“It’s a blessing you were born.
And it matters what you do.
What you know about God
Is a piece of the truth.
May the beauty you love,
Be what you do.
And you don’t have to do it alone.”
— Laila Ibrahim
This poem has been a cornerstone of my faith journey in Unitarian Universalism. To me, it is a beautiful encapsulation of why I have committed so much of my life, my energy and my hope to Unitarian Universalism. My hope is that the ideas expressed in this poem are embraced and embodied by each and every one of us. And it is important not only to recognize the importance of these ideals in our own lives, but to share them with others.
When we encounter other people, do we treat them as if it was a blessing they were born? Do we show them by example and teaching that it matters what they do? Do we respect the pieces of truth that each person has and make opportunities to learn from them? Are you a person who makes yourself available to accompany others as they seek to do “the beauty they love?”
I think most of us strive to do so, and it makes me proud to be a Unitarian Universalist.
However, I’ve been thinking a lot about how we often fail to extend the same generosity of spirit to the children in our congregation. Do we treat them as if the truths that they know are important? Do we truly believe that it matters what they do? Do we actually believe that they have pieces of the truth to share with us? Do we encourage them to do the beauty they love? Can we make them feel like they aren’t alone while they explore faith, truth and meaning? How do we manifest these important concepts to the children around us?
I encourage you all to think about your recent interactions with children and youth in our church community. Do you act as if the children are valued for the inherent worth and dignity they have at this stage of their development? Or do you treat them as if they are merely something to put up with until they are adults? Do you recognize the gifts and truths they can share with you, right now, as they are? Or do you assume you have nothing to learn from them? Do you approach them with curiosity and wonder or impatience and tolerance?
I hope we can all learn to cherish our children, approach them with curiosity, and recognize that they also have pieces of the truth to share with us. Most importantly, I hope we can enfold them in love so that they know deep in their souls that their church community supports them every step along the way, and they don’t have to do it alone.
I just returned from being an adult sponsor at youth con. Seven of our high school youth attended this youth lead conference, and it was so inspiring to participate in worship, small groups, dancing, meals, and workshops with them and over a hundred other youth. The atmosphere was so welcoming, and it was one of the few places I have witnessed radical hospitality done really well.
Throughout the weekend, several youth talked about how they have a difficult time being accepted at school and in their communities for many reasons. For some, that distance was due to what they look like or the social class they belong to. For others, conditions like autism, bi-polar disorder, or cerebral palsy played a role in their being treated as different. For still others race, gender, or sexual orientation made them feel like outsiders. But in the intentional community created for 2 days at youth con everyone was included. No one was left on the sidelines. Everyone had people to sit with at meals. Hugs, cuddling, conversation, and listening included the whole group.
The youth observe what they call the Robbie Rule. When they make a circle whether formally in a group or informally in a conversation, they try to always leave a space open for anyone else who might want to join. At the Saturday night dance, it was beautiful to see a horseshoe-shaped group with arms around each other swaying together to the music. Not only was there opportunity for others to join, but some youth from the circle actively ran over to people who were standing, dancing or sitting alone and invited them to join.
I wonder how we adults can follow this example provided by our youth? Can we practice the openness, the welcoming, the radical hospitality they model for us? It may not be sustainable all the time, but I wonder if our time at church can be a time where we pay close attention to the needs of others? Can WUUC be a place where our spiritual practice involves radical hospitality; where we make it a point to include the people who are on the edges of society in their normal lives? Can we be a people of love, of listening, of acceptance for all those who need it? I think we can. Let’s give it a try!
Peace and Laughter,
As we move from the month of September to the month of October, and the Soul Matters theme shifts from Expectation to Belonging, I have been giving a lot of thought to what my expectations were for the RE program at the start of this year, and whether or not they were realistic. One of the things I hoped for but didn’t necessarily expect was the amazing response we received to our summer outreach. Several families who haven’t been here in a while have come back in response to the phone conversations, texts and invitations extended to them. And I think most of them are returning with a desire to feel as if they belong here.
As we transition this month to thinking about what it means to be a people of belonging, I encourage you all to think about what it means for families to belong here at WUUC, and what your role in nurturing that feeling of belonging might be. We have had several families come back, what can you do to help make them feel like they belong here? Here are a few suggestions.
you make time to assist in the nursery, RE class or youth group? We are
still looking for volunteers at all levels of the RE program.
the service, think about how you can make the parents and children who are
there feel more welcome. Smiles, comments of encouragement and
solidarity, offers of help; all of those things make families feel like they
belong here with us in our church.
· During coffee hour, talk to the children, the youth, the parents. Learn their names. Find out what their interests are. Ask what they are doing in RE or if they have attended any of the parent groups.
