The Advance — March 2010

From Frieda

“I’ve always felt that I was truly wealthy, no matter how little or much money I’ve had,” she said. How is it that someone living below the poverty line can feel wealthy? And yet this woman claims it is possible. “Wealth to me is a feeling about myself and a desire to give to others.” She echoes Robert Thurman, the American Buddhist who says, “The feeling of wealth is enhanced when you give, since subliminally giving means you have enough to share, while taking means you may not be getting enough. Giving is a relief. Taking is a burden.”

In times like these when income is uncertain, we can understandably feel fear about money and want to contract and conserve. Conserving might be the right course of action, but fear is a shaky base from which to make decisions. If we contract too much from giving, we begin to feel impoverished and “less than.” Reason and gratitude are better bases from which to make our financial decisions. Reason gives us wisdom and plants us in reality, and gratitude keeps us connected with what we value and what is life-giving to us. Giving from a place of gratitude and wisdom is worthwhile indeed. It isn’t always easy, though. Demands for charitable giving come to us from around the world. They all appeal to us in some way—many echo our values. So how do we decide where to give and how much?

I’ve had a simple rule for giving (although, believe me, my heart too gets tugged by many causes). I give to the organizations that strengthen me and uphold my values most directly. I give to my church first and foremost, because that is where I experience the strongest support and encouragement for sustaining that which is best in me and valuable in the world. Without my church, I would not be as focused or connected to the greater whole. I need liberal religion to make meaning of my own life and all of life. I give until I feel really upbeat about it–because I love the feeling of giving and the wealth that it brings me. Oh, it’s not without a struggle to respond to the fears that arise, but that very process is strengthening to me and my belief in what is good in the world, and what it is possible to create.

As we enter this time of recommitment to our church through the Annual Budget Drive, consider first and foremost how you will feel as the church contracts or expands in response to our giving. That will be a valid way to gauge what the church means to you and your sense of well-being.

It is a great privilege to serve you at Northshore Church. I look forward to the many ways we will be together and work together.

See you in church!

March 2010 services

March 7, 10:30 a.m. “Patient Capitalism.” Rev. Frieda Gillespie. Can capitalism have a spiritual core? “Patient Capitalism” is a term that has been coined to describe a new way to help developing countries become self-sufficient. It is an uplifting and creative approach to social change, investment, and for-profit business.

March 14, 10:30 a.m. “If We Weren’t Afraid …” Rev. Frieda Gillespie. Stewardship Sunday! Today we celebrate our Northshore Church and dare to dream about the future, near and far. We ask everyone to come to this service to share in our collective commitment to this beloved community. Bonnie Anderson will return to play for us, and we will hear the debut of a song written by one of our own members.

March 21, 10:30 a.m. “Ethical Eating.” Rev. Frieda Gillespie. Since watching the documentary “Food Inc.,” I have been determined to understand the ethical, safety, and justice issues related to food production. In our busy lives, doing so can be a daunting process, but there are some simple ways in which we can start to make a difference. “Share the Plate” this morning will support our monthly commitment to Lifebridge.

March 28, 10:30 a.m. “Roots of the Danvers Church. Barbara Doucette. Although the NSUU church is located in Danvers, our roots also run deep in Peabody. (Just ask Eva Turner, Judy Putnam, or Chris Patton, for example!) Barbara Doucette, historian of the Peabody Historical Society, will trace our church roots back to the earliest days of Peabody. Barbara grew up in that community and was confirmed at the Peabody Unitarian Church in 1941. Her son John and his wife, Maryann, were the first couple to be married in the NSUU church in 1968.

From Fred

“There is no power on earth that can neutralize the influence of a high, simple and useful life.” — Booker T. Washington

How do we get to that “high, simple and useful life”? More specifically, how do we pave the way for our children to achieve such a goal? As Unitarian Universalists we believe that a child’s questioning mind is a great place to start. Our aim is not to define that high and simple life, but to identify where we might simplify, how we might find the high road, and what is useful.

