Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Each Night a Child Is Born Is a Holy Night

Children in the Discovery class act out the story of Jesus' birth

Sophia Fahs, a Unitarian religious educator, wrote:

"Each night a child is born is a holy night
A time for singing,
A time for wondering,
A time for worshipping.
Each night a child is born is a holy night.

No angels herald their beginnings
No prophets predict their future course
No wise men see a star to show
where to find the babe that will save humankind
Yet each night a child is born is a holy night."

Explores make clay for ornaments, while talking about the story of Jesus' birth.

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Learning About Hannuakah

This time of the year is a special time when some families all over the world celebrate freedom, miracles, and love.  This wonderful celebration is called Hanukkah.  Today, the children in our youngest classes learned about the celebration of Hannukah.  

On Hannukah, Jewish people celebrate this miracle of the light that lasted eight days and their freedom to believe and worship as they choose.  They bring out their Menorahs, a beautiful candleholder with room for nine candles.  The extra candle is called the “shammash”, a candle to light all the other candles.  Each night for eight nights, they light the candles adding one each night until the last night.  And they do things together on each of the nights. 

They gather family together.
They play dreidel (a spinning top) together.
 They eat potato latkes together.
They sing songs together.
They share simple gifts together.
They eat jelly donuts together.
They find chocolate gelt together.
They say blessings together. 

On the eighth night, all the candles burn brightly.  Everyone remembers the story of the fight for freedom and of the miracle of the lights.  Everyone is happy to be with people who love them.  

Sunday, November 29, 2015

5 Questions

This year our classes for children and youth are learning stories from Jewish and Christian scriptures, and thinking about the stories in terms of five questions that can be asked about any religion.  

The Authority question:  Who decides what is right and true in life?  Whose ideas are right?  Who can we learn from?
The Cosmology question:  What is the universe like and where did it come from?  What is sacred or holy?  What is God?
The Anthropology question:  What are people like?  Are we good or are we evil?  How should we treat one another?
The Sociology question:  How should we live our lives?  How should we treat the world?
The Ecclesiology question:  What is church for?  What do people in our church believe?  Why do we go to church?

Today the Treasure Hunters class reviewed five of the stories we have read this year, and related them to the five questions.  

Noah's Ark by Jerry Pinkney
This story reminds us that it is a blessing that we were born. Knowing that each one of us is a blessing can help us to answer some big questions, such as “What are people like?” “Are we good, or are we evil?” and “How should we treat one another?” When people ask “What are people like?” they are asking the anthropology question. Unitarian Universalists believe that all people are good. People may do bad things, or make bad choices, but they are not bad people. All people deserve respect and to be treated with fairness and kindness.  This is what we mean when we say we are the church of the loving hearts.

Cain and Abel by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
This story reminds us that it matters what we do. Knowing that what we do matters can help us to answer some big questions, such as “How should we live our lives?” and “How should we treat the world?” When people ask “How should we live our lives?” they are asking the sociology question. Unitarian Universalists believe that we should each work to make the world a better place. All people deserve peace and freedom. We believe in taking care of the earth and all living things. This is what we mean when we say we are the church of the helping hands.

Jonah and the Great Fish by Warwick Hutton
This story reminds us that what each of us knows about God is a piece of the truth. Knowing that what each of us knows about the mystery is a piece of the truth can help us to answer some big questions, such as “Who decides what is right and true in life?” “Whose ideas are right?” and “Who can we learn from?” When people ask “Who decides what is right and true?” they are asking the authority question.  Unitarian Universalists believe that we are always learning and growing.  We believe that each person has the right to decide what is right and true and that we can all learn from each other. This is what we mean when we say we are the church of the open minds.

