RE Models

Below are some current formats that Unitarian Universalist Religious Education might take. Some are currently being used in congregations and some are dreams that may some day come to be used. In either case, I offer this list as a resource for those interested.

Option 1 – Classroom Curriculum, using curriculum based age-segregated classrooms, such as the Tapestry of Faith series, Bibleodeon, Compass Points, etc.

Benefits:
o    Known program in the congregation
o    Has strong foundation
o    Physical space is designed for running in this model
o    Already strengthening and building upon foundation
o    Staff & volunteer leadership is grounded in philosophy
o    Congregation has invested in this model
o    Sunday morning worship does not need to change
o    Curricula materials exist and can be used, either from UUA or other sources
Challenges:
o    Doesn’t easily match desire to move to multigenerational community
o    Inconsistent participant attendance
o    Adult volunteers becoming less interested and able/willing to make large time commitments, which this model is dependent on
o    Children/adults segregated (upstairs/downstairs church)
o    Adult volunteers teaching children can’t attend worship

Option 2 – Workshop Rotation: revolves around all children together to hear a single story repeated 3-4 times/month, then each week break into multi-age groups to engage in message of story through a variety of methods (i.e. movement, arts & crafts, discussion). This model generally includes some adult members of the congregation sharing their passion/skills in 3-4 week rotations, while other adults rotate with the groups.

Benefits:
o    Volunteer requirements are in smaller time-chunks
o    With more volunteers needed, allows for more multigenerational engagement
o    Sunday morning worship does not need to change
o    Adults who otherwise might not volunteer to work with children might volunteer/be encouraged to volunteer in order to share something they are passionate about, such as quilting, woodwork, etc.
o    Children who don’t attend weekly won’t necessarily be lost between sessions
Challenges:
o    Children/adults segregated (upstairs/downstairs church)
o    Demands much more administration & coordination from RE staff
o    Requires significantly more adult volunteers throughout the year
o    Each workshop needs to be written as they don’t yet exist
o    Adult volunteers teaching children can’t attend worship

Option 3 – Spirit Play: Sort of a mash-up of workshop rotation and Montessori educational philosophy. Classes are divided by ages and revolve around a central story each week. Once the story is read the participants are given freedom to use materials in the classroom to engage with the story in a multitude of ways.

Benefits:
o    Self-learners will thrive in this environment
o    UUS:E space is conducive to requirements of a Spirit Play classroom
o    Volunteer teacher prep is minimal
o    Sunday morning worship does not need to change
Challenges:
o    Spirit Play teachers must be certified through a Spirit Play training, which can be cost prohibitive.
o    Because teachers must be certified, pool of potential teachers can be limited by money, adult availability to attend training, training frequency and locations
o    Does not invite multigenerational community building
o    Adult volunteers teaching children can’t attend worship
o    Learners who need more structure will disengage from program/church or be disruptive to classroom environment

Option 4A – First Hour/Second Hour: Entire community worships together then breaks into multigenerational learning.

Benefits:
o    Whole community worships together every Sunday
o    Whole community learns together every Sunday
o    Relationships between generations forged
o    Regular attendance not necessarily important
o    Minimal volunteers needed to lead education
o    Families can worship and learn together
Challenges:
o    Creating Sunday morning worship to appeal to children and adults on a weekly basis
o    Adults who don’t like children may disengage from community
o    Finding educational materials that will engage children & adults simultaneously
o    Physical space for both worship and education may not be large enough
o    Some portion of community only attend one hour or the other
o    Minimal existing curricula available

Option 4B – First Hour/Second Hour: Entire community worships together then breaks into age-based groups for learning. Some congregations using this method run “traditional RE” (option 1) for the children during 2nd hour, or run 1-session workshops, discussion groups and/or adult RE multi-session curricula during that same 2nd hour.

