DRE's Message

Jan 28, 2017

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 1, 2017

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.


Dec 5, 2016

December RE Schedule:

Dec. 4th: Horton Hears a Who

  • Leader: Liz Haworth
  • Reader: Zennon VonderHaar

Dec. 11th: I Can Read With My Eyes Shut

  • Leader: Needed
  • Reader: Jo Treuenfels

Dec. 18th: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

  •  Leader: Needed
  •  Reader: N/A (Watching film version)

Dec. 24th: Christmas Eve “No Practice” Christmas Pageant -

  • See description below

Dec. 25th: NO RE classes


As the holidays and their attendant celebrations (and stressors!) come hurtling at us this month, I hope that you’ll take the time to come to the Spiritual Practice Saturday scheduled for December 3rd from 10:00 – 11:30 AM. Join us for deep listening as a spiritual practice, as modeled after Rev. Christine Robinson’s experiences as the senior minister in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and her books, Heart to Heart and Soul to Soul. Sondra Smalley has adapted this practice for Minnesota Valley Unitarian in Bloomington, where they have been using this technique for several years, and has passed this on to her daughter, Michele W. I am thrilled to have them both coming this month to lead our session and share their experience.

November’s session was a great reminder that there is value to what some may deem “childish” pursuits, and sixteen of us gathered together to discuss, and reap the benefits of, coloring. If you were unable to attend but would like to investigate this practice at home, please stop by the RE Office for a coloring sheet or print your own from my Pinterest board, “Coloring Pages for All” (https://www.pinterest.com/mn_galreading/coloring-pages-for-all/).

April A and I are coordinating the 5 PM Christmas Eve service, on December 24th, which will be a “no practice” Christmas pageant. A more extensive description is on Page one of this month’s newsletter, but I would like to personally invite all of you to attend. There will be opportunities to participate to your comfort level, as well as many favorite Christmas carols to sing. This would be a great opportunity to bring out of town family to MSUS and celebrate the season. There will be NO regularly scheduled religious education classes on Christmas Day, Sunday, December 25th. All children and youth are welcome to attend and participate in the worship service being held at 10:30 AM that day.

As a final note, I will be on vacation the last week of the month, from Sunday, December 25th, to Saturday, December 31st. I will check email occasionally during that time, so please feel free to send messages, but know you may not receive a reply until the new year.

Anna Paquette, Acting Director of Religious Education


Oct 31, 2016

Thank you so much to all who were able to participate in the coordination and production of the “Gabby & Gámez” multi-generational service on October 30th, especially our talented youth. It was a pleasure to work with everyone and I look forward to doing so again in January for our next youth led service.

I’d also like to thank everyone who was able to make it out to the first Spiritual Practice Saturday session of the church year, which was held October 15th, and focused on prayer. A combination of seventeen children, youth, and adults were present for a discussion on what prayer means to them and how it might fit into a Unitarian Universalist faith. We then crafted prayer flags and blessing bags to take home to practice with. If you were unable to make this session, mark your calendar for the next scheduled session on Saturday, November 19th, from 10 – 11:30 AM. We’ll be discussing the popularity and practicality of coloring as a spiritual practice. This is a multi-generational offering, so all are welcome! Please RSVP to me via the sign up sheet posted at church, Facebook invitation, or via email so I can ensure there are enough supplies available for all who wish to participate.

An additional date to mark your calendars for is the first of the RE volunteer thank you events for the church year. All those who have participated in the RE program during the church year, are invited to an RE appreciation dinner on the evening of Saturday, December 3rd at 5:30 PM. If you’ve been trying to find an opportunity to volunteer and haven’t yet found one that works for you, please let me know, as I’m happy to help you do so!

November RE Schedule:

  • 6th: Oh, the Thinks You Can Think!
    Leader: Kathy Burek, Reader: Collin Ray
  • 13th: The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins
    Leader: Pat Ferrian, Reader needed
  • 20th: Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
    Leader: Michele Wallace, Reader: Marti Reckdahl
  • 27th: The King’s Stilts
    Leader needed, Reader: KaydeeLin Bouchey


Oct 8, 2016

With our church year in full swing, I am looking forward to some exciting upcoming events!

