UUCV Blog

Balancing Our Passions

me2 March 20, 2018 - Amy Brock, Director of Lifelong Learning

baking2We all hold an interesting collection of knowledge in our minds. Some people know a lot about automobiles. Others might know a great deal about knitting. Elisa Wells knows a few things about baking. She was kind enough to share her baking skills recently in our RE classroom. We began class by sharing our names, providing an offering or blessing, and welcoming one another into the RE kitchen. Elisa began the lesson by showing our young people a bread recipe and talking about how recipes help us to make sure that our baking projects stay balanced. Next, the students took turns measuring and pouring ingredients into bowls. There were squeals of excitement as we watched the yeast mix with the water, begin to bubble, and finally start to grow! From there, our RE class carefully added flour and took turns stirring until the liquid turned into a sticky dough. We divided the dough equally so that everyone would have a balanced piece and began to create shapes. After adding some salt to our shapes, they went into the oven to bake for a balanced amount of time. We all enjoyed tasting our balanced bread that we created in community together!

 

What knowledge are you holding onto? How might your presence bring balance to our children's, youth, or adult communities?

Contact Amy Brock at lifelonglearning@uucvan.org to find out where there might currently be space to share your passions with others!

The Communication Dance

March 13, 2018 - Tracy Fortmann, President

It was Saturday, February 17, a little less than a month ago that I realized that the manner in which America's youth communicates has changed. I was immersed, neck deep, in the review of a Value Analysis (VA) document (a way to choose between construction alternatives) at the kitchen table. It was a quiet afternoon and I was fully engrossed in this technical rehabilitation analysis when I felt a presence. I glanced up and there across the table sat my daughter staring at me intently.

"How long have you been there?" I asked.

"Few minutes," she replied, her eyes never leaving mine.

"What's up?" I asked.

"Nothing," she replied. There was a pause. "I'm thinking."

I smiled and went back to reading. My daughter and I have grown into an easy relationship in which we choose when to talk. We have this unspoken ritual we follow when we want to talk about something important. When she wants to talk with me, she frequently initiates the conversation in an indirect fashion, say, like sitting across the kitchen table staring silently at me while I'm reading. I know that in this communication "dance" that we do that I do not immediately dive in which is my want. I instead have learned that I need to give her the space to determine when she actually wants to begin the conversation. So, I go back to reading. A few moments pass.

"So, we've been talking about want happened in Florida on Valentine's Day," she begins. "We're really concerned and we want to take some action to let people know how we feel, but do it in the right way. We're discussing a number of actions that we could take."

"Who's we? Are you talking about your friends?" I ask.

"Everyone, mom. Sure, my friends, but the conversation is nationwide. It's kids across the country and we're all discussing and debating among ourselves as to what's next."

I then began an eye opening, inspiring conversation with my daughter. Young people across the nation were discussing on snapchat, Facebook, Instagram, and through other social media the need to take action after the horrific shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on February 14th. It was just three days later and my daughter was discussing just one of likely thousands of high school students across our nation who had taken it upon themselves to create a dialog of concern that had gone viral. It was there that she shared that students were discussing the possibility of a walkout from school on March 14th for 17 minutes to pay homage and respect to those who had lost their lives.

"Mom," she began gravely. "This is serious. We want everyone to understand that all of us—not just there or here, but everywhere want to be safe in our schools."

I learned a lot from my daughter that day about how she, like so many young people in our nation, is thoughtful and should not be taken for granted. Her fellow students and she should not be viewed as too young to understand complex, difficult societal issues. She shared that this wasn't about playing hooky or goofing off. This was about acting in a deliberate, impactful way. Together, we discussed the importance of school and education and being responsible. Together, we decided to notify her Principal to let her know that many high school students across the country were engaged in conversations and that we wanted the school to be aware.

There is a lot to criticize about social media today and we all should have tremendous concern about how this new way of communicating is conducted for good or evil. There is so much misinformation and material that truly "wastes" one's time and mind (I know I sound like a mother). I think the list of social media's inadequacies, problems, and true dangers is a long one. And,yet, here is an example in which social media provided young people the opportunity to engage in important conversation—to discuss a life and death situation and how they want their world today and tomorrow to be.

My daughter shared, "It's about speaking up about how important feeling safe is to us through our numbers. We want to be heard." Social media provided that avenue for young people to talk, share their feelings, and then choose to mobilize throughout the United States. In this instance, social media truly served our young in a very amazing way.

