Category Archives: religion

12/24/10 – 11:00 mass

Getting dressed and ready to go to early choir prep for the church’s 11:00 pm Christmas Eve service (it’s the only one for Christmas).

Just showered again, getting into fresh clothes, drinking coffee. This is strange – I am not a night person anymore, and I haven’t attended a high church service since I was 17.

12/23/10 – rehearsing for tomorrow night’s service

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This is the altar at the UU church, set up of course for tomorrow night’s Christmas mass (Christmas Vigil? 11:00 Christmas Eve night – the church has no Christmas morning service; the reverend told me they had added one a couple years back, and no one came, no one).
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I guess tomorrow night the lights will be out, and the choir comes in behind the altar through doors hidden in the backing woodwork, holding lit candles – and our music. We march up the center aisle, singing, stop along the pews, keep singing, and then the organ plays through a verse alone as we march into the back, and then scramble up to the loft in time to sing the final verse.

We didn’t do this kind of thing in Buddhism. Well, we did, but it didn’t feel like people just trying to do something nice, like this church feels.

Should be fun.
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12/19/10 – sitting in church

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I am new to church – as I have mentioned I was raised a Roman Catholic, but never a believer (when I received my Confirmation at 13 I was already an atheist), and spent my adult life from 20 to 47 as a practicing Soka Gakkai Buddhist.
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Now I am a participant in the local Unitarian Universalist Church. I haven’t “signed the book” yet, but I have pledged a token donation. I am in the choir, and plan to be in the adult sex education series this winter. Yeah, it’s a cool church – I was told 23% of the congregants are atheists as well.
Steeped in American Transcendentalism and in-your-face social activism – in 1969 they gave refuge to several draft dodgers who, apparently, were invited to live for days in the sanctuary – taking that traditional law of sanctuary literally – until the FBI and local police got tired and stormed in, knocking down the congregants amassed to shield the dodgers with their rifle butts.

This is the view from my seat in the choir loft. Raised as a Roman Catholic, I find churches lugubrious, but I am getting used to this one, even with its massive wood vaulting and its stone walls. Part of my being there is honoring my heritage. I sing the hymns – and for now the Christmas carols – that my great great great great great great grandparents, in both Britain and Germany, sang – my grandfathers with their friends over tankards perhaps, my grandmothers to their babies.
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10/31/10 – poem, all saints mass

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your name echoes here
mispronounced but sincere
nestled amid strangers’
half the world from where you were born
four hundred miles from where you died
only me among them know
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9/12/10 – singing

First time performing with the UU choir this morning.

I’ve been through this kind of experience before – I’ve even played Madison Square Garden.

An hour of rehearsal before the service, a lot of folding chairs in the choir loft, a procession to the front of the church for the opening song, and then back up very narrow thin stairs up to the loft.  It was the first full service there, with the minister, since I started going in mid July.   Apparently it is a tradition in UU for ministers to go on sabbatical over the summer, and have even laity (although I am not sure UU makes that as a hardline distinction or at least doesn’t use that abrupt division as in Catholicism and Buddhism) give stripped down – and lesser attended – services through the summer.

There were a couple moments singing, trying to get a grip on the sheet music – sight reading is a quiet expectation, and I could barely do it when I was playing sax twenty years ago, must less also follow unfamiliar lyrics – trying to match my voice with the loud bass behind my left ear, that were transcendent.

One when, toward the end of a song, I realized that for the last maybe 16 bars, I wasn’t thinking, just singing, with 50 other people.

9/9/10 – down in the river to pray

Today is one of those days, at the moment, when I really wish I had made my determination to write, say, every other day, or two good posts a week, instead of every day.

My posts here, I worry, are McDonalds Dollar Menu items. Maybe the daily cheapens my writing. Forced, out of my OCD that constantly kicks up dust as it ranges on the horizon but rarely become full blown, to keep my shoulder to the wheel.

Tired, just got home from my first choir practice at the UU church I’ve started attending. This is actually why I started attending, after 27 years of a rather insular sect of Buddhism, and then my last 1-1/2 years after dropping that, away from any such activity. More for the communal aspect than the religious. (Then again, this is a church whose musical offerings last week included a 10 year old girl playing “Rainbow Connection” in the piano – excellently, the congregation singing “Simple Gifts” unaccompanied, and a professional guitarist singing The Barenaked Ladies’ “Pinch Me”).

I have done something like the choir practice before, when I was much, much younger. Its 2-1/2 hours, in which most of the chorus was familiar with the songs and the drills, was to me like a workout punctuated with occasional releasing laughter.

And the four songs we rehearsed – actually, everyone else rehearsed, I tried to follow along with the sheet music – included a traditional gospel spiritual, a modern song quoting from a Civil Rights activist modeled after traditional gospel, and two traditional Jewish songs to commemorate the holy days this month.

It struck me toward the end that all four were from the cultures of oppressed and displaced peoples. Our singing – and my attempt at singing – these songs are a way to honor them.

May all the children of the world sleep in their own beds tonight.

Yana Tova, and Shalom.

8/30/10 – poem, found poem

I have no feeling to write tonight – not negative, just tired and the feeling isn’t there.  But I won’t quit now…

Another “found poem” in the writings of Nichiren –
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A bird’s egg
contains nothing but liquid,
yet by itself this develops
into a beak, two eyes,
and all the other parts,
and the bird soars into the sky
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