Letters from Nearby - February 14, 2014

Dear sUUper friends, 

UUFSB snowyTo a curious stranger, this building might appear to be just another church-like object along the road.  “It looks like a little white church,” he could say, “no steeple, but hey. Fellowship? Whatever.There is a sign out front with the time of the service on it. The parking lot is full on Sundays, spilling out onto the shoulder of Nicolls Rd.,and many other nights of the week there is stuff going on. There is a big sanctuary with the same symbol above the dais as is on the outside of the building, visible from the road: a cup and flame. That room gets pretty full and someone speaks from the pulpit. Seems like there are different musicians every week and boy, can that room sing!Children come with their parents on Sundays too. You can see them doing different things in every room along that new teaching wing. Sometimes activities spill out into the grounds—a music festival, some kind of tag sale, a car wash, a demonstration along the road. Seem like liberal-minded people, to judge by the rainbow flag flying and the picture of Trayvon Martin in the front door window. A couple of hundred of them, maybe three. Hard to know, but they sure seem to be growing."

RevolutionLittle does that stranger know what power this “little white church” is cranking up inside! He sees “mild-mannered Clark Kent,” the typical modest Protestant presence and self-absorption. But no!Something SUUPER in that building is cooking up a rEVOLution. And you know it! You can feel the energy moving, see the tears, hear the laughter and the “Yes!” You can see the ideas popping, dreams becoming reality, activities swirling. Lives are changing here, and newcomers, drawn to our light, quickly fall in love with a religious community they thought they would never find.  Children are laying in a faith good for a lifetime. We are making a difference—bringing the chalice light of LOVE and JUSTICE to oppressive systems and to the people in them who are suffering. This is a rEVOLution suiting up! And this rEVOLUTION is our next evolution! And you are part of it.It’s time for SUUPER UUFSB to power up these loco-motives, leap all tall barriers, stop those speeding bullets and give all we’ve got to the never-ending battle for truth and justice.

Please give “Mild-Mannered Three-Eighty Nicolls” the financial kick we need to take our Stand onSuperman the Side of Love. Fund the rEVOLution! I am asking you to make the most robust 2014-15 pledge you can manage. Move up to the mean pledge ($1200). Pledge at our averageif you’re not there yet ($1649). Go from one to two percent of your income or another one-step increment. Make a pledge that requires a doable sacrifice, a pledge that truly reflects your gratitude and love for this place, a pledge that will help us build, hire, paint, welcome, store, pave, beautify, march, lobby, innovate, teach, sing, save, fly, learn, help, support and make a difference in the world that future SOSLUUFSBers can look back on with pride. Invest in the love and power you’ve found here. Reach deep. Do what you can to fund our SUPEREVOLUTION.

xxoo  MARGIE

Letters from Nearby - January 28, 2014

Dear Ones, 

I want to thank those of you who have been able to come to memorial services and interments in support of fellow congregants who have lost family members. There’ve been quite a few this year so far: the interment of Werner Schumann’s ashes; the service for Ursula Moylan; for Tom Krausz’s mother, Gerda Krausz, and her sister Alice Heisig; for Alan Vorwald most recently; and, in September, a memorial service for a beloved administrator in the Political Science Department at the University where at least four UUFSBers work or used to work. It is not always easy to make time for rituals of loss, especially those for people you didn’t know or only knew slightly or indirectly. Yet, oh my, your presence means so much to those whom the loss touches most. Your witness, your hug, your words are important reminders that the bereaved are not alone, that you recognize their loss, and that they are part of a larger web of love that will steady them in the days and months ahead. If you just can’t manage to attend the visitation or service, please consider sending a card of sympathy or an email or making a phone call—right away or down the road a ways.

When you join this amazing Fellowship you can expect to receive “recognition, care and support by ministers, staff and fellow congregants during times of celebration, crisis and sorrow in your life.” That’s what it says in the Meaning of Membership document we read together in the final session of the Belonging series, our orientation to UUFSB and UUism. We also read about the other pole of that covenant. Part of the expectation of members is to “extend a warm welcome, respect and appreciation to fellow congregants and guests and to those who join us in the future, and to respond to them with compassion and help in times of celebration and need.” It takes a village to get us through the hard times.

Be sure to keep an eye out for "Being a Healing Presence"--A Training in Pastoral Care Lay Ministry. The Pastoral Assistants (PAs) are excited to bring the Rev. ReBecca Sala to Stony Brook on Sat., March 29 (9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.) to offer us (and others in the District) this training in congregational caregiving. All the PAs will be there and we would be delighted if many others in the congregation would join us in learning together how to offer our companionship and assistance most effectively to people who are suffering among us. (Click here for details.)

