Expectations Awry

Sunday, September 29, 2019 10:45am

Guest Speaker, Gina Swinney

As humans we are naturally creative beings. As we create scenarios for our future, we use expectation as one of the stones in our foundation.  How
does expectation affect our relationships with others, God and ourselves?  What outcomes can come from expecting too much or too little or nothing from those we encounter?  Join us on September 29 as we consider the
role expectation plays in our lives.

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.


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)


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


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

We Draw From Many Wells: Water Communion September 15, 2019

Sunday, September 15, 2019, 10:45am

As all rivers run to the sea, water is our great connector. In this service you are invited to share water in one of four ways: in awareness of scarcity; in recognition of change; as a symbol of the “storms” in our lives; in thanks for the “wellsprings” that bring us joy.

This year Water communion will be conducted differently than it has in the past. This all-ages service will consider water as a symbol that connects us to each other,  and our sharing will serve as the day’s sermon. There will be 4 periods of sharing water: 

First we will have a chance to share water that reminds us that while some have abundance, others struggle in scarcity.

Second we will share water that symbolizes travel, movement and change.

Third we will share water that reminds us of life’s storms: our concerns, worries, frustrations and losses.

Finally, we’ll share water that reminds us of the wellsprings of our lives.

No need to bring water with you this year.

Please join us for this special service, which also features our choir’s first performance under our new Music Director, Cassandra Vohs-Demann!

After the service please stay for our Annual Welcome Back Picnic.

Annual Welcome Back Picnic

Sunday, September 15, 2019, noon to 3pm

Following our Water Communion service on September 15th, we will be having our annual church picnic on the lawn.  We will be serving pulled pork sandwiches (hot dogs will also be available).  The rest of the meal will be potluck — please bring a side dish or dessert to share.  Once again, our Green Sanctuary Team is requesting that everyone bring their own tableware so as to cut down on paper and plastic being used.  Let’s go GREEN!!   Please make sure the items you bring have been prepared ahead of time and are ready to set out.  All food dishes should be brought to the kitchen before the service.  There will be a bounce house, games and activities for all to enjoy.  If you know of someone who has expressed an interest in coming to Tree of Life, this would be a fun way to introduce them to the congregation. The festivities will begin after the service and continue until 3:00 p.m.  We will need help with various tasks — there are sign-up sheets in the social room so please help us put together (and take down) a fun-filled event!

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

No matter how much turmoil might be present in our lives, there almost always is enough order for us to hold an amount of expectation for how life will unfold:    we turn on the faucet and water will pour out, the arrival of dawn will begin each day with light, sugar will taste sweet, and ice will feel cold.   In a way, we could say that orderliness is a natural creator of our expectations.   So it’s not surprising that when changes and upheavals disrupt the order, we can find ourselves spinning and filled with doubt… and not knowing what to expect next.  This is particularly true when we have come to rely on circumstances or people as central to our well-being, and suddenly there are changes beyond anything we can fix.   And, indeed, should we think about  how we hold expectations for friends and family?   Is it possible that the order they bring to our lives – upholding our expectations – is at times a burden we unthinkingly ask them to carry?  Do we place this kind of expectation on ourselves?

I’d like to share some quotes from Soul Matters that might stir your reflections:     

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21.  Everything since then has been a bonus.     — Stephen Hawking

Remember that you are always allowed to quit.  There’s nothing real about expectations.  Their strength comes only from your consent.   — Rev. Scott Tayler

Act without expectation.  — Lao Tsu

The September Soul Matters packets offer materials to explore the meaning of “expectation” – as we consider how we experience it in our lives and how it is a part of our experience 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 flyers in the fellowship room with information about this program.

Wishing you joy in community, M. E. Tanabe

What Do You Expect!

Sunday, September 8, 2019 10:45am

Guest Speaker, Lou Ness

“…“Oh, Marilla, looking forward to things is half the pleasure of them,” exclaimed Anne. “You mayn’t get the things themselves; but nothing can prevent you from having the fun of looking forward to them. Mrs. Lynde says, ‘Blessed are they who expect nothing for they shall not be disappointed.’ But I think it would be worse to expect nothing than to be disappointed.”…” 
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Anne said it well. A gift that proves invaluable throughout life is the ability to be disappointed and try again. How do expectations and the outcomes shape and form our lives and the lives of those around us? The common phrase, “I was expected to…” leaves out the value of failure and disappointment. Along with expectations it is important to develop resilience.

Join me on Sunday September 8th for a “pithy” conversation on expectations.

We loved Lou’s message so much, we have attached it here for you to enjoy.

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                          



Janet Burns    

Cell  847 542 7678