Monthly Archives: December 2012

A Baby is God’s Opinion that Life Should Go On -Carl Sandburg

newborn baby

My dear friends:

Amidst all this darkness, there is light. Amidst all of this fear, there is goodness. Amidst all this hate, there is love. Amidst all this death, there is life.

That’s the miracle of the Jesus birth story, and that’s the miracle of the birth of each and every one of you; of each and every one of your children.

This Sunday we will have an all ages worship in which we celebrate the ordinary and extraordinary in sacred birth story. We will hear about the birth of Jesus, the birth of Buddha, the birth of Confucius, and the birth of the Bolton (Jonas) twins. The miracle of our community is that children and youth can worship with adults–we can come together as a full community–all generations represented–to celebrate life in story and song. We need each other, don’t we? Join us at 10:30 in the sanctuary at 11 Washington St. Sherborn, Massachusetts. There is childcare for the littlest of the babes. Come! We’ll be waiting for you.

See you in church, beloved whole community.

Robin

A Child is Born
Now out of the night
New as the dawn
into the light
oh this child, this innocent child
soft as a fawn
blessed this morn,
a child is born
one small heart
one pair of eyes
one work of art
here he lies
trusting and warm
blessed this bond,
a child is born

This Christmas I will Light Candles

candles

I will light candles this Christmas;
Candles of joy despite all sadness,
Candles of hope where despair keeps watch,
Candles of courage for fears ever present,
Candles of peace for tempest-tossed days,
Candles of grace to ease heavy burdens,
Candles of love to inspire all my living
Candles that will burn all the year long.
-Howard Thurman

Light candles, my friends.

Lots of love and light to you,

Robin

Following a School Shooting…

heart-candle-image1

Fellow mamas and papas whose hearts, like mine, are walking around outside your bodies on a daily basis: my arms are wrapped around you, and we are huddled around a candle together, shuddering against the cold and keeping each other warm. We are looking for the helpers on the news so we can remember that hope comes in human form. We are praying kyrie eleison. I don’t know if it is biological imperative or insanity that leads us to bring innocent, perfect, beautiful babies into this brutal world, but it takes a whole lot of hope and courage to keep doing this gig. We just keep letting them leave our wombs and our homes and our sanctuaries despite all that we know about brutality and terror and violence, because we are brave and we want our children to be. Because we know love wins. I salute all of you today and all days, my fellow broken-hearted, hopeful, courageous and beautiful parents. God bless you all, and keep you; you and your children.

For more information about how to help your children in the wake of this shooting, go to this link:

http://www.apa.org/helpcenter/aftermath.aspx

I will post more information from the UUA when it comes out.

In grief and love,

Robin

Faith Formation 2020

proxy_storify_com

Friends,

I went to this really compelling workshop about bringing religious education programs out of the 19th century straight into the 21st by Catholic author of “Faith Formation 2020” John Roberto on Tuesday. It was awesome, and I’m going to blog more about it soon. Among the provocative points Roberto made (which are not necessarily endorsed by me or UUAC Sherborn, but are interesting conversation starters, no?):

1) People don’t fear change, they fear loss.
2) Along those lines: Sunday School is dead. Bury it in the churchyard cemetary and have a funeral for it.
3) The research shows that people are more and more unlikely to attend church, and that isn’t going to change in the future. People are identifying as “no religious affiliation”, or “spiritual but not religious” in increasing amounts. However, only 4-5% of Americans identify as atheist, a statistic that hasn’t changed since George Washington was president.
4) Kids should be worshipping with adults full stop with multigenerational religious education programming happening at a different time. Read “The Sticky Church”. The research is in: kids who don’t worship with adults don’t grow up to be church-goers. Period.
5) We need to harness the power of 21st century technology to do faith formation. NOW. Because it isn’t going away. We need to be up to date with social media strategies, websites that point people to as many resources as possible to deepen in their faith, and use the internet as opportunities for religious education (webinars, podcasts, etc.)
6) We need to stop getting mad at our fellow parishioners who don’t show up to church because they want to spend time with their kids on Sunday morning, or because of soccer practice. That’s our reality, and it’s not anyone’s fault. Bring church to the soccer field instead, and stop being bitter. We’re here to serve the people where they are.
7) Fail early and often.
8) Be creative and have fun.

