Whenever I hear the word “hope,” it immediately brings to mind Emily Dickinson’s poem, “Hope is the Thing with Feathers.” The first stanza reads:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops at all.
During this year that has felt particularly challenging for me, in a variety of ways, hope has often felt in short supply. What helps to keep the “tune” going for me, even when it’s at low volume, is the work that our congregation has done, and continues to do, with religious education and faith formation. It fills me with hope to see new families joining us, to see the number of families who return each year, and to see the support that the congregation has stepped up to offer.
In the new year, it is my goal to put together a group of people who are interested in talking about what MSUS wants for our religious education program, and what faith formation needs are present in our congregation.
- What is it we offer children, youth, and families that they can’t get anywhere else?
- What do our children and youth need from us to feel at home in our faith, and our weekly worship services, when they become adults in the church?
- What does it look like for our congregation to minister to not only children and youth, by providing opportunities for religious education, but to the whole family?
These are big questions, but I am convinced that we are up for the challenge. If you have thoughts about religious education at MSUS, or ideas about how to answer any of these questions, please share them with me on a Sunday morning, via email Anna Paquette, or, preferably, by being part of the religious education council when it begins to meet again in the new year.
Thank you all for your support of the religious education program this year, and for helping to keep the “tune without words” going, even if you aren’t always aware you’re doing so. I wish all of you the happiest of holidays, with hearts filled with hope and joy, as we look to the new year ahead!
As we consider our theme of abundance this month, I am most grateful for, and would like to offer many thanks to, Leslie V. and Gary C. for completing our Pre-K to 2nd grade teaching team, and to Kendra R. and Jennifer R. for rounding out our 3rd – 6th grade team. Our religious education program, and our congregation as a whole, is truly fortunate to have so much support for our children and youth, and I can’t thank you all enough for stepping into this important work.
Our elementary OWL students will complete their series of ten workshops with an in-class celebration on Sunday, November 12th. The next Sunday, on November 19th, there will be a recognition of their accomplishment during the 10:30 AM service before they begin working with the Holidays and Holy Days curriculum. These 4th – 6th graders have really impressed me with their willingness to step outside their comfort zones and deeply consider new information and ways of looking at the world. I’d like to thank the participants’ families for committing to the not insignificant task of ensuring their child(ren) were present for ten straight weeks, and to working together to complete the weekly reading assignments at home.
I was abundantly blessed to facilitate these sessions with the help of Byron J. who brought great thoughtfulness and joy to each workshop that we all benefitted from. Please be sure to congratulate the following 4th – 6th graders for their accomplishment when you see them next: Ada, Ezra, Kaydee Lin. Adam, Gabe, Matilda, Annika, Isabella, Olivia, Collin, James, Sofie, Cy, Jo, Zennon.
November 19th begins a new OWL adventure with our high school youth, and I look forward to facilitating those workshops with Ben S. through the end of May. We have five confirmed participants so, if youth would like to invite friends to participate, or you have youth that you know of in your extended family/neighborhood/etc. who may be interested, please invite them to contact the DRE for more information on the program.
Since our theme for the month is courage, I would like to congratulate our 4th – 6th grade OWL participants for embodying it with their willingness to embrace the program with open minds and willing hearts. They have all been doing a great job of fully engaging in each workshop, and exploring their values around sexual health and behavior. Our Whole Lives (OWL) is a health and human sexuality curriculum. October brings us the mid-point of their OWL workshops.
I’m looking forward to working with the youth during high school OWL, beginning on November 19. Until then, I would encourage you to invite the youth to sit in Sunday services and participate in worship with you. There are times when they may prefer to worship together in their own way in the RE Office upstairs, but the adult members of our congregation have so much wisdom and experience, that I hope you’ll take this opportunity to share it with them.
I would also like to thank the adults who have had the courage to commit to sharing their wisdom and experience by signing up to participate in one of our two RE teaching teams this year. As of this writing, our Preschool to 2nd grade team consists of Crystal Blenker, Katie Johnson, Linda Smidzik, and Doug Root. Grades 3 to 6 will be working with Jenn Bouchey, Mike Paquette, Deb Schneider, and Tom Treuenfels. We still need two more adults on each team to be fully operational for the year, so I hope several more of you will do your small part to make change in the world by being a part of the development of our congregation’s children.
