RE Newsletter 6-4-20 with Anti-Racist Parenting Resources

In the waves of disheartening news over the past week following the murder of George Floyd and countless others, it was a relief to be inspired by a Facebook post by a friend back home the other day. Her daughter is six months old, and my friend is already teaching her about racism and racial justice. She posted a photo of the baby in her highchair, smiling at two photographs – one of a black baby her age, and one of a white baby. She posted about how they discussed that both babies are smart and beautiful, how they took the time to point out what was the same and different. The conversations really can start that early and that gently, even though the topic is anything but gentle.

In this newsletter you will find our regular Zoom links and some updates, as well as some anti-racist resources that you and your children can explore together. Especially significant is the webinar being hosted by Fourth Universalist in New York on Thursday evening, June 4th on the topic of anti-racist parenting. I will be attending, and if you would be interested in a parenting circle to keep the conversation going, please let me know as soon as possible and we can start as early as next week. Until then, be sure to note the time change for our RE offering and details for picking up your family’s seedlings this Saturday below.

It can be easy to fall into hopelessness as we consider the enormous plague of injustice in our country. However, we have the greatest reasons to hope snuggled into our chests and driving us up the walls as we continue to parent through quarantine. Our children, the future leaders of the Universe, may be growing up in times that fall short of our ideals, but knowing them, they have no intentions of leaving things the way they are. May we continue to forge the path to a fair and peaceful world so that when they are ready to take over, they will be well-prepared by our example.


Online Resources:
Your Kids Aren’t Too Young to Talk About Race: Resource Roundup

Anti-Racist resouces scaffolded by phases of white identity

10 Children’s Books About Racism And Activism To Help Parents Educate Their Kids

A Kids Book About Racism by Jelani Memory (YouTube)

Not My Idea – A Book About Whiteness (YouTube)

Something Happened In Our Town – A Child’s Story of Racial Injustice (YouTube)

Events:
Thursday 6-4-20 at 7:15 PM
“How to Be an Anti-Racist Parent,” an expert panel presented by Fourth Universalist (Zoom link)

Saturday 6-6-20 at 10:00 AM
CNN and ‘Sesame Street’ to host a town hall addressing racism


nottooyounghow to be an antiracist parent


Story-Based Online RE Lesson – “Because Amelia Smiled”

Chalice Lighting

Joys & Concerns Check In

StoryBecause Amelia Smiled by David Ezra Stein

Discussion

  • What did you like about the story?
  • What if we told that story about what’s going on now?
  • What do you think it would look like if the story started, “Because everyone stayed home…?”

Activity

Let’s make our own story. I’m going to start it, and then call on each of you to add a little bit. I’ll type as we go so we can share it with others when we’re done.

Prompts:

  • Because I had a question, I had to call….
  • Because my socks were inside out…
  • Because the cat liked to listen to jazz music…

Optional:

  • Read stories back to group
  • Ask group to illustrate story and send you pictures to be assembled into a book

Wrap Up

  • Announcements
  • Ask kids & parents for feedback about timing/structure/etc

Chalice Extinguishing

  • Optional – kids’ “coffee hour” free time

Story-Based Online RE Lesson Plan – “Wilma Jean the Worry Machine”

Chalice Lighting

Check In

  • How are you doing?
  • What’s one awesome or interesting thing you’ve done or learned since social distancing?

Story

  • Wilma Jean the Worry Machine

Follow Up & Activity

  • What is something you’re worried about?
  • Write down each worry on a post-it, stick to a window, board, or piece of paper. Then, put up line like in the story and ask kids to work together to see which worries can and can’t be controlled.
  • Ask kids to go find a hat, like in the story
  • When they get back:
  • “Alright, friends, everyone put on your hats. If you have any worries you didn’t want to name, you can think them into your hat. Then, you can go tip them out outside, or into the toilet, or you can hold on to them if you think you might like them back later.
  • But I’m going to take all of these ones here and put them in my hat. My hat and I will hold on to them for you. If you want them back, you can just ask your parent to send me an email and I’ll give it back, sound good?”

Chalice Extinguishing

Virtual Lesson Plan for Ostara with COVID-19 Tie-In

Feel free to use or adapt this lesson plan with attribution. Email me at uuctdre2810@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.


CHALICE LIGHTING

CHECK IN

What is something good that happened this week?

What is something that you worried about?

