Unitarian Universalist Religious Education is too powerful, too raucous, too exhilaratingly vibrant to be confined to that one hour on Sunday when we sing the kids downstairs. Or where-ever it is that they go. Wake up, people! Religious Education is all around!
The following stories and resource reviews are organized into the following categories:
Religious Education at Home
Religious Education in Congregations
Religious Education in Schools
Spiritual Care for Religious Educators and Other Religious Leaders
There are also pages listed to the right with more resources for your ministry. If you have a story or resource to add to these pages, please contact Tandi Rogers: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Unitarian Universalists have the most academic education, second only to the cousins in the Hindu religious tradition. We love questions, learning, searching. If we love our education so much, wouldn’t we want access to education for everyone as an expression of our Unitarian Universalism?
Trump’s appointment to the Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos troubles me deeply. Public school, our country’s most important civic institution, will potentially be gutted, and not in favor of fairness and equality. Trump’s appointment is a call to action and service. What will you and your congregation or Covenanting Community do to protect public education?
Can you imagine if every UU congregation ran a member for the local school board as part of their mission?
Can you imagine congregations annually commissioning public school teachers and staff in a ceremony of celebration and gratitude?
Can you imagine scholarship program run by congregations to fund field trips and extracurricular opportunities as a way to support their local schools?
Can you imagine partnering with other groups to offer after-school enrichment programs?
I can imagine this and more. I can imagine it because it’s part of our heritage. Horace Mann (Unitarian) started the Common School Movement to ensure that basic education funded by local taxes was available to every child. The idea and movement of universal schooling spread across the new country. Mann knew that political stability, basic civility, and social harmony are the basis for civilization and universal public schooling is the means to that advancement.
Horace Mann started the public schools, and it’s time we rose up to ensure their protection.
Oh, Holy Life Force that buzzes in every cell of our being and leaps through connections of hands in service and hearts in searching,
We give thanks for this opportunity to be together today. What a time to be alive, to create our shared ministries and embody our living faith tradition.
Grant us serenity so we may surrender our current expressions of Unitarian Universalism as the one right way. Helps us to understand that we do not own Unitarian Universalist, but rather it owns us. We belong to this faith. Release us from the fear of change so we may embrace opportunity larger than ourselves, expression beyond our imagination.
Give us the courage to pick up what is really our work, our own transformation and evolution. Give us strength and perspective when the road is unknown, and long and uncomfortable and not at all what we expected. Stir in us the commitment to build relationship outside ourselves, out on our margins as if our liberation depended on it, because we know it does.
Grant us the wisdom to discern what we can’t change in this generation, this lifetime and what is indeed our work to do. Grant us the patience and love to sow the seeds of trees under whose shade we will never sit and whose fruits will nourish a people we will never know but love just the same.
Help us develop the spiritual discipline of consistently showing up in support of people whose values are close but not quite ours… and lead us into mutual transformation. Help us to develop an ever-widening circle of community as spiritual practice. Because religious community truly is where we practice being human.
Oh, God, may we become the people we’ve been waiting for and bring you honor and glory. May we lean that much closer into your beloved community and kingdom of heaven on earth.
It’s that time of year, folks! Fall is in full buzz of possibilities. Are you ready? Here’s a check list to help you back into the swing of things.
Bathroom sniff test. Yes, I’m serious. What’s the first room you clean in your own home when company is coming? I rest my case. Is your church bathroom up to “company standards?” I especially love those congregations that put out a basket of goodies like fragrance-free lotion, band-aids, feminine products, safety pins, diapers and diaper wipes. (If you separate by gender, provide baby needs in each bathroom.) It’s delightfully welcoming.
Sound System. The only thing worse than a musty-dusty bathroom is a sound system that doesn’t work. Please respect your assembled community and the folks who lovingly put together the worship enough to make sure the sound system supports the service seamlessly. Make sure that a cadre of people know how to work technical magic and can step in when needed. Make sure the worship associates are comfortable using the equipment. Practice.
