Resources for Families: Enriching the Ground So Faith Can Grow

The family is a huge factor in a child’s faith development. Reverend Makanah Morris has likened family life to a ground in which seeds of a child’s faith are planted. She writes, “The seeds are planted in the early environment, but the ground can also be prepared for spreading roots and welcoming later seeds. So, do nurture the ground as well as the seeds. Let the ground of faith development not be limited in possibility, but remain fertile to seek, find, and nurture truth in ever new and more wonder-filled ways.”512px-A_young_girl_uses_a_trowel_to_dig_a_hole_for_plants_in_the_pollinator_garden wiki_commons

Rev. Morris’s words help introduce Parents as Spiritual Guides, a six-session program for UU parents available at no charge online (PDF format). The curriculum by Roberta and Chris Nelson helps parents invite spiritual growth into family life with behaviors and rituals that support this dynamic process. Parents as Spiritual Guides is just one of many tools the UUA provides to support UU parents in their role of nurturing the faith development of their families.

Ready to till the soil and plant some seeds? Here are just some ways:

CONNECT with other UU parents via the UU Parenting email list or UU Parenting Facebook group.

EXPLORE online:

UU World Family pages. “Families: Weave a Tapestry of Faith” is the pull-out section of UU World magazine with stories, activities, and parent reflections drawn from Tapestry of Faith religious education programs. Read/download online as PDFs.

Articles from UU World such as “Homegrown Religion” or “Reclaim Your Family Time” by William Doherty; “New Family Traditions” by Meg Cox; and “What Family Time?” by David Whitford.

Tapestry of Faith Curricula. Each session in every program has “Taking It Home” ideas to extend RE participants’ experiences into the home and community: games, conversation starters, and ideas for making meaning in life through ritual, learning, and service.

FOLLOW blogs such as UU Parenting from Michelle Richards and Call and Response from the UUA Faith Development Office.

DOWNLOAD “Let’s Talk About…” booklets:

  • Let’s Talk About Time/Money
  • Let’s Talk About Respect
  • Let’s Talk About Marriage and Committed Relationships
  • Let’s Talk About Divorce and Broken Relationships
  • Let’s Talk About Families and Loss
  • Let’s Talk About Interfaith Families

BROWSE the Parent Further website from the Search Institute. Though not a UUA resource, this website is one of the most comprehensive resources for families available online, with research, articles, webinars, and more.

 

Preventable Suffering: A UU with Autism Confronts “Coffee Hour”

Ramon Selove and his wife, Shellie Selove, are Our Whole Lives sexuality education facilitator trainers. They are members of the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Shenandoah Valley (VA).

by Ramon Selove

Meeting people, touching people, and general noise levels during and after a worship service can be real problems for me and others with autism. During services, just when things have quieted down and we are getting into the rhythm of the service, our minister asks us to stop and greet each other, shake hands, etc. It then takes the congregation a while to calm down again and get back into the service. I personally find that break disruptive. I really wish we wouldn’t do it at all.

It is stressful for me to be in the presence of a large number of people and it is much worse when many conversations are going on at the same time. I sometimes come to church late so that I can avoid all the conversations that occur prior to the service. At the end of the service I usually remain in the seats instead of going to the “social area.” Sometimes people come to talk to me (which I appreciate very much) and sometimes I just sit alone.

ramon selove and coriander 2
The author, Ramon Selove, with his autism service dog, Coriander.

There are lots of people that I know well and care about. I want very much to talk to them. But the atmosphere of the social hour is almost impossible for me. I can’t separate the conversation I am in from all of the others that are going on around me. Sometimes I just have to sneak out the back door and I feel bad about it because I know that there are people who want to connect with me. Our church has grown so much over the years that I now have a hard time attending at all.

I haven’t figured out how to solve this problem for me, and maybe I have no business telling others how to solve it. Even so, I have some ideas. When the Autism Network International holds a retreat for people with autism, one thing they do is to use a color-coded name badge. The colors correspond to participants’ preferences in social interaction. Some want to be approached by others. Some only want to be approached by people they already know. Some do not want social interactions at all. The name badges help people honor each other’s wishes.

In our congregation, color-coding would be more complicated. It would need to cover not only openness to talking to people but also different levels of touch: “Hugs welcome.” “Handshakes only.” “Light pressure preferred.” “Deep pressure preferred.” The handkerchief code that developed in gay bars decades ago approaches the level of complexity that would be needed. Icons on name badges could indicate what an individual is comfortable with; I would probably keep several different badges in my badge holder so that I could choose the appropriate one for different days or times, such as during and after the service. Since most congregations already use name badges, the cultural change would be minimal.

