Murray Church Notes

July 11, 2019

Volume 8,  Issue 1

In this Issue:

Rising to the Occasion

by Monica Staaf

I stand underneath the tree.  It’s as mammoth as a redwood, and towers stories above me. Monkeys chatter and swing from vines overhead.  The air is clammy and heavy, like wet wool.  Sweat trickles down my face, and mosquitoes whine.  

Three others from our group – the Scottish backpacker and the couple from London, have reached the platform at the top.  I watch the fourth – a Californian -- clip his climbing harness to the rope pulley system that is anchored to the tree. The guides grab the rope and hoist him skyward.  

The rope snags.  The guides argue in Spanish. I recognize stray words that are less than encouraging.  They take turns yanking at the rope while the Californian dangles like a baby in a Snugli.

My heart starts to pound.  I poke at my unfamiliar climbing harness and wonder whether this flimsy contraption of rings and fabric can keep me from plummeting to my death.  The tree climb looked so easy yesterday when I watched the French tourists try it.

The workers jerk the rope free and the Californian continues his ascent.  He looks as tiny as an ant just before he disappears into vines and foliage of the canopy.  He lets out a whoop as the jungle swallows him whole.

Now it’s my turn. Last, but not least.  My hands are as clammy as the air, but my insides have frozen.  A guide shouts to another guide: “Ella es muy nervosa”.  

Yesterday morning, the five of us had flown into a rugged frontier town in Peru and clambered into a boat next to a broad, muddy river that emptied into the Amazon. Our boat, an oversized canoe with a motor, chugged upstream while the boatman maneuvered the boat through an obstacle course of rafts carrying mounds of green bananas downstream and tangled branches and logs, some of which were caimans -- South American alligators -- in disguise.   Uprooted trees jutted randomly from the near vertical river banks, as though a giant had scattered them. We passed a clearing with a few huts then the scenery became a dense thicket of trees, vines, and brush that loomed over the cliffs.  The humid air became even steamier as we headed deeper into the jungle.    

The three and a half hour boat ride gave me unwelcome time to think while the others napped. My husband would have loved this.  He was the kind of natural athlete who skied double diamond trails and paddled through roaring rapids with ease, while I struggled to master the basics. We had planned this adventure to celebrate our 40th birthdays.  Instead, I am on our dream trip with four strangers. 

When my husband told me a few months earlier that he was leaving, I tried to make sense of his words.  He then smiled tenderly, and said, “If you can’t find anyone to go to Peru with you, I could go with you as a friend”.  His look of pity spurred me into action. While he carried his suitcases to his car, I went online to find an adventure travel company that would take me to the jungle and Machu Picchu on my own.

For the next few months, I entered a whirlwind of activity to avoid spending time alone with the jangling of empty hangers in his side of the closet and the bare patches on the walls where his framed maps used to hang.  While my friends worried, I assured them that by the time I was ready for a nervous breakdown, I would be on a plane to South America.   

In the late afternoon in Peru, the boat rounded a bend and headed towards a steep, wooden staircase that hugged the river bank.  The only signs of humans were the flaming tiki torches that lined the staircase which led to a spiky fringe of trees.  This was it! I jumped onto the bobbing dock, and climbed the stairs to the jungle.  I found my hut, dropped my pack and set off for a quick tour of the grounds before sunset.  The wooden sidewalk led me to the tree, where I spotted a man rappelling down the trunk.  After he landed, he and his friend spoke about seeing scarlet macaws and birds with yellow and orange plumage.  At dinner, I convinced the rest of my group from the boat to do the same.  

Now less than twenty-four hours later, they are standing on the platform watching parrots and monkeys, and I’m too scared to move.  Tears fill my eyes.  The petite pale manager of the lodge approaches me.  Now I’m embarrassed.  She lives in the jungle for weeks at a time with her Peruvian boyfriend, while I’m only passing through.  She touches my arm. “Let’s sit” she murmured in her soft English accent.  “You don’t have to climb the tree.  You can walk away right now.  Ask yourself, “Which is worse: the fear of climbing this tree or the fear of regret - of going through life knowing that you didn’t try?”

I consider her words.  Nothing keeps me from retreating to my hut to lounge in a hammock.  No one here knows me.  The Californian is the only other person from my country.   Fear versus regret.

I leap to my feet and march over to the tree.  Before I can change my mind, I clip my harness to the rope and shout, “Vamanos!” The guides pull the rope, and I begin to soar.  Cheers erupt from the platform above me and from inside me.   

Summer Services 2019

Produced by the Religious Services Committee 
July 14
General Assembly: What’s NEW in the UUA? (A whole lot!)
| Bruce Field
This year’s General Assembly (our annual UU national convention) has a new plan and new goals:  conversation replaces debate, and our UU Principles guide the agenda and the way people interact.  Come hear how old ways, including white supremacy, are being replaced by new opportunities for people of color, and more.  This Sunday service is an invitation to hear about UUA’s new “Brave Space,” and can be an inspiration for us here at Murray. 
July 21
Happy Surprises | Donna Seagrave
Happy Surprises are experiences of delight beyond our imagining.  These experiences can come from people in our lives, nature or the cosmos itself. Let us be open to happy surprises, both large and small.