· On the 2nd Wednesday of the month (beginning Oct. 9), you could volunteer to cook a meal and have dinner with the families of young children in our congregation. It is a great opportunity to support our parents, have dinner with and get to know church members you might not otherwise interact with. Or you could volunteer to provide childcare on those evenings after dinner while the parents are having their support group meeting.
We have had an
amazing and busy September. I can’t wait to see what the next month
brings! As always, I welcome your questions and suggestions.
Committee and I have been busy planning for the upcoming church year, and I am
incredibly excited about what we have in store for WUUC! Our primary
focus this year will be on family ministry. Studies have shown that the
most important factor in determining whether or not grown children remain in
church (or come back to church after a break in young adulthood) is their
parents’ active involvement in their religious education and their commitment
to church life.
Unfortunately, many parents come to Unitarian Universalist churches without the knowledge of how to include religious education as part of family life. Many parents were raised “unchurched” or quit attending church at a young age and never learned how to incorporate spiritual growth and learning into their personal lives, much less into the lives of their children. To that end, we will be starting many programs to encourage the spiritual growth within our families.
Some of these
for families to participate together in the Sunday morning worship service by
serving as greeters and lighting the chalice.
home lessons with activities to reinforce what was taught during the RE class
each Sunday, and for families who couldn’t make it to church that week.
· I will lead several parent groups which will meet monthly to discuss parenting issues, questions, and offering ideas for incorporating UU Spirituality into family life. Tentatively, the list of parent groups includes: parents of High School Students, parents of upper elementary & middle school age children, parents of young children, and parents of children attending 8th-9th grade OWL.
Traveling chalice boxes which can be “checked out” from the church by
children or families. Each box will include information on a different
aspect of Unitarian Universalism and include activities, games, and ideas on
how to integrate our faith and values into daily family life.
I will be
reaching out to WUUC’s parents and guardians soon to learn more about ways in
which we can support our families. If you have any questions, comments,
or ideas I would love to hear from you. I hope the rest of your summer is a
time of renewal, peace and fun!
The Soul Matters theme for the month of May is “What does it mean to be a people of curiosity?” I invite you to take some time to be curious about the Religious Education program for Children and Youth at WUUC. We are developing our plans for this summer’s program and next year’s classes and we need your help. Regardless of whether or not you want to work with children or have children in the program, there are many ways you can show your support for this vital ministry.
It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes the commitment of the whole church to have a vibrant, active, exciting RE Program. Below is a list of many possible opportunities for you to consider. I encourage you to take a few minutes to open your heart and mind and be curious about ways you can support the future generation of Unitarian Universalists. I am happy to answer any questions or explore options with you.
· RE Teacher / Assistant — Be a regular presence in an RE classroom as a teacher, assistant, or youth adviser. All lesson plans are provided, and activities are prepared for you. Commitment would be no more than two Sundays per month.
RE Teacher — Help out when there’s a last-minute need for additional help
in an RE class on Sunday morning.
Ambassador — On Sundays when the Director of Lifelong Learning is not at
church, the RE Ambassador helps out with anything that comes up unexpectedly,
such as a last-minute supply need or finding a sub if an RE teacher / assistant
doesn’t make it in to church.
Greeter — Greet families as they arrive, help children sign in for the
appropriate class, provide directions, answer questions for new families.
Church Assistant (and Musicians) — Assisting the DLL with one of the
all-ages “children’s church” activities that take place
quarterly. On these days, K-8th grade children have a combined program
and the regular RE teachers have the Sunday off. (People willing to lead
music during the children’s service would be especially appreciated.)
/ Activity / Classroom Preparation — Help to prepare craft and activity
materials and/or set up the classroom space sometime during the week before the
· Storyteller — Occasionally present the Time For All Ages story during the worship service. Training and assistance selecting stories / activities will be provided
Table Leader — During once monthly full community services, sit with the
children at the activity table at the front of the sanctuary, assist children
with quiet activities during the service and redirect them back to their
parents if necessary.
RE Assistant — Assist with (or, if you are interested, lead) two or more
RE classes in the summer. A fun and low commitment way to spend time
growing in faith with the kids of WUUC!
Provider — Providing / preparing food or snacks for events such as youth
activities, teacher training, meetings, etc.
Event Planner — Help to plan an event or two for families in the coming
year. This could be anything from an outing to the swimming pool, a movie
night, a hiking trip, Family picnic, or whatever you can dream up!
Con Sponsor — Accompany our high school youth to one of the two annual
youth conferences for a weekend.
Other Ideas? – If you have any special skills or other ideas on
how you can support the RE program, I would love to hear them.