There is, of course, a much simpler approach: Encourage everyone to “ask first.” Unfortunately, it wouldn’t work very well for most of us autistics. Trying to explain to person after person that I need plenty of warning before touch and that light touch irritates me but deep pressure is soothing, but I only really want to be hugged by people I know… the conversations about it are too stressful. It is easier to just sneak out the back. Come to think of it, I guess that’s why the handkerchief codes developed in the first place.

I am not aware that any religious groups have tackled this issue. If we could develop something workable, it would have value in any congregation.

Next Steps!

nathan selove & sylvia
Nathan Selove and his autism service dog, Sylvia.

The author’s son, Nathan Selove, also has autism. On YouTube, watch a video Nathan made to show how his service dog, Sylvia, “changed his life, became his best friend and showed him how to do more than just live with autism.” The video describes the Seloves’ legal and public awareness battle to ensure Nathan could have Sylvia with him in school.

The UUA offers information on accessibility in congregational life. Visit the blog site of EqUUal Access, a group working toward the full engagement of people with disabilities in UU communities and the broader society; read about EqUUal Access in UU World online (“Group works to make congregations more accessible,” January 6, 2014).

The Autism Society website offers a variety of ways to learn, connect, and more during April 2014, National Autism Awareness Month.

Sally Patton’s book Welcoming Children with Special Needs has useful ideas about full inclusion of all ages in UU congregations. The book is no longer in print but is offered in PDF format on the UUA website at no charge.

 

Spring and Rejoice!

An 18-inch blanket of snow surrounds my house and it is far too early to put the winter clothes into storage. Yet, the birds are singing every morning, the days are longer, and grocery store conversation has turned to spring. Springtime…a time of delight for the human spirit!

We all smile at the familiar words of scripture:

For, lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone
The flowers appear on the earth;
The time of singing is come,
And the voice of the turtledove is heard in the land.

This is a good time to invite family members and friends to name the delights of spring: Earthworms, daffodils, mud. Rainboots, hopscotch, baseball. Invite people to name large things and small, whimsical and serious, personal and communal. Create a family or congregational ritual to celebrate and give thanks for all that is wonderful about the rebirth of spring. Take time to remind each other of the spiritual lesson of spring—that rebirth and renewal follow even the more difficult winters.

What words would you use for the experience of spring where you live? What words would your children and families contribute? You might even gather ideas for a litany to share with your congregation. Here’s a sample:

For daffodils peeking through melting snow
For trees that are stirring above and below
For spring jackets, bicycles, jump ropes and skates,
For rabbits and earthworms and baseball’s first day,
Alleluia, Huzzah, and Hip Hip Hooray!

However you choose, pause and notice. And have fun noticing and sharing with those you love! Rejoice with all the creatures of earth as spring once again comes to the northern hemisphere. Alleluia, Huzzah, and Hip Hip Hooray!

Next Steps!

The early springtime is sacred in the Christian calendar as well, where Lent is a time for spiritual preparation in the period before Easter. Unitarian Universalists Mr. Barb Greve and Karen Bellavance-Grace have teamed up to offer a daily Lenten spiritual practice which invites all of us to contribute a photo each day after pausing and reflecting on a particular spiritual idea, such as connection or hope. Visit the project on Tumblr. You need not have a Tumblr account to view and/or contribute photos.

Families, individuals, and small groups of all kinds (including covenant groups, youth groups, junior youth groups, and children’s RE groups) may like to observe the Lenten season and the coming of spring as part of this online community.

Of Lions and Lambs

We know that the Universe’s one constant is change. Systems are full of chaos. We’ve seen that in our weather systems this month, when March came in like a lion. Northern parts of our country are preparing for another big snow storm. Here in the South the beginning of March brought ice storms and freezing temperatures, but by this week daffodils are blooming, allergies are rising, and birdsong fills the air. Baaaa. This winter, the changes in our weather were ever-present.

Though change is constant, sometimes it feels more present, more pressing. Here, at the UUA, change is on everyone’s mind. We are preparing to move to a new building, and a new logo has been introduced. Here it is:Logo_Gradient

I love the new logo. I find the colors more vibrant, the flame more dynamic and less static. It reminds me of the hymn “The Fire of Commitment”, but I also love it because it is a result of deep reflection about what is the core of our faith. Watch in the coming months for resources to help you and everyone engage with this question as we discuss “branding” in the broadest sense of the word.

