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

Wisdom is a funny word.  We often use it interchangeably with the word knowledge.  If you search Pixabay for images related to “wisdom”, you’ll find a lot of pictures that feature books, which certainly does reflect that we associate wisdom with what books have to offer.

And yet, with a little reflection on knowledge, it’s easy to accept that it is acquired by collecting information while wisdom seems to suggest a more internal process that shows a larger understanding and a capability for using knowledge.   

            The March Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning and possibilities of “wisdom” –  to reflect on how we can experience it in our lives and how it is a part of sharing in community.   We use this theme for worship and for faith formation in our RE program and chalice circles.  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’re gone.   You might also like joining a chalice circle to share your insights and hear what others are saying – you can find information about signing up for a circle  here and there are also flyers in the fellowship room.

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. Tanabe

Poets in Resistance II

a public reading and rally. Friday March 13th 7-10. 

Tree of Life Sanctuary

Mark your calendars now!

Ten to twelve poets will be selected representing the widest possible range of voices—all ages, gender identification, races, ethnicities, and spiritualties—and of style—poetry slam, hip-hop, performance art, observational, personal reflection, traditional, rhymed, unrhymed, even academic.

The event will be free and open to the public but those in attendance are urged to “vote” by making voluntary donations of $10 or more to any or four organizations representing grass roots resistance.

Contact Patrick Murfin pmurfin@sbcglobal.net

Beyond Inquirers

Have you completed the Inquirers Series? Are you seeking a way to deepen your learning and engagement with the congregation? Beyond Inquirers is a five-session series on the Faith Forward Path focused on the congregation and you – offering a deeper understanding of how the congregation works and how you can be part of it. Join us on Sundays at 9:15am in the Sanctuary. Facilitator: Judy Stettner. The following is the Beyond Inquirers schedule:

March 22nd: What do UUs believe?

April 19th: Is this a new religion?

May 24th: How do we ‘do church’?

June 7th: How do we live our lives?

July 12th:  Does it matter if I join?

For more information about our Faith Forward Path, go to  https://treeoflifeuu.org/2019/09/10/faith-forward-comes-to-tree-of-life/ .

Roots- Faith Forward

Roots is a brief introduction to Unitarian Universalist ideas and history, and is recommended for inquirers on our Faith Forward Path. It is offered quarterly Sunday mornings, and the next opportunity to participate is Sunday, March 8, 2020 at 9:15am in the sanctuary. The session will be facilitated by Judy Stettner. Join us as we dive into our Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist roots! For more information about our Faith Forward Path, go to https://treeoflifeuu.org/2019/09/10/faith-forward-comes-to-tree-of-life/

Soul Matters at Tree of Life – Being a Community of Resilience

It’s always such a miracle to witness the resilience of Life as it manifests in the natural world  — emperor penguins tending their eggs through the Antarctic winter, flowers growing out of rock faces, and monarch butterflies that migrate for 3000 miles.  We too are a part of the natural world and Life imbues us also with the resourcefulness and insight to nurture our resilience. 

Personally, I consider myself to be a pretty resilient person and I often have faced adversity with a “grin and bear it” strategy…. Bearing up,  soldiering on…. They sound like such a resilient way to pass through an ordeal.   However it now seems, from a more “mature” perspective, that such a strategy was usually creating more challenges than being helpful.  When I use “bearing up” as my default mode for handling difficulty, I can end up not looking with clarity for what might soften the problems at hand.  …. If I’m not looking, it’s less likely I’ll be creative in working on a solution…. and more likely I’ll fail to see a solution even if it sits in front my nose.

In the natural world, Life finds all manner of creative solutions for meeting adversity.  Adaptive evolution is one strategy but there is an endless display of cooperative and complementary forces  — muskoxen tightly gathered to fend off predators, emperor penguins clustered in rotation to withstand the cold…  Being in community is a powerful state for finding nurturing, sustenance, and loving support that buoy us up and help us to “see through” our challenging circumstances… Community reminds us that cooperation can be an effective part of our resilience. 

