RE News, January 15 2021

Lauren Strauss, Director of Religious Education

Dear ones,

I know that many of you are trying to find your feet after last week… the way our current President and his followers have been behaving leaves us all shaken.  Events like this – when a mob forces its way into Congress and terrorizes lawmakers because they don’t like the results of the election – are confusing and scary enough for us as adults to process.  For children, they are even more difficult to understand.

We as Unitarian Universalists often participate in marches and protests as a part of our commitment to justice, to democracy, and to creating a peaceful and equitable world for all human beings.  We are justifiably proud of our commitment to social justice and action, and it is something I don’t ever want to see us stop doing until we build that ideal world in which all are treated with respect, dignity, and equality.  Many among our own congregation have participated in protests for Black Lives Matter, in peace vigils supporting our Muslim neighbors, in the March for Science, the Women’s Marches, in walks for peace and for hunger… our actions are important, they are heard, they make sure that everyone has a voice.

When something like the events of last week happen, it can be hard for children to discriminate between what we proudly participate in for justice, and the illegal action of breaking into the Houses of Congress.  You can’t even point at violence as the line between protest and insurrection, because we have seen protests for noble causes turn violent for a variety of reasons, and even if we are not happy when violence occurs, sometimes we can understand it.

No, the difference isn’t in the violence but in the intent.  The people who violated our national trust a week ago did so not because their rights and lives hung in the balance, but because they did not get their way.  And they went to Washington with intent to do harm.  It was an attempt to overturn the results of our election – the heart of American democracy. I, and every adult I talked to over the days following, felt shock and horror, and had to spend time processing both emotions and the facts behind the events.


And while I wish our children weren’t aware of what was going on in the world, that we could shield them from this and other similar news stories, the reality is that our children pay attention.  They hear their parents talking, they hear their peers talking, and some of them may have access to other sources of information. Just as we, as adults, have needed to process emotions and events, so do our children. 

And we must all continue to commit to action toward justice and equity for all human beings.  This is one of our highest callings as Unitarian Universalists, and our children and youth are watching us and learning from us.  We need to be there for them to help understand events and to reassure them that we will keep them safe.  We need to model behavior that lifts up marginalized people and creates safe and wonderful space for them in our church and in our community.  We need to continue to live our values, for our children.

Here are a few articles you may find helpful in talking to children and youth about the insurrection and about scary news in general.

Please feel free to contact me if you or your child would like to talk about anything.

Much love,
Lauren

RE News, December 2020

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear ones,

As I write this (a couple of days before it gets published), I am very much in the midst of pageant preparation.  This year’s pageant will feature no fewer than 18 sheep of different sizes and colors, brand-new footage of our traditional sword dance, and a whole flock of sheep-adjacent puns.

Sword Dancers at the church Tuesday night.

It’s very different pageant prep than in other years.  I mean, I still had to climb into the attic, but I only came down with the arm bands for the dancers and the sheep costumes, and I bought a whole bunch of new fleece so we’ll have a lovely mixed flock of sheep in future. Another difference is that I actually know who is in the pageant and what roles they’re playing before the newsletter goes to print, so I can say my thanks and announce the cast early rather than in January!

This year’s pageant is a report from FLOCKS News, about a stranger upsetting the usual order of things.  The cast is as follows:

Newscasters:

            Ramses Sheepleton on the news desk – Corwin Dickson

            Fleecy Marino, reporter on the North Hill – Joshua Brock

            Baarb Woolworth, reporter on the South Hill – Akash Warren

            Hoof Flockerson, reporter on the East Hill – Kai Dickson

            Ewe Van Mutton, reporter on the West Hill – Morgen Brock

            Nanny Lambert, Sheep in the Field — Laima Jerome

Flock Leaders

            Leicester Herd from the Northern Flock – Ranjan Warren

            Hayden Hillbury from the Southern Flock – Kostas Jerome

            Lanolin dePasture from the Eastern Flock – Elena Jones

            Clover MacGraze from the Western Flock – Haley Chamberlain

The Stranger – Magdalena Stepsis

Four Lambs:

