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Monday, November 28, 2011

African Meeting House Restoration

Thanks to the Brockton Enterprise for news of the restoration of the African Meeting House on Beacon Hill in Boston. This gathering and organizing place for the abolitionist movement is re-opening on December 7, more than a century after it was last used by an African-American congregation. It had served as a synagogue for many years, and was acquired by the Museum of African American History in 1972.

Tables of Justice

Yesterday's service was led by the Social Justice Committee, Youth Group, and. Ed Hardy. Entitled “Who Gets Invited to Your Table?”, it was a close look at what it means to promote justice, and started a season of giving at First Parish.

For over thirty years “Guest At Your Table” has been organized by Unitarian Universalist Service Committee as a means to assist social justice projects all over the world. Just as we would share a cup of tea to the stranger at our door, during this season of thanksgiving we share our bounty with all.

During the service, we heard excerpts from the Ware Lecture presented by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. at the Unitarian Universalist General Assembly in Hollywood Florida on May 18, 1966. Drawing on the story of Rip Van Winkle, Rev. King admonished the assembly: Don't Sleep Through the Revolution.

We also listened to the brief testimony of Dalia Ziada, a young Egyptian woman who is very much a living part of the revolutionary changes taking place in her country, in which an historic election was taking place as we met.
“True hospitality is marked by an open response to the dignity of each and every person. Henri Nouwen has described it as receiving the stranger on his own terms, and asserts that it can be offered only by those who 'have found the center of their lives in their own hearts'.” 
    ~~ Kathleen Norris, Dakota: A Spiritual Geography

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Certifiable Gardens

Among First Parish families, the Tunewicz-Gavin and Hayes-Bohanan households are among the 150,000 habitats certified by the National Wildlife Federation to date. The program is open to any household, school, business, or place of worship that meets the simple criteria for fostering biodiversity close to home. (It is not necessary to have a hyphenated name!)

Visit the Garden for Wildlife site to learn how to get certified, or ask those who have already participated. The process includes a lot of ideas for improving the attractiveness of your lawn and garden for birds, pollinating insects, and other wildlife. The amount of space can range from a patio to multiple acres. Our (the Hayes-Bohanans') plot is one-third of an acre and has seen an incredible increase in biodiversity in ten years of modest effort -- most of the increase in the first 2-3 years. While in Texas, we had similar results in just a couple of years with a fenced yard measuring no more than 200 square feet.

For those whose properties already meet the criteria, some additional improvements might result from reading the NWF materials. Even if nothing is changed, the certification -- which does entail a small fee that supports other NWF projects -- is a great conversation-starter for neighborhoods.

Geography Education on WBZ Radio

As most First Parish members know, parishioners Vernon Domingo and James Hayes-Bohanan are geography professors who do a lot of outreach work with K-12 teachers and students.

Recently (for the past decade, actually), they have been working throughout the state to expand and improve the teaching of geography by changing the educational frameworks to match national standards and by once again creating a pathway to become a high-school geography teacher.

Recently, they had the opportunity to take this discussion to a national audience through the WBZ/CBS radio program Nightside with Dan Rea. Those who missed the program can hear the archived version; more information about the current national and state efforts is on the Massachusetts Geographic Alliance blog at