Opening Worship Reflection

23 October 2009
Liberal Religious Educators Association; Providence, RI
Mr. Barb Greve

As some of you know, my mother is a (once again) retired Director of Religious Education. As a child growing up in the congregation in which she served I got to see what was happening behind the curtain, and I swore that no matter what, I would NEVER become a Religious Educator! There seemed to be no end to the amount of work: teacher recruitment, committee meetings, lesson plan copying, supply closet cleaning, meetings with parents, meetings with the board, budget worries, locking and unlocking the doors, making coffee, cleaning up coffee, finding last minute substitutes, putting away tables and chairs, creating worship that works for all ages, buying Kleenex, sleeping on church floors for youth overnights, and never leaving the building when she said we were heading home. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why my mother enjoyed her job as much as she did. But she did and still does love her work and our faith and that love of both has rubbed off on me.

I have been a Unitarian Universalist for almost 40 years. I am a member of the first generation of Unitarian Universalists – those who were raised in the post-consolidation; after the Universalist Church of America and the American Unitarian Association combined their congregations and resources to create the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations. Unlike what happened in the sanctuary, what was taught in the religious education programs in the post-consolidation was a new religion, not a merged form of the two faiths from which we come.

I have been practicing Unitarian Universalism my whole life and can say only one thing for certain: Our faith is not an easy one to practice! It demands of us that we be in constant awareness and dialogue with the world. Unitarian Universalism requires religious engagement, not just when it is convenient or easy, but in every moment. We have a rich history and complicated thea/ology but too often our members and even we religious educators, shy away from learning either. One of the greatest strengths Unitarian Universalist thea/olgy offers is an image of life that is in motion and pluralistic.

Now, there have been times in life when I wished for a colossal puppeteer in the sky with whom I could scream and beg and who would make the changes I desired. But our faith challenges us to not place all the blame and expectation on a puppeteer but rather on ourselves and those around us. Through our focus on community and covenant, we learn that the holy takes place in our connections to and with one another. Because divinity exists in these connections it is important that we are careful with how we treat one another, which is why I am committed to combating oppression and celebrating multiculturalism.

The faith of my childhood taught me to put my trust in that mysterious force we sometimes call God or Goddess or Allah or Vishnu or Nature… and always call Sacred and Divine. This faith taught me to trust my life experiences (question them always, but still trust that the experiences were real).

One of the most transformational experiences of my life can be credited on none other than Pat Ellenwood. In my late teen years as I was successfully rebuilding the youth group of my home congregation, Pat invited me to lead a workshop on successful advising of youth groups for the district’s annual religious educators conference. With this simple invitation, Pat opened a door for me, a door that I would, from time to time peak through. And as I met many religious educators and learned more about the profession of religious education, I continued to shy away from the profession, if only because the long list of “to-do’s” seemed unbearable. During my 10 years working at the Unitarian Universalist Association I resisted becoming a member of LREDA. Not because this organization isn’t anything other than fabulous, but because to become a member would mean admitting that I was following in my mother’s path – a path that would take more time in my life than I thought I was willing to give up.

So it seemed a strange suggestion when Deb Levering suggested that I apply for the interim director of religious education position in Hamden, CT. But having just graduated from Starr King School for the Ministry, I was anxious to find a paying job, religious educator or otherwise. What I learned soon after I started in Hamden is that I love “the work.” I love the opportunity to help members of the congregation connect their daily living with their spiritual lives. I love working with committees as they struggle to decide what is important and how to make decisions based on faith and values. I don’t even mind the shopping for supplies and the long hours!

Your work is important. Our work is important. We have the opportunity to open doors for those who don’t realize the doors are even there. We are poised at the threshold of the mundane and the mystical. We will remind the world that, in the words of the great Unitarian Minister and leader of Unitarian Universalism, A. Powell Davies, “Religion is not something separate and apart from ordinary life. It is life–life of every kind viewed from the standpoint of meaning and purpose: life lived in the fuller awareness of its human quality and spiritual significance.”

Your work is important. Our work is important. May it always be so.

Published in: on 23 October 2009 at 20.24  Comments (3)