            Lamb 1: Connor Calabro

            Lamb 2: Talia Stepsis 

            Lamb 3: Lydia Jones

            Lamb 4: Clara Hanson-Plass

Sword Dancers:

Corwin Dickson (Captain)

            Gates Morton

            Tamsin Lepera

            Haley Chamberlain

            Marcos Portz

            Kai Dickson

            Ranjan Warren

            Kostas Jerome

            Morgen Brock

Sheep: Hattie, Spencer, Cat, Miles

In addition, I would like to thank the following folks who’ve helped make this production possible:  Charlyn Bethell and Guy Urban, for coming in to church to help film the sword dance, and for organizing the two hymns and the prelude and postlude, and for generally being amazing.

I have a Cricut machine and I’m not afraid to use it.

Allison Hewett for all the technology awesome, and for helping me make the special masks for our sword dancers.

Rev. Wendy Bell for all her support and for always being there in case I need anything.

The Stepsis family for their musical contribution, and Ranjan Warren for his musical contribution (I’m not saying what they are yet, you’ll have to come on Sunday and find out!).

Elisabeth Strekalovsky, Louise Harrison Lepera, and Sarah McSweeney Chamberlain for being ‘delivery elves’ and getting costumes and props to the actors.

The families of the sword dancers for getting them to the church and for trusting us with their precious kids for an hour together.  We bathed in hand sanitizer and wore special masks.

Tom Ostfeld for being tech support and also for opening the blessed attic door.  And Mia Ostfeld for knowing more than I do about how to edit video, and helping her mom even though it’s finals week.  I’m spoiled rotten by my family. 

See you all on Sunday. At least we won’t have to drive to church in the storm, right? 😁

Love,

RE News November 2020

Dear friends,

As our pageant approaches, I am forced to look back at the 9 preceding pageants I’ve helped orchestrate here and acknowledge that this 10th one will be unprecedented.

I am committed to … sheep. And a sword dance.  And a beautiful story. And costumes. And a message that leaves us all hopeful and feeling as if we are turning a corner in our lives, in the life of this nation, in the heart of Unitarian Universalism.  I am as yet unclear exactly how it will happen — but I am confident it will happen.  I believe in miracles, even when miracles involve bits of video from 30 children and a prayerful acknowledgement that iMovie is not actually the best video editing software out there, but it is the one I know how to use.

This contemplation of delving into the unknown seems like a perfect metaphor for this whole year.  Each week’s RE classes are some combination of experiment and content and figuring out what works.  Last week I found myself explaining symbolism and metaphor to a group of children age 5-12, which — if you know anything about child development, should have at least been partially impossible. But that is where the conversation led us — from a practice of gratitude as meditation or prayer, to the story of Carolyn McDade writing our hymn “Spirit of Life,” which contains metaphors like “roots” and “wings” which … does not mean we’re a tree or a bird!  But what does it mean?  So we talked about what real roots do for real plants, and then… we got from there, almost magically, to the things in our lives that act like roots: community, friends, family.  Tradition, even. 

In a different group of children the conversation might have gone very differently, and I find this every week: that our religious education class doesn’t always go where I thought it would.  It grows organically, taking new turns and spreading and adjusting and exploring.  It is very different from any religious exploration I’ve done with the children of this community in the past ten years, and it is extremely satisfying, and engaging, at least for me.  I hope it is for our children.

Digging in to new ideas can be amazing, a little daunting, and really, really fulfilling when we reach a milestone.  When we can’t be together in the same space, we’re still finding ways to connect.  And bringing tradition in whenever possible — preserving the things we have known — balances the vertigo from all the newness.

So there will be a pageant.  It will be as familiar as it can, while also exploring some new ideas and engaging in a new medium.  Let me know if you are itching to be involved in a pageant for a new age.

Much love,

Lauren

RE News — October 2020

Lauren Strauss, DRE

My dear friends,

I am looking back on the time since last I wrote my column – last June! And wondering at how the world has changed.  I’ve been easing myself into the idea of a year of online programming with our children and youth.  I dove in headlong back in March, but I did not at that time think that I’d be planning all our programming this year in this way.

