IMG 2878"Beauty is that which glistens on the edges of our yearnings and lures us into the depths of things.""
-Patricia Adams Farmer 

What does beauty mean to you? This month, we invite you to nurture beauty. Take the time to notice beauty around you, carry a beautiful poem in your pocket, create art, garden, or....?

In April, our RE programs learned about Easter and Passover, while also baking for the USNF Cathedral in the Night donation (pictured here). On Easter, they participated in an Easter Can Hunt and donated over 50 pounds of high priority non perishable foods to the Northampton Survival Center. Thank you to everyone who donated!

As we look ahead to next month's theme of nurturing beauty, we will get back to our mural about the interdependent web of life of which we are all a part.

Here are some activities to practice nurturing beauty as a family:

  • Each of you choose something beautiful to carry with you for the month. It could be a beautiful stone, a poem, a picture, etc.
  • Garden together to nurture beauty.
  • Talk about what beauty means to each of you. Explore the difference between cultural and societal ideals about beauty and what you actually perceive as beautiful.
  • Share what you think is beautiful about each other.
  • Take a beauty walk. On a family walk, take turns noticing what is beautiful around you.
  • At the end of the day, share one beautiful thing you saw or experienced.
  • Create something beautiful together: do a family art project!

Here are some questions to explore:

  • What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced? How did it leave its mark on you?
  • When do you feel beautiful?
    Have you ever found beauty in something that other people might not see as beautiful?

We Hold Hope Close
By Theresa I. Soto
In this community, we hold hope close.IMG 1538
We don’t always know what comes next, but that cannot dissuade us.
We don’t always know just what to do, but that will not mean that we are lost in the wilderness.

Despite all of the changes and adjustments this year, we come together as a community of love and learning, embracing hope and curiosity. Thank you to everyone who helps & supports our RE program and the wonderful students who remind us to hope!

Our RE classes were online this month due to the Omicron surge, but that didn't stop us from having fun, singing songs, experiencing mindfulness, considering intentions, exploring UU Principles and Wisdom Tales from around the world!

Emma, our early childhood educator, and Jessica Q, our youth childcare provider, led family gatherings with songs, stories, activities and reflections about UU principles & the monthly theme: Living with Intention. Our elementary class acted out wisdom tales from faiths and cultures around the world as a way to learn about UU Principles and values. Each participant got an activity bag (pictured above) with stories, supplies for art activities, and fidget tools.

 Hopefully, you had a chance to watch the Coming of Age service on January 16: Be A King. Congratulations to our Coming of Age class for planning and sharing this inspiring service. Up next for COA: mentor matches! A huge thank you to our mentors for this year.

Jessica, our Director of Faith Development and Community Engagement, is on maternity leave but you will still get a response if you email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

“Forgiveness shakes loose the calcification that accumulates around our hearts.” -Frank Ostaseski

Studies have found that young people who know how to forgive are generally happier, have stronger relationships, and even do better in heart school! The good news is that we can teach forgiveness.

An important foundation for learning about forgiveness is understanding the inherent worth and dignity of all people (UU principle 1) and the importance of kindness and respect (principle 2).

For young children, it is helpful to start learning about apologies and forgiveness with stories and scenarios. There are book suggestions on the padlet. You will find 2 characters to re-create situations with and practice. Using stories and scenarios, you can start to introduce forgiveness: when people forgive, they are kind to those who are not kind to them. When people forgive, they try to show respect to those who have not shown respect to them. It is also important to make it clear that there is harm that needs to be reported to a trusted adult.

Once your child begins to understand about forgiveness, you can start to apply it to personal situations and explore what it might look like.

For people of all ages, there are steps you can follow:

  • Acknowledging the feelings of pain: anger, frustration, sadness, etc.
  • Deciding that you are ready to forgive and realizing that it will cause less suffering for you.
  • Working through the idea of forgiving the person, even if you can’t heal the harm. For this step, it is helpful to remember the 1st principle of UUism - the inherent worth and dignity of all people. Empathy is really important in this step.
  • Noticing the impacts of forgiveness -- how it can be helpful & healing.

Questions to Explore

  • What is an apology? What does it sound like? What does it look like?
  • What is forgiveness? What does it sound like? What does it look like?
  • What are some examples of situations when you should get help from an adult?
  • Why is forgiveness important?

“Every day, I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight, that leaves me like a needle in the haystack of light.Reid Cards
It was what I was born for – to look, to listen, to lose myself inside this soft world – to instruct myself over and over in joy and acclamation.” 
-Mary Oliver

I have been delighted to spend this fall outside with our RE classes. It is wonderful to see each other in person, to collaborate, to share laughter and insights, and to witness our progress as we add to a mural about the interdependent web of life each week (here we are at work in this picture). I look forward to more opportunities to connect and share joy both in person and on Zoom in December as we focus on the theme Opening to Joy.