July 28
You U Behind the Wheel | Amy Craig
An exploration of being a UU while in our most powerful position – behind the wheel. How road rage affects the best of us.
August 4
Anti-Science VS Democracy | Len Yutkins
Democracy depends on a well-educated, well-informed public.  As we enter the 21st century, we find ourselves in a highly technical and scientific environment.  Yet there is a growing distrust of scientists and experts in various fields and that poses a very serious threat to our democratic principles.  How can we change this?  Some ideas will be explored.
August 11
Concrete Actions You Can Take Against the Climate Crisis
| Carolyn and Rand Barthel
These days, people are inundated with so much overwhelming information, it can be empowering to be focused and specific in our actions. Come learn what you can do and walk away with a to-do list! Carolyn and Rand Barthel are members of First Universalist Society in Franklin and 350 Massachusetts, a network of volunteer climate activists across the state.
August 18
The Evolution of Prayer | Liz Kenyon
Evidence of humans praying dates back to the third century B.C. in the form of a statue of a holy Hindu man holding prayer beads. Over the following centuries, prayer beads have been used by Buddhists, Sikhs, Muslims, Roman Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox Christians. We will touch upon these prayer rituals before focusing on the evolution of prayer in the Christian tradition, including our UU faith.

August 25
Blessing of the Animals | Kavita Vansant
Our pets are part of our family. We love and care for them and in return we receive unconditional love, companionship, comfort and loyalty. Let us acknowledge how our pets uplift our lives, and why we have them. Bring your pet (on a leash/cage, please), a photo of your pet and/or a favorite stuffed animal to be blessed.  The service will be held outside, weather permitting.
September 1
The Music Lesson | Ruth Debrot
A musical instrument that lies on the ground makes no sound. It is a musician who must bring “Music” forth. What can Music teach us about our lives? As humans, all of us are musical in some way. The thing is, many people let notes and rhythms get in the way. Join me and explore how Music, on many levels, can be a metaphor for life and living.
September 8
Rev. Gretchen Weis Returns to the Pulpit
Water Communion Ingathering Service
July 13:    

Guided Walk:   

The History of Barrows Farm

The Attleboro Land Trust is sponsoring a series of guided walks at its nature preserves in Attleboro.  The first, at the Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve, will be a journey back to colonial times, when the Barrows family lived off the land through farming and the manufacture of wood products.  Leading the walk will be Bill Lewis, who will point out evidence of the various activities which once took place on the land. 

Location:  Deborah and Roger Richardson Nature Preserve,
                  577B Wilmarth Street, Attleboro
Time:  9:00 - 10:30 am, Saturday, July 13 (Rain date: July 20)   

The Sanctuary LEDs are in!

On Sunday, June 8th, a hardy team put LED lights into the sanctuary pendants. This involved temporarily removing some pews to make room for a 14-foot ladder. Then the pendants were carefully washed inside and out, before installing the new bulbs. Then the pews were replaced -- no easy task in itself! 

The sanctuary pendants were part of the old church on South Main Street. Then, when the new church was built in 1957, they were moved to the new location. Now, they are shining with 21st century lighting!

Thanks to our extended Green Sanctuary team of workers this day: Tom Stuart, Roy Belcher, Russ Negus, Tom Lamonte, and Judy DePue. 
Special thanks to Tom Stuart and the property team, for upgrading our historic overhead sanctuary lights to LED, as part of our Green Sanctuary certification.
Oval Garden: some of the workers from Saturday, July 6th

Many Thanks to Murray Garden Volunteers

Thank you to all of you who helped with building and planting the new Oval Garden at the front of the church! It was an amazing event that all came together over many days of prep including transplanting daylilies and iris, then putting in 2 days in 90+ heat, planting almost 70 new perennials. A special thanks to Andrea Dion-Purdy for the lovely creations that she designed, built and hung by the Sanctuary doors. More pictures and thanks in a later edition!

Extra hoses needed.  Before we spend more money on hoses (money that could go toward bulbs to add to the Oval Garden), we thought we’d ask if anyone has a couple of extra garden hoses they no longer want?  We need about 160’ to go from the faucet to the 2nd half of the new Oval Garden.  Please don’t drop off hoses that have leaking splits, but we sure could use ones that need minimal or no repair.  

More help needed on Wednesdays evening from 5 to 7ish, we’ll be in the Oval Garden and/or the Memorial Garden.  As we succeeded in getting everything planted last Saturday, we are not planning to work in the Oval Garden on Saturday, July 13th.

Oval Garden:  Needs wet newspapers to prevent weeds with mulch on top (from pile at the back of the church).  The garden also needs deadheading of new plants and frequent watering.

Memorial Garden:  Needs work!  We’ve ignored it while working out front.  Needs 
deadheading, pruning, weeding ASAP!

                                                               Bill and Rusty Morrow
Andrea creates and works on this new display by the Sanctuary doors.
The rest of us place the plants and start digging.
Tom & Adam test soil on the roof, while the rest of us dig.
Lots of helpers on Saturday!

