Rev. David Hutchinson, Minister, 446-6858
Bill White, Moderator, 521-0015
Susan & Bruce Glick, Co-Treasurers, 538-9264
Fred Griffith, Clerk, 532-2455
Karen Klahr, Newsletter, 532-4051
Church Phone, 532-9269
Committee on Ministry,
Debra Frazier, Bruce Glick, Larry Tonzi

Newsletter - December 2009

First Church of Houlton
Unitarian Universalist

61 Military St.
Houlton, ME 04730

“To perceive the truth, there must be a focusing of attention. This does not mean turning away from distraction. There is no such thing as distraction, because life is a movement and has to be understood as a total process.”
- Krishnamurti

“Bare attention is the clear and single-minded awareness of what actually happens to us and in us at the successive moments of perception. It takes the unexamined mind and opens it up, not by trying to change anything but by observing the mind, emotions, and body the way they are. It is the fundamental tenet of Buddhist psychology that this kind of attention is, in itself, healing.”
- Mark Epstein; Thoughts Without a Thinker

photo by Garret Crawford
photo by Garrett Crawford

If there is one thing that defines life in the early 21st century it is sensory overload. There is no shortage of stimulating input for our brains to process. Along with this surplus of stimuli comes the dilemma of selection. How can I keep up with the ten million things as they speed by my computer screen or demand my timely e-mail response? I usually categorize a large percentage of these “extras” that solicit my attention as distractions, but Krishnamurti does not use this term. He says there is no such thing as distraction. Everything you place your attention upon is your focus for that moment in time. How long you place your attention there is totally up to you. The trouble is, we often aren't aware of where our attention is.

If we are focused and seeing clearly there is equality of all things. No matter what the object of our attention, if we are alert to our own awareness there is no hurry, confusion or stress. Each of the ten million things arise, retains itself for a moment and then recedes. The dispersion of our own mind is what complicates the process. To just take one thing at a time is still some of the best advice around. No matter how many things may be lined up vying for our attention, just take the next thing that comes into view. As the new year begins and our daily planners already start to fill up with things to do and places to be, approach it all with a singleness of mind that keeps your sanity intact.

Live well.   Live every moment.     Dave

Do You Still Ask Questions? When you were young (and at any age for that matter) the hope is you never got weary of asking questions. When I was about nine years old I remember sitting on the back of our horse-drawn wagon watching my grandfather pick up rocks from the field. My help was limited to only the smaller rocks I could lift and I admit that I took quite a few rest breaks so I could talk to my grandfather. He never seemed to tire of answering my questions. I asked him where all the rocks had come from because I had helped him pick the field clean last year. His answer was that they were our best crop raised on the farm-potatoes were only the second best. I kind of accepted his answer but I did wonder if maybe it was the work of the devil who had placed them there to break our backs. The work of the devil was always one of my grandfather's favorite reasons for things going kind of bad.

Asking questions is one sure way to learn about the curious events that take place in the world around us. Sometimes not-so-good friends may ridicule you for asking questions. They may try to silence you properly and put you in your place. One may hope they fail in destroying your courage and joy of asking questions, for once you stop asking questions you have lost the best way of dealing with ignorance and bigotry. Without questions we become willing to accept things as-they-are and become ever more unconcerned and therefore more unaware. Closing the opportunity to ask questions may cause the spirit of curiosity to die and of course what follows is nothing short of the death of your mind.

We all need a little more courage to ask questions. Courage is the art of controlling our fear of what other folks may think and it helps us move forward to ask all the important questions when we are worn, disheartened, and afraid. Courage helps us overcome the temptation of seeking the easy way out. It helps us defend our liberal faith and stand up against the momentum of traditional religious faith set against it. Courage is needed to defend the right of every individual to be accepted as a person and overcome the attempt to deny the right that is currently denied to millions.

In some cases we cannot win the contest when we ask questions. We need the courage to accept failure today, so tomorrow we can try again. We need to cultivate the courage to live with failure. Courage helps us keep our faith in life, in people, in ourselves, and in our capacity for daily self-renewal. During times of challenge we are strengthened by the courage to hope and continue the struggle for good causes.