Last spring we gathered to discuss our personal religious-education experiences and the hopes and expectations for our children’s program. The resulting lists are posted on one wall of my office space. While reading curricula over the summer, I used these hopes and expectations to inform my choices of program topics. We had identified ritual, consistency, predictability, and tradition as desirable elements. Providing a curriculum map that covers several years creates a predictable church school experience, and our consistent Sunday morning format helps to establish a comfortable space with no surprises for our young people. These steps build an environment in which our program can flourish.

If you have any question about the curriculum or about the direction of the program, please feel free to contact me. My cell phone is always on, and I am always glad to hear from you. I will be at my desk at the church on Monday mornings and Wednesday afternoons if you prefer to meet face to face. Just let me know that you are coming so that I can clear some time and make some coffee or tea!

Among ourselves

Brendan Steeves will turn 5 on March 10.

Remy Beauregard received a pet corn snake for his birthday last month.

Youth Sunday is scheduled for February 28.

Local colors

Oil landscapes of Essex County will be the art exhibit in the church’s Meeting Room during March and April. Cheryl Dyment, who lives in Middleton, gave herself “permission to paint” 10 years ago and has progressed rapidly from an initial impressionistic style to a more personal interpretation of the landscape. “One of the challenges of painting in the exterior world is that it is in constant movement: the wind, the insects, the light, the temperature are always in a state of flux. I strive to capture that feeling of movement on canvas,” she says. “At the same time I am reflecting what I am feeling, seeing, smelling, and tasting in the atmosphere.”

From the Board of Directors

Standing in the Fellowship Hall after the service on Sunday, I happened upon a conversation already in progress. Fred Mills was talking to a few young couples, all parents of the impossibly cute kids that we’ve all (literally) tripped over, at one time or another, there in the Hall. I don’t remember how, but the subject turned to evangelism, and I recalled an article in a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine entitled “How Christian Were the Founders?” If you haven’t read the piece yet, do. At stake are literally the hearts and minds of every school-age child in America, and the right of those children to become free-thinking Americans.

The piece describes efforts by the Texas Board of Education to modify the historical narrative of our country. This team of nine elected officials, none of whom are scholars in any meaningful sense, want to misrepresent the religious intentions of America’s earliest leaders, and to suggest that those intentions have been whitewashed and betrayed. Such an effort could be considered nonsense at best, were it not for the fact that the state of Texas buys 45 million textbooks per year. As a result, they largely define the content of texts across the nation. What is more, polling data of the population at large suggest that as many as 65 percent of Americans believe that the nation’s founders intended the United States to be a totally Christian nation.

What can we do? Perhaps we can’t do much for the primary and secondary school students in Texas. But for the young parents of our congregation, we have an obligation to help them show their children how to think for themselves. These youngsters have a right to grow up without fear of fire and brimstone, and to learn the importance of charity and humility for their own sake, without having to expect something in return. The religious education program at NSUU is one of our most important accomplishments, a forum where young minds can expand beyond the boundaries and dangers of American-fundamentalist exceptionalism. It’s important that we continue to support and encourage this wonderful program in the years to come, long after our own children grow up and move on. The fate of our nation may literally depend on it.

John Forbes
Chair

Pledges

During this last month of the church year, we are in the process of reviewing the church budget and expenses. In order to meet our budget, it is essential that we rely on the members’ 2009-2010 pledges. We ask that you please make every effort to complete your commitments prior to March 31.