My daughter, with careful deliberation, will step out of school on March 14th, exactly one month after the tragic deaths at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High and quietly stand and reflect for 17 minutes on those who lost their lives. They are sharing with us. They are speaking to us. This is the manner they have chosen to state what is important to them. This is their communication dance. I hope we all take heed. I know I will. I am listening and I know many others across the country are listening too.

Namaste.

Exploring our Faith

March 1, 2018 - Tracy FortmannPresident

I was not raised a Unitarian Universalist (UU) and growing up I did not know anyone who was UU. I came to our church late in life. I was raised, for the most part, as a Methodist although I had strong leanings to Lutheranism (my father's faith) and a connection to Baptists (my mother's faith). I still have loving childhood memories of these religions. In addition, I grew up in Southeast Asia where I was fortunate enough in middle school to learn about other religions, including Buddhism and Confucianism. 

With an introduction and connection to so many religions, I have wondered how I came to our church. My path to UU is clearly my own—it is a long one that seemed, perhaps at times, without direction. Certainly, my first encounter with a UU touched me in a very special way. I had forgotten that moment until recently, it was dredged up from the recesses of my mind when my family spent two weeks in the Black Hills. It was then while I was retracing my time there with my children and husband that I found myself recapturing that important moment that had occurred many years before. 

I met my first UU in a crystal covered underground wilderness called Jewel Cave. Deep in the Black Hills, this ornate cave system is one of the largest and longest caves in the world. Jewel Cave is a cave of exquisite beauty for which the end has not yet been discovered and perhaps never will. 

I was on an hour long tour. Jewel Cave is surreal-- the crystals shine and glisten creating an underground wonderland of natural beauty. It is an otherworldly place and truly worthy of being one of the treasured places that the American people have set aside and preserved forever as part of the national park system. 

On this first descent into the cave, I was mesmerized – I found it almost numbing. The environment of the cave is significantly cooler than the temperature above ground, and the tour required hundreds of steps, including ladders, to climb up and down going deeper into the cave and the darkness. It was incredibly impactful. However, it was the human connection at the end of the tour that was the most special, when the ranger closed her tour by sharing how important it is to protect and preserve these special places. She then quietly began to sing a few lines from Big Yellow Taxi, a song by Joni Mitchell:

They took all the trees
And put them in a tree museum
And they charged all the people
A dollar and a half to see' em
Don't it always seem to go
That you don't know what you've got
Till it's gone

They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot
They paved paradise
And they put up a parking lot.

It was such an extraordinary way to conclude the tour. This young ranger's crisp lovely voice quietly reverberating off of the cave walls created a haunting echo. She said nothing else. Everyone on the tour began simultaneously applauding. It was an incredible touching moment. 

I was able to speak with her later outside of work. I commented on how unique her tour was and her decision to end the tour with song. I still find it to be a wonderful way to remind us how fragile and precious Jewel Cave is and how important it is for all of us as a people to protect it. I asked her how she came to this ending and she responded in a very measured way. She shared that she felt strongly about protecting the environment and taking the right actions and measures to protect our planet. She then shared that she was a UU. She talked about her faith that evening while we had dinner together.She was the first UU I knowingly had met and without a doubt she made an impact on me. 

As Unitarian Universalists we meet and interact with others each and every day. We represent our religion -- we speak for our religion and our actions speak for our religious convictions. We connect with each other and those who have no knowledge of our religion. By way of our faith we can and do make differences in our lives and that of others and we likely do so in small ways that we are not even aware of. 

Our lives are made up of millions of moments—big and small. We often focus on the big moments of our lives and yet the many small moments can be life changing. Certainly, it was for me. It was a small moment in which I was touched by a thoughtful UU who sang a few lines of a special song in a vast, ancient place that helped me along my way. Words do matter. She helped me find my path that has brought me here now to be with all of you. Words can bring us together and how one chooses to thoughtfully interact in our sanctuary and community matters. I commit to remember that how I speak and act does make a difference, and that I have the ability as each of us do to connect positively—with love, respect, and purpose.

Namaste.

 

 

Practice + Non-Attachment = Perseverance

As I was driving through the Columbia Gorge a few weeks ago, something caught my eye. The trees were black at the bottom from the fire devastation, but as I gazed upward tiny sprouts of green were emerging from the top. These trees had survived the fire from last summer and lived to tell about it. One could say that they persevered or maybe they just had stronger roots. We may never really know why a few trees were sprouting while others lay completely dead around them but that contrast from black to green was such an incredible sight! It reminded me of a conversation that I once had with my yoga teacher. In the Yoga Sutras, Patanjali writes about the perseverance in reference to practice and non-attachment. Abhyasa and vairagya always go together. It is said that these two concepts are the principles on which the entire system of yoga rests. Which is what led me to ask my teacher one day if there would ever be a time when it would be wise for practitioner to deliberately stop practicing something if the entire practice of yoga hinges on practice. Is there ever a time when it is not appropriate to persevere? It turns out that the answer is very much held in the second part of the yoga equation which is non-attachment.