Have Fun and Learn New Things at Murray Church with the RSC

The Religious Services Committee (RSC) is looking for two or three Murray members or friends  to join our team for 2019-2020. 

What do we do and when? We plan and help produce the Sunday services when Reverend Gretchen is not in the pulpit. An RSC service is held about once a month along with the weekly summer services.  We take turns so you get to co-lead about twice a year. We meet for an hour in the John Murray Room on the first Tuesday of the month at 7:15 pm.  We take July off and then meet for dinner in August to refresh for the fall.

We are a lively team with experienced members who would be happy to talk with you about this terrific committee. It’s a great way to learn new things, share your ideas and be of service at church.  You do not need previous experience!  We are happy to mentor and work with you. If you are a young adult, newer or seasoned at MUUC, please consider joining us. If you have previously been on the RSC,  we would welcome your return. 

Other members include: Monica Staaf, Liz Kenyon, Marguerite MacLean, Allison MacDonald, Ruth Debrot (music lead) and Reverend Gretchen. Please contact David Calusdian or Sheila Jacobs at coffee hour for more info.   

Needed: Assistants for our Religious Education Program

If you can give an hour a month to assist in the classrooms from September to June our children will appreciate it.  You will have a wonderful time getting to know our amazing children and make a difference in their lives. All the support will be provided: a Lead Teacher, lessons and supplies. You just need to come have fun! 

Please email Kavita or Carol Connolly if you are interested. 

Magazines needed!  

The RE program is in need of magazines for projects.  Please leave them in Kavita’s office. Thank you!

From the Murray Church Food Pantry:  
Volunteer Opportunity Available

We will soon be losing a valued community volunteer who will be moving. Would YOU like to be next in line to fill this satisfying role? To learn what volunteering entails, please contact Barbara Clark..

We may also need occasional substitute volunteers during the summer.

Summer Reading Recommendations

Are you interested in ideas for your summer reading? Murray people have read the following books and suggest them for others’ consideration. All these books are library accessible.
We Were the Lucky Ones, by Georgia Hunter. Biographical Fiction.  2018. 403 pages. Recommended by Judy DePue. Inspired by the incredible true story of one Jewish family separated at the start of World War II, determined to survive--and to reunite-- We Were the Lucky Ones is a tribute to the triumph of hope and love against all odds. A New York Times Bestseller, this book is about Murray Church members, Eddy Courts and his wife Caroline (both interred in our Memorial Garden), and written by their granddaughter Georgia Hunter.
Blitzed: Drugs in the Third Reich, by Norman Ohler. Non-fiction. 2017, 292 pages. Recommended by Tovah Snyder. A fast-paced narrative that discovers a surprising perspective on World War II: Nazi Germany's all-consuming reliance on drugs--namely crystal-meth, which they developed--to power their war effort. Carefully researched and rivetingly readable, Blitzed throws surprising light on a history that, until now, has remained in the shadows.
W. E. B. Du Bois: a Biography, by David Levering Lewis. Biography 2009. 893 pages. Recommended by Armand Provencal. Du Bois--the premier architect of the civil rights movement in America--was a towering and controversial personality, a fiercely proud individual blessed with the language of the poet and the impatience of the agitator. Lewis chronicles Du Bois's long and storied career, detailing the momentous contributions to our national character that still echo today. Originally 2 volumes, now in one edition, "W.E.B. Du Bois" was winner of the 1994 and 2001 Pulitzer Prize for Biography.
A Gentleman in Moscow, by Amor Towles. Historical Fiction. 2016. 462 pages. Recommended by Judy DePue, after a recommendation by Rev. Gretchen Weis. Deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by a Bolshevik tribunal in 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in a grand hotel across the street from the Kremlin, where he endures life in an attic room while some of the most tumultuous decades in Russian history unfold. Beautifully written and a mega bestseller.
The Delight of Being Ordinary: a Road Trip with the Pope and the Dalai Lama, by Roland Merullo. Fiction.  2017. 367 pages. 2017.  Recommended by Judy DePue. Meeting during a highly publicized official visit at the Vatican, the Pope and the Dalai Lama embark on an unsanctioned, undercover vacation through the Italian countryside to rediscover the everyday joys of life. It is a novel that makes us laugh as well as think about the demands of ordinary life, spiritual life, and the identities by which we all define ourselves.
August 25: Save the Date!    

RE Ice Cream Social         

Come have ice cream, reconnect with old friends and meet new ones! This is a wonderful opportunity to bring a friend and have some fun!
We will provide ice cream and you provide the toppings.

Date: Sunday, August 25, 2019
Time:  4:30-5:30 pm
Where:  Backyard of Murray Church

Food Pantry Donation Suggestions

Personal care items would be most welcome, including soap, shampoo, deodorant, toothpaste, and feminine care products.

Thank you from the Murray Food Pantry team.

Newsletter weekly schedule

Please e-mail all newsletter submissions by Tuesday end of day for inclusion in the following Thursday's Murray Notes. The next deadline is Tuesday, July 23rd.  Please include 'NEWSLETTER' in the subject line.  

What's going on at Murray? Click the calendar!

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