October - November 2012, Vol. 28, Issue 6
Below are articles from this issue.
the entire issue, click on the thumbnails in far left column.
PASTOR'S MESSAGE: A COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE | PRESIDENT'S CORNER | SPOTLIGHT ON SERVICE
A Community of Practice
by Rev. Jim Fuller
A tourist asks a New Yorker, “How can I get to Carnegie Hall?” The man replies, “Practice, practice, practice.” This is true in the performing arts. It’s true in sports and in sciences. And it’s true in spiritual matters as well. How do you learn to meditate? How do you find inner peace? How do you become spiritually grounded? Practice, practice, practice. Many of us have spent decades, perhaps lifetimes, practicing the art of ignoring the spiritual dimension; our spiritual dimension and the underlying spiritual nature of our world. We have become great performers of “being human” but this has been accomplished at the expense of our spiritual awareness. Sadly our human self only lasts for a rather short period of time whereas our spiritual self is timeless. Churches and other spiritual gatherings are places where we come together to practice, practice, practice - tuning back toward our timeless spiritual nature.
Perhaps you have noticed that it is fairly easy to feel uplifted or inspired while you are at church? Most people comment that they are able to meditate much more easily during services, workshops or group meditations. This is because the collective spiritual intent of the community is actually supporting them in their practice. The community doesn’t even need to be focusing on them for this to occur. A collective attention turning toward God or Spirit makes it easier for all present to tune in. The poet Rumi used the analogy of resonating strings of a lute, a guitar-like instrument. When one string is plucked the others begin vibrating automatically. When one or two people begin vibrating with the intent of spiritual connection, the vibration of connection begins to stir within all those around, even those who consider themselves spiritually unskilled.
This is illustrated by a parable concerning a poor man who lived in a poor village. The man was hungry and wanted something to eat but he had no food, only a kettle. So he filled his kettle with water, built a fire around it and dropped in a few smooth stones. A neighbor saw him doing this and inquired, “What are you doing?” “I was hungry” the man replied, “so I decided to make stone soup.” “Well I only have one onion” the neighbor said, “but perhaps that would help the soup along.” Another neighbor overheard and offered a few beans. One by one the people of the village contributed what they had. None had very much but eventually the kettle was filled, the stones were set aside, and together everyone had a delicious meal.
When we come together in community, sharing what we do have, the entire community is “fed”, not just physically but spiritually. I often say that as each person brings his or her nickel’s worth of willingness, faith or dedication; we collectively have a wealth of spiritual consciousness and connection. The whole is definitely far more than the sum of the collective parts.
It is important for each of us to realize that we need people to practice with. Jesus points toward this when he states. “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there with them.” (Matthew 18:20) Gathered “in my name” means in the way that Jesus taught, not simply speaking his name. We will recall that Jesus’ teachings focused on loving one another, trusting in God, and going into “the desert” or “our closet” to pray – connecting in the silence. When we do this collectively we strengthen our connection with his teaching, with the living Christ consciousness and with God. It is, he notes, as if he were present with us in person. Indeed he is.
Most of us are not yet ready to appear as spiritual practitioners at Carnegie Hall. We are still attached to many old religious ideas that aren’t particularly helpful. Our ability to quiet our minds or pray in times of trouble is often poorly developed. Our ability to hear and sense guidance or to find the inner strength needed to follow it may be weak. We may think of ourselves more often as human animals rather than as spiritual beings. But with practice, practice, practice each of these seeming obstacles can be overcome. After all we are already spiritual beings. We are spiritually interconnected with our Creator, with Jesus and other teachers, and with each other. We all have a great inner potential just waiting to be unlocked. It’s already ours. What we need are places to practice finding and focusing our hidden spiritual wealth. At the present time you may feel so far removed from achieving that goal that it’s difficult to maintain your dedication. But notice what happens when you connect with others who are also doing their spiritual practice. With just a little effort you can begin to feel yourself becoming spiritually lifted, perhaps even inwardly connected. And each time that happens, your practice supports the community around you as well.
We are all on our way to whatever Carnegie Hall calls us. Each of us has an inner potential that wants to express itself through us and in ways unique to us. Individually we can each do some good things and bring some light into our world. But as we practice together we can release the greater potential of spiritual power that resides within the deepest parts of our being. In Unity we call that the power of our Christ self. It is the power of the creative Love of God in motion, moving through us individually and collectively as we practice, practice, practice the spiritual art of being.
May each experience of practicing together bring us closer to our true selves and to one another; and may our coming together spark the release of the greater gifts that lie within. Amen
By John Frederick
It’s astounding! The number of things that are going on at our small church are simply astounding. And what is even more astounding, is it is all happening in ways that are (seemingly) effortless. We are a Taoist Center of Excellence ®
Oh, that is not to say that people are not putting forth effort. A lot of people work very hard around here. Reverend Jim. Barbara in our office. Roger and Mark. The Board of Trustees. All of the volunteers who do one thing once……or one thing regularly.
