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Media contact: Eloise Fontaine, eloise taraexpeditions. The adventure began in Le Havre alongside an obscure commercial quay. First, we began by dismantling all of the fittings and rigging. Hanging in a harness up at 27 meters, it takes a bit of unselfish concern to loosen the turnbuckle with 2 oversized wrenches. Using two hydraulic jacks, we raised a mast by 1 mm to remove shims that maintain the compression and tension of the rigging. The only thing left to do was disconnect all the guys so that the crane could lift the mast. This was an awesome moment when everyone had to know exactly what to do in order to avoid damaging the equipment.

While part of the crew worked on the masts, others construct wooden structures on the deck where the dismounted masts were placed. Friday at 2am: our strange journey began with the crossing of the Quinette lock and a harsh reunion with the ocean — wind at 35 knots and a choppy sea. Some rocking swells confirmed the solidity of our constructions before we entered the access channel to the Seine.

With the tide rising, we went up the Seine to Rouen at an average speed of 9 knots. Here we finally left the ocean world for the realm of the river: after a few bridges, we were passing cargo barges. Two days of bucolic navigation between cows and locks brought us to the capital. Since last Sunday at 3pm, Tara has been docked in the heart of Paris. Wednesday we put up the masts, and curious people gather around, wanting to know what this strange boat is doing here.

A very special stopover before heading back to sea. Our stopover in London continues. I decided to ask him some questions too. LM : How long did you spend on board and what was your job? This last leg was particularly interesting because we were far away from the continental influence, and at the junction of waters from very different zones. Stations were defined in advance, based on satellite maps. As chief scientist, I had to decide the most appropriate zone to study. Our goal is to compare the plankton of these different water masses.

This analysis of biodiversity allows us to understand the relationship between the physico-chemical parameters and plankton. We can then make the connection between the natural phenomena of circulation and climate change. CB : Before Tara Oceans, there was little data on a planetary scale. The first DNA analyses allow us to quantify: We thought there were 5, species of diatoms, but with the data from Tara, it looks like there are around 30, species! The results should be published in Before the Tara expedition we were studying diatoms from cultures grown in our laboratory over several years.

Now we can check a number of hypotheses using the wild diatoms collected in the samples of Tara Oceans. LM : How did Tara change your life as a researcher? CB : I have a better understanding of the issues of my research at the global level, a much more comprehensive vision, an openness to the world. LM : In what way do you think Tara missions are essential today? So, at a lower cost, studies can be carried out on a large scale, accelerating collection of data and therefore scientific advances.

The difficulty in oceanographic research is logistics, and the real problem is that we realize our ignorance of ocean life! Many doors are opening with this unique and exciting project. After this exchange with Chris, I think of the story he told at the Maritime Museum about the epic explorers like Columbus and Vasco de Gama. And I go away reassured by the idea that mankind still has so much to discover!


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After Dublin and before Paris, the French scientific research vessel Tara arrived in London on September 17th for a ten-day stay. The schooner has just completed a two-and-a-half year, 70,mile voyage across the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian Oceans, investigating marine ecosystems and biodiversity under the impact of climate change. It could take up to 10 years to analyse all the samples and complex data collected during the expedition.

The team was really inspiring. They shared so much information with me about oceans and climate change. I am really grateful that they are raising awareness around the world … and I am very proud that the United Nations is supporting them. In May Tara will head north for a new scientific expedition, crossing through the Arctic Ocean by the northwest and northeast passages. Researchers and crew will be available for interviews aboard Tara until 5 pm.

A series of events are planned in London to raise awareness about the work of the Tara Expeditions Foundation :. Tara Expeditions Marc Domingos — marc taraexpeditions. Emma Brunn — press agnesbuk. After two-and-a-half years of study in all the oceans of the world, the Tara Oceans expedition will reveal some preliminary results this fall. The Tara Oceans expedition has identified at first glance about 1,,! It includes all the organisms identified by the expedition, thus providing a useful source of study for researchers.

Emmanuel Reynaud, scientific coordinator of Tara Oceans and specialist in imagery, welcomed two weeks ago the schooner Tara and her crew in Dublin, the city where he lives. Impressions of this stopover:. The whole crew is out on deck to greet us, and we salute them from the military battery with the Irish flag and a burst of sunshine. As soon as Tara Teamhrach in Irish comes to dock, a rainstorm joins in the welcome celebration. Afterwards people flocked to the wharf despite the uncertain weather to visit the boat. It was a pleasure to see everyone and spend some time together in Ireland.

Come back soon! Yesterday morning in Dublin, Eric Karsenti co-director of Tara Oceans, presented the first results of the two-and-a-half year expedition around the world, to an audience of scientists from all over Europe. After his one-hour conference, Eric Karsenti received an ovation from his peers. What are your thoughts about this conference? Eric Karsenti: I gave the talk for about scientists and many journalists. This was one of the first times I presented concrete scientific results from the Tara Oceans Expedition.

The very first presentation took place not long ago at the Ecole Normale in Paris. He wants to organize exchanges with Tara Oceans. Eric Karsenti: In all the laboratories of the Tara Oceans consortium researchers are working hard. Tara Oceans scientific coordinators are examining the thousands of samples we managed to collect. We are currently recruiting postdoctoral researchers. Vincent Hilaire: How long will it take to publish the first 4 articles you just mentioned?

Eric Karsenti: 6 months to one year. One article will cover the Mediterranean sampling stations. A second paper will discuss the biodiversity of 35 different stations. A fourth article will about phages — the viruses on bacteria. Vincent Hilaire: Do you still think it will take about 10 years to analyze all the samples? After an expedition lasting two and a half years, Tara is back in Lorient. The schooner continues to sail in the wake of the great oceanographic vessels. This situation in the long term results in intense warming at the inter-tropical zones and glaciation in the higher latitudes.

Fortunately for life on earth, winds and marine currents distribute this warmth over the entire planet. Oceanic surface and deep circulations transport excess and deficit heat from one region to another. After a press conference Thursday at the United Nations where Eric Karsenti, scientific director, presented Tara Oceans Expedition, today Tara experienced a landmark event. All through December you will find many testimonials. The exceptional biodiversity of the French overseas department made the stay worth every minute! Sometimes we seem hesitant and turn around a zone.

How will this second year be organized? This is his interview with Chris Bowler, one of the principal scientific coordinators of Tara Oceans. Itspurpose has been to investigate planktonic and coral ecosystemsin the perspective of climate changes. One hundred international scientists have taken part. The initialresultsof the expedition have exceeded expectations. But it willtake many yearsfor the data to be analysed and the results published. Laurent Wauquiez, and Minister of Agriculture, M. What are they called? In the middle of nowhere? Not really. But our scientific team wonders whether marine micro-organisms still carry evidence of the catastrophe.

The team found that bleaching here, which was first reported in March this year, is the worst seen in the Indian Ocean. A rather unknown pathology, but we sailors are the first to feel the effects! Yet in their way, they frequently show that they are not exempt from certain addictive side effects…. To give an example, you only had to be present at Lorient on March 31st, on the return of Tara Oceans amongst the dozens of boats accompanying us and the hundreds of people on the docks, waiting to glimpse the schooner after 2 and a half years of absence…and above all, the surprising silence of the crowd as the ship glided through the last meters separating it from the dock!

Especially impressive and poignant — I remember the tears welling up in my eyes. After talking with a few people, I understood the simple reason for the silence: emotion! Even on dry dock, a day does not go by without curious people passing through the area who stop to chat, or to pose proudly in front of Tara for a photo… And we continue working, pretending not to notice their doings.

I think of all those teachers who invested their time and allowed many students to follow the adventure by focusing all or most of their courses on topics of science, sustainable development, environmental protection… Some have done great things: giant maps of the journey, board games on sustainable development, outings for plankton observations, films…. And Jean Paul, on the day Tara returned, who launched an impressive model after working on it for three years! Or Maryvonne, a Lorient faithful who has followed the boat for years, and never misses an opportunity to take a picture.

She was waiting for this occasion. Then a few hours later, passing by her car, I met her again and she showed me her trunk, filled with treasures, photos of Tara. I realized then that Maryvonne has a real passion for Tara after seeing all the photos she had taken over the years. Impressive Maryvonne! And there are others that could be mentioned…. We feel supported! Tara certainly leads scientific expeditions related to the environment, but remains above all a beautiful and wonderful human adventure, made up of encounters on board and on land! Tara has always been a big family, and it shows!

To all you Tara fans who are like us living a passion, this log is a homage to you. Every time the Tara makes landfall Rainer Friedrich, project coordinator at World Courier, has to organize the complex logistical operation of transferring the samples collected at sea to European and American laboratories.

