Sunday, May 27, 2007

Thanks for the nice sendoff

Steve & I appreciated all the good will and love sent our way at the service today. We'll keep in touch via this blog.

Love, Marcy

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

God, Cats, and People

Peach died last night in his 19th year. He appeared to suffer a stroke, and over a period of many hours his system just slowly shut down. We held him and talked to him (and to ourselves) about his passing.

The photo of Jo and Peach is from spring 1993. Peach and his sister Mazie suffered massive kidney failure in 1996. Mazie died, but the vets said Peach might have enough kidney function left to live another six months. At that time Peach was already the only cat ever to be the topic of a sermon at CUCC. (Dave Barber will remember.) And his passing brings to mind a piece I posted on the CUCC web site in February 1996, a theological reflection of sorts on God, cats, and people. It's a reflection on his death which I was anticipating 11+ years ago, so it seems appropriate to resurrect the piece to commemorate his passing.


Peach and I know each other well. We both like a lot of affection, and we both have a wild streak. Even since he's been sick, I enjoy watching his wildness. Most afternoons we take a walk together in the woods. His failing kidneys make him thirsty, but he doesn't much like to drink clean water from a bowl in the house. On our walks he stops by every rivulet of water or mud puddle and laps a bit. The sound of the wind or the barking of a dog in the distance will catch his attention, and his eyes widen and ears point. He sniffs the air, analyzing scents that I can't imagine. He sits on my lap as I lean against a tree by the creek, and we talk and watch the wind in the trees. The sweetness of the moment is overwhelming.

When Mazie (Peach's litter mate) died 3 weeks ago, it brought Jo Ellen to a self-described crisis of faith. "I can't deal with Mazie’s death being a final reality. That she's buried in the ground and that's all there is to her."

"I suspect God has a way of recycling little cats," I respond.

A week to the day after Mazie died, Peach started succumbing rapidly to the same type of kidney failure. The vets at the weekend animal hospital thought we might as well go ahead and euthanize him. His kidneys are basically gone. When we first took him in, and heard the results of the blood chemistry test, Jo Ellen said, "I'm not processing this. It's just too much too soon."

After keeping Peach in the hospital for five days altogether, we brought him home to live out his time, whether it turns out to be a few days or a few months. Whatever the length of time, it's time to say good-bye and to let him teach us what he knows about these things.

"I think I tend to live in the future," I said to Jo one day. "The past is something we can't recapture, but in some ways the future is equally illusive. Peach is teaching me to live in the present."

He's not a complainer. Cats in general hide their pain well. Sometimes we know he's uncomfortable, but he can still purr like a chain saw and he still puts his paws up on my knee to entice me to pick him up. At night he starts out sleeping by the wood stove downstairs, but by 1:00 AM he's usually up on our bed snuggled in the crook of someone's legs or lying on someone's back or chest. (His abdomen was shaved for his kidney ultrasound examination, so he likes to warm his stubble-covered belly against a human body.)

Peach is teaching us to accept grace and to let life happen. We know he's just a cat, and that what we are mourning in part is a loss of ourselves. Peach really is a part of me. For seven years just about every time I've parked the car in the driveway I've opened the door and started calling ritually, "Here, Peach, come on little Peachey." His climbing up on the window air conditioner and pawing the window pane in the kitchen to let us know he wants to come in have been daily routines for years. At night if we're watching TV he appears sitting on top of a garbage can outside the window behind the TV waiting to be let in, his pale yellow form appearing for all the world like a ghost cat image against a blackened sky. These daily images are dear to us. We grieve losing this.

Sometimes I think Peach knows that he's being called to another place. I can sense a look in his eye that says, "You may think that you're my guardian, but I'll know when it's time to go."

He did that once before, when he was little more than a year old. He went off for 14 days and returned as an emaciated form at our door one evening long after we had given up on him. Years later when the minister asked church members to reflect on whether they had ever encountered what seemed to be an angel, Jo recounted the experience of the rattling at the kitchen door, and of opening the door and seeing Peach, long presumed dead, walk into the kitchen as if returning from a long but important journey. Peach then became the only cat to have become the subject of a sermon at CUCC.