STORY
Adapted from The Ostara Bunny by Rev. Christina Leone

Once upon a time, a long, long time ago… There was a Goddess. Her name was Ostara, or Eostre. Do you have any ideas what she might have been the Goddess of? What about words that are kind of similar to her name? (Easter)

She was the Goddess of springtime. What happens in springtime? (Flowers bloom, it gets warmer, new things are born, the world ‘wakes up’ from winter.)

This Goddess gave birth to the sun, and helped it shine brighter every day in the sky. She was the bringer of warmth, and color. Her festival day is the Spring Equinox (which happened this past Thursday,) and celebrates new life and springtime.

And one day, while she was going about her very important business, a little girl came to her. The little girl had found a small bird on the ground. The ground was still very cold, because spring was not quite there… Ostara hadn’t finished her work yet. The little bird was injured, and very cold… The little bird was dying.

“Please!” the little girl pleaded with the goddess Ostara. “Please save this little bird.” The goddess was annoyed. “Can’t you see that I’m busy here?” But the girl was persistent. “Please, it won’t take much. Just help bring the bird back to life!”

The Goddess was so moved by the little girl’s pleas that she agreed to help the bird However, the bird was too weak and broken to be fully fixed. The Goddess knew that something would have to change for the bird to survive. She carefully considered what to do, and decided to turn the bird into a different animal instead.

What kind of animal do you think she decided on?

What kind of animal would you choose?

Well, in this story, she decided to turn the bird into a rabbit. She was stronger than ever, and could hop a long way, and had a big fluffy coat that could keep her warm, instead of light little feathers like before. So, happily, the bird-bunny hopped away.

But because the bunny used to be a bird, there was something a little different about her. She had big, floppy ears like a bunny and hopped like a bunny, but she still laid eggs like a bird. And every springtime, the bunny remembers how the Goddess helped her. So, to say thank you, she lays colorful, beautiful eggs to honor the colors of springtime that Ostara brings. It brings those eggs to the children to honor the child who saved her life.

FOLLOW UP:

So, I have a couple things for you to think about.

First of all, just like any story from any religion, we don’t know if the Ostara story really happened, or if it happened this way, right? But what do we know about stories like this?

We do know they probably come from something that has some truth to it. It might be just a tiny little nugget of truth, but there’s probably something in that story that was inspired by something that really happened.

What do you think might be a nugget of truth here?

I think the part of the story I want to focus on is where the little girl asked the Goddess for help and convinced her to do something about the bird that was hurt, because someone asking someone else for help seems pretty realistic to me.

So, here’s my big question: how can we make this story relevant to right now?

Take responses

So, what’s going on in the world right now?

Coronavirus, social distancing, etc.

Right! So, you all are the kids in this story. The little girl in the story made a big difference, right? If she didn’t ask the Goddess to help, the little bird probably wouldn’t have healed, and then we wouldn’t have the colorful eggs and other celebrations that the bird inspired after they were turned into a rabbit, right?

And before this happened, nobody had even heard of an Ostara bunny that laid brightly colored eggs! So, maybe right now, while we’re all being great helpers and keeping each other safe by staying home and washing our hands, we’re also doing something really big and important, like bringing spring or creating something new and awesome.

Maybe we’re all making way for something like a bunny that brings bright eggs, without even realizing it? I think that’s the truth in this story – that we can create something amazing, even when things are unsure or kind of scary, like finding a sick little bird.

Discussion

ACTIVITY – SHOW AND TELL

So, the Goddess Eostre turned the bird into a bunny, so we’re going to turn into birds and bunnies, too.

Can you hop like a bunny? Or if hopping isn’t possible for you, can you twitch your nose and give yourself bunny ears?

I want you to hop around wherever you are – carefully!- and find something that makes you feel brave or safe to share with the group. It can be a blanket or a pet or anything you’d like. I’m going to go get mine too, and we’ll all meet back here in just a minute.

Show and tell.

Awesome! Now, fly like a bird to put your special thing back where it goes, and when you get back we’ll do our chalice extinguishing.

ANNOUNCEMENTS/CLOSING/CHALICE EXTINGUISHING

A Message to the Children & Youth of UUCT Regarding COVID-19 Closures

UU congregations and religious professionals are welcome and encouraged to use or adapt this video and/or script however they see fit. Feel free to email me at uuctdre2810@gmail.com with any questions or concerns.



Hey friends!