When 19 people in the congregation, from a baby through adults of all ages, assembled to rake leaves for others in November, it felt like we were opening to joy together. It was astounding to see how much we could accomplish in a short time -- and how enjoyable it is to do yard work with others! 

How do you Open to Joy? As a family, how can you support each other in noticing and experiencing joy? Set an intention for the month to cultivate joy together. Here are some ideas: over dinner, share about a joyful moment from the day. Make it a point to take photos of joy over the course of the month. At the end of the month, put all of the photos together and reflect on the experience of seeking out images of joy.

Our Winter care package contains activities, crafts, mindfulness, music and stories about this theme. Here are some questions and prompts about Opening to Joy: What brings you joy? What does joy feel like? Who helps you to feel joy? How do you bring joy to others? Share a favorite joke. What is the relationship between joy and sadness?  Create a joy project together!

“Someone I loved once gave me a box full of darkness. It took me years to understand that this, too, was a gift.” -Mary Olivertijana drndarski KFOyQtJSZq8 unsplash

In the dark of winter, we find ourselves with a theme that reminds us of the dark and loneliness. Our tendency is to avoid the feelings of desolation, but feeling those feelings is also important. We have been looking for consolation from this pandemic for almost a year now. I am hopeful that it will come, but until then we need to find consolation elsewhere - in walks outside, Zoom interactions, good books. What is providing consolation for you these days? How do you console each other in your family?

Tonglen is an ancient Buddhist meditation practice. Tonglen means giving and taking or sending and receiving. You can practice this breath meditation sitting down or even in the moment in your life. When you breath in, you can imagine breathing in hard things, suffering, or desolation. When you breath out, you can imagine breathing out consolation, love, or good feelings. This practice helps develop compassion and it also helps you slow down and take in all that is around you mindfully.  Find a guided meditation here: https://padlet.com/dre21/janpackage.

  • What does desolation feel like?
  • What causes desolation in you?
  • What does consolation feel like?
  • What consoles you?
  • How can you offer consolation to each other?
  • What are you learning? How are you growing? (4th principle)

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening it tasted like beets.)
-George Ella Lyon

Where are you from? What are the scents, the stories, and memories of your childhood?

Over this year, I have been interviewing my mother about her life and writing an informal memoir. It is wonderful to get a glimpse into her life, my family, and her values through this process. I am grateful to be able to hold a piece of her (and my) history.

Our theme this month, Holding History, invites us all to reflect on our personal and family histories, as well as the history we have been taught, the legacies of our country and ancestors. These are huge questions!

Find other activities for holding history together here.

As a congregation, we are committed to address painful and unjust histories, moving to center those most impacted. We are looking at the history of People of Color in the United States and in Unitarian Universalism. Our studies of Widening the Circle this month will focus on UU Theology - what is it and who does it include? What is the UU Theology that we want to envision?

As you know, at each service we acknowledge that we are on ancestral lands of the Pocumtuck and Nipmuck people. This month is a great time to learn more about this history. Learn more from the Nolumbeka Project.

nick fewings ka7REB1AJl4 unsplash

The second principle of Unitarian Universalism in is Justice, equity and compassion in human relations. That’s the adult language. In kid language, we say Be kind in all you do. It is interesting to think about how the key ingredients of kindness might be justice, equity, and compassion. Do you agree?

How do you practice kindness? How do you talk about kindness as a family?

This month, we invite you to think about how to cultivate more kindness by creating a family covenant, making gifts and offering service for others, and practicing loving kindness in meditation. The care package songs for this month are Magic Penny and How Could Anyone Ever Tell You?

Here are some questions to explore as a family: 

  • What is the kindest thing anyone has ever done for you?
  • What act of kindness have you done for others recently?
  • What acts of kindness do you want to commit to doing as a family?
  • What can you do to help remind yourself to be kind?
  • How can you treat yourself with kindness?

In Gatherings by Rev. Marta I Valentin

...we are stirred
like the leaves of the fall seasonLeaves 3

rustling around sacred trees,
tossed hither and yon
until we come to rest together,
quietly, softly . . .
We come to gather strength from each other.
We come to give strength to each other...

Like the leaves, it does feel like we are coming to rest together, quietly, softly, here in this community after so much tumult from the past year and even the past month of transition and uncertainty. I am looking forward to gathering strength together over this month.

