Articles, Reflections, & Announcements
Tend the Spark, Carry the Flame
UUCT’s Affinity Groups Provide Important Connections
Many of the ongoing groups that met routinely pre-COVID adapted and turned to Zoom meetings or safe, socially distanced in-person activities, providing a way to stay in community with each other. Some groups took a hiatus, others have recently restarted, and some new groups have even formed during this time, all providing opportunities for fellowship and support. While these “affinity” groups have served an essential role in our UUCT community over the last year, there are UUCT members and friends who may not be part of any of these groups. The Membership Outreach Team quickly mobilized last March and coordinated phone calls to check in on these members of our community.
Ranging from purely social to spiritual pursuits and in between, these groups have been meeting and providing fellowship and caring spaces – for UUCT members, friends, and others in the wider community.
Let’s start with the Lunch Bunches – the Women’s Lunch Bunch gathers on the 3rd Wednesday of the month and has switched to a virtual lunch conversation for now. The group is purely social to keep people connected, especially important for those who live alone. The Old Guys Lunch switched to Zoom meetings for a while and has resumed meeting on the UUCT veranda on the 2 nd Wednesday each month (with strict adherence to UUCT safety guidelines) to discuss current events (and some of the guys even bring lunch)!
The Indwellers and meditation groups offer a more reflective experience. The relatively-new Indwellers group brings together adults ages 25-49 for socialization, community connection and spiritual exploration. The group meets on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of each month on Zoom and also holds social events at outdoor locations (families welcome). Singing Meditation meets weekly on alternating Tuesday and Thursday mornings on Zoom (for now). Led by UUCT’s Music Director Angel de Armendi or volunteers, their time together is made up of singing songs and chants, followed by silent meditation after each selection. There is often a time for sharing, reflection, and support of each other in the group. Mindful Meditations meets on Sunday afternoons on Zoom and hopes to get back to meeting on the church grounds when it is safe. It is always a joy to see the group members during the walking meditation portion of their meeting as they slowly and silently circle the buildings.
Moving to explorations of faith, the UU Explorations and Christian Spirituality groups offer space for learning, reflection, and fellowship. UU Explorations provides a monthly opportunity for new members, supporting friends, and others interested to become more familiar with our faith and our congregation, and to reflect on a deeper level about twelve topics relevant to UUCT membership and what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. This small group ministry is a way to connect with others in the congregation, build relationships, and get connected to the life of the congregation. The twelve topics are cycled through annually, and this year, space was made for a new topic: Widening Our UU Circle of Concern about diversity, equity, and inclusion in Unitarian Universalism. The UU Explorations Sampler met over the summer of 2020, with mostly long-time UUCT members, to discuss the same 12 topics in a simplified format. We were excited that facilitators of the group included 2 of the “ministers-in-formation” who are part of our UUCT community. Christian Spirituality took a hiatus from its weekly Sunday morning meetings and has recently started up a twice-monthly Zoom Bible study on Wednesday evenings. The main purpose of the Christian Spirituality group is to create a friendly association, give and receive support, and find our lives expressed in the Bible.
There are so many ways to connect and deepen at UUCT. This isnt even all of the affinity groups! Knowing these groups are available at UUCT for all of us and the broader community gives me a warm fuzzy feeling of deep gratitude. Thank you to all for the part you play in creating our beloved community.
Last Chance to Nominate Share the Plate Partners
By Deborah Holt
Hello Again from your Share the Plate committee. Time is flying by. We hope that you are well on your way to applying for Share the Plate funds for your favorite UUCT or community program. Both members and supporting friends may apply. If you have any questions, please contact Debbie Holt at 850-545-8177 or Janet Temkin at Janet.firstname.lastname@example.org
Easily apply online by clicking here.
Singing Meditation Schedule Change
Beginning next week, Singing meditation will change to a Tuesday/Thursday rotation. A portion of the upcoming schedule is below. The full schedule can be viewed on our google calendar by clicking here.
By Kerry Burner
Easter is coming and your fabulous DRE and Minister are working hard on some special community events that we can all participate in safely. My family and I are helping out, but we need a few more people. If you are comfortable interacting with your fellow congregants in person, masked & socially distanced, for a few hours during the week, we need you!