Adam and Eve's First Sunset by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso
This story reminds us to let the beauty that we love be what we do. This can be a very hard idea to understand, even for grown ups! How can what we love be what we do? Remember how we are always learning and growing, and how we can learn from each other? We can also learn by paying attention to our world, to everything we see and hear and smell and touch and taste. When we find something beautiful—when we small a beautiful flower, or hear beautiful music, or see a beautiful sunset, or eat delicious food, or enjoy a snuggly hug from someone we love – we can take the good feelings we get from that beauty, and that can help us remember that we believe that people are good and that the world is good. It can help us remember that god is good, for those of us that believe in god.
Knowing that the beauty that we love can be what we do can help us to answer some big questions, such as “What is the universe like?” “What is God?” and “What is sacred or holy?” When people ask “What is sacred or holy?” they are asking the cosmology question. Unitarian Universalists believe that the world, that the whole universe and everything in it, is a wonderful and creative place, filled with all sorts of things to explore and learn from. Our task is to pay attention to the beauty in the world, and to make more beauty. How can we make more beauty? By treating each other with kindness, by caring for each other and for the earth, by learning and growing, and by creating beautiful things and beautiful ideas that help other people find the beauty in the world and in their lives. Unitarian Universalists believe we are all connected to each other and to everything, and there is beauty to be found everywhere. This is also what we mean when we say we are the church of the open minds, and the loving hearts, and the helping hands.

Joseph by Brian Wildsmith
This story reminds us that we are not alone, that we have friends at church that will help us when we need help. This is a very easy idea, but it is also easy to forget! Knowing that we have help, that we “don’t have to do it alone” can help us to answer some big questions, such as “What is church for?” “What do people in our church believe?” and “Why do we go to church?” When people ask “What is church for?” they are asking the ecclesiology question. Unitarian Universalists believe that we can do more if we work together. We can learn from each other.  We can help each other realize that we each are good and worthy of love. We can work together for peace and justice in the world.  We can help each other speak up for what is true and rightWe can help each other find the beauty in the world.
We can create more beauty together. This is also what we mean when we say we are the church of the open minds, and the loving hearts, and the helping hands.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Playing and Learning Together

Discovery class enjoyed playing together with blocks and paints . . .

. . . after hearing the story of the Fox and The Stork, about offering help that is needed.

The Treasure Hunters class heard a story about Noah and the Ark . . . 

 . . . and acted it out with lots of stuffed animals.

The Explorers class learned about Jesus' early life, and examined a map to see where Jesus lived.

The middle school youth group created an interpretive dance to act out the story of Creation.

Monday, October 5, 2015

In Another's Shoes

This month's lessons in the Explorers class focus on the question "Who decides what is right and true in life?"  People's lives are in part determined by the things they experience; but we each have a choice in how we will respond to the negative experiences, whether they will break our spirits or build our character. Today's goal in the Explorer's class was to better understand the culture Jesus was born into, and to notice the similarities and differences with our world today.  

The children watched an excerpt from the Reader's Digest film "Jesus Among the People" to show some images of what life may have looked like in Palestine during the time of Jesus.  The children made sandals similar in style to those worn at that time (although ours were made from cardboard and ribbon, rather than leather).  We tried to "put ourselves in the shoes" of people in another place and time.

Throughout the year, we will be asking our young people to "put themselves in another's shoes" by seeing things from other people's perspectives.  As we study stories from the Bible this year, we will talk about what they may have meant to the people telling and writing them many years ago, what they might have meant to our Unitarian and Universalist ancestors, and what they mean to us today.  

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Best Seller for the Ages

Have you ever seen in the bookstore or library a list of “Best Sellers?” It is a list of books that people are currently buying and reading. Who remembers people standing in lines to purchase the Harry Potter books when they were first coming out? Did you know that there is not just one “best seller list” in the publishing world? There are lists for the best selling fiction (made up stories) and best selling non-fiction (true stories or informational). There are lists of hard cover books, paperback books, children’s books, and I think now even electronic books! But there a book that has been a best seller for AGES--the Bible.

The Bible is actually a collection of smaller “books” without their separate covers. There were written by different people, at different times, and for different groups of people. They all have their special point of view about God and how people live in light of that. There is a Hebrew Bible. The first five books are called the Torah that is read during Jewish Shabbat services. And there is a Christian Bible with some of the same books, but more too. A group of Christians met together at the First Council of Nicaea in the year 325! and they decided which books would make up the Christian Bible. Even today different Christian Bibles aren’t all the same.

