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.