Faith Forward Comes to Tree of Life

Faith Forward: From Visitor to Leader is a guided path for Unitarian Universalists to follow in their congregations, helping them navigate from building connections early on, to finding their sense of belonging as a member, to serving as a leader and boldly living their faith. It was developed by First Unitarian Church of Dallas, and is now available to Unitarian Universalist congregations everywhere.

Faith Forward is made up of three paths: CORE, Advanced, and Leadership.

CORE Path

OBJECTIVE To shorten the visitor to member cycle; to help new and existing church members understand and explain our faith with confidence, to strengthen UU identity, and to encourage members to engage in daily practice, weekly worship, monthly service, annual retreat, and once-in-lifetime pilgrimage.

  • Inquirers Series (9 weeks)
  • Roots (1 class)
  • Beyond Inquirers (5 weeks)
  • Spiritual Practice (12 weeks)
  • UU History 101 (7 weeks)
  • UU Elevator Speech (3 weeks)

ADVANCED Path

OBJECTIVE To deepen understanding of our faith, connection to the church, and continued spiritual development.

  • UU Theology (6 weeks)
  • Coming of Age for Adults (6 weeks)
  • Turning Points in UU History (6 weeks)
  • Deepening Spiritual Practice (8 weeks)
  • Biblical Literacy for Unitarian Universalists

LEADERSHIP Path (Not available yet)

OBJECTIVE To develop well-rounded church leadership knowledgeable in discernment, governance, and all aspects of congregational life.

Offering will include UU Leadership, UU Discipleship/Eldership, Polity/Governance, UU Evangelism, Mentorship, Theological Reflection

Tree of Life is now offering Inquirers and will be scheduling Roots and Beyond Inquirers soon. We hope to add many other offerings Fall 2020. The Inquirers Series is offered every Sunday to welcome newcomers into the congregation. Nine topics are covered, one per session, and then repeated throughout the year. They may be taken in any order.

The goals of the Inquirers Series are as follows:

  • Make our church values and culture transparent and known to newcomers, so that they may make an informed decision about membership in our church
  • Introduce newcomers to church staff, ministers, and lay leaders
  • Establish a space for newcomers to learn more about the church in the form of a regularly scheduled small group designed for their needs

SAMPLE SCHEDULE

11:45   Meet & Greet / Coffee for Visitors

12:00   Gather Inquirers & Check-In Newcomers

12:05   Chalice Lighting & Opening Reading  

12:10   Check-in/Intro Question(s) (related to the day’s topic)

1:35   Guest Speaker Presents Topic   

1:00  Extinguish Chalice & Closing Words

If you have questions about Inquirers or Faith Forward in general, please contact Marc Stettner stettner.marc@gmail.com or Judy Stettner office@treeoflifeuu.org

Tree of Life: Rooted in love, extending that love to all of humanity

We are faced with great challenges as isolation, anger, and pain surround us with their brokenness.  Our faith calls us to serve and offer love to neighbors that we often can’t even begin to understand  — we are called to be present with a welcoming, radical hospitality (love) that is hard to even imagine.  But recognition of this calling is not enough to prepare us to face the staggering challenges of restoring wholeness and bringing healing.  

Living up to and for our faith requires us to develop an extensive toolbox and some not so easily acquired technical skills; and I believe a strong part of that toolbox and skill set are gained in learning to practice “deep listening” (or “mindful” listening) – which is different from the way we normally listen and requires a commitment and structure to accomplish.  And at Tree of Life we use the structure and inherent philosophy of the Soul Matters program to help us develop our toolbox and skill set.

Soul Matters was developed by UU minister Scott Tayler while he served the First Unitarian Church of Rochester, NY.  While there, he formed a small group system that eventually engaged over half of their 1,000 members.  That foundational work helped Soul Matters to grow into a program to foster transformation – both personal and interpersonal.  He sees the small group as a setting for finding our connections to our deepest self and for seeing our humanity mirrored in each other.   We learn to receive the voices of others in the silence of an open heart and we discover how to hear our own voices as we grow confidence for speaking our truth.  The reflection on the monthly theme invites us to think about our daily living and, over time, leads us to grow both a spiritual discernment and a deepening gratitude for all that is around us.  This kind of transformation is both strengthening and illuminating from many directions.

