We’re always hard at work planning new offerings, so stay tuned for more info!
Below is an invitation to join our TVUUC community in monthly Spiritual Exercises and reflection together.
Spiritual Exercises (& Invitation to Reflection Group)
TVUUCers of all ages are invited to join us in exploring a different spiritual theme each month this year, with a range of suggested spiritual practices offered here, culminating with a time of spiritual reflection via Zoom, where we’ll connect, reflect and share our experiences with the practices we’ve tried during the month.
We’ll meet on the 4th Monday of every month from 7:30-8:30pm, and each month’s spiritual exercises for deep engagement with our themes are shared in the monthly columns on this page. We invite you to choose one or more of the exercises to try out, and we encourage you to start with the exercise which you are most immediately drawn to. THEN, try out the exercise that you found LEAST enticing, approaching it with an attitude of listening for possibility. What is that experience like for you?
Drop in once, come every month, or as you are able; all are welcome! The zoom link is shared in our church newsletter and in the event on our TVUUC Members & Friends Facebook group, or you can email and we’ll send you the link to join.
The Beautiful Thing You Carry
The philosopher Blaise Pascal wrote, “In difficult times, carry something beautiful in your heart.”
These are indeed difficult times. They require courage, commitment, hope and self-love. And all of these are sustained by beauty. We find the courage to fight after falling in love with a beautiful vision to fight for. We maintain our commitment only by finding the beauty that nourishes us. We hold on to hope because experiences of beauty remind us that something in the universe is on our side. We withstand dehumanization when rooted deeply in the beauty of our own dignity.
It’s one of the most important secrets to successful social change and social survival: When we carry beauty, it carries us.
So this month, literally find something to carry with you, for weeks on end! A pebble, poem, torn piece of paper with a quote on it. Might even be a quote from this packet. You’ll likely carry it in your pocket, but maybe it will be in a necklace or wallet instead.
The goal is to find a reminder about beauty that will carry you through as you carry it.
Enter the World of Ordinary Beauty
We’ve all had those moments. The ordinary suddenly appears extraordinary. One minute the objects around us blend into the background, sit there as “things.” The next they come to life, so clearly carrying meaning and memory. What once seemed possessions, now somehow possess us. They are a part of us. And us them. When it happens, it’s beautiful.
So this month lean into the beauty of ordinary things, by picking one ordinary thing to praise. And then figure out how to praise it!
Maybe you’ll write an ode of your own, like the ones below. Maybe you’ll celebrate it by taking numerous pictures of it, from multiple angles at different times of the day. Maybe sharing it or passing it on to someone your treasure will be your way.
Here are a number of poetic praises to help you on your way…
- Ode to My Socks – Pablo Neruda: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1GOkypeafdM
- A Personal Reflection on Neruda and “our things”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRiCUqi-4Y4
- Burial & To the Fig Tree on 9th & Christian – Ross Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=300&v=YRjEgOoFI68
- To the Mulberry Tree – Ross Gay: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=14&v=jzLx2aRNTRU
- Ode to the Women on Long Island – Olivia Gatwood: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqpip0H1QTE
- Ode to Thrift Stores – Ariana Brown: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PFZJoU44uOo
Remind Yourself that You Are Pretty ______!
“Will I be pretty?” It’s more than a song whose tune is stuck in our heads. For so many of us, it’s a burden stuck in our skin. One can’t talk of nurturing beauty without addressing the way our culture distorts and disrupts – our relationship with our bodies and souls.
Poet Katie Makkai takes this head on in her poem Pretty. In it, she unfolds the challenge of reclaiming and transforming the call to be “pretty.”
After listen to Makkai’s poem (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7TS2Z6lAI4), you are invited this month to turn her call into a spiritual exercise by completing one (or maybe all) of these sentences:
“I am most proud of the fact that I am pretty ____________.”
“I hope my child knows they are pretty ____________.”
“I love my partner because they are pretty _____________.”
“I never knew I was pretty _____________ until ____________ helped me realize it.”
“The moment I realized I could be pretty ____________ was when I ____________.”
“I still want to become pretty ______________.”
You’re invited to come to the Spiritual Reflections group ready to share which fill in the blank took you the deepest, gifting you with word of comfort, challenge or calling.
A Beautiful Cup of Coffee
One of the best ways to explore our monthly themes is to bring them into the conversations you have in your everyday life. Or to put it another way, our themes offer you the chance to deepen and enliven your conversations and relationships.
So here are some conversation starters rooted in the call the Nurture Beauty. Take them into a conversation with someone close to you, or engage them with a small circle of family or friends.
Remember: part of this exercise is about the insights that arise from meaningful conversation, but another part is to notice the beauty that arises when our conversations go beyond the weather and normal chit chat.
You’re invited to come to the Spiritual Reflections group with the story of your favorite “beautiful moment” from the conversation.
Conversation Starters about Nurturing Beauty:
- What is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen or experienced? How did it leave its mark on you?
- When did you first feel beautiful?
- Have you ever been healed by beauty?
- What do you wish your 16-year-old self knew about beauty?
- Do you think beauty can save or heal the world?
- Have you ever found beauty in the brokenness?
Have you ever experienced a “beautiful goodbye”?
Make Some Beauty and Share It
Mandy Hale writes, “There is nothing more beautiful than someone who goes out of their way to make life beautiful for others.” In this spirit, get to work this month on making something beautiful and then give it away.