I’m Helen. I’m the Director of Religious Exploration at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee. My pronouns are she/her/hers, and I have some news to share with you about what’s going on at church right now.

So first, we’re going to light our chalice, just like we do in RE class. I’m going to put the words on the screen, and you can say them with me if you want to.

Love is the spirit of this congregation
And service is its ministry
This is our great covenant:
To dwell together in peace
To seek the truth in love
And to help one another.

Ok, now let’s all take a big breath together. Can you do that?

Big breath.

That was really good. Let’s practice again. This time, we’re going to breathe in for four counts, hold for four counts, and breathe out for four counts. If that’s too long for you, you can go at your own pace.

Few rounds of square breathing.

Good job. That always helps me feel grounded when there’s a lot going on.

Some of you have probably heard that there’s a lot going on right now.

There’s an illness going around called COVID-19, or Coronavirus. It can make people sick and it’s contagious, which means it spreads quickly.

Because this illness is going around and can spread so quickly, we’ve made the decision to close church for a while, so there will be no church or RE in-person for a while. It was not an easy decision, but it was the right one, and I’d like to tell you why.

Even though this is different and maybe even a little bit scary, it is a really amazing opportunity to practice our UU values.

We’re going to talk specifically about our first and seventh principles:

We respect the inherent worth and dignity of all beings.
Each person is important

Respect for the interdependent web of existence of which we are all a part
We care for Earth’s lifeboat

When we say each person is important, we also mean that everyone deserves to be safe and have what they need. Everyone deserves to have that, no matter who they are, where they’re from, what they believe, or where they are on their journey.

This illness can affect anyone, but it’s most likely to seriously impact people who are older or already have medical conditions. So even though some of us who are younger and healthier aren’t likely to get seriously sick, our friends who are more likely to get seriously sick deserve to be as safe as possible.

That means that all of us, even those of us who are less likely to get sick, need to be very careful about washing our hands and spending as much time as we can away from public and crowds. And I know that’s hard and not really fun. It isn’t necessarily because we’re worried about getting sick ourselves, but because we want to decrease the chances of carrying the illness to someone who could get very sick. Those people deserve to be safe and well, and it’s up to us to remember that each person is important, and honoring that right now means that we have to change the way we do some things.

And that brings us to our seventh principle.

Because we live in an interdependent web of existence, (interdependent means we all depend on each other)  it is up to all of us to do what we can to make sure our vulnerable friends are safe. We all have to do our part to hold the web together, and each and every part matters. We all depend on one another every day, and this situation is a big reminder of that.

And I know that isn’t necessarily fair. All of the adults in your life – your parents and caregivers, your teachers, your RE guides, your church staff, and beyond – recognize that asking you all to change your routines and sit in the uncertainty of this is not fair and not fun for you. It’s ok to feel like that, or to feel worried or even angry. We understand, and we’re going to love and support you as we all do our parts to help our communities.

Remember what Mr. Rogers said about when he saw scary things happening when he was younger:

“My mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words, and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers — so many caring people in this world.”
Fred Rogers

We all have a chance to be the helpers now, and your grownups are going to keep helping you, too.

We’re going to do RE online at UUCT until church is open again. This will include as much of our regular routine as possible – we’ll do our chalice lighting, chime, and do a joys and concerns check in, because I want to hear your joys and concerns. We’ll be doing this and an online story time this Sunday afternoon, and I’ll be sending your parents and caregivers a newsletter with some at-home RE activities for you all to try together.

This is how we’re going to start, and I’m going to send some more updates soon. In the meantime, your parents and caregivers all have my cell phone number and email address. They are welcome to email or text me at any time, and with their permission, kids and youth can email me as long as a parent or caregiver is copied on the email.

So let’s try some big breaths again. I’m going to count while you breathe.

Few rounds of square breathing.

You did great, and I’m so proud of you. I can’t wait to see all of your little faces on my computer screen on Sunday afternoon for RE, and I’m looking forward to when we can all be together in person again.

We’re going to do our chalice extinguishing now. The words are on your screen. They come from one of my favorite spiritual practices, Kundalini yoga, and were originally written by an Irish band.

May the longtime sun shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light within you
Guide your way on

Blessed be, amen, shalom, and may it be so. I’ll talk to you all soon.