One of the joys of belonging to a free faith is the right to wrangle with questions like these. Human beings have asked themselves these questions over and over again, and, not surprisingly, have come up with different answers. New religions were born in this or that particular time and place, among particular people who found similar answers to life’s big questions. Tapestry of Faith’s new world religion curriculum for youth, Building Bridges, traces the births of diverse new religions which still nourish members of our human family today. In Building Bridges, participants engage with information about other religions and consider how it affects their own faith. We can only invite our youth to ask these questions because we believe that faith is a journey and “revelation is not sealed.” Change is constant.

Our own beliefs may be changing, but we don’t have to deal with these changes alone. We have a community of like journeyers to accompany us.

Unitarian Universalism may be changing, but we don’t have to deal with these changes alone. Let’s together find the fire in our faith and use it to light a path to a future, more just, more loving world.

We can use this blog to walk together. We would love to see comments from you on some of the big questions confronting our faith.

What challenges do you see for us as we grapple with the question of what is the core of our faith?

What changes have you witnessed in our faith? What changes are you committed to bringing into being?

Feel free to start a conversation below.

From This House to the World

by Sandy Weir

man with sign at the march
Mass Moral March in Raleigh, NC — UUs experience community in a coalition for freedom without fear.

“From this House” is a joyous, South African-style song by composer Ben Allaway. It evokes the image of people walking out into the world after finding power and a sense of purpose at their house of peace, their community space to celebrate, learn, and work out problems. Unitarian Universalists often chant the lyrics, “from this house, to the world, we will go, hand in hand,” as we emerge from a sanctuary to march for justice. The lessons I’ve learned at my UU “house” are the grounding for my commitment to justice.

The song continues, “Look around you; find your neighbor; share the peace. It’s all about freedom without fear.” In Arizona, I am in community with undocumented immigrants who have found power and purpose together at their own house of peace, and we work together for freedom without fear. As a participant in Building the World We Dream About, a UU Tapestry of Faith program that builds antiracist, multicultural skills, the reflections I shared of my ongoing transformation introduced more UUs to this community. Yet I was still hungry to share more widely and to meet new peers engaged in similar transformative experiences.

Then, North Carolina UU clergy invited UUs nationwide to join the Mass Moral March in Raleigh on February 8 led by state NAACP President Rev. Dr. William Barber and supported by a large coalition. The invitation described the movement to restore voting rights. And, it warned:

We know North Carolina is being viewed as a test state to unleash these regressive chains of injustice across the country.

Those words were familiar to Arizonans who had asked others to join us in resistance in 2010, warning: “SB 1070 is a hateful law and other states around the country are copying Arizona and introducing anti-immigrant laws.”

I joined the Mass Moral March to support the movement. I was open to whatever the march might bring, and I hoped that practicing openness would help me see Arizona’s issues with fresh eyes. I wondered about the role of the march in the overall movement. I wondered how UUs would engage and whether I might find peers.

My salient images and reflections from the march:

  • We UUs were made ready to go from our house to the world. Our North Carolina ministers worshipped with us. They helped us understand the march as a part of a movement that has grown over eight years’ time. The UU leaders within Moral Mondays described their roles as trusted partners in the coalition. Thus prepared, we went out to the march informed, engaged, and seeking sustained involvement. 
  • First-time marchers experienced authentic public witness, hand in hand. For some, the march was a coming out event, where they stated publicly that they identify as oppressed persons. For others, it was a time to strengthen connections with other UUs. Still others reached across divides of age or culture to connect with other groups in the coalition. 
  • The spirit of inclusiveness helped me reach out to others and recognize them as peers. Look around you; find your neighbor; share the peace. I am grateful for the “Taking It All Back Home” session with UU peers. Yet, my most memorable moment was when I recognized an activist from Virginia as a peer. We found that we are about the same age and both believe ongoing multicultural transformation is a necessary part of human rights campaigns. I lost his name in the noise of the crowd but his lovely sign (see photo) speaks for itself.

Now, I’m back in Arizona. I reached out with respect to a nativist last week. I do, indeed, see my state with fresh eyes. 

sandy weir 2 march 2014Sandy Weir, a member of the UU Congregation of Phoenix, worked as the Arizona Immigration Ministry Organizer to build partnerships with immigrant rights organizations and plan Justice General Assembly 2012. She still volunteers, especially with Puente Arizona and the National Day Laborer Organizing Network.

Next Steps!

Where is your “house of peace?” How does your family, community, or congregation help you go forth, empowered, into the world?

