Coffee with Questions Invites You

COFFEE WITH QUESTIONS

In his book “In Our Own Best Interest,” Dr. William F. Schulz (ordained UU minister, President of UUA 1985-1993, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA 1994-2006, presently Senior Fellow at Center for American Progress in Washington, D.C.) argues passionately for the importance of emphasizing human rights in American foreign policy as opposed to the primacy of a ‘realist’ foreign policy that seeks to advance American interests without letting human rights concerns impede that advancement.

This is not an arcane conflict.  We face it every day.

Within the past 10 days, President Obama visited Cuba…hailed by some for his efforts to normalize relations, vilified by others for dealing with a state with a continuous record of human rights abuses.

Hillary Clinton claims that her pragmatic approach to politics will allow her to accomplish more things than Bernie Sanders, whose concern with economic justice frightens moneyed interests.

In the Northwest Herald a recent column by Rich Miller, publisher of Capitol Fax, is headlined “It’s time for Rauner to face reality,” the reality being that the present political makeup of Illinois government makes it impossible for the Governor to get much of what he wants.  To save Illinoisans a lot of pain, it’s necessary to negotiate with the opposition.

How important are principals?  Fairness?  Honesty?  Human Rights?  Do ideas of fairness, honesty or human rights that conflict with yours have any legitimacy?  How steadfast should one be in insisting on the primacy of one’s views?

Is one more likely to achieve one’s goals by engaging with the opposition?

Do people prefer ‘order’ over ‘disorder’?  Do people prefer the status quo over change?

For another spirited discussion, join us this Sunday morning, April 3, at 9 o’clock in the main floor classroom.  There’ll be coffee and food for body and soul.  Child care is available on request.  Child care requests should be sent to dre@treeoflifeuu.org

Tree of Life Choir Is Going to Romania/Transylvania!

picture of choir

March 31, 2016

Dear Members and Friends of Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation,

It’s been sixteen months since the Adult Choir started planning a pilgrimage to Romania. Now, we are only nine weeks away from a 13 hour flight on Lufthansa Airlines that will take us to Bucharest for the start of our adventure.  After a short stay in the Romanian capital, we will load 23 choir members and 5 guests into a bus and travel to Transylvania to explore and experience the historic roots of Unitarianism, and connect with our co-religionists through the universal language of music. During our eleven day trip, we will perform our one hour concert at four different Unitarian churches.

A trip like this is expensive; well over $3,000 per person, with a total budget of over $100,000. Though many choir members are able to afford this trip, there are some who cannot. We held four different fundraising activities to assure that everyone wanting to go to Romania could go. Thanks to you, the members and friends of our congregation, we succeeded in reaching and exceeding our fundraising goal of $15,000. Everyone wanting to go, can and will go. I don’t know how we could have done this without you. Thank you so much!

Final preparations for the pilgrimage are taking place and we hope that you, the members and friends of our congregation, can attend at least one of three concerts that will be held prior to our leaving for Romania. By the way, if you find yourself in Romania between June 7 and 17, you are more than welcome to attend one of our four concerts.

Below, is our concert schedule. We hope see you at one or more of the performances.

Thank you again for your support of the Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation Adult Choir.

Tom Steffens, Music Director

 

Romanian Road Tour 2016

United States Schedule

Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of DeKalb

May 15 at 4:00pm

Unitarian Universalist Church of Elgin

May 19 at 7:30pm

Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation

May 30 at 7:00pm

Romania/Transylvania Schedule

Brasso Unitarian Church in Brasoz/Brasso

June 11 at 7:00pm

Sepsiszentgyorgy Unitarian Church

June 12 at 11am Service, followed by Mini-Concert

Bolyai Square Unitarian Church in Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely

June 15 at 7:00pm

1st Unitarian in Cluj/Kolozsvar

June 16 at 7:00pm

We are Searching for a new Music Director

choirMusic is really the heart of Tree of Life. Our nearly thirty-member choir loves to sing all kinds of music. The talent in our congregation is deep and wide, from bluegrass to opera to rock to classical. We have three Haystacks Coffee Houses a year and have launched “The Church of ______” –Sunday services that explore the power of music. This year we’ve enjoyed The Church of Ellington, The Church of Folk (feat. Joe Jencks), and will soon hear The Church of Vivaldi: Spring, and The Church of Rock.