The “effortlessness” of our effort is in the naturalness of it all. It just Flows! It just happens. It’s done with JOY and GRATITUDE and LOVE.
Energetic music is provided each week. The bookstore has someone staffing it every Sunday. More people are bringing more food (and MORE FOOD!!) downstairs for hospitality. Unity Cares people are ready to help when called upon.
Ushers are ushering. Tellers are tellering. Gardeners are gardening. Jim is Jimming. Kay is Kaying. (I’m channeling Steve Holmes here, if you haven’t noticed).
Congregants are congregating…..for that is a very important form of Service.
The Tao of the Sage is Work without Effort. The Master does nothing, yet through her All Things are Done. Everything happens without rancor, minimal planning (mostly) and with Ease. The proof of that is the sustainability of it all.
And the Increase in it all. We are open to receiving more, so we are open to giving more. We are in touch with Source whenever we toss a salad, pull a weed, teach a child or sing a note.
Thank you God for your Vibrant Energy manifesting in and through our Church Community!
spotlight on service: Paul Frament
By John Daubney
A life that contains a reasonable degree of service to others through using our God-given skills incarrying out activities that bring us joy, a sense of fulfillment, and purpose, is a life well-lived. As the old saying goes: “You can’t keep it (happiness) unless you are willing to give it away.” Paul Frament experiences happiness and has "fun" while serving others. Rather than consider service a “chore,” Paul considers service a blessing.
“Often, the concept of service conjures up thoughts of effort, difficult tasks, and sacrifice. I have a different slant on providing service. I look for activities where I have some skill, enjoy the activity, and would be pleased to participate for my own fulfillment. Then, if I can find a situation where I can have fun, and be helpful to someone else, that is like having my cake and eating it too.
“One example of my brand of service is my volunteering as a coach for the Cougars, a Special Olympics Hockey Program. I thoroughly enjoy physical activity, especially skiing and hockey. When I learned that I could skate for free and be of service at the same time, it was like realizing that life can be easy. When I volunteered, I expected that working with Special Needs youngsters might be difficult. But it turns out that my new hockey buddies are just like everybody else: they need extra help in some areas, but are fun and interesting in many other areas. What a concept: Getting credit for being of service when all I’m doing is having fun.
“I began service at Unity after Dottie and I had been attending services for two years. When we were first looking for a new church home, and came to check out Unity,the furthest thing from my mind was that we would choose to go more than once a month to a church that was 30 minutes from home. Well, as everybody knows, Unity is different. The spiritual education, the music, the enthusiastic Sunday service, and the people all make the 30 minute drive a minor effort. We have now been attending Unity regularly for about 7 years.
“My first foray into service at Unity came after taking the 48-week Quest class where I learned that when I forgive those who I think have wronged me, I gain peace and happiness, and, when I am generous with my possessions, I become more prosperous.
“So, after gaining so much, I decided that a good way to show my thanks was volunteering to lead a Quest class myself. I believed my newly acquired insights would help guide the next group of students. My plan was to sign up for the class, help get them started, and then drop out. Well,the class was so small; I felt that they needed me. So I stayed for the entire 48 weeks, and I learned so much more the second time. My intention to offer service actually served me, more than the group I was intending to help.
“At Unity I have also found a number of easy ways to make a difference. After enjoying the food and friendship during the hospitality time on Sunday, simply taking a few minutes to put away chairs or carry dirty cups into the kitchen is easy, and requires no special skills. I am only one of many people who quietly and cheerfully extend the effort to clean up after Sunday hospitality and Wednesday evening classes. I find that those few minutes of working together, build friendships that are deeper and stronger than if I just attend Sunday Service.
My main area of service to Unity is working in our Peace Garden. There, a group of Unity members select, plant, feed, and weed the flowers that add beauty to our property. I do very little with the flowers, but instead I trim hedges and maple trees that try to take over Unity’s property. Whenever I look at neat hedges and pretty flowers, I feel a sense of pride knowing that “I helped,” even if others did the important work where my skills aren’t so great. It is the feeling of being part of a great team that makes the effort worthwhile.
Another area where I am involved is pressing the buttons to display the words for songs and prayers at the exact perfect time (sort of). Our job title is “Operating the Sound Board”. But, some combination of Jim Fuller, Roger Mock, and Mark Shepard adjust the various settings before the 9:00 Service, and I pretend that I am a doctor and “do no harm” by not changing anything. Again, even though I have no musical ability, I am allowed to be a part of the music ministry, and enjoy being part of an awesome team.
As I think about service to Unity, I am realizing that, for me, the main benefit of service is that it helps me to feel at home when I am at Unity. When I attend a function and look around and see people that I have worked with on various Unity projects, I realize that this is MY spiritual family, and we are all helping each other to create a loving and supportive community.
“Let yourself be silently drawn by the stronger pull of what you really love.” —Rumi, Sufi mystic and poet