Reimagining your whole world is hard – and energizing.  In the RE program, it means thinking about how best to serve families with children in different age categories.  It means realizing that different people respond differently to online programming, and so some of our kids and youth will find it difficult to experience classes online while others will find it comforting.  It means being willing to change course when something isn’t working.  It means stepping outside my personal comfort zone to find new ways to do things.  Sometimes it ends up being fun.  Sometimes it’s just plain scary.

I’ve spent a bunch of time contemplating the lessons I’m learning from a study group I’m attending for religious educators about the book Emergent Strategy by adrienne maree brown. This remarkable work has helped me remain flexible in reshaping my plans when things have changed rapidly around me, and has also given me the hope that because the world is always in flux, because change is the only reliable constant, we can ride the change to shape the world we envision rather than allowing it to shape us.  Author and activist brown incorporates systems from nature and ideas from the science fiction works of Octavia Butler.  She emphasizes connections, trust, focusing on small/local action.  Her real-life efforts as leaders of several organizations has proven her theory more than once.  I’m still processing and understanding and discovering this work, but I find it very exciting and I believe that it has implications not only for religious education for children, but also for our larger faith.

And that is compounded with a recent workshop I attended led by Paula Cole Jones, a lifelong UU who attends the congregation of All Souls in Washington DC. Two years ago in Spokane, Washington, Paula gave the Fahs Lecture (the lecture sponsored by LREDA, my professional organization at the 2019 UUA General Assembly.  The work she discussed in the workshop as well as in the Fahs Lecture was “Building a Community of Communities.”  Paula Cole Jones explains that churches need to stop trying to function as a ‘family’ with familial hierarchical structure in favor of building a Community of Communities – with each community within our church and our association holding equal weight and value, rather than there being a ‘dominant culture’ in which certain groups stand in the center while others are marginalized.  It’s a culture shift for sure, but it is a hopeful one – one in which we can wholeheartedly welcome and support everyone in our faith. 

I’m learning to be like water – to flow around obstacles, to shape myself to the new normal, to find the tiny openings that can be opened further and to let myself bypass the places where the walls are high.  Water is both soft and powerful. I remind myself of the power of water daily – and so did adrienne maree brown in Emergent Strategy. The ability to stay flexible and resilient is what’s going to get me through this year – and you too, I hope.

Religious Education classes are happening at noon on Sunday on Zoom, with a small group meeting at 4pm on Tuesdays, and a Sex Ed group (not really OWL, but replacing the latter half of OWL until we can meet in person again) on Sundays at 5pm.  Please feel free to contact me if you need anything from our RE community in this time.

Much love,

RE News June 2020

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear all,

I want to take an opportunity to remind you all that this Sunday is our Flower Communion, and that if you have a chance you could send a picture of yourself and/or your family with a flower for a slideshow that will be part of our service, and also that you should remember to bring a flower or flowers to the service this week.  I also want to remind you that the First Parish Band has been preparing not one but two musical numbers, featuring about 10 First Parish members & friends, and artfully produced by Tom Ostfeld.  This is a Sunday not to be missed, and although we staff will be around this summer more than perhaps usual, it is our last staff-led service until September.  The Worship Committee has been hard at work organizing lay-led services for you for most of July and August.  Religious Education classes will continue this summer but may be at a different time.

Today I had a strange experience.  I sat here at my desk, writing my monthly newsletter column, while attending and fully participating in my professional organization’s annual meeting at the same time.  I was able to do this because the whole meeting was online.  For me this is a blessing more than not, because it is usually held in person at General Assembly, during the days before GA, called Professional Days.  I was planning to go to GA this year in person, since it would have been in Providence, RI, but going to Professional Days is often just a bunch of extra: extra nights in a hotel, extra time away from my family, extra money from professional or personal funds… and so though I can vote remotely, this is the very first time I have attended, and I most likely wouldn’t have been there in person. I’ll attend Professional Days next week and then attend GA remotely. It’s a blessing as well as a sadness: I was looking forward to in-person hugs, to meeting folks in real life who I’ve only known online, and to spending some time in Providence.

