GRU READS 2016-2017

This year we continue our experiment of engaging in a common conversation with a quarterly "GRU READS" challenge.  This fall we will explore the themes of Thomas King's INCONVENIENT INDIAN.  Our multigenerational selection for the winter of 2017 is R.J. Palacio's poignant book about bullying:  WONDER.  And in the spring we explore a number of ESSAYS by Unitarian minister Ralph Waldo EMERSON.  

I look forward to the conversations ahead!  


Active Hope!

Our GRU READS challenge this spring asks us to engage in practices of environmental sustainability through “The Work that Reconnects” as described in



by Joanna Macy and Chris Johnstone

The authors invite us to choose among three stories as we choose the direction of the future.  We have a choice, they maintain, between participating numbly in the “Business As Usual” story; or we can be paralyzed by our fears of “The Great Unraveling;” but we can choose to participate instead in “The Great Turning” which engages us in the realities of our human impact on the planet and urges us to work toward sustainability with an attitude of active hope.

Macy explains:  “The word hope has two different meanings. The first involves hopefulness, believing our preferred outcome is reasonably likely to happen. If we require this kind of hope before we commit ourselves to an action, our response gets blocked in areas where we don’t rate our chances too high.     The second meaning is about desire. It is this kind of hope that starts our journey — knowing what we hope for and what we’d like, or love, to take place. It is what we do with this hope that really makes the difference. Passive hope is about waiting for external agencies to bring about what we desire. Active Hope is about becoming active participants in bringing about what we hope for. … Since Active Hope doesn’t require our optimism, we can apply it even in areas where we feel hopeless. The guiding impetus is intention; we choose what we aim to bring about, act for, or express. Rather than weighing our chances and proceeding only when we feel hopeful, we focus on our intention and let it be our guide.”

This Spring, may we find the courage to practice Active Hope in all our endeavours. 




The Hunger Games

FIRE is a recurring motif in this quarter’s GRU READS challenge, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  The dystopian trilogy is set in a world where the disparity between rich and poor has dismantled the moral fibre of civilization.   The series heroine, underdog Katniss, parades in a uniform of fire, earning her the nickname of “The Girl Who Was on Fire” as she sparks a revolution.   

It reminds me of the poem "What I Have Learned So Far" that we read at our annual Fire Communion Sharing Service by Mary Oliver:

“Can one be passionate about the just, the

ideal, the sublime, and the holy, and yet commit

to no labor in its cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a

story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.

Thought buds toward radiance. The gospel of

light is the crossroads of— indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone."

What ignites YOU?  What is your 'kindling'?  What are you hungry for?  


"There is a crack in everything..."

This Autumn, GRU READS encourages you to explore


by Brené Brown


Last year when I was researching theme-based resources, the name of  researcher/storyteller Brené Brown kept coming up.  I confess, I’m wary of self-help books that go ‘viral,’ and I generally avoid books with more than one subtitle (!) but I truly found inspiration, challenge, and wisdom in her “Ten Guideposts toward a Wholehearted Life.”   

Brown’s extensive research of shame as a universal human experience has led her to two startling conclusions that she reveals personally challenged her to the point of breakdown (a breakdown she reframes with the help of a therapist as ‘a spiritual awakening.’).  First, she comes to understand that wholehearted people consent to vulnerability; second, she notes that people who feel loved/worthy/connected are those who believe they are loved/worthy/connected. This simple truth, of course, is harder to embody.  Brown’s willingness to share her own discovery journey makes the book compelling reading.  Brown’s TED talk on the subject is worthwhile:





Leading a Life of Integrity

This year at GRU we will explore aspects of INTEGRITY.  One of my summer reads was a deceptively simple tale of soul searching: 


by Rachel Joyce

 Setting down the block to mail a letter, Harold keeps walking – not necessarily away from his life, but toward his future.  Every leg of the journey holds a revelation of the past mirrored in the possibilities of the present.  In every town, he hears stories, confessions, and dreams of strangers.  Every day, he deepens his understanding that for all his habits of isolation, we are all interconnected.  In rediscovering his connections to others, Harold ultimately reclaims his personal integrity. 

“It must be the same all over England.  People were buying milk, or filling their cars with petrol, or even posting letters.  And what no one else knew was the appalling weight of the thing they were carrying inside.  The inhuman effort it took sometimes to be normal, and a part of things that appeared both easy and everyday.  The loneliness of that. . . .  He understood that in walking to atone for the mistakes he had made, it was also his journey to accept the strangeness of others.  As a passerby, he was in a place where everything, not only the land, was open.  People would feel free to talk, and he was free to listen.  To carry a little of them as he went.  He had neglected so many things. . . .”