We are looking for a talented, dynamic, adventurous Music Director. Learn more by clicking this link:

Please share this with anyone you think would enJOY leading our music program.

The Church of…Vivaldi: Spring

Sunday April 3, 2016 10:45am

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…

“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”

― Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

On Sunday, April 3, at our regular 10:45am service, Tree of Life Unitarian Universalist Congregation will present the Church of Vivaldi: Spring.  Greenleaf Strings will join Rev. Sean Parker Dennison in a service featuring the music of Italian Baroque composer, virtuoso violinist, teacher and cleric, Antonio Lucio Vivaldi. The service will also include stories and readings about the loveliness of spring.

Greenleaf

Members of Greenleaf Strings are violinists, Paula Johannesen and Brian Ostrega, violist,  Emma Strohbusch and cellist, Rachel Schuld.

The Church of Vivaldi is the third in a series of services driven by the power of music. Our four-part series concludes on May 1, with the Church of Rock.

Please join us on April 3.

Message from the Director of Religious Education

Spring Flowers edited

 

Signs of spring are showing up all around me as I write this.   I especially am appreciating all the different birds that I missed hearing over the winter.  For Religious Education, this means we are winding down from another church school season.

 

This was to be the year that we tighten our church school community.  One of the ways we chose to accomplish this goal (and we did accomplish it), was to have a one room, all ages classroom.

 

A Rainforest curriculum was chosen to embrace our 7th Principle, “spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature”, or, as stated in the children’s simplified version, “valuing our interdependence with nature”.

 

We found that the younger children benefitted most, but the curriculum wasn’t as engaging for the older students, so they branched off into another curriculum which deviated from our “one room classroom” model, however, was a necessary move in order to keep the older students coming.  So, all was not lost from this experiment, it helped to achieve our goals, to re-evaluate and rediscover the sense of community that was needed and to implement a creative solution to an attendance concern.   Currently, our regular Religious Education attendance is hovering around 50%, which is above our average.

 

Our fifth and sixth grade level sexuality program was successful, with a total of six students in regular attendance.  Two of those students were from the outside community, so that was a nice surprise, that says a lot about our program.

 

Our Coming Of Age program is still happening and is six students strong.  Thanks to the classroom leadership of  M.E. Tanabe, Sue McCowin, and our intern ministers, Michelle Lattanzio and Misha Lentz, and of course, the amazing mentors who deserve status of “elite member” of this church community.

 

Strong programs such as the ones we have offered this season are what strengthen the ties of our church community and quite possibly the community around us.  I think we still have a lot to offer, and we are doing it, one church season at a time.

Blessings,

Sam Jones

Women’s Circle Chill Out with Friends Gathering

Happy face balls

Our next Women’s Circle Chill Out with Friends is scheduled on Friday, March 18th at 6:30 PM. If you have never attended our gatherings, we encourage to check us out! You won’t be disappointed. It will be a potluck dinner and game night. If you are able, please bring an appetizer, dinner fare and/or drinks to share. As always, please bring friends. If you have a  suggestion or questions please contact facilitator, Barbara Fleming at barbfleming02@gmail.com or 815-814-2058.

 

Update from the Interns

Dear Friends,

 

I’m writing to you all with an update on my internship activities and my seminary work over this winter. I am excited to share insights gleaned from my class work and to explore my formation process with the congregation. I am, as ever, grateful for the support of everyone here as I grow into ministry, and I thank the congregation for your sponsorship of me as a candidate.

January was a very busy month for me. I completed my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplain intern at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove) and that same day drove downtown to meet in person for my winter classes. I took two classes, Preaching As If You Mean It, and Religious Education in a Changing World, and learned a great deal of practical and theoretical information from both courses. The preaching course was taught by Bill Schulz, and we were asked to each write and preach two sermons in front of our class. The sermons were video recorded for our later review, and afterwards Bill and our classmates gave us feedback on our preaching style and content. I received great feedback in class and really appreciate having the sermons on video to review. The second class, Religious Education, was taught by Mark Hicks, and focused on Unitarian Universalist faith formation over a lifetime, not just during youth and adolescence. We learned about the various types of resources available through the UUA (Tapestry of Faith, OWL and COA, and others), and additional formats for faith formation (like Spirit Play). We focused on collaborative learning models and ways to engage people at all ages in our congregations, including seeing the work in action in a field trip to observe Unity Temple’s religious education classes. Since my return, I have been involved in the Coming of Age program here at Tree of Life and have been enjoying putting my learning into practice!

