Blogs

Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

Blogs

Reflections of the ministers and senior staff.

Love as Spiritual Practice

In reflecting on goals, hopes, and dreams for 2024, what does Love ask, of each one of us, in this year, in this month, in this moment? Pause and listen, for the call of love, deep within the heart. Opening, allowing, noticing.

Someone from the local community attending a workshop here recently commented that this place is a beacon of light in the triangle area. This doesn’t just happen. It takes commitment together to learn, grow, and live our communal values.

As a community, what light are we radiating out to the world? In our work for justice and equity, how do actually show up in action and practice to make the world a better place?

This can seem dauting when faced with all that is challenging right now—from weather disasters and climate crisis to human conflicts and ongoing wars, systemic oppression to democracy on the run, the world needs healing on so many levels.

When we are overwhelmed at all the things we see and hold on our hearts…
it’s OK to pause, breathe, and make a conscious choice to find our center.
Then we can reflect on our choices and intentions.

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The Gift of Story

December is a unique time of year that features a variety of holiday celebrations. It’s not surprising that stories surround the whole season. In movies, books and songs, the end of the year is full of stories about the true meaning of living and giving. Then there are also the life stories we share with family and friends, recalling the past year, looking forward to the next, and if we can pause in all the busyness, appreciating the gift of the present. Stories, both personal and cultural, allow us to understand our place in the world, and make meaning about how and why things happen.

Stories are also gifts, in a way, that can reveal something about ourselves, if we are open to them. Storytelling is a universal language that transcends borders, languages, and generations. It’s a thread that connects us all, reminding us of our shared humanity. Sharing our story can create a bridge that creates a sense of belonging, of being wanted, needed, and heard. Stories connect us.

Youth Poet Laureate Rimel Kamran writes:

The power of story rests in the heart of vulnerability and community.
Each individual bears a story, aching to be heard and to be recognized.
Stories are powerful because they foster connection and
plant the seeds for community to blossom.
Our own stories and the stories of others are windows to recognizing
how humanity is both broken and imperfect,
but through taking the time to engage in conversation with one another and
by listening to each other’s voices and calls for justice,
we can mend humanity’s wounds and create something beautiful.

Stories can be a catalyst for change, growth, and healing. Stories from our life journey allow a greater sense of understanding and appreciation of one other.

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The Gift of Attention

Years ago I was leading a workshop in Maine and offered an exercise in forest bathing. The immediate group response was, “Yes, I like to walk in the woods.” The idea was familiar, but not necessarily as a mindfulness practice. Forest bathing, or shinrin-yoku, is a Japanese form of nature therapy that originated in the early 1980s. The word, “bathing,” refers to the idea of absorbing the experience using all the senses. Forest bathing aims to bring healing through connection to nature and trees. It is not the same as going for a hike, listening to a podcast, and getting in your steps for the day.

Forest bathing is a mindfulness practice for any level of physical fitness and in any location where there are trees. Scientific studies have shown it can be quite powerful, enhance well-being, and reduce stress.

If you would like to try this practice, find a peaceful place to walk outside with trees. Pause, and bring awareness to all your senses. Set an intention to listen, feel, see, taste, touch, sense, and allow. Walk slowly. Pause from time to time to sit, be still, or connect with a tree. The practice of forest bathing is more about being/allowing than doing/directing. When your mindfulness walk is complete, take a few moments to reflect on your experience. Trees have much to teach and share, if we are paying attention.

In Utah there is a forest of forty-eight thousand aspen trees. The oldest aspen is fourteen thousand years old. How have trees like these aspens survived cold winters, drought, and insect attacks for so many years? Originally, it was thought to be survival of the fittest in outcompeting other trees for sunlight, water, and nutrients. New research shows that trees have learned how to cooperate and communicate through an underground fungal network or through scent signals the air. They ask for help, respond to distress signals, and share nutrients with other trees because this is how they survive—together. These aspens have survived because they recognize they belong to one another. This is not simply a collection of trees—it’s a community. Every tree belongs to the forest/community by having a place to stand within it.

Just like a tree is part of a forest, we are part of different communities—an intricate network of people who rely on one another to survive and flourish. And as one global human family on this Earth journey, our collective survival—much like a tree depends on its forest—is determined by our ability to connect and cooperate, share and care.

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The Power of Three

In this past Sunday’s sermon, I shared just a bit about my journey in hopes that it can encourage each of you to reflect on your own spiritual journey with the power of three:

Three people that have shaped your life.

Three key experiences on your spiritual journey.

Three practices that feed your spirit.