 The early childhood class has been meeting together outside, playing together, creating art, and learning about the first principle of Unitarian Universalism - Each Person is Important (more below). Our middle grade classes are creating an impressive mural with Harriet Diamond's help, exploring the 7th principle - Respect for the interdependent web of which we are a part. As they learn about and paint the web of existence, they are building their web of connection in the class. Meanwhile, our Coming of Age class, Our Whole Lives Sexuality Education program, and Youth Group are all launching, building vital cross generational and peer relationships.

 In October we will focus on Cultivating Relationship, giving opportunities for RE participants to get to know each other better and to build their community. Creating a covenant is an important step now in thinking about how they want to be together, to take care of each other, and to learn and grow together. The RE Council is looking forward to coming together with families on October 10 at Mt. Tom from 1-3 pm for games, pumpkin carving, and a short walk. We hope that our RE programs offer opportunities to gather and give strength. 

At our first elementary RE class this year, I introduced the group’s mascot, a dragon puppet. Unfortunately, the dragon puppet refused todragon 36748 340 come on the screen. They were having a crisis about their own worth and dignity. The students quickly jumped in to affirm the dragon’s worth and dignity, encouraging them, sharing stories of feeling shy themselves, and letting the dragon know that they matter. I wasn’t expecting such an outpouring of empathy and kindness and it was so heartwarming! This month, the worship theme is emotional intelligence and the students are already demonstrating it. 

For many, this is a particularly charged emotional time and it can be hard to sit with difficult emotions. As the adults in children’s lives, we can help kids by being curious about their feelings, asking questions, answering questions honestly, and providing space for a child to feel what they are feeling without judgement. This isn’t easy! I always want to fix things and make them better. It is hard to see people struggling and to realize that we are powerless. This is a time when it is so clear that we can’t fix everything or make it go away. It can be hard to have empathy for others when we don't have the time or space to care for ourselves.

How can we learn to sit with the difficult emotions and trust that we will make it through? How can we care for the dragons inside us?

“Do you have the patience to wait until the mud settles and the water is clear? Can you remain unmoving until the right action arises by itself?” -Lao Tzu

Respect is the act of giving attention or showing care for someone or something. Being respectful takes time, awareness, and thoughtfulness. Consider how you show respect to another person - when they are talking, when they are walking by you, when they might need help. Sometimes the best way to show respect is by listening. Simply listening.

respect is one of the greatest expressions of love miguel angel ruiz quoteAnother important aspect of respect is being open to people -- people who are different from you or people who behave differently than you expect. It can be helpful to be curious about others and try to learn more about them.  As a family, practice intentionally showing respect to each other and sharewhat it feels like -- both for the recipient and the respecter. Brainstorm ways to show respect to a variety of people and situations. One example is to participate in donating a meal for Cathedral in the Night.

We also think about respect with regard to our planet. How do we show respect for the environment? This month, as the snow melts (hopefully), we invite you to show respect for the earth by picking up trash in your neighborhood or nearby natural area and starting seeds inside.

Over the last two weeks, I had the great pleasure of writing “You are worthy” on tons of gift bags and keychains for kids and families in our community. You arevictoria heath oVhkWq2wLQk unsplash worthy. As I wrote the simple 3 word statement, I thought of the members of our community and imagined their light shining out -- the inherent worth and dignity of each being. 

Our first principle of Unitarian Universalism reminds us to affirm the inherent worth and dignity of all people.  In kid language, we say, Each person is important.  Even when we mess up, even when we feel sad, even when we are utterly overwhelmed, there is light of worth in each of us. For me, this time of COVID has been an especially hard time to remember my own worth and dignity. Have you experienced that?

Peg Johnson shared this passage at a recent RE Council meeting. It’s from a DRE in Florida, Erin Powers:

It’s been said that it’s easier to untangle a string of lights if you plug them in; the brightness of the little bulbs help to guide our fingers through the tangles. It’s no different for people. Connecting with friends, family, therapists, or trusted advisors can shine a little light to help us untangle ourselves, and to help us stretch out to our full potential.

Humans, just like strings of lights, are wired for connection. It’s when we’re wound most tightly that we need the connection most of all. We’re at our best when we are plugged in to each other. We find our true purpose and spark with others, not alone — and it’s in these connections that we shine most brightly.

Here at USNF, we are striving to plug in the lights for folks of all ages, visitors and members. For families, we are offering monthly care packages with activities, service projects, rituals, and hymns to connect to each other at home. In addition to Sunday morning RE classes and youth group, we have created some awesome connections between people of all ages, like an art club, Dungeon & Dragon groups, and Zoom buddies. For parents and caregivers, we are offering workshops on parents as spiritual guides, sexuality educators, and antiracist parenting. I feel like I pointed to the plug and so many people have taken the lead to do the connecting.

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