Attending our faith’s General Assembly is one of the ways I affirm my faith.  I know we don’t always have a strong showing at GA, but since the meeting is virtual and the cost is only $150, I would love to recommend that people try to attend.  It’s not too late to join in the fun.  And even if you can’t attend the full conference, I hope you’ll attend Sunday morning worship at 10:00am EST on June 28. GA Worship Services are available at the livestream page daily, along with all the general sessions, Thursday’s Service of the Living Tradition (I suspect we will get to honor a certain retired minister that day!) and the Synergy Bridging service on Friday night, where we bridge and honor youth and young adults.

If you choose to register, you can also attend the Sophia Lyon Fahs Lecture, which is put on by LREDA, my professional organization, which features two experts on Indigenous peoples “Reflecting on Teachings about Indigenous Peoples.”  I am currently seeking clarity about the date of this lecture – one organization has it scheduled for Thursday and the other for Friday. Other offerings include Saturday night’s Ware Lecture, featuring syndicated columnist and author Naomi Klein.

And for the first time, I’m serving as a delegate – I just received my credentials.  You all may remember that First Parish sponsored a bill two years ago allowing Credentialed Religious Educators who are members in good standing of LREDA and serving a congregation to serve as delegates without taking a vote away from the congregation, just as ministers do. I’m sure that attending general plenary sessions doesn’t sound totally fascinating, but actually, watching the governance work of our faith in action is kind of geekily satisfying.  I believe that so far only one congregation member is attending GA as a delegate.  I heartily encourage you to step up to that role if you have the time and energy contact the church office or Sue Twombly if you’re interested.  Our congregation deserves its voice in our denomination.

So, my dears, see you around the internet, and maybe as things go forward we will even get to see each other ‘in 3-D’ as a member of the RE Committee eloquently put it.  Thank you all for your kind words to me about the Youth Service – and don’t forget to tell the youth too, because they were the ones who actually did most of the work.  Especial thanks to Rowan for his masterful editing skills on our skit.  Thank goodness for those who were born in this digital environment!

All my love,

Lauren

RE News — May 14, 2020

Lauren Strauss
Director of Religious Education

Dear friends,

Today I am thinking about grief and loss, and how we face it, together and with our children.

This thrice-blasted, cursed virus has robbed us of so much: church and school and time together and time in the sun, graduations and rituals and hugs.

Very soon we will be dealing with more loss.  Summer travel plans will be canceled, if they haven’t been already.  I am already grieving not being able to go to General Assembly in person, and although it isn’t official yet, I’m pretty sure I’m not going to be at Ferry Beach for RE week this summer for the first time in ten years.  In some ways I still have my fingers stuck in my ears, my eyes squeezed tight, and I’m shouting “LALALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU!” rather than look it in the face – but on another, deeper level, I’m starting the grieving process now, because that will help me recover from the loss more easily when it actually comes.  Though I suspect that, just as happened when we were told school was cancelled till the end of the year, even though I know it is coming, I will cry when it is official.

I’m not afraid to grieve this loss.  I don’t look forward to it, I don’t want to grieve it. I want to go to that sacred beach where I find my heart on the sands every summer. I want to sing the familiar songs and hug the people I only get to see once a year. I want to see the children and mark their growth, and celebrate bridging our Seniors and drum around the campfire.  Part of me feels if we don’t go this year, we may never go again.  My logical brain knows this isn’t true, but the unreasonable part of my spirit is afraid that this is the end of something forever.

I could shoulder on. I could pretend that the way to get through this is to be as normal as possible, and carry on doing what I can do every day to create normalcy and community in a world where we’re not allowed to be in the same place.

But that would be a mistake.  Right now, as we are rolling out of crisis mode and into dealing with a changed reality, it is time to stop and mourn my losses.  If I don’t, I can already sense that I’ll start to lose my joy in the good things, and my motivation to do the daily and weekly things that need doing.  Giving myself time to grieve will help me become more resilient and more able to adapt to upcoming changes. 

