Stick Around For Joy

Joy To the World!

A favorite hymn of mine for this season. One that is tied into my memories of being with my family, making dozens of different cookies- all some variation of almonds and butter, or fanciful gingerbread shapes- and belting out all fives verses we knew in 3 part harmony. (Good thing Mom can sing tenor!)

repeat the sounding Joy

Joy overflows in music and tradition, in out connections with others, and in our time in nature. Joy is such a vital force in our lives – all year round. Carl Scovel remarked:

At the heart of all creation lies a good intent, a purposeful goodness, from which we come, by which we live our fullest, and to which we shall at last return. This is the supreme mystery of our lives. This goodness is ultimate-not fate, not freedom, not mystery, energy, order, nor finitude, but this good intent in creation is our source, our center, and our destiny. . . Our work on earth is to explore, enjoy, and share this goodness. Neither duty nor suffering nor progress nor conflict-not even survival-is the aim of life, but joy. Deep, abiding, uncompromised joy.

Joy is the core of our spiritual practice. Joy is our heart connecting to what we find sacred. A lack of Joy alerts us to when our lives are out of balance.

This week, we will make room for Joy in Chalice Circle. Please join us!


Amazingly, we are back to the start of another church year. I came across this lovely poem which describes how special this Sunday is to us…


by Patricia Shuttee

You and I  and all of us blew about
with the winds of summer,
following the sun  in different ways
of freedom  and of play,
finding rest  in the cool stillness of shadows,
and moving to the slow  heartstruck rhythms
which turned the long hours  of summerlight.

Now it is time  for gathering-in.
We come together at this time
and in this place on the bridge of autumn.
Summer is fading backward into memory,
and winter waits in snowy brilliance,
offering its months as our learning-time
and its celebrations for our special joy.

We meet with eagerness and delight,
need one another for sharing.
We have joys and sorrows and hopes to share,questions,
things we care about and want to help make better,
things that we would like to understand,
ideas waiting to be heard.

Today, we are together in gladness,
once more the special big family
that we call our Church,
a family of all ages that sings its songs,
tells its thoughts, asks its questions,
and searches together in peace and understanding
with courage and with love.

Why Bother With Multigens?

Some of the things we do at church are easy to understand. We have classes for children and youth to provide developmentally appropriate understanding of our faith. We have Small Groups to give folks an intimate way to explore ideas together- especially as our membership grows- so we can get to know each other on a deeper level. But some folks recently asked me why we have multigenerational worship? Why is multigenerational worship essential to Channing, to faith development, and to the future of Unitarian Universalism?

Let me back up- What is a Multigenerational service? That is a worship service where all ages are together in the service for the whole time. We used to call those “intergenerational”, but then realized that we have up to SIX generations in the room, so we better make the term more inclusive, since “intergenerational” suggests exchange between two generations only. Our Multigenerational Services (or “Multigens”) usually happen around big holidays (Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving) or times of special significance for our congregation (Ingathering, Flower Celebration, Celebration Sunday) occurring about once a month.

These services are planned with great consideration. Worship planners work together to find a balance of content that speaks to people young and older. Our goal is not to “dumb down” the service to a Second Grade level, but to make different parts of the service accessible to different types of understanding… some for adult, some for youth, so that no one is left out.

Multigens are important so everyone has the opportunity to worship together. How can we be in relationship if we do not spend time celebrating together? How can children and youth learn how we “do” church if they aren’t in the room?  How can Unitarian Universalism continue, if our children don’t experience what being an adult Unitarian Universalist looks like?

Lest you think that only the children benefit in this arrangement, think again. A multigen service explores different learning styles. Lots of adults enjoy using movement, song and story in worship. Multigen services tend to incorporate shorter elements into the hour, creating a dynamic flow. The traditional model of adult worship is one that has been successful for several generations, but times change, and the younger generations of adults as well as our children, are looking for a different structure.