His role is essential. What is the best way to transport samples? The best way to ensure the success of such a demanding enterprise is to have at your disposal a dependable network of agencies, and a flow of regularly updated information. A good relationship with airlines and the authorities of the countries where the ship docks is also essential. World Courier enjoys excellent working relations throughout the world. How much time do you need to prepare for a stopover?

To tell you the truth it all depends on the port. For example, it took us about three months to organize the Djibouti stopover because the laws there are very complicated. For most ports preparation requires one or two months. To which ports has the Tara expedition taken you? On the whole, the coordination of the expedition is exhausting and requires a lot of time for each stopover.

Marshall McLuhan, 1964

I am very grateful to Romain for doing the groundwork and giving me all these documents at the start of the expedition. My best memory must be Mayotte. So I hired a barge and unloaded the samples in the middle of the lagoon! It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and much easier than I had expected. Cape Town was also a magical moment. The site, and the efficient World Courier team based in Cape Town, made sure the stopover and our logistics went perfectly!

My worst memory was when I got very ill in Djibouti. Luckily Major Schuber, a military doctor in the German Army, was staying in the same hotel as me. He saved my life! The flight on to which I had booked the seawater samples was cancelled and I had very little time in which to book another flight to Europe if the samples were to be preserved in perfect condition. The stopover in Guayaquil was unforgettable too!

The place chosen for unloading the samples was not satisfactory for our logistics so I had to find another reliable port as quickly as possible, and one with a suitable infrastructure for protecting the seawater samples and unloading them in complete safety. Of all the Tara stopovers, which one was your favourite destination? It was Bandos Island in the Maldives where I took six hours off, once the job was done, to relax and recharge my batteries! And also Cape Town which is, for me, the most beautiful city in the world…. Once the samples get to Europe, what happens to them?

All the samples are sent to Frankfurt. There they are unpackaged, inspected, counted again, and repackaged depending on what they contain. Then one of our special trucks delivers them to the participating laboratories in the European towns and cities of Evry, Paris, Roscoff, Barcelona, Banyuls, Marseilles, and Villefranche-sur-mer. It must be a very stressful job. How do you stay calm and keep smiling? You need to be thick-skinned, know how to make things happen and make instant decisions. That said, having a beer with the scientists and the crew of the Tara once the job is done is also a great way of relieving stress and putting a smile on my face!

Is this the first time you have been involved in an operation of this kind? World Courier is involved in many interesting operations, such as transporting samples from space, in particular from the International Space Station ISS Most of the work in this scientific endeavour involves understanding how the organisms react in space, and the potential impact space can have on them. We also manage the transportation of urine samples collected from cyclists during the Tour de France, for the purposes of drug testing. Tara Oceans is a unique logistical challenge that I well never forget. After an amazing arrival in Lorient, then a full week devoted to the visits of school kids aboard Tara, the last few days have been used to make room on the boat.

First the scientists dismantled, stored or took back their equipment, including everything from microscopes in the dry lab to the rosette, pumps, nets and filters of all kinds. Then everyone departed. What an odd feeling to be alone, having spent all those months at sea as a group of 15 people. We sailors then turned things topsy-turvy inside the ship, completely emptying the front and rear holds with the help of cranes, forklifts and trucks. Almost everything was removed: anchor, generator, diving compressor, deck equipment, etc. The idea was to make room to work comfortably in this next phase.

Another strange impression — seeing these wide open spaces inside Tara, when just a short time ago the sailboat was filled to the brim! But in between, three years have gone by, full of wonderful experiences and encounters — three years that went by so fast we hardly saw them go! Since the beginning of this week in Lorient, Tara has welcomed a constant stream of visitors.

The whole week was devoted to this — children and young people came aboard the boat — all ages, from pre-schoolers to students of naval architecture, everyone passionately interested in the scientific research schooner. Certain groups have been preparing their visit for long time. Some have been working on Tara Oceans projects for 3 years and are totally familiar with details of the expedition. Coming aboard the boat is a high-point of their work — finally confronting what they imagined with the real thing. Everybody enjoys the visit, and lots of questions are fielded: How many people are aboard?

Do you speak English? Are you a sailor or a scientist? What does your work entail? The visit is organized in two parts. Each stage of the visit is an occasion to talk about science, daily life on board, navigation on Tara, the purpose of sampling, and of course, the reasons for the expedition, questions about the environment, climate change, and protection of the oceans. Students presented their work to other students in the auditorium.

All in all it was a wonderful time of sharing. Two artists, two styles, two visions, but a common passion: photography, and a unique subject: Tara. There are 20 photos each from the Arctic and Antarctic, all in black and white, taken 3 years apart but at the same time of year. What is striking is the contrast between the polar night and the endless daylight at the South Pole.

These are color photos that address a variety of topics — science, navigation, life on board, ports-of-call, people we encountered. What do you want to communicate through these photos? V: I had the opportunity to travel to these magnificent landscapes of ice, and I wanted to show the special atmosphere there: the beauty of nature and pristine landscapes.

At the poles, time stops and every instant you have the impression of living an eternal moment. At the South Pole, besides the landscapes and Tara, I concentrated on marine mammals, penguins. In contrast, at the North Pole, my pictures reflect the more human and personal adventure, which I experienced for 5 months. I wanted to share the wonderful encounters I had, even the briefest ones, like this young merchant in Bombay. I wanted to show emotional moments between people, for example when Abdou — our guide on the Djibouti coral reefs — looked at photos of the Tara Arctic expedition.

These are the kinds of touching moments, human and fraternal which I love to photograph and share. V: Nearly pictures at each pole. J: Aboard Tara I take an average of nearly photos per month, so there should be about V: I combined different criteria — aesthetics, poetry, the impression of unity. The link between the two poles is, of course, Tara. J: To choose my photographs, I took into account the artistic but also the information content.

J: My favorite is the one of soaring birds at Saint Brandon. They encircle Tara at anchor like a wreath, and the scene is bathed in an orange-yellow light. Besides the image itself, this photo reminds me of the magical moment I spent there alone. After taking the shot, I went swimming in this dream scenery.

Where are the next exhibition dates? V: Nothing definite yet, but the exhibit will certainly travel in France, and hopefully abroad. Do you have other personal projects in mind? V: I want to continue working in black and white, on the theme of humans facing dehumanization — to show what I find shocking in our society. And I also hope to return with my camera to the Moroccan desert, the place where I first understood my desire to transform traveling into adventure. J: I have a project for a photographic book about the revival of traditional sailing boats in the Polynesian lagoons.

The idea was born after my voyage in Polynesia aboard Tara. After a marathon expedition like this one, what does the future hold for the Tara? The ship will remain in Europe this year. Then in we would really like to return to the Arctic Ocean, which we did not study during the Tara Oceans Expedition, and pass through the North-West and North-East passages.

We know very little about the biology in that region of the world. It will be an opportunity for us to apply the know-how we have developed over the last two years to the North Pole, a region rarely out of the news. We shall continue our programme to measure plastic pollution in seawater and devellop new usefull collaborations.

Tara Expeditions looks forward to participating as well as collaborating with russian, canadian and quebec scientists experts in this particular field. Scientists think that major changes are taking place in the Arctic and that a fresh assessment of the biodiversity there will be very important for the future. We are currently drafting the outline of the expedition which, in , will lead on from the Arctic voyage. The idea is to study the coral reefs biodiversity gradient at the surface but also at greater depths accross the Pacific Ocean. After that we hope to prepare another Arctic drifting expedition which would start in mid , starting out from the Bering Strait.

The expedition would take at least two years…. Between the start of the first Arctic drift in and the end of the second, almost a decade will have passed. Back then, in —, some of the biological programmes had to be abandoned. Since then the Tara has acquired a certain expertise in polar logistics which we are delighted to make available to the scientific community. The Tara Oceans was an exceptional expedition, and successful, but the wider public has not yet realized to what point it has surprised scientists.

Everybody agrees that the expedition has shown us just how ignorant we are about the oceans. We are working on getting the message across to the public through cinema releases. Tara Oceans will keep going after the expedition. It is not a planned project yet but it is one I hold dear. There are so many large cities next to the sea. Two billion people are involved and the issues are enormous: pollution, global warming, access to drinking water, and desertification. Populations will be under considerable pressure.

We estimate that, by the end of the century, nearly million people will have been displaced because of climate change. One thing is for sure, Tara Expeditions will be continuing to work for the good of the environment. Interview by Dino Dimeo. Yesterday his visit was still not certain.

But in the late afternoon, the information was confirmed after the security services of the United Nations completed their control and gave the green light. The departure manoeuvre was carried out efficiently and Tara left North Cove Marina where we had been moored for almost a week. With a smile on his face, Ban Ki-moon listened intently to explanations about the masts, sails, and scientific equipment. This man with diplomatic powers equivalent to several heads of state was visibly savouring the moment.