As September arrives, I’m thrilled to welcome everyone back to Religious Education. We have a very busy, and exciting, year ahead of us! Due to the growth in our program, and the ages of the participants, we will be offering multiple programs throughout the year.
We will start the year with Pre-K – 3rd grade in the teal room (Room 6). They will use a curriculum called “Picture Book UU”, which focuses on a belief, source, and principal with each lesson, but also touches on world religions. The 4th – 6th graders will be participating in the 10 week Elementary OWL program in the yellow room (Room 3/5).
After the completion of the Elementary OWL we will expand our program to three classrooms. The Pre-K – 2nd grade students will continue with their curriculum in the teal room (Room 6). The 3rd graders will join the 4th – 6th grade students in the yellow room (Room 3/5) to begin the much-loved world religion curriculum, “Holidays and Holy Days." While written in 1983, the curriculum still contains valuable lessons for UU children today. Lessons will be updated as needed to reflect shifts in society’s understanding, and treatment, of other cultures.
Starting on November 19, the youth participating in the high school OWL program will meet in the RE office.
A full schedule for all three rooms, and the weekly lessons planned for each, is available here: http://tinyurl.com/MSUS-Schedule.
RE Classroom Volunteers
While it’s exciting to have so many learning opportunities as a result of our RE Programming (see adjacent column), multiple classrooms require an increased number of volunteers each Sunday. To address this need, I am building teaching teams with a minimum of six people for each classroom. (Pre-K to 2nd grade needs volunteers starting September 10th, but 3rd to 6th require no volunteers until OWL is complete in November.) With six people (Volunteers A-F) on a team, each volunteer would be in a classroom two consecutive weeks and then have four weeks off. With additional volunteers on the team, there would be an even larger gap between weeks a volunteer would need to be in the classroom.
A sample schedule would be:
- Week 1: Volunteers A & B
- Week 2: Volunteers B & C
- Week 3: Volunteers C & D
- Week 4: Volunteers D & E
- Week 5: Volunteers E & F
- Week 6: Volunteers F & A
- Repeat starting at from Week 1
A full illustration of how this will work can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/MSUS-Teams.
The teams have been designed this way in order to address several issues.
- I will be teaching Elementary and High School OWL and will not be able to be in the other classrooms.
- Having a dedicated team of at least 12 leaders, (2- six member teams, one for each classroom), committed to this rotation for the full year, reduces need to recruit.
- Eliminates the need to do mass appeals to the congregation
- Addresses one of the largest complaints that both children and volunteers have had previously: not knowing what to expect from week to week. Children disliked that they often didn’t get to know their teachers very well, and had no idea who would be there from week to week. RE leaders disliked not knowing what had happened with the lesson the week before, and how the one they were leading connected.
Since the schedule repeats every 6 weeks, it also allows volunteers to easily calendar their time in the classroom well in advance. Obviously, life happens, but since volunteers will be working in a team, they should easily be able to work together to cover anything that pops up.
If you would embrace the opportunity to share your time and talents with the participants in religious education this year, please contact me ASAP, in person on a Sunday morning, or by phone, so we can be ready for the beginning of the year. Our congregation is truly the best religious education “classroom” our children and youth could have, so I hope you’ll welcome them with open arms again this year.
Summer is finally upon us and I’m looking forward to some warm, relaxing days spent outside. To keep with that more casual feeling, our summer religious education classes will also be a little simpler. As previously mentioned, we’ll be working our way through the “Love & Help” workbook, published by the UUA, in order to earn a completion certificate and enameled pin. Currently, the lessons are divided up into the following sessions:
- June 4th: About Me, I Like, What Shapes Me, and New Things to Do
- June 11th: My Family, Special Family Days, Helping Family, and Family Promises & Rules
- June 18th: Belonging, About My Friends, My UU Congregation, Friends in My Congregation, and My Gifts to the Congregation
- July 2nd: Principle #1
- July 9th: Principle #2
- July 16th: Principle #3
- July 23rd: Principle #4
- July 30th: Principle #5
- August 6th: Principle #6
- August 13th: Principle #7
- August 20th: The Sources of Our Faith, What Happens at My Congregation, and My Congregation’s Leaders (with guest speakers!)