In the meantime, if you are interested in this topic, you should read my friend and colleague Cindy Beal’s storified version of the workshop because it is beautiful and funny and visually appealing.

http://storify.com/CindyBeal/faith-formation-2020-brief-notes

Faith formation forever,

Robin

For the Love of God: On Santa and Who’s In

by Robin Bartlett Barraza

184531_512101135491259_238488260_n

The miracle of the Christmas story to me is the miracle of the incarnation. We are created from the same source, share the same spiritual lineage, and the whole world is our family. Each night a child is born is holy, and a new person is added to our family. I am thankful that the Jesus story teaches that truth.

In my home, we have had a pretty sad year. We have been learning to live apart in our little nuclear family following a divorce last Christmas. As a result, we have been with the darkness for a long time, and we are ready to welcome the light. Solstice is our favorite holiday, since the longest night allows us to enter fully into the darkness before the nights get shorter and shorter. We appreciate the time to cocoon into our houses together, sprinkling our home with sparkly lights until Spring comes again to remind us of our world re-born. My family is ready for that kind of re-birth, and this season is a beautiful reminder that hope comes slowly and surely. I have had weekly and daily reminders that the whole world is my family because of the kindness and grace offered to me and my kids and ex-husband during this time.

We love the waiting and hoping of advent, so we made an advent altar. You can do this too! On it, we have an advent wreath and a creche, and together we light a candle each Sunday on our wreath for faith, hope, peace, and joy, and share a short advent reading.

advent-wreath1

On Christmas Eve, we will tell the beloved story of a child born in a lowly manger, whom poor shepherds visited and angels trumpeted the arrival of. I teach my children that the miracle of the incarnation story of Jesus is the idea that God is born in every child, no matter how poor or humble his/her beginnings. I teach them that they have a little piece of God in them–their capacity to love comes from that holy part.

So speaking of the love and goodness of God born into every child, I have been struggling with the “Santa threat” these days, too. Do y’all know what I’m talking about?

I admit to using Santa as a frequent discipline tool because I have young children (“he sees you when you’re sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, so you better be good for goodness sake”) and it’s easy. It works. My kids stop bickering or drawing on walls or poking at the fish in its tank or whining about brussel sprouts or whatever they are doing when I pick up my IPhone to call Santa, or start singing that song (the Bruce Springsteen version, of course) menacingly.

Lately, I’ve been worried about what this teaches them about unconditional love and getting “stuff and things” based on being good. I know you’ve thought of this, because you are awesome good parents. I can be a tremendously lazy, tired, stressed-out parent, and go for the easiest tool in my toolbox a lot. Santa’s awesome for that. But I’m worried about what this teaches them about God.

I know not all of you believe in God; at least not an anthropromorphic God with the capacity to love. And I know that some of you are probably weary about making proclamations about God to your children, wanting them to come to their own understandings. Me, too. I was brought up atheist and Unitarian Universalist, and I see the merit in that approach. God is a dangerous, fraught, complicated subject to broach with kids.

But I want to teach my kids something about the nature of God because I know what happens in a vacuum. I know that other people will fill in what I leave out. My kids’ll hear from a friend that God will send some people to hell. They’ll hear from a Girl Scout leader that God will only award some of us for good behavior. They’ll hear from an evangelist that God only favors those who believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins. They’ll hear that only some people are in and the rest are out.

I want my children to know this about God, and this only:

GOD IS LOVE.

I drum this into them. And every time they hear something different on the playground, or from street preachers on the subway, I drum it into them again.

