our connection to plants and animals that is mystical as well as practical and scientific. Fortunately there were youth and adults willing to help bring the story to life with scenery, props and acting! I have included the story here and photos from the service when we told it!

The Green Man, based on a version in Gail Forsyth-Vail's book, Stories in Faith.

....Once upon a time there lived a rich and vain young squire. Servants prepared her favorite foods each day. Her every wish was granted. She had every gaming system ever invented.

One of her favorite things to do was to walk though the woods that were part of her kingdom. She would hunt small animals, just for sport. After all, she believed, the woods and all its creatures belonged to her and she could do as she pleased with them. 

There were many people in the village who believed the woods provided a home for the animals that lived there. The wild plants they gathered from the forest provided medicines to care for all the people in the village.

The people in the village would tell stories about the Green Man  who lived in the woods and cared for the small creatures. They said that he even watched out for the children. The villagers would leave food out on winter nights for the Green Man to eat.

One warm day the squire and her friends decided to go for walk in the woods.
The friends walked in the woods, completely unaware of their surroundings. They trampled the nests of small animals, tossed litter onto the ground.

After a time the squire became separated from the rest of the party. As she looked for her friends she came upon a pond. It was a beautiful pond, clear and refreshing. Why, she thought to herself, how clever of me to have a pond in my woods to refresh myself. She removed her fine clothing, carefully folding them, placed her gaming systems on top on her neatly folded pile of clothes and jumped into the cool, clear water. She swam back and forth enjoying herself immensely.

 While she was swimming and splashing away, a hand reached out from behind the tree and took her clothing. When the squire got out of the water, she discovered she had nothing left to wear save a piece of rope and some leaves.

She took the rope and quickly fashioned a cover up. When her friends came looking for her, well, she was embarrassed to be seen without her fabulous clothes and gaming system! So as her friends looked for her, she hid.

Eventually the squire’s friends gave up looking for her and went home.

That night the squire went looking for shelter.  She stumbled into a cave. She did not sleep much that night, all those strange sounds. It was dark, she was frightened and she kept hearing animal noises all night!

In the morning when daylight came, she saw she was not alone in the cave! There was a goat and a chicken and a gourd for holding water. Someone had been living in that cave. The squire found some grass for the goat and feed for the chicken. She discovered some grain she could eat as well.

Over time, the squire settled into life in the cave. She fashioned a whole garment out of leaves. She ate eggs from the hen, drank milk from there goat. And the plants. She began to recognize plants she had learned. Plants she could eat and stay healthy.

Little by little she became transformed.

 One day the squire came upon two children running from a wild pig threatening to bite. The children saw a man covered head to toe with leaves and mud, with a wild looking beard and hair.

“Are you the Green Man?” they asked?

“I guess I am,” said the Green Man, who no longer looked anything like a squire.

When winter came the Green Man was happy to go into the village at night and to take the food that the villagers left out, sharing it with animal friends.

The year passed peacefully, until one warm day a group of children came wandering into the woods. The Green Man hid behind a tree to watch. A rich young man, a squire perhaps, became separated from his group. Discovering the cool, clear pond, the young man decided to take a swim. He thought it clever that he had such a lovely pond in his woods. He took off his clothes, folded them, left them under a tree with his gaming system carefully placed on top.
 The Green Man reached out a hand and took the clothes, leaving behind some leaves and rope.  After cleaning up and dressing in the new clothes, the squire journeyed for a long day back into town, back to her parents castle.

When she arrived her parents were overjoyed to see her. But there was something different about the squire now, She no longer wanted to hunt for sport. She continued to learn the names of the plants and trees in the forest around her. 
 And in the winter, she never failed to leave out food for the Green Man.