My teacher explained that we don't keep practicing and practicing with the goal of getting certain results. And if we're not seeking certain results, why would there ever be a time to contemplate not practicing. Instead, we practice and persevere without concern for the outcome because realistically we can't know what that will be. So we practice for the very purpose of persevering. And while we're doing that, we practice non – attachment by doing a lot of observing and a lot of non-judgmental noticing. From that place of noticing, we are able to see beyond our fears, beyond our struggle, beyond our sorrows, and even beyond our joys. The practice of persevering is a type of fire that illuminates our truth so that non-attachment might birth the true desires of our heart into being. Author and speaker Glennon Doyle Melton uses the phrase, "First the pain. Then the rising." to speak about a similar concept. There will always be an opportunity for persons to cause pain to our environment, to each other, and to themselves. We can know that and choose to live every moment of our lives from that day forward carrying the torch of fear. We can also acknowledge the pain, acknowledge the fear, and determine to keep practicing, to keep seeking truth, and to keep persevering in our practice of life.

What gives you courage to keep persevering?

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Amy Brock ~Director of Lifelong Learning

April in Portland!

Rev. Kathyrn BertFebruary 15, 2018 - Rev. Kathryn Bert

regional assembly - facebook bannerDid you know that Regional Assembly is coming here?! Well, across the river in Portland, to the Lloyd Center. This is a regional assembly of all Unitarian Universalist congregations from Hawaii to California up to Washington, from New Mexico to Montana and everywhere in between. The Pacific Western Region includes congregations in the Pacific Northwest, the Pacific Central, the Pacific Southwest and the Mountain Desert districts. Regional Assembly happens April 27-29 at the Lloyd Center Double Tree in Portland, OR.

Regional gatherings are a great way to recognize that we are not alone. That our church is a part of a greater network of congregations. That issues which affect us, touch others. We learn from them, and they learn from us, and together we can make more happen.

Keynote speaker on Saturday, April 28 will be Congresswoman Pramila Jayapil from our great state of Washington. The newly elected president of the UUA, Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, will share her emerging vision for our future. And on Sunday, April 29, the Rev. Vanessa Rush Southern will lead worship.   Worship begins at 10:30am (and will last until 12noon) and is open to the public.  Worship services here will also take place at 9:30 and 11:15 as usual.  

This is a great opportunity that will not be here again for a few years. I hope you will get excited and join us for the last weekend in April. If you'd like to do more than attend Sunday morning worship, you may register for the entire weekend and attend workshops, etc. Here is where you can read more information about this exciting gathering of liberal religious people coming to our region very soon.

Resources for Online Writing

Whether it's an article in the weekly bulletin, a post on Facebook, or writing for this very website, a lot of communication both at UUCV and in the wider world happens online. But how do you write for an internet audience? Here are some resources for effective online writing. 

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For general writing tips, The Writer's style guide  is an easy-to-read general use manual for questions like: how do apostrophes work, again? Should I write 8 or eight? Do I want to use affect or effect?

If you want a more light-hearted look at casual grammar and usage, check out Grammar Girls's Quick and Dirty Tips, a podcast and blog about common mistakes we all make. For example, did you know it's okay to end a sentence with a preposition, or that one space after a period is standard when writing online?

To learn how to make your content more readable, Hubspot's The Art of Scannable Content offers a thorough guide on how to "write for scanners"; in other words, making your content quick and easy to digest even if people are just skimming through:

"Nielsen's research found that 79% of people scan web pages. That begs the question: If the majority of readers already prefer skimming, why wouldn't you want to make it an easy, enjoyable, and efficient process for them?

Ultimately, if you want people to read your writing, you have to adjust to your audience. You have to be empathetic and courteous. It's not about you, it's about them. Don't forget that."

The University of Maryland also offers some tips on best practices in regards to tone, length, formatting, and more:

"Link, link, and link to relevant information. If you mention the UM shuttle, link to it. If you want to include someone's email address, link their name. If you mention a faculty member, link to their bio page. Don't make people go and search for something you mention if it already has a page somewhere."

