Weaving the Web – Rev. Amy Zucker-Morgenstern

  • Weaving the Web: The Thespians’ Final Bow June 16, 2019

    We start a lot of new groups at UUCPA, which, ideally, means a flurry of publicity and how-to-get-involved information. And sometimes groups end, and we should mark that as well.

    Decades ago, several (as it was then called) Palo Alto Unitarian Church members who loved music and drama organized an arts-in- worship group. They created dramas and music to enrich Sunday services, and also overlapped with many enthusiastic participants in in-house, non-worship productions such as The Mikado.

    That faded, but perhaps the love of theater just lay dormant, because when Philip Hodge joined the church years later, he found enthusiasm for a group called the Thespians, which welcomed both congregation members and drama lovers from outside UUCPA. Sometimes they provided entertainment at such events as the auction and canvass dinner. By the early 2000s, the main purpose of the Thespians was to welcome anyone who loved plays to come together to read plays as they were meant to be read: together, aloud. Under Philip’s devoted leadership and with many participants, the meetings expanded to as many as three per month.

    When he passed age 90, Philip handed the information and many carefully annotated scripts along to the next generation, and upon Philip’s death in 2008, Samuel Thomas Morgan (known to all as Tom) took up the reins. The Thespians continued to meet regularly for several years.

    The group and the congregation as a whole grieved when Tom died suddenly in January, 2019. The rest of the group decided no one had the energy to lead it for the time being and so it was time to retire from the stage.

    Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Thespians and its predecessors. And if you are reading this and would like to do some playreading now and then (perhaps as an Auction event?), the scripts are still being kept safe and ready for you.— Blessings, Amy

  • Weaving the Web May 18, 2019

    More beauty and more layers of meaning are coming our way in the form of a permanent projection screen that will be installed in the Main Hall, near the ceiling above the piano. The AV Committee has been hard at work exploring all the options and issues, and has made a first-round proposal to the Board, who affirmed the plan and the availability of funds in our capital budget. We hope to have the screen in place by midsummer, and as the details are still evolving, your input about what needs to be considered is welcome. It will be designed to be visible from everywhere in the Main Hall, without blocking the branch or being blocked by the hanging quilts, and to be attractive and fit the style of our beautiful Joseph Esherick-designed sanctuary.

    We already need a screen for most memorial services, to show pictures of the beloved deceased person. The temporary screen we currently use is not ideal either aesthetically or logistically – for example, when the choir needs the space on the risers – and it will be wonderful to be able to offer grieving families a simpler and more beautiful means for showing photos. Likewise, we already use a temporary screen for movies, Adult Religious Education presentations, and congregational meetings, and it’s exciting that the AV Committee is working on an improvement.

    Once it’s in place, other uses become available to us. We can add visual elements to our services: colors and images to enhance our words, rituals, and music. We can project hymn lyrics, freeing our hands and making it easier to look forward and sing out. (We’ll still use hymnals as desired.) With the service guided by slides on the screen, we can cut down on the number of printed orders of service. Again, we’ll keep printing some, but many people will opt out, saving paper and reducing our impact on the environment.

    Some congregations recognize dedicated volunteers with displays that are projected before the service begins, or have a visual image in place that fits the service’s theme.

    A new visual component to our services will take more time on my and other worship leaders’ part. It is an additional element that requires planning and careful thought, and we want to practice it thoroughly so that it is a seamless part of the service. However, it is one that can add layers of meaning and beauty, speaking to us in the language of color, shape, art and images. I’m looking forward to developing these skills and have already begun compiling best practices and advice from colleagues who use a projector weekly

    Thank you so much, AV Committee – among them, Byron Brown and Brian Weller, who presented the plan to the Board, me, and the Aesthetics Committee. Thanks, Jeb Eddy, for promoting this idea long before the new AV Committee was formed, and to the Committee on Ministry, who took the idea and suggested a task force to begin to flesh it out.

    What uses do you imagine for a projection screen in our worship space? What considerations are important to you? Please keep the ideas flowing with e-mails to audio-committee@uucpa.org.