In Joy and Adventure,
Helen

Rebecca’s Garden

Rebecca’s Garden
Written by Helen Rose
For the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee’s Flower Communion
Sunday, March 8, 2020


From the first day they met, Rebecca and Rachel were inseparable. As children, they were the best of friends, and as they got older, they fell in love. They were married in the mountains in the springtime, surrounded by trees and singing birds, and the most beautiful wildflowers.

Rebecca and Rachel (and their dog, Rascal) spent many years going on adventures. They wanted to see all the wonders of the world. They visited the pyramids in Egypt, and the Taj Mahal in India. They saw giraffes and elephants in Africa, and they went swimming in the Dead Sea. They made friends everywhere they went and were glad to keep in touch with the people they met during their travels.

Every year during the holidays, they would spend a whole weekend drinking hot chocolate and addressing holiday cards to their hundreds of far away friends. They always got some cards back in return and were glad to put them up around their home, surrounding themselves with well wishes from around the world. It was one of their favorite traditions.

Year after year, Rebecca and Rachel went on more adventures and returned home with a few more names to add to their list of friends. As the years went on, they began to spend a little more time at home and a little less going new places. They still traveled but found themselves more and more tired every time they returned home.

They both took up some new hobbies. Rachel began gardening and Rebecca, who didn’t have much of a green thumb, took to reading books about the places she still wished to visit. Rebecca would sit in the garden and read while Rachel pruned and weeded, and they would plan their next adventure and talk about the little creatures that came to visit and what plants were beginning to grow. Rebecca loved the flowers best of all, especially for the diversity of types and colors. They reminded her of the wildflowers from their wedding day.

One day, Rebecca wasn’t feeling well. She decided to rest inside instead of joining Rachel in the garden. Rachel was worried about her and encouraged her to go to the doctor. The doctor ran some tests, which took a couple of weeks, and brought Rachel and Rebecca back to hear the results. By then, Rebecca was still feeling unwell, and her eyesight was starting to become blurry.

The doctor told them that Rebecca’s eyesight would continue to get worse and soon, she would be completely blind. When they heard the news, Rachel thought of all the adventures they had planned to go on, and how different those adventures would be now. But Rebecca wasn’t thinking about traveling – she was thinking about the beautiful flowers in in Rachel’s garden and how soon, she wouldn’t be able to see them anymore.

Rachel and Rebecca spent the next several weeks working in the garden together. They spoke about the wonderful food they would eat the next time they went to Mexico, and the beautiful music they would hear in Prague. Rachel tried to keep Rebecca’s spirits up, but Rebecca was sad and scared. They tried to settle into their new sense of normal, which didn’t feel normal at all.

When it was time to write their holiday cards that year, Rebecca could barely see anymore. She was sad that she couldn’t help, and she sat with Rachel while they drank hot chocolate and Rachel addressed the cards. Every time Rachel picked up a new envelope, she would tell Rebecca who it was for.

“This one is for Holly in Amsterdam,” Rachel said.

“Do you remember when we saw the tulips in Amsterdam?” Rebecca responded with a sigh. “They were so beautiful.”

Suddenly, Rachel had an idea.

She took Holly’s card out of the envelope and scribbled a note on the bottom.

“If you are willing and able,” she wrote, “can you please send us some tulip bulbs?”

Rachel spent the next several days adding notes to holiday cards for their friends around the world.

A few weeks later, something amazing happened.

One Monday morning, a package arrived. It was full of tulip bulbs from Holly in Amsterdam.

On Tuesday, it was Royal Bluebell seeds from Paige in Australia.

On Wednesday, Easter Lilies from Layne in Ireland.

And the packages just kept coming.

The bulbs went in the ground immediately and in early Spring, Rachel began planting seeds.

Rebecca had completely stopped coming to the garden. She spent most of her time curled up on the couch with Rascal, listening to music or books. She could not see at all anymore, but she began to find her other senses growing stronger. She could hear everything that was happening around her, and even familiar flavors began to become more vibrant and strong.

One day in early Summer, Rebecca smelled something. It reminded her of the mountains, and of memories from a long time ago. Carefully, she followed the scent all the way out to the garden, where she found Rachel. She hadn’t been in the garden in a long time.

“What are you planting?” Rebecca asked.

“Well, this one is English Lavender from Mary in London. And right next to it is some Lemon Balm from Edward in Spain.”

“What are you talking about?”

“And over that way are some moss phlox that came from Kim in Japan, and…”

A smile spread across Rebecca’s face. It was the first time she had really smiled since she started losing her eyesight.