Children will need us now more than ever.  I suspect that many of us default to wanting to protect our kids from danger, unpleasantness, and death.  And to some extent, that’s right.  Kids don’t need us to fuel their fear or to hear information that is beyond their understanding at their developmental ages.  However, in this situation our kids are going to need to know some of what’s going on, and they are going to need to grieve their own losses. 

I’ve heard a few families mention that summer camp will be a big loss for some of our children and youth, and as I’ve already demonstrated, that resonates with me strongly.  For some, going to camp – whether it’s one of the youth camps at Ferry Beach or Star Island, or another camp – is intense and creates stronger friendship bonds and memories in a week or two than an entire school year or church year does at home.  Even children who don’t go to a beloved summer camp are going to start to realize that our summer activities will be greatly curtailed: no beach, perhaps; no parks; no picnics; no playing with friends.  It’s going to start feeling really long and hard, and we will have to give our kids a chance to grieve. 

If we don’t, they will anyway. Only, the grief will come out in unexpected and unhelpful ways. With younger children you may see an increase in tantrums; older kids may experience depression or anger.  These things happen in times of stress anyway, but if we leave our grief unacknowledged, it grows beyond our ability to bounce back.

We deal with grief and loss, not because they are pleasant, but because we wish to recover from them.  We want to grow our children’s resilience in the face of adversity, because resilient human beings are more likely to thrive.

In particular, I want to name the elephant in the room.  There’s more than a small chance that our congregation will experience the loss of a member or friend over the coming months.  None of us wants to frighten or sadden children with talk about death, but at the same time, death is a part of life.  Helping our children understand this in the abstract, by reading stories in which a character dies, or by talking about loved ones who died in the past, can help our children understand that death – and the sadness that comes with it – is natural and something we all experience in our lives. 

There are many resources for talking with children about death and grief.  Here is a list of a few.

From the UUA:
https://www.uua.org/sites/live-new.uua.org/files/documents/galginaitiscarol/familiesloss.pdf

A whole page of resources on parenting during the pandemic from the UUA:

https://www.uua.org/leadership/library/parenting-pandemic


A PDF guide can be downloaded from the following website that lists many resources and advice for helping kids cope with the pandemic.  Thanks to Roma Jerome for sharing it with me.
https://www.carneysandoe.com/blog-post/e-book-helping-kids-cope-with-coronavirus

The Religious Education Committee is committed to helping to fill the gaps for our children this spring and summer.  We’ll be talking about how we can continue our multigenerational worship times and RE gatherings and activities through the summer.  Please continue to let me know if you think of something we could be doing that we are not yet doing. 

I love all of you.  Thanks for sticking with this to the end. 

RE News — April 16, 2020

Lauren Strauss
Director of Religious Education

Dear friends,

It has been quite a month, hasn’t it? I’ve just finished my Annual Report – did you know that things happened before March in this church year? I was a little surprised to find I had more to talk about than quarantine! Outside, the inevitable signs of spring, from the asparagus spears starting to poke their little heads out of the earth, to the daffodils in full bloom across the street, remind me that despite everything, life and all the earth’s cycles continue.

I admit that while I am very much looking forward to in-person hugs and face-to-face, mask-free conversations, part of me finds the challenges of this quarantine invigorating.  I love the intimacy of our worship services – and I am surprised by this: I did not think I would find it as fulfilling to worship online as I do to worship in person. I like planning these services; I love to see the creative spirit that Charlyn and Guy have applied to our musical offerings; I find it really lovely to plan a service with Rev. Wendy for all ages every week, and be able to attend the full service.  I like finding and presenting stories that reflect and elaborate on each week’s message. People’s joys and sorrows move me.  I even enjoy trying to make the technology do the things I want it to do. 

