Looking for a way to deepen people’s understanding of what it means to be a religious community, as well as increase commitment? This may be just the right project for you!
Create an Instagram account for your congregation. Make sure the name you choose represents your congregation well. (Same with Facebook and Twitter.)
Look at either your mission statement or covenant. Which has the most juice or spark for visual embodiment? Go there. One congregation I work with has is using “We are…” with the hashtag #WeAre. They have a list of aspirational aspects of who their congregation is. It works great for this project. Another congregation is using “We commit to:” with the hashtag #WeCommitTo. Their list includes chalice points (formerly bullet points) of their covenant.
Invite congregants to take pictures of those chalice points in action using the specific chalice point as a caption. (Yes, this is faith formation and identity formation — I’m sneaky like that.)
Turn this into a multigenerational activity by pairing people who are well versed in smart phone photo taking and social media with folks who are wondering what social media is. This activity could be an all-congregation scavenger hunt.
Invite people to post pictures with hashtags and captions to Instagram, Facebook and/or Twitter. If they do not have accounts, have them send pictures with captions to a point person.
Identify a point person who is comfortable with social media to coordinate the effort. As per Instagram etiquette and solid social media strategy, spread those pictures out over time, no more than one a day.
Create a movie with all the pictures, cohorting the common captions together. Show it at your stewardship celebration, show it at your end of the year celebration or ingathering, and post on your social media accounts — this is what we create all together!
A note about photo permission and etiquette: Always ask permission to take and use someone’s photo. For folks under age 18, ask their parents first, then the child or youth. The UUA has photo release/permission policies I recommend. For community members under the age of 18, many religious education enrollment forms include a section like this:
I realize that any photos taken of my child during THE EVENT become property of the UUA and may be used in UUA materials. I realize there will be no compensation for the use of these photos. (If you do not want your child’s photo used in UUA materials – meaning that they will NOT be allowed to appear in group photos and will NOT be allowed to have photos taken of them – then initial here. __________)
Some people cannot be featured on social media for very good reasons. Please be extra careful to honor this. It’s the loving thing to do.
If you really get into Instagram, here are more great ways to use Instagram as a congregation.
Please send me your movie, if you’d like me to post it here for others to enjoy! UUTandi@gmail.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.
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.
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.
I was curled up with the boys reading bedtime stories. We were snuggled up with Spark In the Dark, a creation story with beautiful, simple pictures. The book begins with the swirling gases of the Universe coming together and forming planet earth. Water forms. Plants form. Animals form. Humans evolve.
Four-year-old Owen interrupted and asked "what is that state’s name again?" Having grown accustomed to his tangential interjections, I didn’t blink an eye. I named off all the states he’s traveled: Oregon, Ohio, Wisconsin, and Washington. He shook his head... I started to name cities he’s been to with notoriety. Still no satisfaction, and he clearly had a specific place in mind, but the lateness of the evening was wearing on him. Finally he said rubbing his eyes, "No, the place I was before I was born. What’s the name of it?"
Clarity took hold of and quieted my confusion. "I’m not sure anyone knows the name of it for sure. Do you remember being there?"
Again, rubbing his eyes and yawning, "Yeah. I liked it. When do we go back?"
I didn’t know the answer until it came out of my mouth, "When we die, honey."
Owen, "That’s right. I’ll meet you there."
And then he snuggled into my arms and went to sleep. I was left holding sweet Owen as he went off to dream land knowing that I was holding one of the greatest teachers I will ever know.
Religious connection, Religious Education started before we were born. It usually entails simply bringing us back to ourselves, to our Source.