Inside the Bible's smaller “books” are so many stories! You will find stories of brave and foolish people, of wars and long journeys in the desert, kings and queens, beggars and thieves. There is trickery and family arguments, but there is also poetry and rules to live by. There are stories of miracles happening (when something happens that is amazing or hard to explain). Stories of something bigger, a mystery some call Yahweh or God. People have been telling these stories for a VERY LONG TIME. Whether you think the stories are possible in the real world or not, you might be surprised by the “truth” in them. People always have questions, fears, hopes and dreams no matter where or when they have lived. People always have had trouble getting along 100 percent of the time. Many people today like to read and discuss these stories and remember them to each other.

Over the year we will be exploring the characters and ideas in the Hebrew and Christian Bibles AND as Unitarian Universalists we will ask questions, compare them to our lives and other stories, traditions, myths. 
(from:  Our Roots and Perennial Questions: Important Names, Stories and Ideas from the Hebrew and Christian Bibles by Mary B. Collins, Director of Religious Education, UU Congregation of Danbury, CT)

Friday, September 4, 2015

Creating Space Part Two

Our Lighthouse renovations are nearly complete!  We now have beautiful new flooring in the hallway.

Our front desk area has been removed . . .

. . . . and will soon be replaced with a welcoming seating area, a place to visit and find information.

Here's what the floors looked like when the carpet was up and before the new flooring was put down.

Our youth group did touch up painting in the hallways

They added a new mural to their classroom

. . .  and beautified this bookshelf space.

The Dutch door on the nursery has also been repaired and improved.

Watch for more improvements over the next few weeks, and join us for the "housewarming" party on September 20 after the service to celebrate all the physical improvements that have been done this year.

Celebrating Ourselves as Super Heroes

Today's class was a celebration of all the superheroes we have learned about this summer.  We also celebrated our own superpowers:

Being kind to friends
Noticing things
Finding things that are missing
Learning new things
Running really fast
Creating new things and having interesting ideas

Talk with your child about the "superpowers" each of you have.  How do you use your superpowers to make the world a better place?

We also made super hero capes!  If you'd like to make your own no-sew cape from an old t-shirt, you can find instructions here:  http://www.clumsycrafter.com/2012/05/t-shirt-super-hero-capes-no-sew/

We learned about superhero Christopher Reeve who played superman in the movies.  We talked about the accident that changed his life, and how he was a superhero because he never gave up.  If your child is interested in learning more about Christopher Reeve, you might like to watch this video of Christopher Reeve on Sesame Street talking about using a wheelchair:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OzHvVoUGTOM

It's been a great super hero summer!  I'm excited for a super fall together as well.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The Greatest Show on Earth

Today's theme was the circus!  We dressed up in costumes,

tried magic tricks and juggling,

and enjoyed face painting and making balloon animals!

Our guest, P.T. Barnum, grew up in a church where he heard stories about an angry God who wanted to punish people.  At 15, he and his family began attending a Universalist Church.  The God he learned about there forgave rather than punished, and thought that all people deserved to be happy and be valued.  Barnum liked those ideas and became a Universalist for the rest of his life.   He tried to bring excitement and joy to other's lives, and worked to make the world a fairer place.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Love Is Something If You Give it Away

Malvina Reynolds was a Unitarian Universalist singer and songwriter.  Once of her best known songs is "Magic Penny":

Love is something if you give it away,
Give it away, give it away.
Love is something if you give it away,
You end up having more.

We talked about the lyrics of the song magic penny, and watched videos of Malvina performing some of her other songs.   We also made stepping stones as a gift to our church, to be sold at the church auction in October.  

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Sophia Fahs

Our guest today was Sophia Lyon Fahs.  As a teacher, writer, editor, and advocate, Sophia Lyon Fahs (1876-1978) helped to revolutionize American children's religious education—and played a major role in what is often called the "Unitarian renaissance" of the 1940s.  She believed children had the capacity to ask big religious questions, and to begin to understand big religious concepts.  Largely because of her influence, Unitarian religious education moved from a model of memorizing religious doctrine, to exploring religious questions together.  Sophia recognized the power of children's creativity, and used their own curiosity as much as possible in designing religious education experiences for children.