“I know you can’t see them,” Rachel said, “but I figured if I planted enough, you’d be able to smell them. I asked all our friends to send something from their countries, and they did. There are hundreds of flowers here from you, and so many different ones that you’ll probably have flowers all year long.”

Though Rebecca couldn’t see, she could feel the incredible love that surrounded her. The love of her friends, who sent the flowers, and the love of her wife, who spent months planting and tending to them. Her smile only grew.

“They’re beautiful,” she said, and she knew she didn’t have to see them with her eyes to know that was true.


This story was inspired by a story I read about a couple, Mr. and Mrs. Kuroki, who live in Japan. They’ve been married for 35 years, and several years ago, Mrs. Kuroki lost her eyesight to diabetes. She became very depressed and withdrawn and her husband became determined to make her smile again. He spent over two years planting thousands of moss phlox flowers for her, and it helped her tremendously. Now, she smiles every day. Mr. Kuroki chose those flowers because they have a sweet, strong scent, saying it reminded him that beauty, like love, isn’t always something we can see.

Birth of the Sun/Son

Birth of the Sun/Son
A Time for All Ages
Written by Helen Rose
Delivered at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tallahassee
Sunday, December 22, 2019

This is an original Time for All Ages by Helen Rose. Feel free to use for worship with proper credit given to the author. Email Helen with any questions.


  • Does anyone remember what holiday happened yesterday?
    • Yesterday was the Winter Solstice. It’s the shortest and darkest day of the year. Yesterday was Saturday. I don’t know. I want a snack.
  • Right, yesterday was the Winter Solstice. Now, does anyone know whose birthday is celebrated this time of year?
    • Jesus, probably 
  • Christians celebrate Jesus’s birthday with Christmas. (Even though nobody knows what day Jesus was actually born.) There’s also another important birthday that is celebrated this time of year.
  • Thousands of years ago, long before us and long before the time of Jesus, people noticed the patters in nature, like the days becoming shorter in the winter and the cycles of the seasons, but they didn’t have any way to explain it. They didn’t understand the science of nature the way we do now. So, when the winter solstice came, the days were very short, very dark, and in some places, very cold. When the Winter Solstice comes, the sun rises and sets, but it doesn’t really seem to move much in the sky for about three days.
  • So if you didn’t have any knowledge of the science of nature, no way to explain why this is happening, you didn’t have any technology to help you understand it, and your survival depended pretty largely on nature, you’d be pretty scared if the sun didn’t seem to move for three days, right? That would be pretty scary.
  • Well human beings, we like having explanations and answers, and we always have, even thousands of years ago.
  • What happened is that humans began developing rituals to perform when the solstice came. These rituals helped them make sense of what was going on. They might have started as little superstitions, like throwing spilled salt over your shoulder or not stepping on sidewalk cracks and they evolved into really complex mythology associated with the sun.
  • Eventually, stories developed that said the sun died for three days and then returned. On the third day, people celebrated the sun’s rebirth and the promise that spring and summer would return as well. Does that remind you of any other stories?
    • Jesus again. 
  • I think it’s really interesting how much different traditions borrow from one another, and I wonder if you all could help me with a very small solstice ritual of our own right now.
  • Let’s pretend it’s very dark outside. Maybe you feel kind of scared. Maybe you feel kind of alone, or sad, or worried. Does anyone ever feel this way? I feel that way sometimes.
  • I wonder if there’s anything we can do to remember that the sun is coming, that things will feel better again. Does anyone have any ideas?
    • Take 1-2 suggestions from congregation 
  • I know that some people wear symbols or special jewelry, or carry special stones or even have tattoos that remind them to remain hopeful (I mentioned my own chalice tattoo here.) 
  • And all these things are important because they can help us feel more hopeful, but really, we don’t even need them. All we need is… (hold up one finger, probably not your middle one but I’m not your boss) one finger.
  • Can everyone hold up one finger?
  • This is your light, which you carry inside of you. This is your inherent worth and dignity, the part of you that can’t be touched by long, cold days or sad moments or times when you are scared. And it’s always with you.
  • So, if you ever feel cold or sad or alone or like the dark days might last forever, just hold up your little light and remember that the sun is coming. Can you do that?
  • We’re going to sing the children out to This Little Light, and everyone is invited to shine their lights (wave their fingers) as they go.
  • Use “This Little Light” for children’s recessional.