I can picture him departing on another and final journey. Just as it's his way to drink from a stream rather than from a bowl, it may be his way to die like a cat rather than like a pet. Cats have a habit of going off to die alone. So I must accept the fact that one day soon he may leave on that journey, and we'll not see him again.

And if he does that, it will be okay. He's always done things his way (as cats are wont to do). He's already taught us much about accepting the grace of life of the moment, and he may have more to teach us about accepting the grace of death. I won't go so far as to say that I believe in eternal life for cats. But I do believe that God recycles.

Lavon Page
February 12, 1996

The Iron Wall

(posted by request from Peggy Rafferty)


a documentary film that explores the human impact of the continued growth of the Israeli settlement program and the military occupation of the Palestinian territory.

This documentary film includes prominent Israeli and Palestinian voices
an NGO that provides technical support and extension services
to Palestinian farmers including empowerment programs for rural women
of occupied Palestine.

working for a just and lasting peace based on democratic principles of the rule of
Law and respect for human rights.

Sunday, June 3rd
12:30 pm

Community United Church of Christ
12:30 for gathering, light refreshments
followed by the film ( 52 minutes ) and discussion

Sponsored by the CUCC Bible Study group along with The Triangle Coalition for Peace with Justice (monthly meeting to follow the discussion)

Find out how to get involved !!!
Contributions welcomed

Monday, May 21, 2007

Youth Summer Schedule

Get out your family calendar and mark the dates when Journey and Friends get together this summer! For more information about what to bring and whether FOOD is involved, check the schedule coming in the mail this week.

Pilgrim House Workdays (after we worship together at the Taize' service)
June 2 (Sat.) - possible if enough people can come (RSVP to Jane today)
June 24 (Sun.) RSVP to Jane two weeks ahead
July 15 (Sun.) RSVP to Jane two weeks ahead
Aug. 5 (Sun.) RSVP to Jane two weeks ahead

Visiting Other Congregations (call Suzette or Judy so they know to look for you)
June 17 Prince of Peace Episcopal Church (our ASP hosts)
July 8 Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Raleigh
July 29 our Congolese friends
Aug. 12 Christ Church (Miss Anne Bailey's church)

Stay in Worship
June 10
July 1
July 22

Party after worship!!!
June 3 (Hot Dog End of School celebration)
July 1 (Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest)
August 19 (End of Summer celebration)

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Congregational Meeting Minutes

DRAFT MINUTES (recorded by Edith Sylla)

Community United Church of Christ. Congregational Meeting, May 20, 2007

(second annual congregational meeting for 2007)

John Little, Moderator, called the meeting to order at 12:15 p.m.

Steve Halsted opened the meeting with a prayer.

The minutes of the January meeting were read and approved (motion by Vandy Bradow, seconded by Sam Johnson, passed without dissent).

Gary Smith, Tom Young, and Gradie McCallie made a presentation (with PowerPoint slides) for the Social Justice and Community Outreach ministries on “Justice in a Changing Climate: A proposal for discernment and action.” They first addressed the question: Is God calling CUCC into leadership? Gary Smith reviewed the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that have been issued this year, indicating that climate change caused by human activities is occurring. The ill effects of climate change, moreover, will disproportionately affect the poor who are least able to adapt. Many Bible texts give humans stewardship over nature and condemn those who oppress the poor. The text of Micah says “What does the Lord require of you? Do justice, love steadfastly, walk humbly with your God.”

The members of CUCC as a congregation can undergo a process of learning about climate change, can change the ways the church operates to begin a process of becoming more green, and can take a leadership role together with other faith communities. Every ministry in the congregation might take part in this focus, with each ministry determining the ways that it might want to participate (some possible examples were given which were intended to be suggestive but not prescriptive). On a rough timeline, planning for the focus would begin this summer with a broadly-based steering committee, formal long term planning would begin in September, speakers would be invited for an in house learning process on global warming and its impact on humans with varying resources, and CUCC would host a “Becoming a Greener Congregation” community event in Lent 2008.