The Brooklyn Bridge and midtown Manhattan paraded in front of the crew, already charmed by this illustrious guest who engaged in friendly conversation with everybody. Ban Ki-moon then came inside Tara to discover the living space especially designed for polar expeditions. Accompanied by Eric Karsenti, he learned about the challenges of our mission, and all the scientific equipment on board.

In view of the upcoming Earth Summit in Rio, Ban Ki-moon stressed his personal commitment to issues concerning the oceans, and invited Tara Expeditions to help define the role of oceans for mankind in the various initiatives promoted by the United Nations. Instabilities arise and this great warm current forms meanders, which gradually turn into vortices enclosing warm water escaping into the cold water to the north, or the contrary, where entrapped cold water is transported to warmer waters in the south.

These eddies, dozens of kilometers in diameter and with depths up to m, continue moving for several months while slowly mixing with surrounding water. Further east, after passing the mid-Atlantic rift, the Gulf Stream divides into two, one branch to the north towards Europe which forms the North Atlantic Current, and a branch to the south becoming the Canary Current. These latter surface and deep currents move westward to eventually replenish the Gulf Stream at its surface and at depth during a time span lasting up to several decades for the mode water.

This entire circulation transports huge amounts of nutritive elements and marine organisms. Plankton must adapt to changing conditions during transport or disappear. Depending on the destination taken by the water masses that these organisms occupy, the populations and their progeny will be lost, trapped in eddies, transported to Europe as far as Spitzbergen or they will be reinjected into the Gulf Stream.

Many studies have been carried out on the transport of nutrients, large marine zooplankton and fish, but few have reported on smaller organisms like viruses and phytoplankton. During the Tara Oceans mission in the Gulf Stream, the scientific team made an initial inventory of all transported biodiversity viruses to zooplankton by sampling at key locations in the current. These were defined by the analyses of satellite temperature maps, sea height altimetry and vertical profiling m depth across the current. Friday, January the American flag is floating above Tara.

One leg of our voyage is over; before the next one begins, the crew is enjoying a very warm welcome offered by this small city on the east coast. It took nearly 2 months for Tara to go from one coast to the other, heading south past Mexico then cutting across Central America via the Panama Canal. We left San Diego at the end of November after a long stopover for repairs. After several hours sailing up the narrow Savannah River, accompanied by the sound of canons blasting in our honor, Tara finally moors in the middle of the city.

Though the quai is still thronged with visitors, certain Taranautes go off to explore the city. This is a human-scaled city — less than , inhabitants, ten times fewer than in San Diego — where street musicians are omnipresent and draw lots of enthusiastic spectators. The hospitality continues into the evening: a reception in our honor, organized by the French Consulate, is scheduled at the Savannah Technical College.

To bring us there, a traditional school bus has been hired to transport the 15 Tara passengers. Certain of us rediscover our childhood in the back of the yellow bus. At our destination we are welcomed as very special guests. During the speeches honoring our passage in Savannah, a classic French dinner is served — the crew enchanted to eat foie gras and pastries after a month at sea. At the end of the meal, the French chef gives us some dishes to take home so we can continue the feast for a few more days aboard Tara.

These next few days will also be needed to renew the Tara team. Most of the scientists will disembark, to be replaced by another group; and the sailors will prepare for the next leg of the voyage — 10 days heading north to New York. Best of luck! The pace is building up as we finally get down to scientific business.

Our course takes us north, following the marine currents. The scientific team is itching for more action. The main feature of this leg: Tara will be drifting the whole way thanks to ocean currents. This will bring us to the East Coast via the Florida current. Joined by other currents, it becomes the famous Gulf Stream. To follow the currents as precisely as possible, the scientific team relies on satellite maps.

Water temperature, sea level or phytoplankton concentrations — each chart shows the winding current as it makes its way to the East Coast. But the question remains — are two stations enough? Specifically, a CTD allows us to record a number of factors: not only Conductivity-Temperature-Depth, but also salinity, oxygen concentration and fluorescence. After immersing the rosette, the scientists then have a detailed profile of the actual water characteristics.

These multiple CTDs will let us correlate the water masses between the two long stations, while offering a global vision of these famous currents. But the positioning of these 2 stations is not motivated only by the study of currents. In the Gulf of Mexico, one station will take place not far from a sad ocean memory: the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, , which caused one of the worst oil spills in the United States. For the scientists onboard, this leg offers many research directions. For the sailors however, going north towards Savannah has a more symbolic aspect.

New year, new ocean, new team, but the same objective. For the 7 scientists who recently embarked aboard Tara, the Panama Canal was the perfect place to relay with the other team: the first station of this new leg was almost exactly the same as the last station of the preceding leg. Just before entering the Panama Canal, Gabriel and his team were able at the last minute to get permission to take a few samples at the entrance of the canal, on the Pacific side.

A week later, the team led by Emmanuel head scientist of this new leg will do the second part of the experiment: another sampling station, but this time as we exit the canal on the Atlantic side.

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But according to the head scientist of Franco-Israeli origin, the strategic position of these 2 stations could provide other information: the Panama Canal, scarcely a hundred years old, artificially re-opened the Strait. This could modify the distribution of species on each side. For now, the new team will continue the work of their predecessors, smoothly performing their first sampling station. Marc, who works on the rosette alongside Sarah, has totaled 9 months aboard. Lucie, who replaces Noan doing the filtering, is on her third leg.

Another old-timer, Gabriella takes over in the dry lab. Their experience in doing sampling stations benefits the people who have just come aboard, and makes for a perfect transition between the 2 teams. In the wet lab, our biologist from Barcelona, Francisco, is replaced by a compatriot, Beatriz. At the end of the day, the manipulations have become automatic, and the new team finishes this famous first station in record time. Going through the Panama Canal has just been added to the list.

Slowly the heavy hull begins to move, illuminated by the first rays of the sun. Near a small buoy, a fast boat moors alongside Tara, bringing the Panamanian pilot who will stay with us most of the day. A journey of almost 80 km has just begun. The 2 shores come close together here, as if to guide our way: the estuary changes into a canal. A phone call informs us that we are now in the spotlight, the canal webcam pointed at us, sending an image of this strange ship around the world. Before us a huge red cargo ship makes the 36 meter-long Tara look like a little dinghy.

Imperceptibly the water raises the 2 ships a few meters. The ballet of gigantic gates starts up again — opening for our passage, then imprisoning us once again under the watchful eye of some pelicans. We enter Miraflores Lake, full throttle to the next 3 locks of the canal. Concrete and steel give way to lush vegetation on the banks. With the sun beating down, the recently- embarked scientific team begins to prepare their first sampling station, scheduled for tomorrow, checking one last time the rosette and the wet lab.

Tara turns off the engines and throws anchor in a corner of the lake. The wait is long. We remain moored until nightfall when finally we can pass through the last locks leading to the Atlantic Ocean. The new pilot is aboard, the way is free, and we can finally begin the last stage of our journey.

This time the locks will gradually make us descend to sea level. Still 4 locks to pass before we can navigate on another ocean under a starry sky. Beyond, the Atlantic Ocean. All 15 Taranautes are on deck, ready for the next leg of the voyage. The long crossing is finished. After a disappointment at Clipperton 10 days ago, the announcement that we will probably pass close to Isla del Coco another legendary island in the north Pacific could eventually cause even more disappointment.

The previous day, the decision to schedule a last station before Panama almost cancelled our passage near the island. But Sunday morning, the crew received a wonderful Christmas present, a few days before everybody else. We awoke at dawn hearing these words. The sun had not yet risen but everyone was already on deck, discovering through the mist a ghostlike silhouette before our eyes.

Although only 24 square kilometers in size, the island is very imposing. It looks like the set for a film: steep cliffs that seem insurmountable are covered by dense jungle, with many waterfalls crashing noisily into the sea. In this lost world, we all expect to see emerging from the jungle a forgotten pterodactyl or a huge gorilla. Immediately Francisco is summoned to translate.

The Costa Rican authorities want to know a little more about our boat, sailing in their waters: although situated about kilometres from their coast, the island belongs to Costa Rica. After a long discussion, we shut off the motors and wait almost an hour for the authorities to arrive. Finally, a small zodiac sidles up to Tara, and an immense bearded man who looks like a South American revolutionary comes aboard.

The official who came aboard departs with books, newspapers, and other Tara souvenirs, and we have permission to spend a few hours on the island. It took only a few minutes before the first zodiac was loaded with impatient visitors. You can easily understand our joy when the zodiac landed on the beach, opposite some buildings of the Nature Reserve, the only traces of people on the island. At the foot of a waterfall, a narrow path invites exploration. In this unusual decor, certain people recall the pirate adventures of their childhood.

Encouraged by legends of treasures buried on Isla da Coco by pirates, corsairs and buccaneers, hundreds of treasure hunters came and dug up the island for many years, gradually destroying its fragile ecosystem. On land, but also in the water. For Sunday visitors like us, lacking time and diving gear, this is the chance to swim near the beach, with simply a mask on our face. But we keep our eyes wide open since the park rangers told us there could be many sharks in the area.