I co-led a Vespers service at Meadville during our January term with two other seminarians that was pagan oriented. Our service focused on the pagan holiday of Imbolc and the significance of the goddess figure Brigid. This holiday is also known as Candlemas in Christian traditions, and in our service we recognized both versions of the holiday, including Brigid’s dual nature as a goddess in pagan traditions and a saint in the Christian tradition. My fellow worship leaders and I formed a new student organization on campus that officially began with our vespers service: Meadville Pagans and Allies, which supports pagan-identified students, faculty and staff and their allies within the Meadville community through various means, including pastoral support during intensives, worship services, and other modalities.

My next round of intensives is in April for spring semester, for which I am busy studying now. I look forward to writing another update after the spring term ends.

Thanks again for all of your kind support, and I’ll see you at church!

 

Peace be with you,

Michelle

 

Misha’s Half of the Newsletter Article

After spending all of January commuting to and from downtown Chicago, I can tell you that I am very excited to welcome spring!  I have been happy to get back into the groove of life here at ToL, after having been mostly absent from worship and office time for a month.  It seemed very long.

My learning time at Meadville Lombard was wonderful, deep, and at times exhausting.  And I loved every minute of it.  Well, almost.

The first class I attended was taught by our Meadville President, Rev. Dr. Lee Barker, and it was called, “Ministry in a Post-Denominational Age’.  It addressed many questions with which Unitarian Universalism, among other faiths and denominations, is struggling.  How will we grow?  Does church still matter?  How can we attract youth?  How will we fund our programs?  How relevant is our message in a world where other faiths are becoming more liberal? What can we try differently to infuse new energy and commitment?  As is the UU way, you won’t be surprised, we came up with far more questions than answers.  It was interesting and exciting to brainstorm possibilities and learn from what is being done successfully already in our faith movement, and in the wider religious world.

Then came Unitarian Universalist History and Polity.  And a lot of knowing nods and smiles from those of us who had just come from the class I described above.  I learned that Unitarians, Universalists, and UUs have wrestled with the same questions for as long as we have existed.  And the take-away?  We’ve always figured it out.  We have survived and thrived.  New generations of religious liberals have continued to emerge and grow in faith, and change the world for peace and justice.  I am so inspired and honored to be among THIS moment’s UU torch-bearers.

I continue my school work for spring semester, and am focusing on co-leading our awesome Coming of Age group here at ToL, as well as preaching here and in a few other pulpits around the region.  I am eager to keep growing and learning with you all.  Thank you for letting me!

In faith,

Misha

Minister’s Mind: Liberation

Liberation is a word we may hear often, but may or may not think much about. Women’s Liberation, political liberation, even Liberation Theology may come to mind, but may seem distant issues and not part of our own personal lives. This month, we ask ourselves “What does it mean to be a people of liberation?” How does being Unitarian Universalist or a part of the Tree of Life community challenge and inspire us to liberation? (Our own or other’s.)

In order to know the answer, I think each of us has to take time to look at our life. Have we allowed ourselves to become creatures of habit, living by rote instead of by intention? Have we begun to worry so much about what others will think that we make choices based on fear instead of our real desires and self-knowledge? Have we gotten stuck in unhealthy patterns, even addictions? Do our lives reflect our actual values and passions, or something else, dictated from outside?

We also have to look at the ways we might be a force for liberation beyond ourselves, which can sometimes be tough. What are the things that keep us silent when we could speak out for another’s liberation? Are we more afraid of what will happen if we do speak out than what will happen if we don’t? Has cynicism gripped us so tightly that we don’t even believe we can make a difference? Are we afraid to make a mistake? Do we worry that if we rock the boat we will end up alone?

One thing I know for certain about liberation is that it is far easier to create together than alone. Liberating one’s self, without companions along for courage, strength, and accountability is almost impossible. And liberating our world from greed, prejudice, and hatred is going to take us all–a whole movement of people dedicated to collective liberation. We say it often: No one is free until all are free. What does it mean to live it?