At the end of the presentation, Mac Hulslander moved and Roger Manus seconded that the Congregation go in the direction of establishing a congregational focus on jusstice in a changing climate. In response to requests for exact wording, the motion was stated using words from the presentation:

That CUCC take as a congregational focus for the near future “Justice in a changing climate.” That we lead by learning and acting. In particular, that we educate ourselves; change our practices; and provide an interfaith religious focal point and leadership on climate change and advocacy.

The process that led to this proposal was connected to earlier discussions by the Church Council and by earlier Congregational meetings of how the Congregation might best use the Helen Brown bequest of $50,000. In earlier discussions, a preliminary division of the bequest was made into $30,000 for the property ministry (“God’s House”) and $20,000 for other ministries to be determined later, but preliminarily divided into $10,000 for the Social Justice and Community Outreach ministries and $10,000 for educational activities, including speakers. The current proposal is related to the $10,000 for the Social Justice and Community Outreach ministries, but members of the two ministries decided not to make a specific financial proposal at this time, since this should emerge from the planned discussions and educational process, although the community event suggested for Lent 2008 would obviously cost money. Some of the actions that might be taken to change our practices within the church for energy efficiency might mesh with expenditures by the property ministry. Certain changes to the building might be expensive, but other changes, such as adjusting thermostats, might save money.

At earlier meetings a suggested congregational focus was “elder justice.” Several actions have been already been taken in this direction, but there seems to be more enthusiasm within the congregation for the climate change focus than for the elder justice focus. Roger Manus, who was one of the members working on the “elder justice” focus, said that he was now willing to support the environmental justice focus, which didn’t necessarily mean that actions related to elder justice would not continue – in fact, the two concerns might in many cases be integrated. Robert Parrish commented that Steve Halsted’s sermons and leadership have prepared the congregation for this decision and that this is the right time to go forward.

After considerable further discussion the question was called and the vote was taken. The motion was passed without dissent.

The moderator then opened the floor to any other new business, but none was forthcoming.

At the close of the meeting, Steve Halsted requested that individuals consider signing and mailing cards that he had recently received from NC Interfaith Power and Light addressed to the North Carolina General Assembly, members of Congress (names to be added), and to Alice Lloyd, the Director of NC Interfaith Power and Light.

The meeting was adjourned at 1:20 p.m.

Respectfully submitted,

Edith Sylla, acting secretary

Friday, May 18, 2007

Activities this weekend

  • Stop Hunger Now packaging - be there a little before 12 N. Directions at bottom of this post.
  • Auction - Saturday night at 6:30. IF YOU'RE BRINGING AN ITEM TO AUCTION, BE THERE EARLY SO IT CAN BE LABELED AND PUT ON DISPLAY PRIOR TO THE SILENT AUCTION (6:30). Catalog is attached. The final auction catalog is attached. Please note, the catalog is divided in 2 sections - first the items that will be in the silent auction and second, what will be in the live auction. Check in at the door for your bidding numbers as well as turning in your item to be put in the auction. We hope you can come! Congregational meeting Sunday after worship.

Directions to Sharehouse

Go north on Capital Blvd. (U.S. 1 N). Where the road splits, stay left toward Wake Forest and Henderson. You will eventually pass Old Wake Forest Rd. on the left and soon go under 540. At the second traffic light after going under 540 turn left onto Gresham Lake Rd. Watch for Burwell St. on your right and proceed on Gresham Lake to the next right which will be Welborn. Turn right onto Welborn and then turn right onto Wellington Court. The Stop Hunger Now Sharehouse is 3200 Wellington- the phone there is 954-9480.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Special Worship Sunday, May 20

The children and youth of CUCC will make this Sunday's 11 a.m. worship service special. They'll be providing music, serving as readers and worship leaders, presenting a banner they've made, leading the congregation is song and thanking their wonderful church school teachers. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Beyond the Olive Branch

(posted at the request of Peggy Rafferty of the CUCC Sunday Morning Bible Study Group)

The Peace and Social Concerns Committee of the Durham Friends Meeting

and the Coalition for Peace with Justice invite you to join them for

Beyond the Olive Branch:
Working for Peace and Justice in Palestine and Israel

Samir Moukaddam
American Friends Service Committee


Richard Wark
Jewish Voice for Peace

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Durham Friends Meetinghouse
404 Alexander Avenue

Bottles of Palestinian Olive Oil will be available for purchase at the reception.