Greeters as Ministry. Wouldn’t it be great to be greeted at the door by someone who knows you by name and says, “How are? I’m so glad to see you!” I’m convinced this is an under appreciated ministry. We all crave to be seen and known, and wanted. Blessed are the greeters who take special care with visitors. Remember your first day? Unless you were born into Unitarian Universalism, you were probably nervous your first day. Filled with questions. Am I in the right place? Will I be accepted? What if I have trouble following the liturgy? Who will be my Sunday School teacher? There are a couple of congregations who employ the talents of youth and child greeters to help all ages feel welcome and at home. Yes!
Membership Tracking. As our U.U.A. President the Rev. Peter Morales says, “If you can’t count them, you can’t serve them.” I believe that. When I grew up, my church had us all sign in the Membership Book housed in each pew. If my family missed a couple of Sundays I knew I could count on someone from the church calling to make sure we were alright. How loving! Updated materials on membership tracking, hospitality and belonging are here: http://www.uua.org/growth/newcomers/20011.shtml
Name Tags. They’re a matter of hospitality and good manners. Even in a family-sized congregation, newer members are not going to know everyone’s name. And here’s another purpose: tracking. Have a basket out by the name tags. After church ask/train people to put their name tags in the basket. Voila! Your membership counter knows who attended (see #4.) And you just might have a little helper learning their ABC’s whose job it could be to put them back in order for the next Sunday.
Real Cream. We are so into our free-trade organic coffee and usually fumble on the nasty powdered milk substitute. It’s up there with stinky bathrooms and screeching microphones. Spring an array of real cream, skim milk, and some soy milk. It makes a difference.
Projected Announcements. More and more congregations are using a computer and projector to post their announcements before the service. The community is often treated to pictures of church events that happened that previous week. Add captions with names and it is a powerful community builder. If you start running this ten minutes before the worship service starts, I bet people will start coming on time.
Newsletters with Purpose. One of my current favorite newsletters is from the Cedars UUC on Bainbridge Island of Washington state. What sets it apart is how user-friendly it is. The contributors don’t assume I know acronyms or common phrases. Contact information is sprinkled throughout the articles and announcements so people can call or email right then. Their newsletter became my guide to getting involved with their congregation and wider community. Reread your newsletter with fresh eyes (pretend you’re a new member.) What does your newsletter tell you or not tell you? Or better yet, reach out to another congregation and do a swap audit of materials. Also, please send your newsletter out electronically as a link, not an attachment. And use the full name of your congregation in the subject line. This is especially useful for religious leaders who receive the newsletters of area congregations to keep connected (hint-hint.)
Websites with Purpose & Ease. Most people seeking Unitarian Universalism will search the Internet to find their nearest church. Knowing that, does the front page of your site give clear directions? Offer a picture of your building so I know it when I see it? What time you worship? Does it tell people what kind of religious community you are and what you value? Is it inviting? Does it provide easy to find contact information for staff and church leaders? This last one is a sore spot for me. If I have to search deep into your site for a staff/key volunteer contact information if tells me you’ve got a secret club on your hands or don’t want to be bothered. If you use one of those email e-forms that I have to fill out to have a message sent to someone on staff that tells me your system is paranoid. Not attractive.
Voice Message with Soul. Make me want to come to church! Tell me who you are and where you are with an upbeat, clear voice. And please, if you’re going to answer the church phone, make sure you will represent the congregation with a welcoming spirit and accurate information. One of my favorite messages sported the clear voice of a teenager inviting the caller to their joyful, multigenerational congregation. Wow! Yes!
Community with Soul. Fall is a great time to reaffirm your Covenant and what it means to be a member of your religious community. Lift up your vision and celebrate how you plan to build that vision. Need some help? There are great tools out there from the UUA: Vision, Mission, Covenant and the Membership Journey are two I recommend. Contact your District Staff for names of consultants who may be able to coach you in your process or offer a cluster workshop.
Search Team of Possibilities. Skip a couple of Sundays this fall and go check out another church. What do you like? What good ideas could you bring back? What do you especially appreciate about your home congregation? I always thought it would be fun to have an organized team who went out and systematically went searching for possibilities to share with their own leadership. (I promise I will flesh this out in future postings…)
Have Fun. We’re in this for the long haul. If it’s making you anxious, angry, or resentful why not let someone else do <insert distasteful duty here> for a while. Or maybe it doesn’t get done for a while. Lead with love and creativity and fun. Abundance will follow.
