February 2013

The Palmetto State

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Beautiful chalice in the Memorial Garden
Beautiful chalice in the Memorial Garden

On a cold and wet weekend, Austin and I settled in to a warm community spot with the Greenville Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, South Carolina.  A church that is expanding in humankind and spirit alike, it is on the verge of a new building addition that will truly give its façade a welcoming face of UU’ism.

In the midst of its annual pledge drive and whilst also working on (might I say very successfully into) its new building fund, this Sunday service by the Rev. Pat Jobe examined “The Power of Shame.”  Beginning with a video by Brené Brown and her focus on psychoeducational teaching surrounding shame, a clarification was stated on the difference between shame and guilt.  Shame being one’s created thinking that “I am bad” as a person, and guilt being a feeling of, “I did something bad,” as a result of something actually accomplished.  What we realize here is that shame is a form of self loathing, while guilt is actually healthy in that it is the little voice in our head telling us that we have committed a wrong.

The format of the sermon, unique for today’s talk, was representative of a radio talk show with Rev. Jobe and Ed Proulx in a back-and-forth conversation about their own thoughts and experiences with shame and guilt.  In the conversation, Rev. Jobe was quite frank while admitting his “vulnerability” to the congregation and saying that  he “still has secrets that [he] will take to [his] grave.”  What would seem a difficult admittance among his own parishioners, he delivered it comfortably to those whom have accepted him as their minister–of course with the understanding that as humans we all have this truth within us.  And although our individual reasons might vary from simple mistakes to those rattling the rafters, they are our own to sequester to the past where they belong.

Austin's favorite place at the Greenville UUF
Austin’s favorite place at the Greenville UUF

Rev. Jobe spoke of learning a fitting metaphor for letting go of our shame.  I share it here with you:  Imagine a ball in front of you just hanging there in space and within arms’ reach.  The ball represents the shame that you cannot let go of.  Now, reach out and grab that ball.  Hold it for a moment, considering its make-up.  Let go as the ball remains suspended.  Now, this second time. reach out but do not grab the ball.  Let it go.  Let it leave your space forever.  In this simple exercise you let go!

If you live in the Greenville area and would like to attend, visit: http://greenvilleuu.com/pages/

To learn about the teachings of Brené Brown, Ph.D., LMSW: http://www.brenebrown.com/welcome

For information on the Montessori based preschool at GUUF, UU World of Children, visit: http://greenvilleuu.com/pages/uuwoc.htm

UUC Sarasota in photos

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I loved the structures and gardens so much I couldn’t help myself–nearly 100 pictures!  Possibly my withdrawals from what looked and felt like spring?

Here’s a quick sampling …

The Sunshine State

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Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota Sanctuary
Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota Sanctuary

Amongst the idyllic beauty of Sarasota’s foliage lined streets is the beautifully manicured gardens and sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota, Florida.  With our motorhome settled in under a magnificent tree, Austin and I enjoyed a peaceful and gratifying weekend on the grounds.

The UUC of Sarasota has the largest membership in Florida and on this Sunday the sanctuary was literally standing room only for the 11:00 service.  New to the church in 2012, the Rev. Roger Fritts is a charismatic speaker that draws one in comfortably to the warm atmosphere of the community.  Speaking on Buddhism, as a part of an ongoing World Religions series, Rev. Fritts blended meditative readings, music, and the roots of the religion with a playful touch of humor.  A popular belief system among Unitarians, he went on to explain the Buddhist belief that as we do not have souls, our rebirths are resultant from the “inexhaustible force of karma” that keeps us tied to the confines of physical being.  Also similar to the UU chalice symbol as a focus within our sanctuaries is the Buddhist centering on the light or lamp within ourselves.

When visiting UUCS, one must take the time to tour the campus which easily fills an hour when taken in fully.  The sanctuary, designed by architect Tollyn Twitchell, brings warmth into the space using a cypress beamed ceiling over glass and Ocala stone walls, and topped at the ends with stained glass windows by artist Syd Solomon.  Opposite the sanctuary, and on the other side of the courtyard, is the office building which also holds a meeting space and art gallery in the Lexow Wing courtesy of the UUCS Arts Council.  But not to be outdone is the magnificent Memorial Garden on the west side of the sanctuary, a sacred space tended to in memory of those lost to the community.  Even in winter, the garden is full of colorful and fragrant blooms in tribute to the many gifts the earth provides.

