Sunday, February 1, 2009


I wasn't planning on a detailed blog post today, but this morning's church service moved me so much, and I had to share my experiences with everyone.

I belong to a Unitarian Universalist church. It's hard for me to explain what Unitarian Universalism is in a few sentences, and I plan to devote a blog post to it in greater detail in the future. That having been said, if you want to find out more right now, click here to go to the website of the UUA.

Anyhoo, we have a different service every week, with a different topic, different presenters, and a different format. Our minister usually presides over services twice a month. Today, our service was led by our Covenant of UU Pagans. It was a service devoted to the coming of the end of winter, and the approach of the spring.

When I entered the sanctuary, all of the seats were arranged in the circle. At the beginning of the service, we sang the hymn "In the Bleak Midwinter," which is one of my all-time favorites. When we finished the hymn, the leader of the service asked all of the children to come up and parade around the sanctuary. He asked the kids to walk around and pretend as if they were sweeping; in doing so, they were sweeping out winter and the cold so that the sanctuary would be ready to welcome spring. Then the children left for Sunday school.

After the kids left, we had a brief meditation, and then four of the members of the Covenant performed a ritual known as "casting the circle." I'm not a pagan, and I don't know enough about paganism to explain very well what it means, but casting the circle is essentually the formal beginning of the ceremony. Throughout the service, the same members of the Covenant came up to the pulpit to share their thoughts on winter, and what it means to them as they progress through "the wheel of the year."

At one point during the service, we wrote our sorrows and fears down on little slips of paper. These slips were collected before the offering and then were placed in a metal bowl. The service leader struck a match and burned our sorrows and fears until they were a pile of ashes. At another point during the service, we were asked to write about our images of hope. We wrote them on another slip of paper; this time, however, they were collected and redistributed to members of the congregation. The leader of the service asked us to remember those images of hope throughout the next six months, to concentrate on them as the world begins anew.

Our service ended with a performance of "The Rising," at which point, a few members of the congregation, myself included, got up and started dancing.

After our services, we always have a discussion period, which usually lasts anywhere between a half hour and an hour. This discussion was what helped me gain some perspective on things. During this period, various members of the congregation shared their thoughts on winter. One member said that winter was a period of introspection for her, where she could reflect on things as the spring months approached. Another member, who grew up on a farm, said that winter was the time where her father sharpened the tools, made sure the bridles were still strong, and made other necessary repairs in order to prepare for the planting of the crops.

Now, those of you who follow this blog know that I'm not too fond of winter. I said that during the discussion. During the winter, I see a world devoid of color. Our church faces the Metacomet Range, and I look out, and all I see is brown, brown, brown. I see naked, dull, depressing trees.

Two thoughts from this discussion particularly stayed with me after I made this observation.

One member, a good friend of mine, sees winter as full of life. He enjoys looking through the bareness of the trees and being able to see images that he normally doesn't see: mountains. Winter birds. Cars going by. (Our church also faces the Wilbur Cross Parkway where it intersects with I-91).

Another member, who is starting to become a friend, spoke of a photography class where she had to take "no color" images that "weren't in black and white." In other words, they had to take pictures full of brown, grey, and other dull colors. She said that the images were so beautiful, that there was actually more color in the "no color" images than there were in some images that are full of color.

I was really moved by these two different perspectives on winter.

I drove home with those two thoughts on my mind. I'm still not a huge fan of winter, but I'm going to try not to hate it so much from now on. With the Super Bowl in mind, I'm trying to think of winter now as spring's "pre-game show." Yeah, I know that sounds like a stupid simile, but maybe I'll start coming around.

It will take a while for me to reflect on my feelings about this season, but it was very nice to get other perspectives, which will help get me through this bleak midwinter of ours.


Michele said...

A very positive post!

NurseExec said...

What a fascinating post. Thanks for letting us into your world today :)

Yaya said...

That sounds like an amazing church!

Jodi said...

I think this post was AWESOME! I love your honesty in it and the way you described your service and how it affected you and helped you to see things differently. You and I have similar beliefs when it comes to winter. Maybe this will help me think differently of winter too. Thank you for sharing this and letting me see winter in a new light.

It was very interesting to read about your denomination. I've been living in a Catholic 'bubble' all of my life and I love to read about different religions.

Hope you had a great day and have a great Monday!

rahul_PAAJI said...

Nice post.I would like to share my perspective as well.I love my Dad,big-time.He is everything to me.His nature of work is such that he's home for winter and gone for spring.At a time when people can't wait to say Goodbye to winter, all i do is just sit at home asking God "Please delay this by a month... Please"

Amber said...

Yay, another UU! Quite a surprise. I'm beginning to wonder what I've missed at our local services. It's a great thing to have new perspectives, that's why I felt so at home in a UU Church.

Kitten said...

Michele and NurseExec: Thanks!

Yaya: It really is an amazing church. I'm helping to lead the service on Feb. 15th. It's called "One Singluar Sensation," and it's about looking at singles in a positive light. I'm probably going to put my piece up on the blog when all is said and done.

Jodi: I was raised Catholic, and it was a very difficult decision to leave the church I grew up with. I wrote a post about it back in December if you're interested in taking a look at it.

Rahul: What sweet thoughts about your Dad!

Amber: One of the reasons I like being a UU is that I leave a service smarter than when I came in. I knew I had found a home when I found that my intellect and my spirit were both fulfilled.

Jenners said...

I have to tell you, I was raised Roman Catholic and I stopped going in college for a wide variety of reasons. I've never really found a church since then but your church sounds very intriguing and like something I might be interested in. I'm going to have to look into this some more as I'm struggling with how to raise my son with some kind of spiritual background but without the hang-ups I think accompany the Catholic church. I, for one, would be very interested in a post about your church and I think I will look at the link you provided. Thank you!

Kitten said...

Jenners: I've been getting a lot of great feedback on this post. Later this week I'm going to write a post about my church, and how I came to join it. Stay tuned!