Friday, April 30, 2010

Love: The New Commandment

Gathering for worship this Sunday, May 2 at 5:30 pm, 618 Locust.

Jesus: "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another."

Rumi: "If you want to know Love, become 'we'."

Cynthia Bourgeault: "The goal is...the luminous capacity to 'love our neighbor as ourself.' Not as much as ourself - there is no comparative here - but as our very self."

Richard Evans: "Jesus' commandment is not about what you believe but about how you live."

How does one actually live Love? What are the possibilities if we actually became "we" and lived this Love? We'll explore these radical notions during worship Sunday night. As a concrete effort to become "we", our offering will be designated for the "Strengthen the Churches" offering of the UCC. The Gathering has been the recipient of this offering through the gifts of other churches because it
supports the creation of UCC new church starts. It also helps renew and revitalize existing UCC churches and supports the work of the God is Still Speaking Ministry, which shares the extravagant welcome to all.

Our potluck will be anything you'd like to bring that conveys the notion of living love.

text in the "How Can I Help" mandala (pictured above) reads:

How can I help? Forgive yourself and others; Embrace peace; Practice compassion; Respect life; Listen with your heart; Love.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Second Perfectly Pleasurable Picnic and Pet Parade

Sunday's Gathering, April 25 at 5:30 pm, is all about fun, frolic, and furry friends. We'll picnic at Ponderosa Park (in Mertzon's Ponderosa Estates) - eating, playing, fishing, and also blessing our animals. So, of course, family members who happen to be animals are welcome! If, for whatever reason, you're beloved critters are not able to be with us Sunday, blessings will also be offered "in abstencia." (They must be present, though, if they want to participate in the pet parade, etc. That seems only fair, don't you think?) Bring your pets for a blessing or just yourself and a friend (and/or your friends' pets) for an outdoor fun time under the trees on Spring Creek.

Our offering will be designated for the Tom Green County Humane Society in honor of Kristin Stanley, who designed and has managed our webpage for the past year. And in case you didn't notice, she and her feral cat colony have been in the local paper this week.

Fred and Marilynn Johnson will supply Arby's beef, buns,and sauce for our fun get-together and Crockett and Ann Light are reserving the Ponderosa Park. Gatherers are invited to bring side dishes, desserts, drinks, & ice. Ann suggests you let her know what you're bringing so we'll have a well-rounded and tasty meal. She also suggests you bring lawn chairs, insect repellent, fishing gear, and toys - either your own or your pets.

Directions to the Ponderosa Park:

Go south on Highway 67 toward Mertzon. Exactly 11 miles past the Super WalMart, there is a turning lane in the middle of the road and a sign in the right of way (on the right) which says "Ponderosa Ln." (this is a new sign-used to say E. Bryant.)

Turn left, cross railroad, follow Ponderosa Lane until you see Ponderosa Park sign on left (Rio Villa road)

Go down road 'til it dead ends at Spring Creek and you are there. If you get lost, call Light's cell - 325-234-1586

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Small is Beautiful

Teresa Rylander writes:

I recently met with a good friend who runs a large community foundation. It was his experience that many large foundations, even when they offer substantial grants to expand small, very well-meaning projects, at first grow and prosper, and then somehow eventually fail, in spite of good work by skilled people with the best of intentions.

He asked me about Bread for the Journey, a small local charity I founded twenty years ago, now operating in chapters across the country. He asked, “When you help so many local people get started from the ground up aren’t you just setting them up for failure?
Can you even name five projects you helped get started that are still thriving after five years?” After the first dozen or so that tumbled from my memory, we both saw I could keep going for quite a while, and he conceded I had a point.

I then asked, “These well-intentioned programs that you support—how do they typically fail?” He told me about a fledgling community center that had begun as a small Quonset hut. The foundation supported an expansion program to include a new building, services for teens, an art program, an after school program, a GED program—all things that would benefit the community. “It was a great project,” he said. “So what happened?” I asked. “It was simply under funded. As the programs grew, they needed more funding and in an impoverished community it was hard to raise the money needed. Finally it just collapsed from lack of money.”