Benefits:
o    Whole community worships together every Sunday
o    Relationships between generations are forged
o    Regular attendance not necessarily important
o    Curricula resources exist for both children and adults
Challenges:
o    Creating Sunday morning worship to appeal to children and adults on a weekly basis
o    Physical space may not be adequate for this model
o    Some members of community will not attend one or the other hour
o    Adult volunteers teaching children miss out on attending classes

Option 5 – Full Week Faith: a mash-up of good old-fashioned family ministry, first century-style mission driven church, and a faithful leveraging of technology and social media to expand the reach and breadth of our ministries.

Benefits:
o    Whole community worships together
o    Community becomes involved in one another’s lives outside of Sunday morning
o    Daily reminders and connections to UUism are supplied to members of church
o    Flexible model with many entry points for individuals
o    Provides concrete opportunities for living our faith in daily life
o    Through public acts of faith engagement, church becomes known in community

Challenges:
o    Creating Sunday morning worship to appeal to children and adults on a weekly basis
o    Radical shift in job descriptions of church employees, to allow for larger focus on community building and communication, less focus on preparation for Sunday morning
o    Sunday no longer central focus point of church
o    Staff need to be trained in use of social media, marketing, communication

Option 6 – Sacred Sunday, Worship Wednesday: Sunday morning serves as time when community gathers to engage in moment of centering/prayer and then activities that revolve around mission of church & passion of people, while Wednesday (evenings?) become a time when “traditional” worship service is offered, perhaps following a community meal.

Benefits:
o    Whole community comes together to engage in multigenerational passion-based activities each Sunday morning (i.e. justice activities, gardening, hiking, music, etc.)
o    Worship Wednesday brings community together for “corporate” worship mid-week, offering 2nd time in week when community gathers
o    Lifespan religious education happens organically through gathered community
o    Possible to better meet variety of worship preferences
o    Volunteers lead only what they are most passionate about
o    Could draw in folks who otherwise don’t participate in congregational life
Challenges:
o    Community worship is not focused on Sunday morning
o    Expects/invites people to attend 2x/week
o    May not be able to recruit enough volunteers to have a wide enough variety of activities to engage full community
o    May feel too radical to folks wanting traditional “church” experience
o    Week day evenings can be difficult for some families, particularly with small children
o    No traditional classroom-based Religious Education

Option 7 – Multigen, Multi-Modality Ministry: Sunday morning all-ages interactive worship, where “lessons” are taught during worship and offer moments of audience participation. (i.e. round tables are set up rather than rows of chairs and the sermon is a series of readings/quotes/sermonettes followed by questions that each table answers among themselves).

Benefits:
o    Community together on Sunday morning
o    Religious Education and worship integrated into one experience
o     Worship will be interactive, closer in style to youth worship, which may invite in youth and young adults who have drifted away
Challenges:
o    No traditional classroom-based Religious Education
o    Worship will be interactive, perhaps too much so for those who want to sit and receive

Published in: on 17 May 2015 at 23.37  Leave a Comment  

Transgender Day of Remembrance 2014

TGDOR

International Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR); a day set aside to annually memorialize those who were killed due to transphobic hatred or prejudice. Originally to honor the life of Rita Hester, a transgender African American woman who was murdered in Allston, MA in 1998, today communities around the globe gather annually on 20 November for public worship and vigils.

It’s an important act: to memorialize the dead, particularly those killed for being who they are. It’s an act that allows for the public processing of pain, a necessary requirement to social change, according to theologian and Bible scholar Walter Brueggemann. As of the writing of this piece, there are 226 names on this year’s list. 226 people killed because they were perceived and/or known to be “gender non-conforming.” That’s more than 18 deaths per month, the youngest: 8 years of age and the oldest: 55. Many more are physically and verbally attacked each month, sometimes on a regular basis. Not surprisingly, most of these cases remain unsolved. There are no statistics for the number of suicides resulting from harassment for being transgender, but we can guess that it is likely to be high.

We need to publicly process this pain. Not just for the transgender and genderqueer communities, but for all of us. We need to wail and grieve the loss of life. Our Allies need to be reminded of the urgency that drives us to work to change the world. Potential Allies need to be taught that lives are literally at stake. And those who are just noticing that there are transgender/genderqueer people in the world need to know that every time we leave our homes we are risking our lives. EVERY.SINGLE.TIME.