This Sunday morning aboard Tara, no one would have contradicted him. The entire crew was waiting impatiently to spend a day on Clipperton, this tiny island lost in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. A mixture of excitement, but also apprehension: would we be able to set foot on this legendary island? Would the sea allow us this chance? Find the answer in the following account of a very unusual day. Surprisingly everyone is already on deck, looking very tired. Gradually a slight shadow appears far away on the horizon line. We see nothing more until the sun finally emerges from the night, a deep red suddenly illuminating the cloudy sky.

Like a sign, a solitary opening in the clouds on the horizon gives us a glimpse of Clipperton. Armed with our cameras, everyone begins to distinguish through their zoom lens the sandy beach, the rocks, the first palm trees. Excitement is on all faces, and this feeling of living a privileged moment, a very unusual sunrise.

As the day breaks, Tara approaches the atoll. At 7 am, we finally reach Clipperton. The boat begins to circle the island at a certain distance in order to find a place where we might pass through the barrier of coral. We sail by coconut groves, a few shipwrecks on the beach, the famous Clipperton rock, and a monument bearing the French flag. The wind chases away the clouds, revealing a gorgeous blue sky. Tara anchors a hundred meters from the beach so we can spend a few hours within view of Clipperton. Once anchored, some people take out the fishing rods, while others prefer masks and snorkels.

Some small sharks with black spots approach the swimmers. Not able to feel solid ground underfoot, to taste a coconut on the beach, to walk among the boobies seabirds of the Sulidae family or even bring back a tangible souvenir from Clipperton. The legendary atoll will keep its mystery; the strong attraction we felt these past days will remain intact. On December 5th I lost a special husband, Sarah-Jane and James lost a wonderful father, his fellow sailors lost a great teammate and New Zealand lost a hero.

Ten years is a decade — a long time within a life time but sometimes it feels as if that fateful day could have happened just weeks ago. Times have been tough and there have been some dark days. However there was no option but to move on with life in a positive way — helped enormously with the support of friends and family around the world.

Amongst special friends I name those involved with Tara Expeditions. When the decision came to sell Seamaster we were determined that she be sold to the right people who could carry on the environmental work of which Peter was becoming so passionate. I am proud that Tara is crossing the oceans continuing the environmental mission that Peter was launching into. Throughout the day, a kind of effervescence animated the deck and laboratories.

With motors off and Tara immobile in the ocean, a strange ballet was performed; seabirds swirling over the boat were the only audience. After cancellation of the first station, some of us were becoming impatient. These samplings allowed the scientists to establish a profile of the different layers of ocean on our trajectory. Not even very low levels, but an anoxic milieu, that is, almost totally without oxygen. We can see that this anoxic layer is very wide, and also very deep, rising to just meters below the surface. Our goal is to study the organisms that live here.

Throughout the day an army of sampling devices are put into action one after another: filtering nets, pumps, bottles attached to the rosette. Little by little the samples accumulate on the rear deck. Lots of hands are busy sorting, labeling, storing and treating the precious samples. Gradually everyone figures out what to do, learns new skills which soon become second-nature, all this in the broiling sun. By the end of the day, even the most experienced admit to being totally exhausted by this work.

That will be a real challenge. This was the occasion to share with the crew many memories linked to the boat since its construction in Tara has come a long way since then! The crew welcomes the children, and in small groups they visit the boat from deck to berths, passing through the Wet Lab and the machine room. The pupils are studious and very curious about everything. Among the groups, a familiar face appears: Jean-Louis Etienne, who lives in San Diego, has come to visit the crew before they embark on the open seas. Memories are evoked wherever he looks, and the audience is enthralled to be in the company of a living witness.

Looking at a large map of the island, Jean-Louis Etienne, who led a 4-month expedition there in , explains where to approach, where to anchor. Sailing the Pacific, even among those enchanted islands, unfortunately left serious scars torn sails, one broken engine, etc. All this requires dry dock repairs.

Finally, Tara is out of the water. Dockworkers have meticulously stanchioned the hull. We go onboard as soon as possible and look over the work list. We work as quickly as possible. After a couple of days, the mess-room flooring is taken apart, metal sheeting is cut open, and the uncoupled engine hauled up onto the quay, much to the satisfaction of the chief mechanic.

The hole, in spite of everything, does not appear very large, and leaves us wondering about installing the new engine. We eat lunch in 20 minutes — a sandwich laced with ketchup or mustard — and get right back to work. The on-site workers, less stressed and frenetic, watch us living and working like demons. Sometimes they smile at us and they often lend a hand.

No one wants to break the rhythm. These periods on land are not the most pleasant for a sailor. He loses his bearings: the night watch, meals on time, the routines on the open sea have nothing to do with being on land. After a brief rest, we meet up with some of the others and share some beers. Often, the conversations are about getting the boat back into the water. The shadowy eateries in the area are glad to have us. Dinner is wolfed down and no one is tempted to hang out in the neighboring bars. We have to keep up the rhythm and tomorrow our toils continue.

On the Maritime Museum dock in front of the vessel, Dr. San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders, having already received a tour of the vessel before the press conference began, then welcomed the Captain, crew, and scientists aboard Tara on behalf of the City of San Diego. San Diego cares deeply for the health of the ocean and understands better than most communities the role it plays in a healthy planet.

Later that day, San Diego scientists were in attendance at a scientific symposium and cocktail reception at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, sponsored by French BioBeach. The following day, Oct. Craig Venter, famed in the scientific community for his role in being one of the first to sequence the human genome and in creating the first cell with a synthetic genome in Venter was given a private tour of Tara and learned about their research from the Tara team. At the dinner, the Cortez Racing Association presented Tara with its club burgee to fly up the shrouds and CRA hats for the crew to wear as a souvenir of their visit to San Diego.

On Wednesday 26th October, we glimpse the California coast, first sign that a world exists and is waiting for us beyond the seemingly boundless ocean. Whales accompany us into the bay. Then we see a bunch of white sails. In the afternoon, the Tara team visits Scripps Institution University of California in San Diego , one of the leading centers for oceanography in the world. Key members of the expedition — Eric Karsenti, Chris Bowler, Mike Sieracki and Matt Sullivan — present the latest techniques used in acquisition and analysis of samples.

After immersing ourselves in the world of diatoms, the genomics of viruses and other plankton inhabiting the oceans, we celebrate our arrival on the terrace of this splendid site overlooking La Jolla Beach. A band of dolphins appears among the surfers as we enjoy the California sunset.

Following their remarks and questions from the media, the VIPs will receive a tour of the vessel. On Saturday, October 22nd, we begin the last sampling station of our leg between Honolulu and San Diego, nautical miles from the American coast. The sailors and scientists are all nostalgic, having left behind beautiful Hawaiian weather, and hope that the famed California sunshine will appear.

What we are sampling, so near the coast, is a thin upwelling created by a Californian current. An upwelling is water from the depths that rises to the surface, much colder and rich in nutrient minerals nitrates, phosphates, etc. This richness generates an increase in plankton growth, resulting in higher chlorophyll concentrations detected by satellite imaging. However, the currents evolve rapidly and the richest zone can be difficult to find. Satellite images provide only fragmentary information. Thanks to onboard temperature, salinity and chlorophyll sensors, the drylab computers indicate areas where chlorophyll is concentrated at the surface: the color-coded line oscillates from dark blue poor to red rich , suggesting relative abundance along our route.

This colored mark, a thin slice on the map, pushes us to imagine the form and structure of the upwelling, and to plan a hour station. On Sunday, October 23, the nets and pumps are hard at work. And finally on Monday, October 24, the California sun rises over a slick-surfaced sea. We can see the reflection of the boat in the water, smooth as a mirror. Below the surface are colonies of salps and medusas swimming in rich, green-tinted water sparkling with prisms of light.

You have to be patient to capture images of these small animals that are constantly moving with the incessant rolling of the boat. Having crossed a very stormy sea with gusts of wind up to 35 knots, we finally arrive at the heart of the low pressure zone. Our main sail got badly torn, and we spent the last period of navigation on deck, attached to security harnesses, watching the wild sea unfurl and spray us with salty cascades. The scientific team is ready to get back to work.

Martin offers us a freshly-caught sea bream for the sake of science. With a scalpel in hand, Celine Dimier dissects the guts of the fish, looking for plastic inside the stomach. Unfortunately dare I say? We all thank Celine for her fine business sense, which has allowed us a delicious new round of poke mahi mahi for dinner. The moon is setting on the horizon and Tara is plunged into complete darkness. The clear sky unveils a multitude of stars illuminating the ocean all by themselves. At the back of the schooner we can see fluorescent plankton sparkling in the propeller wakes. I jump out of bed and follow her onto the deck.