About all those rocks in the potato fields in Aroostook County - I have been told that based upon one Aroostook farmer's experience he refused to believe that the earth turned on its axis. He believed if the earth did "go round" and his farm ever "got bottom side up," he was quite sure "there would be a great noise from rattling stones below" and of course if that did happen he would never have to pick any more stones off his farm.

Enjoy your wonder days of winter!

"Fear creates danger, and courage dispels it." - Henry David Thoreau

Reflecting on the past year helps in setting intentions for the new year. Take time to reflect on 2009 and notice what you've learned about yourself.
bird out of the snow

it's the start of another day in the north woods
20 degrees, four inches of fresh snow on the ground
thoughts in my head like leftovers from the day before yesterday
warmed just enough to make it interesting
to my personal sensibilities
of vague innuendo and purpose

there is no end to contemplating
the parameters of our existence in this world
a tree standing in the snow
the sun just breaking through the clouds
light wind brushing by my face

they say stars are but distant suns
their light reaching us years after departure
Alpha Centauri the brightest and closest
almost four years to arrive
Orion Nebula almost fifteen hundred
and here I am concerned about how long
it takes to fly from Boston to Cleveland

Our daily itinerary consists of appointments
shopping lists and necessity
all the while we are breathing in life source
inundated by ancient light
stars not even visible at 8 am in the morning

approaching the edge of the river bank
from twenty feet below
an eagle rises from the ice and water
ruffled feathers and silence
sweeping into the empty sky

dave hutchinson

The thing about pledges is...
        .   .   they make church possible.     The Pledge Committee reports that this year's pledge totals have topped last year's, with the current total of pledges and donations at $21,520. Along with a pledged contribution from the church's Trust, our pledges will enable the Trustees to develop a budget to serve the church's needs for the new year. We thank you all for your promised contributions and donations and look forward to the new church year. If your pledge has not yet been received, please share it with Sue Glick as soon as you are able.

With love and respect,
Pledge Committee - Bill, Steve, Sue, Karen, Leigh and Fred

Yes, another Bicentennial to celebrate — in 2011 we will mark the 200th anniversary of the founding of the church congregation which would eventually become the Unitarian Society of Houlton. At the time of the founding gatherings, we were Congregationalists, so we share our founding history with the local Congregational church as the first Protestant church in Aroostook County. In the course of planning for and participating in the Bicentennial activities, we will learn more about that history, about what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist today, and about where we are going as an evolving church organization.
Calling all volunteers: The Board has begun planning for our Bicentennial, using the ideas generated in last spring's congregational meeting to list programs and events for 2011. Copies of the condensed list are available on the table in the coffee room. At the Annual Meeting on January 17, 2010, we will turn this list over to two volunteer committees — one to focus on events and the other to address identified building projects. Please offer your service on the committee whose work interests you. It is our intention to keep the celebration activities focused on the essence of our church today and on enjoying our time together as a congregation. Getting to 2011 means productive and popular UU work groups involving painters and landscapers and carpenters and organizers and artists and cooks and historians and cleaners. There will be something for everyone to do to prepare and a lot of time for us to cement friendships and partnerships by working and playing side-by-side. Let Bill or Rev. Dave or Board trustees know what you would like to do to help.
Here is a quick update on our quilt raffle fundraiser. With additional ticket sales at the Thanksgiving weekend craft show at the Gentle Memorial Building in Houlton, the raffle has brought in a total of $491.61. The reason for the odd numbers is that in addition to buying tickets in person, folks can also buy raffle tickets online using Paypal. ( Go to ) Paypal takes a small percentage (thus the odd numbers), but makes it possible to reach people who might never come to Houlton! So far, the most distant purchaser of raffle tickets is from Tasmania!

To refresh your memory, this is a queen size quilt, made by Leigh Griffith and quilted by Lois Morin. The winner will be chosen at the end of next year's Fourth of July celebration. The tickets are $1.00 each or a book of 6 for $5.00. If you purchase them online, you may only purchase them by the book with your account.

