Coming of Age and Senior Skills

Coming of Age and Senior Skills

As we move into October and our Soul Matters theme of Deep Listening, I am reflecting on how important it is to listen to the call within our own hearts, to periodically take time to reflect on our lives and discern the next best steps on our path. Each of our journeys is unique and we are the only ones who can determine how we want to exist in the world.

With that in mind, we are offering two different programs within our senior youth group this year. The 9-11 graders will have the opportunity to participate in the Coming of Age program throughout the year.  Coming of Age (COA) is a first step in developing a lifelong skill of discernment about what it means to live a life of faith, individually and as part of the larger Unitarian Universalist (UU) faith community. 

The senior class, most of whom completed Coming of Age when they were younger, will meet once a month to discuss the issues and learn skills to help them transition into young adulthood. There are many decisions to make as one moves from adolescence into adulthood, and it is more important than ever for youth to revisit their individual values, and how to live those values in the world.

I invite you to support our youth in whatever ways you are able this year as they all do the challenging work of personal discernment and development.  Keep them in your thoughts and prayers, volunteer to be a Coming of Age mentor, participate in social justice activities with them, send cards or notes, listen to them when they speak or share, or maybe you have some other ideas!

Religious Education 2020: It Takes a Village (and a Zoom account)

Religious Education 2020: It Takes a Village (and a Zoom account)

By Bridget Laflin
Director of Religious Education

Hello WUUC!

Summer is winding down and we are ramping up for a church and school year like no other.  All of us are feeling the pressure of figuring out how to create a new normal during these challenging times.  WUUC’s Religious Education Committee is no different. 

But we are very excited about the upcoming church year and the offerings we are preparing for religious education for children and youth.  We will be kicking off our fall RE program on Sept. 20.  Here are just a few highlights:

·       All Ages Interactive Chapel on Sunday mornings

·       Online Bitmoji RE classroom that students can access whenever they want

·       Social justice projects for junior and senior youth

·       Coming of Age program for 9-11 graders

·       Monthly online regional youth cons

We will be reaching out to ALL members of the congregation to ask for support for our online RE programs.  Since much of the content will be pre-recorded and the children will access it at their convenience, we will be looking for people from the congregation to make short recordings so that our children get exposure to the faces and voices of their church family.  We will be looking for people to record some of the following things to share with the class:

·       Chalice Lightings / Extinguishings

·       Reading or telling stories

·       Craft / art demonstrations

·       Songs

·       Movement exercises (body prayers, yoga, dances etc)

·       Nature discoveries

·       Demonstrate a skill (building, cooking, garden etc.)

·       Messages of encouragement / affirmation

·       Puppet shows

·       Other???

We can’t wait to share in the experiences of our talented congregation!

In Trying Times, I Believe in Us

In Trying Times, I Believe in Us

By Bridget Laflin
Director of Religious Education
Hello Beloveds,

Will you breathe with me? Take a deep breath in slowly. Exhale slowly. Repeat as many times as necessary to feel a bit of calm.

Let’s just take a minute and remember that we love each other. At the very least, remember that I love all of you.

This pandemic is causing a lot of fear. And when we are afraid, we hold onto whatever we think will keep us safe. We have difficulty thinking clearly. It is so easy to create an us vs. them and forget that we are all interconnected and dependent on one another.

The truth is that there simply isn’t enough information about this virus. Statistics are unclear due to inconsistent testing, reporting, etc. Long-term effects are unknown. There is no vaccine yet, and speculations abound as to when or if it can be developed; much less the effectiveness of this potential vaccine when/if it is developed. It may be years before we have those kinds of answers.

What we do have right now is each other.

Isolation, financial difficulties, and lack of physical contact can all cause or contribute to depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

And depression and hopelessness can be as deadly as any virus.

Let’s think about how we can support each other rather than focus on the illusion of separateness. Remember we are ALL interconnected.