I offered an alternate explanation.
“What if the problem was not that the projects were “under funded” but rather were “over-dreamed? What if, when they started, they grew organically and to scale because funding, experience, and wisdom all grew together, at the same rate. But at some point their essential mission changed; almost every non-profit I have worked with reaches this choice point: If we can do this much so well, wouldn’t it be better if we could do more, and help more people? What if—seduced by our American belief that the best is always the one that does the most—they began to over dream, to overreach their honest capacity? What if out of sheer, good-hearted desire to do as much as possible, they took on more than they could honorably do as well as what they had been doing before? Like climbing out too far on a branch that will not hold our weight, perhaps it simply collapses.

The issue of longevity, vitality, and sustainability of our life and work is often determined by our concept of scale.
We are easily trapped by the presumption that bigger is better. If we create something that serves X number of people well, and runs effectively and easily, imagine how much more we could do if we only had twice as much, ten times as much? While this begins with some noble intention, even the best of intentions can be corrupted by a subtle undercurrent of pride and deep confusion about what, in any project, in any community, is enough.

From Chapter: "When Small is Beautiful" from A Life of Being, Having, and Doing Enough by Wayne Muller

Friday, April 16, 2010

Contemplative Meditation

Theologian Paul Knitter speaks about a "Sacrament of Silence." He states:

If the Divine is truly a Mystery that is beyond all human comprehension, beyond all human ideas and words, then any spiritual practice must make room - lots of room - for the practice of silence.

We will explore this practice Sunday night when local Zen Buddhist practitioner Jon Blann leads our time of meditation. Jon will briefly introduce us to the practice of Zen, we will do one short period of zazen (seated meditation) and kinhin (walking meditation), and we will finish the service with a tea ceremony. Jon states:

Zen is the pure experience of the dynamic reality as it is in this moment. It is not a philosophy. It is not a metaphysical way of explaining the world. Zen is practice. So although we use and respect academic study, teaching, and ritual, we emphasize practice. When we are walking, we walk; we when are sitting, we sit; when are drinking tea, we drink. This is Zen practice.

Please bring a cup for the tea ceremony.

More information about Zen and the San Angelo Zen Center can be found here. The San Angelo Zen Center is associated with the Maria Kannon Zen Center in Dallas, whose lineage is from Japan.

Our meal will consist of typical Buddhist and/or Japanese fare. In honor of the upcoming Earth Day, and out of respect for all sentient beings and all creation, our offering will be designated for The Nature Conservancy.

Sunday's Gathering
Contemplative Meditation
April 18, 5:30 pm
618 Locust Street

God is Still Speaking

The Language of God from United Church of Christ on Vimeo.

“The Language of God,” the United Church of Christ’s spring 2010 viral internet message, is a fast-paced, 90-second experience that invites exploration of the many ways that God’s voice is being heard and made known in the world.

Watch this internet message with your congregation, small group, friends or family and then consider the following questions for discussion:

What images from “The Language of God” most vividly caught your attention? Why do you think they were memorable? Were any images confusing, troublesome or especially meaningful to you? Why?

How do you perceive or experience God speaking in the world? What is distinctive about the United Church of Christ’s emphasis on a Stillspeaking God? What does the UCC’s phrase “Godis still speaking” mean to you?

Watch “The Language of God” again. Has this exploration altered the way you experience this video?

If you wish to view the video on the UCC website click here.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Sacred Discussion

This coming Sunday, April 11, we will travel to the Himalayan Mountains to study with world-renowned spiritual leader Mahatma Gandhi. Well, ok, the commute will actually be a little closer than India - Promenade Square, 618 Locust Street. And the leader will actually be renowned Neil Snipes. But we will encounter Gandhi as we discuss his perspectives concerning reasons to believe in God.

The article Neil will use to facilitate the conversation begins with the following paragraph: "There is an indefinable mysterious Power that pervades everything. I feel it, though I do not see it. It is this unseen Power which makes itself felt and yet defies all proof, because it is so unlike all that I perceive through my senses. It transcends the senses. But it is possible to reason out the existence of God to a limited extent."

Our offering recipient has yet to be determined. As for our potluck, Gandhi was a vegetarian, and eventually a "fruitarian" from India, so our potluck is anything that falls into these categories. I can hardly wait to see what ends up on the table!

Hope to see you at 5:30 pm, 618 Locust, Sunday, April 11.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Easter Images

All are welcome, please come.

Easter Worship Service
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Promenade Square
618 Locust Street
5:30 PM