    Blessings, —Amy

  • Midweek meditation: What celebration belongs on your calendar? May 2, 2019

    In last Sunday’s sermon, “Lima Bean Respect Day and Other Neglected Celebrations,” I asked about something you value and wish to honor with your attention that doesn’t show up in the civic or religious calendar. Animated conversations followed, as people paired up and talked about what is important to them

    Two of the things that are most important to me, and too neglected in my rush through my days, are making art and observing nature. As soon as I articulated this, I knew the perfect day to celebrate them: the birthday of the sculptor Andy Goldsworthy. His attention to nature and creation of art make him one of my favorite artists. I’ve now looked it up and have added “Art and Nature Day” to my electronic calendar so that I will honor them with my time this July 26 and every July 26.

    After the service, a few people told me what holiday would appear on their personal calendars. A few others chimed in in support of lima beans. But most of us only heard from one other person. So, the comments section is open! What are you marking in your own personal liturgical year?

  • Weaving the Web February 23, 2019
    Attendance is up, and there’s lots going on at UUCPA on Sundays! This has created a parking challenge: we have had several Sundays recently when there were few parking spots left during the second service. And a chair challenge: while the Main Hall is not actually full, the empty chairs can be scattered in ones and twos that make it hard to find a place. And a meeting-space challenge: some Sundays, every single classroom and meeting space is filled, even the ministers’ offices. And a timing challenge: so many attractive programs can be clustered in the same “Sunday window” between 12:30 and 3 that they compete with one another in ways that are frustrating to both the presenters and the would-be attendees. As the saying goes, these are nice problems to have. The lay leaders and staff have been hard at work resolving them in ways to keep that great momentum going.
    The parking challenge is being met by the generous agreement of our neighbor, Abilities United, to let our staff park there on Sundays; that should remove ten cars from our lot. If you usually attend the 11 a.m. service and you don’t need to sit in an armchair or on an aisle, you can help address the chair challenge by moving in from the aisles and sitting right next to a neighbor.
    The meeting-space challenge is best met by each person here by looking ahead at what you’ll need in the coming weeks. If you want to make sure a room is available for your Sunday meeting or class, please request it of the office at least a week in advance, and preferably longer. We want everyone to find a place, and advance planning makes it possible for the staff to meet your needs.
    The timing challenge has been met by a new process approved by the Board at its January 22 meeting. The goal is to balance the Sunday programs–not too much or too little on any given Sunday, and no big events (such as invited guest presenters) at conflicting times–with our Minister of Religious Education, Dan Harper, as the traffic manager. For you as a planner of a program, nothing changes; put your request in to the office staff and they’ll get back to you about which dates are available. Behind the scenes, staff and lay leaders such as the Adult Religious Education Committee will work to maximize predictability, flexibility, high quality programming, and intra-church communication. With a little advance planning and care, we’ll make it easier for you to attend all the great programs that help you grow spiritually and intellectually.
    Let me know if you have questions!
  • Weaving the Web: Faith, trust, and oleanders February 9, 2019

    I’ve been pondering the relationship between trust and faith. Remember last year when the oleanders along the UUCPA entrance driveway were cut way back? Nothing remained but bare stubs. Our gardeners, paid (James Nelson) and volunteer (Nancy Neff, Glenda Jones), assured us that this was the way to make them healthier. Now they have grown up beautifully. They are just a bit taller than the fence, so they are close to obscuring its chain links, while still letting us see that we have neighbors: our friends at Stevenson House.

    Is that faith? We trusted that James, Nancy and Glenda knew what they were doing. They helped meet any doubters halfway by putting up signs assuring us that the bushes were not being removed, and that they’d grow back better than ever. They also told us that they were following an arborist’s advice. So we could rely on a few things that we probably trust: the expertise and honesty of our own folks, a specialist’s advice, and the resilience of shrubs. All we had to do was wait. 

    Now another hedge has been cut down almost to the ground: the one that borders the walk in front of Rooms A-D. James tells me the bushes were getting leggy and the inner branches were eaten away by snails. I wonder, is a sign needed this time? Or has our faith been strengthened by our experience with the oleanders?

    All I need in order to know that these bushes will soon be back is trust in his savvy, which I have. But trust is the kind of thing that grows over time–in this case, mine is strong from years of seeing how well James tends all manner of plants. Is faith like that too: something that grows stronger through experience?

    What do you think?