Saturday, December 29, 2012

Gathering for Inspiration

Sunday, 30 December, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street  

It'll be an inspiring "firecracker" of an evening as we Gather for film watching and discussion on the last Sunday in 2012.  The movie, We Are Together, is a wonderful and uplifting documentary about the children and music of Agape Orphanage in South Africa, to which we were introduced during our AIDS Awareness service.  The film is a testament to resilience, hope, courage amidst adversity, the healing aspect of music, and the power of compassionate community.  Sounds like a pretty good way to end the year, doesn't it?

Our offering will be designated for the San Angelo AIDS Foundation.  We will not share a potluck meal, but as always, you are invited to bring snacks.    

Friday, December 21, 2012

Merry Christmas

May the Angel of Annunciation
awaken in you God's profound heartfelt love.  
May Mary guide you in birthing the Holy One in your life
and in birthing Love in others. 
May Joseph engage you in deeper questioning and listening
  and give you courage to risk the next step.  
May your life become a Luminous Presence 
leading others to the place in their hearts and in the world 
where Christ is always being born anew.
May you have
The Spirit of Christmas which is Peace.
The Joy of Christmas which is Hope.
The Heart of Christmas which is Love.
May these Blessings be yours this Christmas!

from Ministry of the Arts

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Gathering to Receive the Gifts of the Season

Have you ever thought about the fact that during the holidays, there's much emphasis on gift giving, but not much on gift receiving?

After all, so much of the "meaning" of Christmas, Hanakkuh, and Kwanzaa has devolved to being generous, showing others how much you care, getting gifts for others, etc.  At the same time, the theme of Advent is waiting and preparing for the coming of Emmanuel - God with us; part of the theme of Hanakkuh is about G-D's presence with the Jewish people during a very difficult time; and one of the significant aspects of Kwanzaa is for people to intentionally reflect on the deep questions of life and faith.

Sunday's worship experience will combine these various notions and ask: how do we receive the gifts of these holy holidays?  How do we graciously receive things that are unexpected or that we don't particularly want - like Divine Presence. 

We will receive the gifts of Nancy and Valerie this week, as they are co-facilitating this worship experience. Our offering will be designated for the gift-giving and receiving efforts of our local Christmas en el Barrio. And we will share and receive the gifts of each other as we gather after worship for a potluck meal.

Sunday, December 16, 5:30 pm, 618 Locust Street 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Gathering for Service

If anyone has the world's goods and sees his brother or sister in need, yet closes his heart against them, how does God's love abide in him? Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth. ~ 1 John 3:17-18 

With Ashura, Hanukkah, Bodhi Day, Christmas, Kwanzaa, and various other holy holidays, December is a month for thinking of others and sharing Love. We will engage in this spiritual practice of sharing Love Sunday night when we gather to concretely address 3 mission needs:  1) we will put together gift bags for people cared for by Big Spring State Hospital; 2) we will collect books for the library at Big Spring State Hospital; and 3) we will complete our chili can drive for the St. Paul Christmas box effort.  All the gift bag elements will be present, so come ready to put them together.  But don't come empty-handed!  Bring books to donate to Big Spring State Hospital and bring cans of chili for the food box drive.  Our goal for books - whatever we collect.  Our goal for cans of chili - at least 260. We will not share potluck, but holiday goodies are always welcome!

Sunday, 9 December 2012
5:30 pm, 618 Locust

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Peace Realized

Weapons of violence
are contrary to the common good
no matter how skillfully used
Where armies settle
Nature offers nothing but briars and thorns
After a great battle has been fought
the Earth lies stripped of its Motherhood
So we vow to do no harm

If faced with unavoidable violence
we remember this vow
act quickly
and return immediately to peace

Battles are not with enemies
They are with beings like ourselves
Knowing this, we do not rejoice in victory
and the downfall of others
Every victory is a funeral and an illusion

Once a battle is over
we lay down our weapons
and weep that we did not prevent it

Blend of 30 and 31 of Tao Te Ching from Teresa Rylander

Sharing Stories

I am drawn to the work of people like Parker Palmer and Christina Baldwin who bring people together in a circle to share not concepts, opinions, dogma, or judgments about what is right or wrong, but to share their own lived experience. To place it in the center of the circle where it is just received by the circle. Parker Palmer calls these “circles of trust.”

Last Sunday I think the Gathering provided four beautiful men such a circle where they could share their very different military experiences and just have them received. No need to “determine the right experience.” I believe when people are able to just share their actual lived experience it become much easier for us to see that we each have lived in different realties…each of them true even though they may seem to be conflicting views. Easier for us to value and accept a viewpoint different from our own, easier to realize life is both/and not either/or. The circle becomes a place where different perceptions can reside side by side and inform each other.

Christiana uses the term “storycatcher”, someone who receives the story of someone else, not to judge it or compare it to the “right” story, just to receive it with attentiveness, care, and compassion. This Sunday we talk about gratitude. I am grateful that the Gathering is a place where such a sharing can take place.

I have also become drawn to the word “Aloha” whose deeper meaning is to share breath, to share the essence of the mystery that is our source and sustenance by whatever name you call it. Aloha is another way of saying Nemaste. To the four men who shared with us, Aloha. Aloha to Ann who wanted to have such a sharing and who values the practice of storycatching. Aloha Gathering.

Teresa Rylander 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Gathering for Advent & AIDS Awareness

Sunday, December 2, 5:30 pm
618 Locust

World AIDS Awareness

World AIDS Day, observed on 1 December each year, is an important opportunity when governments, national AIDS programs, faith organizations, community organizations, and individuals around the world bring attention to the global HIV/ AIDS epidemic and emphasize the critical need for a committed, meaningful and sustained response.

With the help of Ann and Valerie, we will observe AIDS Awareness Day this Sunday, which is also the first Sunday of Advent; this is appropriate because Advent is a season of hope and expectation set amidst the poverty, violence and injustice of the world. Since AIDS was identified in the early 1980s, the joy of Advent has contrasted sharply with the suffering of millions of people, families, and communities at the hands of this disease. Yet AIDS and Advent both emphasize hope and the transformative power of love.

We will focus on this hope and the transformative power of love when we gather for worship Sunday night, 2 December, 5:30 pm. Our offering will be designated for the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns. We will also continue to collect cans of chili for the Christmas food box effort. So far we've collected 52 cans of chili and $150 towards the effort, so we still have a ways to go to reach our goal of 260.

In honor of our chili collection effort, our potluck dinner is a chili cook-off.

Chili Cook-Off
There's no reason to head to Terlingua when you can enjoy (and participate in) a world class chili cook-off right here in San Angelo!  Yep, that's right - The Gathering's Sunday night pot-luck is a chili cook-off.  The inspiration?  the fact that we're collecting at least 260 cans of chili for the St. Paul Christmas food box effort. 

You're welcome to bring and heat up cans of chili, or you can be so bold as to make your own.  All categories - with beans, without beans, vegetarian, chicken, one pepper, two pepper, three pepper, YIKES MY MOUTH IS ON FIRE! - are welcome.  Also welcome are chili accoutrements - cheese, onions, fritos, chips, spoons, fire extinguishers, and whatever else is necessary for good chili eating (like chocolate).

Good luck to all you chili aficionados (and eaters).