People to People Auction

Our annual People to People Auction will be held this year on Sunday, March 21. Are you ready for some fun and some fundraising? What are your thoughts about what you can donate to this event? Here are some of the items that have been offered in past years:

Services

  • Gardening or spring cleanup
  • Closet or office organizing
  • Computer or technical consulting
  • Tutoring
  • Writing or editing
  • Photography lesson(s)
  • Sewing, quilting, scrapbooking, or art instruction
  • Babysitting
  • Professional services
  • Tax preparation
  • Airport transportation
  • Dog walking or vacation pet care
  • Music services — creating an iPod playlist or CD
  • Yourself the Elf — help with shopping, wrapping, cards, or baking for Christmas 2010

Dining and entertainment:

  • Brunch, lunch, or dinner in your home – for a specified number of guests
  • Movie night at your home
  • Cocktail hour – wine and cheese, margaritas and nachos, beer and dogs
  • Breakfast at your favorite diner
  • Dessert, soup, bread of the month

Travel and activities

  • A week or weekend at your family vacation home
  • Nature hike or city ramble in a place you know well
  • Golf or tennis outing
  • A tour of the North Shore on your motorcycle or in your vintage car
  • Tickets to arts or sporting events

Artwork and crafts

  • Original artwork or photography
  • Photo or art greeting cards
  • Quilts or fabric crafts
  • Gift baskets — baby care, pet care, food, wine, coffee/tea, beauty items
  • Jewelry — hand-made or donated

Goods and collectibles

  • Sports memorabilia
  • Toys
  • Vintage items
  • New or like-new articles
  • Gift certificates or gift cards

OUR NEW CATEGORY: WISH LIST! What do you need? Put your request out there with a suggested bid amount, and let others grant your wish.

When you are ready to donate, send an e-mail to Jennifer Revill, Auction Coordinator, at jenrevill {at} aol {dot} com. Please put the word “Auction” in the subject line of your e-mail, and include the following information:

  • Donor (your) name and e-mail address
  • Description of donated item or service or Wish List request
  • Estimated cash value or desired minimum bid – please suggest an amount, even if you are not sure
  • Any comments or information you would like included with the write-up

I would like to receive all donations by the end of the day on Monday, March 15. Thank you for your participation! Please contact me if you have any questions.

Jennifer Revill
Auction Coordinator

Social Action Committee

Volunteers needed for Sunday night suppers. Those who want to help with the Sunday night suppers at Lifebridge can sign up on the white bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall. The task involves shopping for a small amount of food and being at Lifebridge to cook and serve from 5 to 7 p.m. on the fourth Sunday of the month. It’s a fun time with lots of camaraderie and conversation. If you want to volunteer but can’t commit to donating the cost of the food, let Brian Orr or Maureen Duram know so that they can reimburse you. The Social Action Committee is creating a food fund for just such compensation.

We ask those who can’t volunteer to shop, cook, and serve to consider giving money to the food fund. Both monthly and one-time donations are welcome. If fifteen people donate $10 per month, it will cover the cost of feeding one hundred people at Lifebridge. To support this work, the Board suggests making checks payable to NSUU and specifying “Lifebridge” in the memo area. The checks may be mailed to the church or put in the collection basket on Sunday mornings.

Thanks to Maria Duggan, who organized some of the younger members of the congregation to bake desserts for the February Lifebridge supper.

Survey results. Be sure to check out the Social Action Committee bulletin board in the Fellowship Hall. Results of the survey conducted last fall are posted, including the names of organizations where individual members of the church volunteer. If you are looking for opportunities, you are likely to find some good ideas.

Danvers Food Pantry. NSUU is still collecting nonperishable food items for the Danvers Food Pantry. Typically, after the holidays, donations to food pantries drop off and pantries run low on food. Please consider bringing a donation and leaving it in the box in the Fellowship Hall.

Save the date: Sunday, March 28. The Social Action Committee is starting a monthly discussion group. The first meeting will be on Sunday, March 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m. A light lunch will be provided and child care will be available. Parents are welcome to bring children and youth who are interested in our first topic, ethical eating. We will watch parts of a movie and then discuss.

Delegates at the 2008 UU General Assembly selected “Ethical Eating” as the 2008-2012 Congregational Study/Action Issue (CSAI) of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. The CSAI is an invitation for congregations and districts to take a topic of concern and confront it, reflect on it, learn about it, respond to it, comment on it, and take action, each in their own way. A CSAI is not a statement; it is a question. By looking at the subject of ethical eating, we at NSUU will be learning about and reflecting on the same topic as many other UU congregations.