Who are your partners? With whom do you—or could you—walk hand in hand toward “freedom without fear?”

Hear “From this House” on the website of Santa Barbara Music Publishing Co. Purchase sheet music here.

Camp Matters! Growing UUs through Intentional Community

people walking in a line at the Mountain
The Mountain Retreat and Learning Center campers hike through a mountain meadow in Highlands, NC. Photo courtesy The Mountain.

I first experienced a UU camp retreat when I was still in high school. At Ferry Beach in Saco, Maine, I found a community trying to live according to its highest values in a place apart from an outside world which often felt so violent, unjust, and broken. For me, Ferry Beach was a place where honest, deep conversations happened on a daily basis, where one could unabashedly appreciate and love the natural world, where people were at ease with themselves and with one another. Children learned to throw the living sand dollars back into the sea, to protect the dune grass, and to care for one another.

Unitarian Universalist religious educators have known for a long time that temporary communities such as those formed at UU camps, youth conferences, and retreats can strongly shape UU identity. To live for a time in a covenanted community based on shared values can be life-changing. The heightened sense of connection can open new self-understanding and build one’s capacity to feel a part of something larger than oneself. UU camps, conferences, and retreats offer important formational experiences. They help strengthen faith. At their best, they make real the experience of living in beloved community.

Temporary communities are part of both our Unitarian and Universalist history. There is a thread in our tradition which pulls us away from imperfect society to build temporary communities where we can live according to our values. Our forebears in the period before the Civil War established utopian communities, with varying degrees of success, at Fruitlands, Hopedale, and Brook Farm. Such communities, the utopians discovered, were difficult to sustain over time. They catered to the participants’ moral and theological leanings yet had little impact on the broader society. At the turn of the twentieth century, our Universalist forebears were enthusiastic supporters of the Chautauqua movement, in which people of faith came together at summer meeting places to hear wonderful preaching, learn from one another, and generate the power to become more effective missionaries for the rest of the year. Our youth movements have since the mid-twentieth century been characterized by the building of temporary communities through youth conferences, General Assembly caucuses, and other gatherings. The idea is that youth conferences can change participants so that they, in turn, might change the world.

Today, the tradition of gathering temporary covenanted community united by Unitarian Universalist values is being upheld by our camps and conference centers, which serve multigenerational intentional communities as well as communities comprised of a single age cohort. When, in the next few weeks, your thoughts turn to summer plans, investigate the offerings of the UU camp or conference center nearest you, or perhaps one across the country. Consider inviting yourself, your family, or your child or youth into a potentially unforgettable Unitarian Universalist experience. Join the long line of people who have experienced the renewal and affirmation of a temporary UU community and brought their own faith not only back home but also outward, into the world.

Next Steps!

Learn more about temporary communities in our faith tradition through the workshop “Counter-culture”, in Resistance and Transformation: Unitarian Universalist Social Justice History. Learn about utopian communities through the workshop “Mirages and Oases- Idealism and Utopianism” in Faith Like a River: Themes in Unitarian Universalist History. If you are looking for possible camp experiences this summer, this webpage includes links to many of our Unitarian Universalist camps and conference centers.

How Prepared Is Your Library to Help You Learn about Islam?

800px-Dome_Main_Reading_Room_Library_of_Congress CC license
Dome of the Main Reading Room, U.S. Library of Congress.

Last fall, as the Faith Development Office was preparing discussion guides for Muhammad: The Story of a Prophet and Reformer by Sarah Conover (UUA/Skinner House, 2013), we learned from Mary Benard, Editorial Director of our Publications Office, that Muhammad had been reviewed by Booklist. This is a big deal!

Booklist, published by the American Library Association for more than 100 years, offers reviews, widely considered extremely reliable, to help librarians decide what to buy. Its print magazines, website and database, e-newsletters, webinars, and more resources support municipal, school, and other libraries to build their collections and advise patrons on what to read, view, and listen to.

What if, Mary wondered, we encouraged Unitarian Universalists to audit their local library holdings on Islam? Where gaps exist, we might suggest responsible resources, including Muhammad as well as Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation by Eboo Patel (Beacon Press). Acts of Faith was the UUA Common Read for 2011-2012 and also has a discussion guide.