Those of us still living need to be reminded that we are not only the survivors, but that our lives matter. What makes today a complicated day is that while we have set aside a day for memorializing our dead we’ve not yet set aside a day for celebrating the living. The unintended message we are giving, particularly to our newest members of the community, is that your death, and more particularly your murder, has more meaning to our community than your life. When will we set aside a day (or multiple days) to celebrate the wonderfully diverse and beautiful ways in which we live our “gender non-conforming” lives? When will we gather in communities to praise the good deeds and healthy living of transgender and genderqueer folks among us?

I yearn for a time when instead of memorializing transgender and genderqueer individuals who have been killed for living their/our lives authentically, we will take time to celebrate the gifts these individuals offer our communities. Until then I will attend the vigils, not only to remember the lives lost, not only to offer to the transgender communities a supportive religious voice, but to remind myself and others that we are surviving and our lives do matter.

Published in: on 20 November 2014 at 3.49  Leave a Comment  

Lego Chalice Options

Years ago my dear friend and colleague, Kevin Drewery, shared with me his instructions to build a Lego Chalice. I was never able to build his exact chalice but did adapt his design to build my own. Since then I’ve taken my chalice with me from congregation to congregation, using it as the chalice for Children’s Chapels. It’s always been a big hit and everywhere I’ve taken it folks have asked me to lead a chalice build.

This year, with the help of a congregant, Kevin Stadler-Stephenson, I did just that.This Kevin took the time to not only build samples, but also to create easy to follow step-by-step instructions on how to build each chalice. He even went a step further and priced out each chalice so builders would know what they are getting themselves into.

I love that this project has been graced by the good works of two Kevins. Below are links to the various sizes and styles of chalices. Enjoy and feel free to share the joy!

small chalice

 

 

 

Small Chalice

medium chalice

 

 

 

Medium Chalice

new medium chalice

 

 

 

 

New Medium Chalice

large chalice

 

 

 

 

Large Chalice

updated large chalice - re sides

 

 

 

 

Updated Large Chalice

large UUCA chalice

 

 

 

 

Large UUCA Chalice

updated UUCA chalice

 

 

 

 

Updated Large UUCA Chalice

 

 

 

 

 

Published in: on 10 June 2014 at 15.56  Comments (1)  

Hope

What do you Hope for? What brings you Hope? How do you offer Hope to others? The theme for the month of April (as you may have guessed) is “Hope.” I believe at its best our Unitarian Universalist religion can be a source of hope for ourselves and the world.

Unitarian Universalism has been a life-saving entity in my life. As a transgender guy who lives in a world that reminds me on a regular basis that there is not yet room for me to be fully who I am (and be safe), it has been Unitarian Universalist communities and the universal love of our faith that has given me the sustenance to not only survive but to flourish. In my moments of self-doubt, it is Unitarian Universalism that offers me hope. I want to make sure that each one of us can lean on our faith in such moments.

One of the ways that we can learn to lean on our faith is by engaging in daily spiritual practices. This is in part why I started the Unitarian Universalist Photo a Day Lenten Practice. Using common monthly themes we selected a word for each day in Lent. You are invited to reflect on the meaning and gifts of that word and then to find a photograph each day that speaks to you about that word, idea, practice, or concept. You can share it with your family, on Facebook and/or on PracticingLent.Tumblr.com, where we will celebrate the shared inspiration we bring to one another.

I choose Lent as the season to do this because our theological roots are grounded in Christianity and Lent is a good time to refocus our spiritual lives. Each year during the Lenten season I find myself returning to whatever prayer practices I might have let fall by the wayside. In returning to my personal spiritual practices I find myself once again finding sources of hope in my daily life.

Published in: on 1 April 2014 at 20.45  Leave a Comment  

UU Lenten Spiritual Practice

You are invited to join the UU Lenten Spiritual practice. A word has been selected for each day in Lent. Reflect on the meaning and gifts of that word. Find a photograph each day that speaks to you about that word, idea, practice, or concept. Share it on PracticingLent.Tumblr.com and/or on Facebook, and celebrate the shared inspiration we bring to one another.

