Monday, April 28, 2008

Things to Come

A teacher I admire, Aline Wolf, said that teaching “is a vocation to help bring about a better world.” As a community concerned with the religious education of our children, it is important that we hold this truth at our core. By teaching children and youth to empower themselves to become active, engaged citizens in the world, we are helping to shape the future.

Teaching religious education classes is a ministry, an important contribution to our community. It is also a way to explore your spiritual path, a source of personal enrichment and spiritual fulfillment (as well as intellectual stimulation). Sometimes people feel that they can’t teach religious education because they don’t “know” Unitarian Universalism well enough. It is much more important that teachers encourage questioning and foster a sense of community than that they be well versed in theology or church history. We engage the bodies, minds, and spirits of our children and youth in developing their own faith identity. By encouraging a sense of wonder and in guiding them to consider how the curriculum is relevant to their lives, we help them to discover what it means to be members of our religious community.

This summer, the children’s class will have an environmental focus, building on what they have been learning in the village class this year. We will examine some of the ecological issues facing our world, and ground that learning in exploring the forest and the living things on our church grounds. Water play, science experiments, the annual dedication of the animals, and field day will all be part of our exploration and celebration of our relationship with the environment.

In the fall, classes at the first service will center on world religions. In our diverse community, it important to have some understanding of our neighbors’ religious beliefs. We need to exercise the ability to hold an open mind, gain comfort with multiple belief systems, and to make connections about how the big ideas of different religions relate to Unitarian Universalism. We will celebrate holidays central to a variety of religions, visit other houses of worship, and invite people of varying faith traditions to share their spiritual practices. Classes at the second service will focus on a creation theme. Older children will examine the moral and spiritual implications of being creative forces in the world through designing Lego robots and other creative projects. Younger children will explore creation stories from different parts of the world and scientific teachings about evolution. In addition to Sunday morning classes, middle school youth will have the chance to participate in a Coming of Age program. Each participant will investigate their personal spirituality and UU heritage with the support of an adult mentor.

“An education capable of saving humanity,” wrote Maria Montessori (another teacher I admire), “involves the preparation of young people to understand the times in which they live.” I hope that each of us will discover a way to contribute to our shared educational ministry—as a teacher, classroom assistant, youth adviser, Coming of Age mentor, in sharing a special skill or passion, or by providing behind-the-scenes “backstage support.” For yourself, for our children, for our world—take this opportunity to get involved!