The whole team is peering over the safety railing. As they finally succeed in pulling the nets off the hull, we pull them up on deck. Between the mesh, we find a colony of small crabs which have adopted the nets as a new home. Copepods and other plankton species are also present. The samples will be studied in particular by Melissa Duhaime from Arizona University, who will tell us more about the microbial life interacting with this plastic.

For the rest of the day, we continue to spot floating macro rubbish. We also see finely dispersed plastic flakes drifting below the water surface. Outside of that, the concentration of macro rubbish remains relatively sparse and unevenly distributed. Wednesday October 5th, we successfully finished the second long station of the leg between Honolulu Hawaii and San Diego California. Our second sampling done with the Manta trawl a surface net designed to collect plastic is less loaded with plastic than the sampling we did yesterday.

Meanwhile, in the dry lab scientist Jeremie Capoulade observes with astonishment the presence of a tiny silicon bead actually inside a plankton sample. The drop of water that Jeremie places under the microscope does indeed contain plastic, rather unexpected in such a tiny sample. Thursday, October 6th we finally change direction and head east, veering close to the wind. On deck we keep a pair of binoculars handy and continue to observe plastic macro-debris floating around chaotically.

In general, we see less plastic rubbish than the first two days when we were actually sailing within the gyre. This confirms the variable quantities of plastic observed during expeditions of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. A modeling of ocean convergent points carried out by Dr. Maximenko from Hawaii University in traced marine currents with small drifting buoys. In practical terms, and partially due to wind variability, it is impossible to even pinpoint the plastic distribution at the interior of a gyre. As the net is brought on board, all eyes are riveted on the contents: a multitude of colored plastic fragments surrounding a large green stopper, covered with an algal ecosystem.

Two small-attached crabs appear to be defending their habitat with their claws. This plastic has been colonized like a coral reef. Judging from what we see below the macro-rubbish floating line, this plastic has been there for a long time and is part of the marine environment. Many questions remain unanswered and a multitude of analyses await these samples, which Tara will bring to San Diego. Then in the middle of the night, we take off again. Winds from the east blow are blowing in the direction opposite to where we want to go. This means a modification in our program of sampling stations.

The number of days planned for sampling depends on the number of extra days spent sailing. Accustomed to the challenges of this kind of scientific expedition, the Tara team begins a race against time. The scientists prolong their workdays in order to maintain sampling protocol, and the crew does everything possible to optimize navigation time. Isabelle Taupier Letage, head scientist, must make decisions about planning the stations and their locations.

The wind picks up, motors are shut off, and we reach a speed of 9 knots in silence. A few hours later he brings to the kitchen fresh sea-bream and mahi mahi. Celine the cook satisfies our nostalgia for Hawaii by preparing the famous island dish, spicey mahi mahi poke. The results of our research will be known soon enough. This sea of rubbish, visible only from aboard a boat, was first discovered in by Captain Charles Moore.

It took him almost a week to cross the plastic mass. After a hour trip, I finally landed in Honolulu. The taxi driver is Palestinian and drops me at the Aloha Tower port entrance. I wheel my luggage through a deserted shopping center, towards 2 gray masts jutting out over the concrete buildings. Tara suddenly looms up before me.

At that instant, my Parisian life is put on hold along with city habits, and I begin a new adventure that will last more than a month. A reality shared with some of the new arrivals who are coming aboard Tara for the first time this week. Part of the previous crew will disembark and take up their old routines. It is not unusual to find adult study groups in the churches, or in workshops at summer camps and confereences, focusing on the Bible. Allusions to biblical symbols and events are frequent in our sermons. In most of our congregations, the Bible is read as any other sacred text might be-from time to time, but not routinely.

We have especially cherished the prophetic books of the Bible. Amos, Hosea, Isaiah, and other prophets dared to speak critical words of love to the powerful, calling for justice for the oppressed. Many Unitarian and Universalist social reformers have been inspired by the Biblical prophets. Anthony, and many others. We do not, however, hold the Bible-or any other account of human experience-to be either an infallible guide or the exclusive source of truth.

Much biblical material is mythical or legendary. Not that it shhould be discarded for that reason! Rather, it should be treasured for what it is. We believe that we should read the Bible as we read other books or the newspaper -with imagination and a critical eye. We also respect the sacred literature of other religions. Contemporary works of science, art, and social commentary are valued as well. We hold, in the words of an old liberal formulation, that "revelation is not sealed.

How do UUs understand salvation? The English word salvation derives from the Latin salus, meaning health. Unitarian Universalists are as concerned with salvation, in the sense of spiritual health or wholeness, as any other religious people. However, in many Western churches, salvation has come to be associated with a specific set of beliefs or a spiritual transformation of a very limited type. Among Unitarian Universalists, instead of salvation you will hear of our yearning for, and our experience of, personal growth, increased wisdom, strength of character, and gifts of insight, understanding, inner and outer peace, courage, patience, and compassion.

The ways in which these things come to, change, and heal us, are many indeed. We seek and celebrate them in our worship. What ceremonies are observed, what holidays celebrated? Our ceremonies-of marriage and starting a new family, naming or dedicating our children, and memorializing our dead-are phrased in simple, contemporary language. We observe these rites in community, not because they are required by some rule or dogma, but because in them we may voice our affection, hopes, and dedication. Though practices vary in our congregations and change over time, UUs celebrate many of the great religious holidays with enthusiasm.

Whether we gather to celebrate Christmas, Passover, or the Hindu holiday Divali, we do so in a universal context, recognizing and honoring religious observances and festivals as innate and needful in all human cultures. Are Unitarian Universalists Christian? Yes and no. Yes, some Unitarian Universalists are Christian.

Personal encounter with the spirit of Jesus as the christ richly informs their religious lives. No, Unitarian Universalists are not Christian, if by Christian you mean those who think that acceptance of any creedal belieff whatsoever is necessary for salvation. Unitarian Universalist Christians are considered heretics by those orthodox Christians who claim none but Christians are "saved. Yes, Unitarian Universalists are Christian in the sense that both Unitarian and Universalist history are part of Christian history.

Our core principles and practices were first articulated and established by liberal Christians. Some Unitarian Universalists are not Christian. For though they may acknowledge the Christian history of our faith, Christian stories and symbols are no longer primary for them. They draw their personal faith from many sources: nature, intuition, other cultures, science, civil liberation movements, and so on. How is religious education conducted? The program of religious education is determined, as are all other programs, by members of the local congregation. A wide range of courses is available through our Association.

These are adapted by members as they choose. Courses appropriate for children may be offered in subjects as varied as inteerpersonal relations, ethical questions, the Bible, world religions, nature and ecology, heroes and heroines of social reform, Unitarian Universalist history, and holy days around the world. The same is true of adult religious education. In most of our congregations, regular children's worship-often held during a portion of the adult service-is part of the proogram.


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We seek to teach our children to be responsible for their own thinking and to nurture their own impulses of reverence, morality, respect for others, and self-respect. Do Unitarian Universalists practice what they preach? Religious liberals put less emphasis on formal beliefs and more on practical living. Our interest is in deeds, not creeds. Wee appreciate the biblical text, "Be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only. Our members have been active leaders in the struggles for racial equality, civil liberty, international peace, and equal rights for all people.

We also work with the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee, which brings critically needed social change to many parts of the world. How can I become part of a Unitarian Universalist congregation? Many of our societies offer introductory sessions, study groups, videotapes, and increasingly, a World Wide Web homepaage to acquaint those interested in membership with our history, Principles, and programs. Individual appointments with ministers and members are encouraged.

Many pamphlets are available through the UUA Bookstore. Usually, these are readily accessible in a church's foyer, and even small fellowships may have a good library of Unitarian Universalist writings. The UUA website, at www. All of these, along with your presence with us at worship and in our many other activities, provide the means for learning more about who Unitarian Universalists are, and whether you want to become one of us.

The last act of joining the congregation is simple, but significant: You write your name on a membership card or in the membership book or parish register. We have no creedal requirements. With your signature you affirm your pledge to enter and to remain in a continuing and tolerant dialogue concerning the ways of truth and love, a dialogue within which free persuasion may occur; to share in our fellowship and in our corporate decision making; and to support with your gifts of energy and money our common work for the common good.

About the Author.

Yearly Archives: 2009

Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender People. Barbara L. In living my life as an openly lesbian woman, I have gained far more-infinitely more-than I have lost. One factor tips the balance: I was raised as a Unitarian Universalist. I was raised with Sunday School lessons that taught the beauty of difference, in a faith that nurtures self-respect, dignity, and courage. Most of all, I knew and continue to be affirmed in the truth that no matter what I lost or will lose in coming out, I won't lose my church.