This invitation includes a nudging to write down some of your own stories. The value in writing, even for yourself, is well documented as therapeutic, insightful, and potentially transformative. But to get to the transformative part, you actually have to participate in reflecting and writing.

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Listening as Spiritual Practice

Every day we are inundated with information. Through words, images, conversations, screens, media, people, and life…it can be hard to keep track of what is most important in the deluge of noise and “news.” This year, the ministers at ERUUF are offering a series of classes to help all of us ground and center in the midst of all that life brings. In the first class of the series (Healing the Earth) I was moved by the engaged presence of participants, both online and in person, who embraced the primary invitation of the class—to pause, slow down, and listen.

Based on the book Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer, we explored our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world, our sense of interconnectedness with the Earth, and what it may take to write a new future for a sustainable world for all. Dr Kimmerer offers that the awakening of ecological consciousness requires the acknowledgment and celebration of our reciprocal relationship with the rest of the living world. For only when we can hear the languages of other beings will we be capable of understanding the generosity of the Earth and learn to give our own gifts in return.

She writes:

Action on behalf of life transforms. Because the relationship between self and the world is reciprocal, it is not a question of first getting enlightened or saved, and then acting. As we work to heal the earth, the earth heals us. Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate. But, when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.

The book is full of stories that encourage us to pay attention to how we are in relationship with one another, the Earth, and the elements of nature. Following the lead of the book, the class focused on listening to one another share stories of our own experience of the natural world. Each week, there was a homework assignment, that we then shared in the next class.

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Living Legacy

We are often taught or shaped by living examples we encounter in our lives. Yes, words matter, but often the greatest impact is in lived experience. Embodied values. This is true at any age. Yes, children are our teachers too. But it is especially true with our elders. The gifts of lived experience, the embodied wisdom of life’s journey can serve as a bridge that connects our past, present, and future.

Michele Obama writes:

The older I get, the more I value the wisdom of those who have gone before me.

They have seen more, they have done more, and they have learned more.

I am grateful for their guidance and their insights.

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Healing the Earth

"When you wake up and see that the Earth is not just the environment, the Earth is us, you touch the nature of interbeing. And at that moment you can have real communication with the Earth…We have to wake up together.

And if we wake up together, then we have a chance. Our way of living our life and planning our future has led us into this situation. And now we need to look deeply to find a way out, not only as individuals but as a collective, a species."

(Thich Nhat Hanh from Zen and the Art of Saving the Planet)

In the middle of the hottest summer on record, and another season of rampant wildfires, the impact of the current climate crisis is very present. The litany of impending challenges is a long list from rising sea levels and deforestation to food insecurity and extreme weather events.

Climate change is a multifaceted issue encompassing various sciences, politics, economics, history, psychology, and spirituality. Regardless of the lens used to view the issue, environmental racism and justice are intertwined within all of it. The climate crisis presents a critical global challenge, posing significant obstacles to vulnerable communities worldwide. The impact of greenhouse gas emissions and resulting global warming extends far and wide, disproportionately affecting low-income countries and communities, indigenous populations, and other marginalized groups.

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Almost Done (AV Update part 3)

This complicated project with multiple vendors and many moving parts is finally coming to completion. The new speaker array and retractable projection screen were both installed in the ceiling. Additional electrical work was completed to power all the various components (screen, speakers, window blinds, projector). The Chapel will have a new screen as well. We have begun integrating the new equipment with the current audio-visual systems (camera and soundboard).

This week it was very exciting to see the large screen deployed for the first time and hear sound from the speaker array. We are now working on the fine-tuning part of the installation. The Sanctuary has been a construction zone since mid-August. While lifts were rented to support the AV installation, additional maintenance work was completed in this space utilizing the equipment. Multiple areas of mold on the high ceiling were cleaned, sanded and refinished (see photo below of Edgar Proano working on the ceiling). Most of the room was repainted. A retractable window blind was installed over the large window above the storage area to allow for minimizing light on the new screen/projector. New floor outlets will be installed when the parts arrive. A large platform with a metal door hatch for the projector was built in the ceiling area above the sound desk (see photo below of Chris Egle looking out the projector window). At the same time, insulation that had been falling down is now secured to the roof. The media desk for the Tech Team was moved into the sound closet and linked to the new system.

Please know that safety is a concern throughout the process on multiple levels. Contractors and staff are masked, lift operators are harnessed, and load limits for all the equipment hanging from the ceiling have been certified by a structural engineer. The floors have been covered with ram board and plywood to ensure that the heavy lifts won't crack or scratch the wood floor.

We expect to transform the Sanctuary from a construction zone to a worship space by the end of this week. The large projector installation has been delayed due to supply chain issues, but should be functional in early October.