At Tree of Life this dynamic is available through using the Soul Matters packets and in the small groups we call Chalice Circles.  Everyone – whether newcomer or long-timer – is invited to participate and it’s our hope that one day we too will have over half of our members engaged in this empowering experience.   The practice we do together offers the additional benefit of fostering congregational community and as such can be seen as a member’s gift to strengthen our unity.  However, unlike many acts of service, many people find our “work” to be fulfilling and energizing.

Currently we have 3 circles that will resume meeting in September and it’s our hope that we will be able to add at least 1 new circle this fall so please let us know your interest in trying out the program or feel free to share any suggestions for different meeting times.  Current offered circle times are monthly:

2nd Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am       

2nd  Wednesday   1:00 – 2:30 pm

3rd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm

If you have questions, comments, would like to sign up for a circle, or propose a different circle time, we would love to hear from you.   Feel free to contact us or talk to us in church.       

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. Tanabe   

Ph.  815 337 9895                          

m.e.tanabe@comcast.net                                                              

and     

Janet Burns    

Cell  847 542 7678

janetrugi@yahoo.com

Growing In Community – Soul Matters at Tree of Life

Because the chalice is the UU symbol of the sacred aspect of worship and because listening to one another is a sacred act of community, Chalice Circle is the name we use at Tree of Life for this circle format of adult programming.

This type of program has been ongoing in our community since 2011.   We use the Soul Matters curriculum for our circles and Soul Matters themes now also guide worship services and RE programming.   Each month’s theme is our starting point for reflection, and then we gather to hear each other’s thoughts and questions.  The silent listening is a dynamic which enables the speakers to find empowered voices.   We often see that our own thoughts, questions, and journeys have much in common with our fellow human beings — and hearing the stories of others helps our own stories to appear with more clarity.   We develop the skills of holding others in awareness and of becoming  good listeners.

Irene Raven shares these thoughts about her experience:   “For me Chalice Circle is the most deeply spiritual practice available to us as UUs. Monthly engagement with a small group encourages me to love myself and to show love to others by engaging in the practice of deep listening. When I am heard without interruption or comment, my sense of worth increases. When I listen to others, giving them my full attention without comment or judgment, I show my love for them as well”   [i]full quote at bottom

 

In September our circles resume and will explore the theme of Vision.    All circles meet once a month with a maximum of 10 persons in each circle, and a minimum of 6.   On the back page is a list of the ongoing circles, but we are eager to start new ones as well.  It’s possible to have a circle meet in someone’s home if there is enough interest in a general location – such as Woodstock.

If you would like to hear how other people feel about this program, Sue Rekenthaler, Irene Raven, Marc Stettner, Sue McCowin, Leah Mikkelson, or Lisa Messinger would be happy to share their experiences.   If you’re unsure if this is for you, you are welcome to attend and then decide if you would like to continue.

If you have questions, comments, would like to sign up for a circle, or propose a different circle time, we would love to hear from you.   Feel free to contact us or talk to us in church.

  1. E. Tanabe Ph. 815 337 9895            and                                    Janet Burns     Cell  847 542 7678

m.e.tanabe@comcast.net                                                                       janetrugi@yahoo.com

Existing Circles meet monthly ,  some time/day changes are possible

2nd Sunday 9:00 – 10:00 am      

2nd Wednesday   1:30 – 2:30 pm

3rd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                     

                                      and we’re open for requests

 

“I suspect the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.  Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them”

— Rachel Naomi Remen

 

[i]  Irene Raven’s full quote:    For me Chalice Circle is the most deeply spiritual practice available to us as UUs. Monthly engagement with a small group encourages me to love myself and to show love to others by engaging in the practice of deep listening. When I am heard without interruption or comment my sense of worth increases. When I listen to others, giving them my full attention without comment or judgment, I show my love for them as well.

 

In addition, the monthly Soul Matters curriculum packets can act as my spiritual reading for the month, allowing me the opportunity to read and reflect and incorporate the theme and various suggestions throughout the month. I find it exciting and challenging to make this a part of my day.