To add interest to the activity, we have a challenge from Ann Rheinlander to see how many will match the number of tickets she has purchased so far! She spent $100 on tickets (receiving 120 chances of winning)! She really wants that quilt! Like Ann, you can increase your chances of winning by buying more tickets.

We are still offering the "Book of the Month Club" in which, from now until July, 2010, you can purchase one or more books of tickets each month! Join in the fun! Help the church! The winner will be kept extra specially warm during winter 2010 - 2011!

Drop by the basement cafe space and check out the progress. Our new custom-built bar and pass-through window will be installed in January. At the annual meeting (January 17) we will be announcing the official name of the cafe and memberships will be available for purchase. Over two hundred names have been submitted in our "name-the-cafe" contest and it's still not too late. Send your entries to by January 10 and they will go into the running!

On December 21st we will, once again, celebrate the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. We will begin with drumming at 6 pm in the sanctuary followed by our ceremony at 7 pm in the parlor. As we celebrate the Solstice we will join across time and space all the festivals of light emerging from the dark. As we kindle our candles, we will join all the Yule fires, all the Hanukkah candles, and all the Christmas lights the world over - to brighten the darkness of winter, and the darkness and despair in the world. Refreshments will be served in the basement afterwards. All are welcome.
Once again we will start off the new year with a morning meditation followed by our famous brunch. The meditation begins at 8 a.m. and lasts for about one hour. It is conducted in the Zen Buddhist tradition and consists of two periods of sitting meditation (zazen), walking meditation (kinhin), chanting, a short dharma talk by our minister and the ceremonial sounding of the Hahn to ring in the new year. Bring along a cushion and mat or you can sit on one of the couches or a comfortable chair. No previous experience in meditation is necessary. (brief instruction will be included!!) It is a great way to quietly honor entering a new year. Some may prefer to join us for the mindful eating and drinking coffee practice that follows the meditation session. All are welcome.
Charter of Compassion; Bill Moyers interview with Karen Armstrong discussing the role of compassion in modern religion. The viewing of the DVD (50 minutes) will be followed by discussion. Here is a short excerpt from the interview: Please see calendar for date and time.
Bill Moyers: If you were God, would you do away with religion?
Armstrong: Well, there are some forms of religion that must make God weep. There are some forms of religion that are bad, just as there's bad cooking or bad art or bad sex, you have bad religion too. Religion that has concentrated on egotism, that's concentrated on belligerence rather than compassion. From the beginning, violence was associated with religion, but the advanced religions, and I'm talking about Buddhism, Hinduism, monotheism, the Hebrew prophets, they insisted that you must transcend this violence, you must not give in to this violence, but you must learn to recognize that every single other human being is sacred. And a lot of this talk about love and compassion can be on the rather sloppy level. Or rather easy, facile level, where compassion is hard. It's nothing to do with feeling. It's about feeling with others. Learning to put yourself in the position of another person. There were years in my life when I was eaten up with misery and anger, I was sick of religion but when I got to understand what religion was really about, not about dogmas, not about propping up the church, not about converting other people to your particular wavelength, but about getting rid of ego and approaching others in reverence, I became much happier. But you have to go a long journey, a journey that takes you away from selfishness, from greed. And that leads you to value the sacredness in all others
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An email discussion mailing list is a tool for a group of people to exchange messages via email. Any subscriber to the list can send messages that are received by all the subscribers, creating an email-based group conversation. The UU Houlton Community Yahoo Group has been created for members and friends of the Unitarian Society of Houlton. So far we have 14 people subscribed. There are a number of photos posted. Any member can visit the group's page and view them and any member can add their own. Please take a look at the webpage.   If you'd find it useful and wish to join just click the "Join This Group" button, or contact Rev. Dave if you have questions or need further instructions.
  • The website of the Unitarian Universalist Association
  • The website of the Northern New England District (NNED)
  • The UUWorld magazine   (You can also sign up for a weekly email update.)