GOD IS LOVE.

And then, for good measure, I tell them: God loves all the children, no matter their behavior. God loves your Muslim friends and your friends who live in the projects and your gay, atheist Godmother and your Catholic abuela and your UU grandmother and your divorced parents and the criminals in the jails and the kids called into the office on a daily basis to sit with the principal. Everyone’s in.

GOD IS LOVE.

I say this when I don’t believe it myself, because I want my kids to expand their circles as wide as they can, to right the wrongs committed in the name of God in this world. Everyone’s in, baby. That’s what I want them to know.

GOD IS LOVE.

Santa, of course, is not God. But he is an unmistakable symbol for God. The parallels are obvious. Santa sees you when you are sleeping and knows when you’re awake. He wants good behavior. He has a white beard and lives in an other-worldly place that sounds a lot like heaven to a child. He has a naughty and nice list. He only rewards you for good behavior, and if you believe in him. Sound familiar? This is not coincidence.

If Santa is a stand-in for God, I want my children to know that Santa loves all the people regardless of their behavior; that Santa loves the poorest of the poor children, and that the fact that they receive less does not mean they are less important; less well-behaved; less loved. I want them to know that the prosperity gospel is false. I want them to know that the reason why they receive good things and abundance is random chance, luck and a result of privilege they were born with. It is not because they celebrate Christmas while others don’t. It is not because of good behavior or God’s favor.

Also, I want them to know that I love them regardless of their behavior, and I hate that I teach them differently with the Santa myth.

This is hard, y’all.

What do you do about Santa? I’d love to hear.

This Sunday, December 16

THIS SUNDAY IN CHURCH:

First, and this is important, parents of middle schoolers:

5th, 6th, 7th and 8th graders are cordially invited to attend music Sunday (they will not have class) and sit together with their classes and teachers. I will mark off reserved pews for them in the front. Of course, they are welcome to sit with their families if they would rather do that.

[Do you know that your children are always welcome in worship? They are. If you are a family that likes to worship together in the sanctuary, know that we are tickled to have you ALL with us. There is no religious law that says children *must be educated* during the Sunday morning service and adults *must worship*. We’re all a family under one sky, and our house of worship is open to ALL. That means people under 18, too.]

Our first-fourth graders will come to the first part of worship before being dismissed to their classrooms. Babies, toddlers, preschoolers and kindergarteners will begin in their classrooms.

Babies will be lovingly cuddled and played with in the nursery.

2s/3s will be exploring the winter holidays some more.

So will the preschooler/kindergarteners and 1st/2nd graders.

3rd/4th graders will be learning about prayer as a spiritual practice.

Next Sunday, December 23rd is an all ages worship in the sanctuary. All are invited, and child care will be available for children under 4. We will be celebrating the miracle of birth.

FINALLY, Coming of Age will meet from 12-1:30 pm in the basement with their illustrious mentors. We will be discussing the incarnational theology of Unitarianism in honor of the upcoming Christmas holiday. Then, we will head to the Teibels to party it up and celebrate the miracle of being together.

Lots of love to you and your’s,

Robin

The Wound is the Place Where the Light Enters You

This season is sad and barren and full of unfulfilled longing for so many. Brokenness, dreams deferred, people gone who no longer sit at our festive tables, pain, darkness and loss magnified. Even for some of our children. They feel it all.

For those of you who need some light as the earth descends into darkness, I give you Rumi.

I said: what about my eyes?
God said: Keep them on the road.
I said: what about my passion?
God said: Keep it burning.
I said: what about my heart?
God said: Tell me what you hold inside it?
I said: pain and sorrow?
He said: ..stay with it.
The wound is the place where the Light enters you.

~ Rumi

May it be so for all the walking wounded. There is light, and it is coming. Let us keep vigil together, staying with it, so we might bear the wait.

You are held in love, wounds and all.