I invite you to talk to me, any member of the board, or each other about what you’d like to see Tree of Life do as a first step to being a people of liberation. Supportive small group ministry? Putting up a “Black Lives Matter” sign? Work to alleviate poverty and homelessness in McHenry county? Let’s get liberating!

Here is a link to the fantastic Soul Matters resource packet on Liberation.

An Update from Our Interns

From Misha Sanders:

After spending all of January commuting to and from downtown Chicago, I can tell you that I am very excited to welcome Spring!  I have been happy to get back into the groove of life here at ToL, after having been mostly absent from worship and office time for a month.  It seemed very long.

My learning time at Meadville Lombard was wonderful, deep, and at times exhausting.  And I loved every minute of it.  Well, almost.

The first class I attended was taught by our Meadville President, Rev.Dr. Lee Barker, and it was called, “Ministry in a Post-Denominational Age’.  It addressed many questions with which Unitarian Universalism, among other faiths and denominations, is struggling.  How will we grow?  Does church still matter?  How can we attract youth?  How will we fund our programs?  How relevant is our message in a world where other faiths are becoming more liberal? What can we try differently to infuse new energy and commitment?  As is the UU way, you won’t be surprised, we came up with far more questions than answers.  It was interesting and exciting to brainstorm possibilities and learn from what is being done successfully already in our faith movement, and in the wider religious world.

Then came Unitarian Universalist History and Polity.  And a lot of knowing nods and smiles from those of us who had just come from the class I described above.  I learned that Unitarians, Universalists, and UUs have wrestled with the same questions for as long as we have existed.  And the take-away?  We’ve always figured it out.  We have survived and thrived.  New generations of religious liberals have continued to emerge and grow in faith, and change the world for peace and justice.  I am so inspired and honored to be among THIS moment’s UU torch-bearers.

I continue my school work for Spring semester, and am focusing on co-leading our awesome Coming of Age group here at ToL, as well as preaching here and in a few other pulpits around the region.  I am eager to keep growing and learning with you all.  Thank you for letting me!

In faith,

Misha


From Michelle Lattanzio:

Dear Friends,

I’m writing to you all with an update on my internship activities and my seminary work over this winter. I am excited to share insights gleaned from my class work and to explore my formation process with the congregation. I am, as ever, grateful for the support of everyone here as I grow into ministry, and I thank the congregation for your sponsorship of me as a candidate.

January was a very busy month for me. I completed my second unit of Clinical Pastoral Education (chaplain intern at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital in Downer’s Grove) and that same day drove downtown to meet in person for my winter classes. I took two classes, Preaching As If You Mean It, and Religious Education in a Changing World, and learned a great deal of practical and theoretical information from both courses. The preaching course was taught by Bill Schulz, and we were asked to each write and preach two sermons in front of our class. The sermons were video recorded for our later review, and afterwards Bill and our classmates gave us feedback on our preaching style and content. I received great feedback in class and really appreciate having the sermons on video to review. The second class, Religious Education, was taught by Mark Hicks, and focused on Unitarian Universalist faith formation over a lifetime, not just during youth and adolescence. We learned about the various types of resources available through the UUA (Tapestry of Faith, OWL and COA, and others), and additional formats for faith formation (like Spirit Play). We focused on collaborative learning models and ways to engage people at all ages in our congregations, including seeing the work in action in a field trip to observe Unity Temple’s religious education classes. Since my return, I have been involved in the Coming of Age program here at Tree of Life and have been enjoying putting my learning into practice!

I co-led a Vespers service at Meadville during our January term with two other seminarians that was pagan oriented. Our service focused on the pagan holiday of Imbolc and the significance of the goddess figure Brigid. This holiday is also known as Candlemas in Christian traditions, and in our service we recognized both versions of the holiday, including Brigid’s dual nature as a goddess in pagan traditions and a saint in the Christian tradition. My fellow worship leaders and I formed a new student organization on campus that officially began with our vespers service: Meadville Pagans and Allies, which supports pagan-identified students, faculty and staff and their allies within the Meadville community through various means, including pastoral support during intensives, worship services, and other modalities.

My next round of intensives is in April for spring semester, for which I am busy studying now. I look forward to writing another update after the spring term ends.

Thanks again for all of your kind support, and I’ll see you at church!

 

Peace be with you,

Michelle