Finally, the Pastoral Assistants and I are happy to introduce a tool—for the use of anyone connected to the Fellowship—that will help us care for you in emergency situations and at the end of life. Click here for a look. Please take some time to fill it out and give a hard copy to me for safe-keeping in a locked file in my office. You will be asked for family/doctor/attorney contact information, burial and memorial service preferences, a copy of your health care proxy, and the location of your will and other important documents, among other things. You are never too young to organize the information that those who love you will need in the event that you are seriously ill, incapacitated or dying. Get it started, anyway. You can revise it and add to it as time passes: change contact info, choose another funeral home, send me hymns or readings for your far-off-in-the-future memorial service. Meanwhile, get on with the living!

MARGIE

Letters from Nearby - December 20, 2013

Dear Ones, 

GA

Right now I am going to ask you to think about taking a major leap of faith and put some money and time into it. My hope is that you will be leaping in good company and that the outcome with astound and inspire you! The 2014 General Assembly of our Association of Congregations will be landing in Providence, Rhode Island this June 25-29 (Wednesday through Sunday). Your Denominational Affairs Rep, Laura Lesch, and I are bent on getting as many of us up there for one or more days of the five as we possibly can.

We’re talking a multi-generational pilgrimage—adults, youth and children—to an annual UU community as hallowed and galvanizing as it is transient. Youth and young adults can join their own caucuses. There is child care for kids 6-months to nine years and a Children’s Camp for those who have completed grades 4 - 8. Throughout the week there are buckets of cool things to see, hear and do: speakers and workshops and friend-making conversations and singing and justice actions and worship experiences and UU shopping and dances and concerts and nights on the town and coffee-laced conclaves at the strangely entertaining business plenary.

I would especially like a horde of you to attend the Service of the Living Tradition on Friday evening (7:30-9:00PM). This is a service attended by thousands that honors fellowshipped and credentialed religious leaders; remembering those who have died, recognizing those who have retired, and welcoming those who have received fellowship or credentialed status in the past year. I will be participating in the service as a minister receiving Final Fellowship (I deferred my “walk” to this year from last, just so you could join me for this important passage). Early in the service I will be called out from among you as we sit together as a congregation in the huge hall, a dramatic moment in a moving service. This service is one of several events that will be open to the public and free of charge. The Sunday Morning Worship and the Exhibit Hall (on Sunday only) are the others, neither to be missed!

SisterSimone The Ware Lecturer on Saturday evening is Sister Simone Campbell. During the 2010 congressional debate about healthcare reform, she wrote the famous “nuns’ letter” supporting the reform bill. This action was cited by many as critically important in passing the Affordable Care Act. In 2012, she was instrumental in organizing the “Nuns on the Bus” tour to oppose the “Ryan Budget” that would decimate programs meant to help people in need. The action received an avalanche of attention across the nation. Last spring Sister Simone led a new cross-country bus tour focused on comprehensive immigration reform.

Pre-registration for General Assembly (GA) 2014 will open on March 3. Registration ranges from $130-$335 depending on your length of stay. Financial aid is available at the Metro NY District (http://uumetrony.org/phoenix_witness_project.htm) and national level (http://www.uua.org/ga/registration/financialaid/index.shtml). Please take a look at these pages and the general GA information (http://www.uua.org/ga/) to see if you can make a family vacation of the week. It’s a SHORT TRIP to Providence, one we can easily make en masse. We can take the ferry to Bridgeport and up (a 2-hour post-ferry drive) or to New London (a 70-minute drive), perhaps renting a bus of some sort, or we can occupy a train car or two. There are lots of possibilities. Laura and I have some tricks up our sleeves to get us hotel rooms to share so that the cost isn’t crazy.

Come witness the biggest UU you are. Take the leap with me! We’ll all come home changed.

MARGIE

Letters from Nearby - November 20, 2013

Dear Ones, 

My November “Letter from Nearby” has always included recipes that I love and think might be relatively easy and interesting additions to your holiday table offerings. My belief in the power of food to unite us, both to one another and to the earth that sustains us, was definitely highlighted by speakers at our Service of Installation last month. In a recent service call “Reflections on the Body at Halloween,” I suggested that it is no accident that our children collect candy door to door on the cusp of winter. “We concentrate sweetness in the fall,” I said, “We make grain and root vegetable soups, thick with a season’s stored sweetness. We boil apples into applesauce or, simmering and stirring longer yet, into apple butter.” During the winter holidays, we come together to sweeten our lives in good company. Here is wishing for you such sweet winter holiday magic!