All this is good for us to know and explains why we offer multigens. But folks- here’s the part that’s hard to hear: It really doesn’t matter if we have the best, most fulfilling multigen worship ever … if you don’t show up. I guess there are several kinds of people who are not coming to multigens:

  • Parents who are worried their kid will wiggle or be bored.

Be there. Yes- your kid might get bored. So what? We have kids do all manner of boring things- most of which are far less worthwhile than worship. Kids learn how to be in the service very quickly. There’s also the chance they will enjoy it! With our crazy lives it is hard to find an hour to share as a family. Don’t miss this one.

  • Older adults who are “done” with young children.

Really? This is a church, not a retirement village or a social club. Being with younger people enriches your life and makes you happier. Being exposed to new ways of approaching life’s big questions is why we are involved at Channing.  Be open to what you can learn from children.

  • People who think Mutigenerational is code for “Worship Lite”.

Show up anyway. Planners work hard to try to make multigenerational worship meaningful, not empty. The more we practice mutigen worship together and receive your feedback, the better we can meet the needs of everyone in the room. Boycotting multigens doesn’t help at all. Not attending is letting down your community.

OK- that’s my frank (perhaps frustrated by low attendance?) words about why you should come to our multigen services. Here’s some inspiring words as well from A Unitarian Universalist Minister In The South‘s blog:

Why Multigenerational Worship?

Because the more opportunities we have to relate to people who see the world from a different point of view the better we are at being able to function in a multi-cultural and pluralist society.

Because science has told us that the presence of children raises the chemicals in our adult bodies that produce the desire to nurture, to have compassion, and to have empathy for the other.

Because it is important for adults to have a glimpse at the future through our children in a worship setting.

Because the expressions of joy, of sorrow, of celebration, of grief, of transcendence are different in people of different ages and to see them expressed in multiple ways is expressing the fullness of our humanity.

Because our society has fractured the family into so many divided segments that to worship multi-generationally is a counter-culture act to reclaim what is being lost.

Because children help our seniors remain connected and vital.  There is nothing like witnessing a spontaneous hug from a child with an elderly person of 90 plus years and seeing the elder’s eyes light up.

Because children benefit from getting to know other adults who are not their parents by participating in the multi-generational choir and other worship activities.

Because children learn the importance of coming together as a worship community where all are valued for who they are.

Because children learn they are not just on display when they are in the full service like they could be when they are only allowed to be in part of the service and then ceremoniously ushered out.

The Traveling Chalice and Sanctuary Chalice

See you Sunday, folks!

No Rehearsal? Really?

On December 18th, we will have our first ever No-Rehearsal Living Nativity Pageant at Channing! Some people have heard about it and joked that it sounds a little wacky, fun and just on the edge of disaster, with the potential to be fantastic– a perfect Channing enterprise!

In all seriousness, it will be fun and gives folks of all ages to participate and celebrate together this season of hope.

I sure hope you will be there and also that you will be one of the many spontaneous players in the familiar story. We will have parts for readers, animals, shepherds and angels- and I bet we can even find some wisepeople to join in!

Here is another silly Nativity scene for you to enjoy!

Creativity in Religious Education

This year, the theme for our Chalice Circle worship is Creativity. Each month, we will explore a new aspect of spirituality and the creative process.  Creativity in music, movement, prayer, art and service. I am inspired to weave together this theme I see in this year’s curricula, You the Creator, Super Heroes Bible People and Bibleodeon. While the theme of Creativity is explicit in You the Creator, the Bible curricula might at first seem less concerned with creativity.

As Unitarian Universalists, we understand the Hebrew and Christian Bibles as a creative response by people to the necessity of making meaning out of their lives. The people who passed down the oral traditions and later wrote the books of the Bible had different needs expressed in each book, some as historical record, others as teaching tools, and still others as poetry. Each trying to stir a response from the reader, furthering the reader’s process of faith. Like those ancient people, we are still making meaning in our lives. Each day begins anew the creative process of living.