- August 27th: The Flaming Chalice, UU Things I Know by Heart, The UUA, and Love & Help
- Sept. 3rd: Celebration and presentation of completion certificates & pins
A more detailed description on the creation and goals of this workbook can be found here: http://www.uua.org/re/blog/childs-uu-identity-love-and-help. I would also invite you to contact me with any comments or questions you may have in person or by email.
Since there will not be a story for all ages during the summer services, I would invite parents to bring their children directly to the RE classroom just before the service begins at 10 am. At this time, I plan to be in the classroom most of the Sundays this summer. That will leave us with a need for one adult volunteer per week to assist and be sure we’re in compliance with our child safety policy. A paper sign-up sheet is available in the social hall, or you can sign up online at: http://tinyurl.com/MSUS-Summer-RE
I successfully completed training to facilitate the 7-9/10-12 levels of Our Whole Lives (OWL) classes in May, so we are set to offer this programming for both elementary and high school levels this coming church year. I will be contacting all families with children and youth who are eligible to participate to organize a time for orientations.
Another exciting opportunity coming this summer will be the ability for children, youth, and volunteers to register online for fall RE opportunities, so watch for more details on that coming soon.
May’s theme of embodiment really connects with a lot of what’s happening in religious education this month. On Sunday, May 7th, we will be having our Coming of Age service and have the opportunity to hear our six youth, Allison, Andi, Hailey, Helena, Isabella, and Zachary, talk to us about their Unitarian Universalist faith and how they incorporate it into their lives. I would like to congratulate and thank them for all of the thought and effort they’ve put in during this church year to arrive at their finished piece. I’d also like to thank Chad S and Amy L for leading Coming of Age again this year, as well as the mentors who have really taken a lot of their time to support and connect with the youth in the program. They are: Brock R, Doug R, Jamie H, Linda S, and Merle D.
Since we have a rather sizable cohort who will soon be eligible for Coming of Age, along with several younger siblings of COA participants, there will NOT be a separate RE class on Sunday, May 7th. I think it is vital that all of the children have the opportunity to see, hear, and participate in this celebration, and hope that they are inspired by the experience to start thinking about what they believe, and why, as well as how it influences them when they’re away from MSUS.
The Body Brave Workshop, also happening on Sunday, May 7th from 12:30 – 2:30 PM, is an embodiment of our first and third principles. I’d also highly encourage that those aged 15+ consider attending that event as well.
On Sunday, May 28th, there will be no regular RE class or childcare since we will all be together at Springbrook Nature Center, an event which works to embody our seventh principle. After this service, we will be moving to our summer RE schedule, with class being held upstairs during the single Sunday service at 10 AM.
Between June 1st and September 4th, children and youth will have the opportunity to earn a “Love & Help” emblem and certificate. We will be working together on Sunday mornings during the summer using the second edition of the “Love and Help” workbook, written by Gail Forsyth-Vail, and published by the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Faith Development Office. This workbook is designed to give children a way to better understand what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist, information about our principles, sources, and symbols, as well as a clearer picture of how our specific community at MSUS works. If you would like to look through the workbook, or have questions, please stop by the RE Office or email the DRE. A complete summer RE schedule will be published soon, so look for that in the next few weeks!
Our April theme of “transformation” ties in well with our scheduled stories of change, and our examination of our place in the Universe with our RE Sunday service on the 23rd, titled “Blue-Green Hills of Earth.” As Spring brings us warmer weather and the emergence of new life, we’re reminded that transformation happens around us on a regular basis. An important part of Unitarian Universalism is the sense of mystery and wonder that triggers a “Wow!” feeling inside us. This month’s RE Sunday, which is an Earth Day focused service, uses the congregation’s imagination and a system of maps to draw our gaze outward, from our street, to our city, to our state – all the way to our Milky Way galaxy. Part of this service involves a “Recycling Offering,” so please bring a recyclable item of some kind with you to contribute.