“Blettes (Swiss Chard) Grand-mere” (Serves 2-4) swiss chard

1 bunch Swiss chard
3 tablespoons butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/3 cup raisins or golden raisins
2 tablespoons pine nuts
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

Remove the chard stems and the thick central vein from each leaf. Chop the leaves very coarsely. Using a large, heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium high heat, melt the butter with the oil until sizzling. Add the chard and the rosemary, stirring well to coat the chard with the butter mixture. Cook, stirring constantly, for another minute until the chard has wilted to about half its original volume. Add raisins and pine nuts, stirring to combine evenly, and continue cooking until any moisture has evaporated. The entire cooking process should take no more than about 3 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately.

sweet potato rolls Sweet Potato/Squash Rolls (Beard on Bread)

2 pkgs. active yeast
1 Tablespoon granulated sugar, for proof
½ cup warm water
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar, for dough
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
2 teaspoons salt
2 eggs
½ cup mashed, cooked sweet potato or winter squash
3 – 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

Combine yeast, sugar and warm water in large bowl to proof. Add 3 T sugar, melted butter, salt, eggs and mashed sweet potatoes. (Butter can be melted simply by stirring it into the hot potato/squash mash.) Stir vigorously to blend. Add all-purpose flour one cup at a time. The dough will be very soft. Knead about 5 minutes or so, until dough is very smooth and elastic. Form into a round. Place in greased bowl. Turn to grease top. Cover with a towel and let rise in warm until doubled, about an hour. Punch down and shape into a ball. Let rest 2 minutes. Divide ball of dough in half and each half into 12 equal-sized pieces. Shape these pieces into golf ball-sized rounds and place in round, greased pans (cake or pie). 12 to a pan, 2 pans. ¼ inch apart. Balls 1 – 9 around the rim, 10-12 in the middle. Cover and let rise until doubled. Bake in preheated 375-degree oven, about 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

I hope you will be able to make and enjoy this year’s favorite recipes. Happy Holidays All! 

MARGIE

Letters from Nearby - September 23, 2013

Dear Ones, 

One Saturday morning after Linda had recovered enough from her double mastectomy surgery LindaA melons2to try some outings, she and Matt and I happened on the Nesconset farmer’s market. We ended up in line for the cashier—Matt, me and Linda behind me—all of us holding an armful of the stuff we bought: green beans, golden cherry tomatoes, cantaloupes, a watermelon, six ears of corn, some yellow zucchini.

I turned to say something to Linda, and…well, I couldn’t help but laugh. There she was, the one with the cantaloupes, holding one in each hand right up against her chest where her breasts used to be. She saw me laughing, and then she started laughing. Then Matt turned, wondered for a moment if it was really OK to laugh (??), and he too doubled over. I got out my cell phone and Linda stepped out of line for a photo, her orange hoodie and pink Keens looking great against the background of orange winter squashes. And then all the women in the line and the folks behind the counter started laughing with us and making little comments.

It was a strange and wonderful moment in which the anxiety and pain and grief of surgery and recovery got trumped by the pure joy of being alive in the company of a small community of laughing people on a beautiful late summer day amid the fruits and vegetables. It didn’t matter that all those women were laughing about being “well-endowed.” There was something ancient and lovely about the sense of solidarity: family, women, food, bodies, laughter, loss, abundance. We laughed some more on the ride home. The whole thing felt sweet, a healing thing for all of us. Later, Linda asked me to send her the photo. I said “Really? You want to keep it?” She said, “Yes, that was an important moment.”

The changes that follow great loss are always tough to bear. The memories of how things used to be haunt us. Meanwhile, the people around you are also adjusting, feeling their way around what to say, where to look, how to help. We all have to figure out how to negotiate the taboos connected to certain losses. When your son is incarcerated, when you lose our job or file for divorce or declare bankruptcy, it is so hard to know how to address the unasked questions of people who see the loss in your face. And it’s not easy to bring up medical problems that involve parts of the human body that we don’t normally talk about openly and are so closely tied to our core identities: prostate, testicles, breast, uterus. The fact is, though, it is often a huge relief to break through the taboo into a conversation about what is really going on. This photo is a taboo-breaker. We, and you, can talk about it. It is OK.

Thank you all for supporting us through the surgery and early recovery period. Every card you wrote, every email, every vase of flowers, every meal that came ready-to-eat to our door eased our way through the upheaval. We got just enough of just the right things. It makes such a difference to be held in loving community through a hard time. This is yet another thing you know how to do, from the heart, just right. We give you thanks, from our hearts, hoping that somehow, over the years, we are able to give at least as much as we have received.

With deep gratitude from the three of us,

MARGIE