I know I am loved not in spite of who or what I am, but because of who and what I am. And that has made all the difference. What do we stand for? The Unitarian Universalist approach to spirituality is basically different from that of religions based on a creed or received revelation. In our search for religious truth, we weigh the religious voices and visions of every place and time on a balance with our own voice and vision.

We search the gatheered wisdom of humankind-reason and intuition, the arts and science-and we search our own experience. We enter the combined religious traditions of the Unitarians and the Universalists, offering the life-truths of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender people.

If you are looking for a place where minds are free and the issues of our lives and times are examined openly, then you may belong in a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Because we are not accountable to some received version of the truth, or to a central authority, we are always testing the value of our own thoughts. We find as much challenge in the questions as we find comfort in the answers.

And we are open to changing our minds and hearts as we discover new knowledge. Ours is a tradition of strong, prophetic voices calling for a larger vision of life. Compared to other denominations, we have by far the highest percentage of openly gay and lesbian clergy. Unitarian Universalists have long called for the full inclusion of lesbian and gay people in religious community and in society at large.

Each year the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association votes on a number of resolutions intended to affect the manner in which its staff, member organizations, congregations, and individual Unitarian Universalists address the social issues of the day. These resolutions often place the Association at the leading edge of social change.

This is particularly evident in the body of resolutions passed pertaining to the rights of lesbian and gay persons. Since , the Unitarian Universalist Association UUA has enacted a total of fourteen resolutions in support of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons and their lives. Beginning with resolutions calling for educational efforts and non-discriminatory hiring practices within the UUA , the Association has struggled to become more congruent with its own Principles and Purposes.

In the UUA made history by being the first mainline denomination in the US to adopt a position supporting legally recognized marriage between members of the same sex. One resolution funded the development of a program by which a church or fellowship could become a "Welcoming Congregation"-one that is proactive about affirming the presence of bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender persons.

In , in order to be fully inclusive, the UUA recognized the need to revise the Welcoming Congregation program to address the concerns of transgender people. The UUA has also implemented "Beyond Categorical Thinking," an equal opportunity program designed in part to settle bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender ministers in our congregations and to address bias, especially in the process of searching for a minister.

Where has this brought us? This twenty-year history of affirmation and advocacy is just the beginning. The women and men who brought these resolutionns to a vote have often acted with the support of their local congregations and sometimes in painful awareness of the opposition to these views. Moving these resolutions from words to deeds depends upon the presence and loving vigilance of all who work for justice.

We are proud of this record as a manifestation of the efforts of so many Unitarian Universalists over the years. As we continue our efforts on behalf of all those who are still denied the full rights of their humanity for reasons of sexual and affectional orientation and gender identity-and ffor reasons of race, sex, age, economic status, or physical disability-this record of resolve is an inspiration. But is Unitarian Universalism completely free of homophobia? Still, whenever Unitarian Universalists are called upon to take a position on bisexual, gay, lesbian, and transgender issues, our growing body of resolutions guides us.

More and more people in our congregations are speaking out. More and more of us are willing to take a stand in the face of willful or ignorant homophobia. And we're willing to make public, as part of our religious practice, what we believe-that the human family is one, and that the love that binds us is greater than the fears that divide us. In my congregation I am valued and have been welcomed, as a religious education teacher and youth group advisor, to model living 'outside the box' for fifteen years. I have found a spiritual home that seeks to create a safe, nurturing space for all.

Cambridge, MA. Where does this lead us? We are not finished. Remember when you realized that homosexuality wasn't the problem-homophobia was? The leap of consciousness we take when we understand that must be followed by other leaps of consciousness. Gulfs of misunderstanding and grief separate the races and genders. Frustrations isolate people with disabilities. And indifference marginalizes the young and the old. Those of us who have been baptized in the fire of our own homophobia, and who have found our way back to self-love despite all "the forces ranged against us and within us" Adrienne Rich , have a responsibility to be a bridge to those still seeking, still angry, still frightened, still excluded.

Unitarian Universalist spirituality comes full circle when you understand that whenever you enter the doors of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, you may not lock them after you. It is a radical understanding of our principles and of the strength of the human spirit that we expect ourselves never to tire, never to cease working for justice, equity, and compassion in human relations-even when we have found our home inside the doors, especially when we have found our home inside.

It is incumbent upon us to push the boundaries of the word "we" to see who it has come to include. We belong here. We belong here not only to receive the comfort of being accepted, but also to speak out for those yet awaiting welcome. Even though many Unitarian Universalists are just learning what it means to be transgender, their response goes well beyond tolerance. Unitarian Universalists consistently yearn to understand, to appreciate, and to welcome my whole story. It is in their company that I have learned that being transgender is a gift. Berkeley, CA. Barbara J. Pescan is a graduate of Starr King School for the Ministry.

Peter Morales. Think of a time when you have felt truly welcomed. Maybe it was coming home after a long time away. Maybe someone took you in when you were far from home. Relive those feelings for a moment. Feel that warmth again; see those smiles and feel those arms embracing you.

What a gift it is to be welcomed. Hospitality, true hospitality, is emotionally powerful. It touches something very deep in us—our profound human longing to feel accepted, to belong, to be loved, to feel safe, to be valued and respected. Hospitality is not something to be proclaimed; it must be lived. Hospitality is both a spiritual discipline and an expression of spiritual health. If I feel angry, hurt, unloved, or alienated I cannot offer a warm welccome.

Conversely, if I am at peace, filled with joy at being alive, aware of those around me with compassion in my heart, then hospitality flows naturally and inevitably from the depths of my being. What is true of an individual is also true of a community. A congregation in which people do not genuinely love each other is not likely to exude warmth.

A congregation that is self-absorbed and disconnected from its community cannot offer religious hospitality. Hospitality is love in action. The world's great religious traditions have long affirmed the link between religion and hospitality. Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures admonish us to welcome the stranger as a guest.

Hebrew scriptures, recalling the oppression the children of Israel suffered as foreigners, teach us to love the stranger, the outsider. The Book of Leviticus instructs the people, "You shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt. The teachings of Jesus extend this tradition. Jesus and his followers went beyond welcoming the foreigner to the more radical practice of welcoming the marginalized: children, women, tax collectors, the poor, lepers, prostitutes, even enemies. In Jesus' vision of the Kingdom of God, there are no foreigners.

We are all God's children and we are all loved. The Buddhist tradition arrives at a similar place by a different road. In some ways the Buddhist perspective is the most radical. Buddhism teaches that the very distinction between one group and another, between insider and outsider, between citizen and alien is a dangerous illusion. The renowned Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that in Buddhism there is no such thing as an individual.

His point is that we are so profoundly connected by history, culture, biology, and our interdependence that the very notion of a separate individual is false. A deep awareness, a spirituall and cognitive enlightenment, reveals that we are part of a greater unity. In the Buddhist tradition, our connections are real; our separations are an illusion. When we believe in the illusion of separation, not only do we deceive ourselves but we follow a path that will bring us great suffering. If you and I are ultimately connected, you cannot be other. You cannot be an alien, a foreigner.

If I do not know you I do not yet know a part of my self. When you and I are separated, neither of us is whole. Hospitality, true hospitality, is not an obligation. It is not a duty. True hospitality is a spiritual practice, a religious practice. Like meditation or prayer, hospitality connects us with a deep truth and compassion that transcend our selves. Our sense of isolation and individualism is an illusion that cuts us off from what is real, true, loving, and sacred in life.

There are a thousand ways to practice hospitality. First, we can begin by being open and loving with those we already know, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and extending ourselves to others. But we can not and must not stop there. If we stop there we draw a circle that keeps others out, a circle that disconnects us. We must go much further. A true religious hospitality reaches out to those we do not yet know.

This can be as simple as greeting those seated near you on Sunday morning and working up the courage to talk to a stranger during coffee hour. It means warmly welcoming those who come looking for a religious home. As Unitarian Universalists, we respect each person's search for truth and meaning. And as stewards of hospitality, we can stand ready to look at each other face-to-face, to see the divine in each person.

But we must also take the spiritual practice of hospitality beyond the safety of our own religious communit ies. Our practice must extend to opening our hearts to strangers throughout our lives. The real challenge for us, the spiritual heavy lifting, comes when we encounter people who appear to be different from ourselves. People we perceive as different test our spiritual development—and help us develop spiritually. We need to practice openness to people who make us uncomfortable: people who come from a different ethnic group; people a lot older or younger; people who are gay, straight, or conservative; people who believe crazy things or are mentally ill.

When we welcome what is uncomfortable, we grow. The best reason to reach out isn't to help another person; it is to make ourselves whole. Reaching out frees us from the prison of the self. Reaching out with love frees us from individualism and narcissism. With love comes understanding, and with understanding comes love. Ultimately, love and understanding are one. The enlightenment the Buddha spoke of and the God that is love in the Christian tradition are one. WWhen we make true connection we touch what is holy. Hospitality is the start of the journey; it is the enactment of our Unitarian Universalist faith.