Our first Spiritual Practice Saturday session of the church year will be from 10 a.m. - 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, October 15th. We'll gather together in RE Room 3 (the large classroom upstairs) to explore the different reasons and methods that people pray. If your first reaction to the word prayer is a vision of hands pressed together, never fear! There's SO much more than that. Childcare will not be provided as this event is open to everyone who is interested in participating. Discussion and activities presented will be accessible to all ages. The sign-up sheet and informational flyer is available in the social hall so please RSVP if you’re coming so I can be sure to have enough supplies for everyone. (Online RSVP can be made here. )

On Sunday, October 30th, there will be a multigenerational service called “Gabby & Gámez – Día de Los Muertos,” which will have youth participants and invite us to more closely examine the “masks” we choose to wear each day. There will be NO regular RE classes on October 30th as this is a service designed for all ages.

There will be a Christmas Eve service at 5 p.m. again this year, and we’ll be doing something I’m calling the “No Rehearsal Christmas Pageant.” All members and friends, young and old, are invited to come and participate to the extent that they are comfortable in a night full of your favorite Christmas carols and the traditional Christmas story. As the story is told, we will be asking the congregation for help in acting out the various parts. If you’d prefer to simply sing along and watch, that’s just fine but, if you’ve always longed to be an angel, shepherd, or wise person, now is your chance! This will be especially fun for our children and youth, so I hope to see many families there.

We’ve been having a great time with our Seuss based curriculum and some deeper conversations have grown out of the stories on several occasions. We’re blessed with some highly inquisitive and imaginative children and youth, and it’s been a joy to watch them unpack the deeper meanings in Seuss’s work. There are only a few opportunities left to lead a lesson or read the story before the end of 2016, so be sure to get your name on the sign-up sheet in the social hall, or upstairs outside the RE office, before you’re stuck waiting for the new year! (Online sign-up is available here.)


Aug 2, 2016

As we squeeze out the last moments of summer vacation before the fall pushes things into full swing again in RE, I’d like to share with you some of the exciting things we have coming up this month!

This year, information for parents, volunteers, and anyone generally interested in what is happening in religious education can be accessed here: http://msusreligiouseduca.wixsite.com/home While still a bit of a work in progress, information on our curriculum, the full RE schedule for this church year, information on signing up to volunteer to lead classes, upcoming special events, and even necessary forms to download and complete to register children are available now. (The resources tab hosts the vast wealth of this information, so be sure you don't miss that section!)

If you know you are interested in signing up to lead a class during the year, have older youth who are interested in being a leader, or in reading the weekly story to the class, please follow this link to our Sign Up Genius page: http://www.signupgenius.com/go/4090f4eaeae2aabff2-religious There is a full listing of all of the RE classes for this church year, along with the title of the story for that week. A link to the page with all of the lesson plans for each week is also included. If you have a favorite Seuss story, don't hesitate to sign up for the week it's featured now! (Sign Up Genius will automatically remind you that you signed up, so don't worry that you'll forget as the date draws near.) The "youth reader" slot each week is intended for anyone in grade 4 or up so, adults, if you're interested, you're also welcome to sign up and read. It's a great way to dip a toe into the RE experience if you're not sure you're ready to lead a class or are limited in your ability to be involved. I will be in the classroom every week again this year, so, if you are interested in helping lead, I assure you that you and the youth leader will not be on your own. Please feel free to contact me with any comments/concerns/questions you may have.

Additionally, I am working on implementing the opportunity for children and youth to return to the RE classroom space during hospitality on Sunday mornings. In order to do so, both the child and their parent(s) will have had to read and agree to abide by the expectations for use of the space during that time. I will be on hand to monitor what is happening, but this is by no means intended to be additional childcare. This is an opportunity for the children and youth to responsibly enjoy their time together at MSUS in a welcoming space we hold especially for them. If there are groups planning to meet in the classroom on Sundays, you are absolutely still welcome to do so, but it is important that they are scheduled in advance with Beth so they are on the calendar and can be planned around in advance.

In addition to the opportunity to help lead and read on Sunday mornings upstairs in RE, children and youth will also be able to volunteer to participate in the life of the church as service leaders and chalice lighters during Sunday services. Rev. Laura and I are working together to implement these opportunities at the beginning of the church year so, parents, watch your inboxes for more details soon!