If you are able to help out but don’t want to be around people, you are needed and welcome too! We’re in early planning stages, which may be another way you could help – with the planning. Please email Kerry Burner at email@example.com for more details – it’s going to be AWESOME!
Hello and Bright Blessings!
By Helen Rivers
We are gearing up for a busy spring at UUCT! Your staff has been hard at work developing some special events and programming for the next few months.
We are staying with our regular schedule of first Sundays off from all children and youth programming but starting in March we will be offering a self-directed RE lesson for our kiddos to explore if they’d like. Our first lesson will be about outer space and will be available on Sunday, March 7 th . Details will be in The Meridian.
Moving into April, we will have a weekend full of fun activities for Easter.
Friday, April 2 nd our youth group will resume our once-monthly bonfires on first Fridays at the church. Details will be communicated to youth via the group text and to parents and caregivers via email.
On Saturday, April 3 rd , we will have a no-contact Easter Egg hunt from 1:00-3:00 PM. This will be structured very much like our Halloween event and will require pre registration for timeslots. An email with details and the signup form will be sent in the next few weeks.
And on Sunday, April 4 th we will celebrate Flower Communion with a multigenerational worship service via Zoom.
And on a personal note, at the end of April I will be traveling to Tennessee to marry my fiancée, Paige, in a small ceremony in the Smoky Mountains.
Paige and I met soon after I moved to Tallahassee in 2019, and as most of you know, I moved here for my job at UUCT, so THANK YOU for all the amazing ways that you bring joy and love to the church, the RE program, and to everyone involved in the community. The reach of the church’s ministry is so much greater than any of us can imagine.
I am so looking forward to all this and so many more adventures with you in the coming months!
Director of Religious Exploration
During my Sabbatical, Before and After: Part I
In three articles I hope to share a bit of myself going into the first part of my Sabbatical period at UUCT, accomplishments, and insights during my time away to effect positive changes to the Music Program at UUCT.
Part I: Expressing Gratitude as a Meditation Practice
My Sabbatical was a short break for deep introspection at every facet of my life, including my work at UUCT. I worked on musical arrangements for the choir and brand-new compositions and spent a lot of time rethinking what it means to worship together.
I wrote the incidental music for a new play written by a Cuban playwright and look forward to the premiere once the pandemic alleviates. More now than ever I realize the importance of music and sharing our vulnerable selves with each other and accepting each other where we are. When we sing, we get in touch with our emotions, and our analytical mind will lash out with any excuses to stop this from happening more often than we care to admit. The Nagoski sisters state in their book, “Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle”, “that emotions, including all negative emotions, are cycles that happen in our bodies, they are involuntary neurological responses, with a beginning, middle and an end. And exhaustion or the concept of ‘burnout’ happens when we get stuck in an emotion, when it doesn’t complete its natural cycle”. Working with a limited choir at Temple Israel during the High Holy Days last year amid the pandemic, from June through September, taught me how important music was in allowing traumatic feelings engendered by our current global crisis, to pass through. Being in a state of fear negatively affects our immune system. My own journey to take responsibility for my health while positively impacting those that live around me, including all sentient beings, started many years ago with my Singing Meditation practice. Little did I know then how a regular Meditation practice was going to impact my life in the long run. Over the years I practiced Tai Chi, mindfulness, and many guided meditations. Currently I regularly do Yoga, about 3-4 times a week and the breathing meditation pioneered by Wim Hof that naturally releases DMT in your brain while being conscious.
To expand my practice of singing meditation I went for a week-long retreat of Kundalini yoga in December of 2018 and decided that every year I would do a retreat of the sort to deepen my own spirituality. The following December, after the most difficult year of my life, I went to a silent retreat with native American plant medicine, that included a Pacha Mama ritual, a crystal bath, yoga, breathing, and ayahuasca ceremonies. All the live music during the rituals enthralled me and guided my own healing to such an extent that I decided to pursue a more intentional path as a sound healer. This last year during the pandemic leading to my Sabbatical has been an incredible year of personal growth for me and those around me. Through communal work we have changed deeply engrained habits to support and sustain each other, our planet, and every sentient being. Music has been at the center of it all and the Sabbatical period gave me a chance to find the mental space to learn two new instruments, the native American flute, and the hang drum. You will be hearing some of them in future services.
