Yesterday I greeted parents, children, youth and teachers back to in-person Religious Exploration (RE) classes for the first time since March 2020. Smiles abounded and joy was present everywhere. Of course, for me, getting to this point was a journey fraught with anxiety. To adapt dialogue from “Shakespeare in Love,” one of my favorite movies, “The natural condition of religious education programming is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster, but strangely enough, it all turns out well, I don’t know how – it’s a mystery!”
Or is it? Perhaps it is a perfect example of teamwork among caring people with a shared vision. That includes staff committed to serving the children of this congregation, RE Committee members willing to recruit and support teachers, volunteer teachers willing to give their time and talent to create loving classroom communities, parents willing to get up early on Sunday mornings because they care about their children’s spiritual development and children and youth wanting to come here – willing to make new friends and opening themselves to new opportunities. It also takes the financial contributions of all congregants to fund the programming, and this year the generosity of the Endowment Fund Committee, to purchase a large outdoor classroom tent. It takes all of us! And together we make magic.
Which is why I was worried heading into this month. Only a handful of our RE teachers this year are people without children in RE. While we can certainly get by for a while, healthy RE programs cannot run on parent participation alone. In prior years, one-quarter of the volunteer teachers did not have children in the program. I do understand that the pandemic has forced some hard decisions – and some of you really wanted to participate but just did not feel safe doing so. However, I would be remiss if I did not tell you – you are missed. Older adults bring wisdom, patience and unique perspectives to RE classes that enrich everyone. Younger adults without children often relate well with the kids, bringing an energy and sense of fun that uplifts everyone. Also, participating in RE gives older adults a chance to meet younger adults who are stepping into leadership roles in the congregation and to nurture the next generation of UUs. First and foremost RE programming is community-building, and all members of UUCF are needed and wanted.
If you come from a faith background that embraced a traditional Sunday school model, you would be amazed how different RE at UUCF is. Our classes are spiritually centered small groups where every person is respected and loved for exactly who they are. Classes are all about creating and doing. We teach UU identity, one relationship at a time, by living the UU principles in all our interactions with one another. But don’t take my word for it. You can come help on a Sunday morning. While we do have the teachers we need to run classes, we can always use extra hands and hearts to participate as classroom helpers. If you are curious about how the RE magic happens, sign up to help in a class this fall. You may find yourself teaching a 4th grader how to swing a hammer in Toolbox of Faith or sharing a kindergartener’s discovery of an intricate spider web in World of Wonder. You will also find that you’ve spent an hour opening yourself to new possibilities and nourishing your soul. And, just like in our worship service, in Religious Exploration classes you are welcome here!