Worship Service Sunday, November 12, 2017 10:30am in the Sanctuary Rev. Catie Scudera, preaching
What was old is new again! For History Sunday this year, we are “reusing and recycling” November worship services from our congregation’s past, from 10, 25, and 40 years ago. Come experience how we used to worship — and why remembering our history is important for present-day wholeness — and enjoy a display from our Archives Committee of scrapbooks and photo albums over our many years of worship and programming at First Parish.
Children attend first 15 minutes of worship followed by Religious Education classes. Nursery care is available.
Often in the year after a loved one has died, we are particularly pained during certain holiday seasons and special familial moments: it is heartbreaking to live through the first Thanksgiving, first birthdays, first annual family gathering, without our loved one. And, then, of course, we arrive at the first death anniversary, which can feel tender, surreal, and melancholy.
I remember during one month, I lost both my maternal grandfather and one of my beloved professors at Harvard Divinity School, Rev. Peter Gomes, and officiated my first funeral as a student minister at the Winchester Unitarian Society. It was February, and for such a short month, it seemed like it dragged on and on with grief. A year later, I was not fully conscious of the grief my body still held onto: the following January, my heart was a bit more tender — I had trouble focusing on my work — and, I did feel a bit blue. It took a reminder from loved ones that I was approaching this hard triple-anniversary of three deaths in my life for my consciousness to catch up with the grief my body still carried.
Last November after the presidential election, many members and friends of First Parish told me they felt like they were grieving a death. Some were shocked by the results; some made fearful by them; and, some were disappointed that our country had met their low expectations. I write this brief missive to all of you in the church, because I wonder if any of you have felt tender-hearted, unfocused, or even sad coming up to this anniversary in our country’s history. I wonder if any of you have begun to reflect on the last year, which has brought unease and suffering to so many as new harsh policies have been instituted and established human rights have been threatened and denied. I wonder if any of you are in need of a reminder of the hard anniversary we are approaching, and are in need of some encouragement to self-care and courage.
If you are in such need, I encourage you to take time for rest and revitalization this upcoming week, potentially reviewing the ideas in the “election anxiety”- and “inauguration anxiety”-relief blog posts written by Mark LaPointe and myself. Please do take care of yourselves, your family members, and your friends during this time, and know that your friends and staff team at First Parish are available for conversation and comfort.
As the leaves finally begin to change color and fall, I’m reminded of this piece by New England poet Mary Oliver:
“When I am among the trees,
especially the willows and the honey locust,
equally the beech, the oaks and the pines,
they give off such hints of gladness.
I would almost say that they save me, and daily.
I am so distant from the hope of myself,
in which I have goodness, and discernment,
and never hurry through the world
but walk slowly, and bow often.
Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, ‘Stay awhile.’
The light flows from their branches.
And they call again, ‘It’s simple,’ they say,
‘and you too have come
into the world to do this, to go easy, to be filled
with light, and to shine.’”
May we remember that no matter how tender, surreal, or melancholy we may feel at one moment or one season, we have come into the world like trees and all living beings — to go easy on ourselves, to be filled with light, and to shine out.
Worship Service Sunday, November 5, 2017 10:30am in the Sanctuary Rev. Catie Scudera, preaching
Across the country on a Sunday between November 2017 and February 2018, Unitarian Universalist congregations are honoring “Promise and Practice Sunday” as part of a denominational recognition of the contributions of Unitarian Universalists of color. This worship service, developed by UU leaders of color, will ask us, “What would it be like if our worship services centered entirely around the voices and the experiences of Unitarian Universalists of color? What truths might we hear, however difficult? What might we learn?” This is also “fall back” Sunday, so enjoy the extra hour of sleep after the church auction!
Children attend first 15 minutes of worship followed by Religious Education classes. Nursery care is available.
Needham Lyceum Wednesday, November 1, 2017 7pm in the Parlor Rev. Catie Scudera speaking
Are you interested in delving deeper into how white supremacy lives in our congregation and Unitarian Universalism at large? Join Rev. Catie and the Racial Justice Task Force for a time of reflection and discussion on the Anti-Racism Rubric for UU Congregations. You need not have attended the first Teach-In to come to this meeting.
Saturday, October 28th, 11am service in the Sanctuary
12pm reception in the Parish Hall
Rev. Catie will officiate a memorial celebration of Bridie Sheehan, longtime friend of First Parish and mother of church member Geri Sheehan. All are welcome at the memorial service and for the luncheon reception afterwards.
As promised, Rev. Catie has finalized a “director’s cut” of Ed Lane’s eulogy, with help from Helen and Ed’s sons Michael and John. This version of the eulogy has about 50% more material about Ed’s life than the “short” eulogy delivered at his memorial service.
