We’re always hard at work planning new offerings, so stay tuned for more info!
Scroll down for an invitation to join our TVUUC community in monthly Spiritual Exercises and reflection together.
We also have a wide variety of recorded view-anytime programs, recommended books and films, and info about upcoming programming on the TVUUC Adult RE Page here:
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.
At Least Ten Reasons Why You Love Them
Relationships require comment, at least every once in a while. The precious people in our lives know we love, appreciate and adore them, but it doesn’t hurt for us to tell them exactly why that is so. There is something about saying it out loud that breathes life back into our connections. There’s something about giving voice to the reasons for our love that makes that love real.
This is what the poet, Matthew Olzmann, understands better than most. In his poem, Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem, he lists all the reasons why he loves his partner, or as he puts it, “the reasons why our marriage might work.” And the genius of the poem is the level of detail it contains. One after another, he lists the extremely particular. He goes to great pains to be precise. That’s where the power rests, he seems to say.
So, here’s your exercise: Write your own “Mountain Dew” poem! Pick someone precious in your life and make an exceedingly specific list of the reasons why you treasure them. Don’t stress about the poetic structure or try to make it perfect. Just sit down and make a list. And when you are done, give it to your precious person. And if you’ve got the guts, you might even ask them to sit down and let you read it to them aloud.
Extra: Here’s a video of the poem being read aloud: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpplxELjtkM
Which, Not How…
There’s lots of advice out there about how to cultivate relationships, but what about the challenge of deciding which relationship to nourish?
We live in a society that narrows our view, that distracts us from the relationships that matter most, and certainly the relationships that could feed us the most. When societal voices encourage connection with our checkbooks, 401k accounts, social standing, and our Netflix cue, it’s hard to hear our inner voice calling us to reconnect with wonder, stillness, play, protest, memory or prayer.
So this month, lean into the work of noticing, of stepping back to widen your view, of listening to the longings for deeper connection. Here’s your assignment:
- Set aside 15-30 minutes of reflection/meditation to read this poem/prayer multiple times by Phyllis Cole-Dai: https://www.dailygood.org/story/2540/a-pandemic-poem-prayer-phyllis-cole-dai/
- On the first reading, pay attention to the 4-5 lines that “pop” for you, that seem to pull at your heart, that emotionally light up in neon lights.
- Go slow and notice the way the poem invites you to consider types of relationship we usually overlook. For instance, our relationship with our voice, our sense of safety, our faith, our temper, our expectations or what tempts us.
- Then reflect on those 4-5 lines and identify the one that stands out the most.
The aim is to uncover the relationship that wants and most needs your attention right now, then relationship that wants you to feed it so it can feed you.
How Do You NOT Cultivate Relationship?
It’s counterintuitive but true: arguing well can strengthen relationships unlike almost anything else. Those skilled at navigating the tense waters of a fight know that it’s not the fight itself but the way one fights that tears the threads of relationship. To have had a fight with someone that “fights fair” is to know that you can trust them when things get rough again. It leaves one clear that what matters most to the other is not winning but the relationship itself.
Here’s the good news: we can all get better at arguing well, at fighting fairly! And a great place to start is with recognizing the ways in which you don’t fight fairly.
So for your exercise this month, read this article about 8 common argument mistakes (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/worst-things-to-do-during-argument_l_5cc1ec65e4b066119de37b6d?utm_source=pocket_mylist) and identify the one or two you need to work on the most. And don’t worry about this being an abstract or intellectual exercise because, if you pick correctly and honestly, then you are bound to run into a situation this month where the temptation to use your old bad habits will surely appear. Which also means you will be given the opportunity to resist that habit and come one step closer to becoming someone people look forward to arguing with! 🙂
Cultivating & Recalculating the Sum of Us
No one doubts that racism divides us. It is the great and terrible opposite of cultivating relationship. But are we sure we’re clear about the exact cost of that division? Most often we assume that racism divides us into winners and losers. But could it be possible that in the end we all lose? This is what Heather Mcghee argues in her essential new book, The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone And How We Can Prosper Together.
To honor its important and needed perspective, make reading it your spiritual exercise for the month. If you are challenged for time, you might instead engage one of these video/audio options:
- Podcast conversation: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/vox-conversations/id1081584611?i=1000512526401
- Interview with Trevor Noah: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZpse-90KTY
- TED Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaCrsBtiYA4&t=1s
But don’t stop there. Don’t just read or listen to the above pieces. Instead work to identify the single sentence or paragraph in one of them that grabs you most, that seems to be trying to speak to you personally, that seems to carry a message or a call specifically for you, something that is challenging you to think or act differently.
If you will join us for the Spiritual Reflections group meeting at the end of the come, come ready to share that single sentence/paragraph, and what you think its challenge is for you.
Childhood Questions That Cultivate
It’s often surprising how little we know about our partner’s or close friend’s childhoods. Yet awareness of that early part of one’s life adds depth to our relationships in ways that little else can.
So for your exercise this month: Fill in the childhood blanks! With the below list of questions as your guide, have a conversation of depth with your partner or a close friend sometime this month.
Come to your group with the story of your favorite moment from the conversation.
- Who was your childhood best friend, and what is your favorite memory with that person?
- What was your favorite childhood activity?
- What was your favorite childhood toy?
- What was your favorite movie growing up?
- What was your first screen name?
- Who was your first kiss? Do you think they remember you?
- What sort of rules did you have in your house growing up?
- What was your best family vacation?
- Were you closer with one parent over the other? Why?
- Were you closer with one sibling over the other? Why?
- What caused you to get into the most trouble with your parents?
- How did you and your family celebrate holidays?
- What the best thing one of siblings did for you? What was the worst thing?
- What kind of student were you?
- Is there a childhood achievement you were particularly proud of?
- What is your favorite childhood memory?
- What was your childhood dream? Is there a particular reason you stopped pursuing it?
- What was your most embarrassing childhood moment?
Which Quote is Yours?
In the Companion Pieces document linked here, there are many quotes about the practice of cultivating relationship. Engaging these quotes 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 quotes until you find the one that most expands or deepens your understanding of cultivating relationship.
After you’ve found it, consider writing it out on a small piece of paper and carrying it with you or pinning it up so you can continue to reflect on it throughout the weeks leading up to your group meeting. Come to your group ready 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 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.
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