 

Just as the practice of meditation hones our skill so we can be mindful in our daily life, the practice of deep listening in Chalice Circle helps us to develop and use the skill of attentive listening.  We are better able to give our family, friends and acquaintances the precious gift of our full attention in daily conversations. That is a precious gift to both the giver and the receiver.

 

Chalice Circle together with Soul Matters has made a very positive difference in my life, in my daily living, giving me better tools for engaging with my “neighbor” and with myself. I believe I am a much better person because of it. I believe I touch the “divine”  “

 

 

Soul Matters at Tree of Life: Being a Community of Emergence

Sunlight emerges from clouds… sprouts emerge from seeds… deer emerge from the forest… While these situations are all different, in each illustration of emergence, the unseen has become visible — cloud movement reveals the light that had been temporarily hidden, the expanding life within a seed breaks through the outer casing for growth to continue, the deer move from their place of concealment to a place for grazing.

Sometimes our lives are graced with illumination simply because the “clouds” hanging over us have now moved out of the way.  But often a lot of stuff has grown up around us, so that, like living in a very built-up city, sometimes we need to do the moving if we want to feel sunlight on our faces.  Frequently, inspiration and ideas are just waiting to be recognized, just waiting for us to move into a position where we can see them.

A similar metaphor of personal growth can be found in the sprout emerging from a seed.  Whenever our beliefs and opinions become firmly set, they tend to form a casing around us.  We then face the challenge of breaking open that shell so that we can grow into a larger understanding and a new way of being in Life.   As “seeds” of possibility drift our way, Life is best served by our offering a nurturing space for such seeds to crack open and grow.

All this shifting, moving, and making space happen best when we live in anticipation, when we are welcoming of change, when we bring a mindful appreciation and sense of wonder to our daily living.  In community we can help each other find and hold such alignment…. And together we can offer the world love that is joyful.

The April Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning of “emergence” – as we consider how we experience it in our lives and how it is a part of our experience in community.   The Soul Matters resource packet can be accessed here If you need a printed copy, please feel free to take one from those available in the fellowship room or ask for a copy, if they have all been taken.   You might also like to consider joining a chalice circle to share your insights and hear what others are saying.

Wishing you joy in community,

M.E. Tanabe

Heart Mindfulness Retreat and Workshop

Saturday, February 10, 12:45 – 4:30 pm                                                                                   

Advance registration is necessary  

Individual:    $20 if paid in advance ($25 if at the retreat)  

Family (2 or more people):  $30 ($40 if at retreat)

Scholarships are available

Come, take a break from winter – and maybe even bump up your levels of serotonin.   Although frequently imagined to be just a quiet sitting meditation, mindfulness is actually a dynamic and fully engaged way of going about life.   The mindfulness-based stress reduction programs of Jon Kabat-Zinn, are taught in hospitals around the world to help people deal with chronic physical and emotional pain and other health challenges.    His books, particularly Coming to Our Senses, and Full Catastrophe Living, are wonderful resources for understanding the how and the why of mindful living and in his writing, he encourages us to see that, through mindfulness practices, we develop an expanded awareness, and that this “awareness offers a safe haven in which to restore ourselves and rest in a vital and dynamic harmony, tranquility, creativity, and joyfulness.”

For our retreat and workshop, we will work on developing our “awareness” in a meditative environment and within the quiet stillness of shared practices.  Among the various exercises, we’ll work on sensory awareness,  qi gong movements, breath practices, and we’ll do some focused reflection.   There will also be suggestions for incorporating mindfulness into your daily activities.

Everyone is invited; no prior attendance or experience is necessary.  This program is open to the community and you may invite friends or family.  This program is suitable for youth, but probably a little challenging for very young children.   If you’re curious, Marc Stettner, Janet Burns, Irene Raven, or Linda Howanietz can offer insights into what they find beneficial about these practices.