“…Muhammad details Muhammad’s education, his first marriage, the revelation of the Qur’an, and the anger he faced from his community…. cultivates a strong sense of place… opens the door to a more nuanced understanding…” — Sarah Hunter, Booklist, Nov. 15, 2013

How do libraries discover gaps in their collections? How do they identify new resources? I visited my local library to find out more (and to do an audit of biographies of Muhammad and resources on Islam). The librarian explained that staff select new books after reading reviews in The New York Times Book Review, Publisher’s Weekly, Booklist, and others. The big issue is—can you guess?—lack of funding. The librarian said that when the Recession hit in 2008, the budget for new books dropped to $100,000 from over $1,000,000 just a few years earlier. A $100,000 budget for one library? Not so bad. But, no, that’s for the entire county library system of 22 libraries!

So – put your faith into action with these simple steps:

  • After reading Muhammad, go to your public or school library. Do an audit of the materials on Islam and Muhammad.
  • Talk with the librarian about what you find and do not find. Suggest adding Muhammad to the collection. Mention the book’s favorable review by Booklist in November, 2013.
  • Find a Muslim or interfaith group to endorse your request to include Muhammad in library collections.
  • Find out about organizations that support the library. My library accepts donations through a Friends of the Library group as well as a Library Foundation. Make a donation or volunteer your time.
  • If the library hosts book discussion groups, partner with a Muslim group to lead one. Facilitate conversation using the UUA’s Discussion Guide for Muhammad.
  • If the library hosts author talks, ask them to invite Sarah Conover.

30 Powerful, Family-Friendly Ways to Love

Many parents and educators would say “love” is the most important value to demonstrate and to teach the children in our care. Some of us might say “justice.” The annual 30 Days of Love campaign from Standing on the Side of Love, which closes next week, offers reflections and actions to help congregations, families, and individuals activate both.

The 30 Days of Love (2014) bulletin board at Community UU Church of Plano (TX).
The 30 Days of Love (2014) bulletin board at Community UU Church of Plano (TX).

Because the 30 Days of Love campaign primarily speaks to adults and youth, Kathy Smith, Director of Religious Education at the Community UU Church of Plano (TX), created the Thirty Days of Love Activity Calendar for Families. Immensely valuable to religious educators (including parents), the 2014 calendar offers a month’s worth of daily activities, such as:

  • Help your child think of someone they know who has exhibited “courageous love” and made a difference in someone’s life. Make a certificate and give it to them.
  • Have your child draw or color a valentine for workers at a nearby restaurant. Talk about how hard they work. Take it to the restaurant and wish them a Happy Valentine’s Day!
  • Visit a mosque, Islamic center, or Muslim community center in your area. Draw a picture of the similarities and differences from where you usually attend.

“Using the calendar is a way to make Standing on the Side of Love concrete for children ages five through twelve,” says Smith. Children in this age range tend to be involved in their own family, school, and local community. The activities engage them to demonstrate love in a variety of ways, together with their caregivers, in contexts that are familiar. Most of the activities can be done in 15 to 30 minutes.

For example, compassionate immigration reform, a long-standing goal of Standing on the Side of Love, appears on Smith’s calendar as an activity one can do close to home or, very possibly, at home: Help your child interview someone who has been an immigrant, and hear their story.

Smith’s hope? That through these activities, UU children develop a sense of belonging to a national if not a world movement for justice and a faith that calls us to action for love.

Next Steps!

Short-term love- and justice-based activities can be meaningful to do with children at any time of year. If you haven’t done so already, explore more suggestions in the 2013 Thirty Days of Love Activity Calendar for Families, also provided by Kathy Smith.

Find out more about Standing on the Side of Love and the “Thirty Days” campaign.

Identity Formation, Faith Formation: Educating UU Youth

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Youth at 2013 UUA General Assembly.

The Indian philosopher, Chanakya (350-283 BCE), said, “Education is the best friend. An educated person is respected everywhere. Education beats the beauty and the youth.” As the Faith Development Director at the UUA, I often ask myself, “What sort of education is available for our UU youth?” So much identity formation happens during those teenage years; education should accompany this formation. The question of “Who am I?” should not be answered in a vacuum, but in a communal and historical context.

As a youth, one summer I attended a mock United Nations conference with other youth. I met a white, male youth with a unique accent. When I asked where he lived, he replied that he was South African. I was outraged that a white person was representing this African country and bound for a collision course with this young man. Originally declaring that I could not work with him, over time I decided to use his presence to educate myself instead. I learned that he was very proud to identify as a young South African leader and he was determined to eradicate apartheid. I learned more about the history of South Africa, the many-layered issues of race, politics, and power in that country. I left thinking that the situation was not as black or white as I had presumed, either there or here, in the U.S. I had presumed to know what role this young man played. I needed to ask myself what role I played in my country’s struggles.