And working with the children, youth, and parents via Zoom has been wonderful too.  On some days just one or two people have shown up for a group, and we have a lovely time getting to know each other and sharing stories.  I am in the midst of creating a tiny roleplaying game (RPG) for our children and youth to try out.  Clara helped me field test the first part today; I was planning on doing it on Thursdays but most of the older kids are doing schoolwork or classes during the week, so I’m seeing lots more people show up on Sundays than other days of the week.  This is great, by the way.  If my being there on Tuesday and Thursday for the kids, on Tuesday night for the parents, and on Wednesday afternoon for the youth is helpful to even one family, then it’s worth my time.  My goal is not to create more responsibilities and busyness for our families, but to meet their needs. 

In fact, if anyone would like me to host a group or individual chat at some other time, for you or your kids, please feel free to contact me at dre@fpwatertown.org and we can set something up.  

We’re in such strange times.  Things are changing rapidly, even daily.  In Framingham as of yesterday we must wear masks to enter any store, and over the recent weeks I’ve seen things go from everyone entering stores freely to waiting in line outside in order to enter, to directional aisles, and now masks.  We don’t know whether May 4 will see us slowly return to our daily lives or continued closures.  We don’t know when, or if, tragedy will strike our community, and I don’t know about you, but thinking about it too loudly makes me uncomfortable.  As things change, our children and youth are likely to experience times of acceptance and times of anguish.  Being small doesn’t mean you don’t grieve losses or feel anxiety over things that are beyond your control.  Sometimes it does mean you don’t have the words to talk about how you’re feeling.  I know even as a fairly articulate adult, I’ve been more weepy and crabby than usual, and I can’t always put my feelings into words.  We all need to be there for each other and for our kids.  We’re stronger in community, and our children sense that strength.

Please see below for planned RE meeting times.  I send out an email on Tuesdays with the Zoom link for these meetings, or you can contact me for information.

Love, and see you Sunday!

RE News, March 20, 2020

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear ones,

Wow, this has been a wild week, hasn’t it?  Last night in RE committee I reflected back and realized it had been only 7 days since the Parish Committee gathered, decided to cancel in-person services for a couple of weeks, and wondered if we were overreacting.

Since that time, we have all been committed to making sure that we stay connected.  We’ll have an online church service this coming Sunday followed by virtual social hour. I’ve been running RE times for the children and youth – we hosted four gatherings on Zoom last week as well as a parent group.  These groups will continue to meet until we can be physically together again!  And there are going to be special collaborative projects available each week as well.

One of these is multigenerational, will be ongoing, and deserves a special call-out.  The First Parish Friends (or Pals… I keep using both) pen pal project is open for business. I’ll continue matching people with pen pals as requests come in, but the first batch will go out today.  Please sign up by clicking this link.  You may also email me (dre@fpwatertown.org) or call me (774-286-9573) if you have difficulty signing up electronically for any reason. 

The rest of this week’s RE Schedule is as follows (and will go out as a separate mailing on Monday):

Sunday: Please attend worship! Don’t forget to bring a chalice to light at home. At 12:00pm we will gather for Children’s RE for ½ hour.  We will share joys and sorrows and talk about a way to live our faith this week.  For youth – I am going to send out an email today to discern what is the best time for us to gather this week. 

Monday: a day of self-care.  Please do something fun, just for you, on Monday, to recharge yourself for another week of at-home time.  Families, please plan your daily schedules so each family member has scheduled time to do a restorative activity of their choice.

Tuesday: RE gathering at 4:00pm.  I will tell a story just for fun, and we’ll do Joys & Sorrows. 

Wednesday: We will work on our Living Our Values project at home.  8:30pm: Parent Hangout.

Thursday: RE Gathering at 11:00am.  We will talk about Living our Values and we will have fun with a collaborative white board on Zoom.  We’ll also have Joys & Sorrows.

Friday & Saturday: No currently planned gatherings. 

All gatherings except the church service will take place in my Zoom “room”.  You can access them here:  https://zoom.us/j/7087627369 / Meeting ID: 708 762 7369.  If you need to call in or have difficulty, please give me a call or email me in advance.