In order to make arrangements for our space, an advance registration is necessary.   If you plan to attend, please let me or the office know by February 5.   The cost is $20 if paid in advance, and $25 if paid at the retreat. There’s a family discount $30 for 2 or more people with advance payment and $40 for 2 or more, paid at the retreat.   All proceeds will be donated to the newly created Member Care discretionary fund, to serve members of our community in need.   If you have questions or need more information, please feel free to contact me:  m.e.tanabe@comcast.net,    phone   815 337 9895

Wishing you deep peace and joy,

M. E. (Emi) Tanabe

To register, please see me at church OR send me your intention and contact info.  All checks are made out to Tree of Life UU with “retreat” in the memo line.  Please, include your email address so that you can receive updates and reminders.  There are registration forms on the table in the fellowship room to give to Judy if I’m not available.

 

Being a Community of Abundance

Soul  Matters  at  Tree  of  Life   Being a Community of  Abundance

Almost always the way we think about our abundance is colored by our perceived circumstances contrasted with  our perceived needs.  This month’s Soul Matters  packet encourages us to look for what we appreciate in our lives in or order to give some “weight” to what is already available to us

When we take care to find what has value for us, the realization also carries a natural gratitude. From our sense of abundance  and its accompanying gratitude is a visible line connecting us to our generosity –with our time, our goodwill, our creativity,  and our material goods.  With that in mind,  I’d like to offer a paraphrased excerpt from Kahlil Gibran’s poem on Giving.

“…there are those who give and do not feel loss in their giving, nor do they seek fulfillment, nor are they thinking of their virtue;  they give as blossoming trees breathe fragrance into space.   Through the hands of such givers, the Divine speaks……     ….although some say, I will give, but only to the deserving, the trees in the orchard and the flocks in the field believe otherwise:  they give so that they may live; for them to withhold is to perish.

….reflect on your ability to be an instrument of giving – for in truth, it is life that gives to life.  While you think of yourself as a giver, you are only a witness….”

This month may we come together as a community in exploring the meaning of “abundance” – as we think about ways to experience it our lives and as we work to see it manifested around us.   “Abundance”  is the theme for our worship services.   The resource packet can be accessed here If you need a printed copy, please feel free to take a copy from those available in the fellowship room (or ask for a copy, if they have all been taken).   You are also invited to join discussion through one of our Chalice Circles – you can find details about these circles here  and there are also flyers next to the other packets.

Wishing you joy in community, M.E. Tanabe

Exploring Soul Matters

Exploring Soul Matters

        and Growing Community

                at Tree of Life

Within UU congregations, the “small group ministry” is a widely accepted format for adult programs.   Sometimes the groups are known by the name of the curriculum being used, but often the name “chalice circle”  is chosen because the chalice is the UU symbol of the sacred aspect of worship and also because listening to one another is a sacred act of community…..so  Chalice Circle  is the name we are using at Tree of Life.

In one form or another, this type of program has been ongoing in our community since 2011 .  Since 2014 we have been using the Soul Matters curriculum for our circles and in the past year we have expanded to 4 circles meeting every month.   When we gather, we come to know the joys and challenges of each other’s lives and we hear the deeper thoughts and questions that we all share as human beings  — the stories of others help make our own stories appear to us with more clarity.

In September our circles resume and will explore the topic of Welcome.(click here for packet)   All circles meet once a month with a maximum of 10 persons.   Below is a list of the ongoing circles, but we are eager to start new ones as well.  It’s possible to have a circle meet in someone’s home if there is enough interest in a general location – such as Woodstock.

If you would like to hear how people feel about this program,  Marc Stettner, Sue McCowin, Irene Raven, or Judy Stettner would be happy to share their experiences.   If you’re unsure if this is for you, you are welcome to attend and then decide if you would like to continue.

Exisiting Circles meet monthly  (for Sept, the 2nd Sunday is being moved temporarily)

2nd  Wednesday   10:00 – 11:30 am

2nd Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am                                          New Circles proposed:

2nd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                                             1st  Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                                

3rd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                                                 and we’re open for requests

If you have questions, comments, would like to sign up for a circle, or propose a different circle time, we would love to hear from you, so feel free to use our contact information or talk to us in church.