At the end of the month, I will be attending Regional Assembly in Chicago as part of my continuing education for the church year, which helps to create some professional transformation. I am looking forward to the workshops I have registered for, “CommUUnity@Heart” led by Nancy Combs-Morgan, and “Resources for Small Congregations” led by Nancy Combs-Morgan and Phillip Lund. If you will also be attending Regional Assembly and would like to meet up for a meal or worship, send me an email, or come and see me on a Sunday morning, and I’d be happy to share my cell phone number with you so we can connect while we’re there.
April’s Spiritual Practice Saturday will be the last in the series. Our focus for the month will be cooking and eating together, and will take place at the church on Saturday, April 15th, from 10:00 AM to 11:30 AM. We will be working together to prepare some brunch favorites, which we will then enjoy together. I would like to thank all of you who have come to one (or more!) of the Spiritual Practice Saturday events this year. It was wonderful to try out various ways to recharge and reconnect with something larger alongside all of you. If you’ve enjoyed the multigenerational opportunities and are concerned about Spiritual Practice Saturdays ending, don’t despair. I have plans in the works for some other great new options for next church year.
Since I will be out of town at the end of this month, we have a need for an additional teacher the last Sunday in April, so please consider coming upstairs to enjoy some Seuss filled fun in RE this month. Many thanks to those of you who have already signed up!
April RE Volunteer Opportunities
- April 2nd: What was I Scared of? Leader: NEEDED Reader: Lois Burnett
- April 9th: I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today Leader: NEEDED Reader: Collin Ray
- April 16th: Practice for RE Sunday
- April 23th: NO RE CLASS—Multigenerational Service “Blue Green Hills of Earth”
- April 30th: McElligot’s Pool Leader: #1 NEEDED Leader: #2 NEEDED Reader: NEEDED
Sign up is available at church, online (http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4eaeae2aabff2-religious), or via email to the DRE.
Not only does March bring us the first day of spring, but it also brings a lot of opportunities for fun in Religious Education!
On Sunday, March 5th, we hope you’ll join us for a birthday party for Dr. Seuss following the 10:30 AM service. The party is being planned by the children, so it’s sure to be a good time. I won’t give away all their fancy plans, but there will be games, a photo booth, and some Seuss specific treats to eat, so don’t miss it!
There will be a free “Teacher’s Café” from 9 AM – 1 PM held at White Bear Unitarian Universalist Church on Saturday, March 18th. This is a fantastic opportunity for volunteers in all of the religious education programs around the Twin Cities to get together for some continuing education, fellowship, and lunch. I’m pleased to share that the key note speaker for this year’s event is Peter Mayer, so save the date now as I’ll have more information on registration available very soon. (The opportunity to carpool from MSUS will be available as I will be taking my minivan over.)
Spiritual Practice Saturday will be on March 25th from 10 – 11:30 AM and will focus on labyrinth walking. There will be at least one large labyrinth available to walk, as well as finger labyrinths for those with mobility challenges or who do not wish to walk. There will also be an opportunity to craft your own finger labyrinth to take home. This event will be appropriate for all ages so no childcare will be provided.
We have SO many classic Seuss stories to cover in class in March and leaders and readers are needed for all but one of the weeks. If one of your favorite stories is listed, but you’d like to take a look at the lesson plan before signing up, they can be viewed by title online here: http://www.hzmre.com/seuss/sessions.htm
March 5th: Happy Birthday to You! Leader: NEEDED Reader: NEEDED
March 12th: Thidwick the Big Hearted Moose Leader: NEEDED, Reader: NEEDED
March 19th: Green Eggs & Ham Leader: NEEDED, Reader: NEEDED
March 26th: Hunches in Bunches Leader: NEEDED, Reader: Mina Paquette
Sign up is available at church, online (http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4eaeae2aabff2-religious), or via email me.