Our children explored their creativity today by creating a fort and other objects from cardboard.  On their own the came up with the list of rules posted on the fort.  I think Sophia would be proud!

Creating Space

Our Lighthouse building has undergone some major rennovations over the past month, with more to come!  Our front doors now have windows, to be more inviting as you approach the building (and to cut down on the possibility of smashing an unseen child as you are exiting!)

Rotted foundation under the nursery floor was replaced . . . 

. . . . and a new Dutch Door added

During construction our new front doors were unusable

because the entire front deck was removed to access the foundation!

Each classroom now has a window in the door.

Our new front doors

and our finished nursery!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Lewis Latimer's Bright Idea

You've probably heard of Thomas Edison, the man who invented the lightbulb? People wanted that kind of magic in their own homes. They wanted to be able to flip a switch and have light, just like that! But, there was one problem. Thomas Edison's lightbulb used carbon thread for a filament—that little curly line inside the lightbulb—and the carbon thread lasted only about forty hours before it burned out. Once the filament burned out, the lightbulb would never work again. People would have to buy a new lightbulb. Nobody wanted to buy new lightbulbs all the time. They were expensive. So people gave up on the idea of having electric lightbulbs in their homes, and kept on using candles an kerosene lamps.

But I didn't give up on the idea of electric lightbulbs. I was sure there was a way to make it work. I decided I would find a way to make a longer-lasting light, a light that people could afford to buy for their homes.
I knew it wouldn't be easy.  I'd only been to a few years of elementary school before I had to get a job to help support my family, when I was only ten. Life was hard for my family. 

I figured out that whatever I wanted to learn, I could find out from books or by teaching myself what I wanted to know. I worked in a patent office, a company that helps inventors. The company I worked for drew the pictures for the patents. I helped Alexander Graham Bell draw diagrams of the telephone and get the patent on that. I liked to do experiments, and I had also invented some things myself. Even though I didn't have a college degree or a high school education, I was a scientist and an inventor and an engineer.

So I decided I could figure out how to make a longer lasting lightbulb. And I did it! I designed a carbon filament that was baked in a special way and so lasted for a long, long time, hundreds of hours. I received a patent for my carbon filament, which means the United States government recognized that I was the inventor, the very first person to create that carbon filament.

Electricity wasn't the only type of light I helped to create. I loved leaning new things and teaching others. I believed in sharing the light of truth. I helped people who were hungry or were poor, just like my family had been. I knew that helping others was another way of sharing light.

In one of my poems I wrote:
To love while we live
And give aid to each other
Is the sunshine of life
That turns night into day.

In 1908 I helped to start a Unitarian church in New York. People still go to that church, over a hundred years later. That Unitarian Universalist church—just like this Unitarian Universalist church—gives a long and lasting light. I knew of Unitarians all my life. My parents had been helped by Unitarians, and the Unitarian beliefs in the importance of character, the toleration of different views, and the enthusiastic approach to learning matched my own views well. My wife and children and I were all active Unitarians.

I'm proud of the things I created that made a difference in the world. I wonder what you might create that will also help to make a difference?
(Adapted from A Lamp in Every Corner by Janeen K Grohsmeyer).

Monday, June 22, 2015

Norbert Capek: The Man Who Loved Beauty

The children's class enjoyed a visit from Norbert Capek, the creator of the flower communion.  

We made musical instruments from recycled materials.  Norbert Capek had a large, musical family.  They had enough musicians to make their own family orchestra.

We made tissue paper flowers and celebrated our own flower communion.

Norbert described the first flower communion, held at his church in Prague, "We put a big table in the middle of the worship space, and on it a large vase. The vase represented the Unitarian church, which helps everyone in the congregation share the beauties in life. Each person had been told to bring a flower along that Sunday, and each put his or her flower in the vase. In my sermon, I talked about how each and every flower was different and important, just like every person in my congregation. And yet they all belonged together in one community, as sisters and brothers. In this Unitarian community, when they gave their best that was in them for the good of everyone, they were able to do together what no one person can do alone."