Please continue to let me and Wendy and the rest of the staff know how we can be of service to you during this absurd, ridiculous, utterly unimaginable time.  We remain committed to keeping the church as a place of comfort and connection for everyone.  When we can’t be together in body, we’ll be together in spirit.

Much love,

Lauren

RE News, February 2020

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear friends,

I’m so excited to share all the wonderful things that have been happening among our children and families this month.  Make sure to click through to my blog to see pictures.  We have been having a blast in RE and in church and the pictures prove it.

I’d love to draw your attention to Family Night, coming up on February 28. We’ll be showing a movie, having potluck, and we’ll be inviting adult family members to come together to share their experiences as churchgoing families – both the highlights and the frustrations involved.  We hope people of all ages will join us.  The RE committee will provide pizza, drinks, and fruits & veggies, and you are encouraged to bring a dish to share.  The festivities will start at 5:30 and the movie will begin at 6.

Many of you may have noticed our Hymn of the Month by now – in February it has been “Morning Has Broken” and we have sung it not only in the sanctuary but also downstairs at our gathering circle, where we’ve introduced tiny song books with all the songs we have learned.  The song books are on binder rings, so we can add new songs as we learn them.

The Hymn of the Month at work! (photo credit: C. Dickinson)

Some of you may remember Pew Bear, who was here when I arrived nearly ten years ago but then mysteriously disappeared a couple of years later.  After a long search, a new Pew Bear has presented themself.  Last week we welcomed them in our gathering circle and made them a new name button (because the old Pew Bear’s button disappeared with Pew Bear!).  This Pew Bear uses they/them pronouns, so we added that to their button.  I put my pronouns on my button, too – have you? Adding your pronouns to your name tag – even if you think they are ‘obvious’ to others – welcomes Trans and Nonbinary people to add their pronouns without singling them out.  If everyone has their pronouns on their name tags, it becomes the norm, not just something you do if you’re different.  Some people don’t use pronouns at all – they prefer you just use their name.  Join me and Pew Bear in welcoming everyone to our congregation, won’t you?

Last week during our Makerspace, one friend made an airplane for Pew Bear, and two children and a youth created a marble track from paper towel rolls and other recycled materials that worked really well and kept them and some others amused for a long time.

In RE classes, our monthly theme of Identity and Belonging has led us on some very fun journeys.  Our Youth spent the month decorating their room – they have a brand-new rug and some super awesome LED lights that do all kinds of cool things.  You should check it out!

The Dinosaur Airplanes, our Preschool-Kindergarten class, has been learning about our Principles and about being Unitarian Universalists.  They are creating a display board that will someday feature not only the beautiful yarn chalice in the center but rainbow descriptions of each of the Seven Principles.  Right now, we have the First Principle on there (the inherent worth and dignity of every person) along with the chalice.

(Picture of Display Board)

Chalice Display made by our Dinosaur Airplanes class

The Justice Sowers and the Dragon Claws, our 1st-4th and 5th-7th grade classes, have been making wonderful things in class.  Susan Lind-Sinanian has come this month to teach Armenian embroidery to a group of these children and youth (along with a couple of adults who wanted to learn too!).

And the rest of the class has been building peg looms following the design of fiber artist Amy McKnight, who even sent us an Instagram message to tell us she was excited about our learning to make and weave on her looms.

Next month we’re looking forward to building drums and learning some drumming with John Buchanan. 

Watch this space for even more excitement!

RE News January 17, 2020

Dear friends,

It is lovely to hear many of you talking about Rev. Wendy’s sermon about focusing on a word as an intention-setting practice. You may recall that this has been a personal practice of mine for the last 6 years, and that I’ve had a habit of sharing my word with you in my column each year.

I came into 2020 with a desire to nurture my creative side, which seems

to be bursting with ideas and energy. And… well, this is no secret to anyone who’s seen my office… I’m not a big fan of cleaning and organizing. It always seems like such a chore. But the fact was, every time I thought about allowing my creative process to flow, it got stomped out almost immediately. I can’t start that writing project when my desk is so messy, I would think. It became clear very quickly that I needed a new way of looking at cleaning so that doing it would feel less onerous, leaving space clear for creativity.