After a hectic January, February seems downright relaxed in comparison! Many thanks to the children and youth who were involved in making our RE Sunday last month so great, and to the congregation for coming to the service and supporting them. I’d also like to thank those who took the time to come to the RE planning meeting, or offered up their feedback and suggestions via other means. It can be a little overwhelming to start thinking about figuring out an entire year so many months in advance, and I appreciate the perspectives and fresh ideas that others bring. I’d also like to thank the congregation for showing their support for the youth through their free will donations to the Youth Fund at our “Souper Sunday” meal.
Now that the appreciation for those things has been expressed, I’d also like to remind those who have volunteered with RE during this church year that there is an open house Volunteer Appreciation Dessert bar on Friday, February 10, running from 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.. An Evite was sent out in January to those who have volunteered but, if you’d still like to get on the list, there is a need for leaders and readers this month! (See schedule below for more information.) You can sign up at the church, by emailing me, or online here: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4eaeae2aabff2-religious
Save the date on your March calendars to celebrate Dr. Seuss’ birthday with the RE children and youth on Sunday, March 5! We will be working together during our class time on February 26 to plan the party, which will be held during hospitality following the 10:30 a.m. service. With all of the creative minds in class, you can expect big things!
February Religious Education
- February 05: I Am Not Going to Get Up Today! Leader: Christine Kasten, Reader: NEEDED
- February 12: Daisy Head Maisy, Leader: NEEDED, Reader: NEEDED
- February 19: Too Many Daves, Leader: NEEDED, Reader: NEEDED
- February 26: Planning and preparation for Dr. Seuss’ Birthday Party on Sunday, March 5th
Jan 1st: Bartholomew & the Oobleck – Leader & Reader: Katie Johnson
Jan 8th: Practice for RE Sunday - Adult volunteer needed
Jan 15th: RE Sunday: “Strong Is What We Make Each Other” – Adult volunteers needed
Jan 22nd: King Looie Katz – Leader: Deb Schneider, Reader: Needed
Jan 29th: The Big Brag – Leader: Katie Johnson, Reader: Needed
Sign up for these, or future, dates online here.
As we welcome the beginning of a new year, I am starting to look into some planning for religious education. There will be a meeting in the RE office on Thursday, January 19th, at 7:30 pm for all those interested in sharing ideas about what they would like to see happen in RE during the 2017-18 church year. Some of the topics I’d like to receive parent and congregant feedback on are the following:
- Splitting students into two classrooms & proposed curriculum for each group
- RE get-togethers/activities for children & youth outside of Sunday classes
- Budgeting & supplies
- Volunteer generation, retention, and recognition
As the purpose of this meeting is to produce ideas and provide feedback, attendance and sharing thoughts does not commit you to anything more. If you are unable to attend the meeting and would like to share your thoughts on any/all of the above topics, please feel free to visit me during my office hours on a Sunday (9 am – 2 pm) or email me.
As there has been a lot of interest expressed by parents to provide OWL for the large group of children we have in the 4th – 6th grade age group, I will be attending training at First Universalist in Minneapolis on January 6th – 8th. Since the church already owns the curriculum and parent guides for this age group, I look forward to doing my best to meet this expressed need next church year if at all possible.
January also brings the first of our RE Sundays for 2017. The service on the 15th is called “Strong Is What We Make Each Other,” and was written by Rev. Erika Hewitt, curator of the UUA’s Worship Web. The main lesson of the service is that living and working together in community is the greatest gift we have. All children and youth are invited to participate, and practice will be held the week before, on January 8th during the regular RE class time.
All children, youth, and adults are also invited to attend January’s Spiritual Practice Saturday on the 28th, from 10:00 – 11:30 am, which will focus on meditation. Many of us have heard there is a benefit to finding a regular moment of silence in our fast paced world, where we’re constantly battling a deluge of sensory input from all sides. How can we find the space and time to be silent? What are the benefits of doing so? How can you do so with children? Join us for discussion and a little practice!
Another date to mark your calendar for is our annual RE “Souper Sunday” fundraiser. We invite you to join us following the 10:30 am service on Sunday, January 29th, for a hearty lunch of filling soups. All free will donations will go to the youth fund.
If you would like to sign up to help with the January Religious Education, please use the online signup.