What’s new at NSUU.org

Recently we decided to discontinue e-mail delivery of our monthly newsletter, ADVANCE. Instead, we are notifying members and friends by e-mail as soon as the newsletter is posted on the church website. Perhaps with an incentive to look for it online, you will spend time checking out some of our other features, including the front-page blog of church news, audio sermons, and the Calendar of Events.

Several of you have said that you miss e-mail delivery of ADVANCE because you like to print it out. It is our hope that you may think that its ready availability online is even better. But if you really want a printout, the best method is to copy the newsletter and then paste it into Microsoft Word or whatever word-processing program you use.

And now for something completely different. Did you know that if you visit NSUU.org on your iPhone, BlackBerry, or other smartphone, you will see a specially formatted mobile version? It’s surprisingly usable. Please give it a try.

Dan Kennedy
Editor, NSUU.org

An open letter to church members

YOU MAKE US WHOLE

and you are missed when we don’t see you in church. If absence rather than attendance is the norm, then the rest of us need to look more closely at what we offer on Sunday mornings.

There is strength and energy in numbers, and we need to connect again. We need to come together and ask ourselves, “What are we looking for?”

We gather as young, middle-aged, and older believers, hoping that community will help us celebrate the wonder and mystery of our lives. It is the communal mix of ages and ideas that helps us learn from one another and start anew when the circumstances of our lives change. Other places can help with those passages, but few remind us of the need to bring a spiritual focus to all that we do.

If church folks could match their capacity for reaching out to their looking within and asking some tough questions, maybe there would be fewer empty chairs on Sunday mornings. Those chairs remind us of the transition years we left behind not too long ago. Are we still struggling, or are we settled? In either case, do we understand why? If you have left our community or if you attend less often, have you told us why? Knowing would help us support you better and grow our church. Our journey to wholeness is longer without you.

I welcome your comments, and I’m sure Frieda, the Board, and the Membership Team do as well. Thanks for listening!

John Gibson

Circle Dinner on Saturday, March 27

The time for winter hibernation is almost over. Celebrate spring by joining us at the Circle Dinner on March 27! These dinners are a special way of getting to know others in our church community. Host and guest sign-up sheets have been posted in the Fellowship Hall, with a deadline of Sunday, March 7. Slots filled up quickly for the January and February dinners, so be sure you don’t miss out on the fun.

Prefer to meet during the day instead of in the evening? You can now indicate your time preference (noon, 6:30 p.m., or either) when you sign up. If enough people favor meeting in the daytime, we can arrange it! We aim to please.

Contact Leonard Swanson (978-356-8880) if you have questions.

May 1 conference

Save time on Saturday, May 1, for the Massachusetts Bay District spring conference. Valuable presentations by UU experts and others on the dizzying array of today’s social media (Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, and the like) will challenge our imagination about how to use this new technology to expand our faith. Details will be available in next month’s newsletter.

Womensphere spring gathering

On Saturday, March 27, women of the congregation are invited to join other UU women at a Day for Women. Joanne Friday, a Buddhist teacher in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, will lead the program, “Listening as a Spiritual Practice, Hearing with the Heart.” The gathering will run from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Falmouth, 840 Sandwich Road, Falmouth, Mass. The fee of $20 includes registration and lunch. Scholarships are available. Contact dschmader {at} cox {dot} net before March 19.

New session of “Cakes”

Are you hungry yet? “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” is an adult religious-education curriculum by Rev. Shirley Ranck that honors women. It surveys pre-Judeo Christian cultures that may have worshiped the female as divine. The concepts of equality and reverence for the female in a religious setting are eye-opening to many participants.

The curriculum examines important elements of contemporary women’s lives–the personal, interpersonal, and societal. It considers how our culture has been influenced by Judeo Christian values. The primary question raised is, How would your life have been different if, when you were growing up, the divine had been imaged as female? Participants are encouraged to share their own experiences and beliefs, thereby creating trust and strong bonds of friendship. Some of the topics explored are mother/daughter relationships, body image, the shift from Goddess to God, the Gnostic gospels, and violence against women. Some activities will be included as well.

