chalice

Writing for Worship

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Since beginning my travels in January, I’ve been wanting to write a book based on what I’ve seen and experienced  in the many worship services I’ve attended.  Although a topic was elusive to me before now, I magically awoke this morning with not just one, but two book ideas that I could begin on today!  Excited and eager, I’ve already begun blocking out one and writing topic points for the other.  I guess this will be a simultaneous project in the works, but I’m not complaining, I’d rather be working two projects than none.

inspiration
inspiration

Part of what I’ll be working on is listing things that all congregations should either be doing, or not be doing, when it comes to worship services.  This comes from the many pages of notes I’ve taken while attending in the different locations.  Whether I felt welcome.  Whether I felt lost during the process of the actual service, etc.  All things, even simple, create either a warm community or a place to avoid.  And while I’ve not found a place to avoid, I have noticed little things here and there that could be shared among the many congregations as a means of improvement to all.

What I would like to hear is what all of you feel is a pet peeve when attending a service, or what makes a special moment when attending a service.  Was the signage bad when entering and you felt lost?  Did you feel awkward because the order of service didn’t say when to stand or when not to?  Did joining in with a certain aspect make you feel more spiritual or accepted?

If used, your name will appear in the book with your comments so please feel free to join in!  You can also share on our Facebook page, traveling tUUsome, with a link to the right.

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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

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 Lone Star State

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Texas!   Back to my home state but still so far from home!  Today Austin and I attended the First Unitarian Church of Dallas in none other than the Lone Star State.  Although the church community began there over 100 years ago, the current Frank Lloyd Wright-esque sanctuary is an homage to fluid space and shared community.  The architect, Harwell Hamilton Harris, truly designed what he described as “a clearing in the forest,” all completed with a dominant burning chalice guiding attendees to the peace within the space.

Led by Senior Minister, Rev. Dr. Daniel Kanter, today’s service was one honoring the church’s “UU of the Year” for service and deeds completed within the church community (and in the greater Dallas community at-large), followed by a sermon titled, “Too Christian, Not Christian Enough.”  Dr. Kanter well expressed the historical ties to Unitarianism, but also to those that led to the path of his suggested true labeling as a “Free Church.”  One that is neither too Christian, nor Christian enough, in that so it is perfectly balanced without confines to secular and non-secular labeling alike.  A place where Christians and Atheists commingle in celebration of diversity and compassion.  A place where all whom support and commit to the seven UU Principles can live, learn, and love without judgment or inequity.

First Unitarian Church of Dallas Sanctuary(Photo from www.dallasuu.org)
First Unitarian Church of Dallas Sanctuary
(Photo from http://www.dallasuu.org)

Stirring the passion was music provided by “emma’s revolution,” a fun and modernly folksy duo of Sandy O. and Pat Humphries.  Austin and I both especially loved their song, “Peace, Salaam, Shalom,” written in response to reactions to the attacks on 9/11.

If you live in the Dallas area and would like to attend First Unitarian, you can find information about their services and events at www.dallasuu.org.  Be sure to take time to explore the campus and have coffee with the UUs attending there.  They will be glad to welcome you!

From the First Unitarian website, “As the largest liberal religious congregation in Dallas and one of the largest Unitarian Universalist congregations in the country, our history lives on today. We remain a progressive oasis in Dallas; a harbor for lost and wandering people without a compass for their religious natures; a place to read, discuss and move against tyrannies of the mind, heart and body; a treasure of wisdom and strength for our children; a community within which to weather the difficult times and celebrate the joyous times of life; and a voice of reason and challenge in an increasingly conservative religious landscape.”