Linden Ponds

In the winter of 2007, a new member who had just moved in to Linden Ponds proposed that I teach a course there where we could include both members of Second Parish and anyone at Linden Ponds who was interested, especially members of the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship she had just founded there.  This proved to be an excellent venue for a number of reasons.  Classes at Second Parish were sometimes too small to work well, and sometimes stopped meeting because too few attended; at Linden Ponds, we have consistently attracted between twenty to forty participants spread across two class meetings on Wednesdays, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.  Leading classes at Linden Ponds attracted several new members to Second Parish and brought many participants from my classes to other events we held as well.  Finally, these classes have served an important role in providing a forum for lifelong learning and social bonding at Linden Ponds, part of our mission at Second Parish to “serve our neighbors.”
The first class was based on a series of videos produced the First Unitarian in Tulsa, “Faith of Our Founders.”  This series provides an overview of the founding and development of Unitarian and Universalist traditions as they intertwine with the foundations of our nation, tracing our path from Plymouth to the Civil War.  It served as an excellent introduction to our UU history for Unitarian Universalists and members of all traditions at Linden Ponds.  That spring, I taught a course called “Living Our Whole Lives,” based on the book From Age-ing to Sage-ing:  A Profound New Vision of Growing Older by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi.  This provided an important opportunity for our members and residents of Linden Ponds to come to terms with their own “eldering.”  I also taught this course at the Hingham Senior Center this past spring.
I have continued teaching these classes at Linden Ponds since that time, and have been gratified that among the sixty or seventy people who have taken the classes at some point, at least eleven have come from Second Parish, enabling me to provide the congregation with educational opportunities we could not have offered on our own.  I have taught two or three sessions of five to twelve sessions each year, many of them based around a close reading of contemporary books relating to religion, ethics, and politics.  Here’s a sampling of what we have studied these past five years:

Harvey Cox,         Common Prayers: Faith, Family, and a Christian's Journey Through the Jewish Year
Harvey Cox,         When Jesus Came to Harvard: Making Moral Choices Today
Karen Armstrong, The Great Transformation: The Beginning of Our Religious Traditions
Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (on the rise of fundamentalist movements in Christianity, Judaism and Islam)
Diana Eck,             Encountering God:  A Spiritual Journey from Bozeman to Benares
Greg Epstein,         Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe
Eliza Griswold,      The Tenth Parallel: Dispatches from the Fault Line Between Christianity and Islam
James Kugel,         In the Valley of the Shadow: On the Foundations of Religious Belief
Sam Harris,           The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values

One of our last classes was based on reading The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by Jonathan Haight, an extremely useful guide to how we as a nation have become so radically set against one another – especially relevant to have read during this past fall’s political season.  This book has provided me with one of my themes for the year:  how we can better learn to hold clearly to our own beliefs and identity while learning to bridge the gap that separates us from others who hold diametrically opposed beliefs.