Samir Moukaddam is director of the Middle East Peace Education Program (MEPEP) of the American Friends Service Committee's Southeast Regional Office (AFSC-SERO). He is also the co-chair of Unitarian Universalists for Justice in the Middle East. Samir will describe the AFSC programs that support the non-violent efforts of both Palestinian and Israeli peace activists to end the occupation of Palestinian territory and bring a just peace to the region. He will also share information about Ziyarat az Zeitoun (Arabic for Visiting the Olives), an educational and advocacy project of the AFSC Middle East Peace Education Program. The program highlights Palestinian culture and current realities on the ground in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through focusing on the Palestinian olive harvest.

Richard Wark, a member of last fall's Health and Human Rights Delegation to Israel/Palestine sponsored by Jewish Voice for Peace, will discuss his experiences working in the Olive Harvest along with Palestinians, Israelis, and other internationals. He will also report on a meeting of international peace activists chaired by Jeff Halper, nominated by the AFSC last year for the Nobel Peace Prize, at the Beit Arabiya Peace Center in Anata, ouside of Jerusalem .

The American Friends Service Committee is a Quaker organization that includes people of various faiths who are committed to social justice, peace and humanitarian service. Its work is based on the belief in the worth of every person and faith in the power of love to overcome violence and injustice.

Through grassroots organizing, education, advocacy, and media, Jewish Voice for Peace works to achieve a lasting peace that recognizes the rights of both Israelis and Palestinians for security and self-determination.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

CUCC Info Sharing

(A Project of the Communications Committee)

This blog will become an "official" tool in CUCC's communications toolbag around May 20. It will serve as a complement to the newsletter (printed and online), e-mail, and the CUCC website. The purpose will be to improve internal communications among members. So some explaining is called for to clarify why this particular option is being introduced.

The web site is primarily for one-way communication (webmaster posts, everyone else reads). E-mail is not bad for communications between a handful of people, but it is unsuited for large groups. (Mailing lists can help a bit, but that offers a very imperfect solution.)

Young folks have pretty much abandoned e-mail altogether. The under-30 generation has moved to various forms of text messaging for one-on-one contact and social networking tools (MySpace or Facebook primarily) for group communication. Note that both of these forms of communication are bi-directional for all participants (all individuals can provide information and receive information).

A blog represents an "intermediate tool" that is ideal where multiple people may want to transmit information that is not confidential to a large but perhaps ill-defined group. For those who want to be notified when there's a new "posting" to the blog, news readers provide that service.

Once this blog goes public around May 20, there will be a link to the blog on the CUCC web site. (The blog will always be accessible at its own address, Prior to May 20, I will be inviting numerous CUCC members who occasionally use e-mail to distribute information widely within the church to test out the blog as an alternative. Feel free to try a few "trial" postings prior to May 20. Anyone who posts to a blog retains the ability to delete the post. (Did you ever wish you could retract an e-mail you had sent? You can do that with a blog. Or you can modify something you've posted.)

If you receive an e-mail inviting you to join the blog, it will request you to open a free Google account if you don't already have a Google account. One nice thing about a Google account is that the same ID and password are used for all Google tools, and that arsenal is growing almost daily (Google Docs, Google Notebook, Google Mail, Picasaweb, Blogger, etc.).

So give blogging a try. Even if you don't anticipate needing it now, who knows when you might want to remind church members of an upcoming event? Try out a news reader if you haven't already. They're not for geeks. They're simply for people who want to be notified when certain types of information become available and who don't have the time (or don't remember) to go out looking for all the information themselves. (Google Reader, which works inside a web browser, is such a tool.)

If you would like to be a contributor to this blog, contact me and I'll generate an invitation to you. Once blogging becomes a more common practice within the church, smaller groups may want to establish blogs for their own internal use. (For example, the Deacons or Council might use a blog to archive its minutes.) Problems such as spam and viruses that plague e-mail stem from the fact that e-mail is an old, old tool developed for an entirely different Internet than the one that exists today. So view this as an opportunity to occasionally step into a newer medium that is designed for communications within a large group.