One of the new meditation practices I engage in is gratitude. Daily, before I go to sleep, I mentally express my gratitude and love to everyone I know and eventually to the rest of the universe. It has become my favorite practice. I want to close this first article, therefore, expressing my deepest gratitude to the UUCT congregation for their support of my personal growth not only as a professional musician but also as a human being. I want to personally extend my gratitude to my colleagues Rev Levwood and DRE Helen Rivers for their support. Our entire congregation, with the support of their loved ones, are constantly envisioning and realizing a more beautiful world each day, despite all the fear and sadness that may occasionally oppress us individually and systemically. It is my mission to support you with the music I co-create with you all, and though the relief may seem limited through zoom, I invite you to continue engaging musically in our worship together until we share the same physical space. Also know that the healing music can bring to our lives is there if you allow it, it is not lessened by zoom. Even though I am the first to admit it is more challenging and less inspirational to engage in the singing. As our words for our opening/closing chant for our next service states: “seekers, lovers, makers … we’re calling you home to the sacred fire. Healing our hearts, planting our seeds, weaving our prayers, amplifying our dreams”. This chant by Heather Houston extorts us to remember who we are, what we are made of, that intrinsic life force that is calling us ever to create and choose living, no matter what. To close this first article, I also wanted to share that our UUCT practice of Singing Meditation has been happening, even during my absence during Sabbatical, and continues to expand in numbers and scope. We currently meet alternate Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:30 am, but if you are interested in the practice and the time is not convenient please reach out and I am happy to set up additional sessions.
Angel de Armendi, in the role of Music Director
The Reconstituted Green Sanctuary Committee
The Green Sanctuary has been reconstituted and met via Zoom at 2pm Friday February 19th. We had a great initial meeting and want the congregation to know that we’re seeking new members. Contact Ed Oaksford (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you are interested. In short, the committee is looking for opportunities to put our faith into action through honoring our planet and the beings that inhabit it.
Through efforts of the GS Committee, UUCT is a member of the Green Faith Alliance which is taking the lead in supporting its member congregations to initiate conversations about climate action and environmental justice that result in observable actions.
One upcoming action which our church has committed to participating in is the March 11th Day of Action for Climate Justice. Actions on this day will raise awareness that climate justice as an urgent calling. As part of this action each Alliance member was asked to review and support the ten-point statement from the GreenFaith International Network. At our Feb. 19th meeting, Green Sanctuary Committee members in attendance, agreed unanimously to support the ten-point statement from the Green Faith International Network. (link here: https://actionnetwork.org/forms/sacred-people-sacred-earth-sign-the-multi-faith-climate-statement ). Our Green Sanctuary Committee feels that this statement aligns with our UU principles and with our continued participation with member congregations in the Tallahassee Green Faith Alliance.
On the Day of Action planned for March 11th, several in-town churches that are members of the Tallahassee Green Faith Alliance will be ringing their church bells in addition to making commitments to the ten-point statement and taking other actions they choose as individual congregations. At the request of the GS Committee, Rosa Morgan submitted the UUCT Green Sanctuary Committee to the Green Faith International Network to be included on its list of supporters. Stay tuned for actions the GS Committee will be suggesting for members of our congregation on that day of Action.
For those interested, this action also aligns with ReThink Energy’s Reclaiming Florida’s Future for All event on March 10th, with activities between now and then. Kim Ross, an associate member of our GS Committee is leading this for ReThink Energy Florida. More info can be found at: https://www.rethinkenergyflorida.org/eventer/reclaiming-floridas-future.
As we move forward as a committee, we will be looking for additional opportunities to put faith in action, including strategies we may adopt from the book, “Drawdown – The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming”, and other positive activities, including actions lead by the Green Sanctuary’s Food for Thought group.