Once the full system is fully operational, the next step will be orientation and training with the new equipment for the Sound team, Tech Team, and Worship Team. While we are eager to move forward, we may be in learning mode for a bit as we learn how to adjust workflow for Sunday mornings.

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AV Update (part 2)

Even though we are not gathering in person for worship at this time, here is a peek behind the scenes at some of the work in the Sanctuary. Last Sunday you may have noticed we had to switch back to Zoom for live stream worship, which presented a few technical challenges. This is because we discovered during the equipment check that morning that one of the contractors had rewired the camera in preparation to interface with the new systems.

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Sanctuary AV Update (part 1)

Physical construction has begun on the Sanctuary AV upgrade. While this is just one step in a complex process involving multiple contractors, we are hopeful for a mid-September completion date. So please pardon our dust over the next 6 weeks as installation continues in phases. The system includes a new speaker, large retractable screen, long throw projector, additional screen the chapel, hearing accessibility upgrades, and window shade.

This is more than just new equipment. ERUUF is seeking to develop capacity for multi-platform worship. The ability to worship together, both in person and at a distance, is integral to the life of this faith community. The new AV system will help ERUUF build capacity for the community and empower the multimedia worship experience that has developed over the past year of livestream worship.

This project has been in various stages of research and development for quite some time. Conversations have been engaged with the worship team, tech team, Coordinating Team, Board of Trustees, music team, sound team, buildings and grounds team, staff, and more. There have been a variety of ideas and iterations of options for how the project could work within the physical space and enhance worship at ERUUF. We are excited to be moving forward now and grateful for a grant from the Eno River Fellowship Foundation and Board approval for additional ERUUF reserve funds that will make this project possible.

The upgraded AV system will allow ERUUF to take a huge leap forward in technology and connectivity, as well as dynamic worship.
Stay tuned for updates.

 

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Solar Update March 2021

ERUUF has had solar panels for six months now and we’ve learned a lot in this time. The good news is that we have seen a reduction in the energy bill and the system is working well. However, it’s becoming clear that tree shading issues were significantly underestimated by our contractor, and the solar project is now experiencing significantly lower than optimal solar output. In the winter months there is an almost 50% reduction in solar production due to shading, though less in the summer due to sun position, with an annual loss of 30-35% kilowatt hours or about $3,000 per year. This outcome will increase over time as the trees grow.

This brings us to a choice point. In order to live into our ongoing sustainability commitment (read more about ERUUF’s Green Sanctuary Initiative) and to be good stewards of the large solar project (and all the resources it took to build it), we will need to find ways to address the shading issue, both for today and in future years as the trees/shade between the CARE building and the walkway continue to grow.

The Coordinating Team, Garden Team, Earth Justice, Buildings and Grounds, RE, ERUUF staff, Family Preschool and tree experts have all been brought into the conversation. A number of ideas and options have been discussed, all of which have pluses and minuses. The most viable solution involves replacing four large trees with lower growing new trees that grow to a height that does not create future shading issues. While this will create a change, the redesign also opens other opportunities for uses of the area.

Before making a decision, the Coordinating Team would like to hear what our members think about this. And so we invite you to join us to share your thoughts at a special breakout room during zoom Coffee Hour on March 14.

This is one significant way that we can live our values and principles as we help create a sustainable, low carbon future together.

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Sustainable ERUUF (Part 1)

Thank you for helping to expand our compost and recycling efforts on campus. As we continue to live into our commitment to care for the earth, each of us plays a big part in creating the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible. The waste reduction project has made great progress in the past year. Yes, this requires learning new habits and extra planning for events, especially around composting. Please know that your efforts make a difference! The new waste reduction stations in the Fellowship Hall and Care Building are just one part of a larger Green Sanctuary initiative at ERUUF. In addition, we increased our composting collection capacity from 10 gallons a week to 64 gallons a week which we are consistently filling. Furthermore, we have transitioned to compostable dinnerware for large ERUUF sponsored events with food and beverages.

In 2019, results from our composting vendor, Compost Now:

This project addressed the goal of waste reduction identified in the Green Sanctuary initiative with a specific target to reduce our congregational waste by at least 20% by December 2021. In following through on ERUUF's strategic plan, we committed to making an initial investment in critical infrastructure (i.e., a permanent, attractive, commercial collection station, compost collection and signage for the Fellowship Hall), to increase waste diversion through increased composting and recycling. The new waste reduction stations were made possible by a grant from Eno River Fellowship Foundation!

