When Jonipher Kwong, a member of the Congregation Life Staff of the Pacific Western Region, spoke here on Jan. 24, we discussed sharing the timetable of ministerial transition with you. With transparency uppermost in our minds, the Board of Trustees want to share that timeline with those who would like to see it. Anyone who calls or emails our Office Administrator can request a copy. It will also be mailed to all members of the Council of Chairs, and a copy will be posted to the bulletin board. One note: the costs mentioned in the document are approximate and subject to change. Also, they do not have to be paid all at once, since this is at minimum a two year process. For more information, contact Maribel Dana.

RE flections – by Amy Randall

Amy_Randallsquare“Imagine a world where the holidays were about people again, where door busters referred to loved ones pouring through the front door, and the four letter word that defined the season was L-O-V-E and not S-A-L-E.”

Nice sentiment, even if it is actually the beginning of a commercial for TJ Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods (all part of The TJX Companies, Inc.).

Regardless of who coined this, the season should be about love, not presents. In my extended family, which consists of my parents, 6 siblings, 2 in-laws, 2 nieces, plus my husband and 2 sons, we pick names. Then many of us specify a charity near and dear to our hearts. But to make it a fun holiday, we fill stockings with little items. We also eat, do skits, play games, go for walks, and just enjoy family. So our main focus is L-O-V-E!

Everyone makes their own traditions. And the holiday season is a great time for family to do things together. Here are some of my favorite ideas for holiday family time:

  • Bake – share a family recipe or try a new one
  • Decorate – let your kids decorate their rooms too
  • Craft – make your own tree ornaments, wall hangings, or gingerbread houses
  • Hike – you can walk in your own neighborhood, nearby park, or mountains
  • Bicycle – take a ride and enjoy the fall/winter weather
  • Play games – find those dusty board games or play a family video game
  • Watch movies – have each family member choose their holiday favorite
  • Attend a show – many cities have productions of The Christmas Carol or The Nutcracker
  • Drive around looking at Christmas lights – there are many places where whole neighborhoods are decked out with elaborate decorations
  • Read – find a favorite classic or new series and take turns reading out loud

Whatever you do, enjoy some quality time together and “put more value on what really matters”.

Happy Holidays!

Amy Randall
Director of Religious Exploration

Wheel of the Year – by Jeanne Coats

December_2015_EncounterWheel of the Year
A pagan perspective on the seasons

What comes to your mind when you hear or read the word Yule? Does it conjure images of brightly lit and decorated trees, holly wreaths, mistletoe, the blazing Yule log and the sounds of carols, and sleigh bells? If it does, welcome to the Pagan world!

Even the word Yule is Pagan, meaning “wheel.” All of the above-mentioned, so-called, Christmas symbols are actually Pagan in origin, once banned by the Catholic Church as sinful. Only when church officials found them impossible to stamp out, did these Yule images and practices become part of the Christmas celebration.

Yuletide is a deeply meaningful pagan Sabbat, or celebration, one in which many European-tradition Pagans celebrate the birth of the new-born Sun. This is no “typo.” Pagan Yule celebrates, not the birth of Jesus, but the birth of a new solar year.
Thus it was easy for the church to set His birth within the season, change “Sun” to “Son,” and have a ready-made holy day.
As the first Sabbat of the Pagan Wheel of the Year, Yule is the perfect name for this festival. It is the Winter Solstice (usually December 21) the shortest day and the longest night of the year. After this, the sun begins a new cycle of growth, which will culminate six months later at Litha, the Summer Solstice.

In olden times, winter was often a time of severe cold and limited food supplies. By the end of December the stores of fresh food were running low, and it was a good time to have one last feast before the spring. Everyone got into the act: Men went into the forest to cut a Yule log, some children cut evergreen boughs to bring inside for decoration, while others helped prepare the food or clean house.

Everything had to be ready by Yule Eve, at which time the Yule log was ceremoniously decorated and placed in the fire-place. At the stroke of midnight, all the candles and lamps were extinguished, except one candle. This was used to light a piece of last year’s log which had been saved for just this purpose. This, in turn, was used to light several short candles that had been set into the Yule log. Everyone waited in silence until the log ignited. At this, a cheer was raised, mugs of wassail were passed, and the feasting began.

How long the Yule log burned determined the length of the celebration. If the men had chosen well, and the log was large and green enough, the celebration would last for a full twelve days, until January 6 — Twelfth Night; later known as the Day of the Three Kings, and Feast of the Epiphany.
However you celebrate this joyous season, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa; or if you don’t celebrate anything, I wish you a most happy holiday.

Until next month, blessed be!
Jeanne Coats

Open Office Administrator Position

As background, we recruited a new office administrator by means of an ad on Craigslist. She was scheduled to begin work on November 5. That very day, she accepted a full-time position elsewhere, and we were back to Square One. At its November Board meeting, the Board discussed a range of options. The Board decided to widen the search for an office administrator in two ways. An ad will run in the Claremont Courier for two weeks. Also, as an exception to the congregation's current policy (which bars members as employees), both members and non-members may apply for the office administrator position during this recruitment period only. Please email resumes to by December 6. The Personnel Committee will review applications in consultation with Rev. Ann.

You may wonder why the Board made an exception to its policy. I believe it was a combination of three primary factors: 1) disappointment in the overall quality of the candidate pool from Craigslist since there was only one viable prospective employee out of over 45 applicants, 2) Director of Religious Exploration, Amy Randall, was grandfathered (grandmothered?) in as a member employee when the policy was adopted several years ago, and there have been no difficulties, and 3) all three current volunteer member office administrators have done exceptional work and have demonstrated thoughtful, good judgement in working with our members. Please let me know if you have any comments or questions.

Maribel Dana, Board President