Those who participated in this curriculum last April had a great experience. We are hoping to run the program again this spring. If you are interested in attending, please let us know the session(s) for which you would be available.

Option 1

  • Friday, February 26 — 6 to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, February 27 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Six Thursday evening sessions — 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on March 4 and 18, April 1, 8, 15, and 22

Option 2

  • Friday, April 9 — 6 to 10 p.m.
  • Saturday, April 10 — 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Six Thursday evening sessions — 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on April 15, 22, and 29, May 6, 13, and 20

If school vacation on April 22 causes problems in either option, we may skip that session and continue one week longer.

Do join us for Cakes III! If you are interested in participating or in getting more information on “Cakes,” please contact Gail Bernard (gailgarronbernard {at} gmail {dot} com or 978-777-3149) or Amy Steeves (asteeves100 {at} hotmail {dot} com or 978-774-0342), the co-facilitators for this session. Kindly RSVP asap to let us know if you will be participating and which date options you are able to attend. There will also be a sign-up sheet in the Fellowship Hall. We hope you join us. Blessed be!

March 2010 member profile

Leonard Swanson

by Martha Ardiff

Leonard Swanson is a mainstay of NSUU. He served two different terms on the Board of Directors, was Treasurer for two years, and functioned as Secretary of our three-year Search Committee. For 20 years he organized the church’s annual Ferry Beach stays: arousing interest, making room assignments, collecting money, and generally being on hand. He has played in the Bell Choir, sung with the Family Singers, and led some of our Sunday Rambles. He frequently chips in with miscellaneous help such as painting, moving furniture, arranging for handicapped parking, outdoor cleanup, and (with son Eric’s help) cutting down dead limbs and trees. Active in our Small Group Ministry, he has also helped with and then run Grandpa’s Attic at numerous OctoberFairs.

Leonard was introduced to NSUU by our Music Director Judy Putnam, whom he met while she was working for an optician and he brought his son in to get glasses. Then Judy assisted him with the program he ran for 19 summers, busing children from Roxbury and Dorchester to join North Shore children for activities at Pingree and Brookwood schools. In 1984, Ed Lynn officiated when Leonard and Judy were married.

Leonard says, “Judy taught me to buy airplane tickets when she wanted to visit her son in San Francisco, and I’ve enjoyed traveling ever since.” As part of President Carter’s Friendship Force, the two of them have hosted house guests from Ireland, Australia, and Japan and have visited Germany, Australia, and Ireland. In 1991, Leonard received a Fulbright Grant under the State Department’s Teacher Exchange Program. He swapped jobs with a teacher from England, as Judy became active in music at Warwick Chapel. The couple, with their British friends, designed an exchange program: members of NSUU have visited England several times and have hosted Warwick Chapel members here.

Born and raised in Boston, Leonard graduated from Northeastern University and from Teachers’ College in New Britain, Connecticut He graduated from the Coast Guard Academy in 1957 with a commission and served in the North Atlantic for three years. He and his first wife had six children, most of whom are on the North Shore, although one is in Paris. When they married, Judy and Leonard formed a well-blended family; her four grandchildren and his seven all call him “Grandpa,” and many are close friends. In addition to Judy, Leonard’s active NSUU relatives include his daughter-in-law Tracee Kneeland, Judy’s daughter Deb Waybright, and Deb’s daughters, LeaAnn and Shelby, who participated in our RE program. Grandson Nathaniel has played the guitar at NSUU.

Leonard was an elementary school teacher for thirty-six years, mostly on the North Shore. Author of a children’s book about his dog Kokee, he now does volunteer tutoring of English as a second language for adults. He loved his work and he loves his active retirement. This spirit has been a great boon to the NSUU community.

February 2010 calendar

The Rev. Frieda Gillespie’s office hours are Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (other times by appointment). Church office hours: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.

For up-to-date information, see our online Calendar of Events at NSUU.org.