Needham Lyceum Sunday, October 22, 2017 9:15am in the Parlor Rev. Catie Scudera, speaking
Our national denomination was rocked by a hiring controversy in the spring of 2017, and leaders of Black Lives of UU responded by organizing an international U/U White Supremacy Teach-In. We participated in this Teach-In through worship and children’s RE the same weekend we hosted the Icons of the Civil Rights Movement art exhibition in April 2017. Now in October, we participate in a second international U/U White Supremacy Teach-In through religious exploration for all ages: children, youth, and adults. Join Rev. Catie for a Lyceum about American racism, white supremacy, and how Unitarian Universalists have been (and can be) both complicit and resistors to racial oppression in our country.
Worship Service Sunday, October 15, 2017 10:30am in the Sanctuary Rev. Catie Scudera, preaching
An ancient method of congregational non-compliance with oppressive governments is back on the rise: providing “sanctuary” within houses of worship. Many faith communities in Needham are exploring how they can support the New Sanctuary Movement either as a Level 1 sanctuary-providing congregation or as a Level 2 sanctuary-supporting congregation. This Sunday, we’ll explore the spiritual and ethical grounds for — and the practicalities of — participating in the New Sanctuary Movement.
Children attend first 15 minutes of worship followed by Religious Education Classes. Nursery are available.
I am devastated to write to you, yet again, in the wake of a major national tragedy: the mass shooting at a Las Vegas outdoor concert that has already claimed nearly sixty lives, with five hundred more people injured. Though we will not forget the lives at risk from ongoing flooding, infrastructure damage, and insufficient government assistance across the Caribbean, Florida, and Texas, our hearts are always torn apart whenever any individual unleashes such terrible violence. And, “whenever” is far too frequent in our country. Painful as it is, we keep all the victims of this violence in our hearts and pray for solace for the Las Vegas community.
Please know that the Pastoral Care team and I are available for spiritual support during this difficult time; please feel free to reach out to us by email or phone. Also, the Congregational Church will host an interfaith vigil in remembrance of all those killed and injured in Las Vegas on Wednesday, Oct. 3, at 7pm.
I know one of our most difficult tasks after a tragedy is to respond to questions from the children of our congregation. If you are struggling to explain what has happened to your children and to comfort them, please know that Mark LaPointe and I are available by email and phone to support you and that our denomination has a website full of resources for parents during these tragic and all-too-common times. A recent article in the Los Angeles Times about Charlottesville includes a list of advice for parents for talking to both younger kids and teens.
We must take care of our emotional and spiritual health after a tragedy like this, but we cannot be complacent and believe we are powerless to end gun violence. My friend and United Church of Christ Andover-Newton graduate, Casey Guet, wrote this in righteous anger about our national ambivalence toward gun violence:
Why do guns grow from the ground, oh Lord?
Why did you make something, which kills so quickly?
Why do you allow these killing machines to be plucked
From our gardens?
And sold in our gun markets?
We will not take any responsibility.
We never do.
In the beginning, God created the gun and the bullet.
There is nothing we can do, nothing to stop these tragedies.
Perhaps, if we created guns with our own hands,
Perhaps, if we could use our system of laws,
But there is nothing we can do.
The guns will keep cropping up.
The guns will keep growing.
I wonder, is there a way to destroy these flowers of death?
But cash crops are so hard to burn.
Indeed, “cash crops” like the gun industry are hard to burn — yet, we must not succumb to despair, we must keep trying. People’s lives depend on our efforts! The Unitarian Universalist Association is committed to proactively respond to the epidemic of gun violence in our country. Our congregation actively supports the local anti-homicide, pro-peace Louis D. Brown Peace Institute, and I encourage each of you to learn more about organizations like Stop Handgun Violence, the Brady Campaign, and the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence. Our beloved member of blessed memory, Ed Lane, gave a Lyceum in January about gun violence, adding a supplemental blog article to emphasize that strong gun control laws (like those we have in Massachusetts) significantly reduce gun violence. If you feel passionate about reducing gun violence and mass shootings in Massachusetts and across our nation, I encourage you to call to your state and federal elected officials and tell them how you feel!
As Unitarian Universalists, we are committed to the ethical principles affirming that every person has inherent worth and dignity and that we must work together for a world community of peace, liberty, and justice for all. We will pray for all those impacted by gun violence, and we will work to be peacemakers locally and nationally.
Worship Service Sunday, October 1, 2017 10:30am in the Sanctuary Rev. Catie Scudera, preaching
As we head into Resistance month, we consider on this Sunday that resistance is the slowing down of any change — not only change we don’t like. What does it look and feel like when we react to positive change out of fear? We will also celebrate St. Francis Day with a Blessing of the Animals Time for All Ages (animals may be held in our hearts and memories).