UUCS Memorial Garden

For more information on attending the UUC of Sarasota: http://www.uusarasota.com/

To learn about Buddhism in Sarasota, visit: http://www.meditationinsarasota.org/

UUSC Art Gallery with hours for viewing: http://www.uusarasota.com/our-church/art-gallery.php

Architecture and photos of the inner sanctuary: http://www.uusarasota.com/our-church/architecture.php

The Peach State

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UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012.  Photo credit: www.uucg.org
UUCG Standing on the Side of Love, 2012. Photo credit: http://www.uucg.org

Standing on the Side of Love, Peter Mayer in concert, and the National Preach-In on Global Warming had the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Georgia, and its minister Rev. Jan Taddeo, in a whirl this past Sunday.  Not to be weighed down by a busy schedule, the community affirmed Love with grace, enjoyed Peter Mayer with the strength of UU spirit, and was moved by Rev. Taddeo’s emotional plea for our Earth.

Standing on the Side of Love is “an interfaith public advocacy campaign that seeks to harness love’s power to stop oppression. It is sponsored by the Unitarian Universalist Association and all are welcome to join” in this fight for social justice.  And join it has, as with many other congregations in the United States, the UUCG has joined in the “30 Days of Love” movement which ends its annual drive this Sunday, February 17th, 2013.

Rev. Taddeo focused her moving talk, “Living the Beauty Way,” around the need for Unitarians to focus their lives lessening our footprint on the earth, and in taking steps such as lowering the use of its resources by simple means like recycling and driving electric vehicles.  Of course, her concern was far deeper, bringing her emotions within reach as she discussed a documentary, “The Hungry Tide,” about a tropical island that is slowly disappearing due to Global Warming and in the process taking the home of its residents and the land from our earth.  Joining Rev. Taddeo, the congregation signed postcards to be mailed to the White House requesting that President Obama and the United States exert itself as the international leader in the war against Global Warming and in the support of peoples displaced by its destruction.

Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols
Peter Mayer, photo by Paul Dols

Lifting the spirits of everyone was the addition of one of our own, Unitarian folk singer Peter Mayer, to the weekly service.  Mayer sang three of his songs including “Blue Boat Home” and “Church of the Earth,” following the day’s theme on the wonders of our earth.  A bonus for me was meeting Mayer and sharing our pilgrimage with him, and then enjoying one of the CDs he gave me, “Heaven Below,” as we drove east through the Georgia rain.

Unique to the service was the format of the day’s events, a once monthly practice.  After attending the regular service, we then got our drinks and snacks and formed circles of six people where we joined in listening groups focused on the monthly theme “Evil.”  On the surface a strange topic, but we took turns discussing evil and how it has affected our lives. It proved to be a moving and bonding exercise for all in our circle. And while the adults were focused in our groups, Austin was with the middle-school kids discussing topics related to the congregation’s quest for becoming a Welcoming Congregation.

For information on attending the UUC of Gwinnett:  www.uucg.org

Standing on the Side of Love: www.standingonthesideoflove.org

Interfaith Power & Light, A Religious Response to Global Warming: www.interfaithpowerandlight.org

Video trailer for “The Hungry Tide” documentary about the nation of Kiribati: http://www.imdb.com/video/withoutabox/vi727292953?ref_=tt_pv_vi_1

To see Peter Mayer’s concert schedule or purchase CDs, visit: http://www.petermayer.net/news/

For information on the UUA and Welcoming Congregations, click on the chalice to the right or go to: www.uua.org

Alabama Museum Day

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Austin in the Mirror, Asian Exhibit (Berman)
Austin in the Mirror, Asian Exhibit (Berman)

Okay, Austin and I are officially becoming museum snobs!  Ha!  Because of the rain last week, we spent an extra day in eastern Alabama and hit up two more museums.  Here are just a few of our photos from the Anniston Museum of Natural History and the Berman Museum of World History.  Admission to Anniston was only $9.oo for the two of us (military discount, regular admission is $6 for adults/$4 children), and Berman was only $2.00 (Special pricing of only $1.00 per person on Thursday afternoons.)  The museums share a parking area, and share grounds with a beautiful city park and gardens.