Have a great year!
**This post is an edited reprint from an article that appeared on the front page of the UUA Pacific NW website a long time ago. Still applicable, don’t you think?
I have visions of puppets overtaking our chancels. I have visions of Story for All Ages being acted out by huge caricatures of our ancestors. I have visions of General Assembly Banner Parade being shepherded by twenty foot puppets representing our principles and collective story.
So imagine my delight during Friday morning worship at General Assembly when a fleet of puppets burst down the aisles. Bumble bees, crickets, caribou, wolves, loons, and a huge (I mean huge) whale illustrated the sermon. It was joyful and poignant and appropriate for all ages. What a beautiful example.
If your congregation uses puppets in worship and/or religious education, please contact me.
Before you go to General Assembly (GA), skim the Pacific Northwest District of congregations (www.pnwd.org under “Congregations”) or your own district. Find congregations that are similar in size, and make a list. At the General Assembly, seek out people from those congregations who are in similar leadership roles as you and compare notes. What is working well? What are challenges? What are possible solutions? Swap contact information and keep in touch. There is a message board at GA where you can post and receive messages to people.
Even better – contact folks ahead of GA and arrange regular meetings (breakfasts?) to debrief the experience and start plotting collaboration and support once we’re back home.
Be extra-friendly to the folks working the General Assembly – they are all volunteers and our UU brothers and sisters.
Sing out at the Opening Worship and let the rush of celebrating with thousands of Unitarian Universalists from all over our continent sink into your bones. Let our collective energy feed your spirit. After each worship service ask what you liked best and how you can bring that nugget home to your own worship.
Seek out district board members and your Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations trustee and tell them what your greatest hopes are for our religion and your congregation. Our boards set the vision for our collective ministry with long range dreaming. Tell them what your priorities are.
Seek out U.U.A. of C. staff with your questions. Tell us what you need to build a vibrant, thriving religious community. During Plenary staff sit in a block to the front-left when facing the stage.
Go to a workshop that speaks to a need in your congregation. Before you leave General Assembly, create a plan for how you will apply what you learned back in your home congregation.
Go to a workshop that speaks to a personal passion or interest. Before you leave General Assembly, create a plan for how you will apply what you’ve learned back in your home congregation and/or your personal life.
Keep some extra room in your suitcase for the wonderful Unitarian Universalist clothing and jewelry available in the display booth area. Everyone should have at least one piece of UU jewelry to wear.
Keep the energy going! When you return to your congregation, schedule some coffee time with key folks to share what you learned. Give them copies of the hand-outs and your notes. Write an article for your congregation’s newsletter. Make yourself available at coffee hour for people who are interested. Seek out the next group of leaders who should go to General Assembly 2011 to represent your congregation and bring back inspiration, perspective, connections, and ideas to help your religious community be all that it can be.
The lilac bush intoxicated us with her heavy blooms. The world seemed perfect as was the time to share my inner wrestlings with my Gramma. We were both on our backs staring up at the clouds looking for familiar shapes. There’s a little hill next to the lilac bush that was perfect for such moments.
“Gramma? Can a heart burst?”
“Gramma, I’m afraid my heart is going to burst sometimes. Sometimes it’s too full with love. And sometimes it’s too full with sadness.”
“Mmm…” She reached out and squeezed my hand. “So, what are you going to do with that?”
She often asked that sort of question.
“I think I’m gonna to be a minister.”
I said it not quite convinced, as the only ministers I knew were male and Christian and I wasn’t either. They had The Answer and I knew there were many. They saved people from their pulpit. I felt called to heal with actions and love just in the regular places of my life. … “I think I’m gonna be a minister.”
“What makes you think you aren’t a minister now?”
The sound of the gulls overhead were drown out by the paradigm shift crashing in my skull. The deep, deep breath of spring air I took in cut through the lilac drunkenness and the colors all around us intensified exponentially.
A minister was born.
Religious Education happens when we are witnessed deeply, and when our safe people believe in us as our own beliefs are taking form.