That might mean working on our humility; admitting that we might be wrong and that we don’t have all of the information. It might mean digging deep to find grace and compassion. It might mean putting in time and effort to search for the deeper fears and motivations for our own actions. It might mean looking for what is underneath other people’s anger and addressing that rather than reacting to the anger itself.

This is an incredibly trying and difficult time, my friends. And I believe that loving-kindness and compassion can get us through this together.

It is not in any way simple or easy, but I believe in us.

I love you. You are not alone.

Justice and Peace,

Bridget

Are Our Children Learning  to Handle Conflict?

Are Our Children Learning to Handle Conflict?

Hello Friends! 

As I thought about the January and February Soul Matters themes of Integrity and Resilience and how these concepts relate to our Religious Education program, I began to think about the challenges and successes that our RE program has faced this year. 

This fall, we combined our First-Eighth graders into a single class on Sunday mornings.  There have been amazing moments of leadership from some of our older children along with some difficult situations that come from having such a broad age range of students working together.  I have witnessed some beautiful relationships form between some of the older kids and some of the younger children, and I’ve seen how frustrated both the children and adults can feel when there are conflicts due to varied expectations and levels of understanding.

All of these types of experiences happen not just in RE class, but in many different places in our congregation.  Beautiful relationships form that might never have happened without a shared church community.  Frustrations occur when there are different levels of understanding on specific topics.  Sometimes unexpected leaders emerge from within groups, which can be wonderful or it can cause friction. 

How our children and youth learn to handle these difficult situations while they are young will teach them how to resolve conflict and how to live in right relationship with other people as they grow.  They learn some of these skills at school and in Religious Education programs, but they learn most from watching the adults around them.  Our children and youth are watching the adult members of the congregation to observe how conflict is handled.  And from us they are learning how to live in right relationship within a beloved church community.   

Are they witnessing the congregation handle their disputes in healthy ways, with integrity and resilience?  Or are there other lessons they are learning?

This month, let us be mindful of what it means to be a people of resilience by working to resolve conflicts and mend relationships in healthy ways, not just for our own sakes, but also for the sake of the children and youth.

Happy Holidays, WUUC!

Happy Holidays, WUUC!

(Photo courtesy of the Pittsburgh Theological Seminary)

This time of year always gets me thinking about family.  And like many people, my extended family lives far away from me.  My parents and siblings all live halfway across the country, and I find myself getting nostalgic. 

When I miss my family, I am so grateful for my friends and specifically my church community.  A church community really can feel like family sometimes.  There can be arguments and disagreements, but these relationships are also (hopefully) based in love, compassion, and respect.

One of the most beautiful things about church life is that we have an opportunity to spend time with people who are in many different ages and stages in their lives.  Opportunities to engage with people outside our own generation are few and far between in our society.  But being part of a church community opens up so many possibilities for developing loving supportive friendships across multiple generations.

So, how can we
access these amazing relationship possibilities?

If you are you
a grandparent (or of grandparent age) and miss your grandkids or the presence
of young children in your life, think about striking up a conversation with the
parents whose children are wandering around the sanctuary.  Or offer to
hold a baby, or play with one of the pre-schoolers.  You could also
volunteer in the nursery or teach a Religious Education class.  We have an
amazing group of creative, intelligent, amazing, loving children in our
congregation.  Most of them would love it if you got to know them as
individual people.  Your lives will be richer for having these wonderful
people in your life.

If you are a
parent of younger children, especially if your parents don’t live nearby, seek
out conversations with some of the older members at church.  Introduce
them to your children.  Maybe you will develop some “adopted grandparent”
relationships with people who can share their wisdom with you and play with the
kids once in a while. You and your childrens’ lives will be enriched by the
love, experience and wisdom of the elders in our community.

We have a
unique and special chance to increase understanding and to share wisdom through
building relationships with our church family.   Let’s consider
taking advantage of the precious gifts of getting to know one another as we
enter this new year.

Peace,

Bridget Laflin,
DRE