 

In faith,

  1. E. Tanabe Ph. 815 337 9895            and                                    Janet Burns     Cell  847 542 7678               m.e.tanabe@comcast.net                                                                      janetrugi@yahoo.com

 

“Listening solidifies relationships and is a foundation for community.  Listening with undivided attention and without interruption moves us beyond differences and shows deep respect; the speaker is valued.  Paying attention and being paid attention create a community which embodies our UU principle of affirming and promoting the worth and dignity of each person ….

            Having others attend to your personal story affirms your journey, and having others listen to you encourages you to take yourself more seriously.  Trusting yourself to speak your truth to a group strengthens your ability to speak your truth wherever you go” 

— Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway

 

“I suspect the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.  Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them”

 

— Rachel Naomi Remen

Growing Community, Connecting More Deeply

It’s no secret that the resilience of a strong community, like a strong family, holds up under challenges, the unexpected, and change.  It’s equally true that in the midst of difficulties, growing closer to one another is fundamental to helping the whole community develop confidence and trust in one another.  And when we open ourselves to allow the vulnerabilities of becoming closer to others, we also grow our understanding of what it is to be human and from that knowledge, we also gain strength.

Last fall at Tree of Life, we expanded our small group ministry program – Chalice Circles – which uses the UUA curriculum of Soul Matters. I believe all those who have been participating have found it a rewarding experience and an opportunity to get to know others more deeply.  If you would like to hear personal testimony, Marc Stettner, Sue McCowin, Irene Raven, Judy Stettner would be happy to share their experiences with this program.

Sometimes the small group ministries are set up using a sharing template but we have found that a listening model is a more powerful means of growing understanding and developing deeper inter-personal bonds.  We like the name “chalice circle” (which is often used by UU congregations) because the chalice is a symbol of the sacred aspect of worship and listening to one another in silence is a sacred act of community.

We are now beginning an expansion of the program by inviting increased attendance for existing circles and by proposing new times and possibly new locations.  All circles meet once a month with a maximum of 10 persons.

Existing Circles                                                                    New Circles proposed:

2nd Sunday 9:00 – 10:00am                                               1st Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm

2nd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm                                                1st Wednesday   7:00 – 8:30 pm

3rd Sunday 6:30 – 8:00 pm (full)

 

There is also the possibility to have a circle meet in someone’s home if there is enough interest in one area – for example, we have an offer to meet in Cary in a morning if there are others who would like to also gather there.  ….possibly there are enough people in the Woodstock who would like to form a home meeting group.  If you would like to see different times offered, please let us know.

Please consider joining a circle as the gift of yourself to the community.  Although regular attendance is most beneficial, no one is discouraged from attending even if they have to miss meetings.  If you’re unsure if this is for you, you are welcome to attend and then decide if you want to continue.

If you have questions or comments, we would love to hear from you, so feel free to use our contact information or talk to us in church.

 

In faith,

M.E. Tanabe   and                                                   Janet Burns

Ph.  815 337 9895                                                   Cell 847 542 7678

m.e.tanabe@comcast.net                                       janetrugi@yahoo.com

 

“Listening solidifies relationships and is a foundation for community.  Listening with undivided attention and without interruption moves us beyond differences and shows deep respect; the speaker is valued.  Paying attention and being paid attention create a community which embodies our UU principle of affirming and promoting the worth and dignity of each person ….

            Having others attend to your personal story affirms your journey, and having others listen to you encourages you to take yourself more seriously.  Trusting yourself to speak your truth to a group strengthens your ability to speak your truth wherever you go” 

— Rev. Barbara Hamilton-Holway

“I suspect the most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen.  Just listen.  Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention… When people are talking, there’s no need to do anything but receive them”

— Rachel Naomi Remen

Green Sanctuary Presents Chasing Ice

2014 Emmy winning film for News and Documentaries

James Balog, a skeptic about climate change headed to the Arctic with a band of young adventurers on assignment with National Geographic. The trip opened his eyes to the biggest story in human history. Balog deploys time lapse cameras across the Arctic to capture the changing landscape, delivering evidence of climate change and hope for the future.

Please join us for a screening of this beautiful film followed by a time for discussion. This is a good opportunity to meet other like-minded folks.

Friday February 24  7:00 PM

Tree of Life UU Congregation

5603 Bull Valley Rd

McHenry

Admission is free