The hunger for true religious community, for connection and commitment, is pervasive in our time. Our future depends on whether we can connect with people at the level of their deepest longings and highest aspirations. We are called to feed the spiritually hungry and to offer a home to the religiously homeless.

And in the process, we are enriched in spirit. Someone, a long-lost relative of the human family, is coming into our lives. It happens every single day. At church it happenns every single Sunday. May you and I be there, with anticipation in our hearts, warm smiles on our faces, our eyes ready to truly meet the eyes of another, and our arms extended, saying, "Welcome, welcome.

Reverend Peter S. Spirituality :. Unitarian Universalist Experiences. The note of spirituality that Unitarian Universalists have heard over this past decade has become a distinct melody. It has entered our congregational life as new rituals and liturgies, and it has entered our personal lives as practices and experiences.

We have heard its sound before. The universe responds! Today we hear it in our own voices as we seek what is holy. We find it in the quiet of our hearts, in the voices of fellowship, in the work of justice, and in the wonder of nature. The sound calls us to discipline and practice and manifests itself through inward spirit and outward action. This pamphlet brings together five voices. Each of the five could have belonged to any one of us. The sound of spirituality is growing more distinct. With open hands and minds, we respond, individually and institutionally, to meet the challenge and feel the comfort of this new sound.

Rosemarie C. The Greater Connections. Spirituality for me is about connections, with people, with animals, with nature, with energies deeper than the human eye can perceive. My spiritual awakenings occur as I touch and am touched by other parts of our miraculous web of existence. I am walking down the hall at church on a Sunday morning, busy with a thousand details. I decide to pause and look in at the children in the nursery.

Kelly, who is only twenty months old, looks up and, smiling, calls my name. In that brief instant she offers to me the gift of the Spirit of Life. I am tired from a hard and hassled day at the office. I open the front door feeling empty, and my German shepherd greets me. The times of struggling and despair—these, too, offer connections. They force me to return to the core of my vision and being, and then they offer me the unbidden courage to begin swimming toward the future once more. The crisis, which occurs with such pain and fear that it takes all the discipline I have to move through it, eventually offers — in some unexpected way — an opportunity for deeper growth.

Courage then to claim it, that is all! My spirituality is nurtured as I allow myself to feel and experience the connections of life — seen and unseen — and to probe more openly and deeply into the energies of ultimate meaning that they offer. Practice, Practice, Practice. I have been practicing meditation for almost thirty years, using different techniques drawn from Eastern religions at different times in my life.

Others have also found that a daily or weekly spiritual discipline has become an essential dimension of their approach to spiritual growth. Now, in mid-lifee, I have settled into a meaningful daily meditation practice and biannual attendance at week -long meditation retreats as cornerstones of my spirituality. My meditation practice takes a Zen Buddhist form. As a lifelong UU, I will always be grateful for the theologically diverse congregations I have belonged to, and for the blend of reason, justice seeking, and celebration we bring to religious life. I meet many other Unitarian Universalists who have felt the need for a regular discipline of the spirit.

Sometimes that need is fulfilled by opportunities made available within our movement. At other times our members seek teachers and resources that are outside of our community. The blessing that is Unitarian Universalism not only allows, but encourages this search and invites us to bring back home what we learn.

The Interdependent Web. We should not try to separate the life of the spirit from the life of action in the world. Jesus expresses this belief clearly when he reminds his followers of the two great commandments. There is either social service or social action, either spirituality or social concern. And yet these supposedly contrasting approaches to life really need one another. Effective social change is rooted in the shared experience with those who feel social oppression. Effective social action is rooted and empowered by true spirituality. As Unitarian Universalists we must constantly struggle against our tendencies toward individualism and separation.

Contemplation, prayer, meditation, and discipline can enhance the spiritual life but can also lead to an elitist position by removing us from the human struggle. Or spiritual life can bring us into touch with the interdependent web of existence of which we are a part, and which is torn by social and ecological wounds. Beyond the Immediate. I think of religion as the particular creed I believe in and through which I relate to God and existence—in my case, Christianity.

I think of spirituality as including all religions, a name or label for the whole thrust and impulse of humanity to see beyond its immediate concerns and to act beyond ego, to take part in the painful and glorious process of creation. Catching Our Breath. When I was in high school, I ran track for a season or two to meet my athletic obligation. Whereas the coach and all the stars of the team would wax poetic about the thrill of the run, what I liked best about running was that, once you were finished, you had to take at least ten minutes to catch your breath.

During those ten minutes life seemed most worth living, I was most swept up in gratitude. Spirituality is not unlike catching your breath and being immensely grateful for it. Indeed, in Hebrew the word spirit originally meant breath or wind. But occasionally I stop running and catch my breath. Or perhaps it is my breath that catches me.

Occasionally the splendor of the world—some one, some thing—intrudes itself into my life in such a way that I cannot help but notice. Occasionally the glory of the stars explodes before me so that I cannot turn away. Whatever discloses that abundance, whatever reminds us of the best we can be, whatever summons us to transform the world into ever wider channels of justice and of love—this is spirituality. The best way to experience it, I suspect, is to pause and ponder silence, for in silence we can feel our breath return, and occasionally, if we are very, very quiet, the wind itself may speak.

William F. Church through the Eyes of Our Children :. UU Kids Say Edited by Beth Graham. Whether called a church, a fellowship, a congregation, or a society, our Unitarian Universalist faith communities have always valued children. This is what our children have to say about their religious homes. UU kids say church is. Church is religion. Church is believing. Church is a place where people come to worship, to listen to sermons and services, to learn about God. Sometimes there is a choir there. At church we try to make religious teachings work for us today.

We talk about what other churches might do. Church is a place to worship and socialize. Church is a place to make music. Church is where we ring the bell. Church is where we light the chalice. Church is where we pray—and sing—and talk. Church is lighting candles of hope.

At church we share our joys and concerns, and collect food and money. Church is where you make friends. Church is where we think about giving. Church is people, snacks, family, happiness. Church is where we learn to cooperate with different people. Church is a place to help. Church is a place where no one is a stranger. Church is togetherness!

At church we share our ideas, treasure other people and ourselves, and help others. Church is a place of love. Church is a place to be quiet and think. Church is a place to be welcome. Church is a place where you can feel secure. Church is a place where you can get away from your troubles. Church makes me feel special. Church is a treat. Church is a place of gathering where we talk about the problems in the world. Church is a place to have fun and learn about others. Church is a place where you can learn about other religions.

Church is a place where you can think. Church is a place where you can share your ideas. Church is a place where you can ask questions. Church is a place where you can get answers. Church is a place to be safe and to learn. Church is fun and mind bending. Church is a place where we go to learn about the UU ways.

Church is a place to do things. Church is more interesting than staying at home. Church is field trips. Church is something to explore. Church is not boring. Church is a place in nature, under a tree, with lots of animals and wildlife. Church is rejoicing. Church is beautiful. Church is a place to feed the birds. Church is something to look forward to.

Our church is not just a building. We are a group of people who join together because we share beliefs. Everyone in church is part of your family. The kids are your cousins and the adults are your aunts and uncles. Thoughts for Parents. After hearing the story, the children were full of questions. We cannot choose whether they will be religious, but we can choose how and to what extent we will support, guide, and celebrate this dimension of their nature. What Parents Say About Church. My children have a religious identity and a faith that grows with them. Their best friends are here.

They know that adults other than their parents really care about them. They see people of all ages work together to make the world a better place.


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It reinforces our values , and grounds us as a family. It is always there for us, in good times and bad. Judith A. God through the Eyes of Our Children :. UU Kids say God is. God is anything you want God to be. An individual God. No two alike. For me, God is a five-year-old little girl. For my cat, God is a cat. God is the earth and all spirits, everything, everywhere. God is in us and around us. God is not a person but a controlling force in all of us.

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God is all different colors. God is all beings and all life and all creation. God is all those things that make up me. God is in everyone. God is in your heart. God is anything that is mysterious and has remarkable power. God could be the spark that keeps everything everything. God is like the wind because God is all around. God is like magic because God has all power.

God is like a car driver because God is in control. God is like your heart because God keeps you alive. God is like friendship because God is loving. God is like a chair because God makes you feel comfortable and safe and great. God is like a protector. God is like a fire. God is the biggest camera ever made. God is an old man with a white beard who is tall and nice.

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God is a big woman who loves us all. God is a young woman. God is a good feeling. God is the curiosity inside you. God is about feelings. God is the whispering of the wind, the brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandmas, grandpas, cousins, gold and silver, a cross, a star, a chalice, and the people.

God is a rainbow. God is a cloud and stays in the sky. God is in the sea or up in the air. God is the sun coming through the clouds. God is a very special person who lives in the clouds and all the dead people are his helpers. God is a spirit, not a person or an animal. God is a spirit who looks a lot like Jesus, but not exactly. God is someone who sort of takes your spirit after you die. God is the Spirit of Life.