Jun 4, 2016

Another church year is ending and it seems to have flown by! With the expectation that the summer will also move at double speed, I’d like to give you a heads up on some important dates for the next church year so you can mark them on your calendars well in advance:

Parent/Volunteer Orientation: Saturday, August 13th from 10:00 – 11:30 AM, with child care provided. All parents/guardians, and those interested in potentially volunteering to help with the religious education program in some way next year, are invited (and strongly encouraged) to attend this short session. I will be covering the annual schedule, curriculum, and a few exciting changes we’ll be making in the coming year. If you know in advance you are unable to attend, please let me know so I am able to get the information to you in an alternate way.

Spiritual Practice Saturdays: Starting next year, I will be coordinating a time to come and explore a new spiritual practice at the church one Saturday each month from 10 – 11:30 AM. These sessions will be open to both adults and children in order to promote multigenerational relationships. Coloring, yoga, and walking a labyrinth are a few of the ideas I am already working on. If you have a favorite spiritual practice, or know someone who does who may be willing to share, please let me know! The first session is tentatively scheduled for October 15th, pending the confirmation of the date of Rev. Laura’s installation.

The RE Committee will not be meeting in June and July, but if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to contact myself, April A, or Marti R. In the coming year we are looking at only having in-person meetings when planning for an upcoming event is necessary instead of sticking with the more traditional monthly meeting format. We are also hoping to do as much of the discussion and planning for things via electronic methods as possible. If you are interested in being part of the team, please let me know. I’d be happy to talk about how we can make participating in planning for RE work for all of you who are already juggling a pretty full load!

I’d like to thank all of you once more who have lent a hand to making this another great year of religious education at MSUS. It was wonderful to have so many of you present at the Coming of Age service when volunteers were publicly recognized. If you were unable to attend the service on May 22nd, I will be keeping an eye out for you in order to get your thank you gift out to you. Have a great summer!


Apr 30, 2016

I am thrilled to report that Beacon Interfaith Housing’s Night on the Street was a fabulous experience! Allison C, Hailey & Steve S, one of Hailey’s friends from school, and I had beautiful weather for sleeping out. Everyone who attended seemed really open to stepping well outside their comfort zone in order to put themselves in the shoes of homeless youth. Hailey Shager was the top fundraiser for the year, bringing in around $1,100 of the $13,000 total raised. Way to go Hailey! Based on the age range of some of the attendees from other churches that I saw at the event, I would definitely like to consider taking some of our younger RE students next year.

Allison C and Hailey S will also be participating in a Coming of Age Sunday this month. On May 22nd, the girls will lead the service with Rev. Karen and share with the congregation their experiences and insights from participating in the program this year. In order to allow all of the youth to be present and hear the Coming of Age presentation, there will be no regular RE class that week.

May also brings with it our annual volunteer recognition and we have so many wonderful volunteers to recognize! I’d like to thank the following people who gave of their time and talents to support Sunday classes in RE during this church year: Anna H, Allison C, Hailey S, Isabella H, Zach R, Pat F, Chris G, Jenn B, Katie J, Tom T, Michele W, Doug R, Bob M, Carlotta S, Steve S, April A, Marie P, Debbie S, Lara N, Gary C, Kendra R, Crystal B, Jennifer R, Laures Y, Marti R, Lynne S, Jamie H, Connie M, Kathy B, Beth H, Chad S (COA),  Amy L (COA), and Rev. Karen Gustafson (COA). Our program would also not have been nearly as successful without the efforts of the Land & Facilities committee and all those who have put sweat equity into making the RE office and classrooms so much more user friendly and organized. If you’d still like to come and have some fun with us upstairs before the church year ends, please let me know and I’ll be sure to help you find an opportunity.

 Next year’s curriculum has been selected and will be a full year of Dr. Seuss! We’ll all be together in one room again, examining the works of Dr. Seuss as they relate to Unitarian Universalist principles. If you’d like to take a closer look at the curriculum, or have questions/comments, please stop by the RE office, catch me before or after service, or send me an email!