“[Resilience] is to watch a gathering darkness until all light is swallowed up completely without the power to interfere or bring a halt.  Then in that darkness, to continue one’s journey with one’s footsteps guided by the illumination of remembered radiance.”   Howard Thurman

The February Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning and possibilities of “resilience” –  to reflect on how we can experience it in our lives and how it is a part of sharing in community.   We use this theme for worship and for faith formation in our RE program and chalice circles.  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’re gone.   You might also like joining a chalice circle to share your insights and hear what others are saying – you can find information about signing up for a circle here and there are also flyers in the fellowship room.

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. Tanabe

Book Study

Beginning January 27th at 7:00 pm, Lou Ness is hosting a group for anyone interested in studying Karen Armstrong’s new book, “The Lost Art of Scripture.” The Armstrong book has been highly reviewed, well researched and offers a new way of considering the history and intention of the Scriptures. In the first meeting members will outline a working structure for the group, create agreements that will allow for healthy and hopefully edgy conversations, and set out future dates and times. 

For more information please call Lou at 815-404-7246 or simply attend the first group (weather permitting) on

January 27th, 2020

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm

466 W. Jackson, 

Woodstock, Ill 60098

whistlestop466@comcast.net

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

Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum.   As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. (Wikipedia)

For UU’s, any discussion of integrity is apt to include words about wholeness along with the implied personal “goodness.”  And wholeness always embraces how we are put together – including the very important restoration and healing of missing and broken parts.  Looking at the integrity of our wholeness is an invitation to examine the wealth of our inner selves, to recognize what is inherently already ours.

UU minister, Scott Tayler, tells us “the call of integrity is not “Be perfect.” or “Be good.” but “Be yourself!”  Know your center.  Know what makes you uniquely you. And live from that place!  Forget the masks. Forget the “shoulds” and the “suppose tos.”  Just figure out what takes you to that place of deep gladness and to that remain true! This doesn’t mean abandoning the task of doing the right thing;  it just means that you will know what the right thing is when deep joy accompanies your choice.   Integrity and joy.  They are companions on the spiritual journey. “

The January Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning and possibilities of “integrity” – to reflect on how we can experience it in our lives and how it is a part of sharing in community.   We use this theme for worship and for faith formation in our RE program and chalice circles.  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’re gone.   You might also like joining a chalice circle to share your insights and hear what others are saying – you can find information about the circles here and there are also flyers in the fellowship room.

Wishing you joy in community,

M. E. Tanabe

Holiday Pause for Self Kindness

Moving into the holidays….. what a wonderful time for a  pause!   During this season we often find ourselves with many obligations  —  frequently  accompanied by unexpected challenges and disappointments.  High expectations during the holiday season can leave us feeling over-extended, stressed, or disconnected.  

So let’s take time for a pause for centering ourselves and  for becoming better connected to those around us.  Join us as we give ourselves time to reflect on where and how we are,  and to explore ways to offer ourselves some loving kindness.  This kind of attention and self-care can bring us to a moment of gratitude and help us to then offer the best of ourselves to others and to all that we would do. 

We’ve prepared a program to look at how we can stay grounded and centered. Please, join M.E. Tanabe and Brenda Cox as we pause from the season’s busy-ness to connect with what is meaningful to us as unique individuals.

This gathering meets December 1, 2019 at 9:15– 10:15 am and will be held in the basement social room.  For any questions or additional information, please call or e-mail Brenda at 815-482-8672   brendakay710@gmail.com

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.  The small group dynamic is a setting for finding the 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 strengthened and illuminated from many directions and is an opportunity to develop the radical hospitality that is so deeply needed.

At TOLUUC 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 participants find our “work” to be fulfilling and energizing.

Currently we have 4 circles and we’re always enthusiastic about starting new circles so please let us know if you’re interested in trying out the program or feel free to share suggestions for different meeting times.  Since this program Circles meet

2nd Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am       

3rd  Wednesday   1:00 – 2:30 pm

4th  Sunday  9:00 – 10:00 am

4th  Sunday 6:00 – 7:30 pm (some variance)

            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  

Janet Burns      Cell  847 542 7678          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