I thought about words like “Declutter” and “Organize” and “Tidy” and “Clean,” but those words didn’t feel quite right.  I needed my cleaning to be reverent. I need my spaces to be sacred.  So I chose the word HALLOW.  In addition to the bonus Harry Potter reference, Hallow means creating sacred space rather than just ‘cleaning.’  For now it is choosing a space, moving the stuff off it, and re-setting it with objects that create the energy I need (+/- a cat or two, because who doesn’t need a cat between them and the keyboard, am I right?). Once the space is set up, I can maintain it by replacing everything carefully and reverently, and mindfully considering whether any new piece serves the purpose of the space. 

I love my word-of-the-year practice.  I write my word into my planner on monthly and weekly planning pages, and I get a bracelet made from MyIntent.org with my word stamped on it each year.  I also check in each month with the group of online friends with whom I started this practice 6 years ago. Having these reminders helps me reset and reframe when I need to do so.

Image: Lauren’s wrist with a bracelet. It is a rose gold washer with the word “HALLOW” stamped on it, and a navy blue macrame band.

The RE program has been following along with our church’s monthly themes.  Last weekend the Dinosaur Airplanes made their own spyglasses, and the older kids began envisioning a project that, in a couple of weeks, we’ll ask all of you to join in!  One of the Visions we hold is that when we all work together, we can make great and powerful things.

In the coming months we’ll be trying new strategies in the sanctuary to help include children and youth and encourage them to participate more deeply. You may have already noticed that on a few select Sundays we have moved the Children’s Worship Table up to the front of the sanctuary. While we will never ever (because of developmental psychology) expect babies, toddlers, preschoolers, and even younger elementary kids to sit perfectly still, moving them to the front lets them see what’s going on in the pulpit — lets them see the musicians, have line of sight with speakers, and for the older kids makes them aware that the minister and DRE are watching them! In addition, it gets them away from the extremely live acoustical spots in the back that project every sound at ten times the volume to the front of the sanctuary.

Another thing we’re going to try, starting this month, is a “Hymn of the Month” during the first hymn slot. Charlyn, Guy, and I have plotted this out for a variety of reasons. Children who can’t read can learn the hymn by rote, and the little ones love to sing when they know the song! Music is a magical order-maintaining device — ask any preschool teacher who knows to pull out “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” when a class gets restless. I once was in a children’s choir of 300 4th-6th graders, and there were three adults in the room — the conductor, the pianist, and one assistant (for a while in high school I was the assistant). All the conductor had to do was get the pianist to play one of the songs we all knew, and suddenly we were all singing. There was no other calling to order, no begging for our attention. The music started, we sang. It works in church too, when the children know the music.

And, I’m going to let Charlyn’s little secret out of the bag, because she also has an ulterior motive… she holds out hope that if adults have heard a song several times, they might put the book down a little and look up and sing with the room a bit more. That’s another magical transformation that happens when people who really know a song sing it together with spirit. It brings people together in a special and spiritual way that just doesn’t happen while we’ve all got our faces buried in the hymnal.

So, this month’s hymn is “When the Heart is in a Holy Place” (1008 in the teal hymnal) and we’ll be singing it downstairs as well as upstairs this month. 

See you around the sanctuary, my friends!

Lauren


Coming up in RE:

  • January: Vision & Possibility
  • Hymn: When the Heart is in a Holy Place
  • Story: The Spyglass by Paul Evans
  • Project: Yarn

  • February: Identity & Belonging
  • Project: Embroidery with Susan Lind-Sinanian

  • January 19: Maker Sunday. NO OWL
  • January 26: Teacher Breakfast, RE Classes (Yarn & other projects. OWL 4:30-6:30
  • February 2: RE Classes (Embroidery with Susan & other projects). OWL 4:30-6:30
  • February 9: RE Classes (Embroidery with Susan & other projects). OWL 4:30-6:30