Apr 10, 2016

Happy Spring! With this new season, the end of the church year is beginning to creep into view, which leads me to thoughts of next year. While our new Harry & UU curriculum has been fun and educational (a rare combination!), it is causing me some anxiety in selecting next year’s curriculum because it will certainly be hard to top. At our most recent RE meeting, we discussed several options that might hold their own against Harry, and I will make a final decision in the next few weeks. At this time, the plan is to keep all of the children together in a “one room schoolhouse,” multigenerational setting as we’re all loving the in-depth discussion and cooperative learning that has regularly been taking place in our new, larger space.

As part of my continuing education plan, I will be attending Regional Assembly at the end of the month. I have registered for the following workshops as I felt they would be most helpful in my position: Adult Faith Development: Enhancing Spiritual Growth (led by Nancy Combs-Morgan and Rev. Philip Lund) and Resilient Youth (led by Jill Schwendeman and youth from the White Bear UU). I have also recently purchased several titles from the RE Credentialing booklist in order to expand my thinking about what RE can be and to learn from the work already done by others. I’d like to thank the Board, and entire congregation, for generously providing the funds necessary to support my learning and growth as DRE.

On March 19th, April Anderson, Marti R, and I attended the annual Teacher’s Café, which was held at Unity Unitarian this year. Our topic for the session was “Teaching As Spiritual Practice,” and was led by Dr. Mark Hicks, who is the Angus MacLean Professor of Religious Education at Meadville Lombard Theological School and Director of the Fahs Collaborative. We all came away from the event feeling like it was extremely beneficial to connect with so many others who also feel strongly about the value of RE, and were inspired to find ways to implement ideas from the discussion to improve our program at MSUS.

The annual Beacon Interfaith Housing Night on the Street will take place at Plymouth Congregational Church on April 15th & 16th. Allison C and Hailey S are both registered from our congregation, along with one of Hailey’s friends from school. Steve S and I will be chaperoning our students and I am looking forward to being a part of the experience for the first time!



Mar 8, 2016

I’d like to thank all those who were able to attend our RE workshop with Nancy Combs-Morgan on February 13th. Ten members of the congregation, along with Rev. Karen, took part in some great discussion about developing opportunities for those who teach to experience spiritual growth while also working with our youth and assisting them to develop their sense of what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist. It was very encouraging to hear feedback on what we’re currently doing well, and suggestions for ways to do even better in the future.

There will be another opportunity, on Saturday, March 19th, to join with other local Unitarian Universalist RE teachers, as well as parents and friends, in order to discuss teaching as a spiritual practice. Dr. Mark Hicks will be leading a workshop at Unity from 9 AM – 1:30 PM, with lunch and childcare provided. All interested persons in our congregation (hopefully this is the majority of you) have been invited to participate, but need to register by March 10th here: http://www.unityunitarian.org/teachers-cafe.html. More details are included on the flyer for the event, which has been included in this newsletter, posted on Facebook, and is in print around MSUS. If you’re interested in attending and would like to carpool, please let me know at msus.religious.education@gmail.com.

Also, of special note, my dream of having all ages together in one room on Sunday morning has finally become a reality due to the extensive planning and hard work of Ah-li Monahan and the Land & Facilities committee. The wall between the two classrooms has come down and it is WONDERFUL. We had our first class in the newly remodeled room on February 28th, and it was so nice to stay together throughout the entire class period. (Previously, the children either started in separate rooms and remained there, or started together and then separated for the activity.) Children and teachers alike appreciated the larger space and, if you have not been upstairs to see it for yourself, I would highly recommend you do so. Many, MANY thanks to everyone who had a hand in moving this project forward and in advance for your help with the work that remains. The Harry & UU curriculum continues to be a big hit with the kids and the focus of the issue the children are fighting this month is hunger. They will be working on organizing a food drive to benefit SACA, so please look for more information on that in the coming weeks.

The RE Office has also experienced a bit of redecorating to make it a more comfortable, inviting space. If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions about RE, I would welcome a visit to talk about them. My standing office hours are from 9 am – 1 pm on Sunday mornings and by appointment the rest of the week. The office can also be used by small groups to hold meetings, so please feel free to request it when you’re contacting Beth to do your scheduling.

Anna Paquette,
Acting Director of Religious Education