 
Many thanks to Kim Swain, Denise Frizzell, Barbara Welanetz, Daniel Trollinger, Shawn Trimble, and Michele Sager.

Check out upcoming Earth Justice events for Earth and Climate Justice Month 2020.

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Pardon Our Dust

As we roll into the new year you may notice a few improvements on campus. In the past two years almost every roof on campus has been replaced, including half the Care bldg. with a metal roof in preparation for a major solar installation this spring (more info coming soon). There is a new system to support composting and recycling at ERUUF on a larger scale (see revised room use guidelines). There are new low-flow toilets in the Sanctuary bathrooms. Much of the non-routine facilities work is made possible by the Campus Needs Fund which is a result of a special campaign two years ago. 
 
Here is a shout out of appreciation to some the folks responsible for larger projects:
  • New waste stations for Fellowship Hall and Care bldg. (Denise Frizzell, Kim Swain, Barbara Welanetz, Shawn Trimble with funding support from the Foundation)
  • New doors for rear of Commons Room (Peter Romeyn)
  • New window blinds in Rooms 4/5 & 1 (Jean O'Barr)
  • Clean gutters (Glen Jackson)
  • Tree/limb pruning (Jack Romeyn)
  • Redesigned Sanctuary front garden (Beth Harvat, Barbara Beaman, Nancy Henley, Jean O'Barr)
  • Clear sidewalks and lawn mowing (Rick Searles, David Scheidt)
  • New wall coverings for Fellowship Hall (Peter Romeyn, Ed Hoefle, Steve Edgerton, Karli Rabe)
  • New dishwasher in Care bldg. (Chris Egle)
  • New chairs/tables for Sanctuary floor (Jean O'Barr, with funding support from Gallery Committee)
  • New carpet in Sanctuary, Rooms 4/5 & 3 (Peter Romeyn)
Much appreciation to all the hard work of individuals and teams behind the scenes (Buildings and Grounds Team, Garden Team, Janitorial staff, Office staff) in keeping the campus facilities in good shape. It takes a village of volunteers and staff (and even contractors at times) to make this happen. Thank you!
 
If you want to join the fun, the Garden Team usually gathers on the second Saturday of every month from 9-12, and the Buildings and Grounds Team could always use an extra hand for upcoming projects. Contact:

Introducing the New Web Site

Welcome to a new version of the ERUUF web site!

The primary intention is to show the ERUUF community in action, with a focus on the shared ministry teams and values of the fellowship. The invitation is to explore and find your way on the site and in this beloved community.

By design, it is set up to encourage exploration instead of linear mapping. It is searchable, mobile friendly and hopefully more accessible to people who are new to UU and ERUUF.
The site is built with a visual language of pictures and images in addition to text and links. Menus introduce new headings and categories. Pretty much everything on the old site is also on the new site, just in a different organizational pattern. In the future, we plan to add more video components and interactivity with social media.

Features:

  • Visual language (we are always looking for high quality photographs of ERUUF groups and activities)
  • New blog page (reflections from ministers and staff)
  • Emphasis on shared ministries in action
  • Searchable calendar
  • New auto-draft giving portal
  • Mobile friendly

The layout, design, and focus of the new site are all the result of conversations with staff, leaders, and members, combined with ERUUF site analytics and evaluation of web sites of UU congregations and other spiritual communities. In all our research, we could not find any congregation anywhere with as much emphasis on governance and policies as ERUUF seems to hold. As a result, any information in this area, that focuses on "how we organize ourselves," has all been pushed down to the bottom menu. If you are a leader or just policy curious, scroll down to the bottom of any page to find numbers, reports, and governance.
Feedback welcome -  Give Feedback

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Green Sanctuary

Through the fall and early winter ERUUFians took the initial steps toward Green Sanctuary accreditation. Green Sanctuary is a program offered by the UUA to give congregations a pathway of study, reflection, and action in response to environmental challenges, most notably climate change. It provides a structure for congregations to examine their cur...

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Update on Special Campaign for Facilities Maintenance

The Special Campaign for facilities maintenance concluded Jan 31, 2018 and raised $320,768. The match grant challenge of $250,000 will bring the total to $570,768. The remarkable generosity of the Fellowship will enable ERUUF to care for the campus well into the future. The immediate plan is to pay off the remaining mortgage ($104,000 paid Feb 2018...

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Eno River Fellowship Foundation

Each year, the Eno River Fellowship Foundation (ERFF) awards grants from the endowment for projects that make a significant difference in supporting our ERUUF mission and priorities. We fund creative, seminal initiatives and enrichment of our facilities to fulfill our promises. We request that proposals have a direct link to ERUUF's Strategic Plan ...

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