This practice began on March 5, and will run every day between now and Easter. Each day, we will add the day’s word and a related quote to the main Practicing Lent page. Check the word and quote in the morning, and come back later in the day to add your photo (YOUR photo – please respect copyright!) and to see images our fellow Unitarian Universalists have responded with throughout the day.

A new word and quote will appear each day throughout the Lenten season. We invite you to share with us along the way how this intentional practice and discipline impacts your daily life.

In faith, love, and service,
Mr. Barb Greve
& Karen Bellavance-Grace

UU-LENTON-2014-WEB

Published in: on 4 March 2014 at 20.36  Comments (1)  

Practicing Compassion

Our Unitarian Universalist congregations covenant together to affirm and promote 7 principles, one of which is “Justice, equity and compassion in human relations.” Too often we focus on the justice and equity component of this principle and forget the compassion piece. Too often we focus on “Justice and equity” while leaving out “compassion.”

In seminary one of my professors challenged us to find compassion in those moments when we were most frustrated. He shared with us that whenever someone cut him off on the highway he would take a deep breath and consider for a moment that perhaps they were in more need of the space in front of him than he was; that perhaps they were rushing to the hospital or to pick up their lost child. He invited us to find a way to connect with a different narrative of their story than what our initial instinct might write. At first I thought this was ridiculous – I couldn’t change the way I felt and acted just by thinking their story might be different than the one I made up in my head. But I quickly discovered it isn’t ridiculous, it actually works. And while I still find myself needing to take a deep breath sometimes, I do find that my life is more robust and spirit-filled when I connect with my sense of compassion.

Author Karen Armstrong writes, “Compassion is not an option. It’s the key to our survival.” I agree with her. Compassion is what helps us to be forgiving in moments of anger and frustration. Compassion can motivate us to help those in need. Compassion can build and enhance our relationships with one another. But how do we live a compassionate life and how do we invite our family and friends to do the same? In her book 12 Steps to a Compassionate Life Armstrong offers us this roadmap:

1.    Learn About Compassion
2.    Look at Your Own World
3.    Compassion for Yourself
4.    Empathy
5.    Mindfulness
6.    Action
7.    How Little We Know
8.    How Should We Speak to One Another?
9.    Concern for Everybody
10.    Knowledge
11.    Recognition
12.    Love Your Enemies

I invite you and your family to join me in living out our faith. It won’t always be easy, but as Armstrong says, “It’s the key to our survival.”

Published in: on 1 March 2014 at 20.34  Leave a Comment  

YRUU classroom poster

Similarly to the poster I made for the younger classes, I’ve made a schedule-of-the-day for our Young Religious Unitarian Universalist group. This helps the facilitators keep a consistent flow from week to week, while also giving flexibility for content changes.

YRUU schedule poster 1

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Published in: on 20 January 2014 at 20.48  Leave a Comment  

Entering the Holiday Frenzy

It seems too easy these days to get pulled into the frenzy of shoppers and traffic, frustrations and impatience. Just yesterday, as I was running my weekly errands, I found myself reach what could have been the end of my patience. It took a deep breath and some good self-restraint to not join in the NASCAR-like racing on the roads and the bumper-shopping cart contest in the stores.

This experience reminded me of how important it is for us to take time to feed our spirits and the spirits of our families. Finding a place of center grounding during this rushed holiday season can make the difference between getting pulled into unnecessary arguments and being forgiving of those who do get pulled in.

During this winter season I encourage you and your family to find a spiritual practice that helps ground you together in love. Perhaps it will be to light a chalice at the beginning of the day? Or take a moment at the end of the day to share that for which you are grateful? Perhaps it will be to find some quiet moments to meditate or stretch your body? Or curl up to read an inspiring book? Perhaps it will be playing a game with a loved one? Or knit your next project? Perhaps it will be writing in a journal centering? Or playing a musical instrument? Perhaps you will take a long run? Or come to church on a Sunday morning?