In his Tapestry of Faith curricula, “Making Music Live”, musician Nick Page writes,

“We are all creative. Making a shopping list is a creative act. Conversation is a creative act. …  I see creativity from a spiritual perspective. In his epic poem, “No More Secondhand God,” Unitarian Universalist thinker Buckminster Fuller said, “God is a verb, not a noun.” …We normally think the word table describes a noun, but a table is actually made up of billions of whirling atoms in the act of being a table; from this perspective, table is a verb. This concept requires a paradigm shift. You go from seeing the earth as a planet with life on it (in other words, a noun) to seeing the earth as a living planet (a verb). The verb that is the universe is constantly evolving. The universe is creative. We take after our universe, but there’s more. The universe is also compassionate, what scientist Brian Swimme calls “the ultimate compassion.” The act of creativity, the act of making the world a more beautiful place, is a compassionate act. It is our gift to each other. “

If a traditional idea of RE is rote memorization or empty craft projects, please know that’s not what we are about in UU Religious Education. We want to help our children and youth strengthen their own creative powers. This is our gift. We seek to give them ideas, tools and space to experiment, risk and ask questions. We show and tell them what we know, then empower them to build on that base. We support creativity in Religious Education to help children and youth develop their own response human life. These amazing young people will grow up to be the creative thinking adults shaping our world!


Strong At The Broken Places

“The world breaks and afterward some are strong at the broken places.”

~Ernest Hemingway

This September marks the tenth anniversary of the airplane attacks on New York and Washington, D.C. on September 11th.  Rev. Nichols and I are planning a special multigenerational service for this anniversary which falls on our traditional Ingathering Sunday.  You may have read John’s announcement asking for reflections from the congregation on what we have learned and how the events of that day have changed you personally…if not, here it is:

“I’d like to ask you a question and shape our worship service on that Sunday with your answers.  How has what has happened in the last ten years altered the way you look at things?    You can confine your response to two or three paragraphs and send them as an email to me at

Since this is an intergenerational service there will be children present and we hope everyone can keep that in mind.  We are not looking for abstract socio-political analyses but for your own thinking about whether or how your outlook on life has changed.  You can append your name or not. I will respect your wish for anonymity if you request it.

I welcome reflections from all ages: children, youth and adults. Each generation has a unique view of the impact of the past decade. Depending on the volume of response we may not have time to read what everyone has written, but all will help to shape the service. Thank you for thinking of this. Please consider LABOR DAY WEEKEND as the deadline.

We will conclude the service, as Channing Church has in the past, with a water ceremony. Please bring a vile of water from some place that was important to you this summer.”

It would be meaningful to have a variety of voices represented in the service, so please ask your youth or older child if they would like to participate and send Rev. Nichols the reflections.

"There's a crack in everything, that's how the Light gets in." ~ Leonard Cohen

When I Close My Eyes- I See Banners!

It has been a big day and boy am I tired, but it has been SO worth it!


We began with LREDA Professional Day, a Good Officer training, lunch with a beloved colleague and an afternoon of reports from and discussion on the RE Education Futures Committee Report and the Strategic Plan for Professional Ministry.

I then attended the UU Ministers Association Barry Street lecture on Professional Conduct.


Then a quick dinner before heading into opening ceremonies.


So I watched the opening ceremony online last year and I thought I knew what to expect, but nothing prepared me for being in a huge room with thousands of jazzed up Unitarian Universalists spilling over with joy and spirit, parading with banners of their congregations, singing, clapping and SMILING! Picture hundreds of beautiful banners being held proudly.  Or watch it here

Friends, I am not afraid to say I was moved to tears.

I do wish there was a Channing Memorial Presence to wave a banner of our congregation, so instead I am showing a banner that represents us all- the UU Ministry for Earth!

And the singing!  Thousands of voices – joyous voices- raised in song.  Just what the doctor ordered.