The challenge of this exercise is not so much in the making of a beautiful object as it is in figuring out what you want your gift to mean to the other person. Maybe your gift will be to thank them for who they’ve been for you. Maybe it will be to help them hold on to a memory. Maybe it will just be to remind them that life is beautiful even when it’s hard.
And remember, you don’t have to be an “artist” to do this. The beauty is in the gift and the way it will make life a bit more beautiful for another.
The Story of the Most Beautiful Thing
When was the last time you thought about the most beautiful thing you ever saw or experienced?
For this exercise, simply remember it and share the story of it with the Spiritual Reflections group or a freiend.
Why? Because sharing our stories of beauty helps us hold on to them. And sharing it with others helps them hold on to theirs.
Which Resource is Yours?
In the Companion Pieces section linked here, there are many quotes and resources on the practice of Nurturing Beauty. Engaging these resources and finding the one that especially speaks to you is a spiritual practice in and of itself. So, as your spiritual exercise for this month, reflect on those resources until you find the one that most deepens your understanding of Nurturing Beauty. After you’ve found it, engage it in a creative way. For instance, if it’s an article or video, share it with someone close to you and discuss it with them. Create an art piece or write a poem in reaction to it. We invite you to join our Spiritual Reflections Circle to share where the journey led you.
Ongoing programs that invite participants most or all year include:
- UU Parenting Circle – Wednesdays, 9-10pm (currently meeting via zoom) – This circle will offer a time to gather and share in a community around the complex and rewarding role of parenting. This circle is not intended to be a parenting class, but rather a place to find companionship and spiritual support with fellow parents. Contact for link to the Zoom meeting.
- Personal Beliefs and Commitments – Sundays, 10:00 – 10:55 AM (currently meeting in person at TVUUC as well as via zoom) –This is a sharing and listening group open to all, a preferred focus on topics of an ethical or spiritual nature. Regular attendance is not a condition for belonging. All are welcome. Meets every Sunday! Contact: Leo Williams at for link to the Zoom meeting.
- Small Group Ministry – Groups of six to twelve people covenant to meet once or twice a month for structured and confidential sharing on topics that inspire reflection and spiritual growth. New members placed and fresh groups formed as needed.
We also have a wide variety of recorded view-anytime programs, recommended books and films, and info about programming on the TVUUC Adult RE Page here:
Past Adult RE Offerings
Black Church/White Church
Facilitated by Rev. Chris Buice
Four Sessions: 7:00 pm on Tuesday nights November 7-28.
Martin Luther King Jr. called 11:00 on Sunday the most segregated hour in America. Why is that? Many black churches began as protests of white churches. Black members tired of segregated seating and unequal treatment walked out and started new congregations.
The purpose of this class will be to reflect on how we can become more effective at challenging bias, bigotry and racism through a clearer understanding of the relationship between black and white church traditions. The methodology of the class will be similar to the one in the youth Religious Education class Neighboring Faiths.
– On November 7 we will the Reverend Johnny Skinner of the Mount Zion Baptist Church will speak to us about the spirituality of Howard Thurman who was a mentor to Martin Luther King and founder of The Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples.
– On November 14 we will explore some of the similarities/differences in worship and social action between black and white church traditions in preparation for a church visit.
– For the November 21 class we will be going to a Thanksgiving service at Payne Avenue Baptist Church, 2714 Martin Luther King Blvd, sponsored by the Knoxville Interdenominational Christian Ministerial Alliance (KICMA) an organization of spiritual leaders from predominately African American churches.
– On November 28 we will have a panel of TVUUC members reflect on their spiritual journeys as African Americans in a predominately white denomination.
Faith Like A River: Themes from UU History
How was King John Sigismund of Transylvania convinced to convert to Unitarianism, thus becoming the only Unitarian monarch in all of history? How did a little chapel standing empty and a wind that didn’t change lead to our one true UU miracle story? Which Universalist minister, when narrowly missed by a rock thrown through a sanctuary window, responded that “this argument is solid and weighty, but it is neither rational nor convincing,” before continuing his sermon?
Faith Like a River explores the dynamic course of Unitarian, Universalist, and Unitarian Universalist history-the people, ideas, and movements that have shaped our faith heritage. It invites participants to place themselves into our history and consider its legacies. What do the stories of our history tell us about who we are today? What lessons do they offer to be lived into the future? Join us for an exploration of our UU religious tradition’s roots.
Screening and Discussion of: Requiem for the American Dream
Facilitated by Gene and Rosemary Burr
This is a two-session course in which participants will view and discuss the documentary by Noam Chomsky, titled “Requiem for the American Dream”.
Chomsky, one of the most noted intellectuals of our time, lectures at universities all over the world. In this film, through interviews filmed over four years, Chomsky details the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented economic inequality, tracing a half-century of policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority. Chomsky provides insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time–the death of the middle class and the swan song of functioning democracy. Reminding us that while power ultimately belongs to the governed, it will be ours to exercise only if we actively choose it, “Requiem” should be viewed by all who maintain hope that economic justice may yet be achieved in our society.
Facilitated by Gene and Rosemary Burr. Gene and Rosemary joined TVUUC in 1969 and have been involved in the life of the church ever since, except for the years between 1990 and 2004, when they were commuting to Key West and Memphis. Gene is an architect-planner; Rosemary retired from a counseling psychology practice in 2011.
Practicing the Four Noble Truths with John Blackburn