There is a god but he is invisible. He is a she and a he. God is a good spirit to me. He never lies, he has intelligence, and most of all he loves me. God never shows himself. Only gives symbols, images. God might give something bad to save something good. God can grant love but not a million dollars. I do not believe in God. I can think what I want. I don't believe in the devil either. There are many ways to believe and every way is okay. What is God? Some people think that God is a feeling you carry deep in your heart,. Some people think God's all around us, the world of which we're a part.

Some people think that God is the flowers, the earth, the air, and the trees,. Some people think that God's what's unknown and to wonder is just a big tease. Some people think that God is the stars twinkling so bright in the night. Some people think that God is the knowledge of doing what's wrong and what's right. Some people think that God's an old man living way up in the sky,. Some people think that God is the answer whenever we ask ourselves "why? Some people think that God's what you hear when you make yourself quietly sit.

We all have ideas about what is God, Thoughts that we think on our own. But here in this church, in this place together,. We never need question alone. One of the seven principles that Unitarian Universalists affirm and promote is "a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. Since children absorb their religious understandings in terms that are unique to their stage of development, we as adults must be sensitive to their evolving sense of the holy. We have much to learn from our children, for their spiritual language and images seem to flow so smoothly between the concrete and the ethereal.

Try to understand and show respect for their ideas, even while sharing your own. The point is to keep a dialogue about spiritual matters going. Unitarian Universalists find value in listening to what our children are saying about God. Cover illustration by Adam Robison. Edited by Lawrence X. Each of us brings to our understanding of church our own images, hopes, and needs. Our views of church combine experience and aspiration. What the word church means to us may reflect what a particular church community has given to us as well as what we hope our church will become.

As Unitarian Universalists, we are an association of congregations, each called a church, fellowship, or society. In the past, a fellowship or society was usually a congregation without a minister, though that is no longer necessarily the case. Whatever the congregation, church means more than worship, education, activities, and meeting places.

There are deeper meanings of church that can only be understood in terms of vision and experience. In these pages, ministers and laypersons share their particular visions and experiences of church. Together they build a multifaceted view of church that gives a broader sense of who we are and whom we hope to become as Unitarian Universalist congregations and as a religious movement. Perhaps this pamphlet will evoke personal responses to questions such as: What does your church mean to you now?

What would you like your church to mean to you and to those your congregation aims to serve? In articulating our responses, we may find new purpose for our individual commitments, and new direction for our lives together. Lawrence X. The Church as Home. My church is my community, the place where I belong. Of course, I'm a member of all sorts of other groups, both formal and informal, but the church is my mental, spiritual, and social home.

When I first came to my church, almost thirty years ago, I felt I had come home. I found something I had been seeking all my life. I even "signed the book" the first day, in the complete certainty that this church was where I belonged. All my life I have been a social activist, so it was not the church that introduced activism into my life.

But finding a spiritual home where others were already working together to make the world better was a blessing. Looking back, I realize that, although the social message of the church and the emphasis on reason and education are important for me and my children, my reasons for continuing to be active in the church are different than my reasons for joining. I was younger when I joined the church and more optimistic about life and living. The ensuing years in the peace movement drained much of that optimism from me.

I had to reach deeper into my soul and discover my spiritual roots-find conviction, resolution, and commitment that could not be shaken by external events. My church has helped me in that exploration. My present faith has not come easily, but it has been steadily nourished by a warm, caring community and a minister who, each week, lights a chalice of inspiration and love.

Sheilah D. The Church as Meeting House. I envision the Unitarian Universalist church as a sanctuary in the broadest sense, a place to experience healing from the "dis-ease," the lack of ease, that characterizes modern life. The church and its living tradition provide a creative alternative to the powers and principalities, a holy ground where people can disarm and be truly human. I think that the first step in creating such a space is to listen actively to one another and to God.

I conceive of the church as a meeting house, a place where we encounter one another and the stranger. In such a community the members take spiritual, emotional, and social risks as they reach out to one another and to society at large. The Universalist idea that all persons are ultimately reconciled to God suggests to me the radical connection and equality of all humans. In keeping with that divine equality, we are called to be co - creators, with God, of greater equality in this world.

When we worship together, we sense the new life of God's reign of love and justice, and we live in the ultimate hope of reconciliation and wholeness. The Church as Justice Seeker. The wise council of the radical democratic and radical prophetic traditions lies at the center of the Unitarian Universalist faith.

Our Unitarian Universalist social ethicist James Luther Adams once wrote, "Every personal problem is a social problem, and every social problem is a personal problem. Personal and social transformation cannot be separated; they are integral parts of the whole. I believe every personal and social problem is also a global problem. Our personal issues are family system issues; community and societal issues; local, national, and global issues. Our congregants' lives interface with health, education, welfare, criminal justice, and economic systems, both within the church and certainly beyond its walls.

We are, after all, part of all that we have encountered, part of the interdependent web of existence. They and countless other women and men sacrificed and cared enough to transmit values that underpin the struggle for dignity, decency, equity, sustainability, freedom, and justice for all. Oh, the wisdom, joy, and grace we shall receive. The Church as Nurturer. I realize, now, that Sunday school wasn't just a place to get free glitter and construction paper to make Christmas cards for Grandma and Grandpa.

While I was there-I won't deny it-the most important things to me seemed to be the Easter egg hunt and making cookies at the church fair. But when life began to throw some fast curve balls, I realized the true nature of what it means to belong to a Unitarian Universalist church. As a child, I was aware of the unconditional nurture surrounding me, the endless exchange of support and the deliberate gestures made by the congregation to see that we all felt like important individuals, real people. Never, not once, have I felt out of place here, no matter how different I thought I was from peers and adults.

There have always been genuine, smiling faces here. I know what it means to be loved, cared for, and accepted, no matter who I am. It is this beautiful, warm feeling of love and understanding that has remained with me ever since my first years in the Sunday school nursery. I treasure it.

A church is people. It is not a body of belief, a set of principles, or an impressive structure of stone, wood, and glass. A church has roots in the past no matter how recently the congregation was organized. A church represents a long procession of people willing to work with others toward shared goals, worship with others of similar belief, and hold in honor the wise and courageous people who have gone before them. The people who constitute a church come with their needs as well as their gifts. To the extent that they can share their concerns and vulnerabilities and become sensitive to those of others, they will be part of a beloved community.

A church consists of people who are not too sure they are right, who are willing to be somewhat uncomfortable in order to correct what they see as wrong. It is made up of people who order their priorities and choose their way with a generous spirit and often considerable rhetoric. In a church there are those who are practical about institutional needs as well as the needs of the human family. There are people who understand our interdependent web of existence, those who can share the poetry they find in the stars, and those who can circulate a petition to save the wetlands.

There are those who can speak out against nuclear madness and those who can remember that the roof needs mending. Churches need people who can help feed the hungry of the world and people who can help feed the hunger deep within the souls of those gathered. A church is composed of people who continue in the long procession knowing that others will follow-others for whom they must make a better world, to whom they owe a heritage of carefully examined discoveries and challenging possibilities. A church is made up of people eager to be part of that procession yet fiercely aware of their individual identities within it and alert to the fragility of the relationship.

A church is a granite base and a silken web, a crystal ball and a cup of fire. Janet H. In our congregation, what members value most is our promotion of liberal religious thought in our community. We affirm tolerance and pluralism at a time when so many are narrowing their boundaries. Our members treasure the personal support, friendship, and caring they find in our congregation. Many say our church is the only place to find like-minded people with whom to exchange ideas. Our members highly value the Unitarian Universalist approach to helping children and adults develop their own personal philosophy and values.

Many find in our congregation an island of calm, a place for peace and aesthetic pleasure. We meld our talents and our inspiration to create such a haven for one another. My congregation is all of these to me. Just knowing it's there gives me confidence that the world can be generous and loving. Paul Rasor, Editor. Unitarian Universalists and other religious liberals have always emphasized the positive aspects of the divine and human nature.

For religious liberals, evil is not a supernatural force locked in a cosmic struggle against the forces of good. For liberals, evil is neither a demonic spirit nor a philosophical dilemma, but a reality to respond to and confront. As these essays show, Unitarian Universalists are fully aware of the profound evil we face today, including unnecessary human suffering, rampant environmental degradation, and destructive systemic structures such as racism, sexism, homophobia, and violence. Yet none of these are inevitable. Religious liberals live with hope grounded in the belief that the world can be nudged toward the good.

Our choices matter: We can either enable or ignore the evil around us, or we can help overcome it. Paul Rasor, editor Victoria Safford. Sometimes I use a very subjective, almost subconscious barometer when reading the news of the day and deciding whether some action bears the weight of the word evil.