Stringing Together the “Beads” of New Ideas

Stringing Together the “Beads” of New Ideas August 17, 2020

Hathor offering necklace to king.

It has been a long spring and summer, or at least it feels longer than it ever did. The pandemic brought many changes to all of us including my family, business, congregation and of course to CUUPS. I knew some changes would come, however the magnitude of it has been huge.

Many know I live in Massachusetts near Boston. Our state was hard hit by Covid-19 early in March. The college I teach at went remote immediately during Spring break.  Fortunately moving classes to a remote platform was not extremely difficult except for losing the students who did not have adequate access to technology to continue. Teaching at a community college always reminds me of the struggles some students have trying to go to college. I remember my own journey doing so. Finances, housing, raising a family, and so on can get in the way. Now add technological tools and the inequities gets even more evident.

I saw the same thing as our churches, covens, groves, and organizations all struggled to move to online services. Some did not have the tools that even would accommodate the shift. Older computers, outdated software, lack of internet that was consistent, and so on. Even social media platforms like Facebook struggled to support the needs. Many of us managing organizations mentally danced to even figure out what to use for video conferencing. I am grateful that CUUPS has used Zoom for a number of years now and was comfortable with it.

Oh No….GA Goes Online

As it became apparent that the UUA General Assembly would be online, I have to say a breath of relief was felt in spite of some new challenges. How the heck were we going to create an impactful CUUPS Summer Solstice Service? We learned it had to be in a video format since there were very few live slots open. In the meantime, other Pagan and Earth-Relating organizations, as well as, business conventions were creating entire gatherings online.

I had already thrown myself into the fray of working with an educational collective to train to support their 1100-person conference online. One of our board members was adept at producing videos by that point for their church. The rest of the group were all well trained ministers, DREs and ritualists. So, we started crafting some magick each from our own homes.

Minoan Ladies in Blue by-W.-Sheppard-Baird

“The Beads”

It ended up being fun! Our video person called each person’s part “a bead” for a necklace. Every time the term was used I thought of all of the beautiful necklaces shown on paintings of Gods, and Goddesses throughout history. I thought of the beautiful adornments worn by dieties from Hinduism, Northern European, African, and the worlds religions. Paintings of Harmonia’s necklace, Hathor’s necklace given to the Pharoah, Parvati’s and Kali’s necklaces, the jewelry worn by Minoan men and women.  I started to envision the ceremony as a beautiful adornment for Unitarian Universalists and our Pagan/Earth-Relating community.

It was pleasant to think of creating a beautiful moment for participants at GA in a space where people would be listening to workshops about weightier topics. In doing this, as an artist, I felt like some of the heaviness I was feeling about the pandemic, political and racial tensions start to lift a tad.

As I watched each “bead” come in from each board member, chapter, member, and so on I started to wonder if this was possibly a new way to be even more inclusive. Now we could share the ritual not only with the attendees of General Assembly, but our membership at large.

We all started to see how something like this could be a new way for our chapters and congregations around the country could jump in and CUUPS could be a place to share all of the beautiful rituals and services, sermons and readings, dances and songs the Pagan/Earth-Relating community in Unitarian Universalism revels in. This no longer needed to take the form of writings. It could become part of what people crave in worship – the experience of the Divine through voice, action, spoken word, dance, and more.

At the CUUPS Annual Meeting it became apparent that this was present for members and chapters also. It became a topic of conversation. The CUUPS YouTube channel is there and we can connect to worship that you all are creating.

The missing element…. a team of volunteers.

Which chapters, congregations, etc. would love to participate in sharing their services? Who are the musicians among us interested in singing some chants, songs, and so on that we can share so others can learn your music? Who is interested on participating?

Here is the invitation…

The other fun part of this as I reflect on the idea, we will be able to share and fulfill the CUUPS mission statement in a new way.

We can link it to CUUPS social media for others to see. Share with us also the ways your groups are staying connected and supporting one another during this time. This is another way we can hold one another up.

How do you participate?

If you, your congregation, chapter, and so on has a contribution to share send an email to with a link.



About J.K. Hildebrand
J.K. Hildebrand is the President for CUUPS, Inc., and a minister with Circle Sanctuary. She has served as a volunteer minister in hospital and prison settings, a panelist at the 2004 and 2015 Parliament of the World Religions and is currently an Ambassador for the organization. Rev. Hildebrand co-edited and authored a book with Rev. Shirley Ranck for Skinner House Press on a book "Pagan and Earth-Centered Voices of Unitarian Universalism". The book was released this past June at the UUA's 2017 General Assembly. You can read more about the author here.

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