Finally, if you want to make sure what you write is accessible to people with disabilities, The Web Accessibility Initiative has several tips on how to write accessibly. For more information, also check out their article on why web accessibility is important:

"The Web is fundamentally designed to work for all people, whatever their hardware, software, language, location, or ability. When the Web meets this goal, it is accessible to people with a diverse range of hearing, movement, sight, and cognitive ability.

Thus the impact of disability is radically changed on the Web because the Web removes barriers to communication and interaction that many people face in the physical world. However, when web sites, applications, technologies, or tools are badly designed, they can create barriers that exclude people from using the Web.

Accessibility is essential for developers and organizations that want to create high quality websites and web tools, and not exclude people from using their products and services."

This is just a quick sample of advice on how to write online. Like all things, creating clear, well-written, and accessible internet content is a skill that must be practiced and can always be improved. Hopefully these resources can provide a helping hand when navigating the world of writing for online readers.

 

Danielle Ebert
Office Assistant

Practicing Intention

Our January theme is Intention. One of the ways that we can invite intention into our hearts and homes is through a ritual of invitation. One such ritual that many practice is that of Sankalpa. Sankalpa is a Sanskrit term. It is thought that the term Sankalpa once meant to have a resolve. Today, many interpret it to mean more of a promise to focus on that which is already within oneself. In some traditions, a ritual of Sankalpa is practiced by beginning with a purposeful statement of "I will". In more recent years, Sanskrit scholars have determined that the English phrase of "I am" better reflects the original intent of Sankalpa. Many individuals take time to practice the ritual of Sankalpa before yoga classes, before large life changes, and at the beginning of the year. Some persons create both long term and short term Sankalpa statements.


A Sankalpa is not something that one can successfully meet or not meet. It already exists within oneself. However, Sankalpa statements can be reflected on from time to time to determine how great of influence it is having on one's life journey. They serve as sort of a compass so see if one is headed in the direction that they desire to go.


To create a Sankalpa, begin by sitting in quiet a space. Think about what you might wish you could do or be better at. Then, start to let the mind wonder about which of those things might hold some current presence within you. For example, if you want to be more fit, you might think about what kind of movement you are capable at this moment of creating or what kind of movement brings you joy. A Sankalpa statement for this might be, "I am moving. I am cultivating health in my body". If you wanted to be more peaceful, you might reflect on what you need to find peace. A statement for this might be something like, "I am listening. I am at peace."


The ultimate goal of an intention, resolution, or Sankalpa is to inspire one to be their best selves. What practices or rituals do you use to set goals on your journey? What are some of your goals for the year? We would love hear about the steps, practices, and intentions that you are taking to be your best self in 2018! Send your stories to lifelonglearning@uucvan.org.

 

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Amy Brock ~Director of Lifelong Learning

New Meditation Bell

Rev. Kathyrn BertDecember 9, 2017 - Rev. Kathryn Bert

I invite you to join us for worship at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Vancouver!  At the beginning of each service, I invite the bell to sound as we gather for worship.  We also light a chalice, symbol of our faith.  We have both a new flame for the chalice and a new bell.   

The oil lamp flame is one that is common to many UU congregations, including the one I served most recently in Michigan.  We tested it for safety before lighting it on Sunday, but didn't calculate the effect of the new wick sitting in the oil for 48 hours before lighting it.  So, it was quite a show on Sunday! (especially in the first service, before we cut back the wick)  We hope you will all enjoy the new flame in our wood chalice, lovingly created by Skip Morey.

The SantAngelo family donated the gorgeous new bell, after consulting with me about its usefulness in worship (and no doubt watching me struggle to invite the smaller bells to sound)

They write,

"In Zen tradition, the bell is considered to be the Voice of the Buddha, calling us to meditation and mindfulness. Bells such as this one are used in all Buddhist traditions and considered holy objects to be handled with great respect and reverence. This bell was hand-crafted and tuned by hand-hammering, then signed by the craftsman. The bell is quite special in that it was purchased at Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh's home and central monastery in the Bordeaux region of France.

"The SantAngelo family has donated this bell with hope that the bell will assist Rev. Bert in calling our UUCV family to worship services for many years to come, and that it should occupy a place of honor in our sanctuary."

I am a lover of ritual and appreciate these objects of beauty that adorn the sanctuary here in Vancouver.  The pulpit, though not new, is also a thing of beauty, and was carved by John Shannock.  I hope you will join us for worship one Sunday and enjoy the beauty of these symbols of our faith, and the love with which they were created and donated.

Music Blog under construction

Coming soon - A Blog with articles about Music by out Music Director

Board Blog under Construction

Coming soon - A Blog with articles about general topics by our Board.

Coming Soon - Being Green

Coming soon - A Blog From our Green Team.