Whatever it is that brings you an inner sense of calm and collectedness, I encourage you to take extra moments during this holiday season and do so. Perhaps like me, you have moments when you just can’t imagine finding the time. I’ve learned that those moments are the moments when I most need to find the time. For without that sense of center I am most disconnected from my values and most at risk to act in ways that I will later regret.

May you find your center and renew your spirit so that you can share with the world your best self.

Published in: on 13 November 2013 at 20.32  Leave a Comment  

Giving to the Church

Not long ago I attended church with a friend and hir family. We enjoyed sitting through the service together, singing the hymns (challenging each other to sing without the hymnal), listening to the sermon, pulling out our wallets to get our money for the offering and worshipping in community. This probably doesn’t sound as remarkable as it felt to me – many of you do this every Sunday morning. What made it remarkable for me was that my friend and worship companion is a 4-year old.

As we were eating breakfast in the morning, ze reminded me that we needed to bring our wallets to church. Ze was concerned that ze didn’t have enough money in hir wallet to give to the offering in the Sanctuary and the one during hir Religious Education class.

I was touched by my friend’s desire to attend church on Sunday morning. And I recall ze was enthusiastic the night before; talking about going with hir parents, discussing what ze liked about worship and Sunday School class and looking forward to seeing “church friends.”

Later that day I asked hir parents how it was that ze was so thoughtful about attending church. The response seems simple enough once you hear it – they began taking hir to church from the beginning. They taught hir that sitting through service was not optional; it is one of the ways that we live our faith and provides a grounding moment during the chaos that we call life. On the ride home and during the week they refer back to what they and ze is learning in church, encouraging each other to put what they’ve learned into practice in their everyday lives.

As ze was aging they began discussing the lessons of our religion at home, including hir in their conversations about what Unitarian Universalism means in their lives. They shared their appreciation for a community that helped them to struggle with and clarify what they personally believed about life, death and everything in-between. They discussed being a part of a larger community where they can celebrate and grieve and engage in the world with others who believe similarly to them. They taught hir that giving to the church, both on Sunday morning offerings and the annual canvass was essential, not because it keeps the place running but because it gives them a sense of stewardship for this special place; that it is an extension of the love they feel for the place, Unitarian Universalism’s saving message and their religious community. They invited hir to consider doing the same.

I invite you to take time in the weeks ahead to talk with your family about what coming to church means to you. And I wish for each of you the feeling of enthusiasm that my worship companion shared with me.

Published in: on 13 October 2013 at 20.30  Leave a Comment  

The theme for October is Pride

The theme for October is Pride. Pride is an interesting topic to struggle with. Should we discuss the things for which we take pride? Or the challenges of being too proud? What about the things for which we are ashamed, is this the inverse of pride? Does what we are proud of change the conversation about pride?

I have been proud to be a Unitarian Universalist for as long as I can remember. I think it started in kindergarten when I finally managed to memorize the spelling of our faith’s name. My pride deepened in elementary school when I could articulate the idea that our faith revolved around a covenant between people. And it deepened further when in junior high, as the HIV/AIDS pandemic hit the mainstream news and my church’s “About Your Sexuality” class taught us accurate information about how the virus spread, which I was then happy to share with my classmates at school. My pride in Unitarian Universalism has been present each time members of our faith stand up to a bully and speak out for justice.

But the times I have been most proud of our faith have been those moments when I witness individual Unitarian Universalists making connections with each other and with the world-at-large. It is in those moments when one of us is struggling and another reaches out to offer a helping hand that I am most proud. It is in those times of trial and triumph when we help one another make meaning out of our experiences. I feel pride when after difficult interactions we are able to come back to the conversation to again find common ground, perhaps even offering one another forgiveness for not living up to our best selves.

My pride in Unitarian Universalism is really a pride for the people who practice our faith. It is for the many of you, who come to services and Religious Exploration week after week, allowing the messages of our faith to seep deep into your soul. My pride is for those of us who strive to live out our faith in all we do, even when the world around us challenges us to take an easier path. May you find Pride in your faith and may it fill you with connections to each other.

Published in: on 23 September 2013 at 20.21  Leave a Comment  
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