We need to ask our young to engage with issues of race, ethnicity, class, power, and marginalization –- before their ideas get too set, before they start to put others (and themselves) in little boxes. Is this the job of religious education? I think it is. If religion is about making meaning of our world, the question of how to be in loving community with people who are different from me is a religious question.

A new UUA resource offers opportunities for youth to engage with ethnicity and race. Be the Change! is a multiculturalism and anti-racism project which offers a core training comprised of six, 90-minute sessions. A Facilitator Planning Guide describes ways to adapt the training for a variety of contexts, for example, a semester of youth group or a weekend conference. I encourage you to look it over and ask yourself if the youth in your congregation (or family, district, region, etc…) are ready to further their education on these issues.

Next Steps!

Explore the components of the new Be the Change! project for youth, online. See the Facilitator Planning Guide for supplementary resources to help you discuss race and ethnicity, such as the PBS series Race: The Power of Illusion. The Racial Justice and Multicultural Ministries and Identity Based Ministries pages on the UUA website suggest more materials.

The Skinner House books Voices from the Margins and Been in the Storm So Long are meditation guides featuring the words of Unitarian Universalists who are People of Color.

DRUUMM (Diverse and Revolutionary UU Multicultural Ministries) and ARE (Allies for Racial Equality) are two organizations of UUs committed to building an anti-racist, multicultural world.

Share with all ages the UU World Families pages from Fall 2010. The story (“Indra’s Magnificent Jeweled Net”), the activities, and the reflections and questions on the Parent Reflection page promote diversity and multiculturalism as aspects of our beloved community and our interconnected web of life.

 

More than Groundhog Day: Wisdom in the Belly of Winter

February 2, Groundhog Day, presents a small, persistent cultural marker of a spiritual observance hundreds of years old. The Christian Candlemas is the day candles are blessed for use in the year ahead, in remembrance of the day the infant Jesus was said to have been presented at the Temple for the first time.

The Candlemas tradition also demands the removal of Christmas greens:

Down with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and mistletoe
Down with the holly, ivy, all
Wherewith ye dressed the Christmas Hall.

Courtesy of Smokey Mountain General Store.
Courtesy of Smokey Mountain General Store.

The ritual removal of Christmas greens and the blessing of candles also point us toward wisdom from pagan times. February 2 marks Midwinter, halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Vernal Equinox. It is sometimes called Brigid, after the Irish saint and pagan goddess, but it is also called “Imbolc,” which means “in the belly.” At this time of the year, we are “in the belly” of winter. For northern Europeans, being halfway through a winter meant that the hardest part was yet to come; food, candles, and heating wood might run short before spring made her appearance. But “in the belly” simultaneously carries a hopeful connotation. Just as ewes have new lambs gestating, so, too, is the coming spring gestating in the belly of winter. In old times and today, people gather around hearth fires and tables, sharing stored food, warmth, light, and stories to get through the remainder of a difficult season.

While most of us do not worry about physically enduring the final weeks of winter, there are those who do. For some, heating bills and grocery bills are difficult or impossible to manage. Some have no indoor place to call home. We do well to remember at this time that the donations of money, goods, and volunteer time that are so welcome in the holiday season might be doubly appreciated at Midwinter.

Even if we are warm and well-fed, we may still yearn emotionally and spiritually for longer days, warmer weather, returning light, and returning life. We may need a reminder that spring is gestating “in the belly” of the winter.

Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature is the sixth Source of our living Unitarian Universalist tradition. The rhythms of nature urge us to pause at Midwinter, to take down the decorations and turn our attention from the holidays that have passed toward the spring to come. Here is our chance to reflect and to share warmth, by pulling closer to hearth fires, lighting candles in gratitude for food and comfort, showing hospitality to those in need, and exchanging stories that touch the heart. Imbolc invites us to appreciate being “in the belly” of winter, to be fully present with winter’s dangers and its hopes.

Something in the human spirit will not let this seasonal marker go. An English proverb says,

If Candlemas be fair and bright
Winter will have another fight.
If Candlemas Day brings cloud and rain,
Winter won’t come again.

Not far off from Punxsutawney Phil!

Next Steps!

In these days, gather with loved ones to share food, firelight, and stories. Explore blog posts on the power of sharing stories in this year’s Thirty Days of Love campaign from Standing on the Side of Love.

Explore neo-paganism using the workshop “Neo-paganism: The Sacredness of Creation,” in Building Bridges, the Tapestry of Faith world religions program for grades 8 and 9.