RE News October 2021

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear friends,

This is the column where I admit I’m not entirely okay.  I have been plugging along through the pandemic, eking out my energy and spirit with the promise of an end in sight… and the failure of that end to actually materialize is draining my reserves really quickly right now.

Each of us has a different response to stress.  I have a tendency to … well, if I’m charitable with myself I call it ‘pillow forting’… in my online knitting group we have a (virtual, imaginary) pillow fort where we can crawl in and be surrounded by warm, comfortable fluff on all sides when things get rough, and I am pretty sure that my psyche crawled into that pillow fort a couple months ago and really does not want to come out any time soon.

When I’m in my virtual pillow fort, my real-life body tends to sleep more but at weirder hours, and my real-life brain tends to want to pretend that things like deadlines and obligations don’t exist. 

Lots of us respond to stress in different ways.  For some of us, we plunge into preparing and planning, all the better to control whatever we can control.  Others crave structure and information when they’re stressed.  When a pillow fort hider encounters a planner, our different anxiety mechanisms can clash… so being able to name my stress response is helpful, not only to explain to the anxious person who needs plans or structure, but also to help me talk myself out of the pillow fort.  It’s so darn comfy in there, especially since they put in Netflix.

Something I’m learning about is the stress cycle… Rev. Sophia mentioned the author Emily Nagoski the other week during service.  She and her sister Amelia have written a book called Burnout: the Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle, which I’m reading at the moment.  It talks about our physical stress response, and the one thing we generally don’t (intentionally) do in times of stress. In days of yore when the things we got stressed about were actual bears or lions or wolves, our bodies would physically build up stress as we walked through the woods sensing the bear coming at us while we picked our berries.  And then when the actual bear got really close, we would run! Because staying around while the bear eats us is just not smart.

And once you have run away from the bear, your body has burned off all the stress we built up worrying about the bear.  You can go inside and have a nice cup of tea and put your feet up, because you have completed the stress cycle.

But when the stress is not about a bear, but about sending emails or paying the bills or writing up a story for Sunday,  we don’t usually have to run away.  So, the stress never burns off, and the stress cycle never completes.  Apparently I’ve been building up stress for nearly 54 years. No wonder I’m hiding in a pandemic pillow fort!

According to the Nagoskis, the very best way to complete the stress cycle is physical exercise.  Unfortunately, my knees, ankles, hips, and general indifference toward exercise combine to make it an unlikely outlet for me.  So there are other ways to complete the stress cycle.  Laughter.  Not a tiny giggle, but the kind where your whole body shakes and tears stream down your face.  Acts of creation.  Not pretty artwork meant for an audience, but Making Something that taps into your soul.  Souls tend to be shy, so we have to give them support and love if they want to come out of there.  I’m writing more as part of my effort to close my stress cycle.  Meditation can help… but meditation is a tricky one because a lot of us have this idea that meditation has to be a particular way — quiet and calm and noiseless.  I’ve been letting my brain tell me stories these last few weeks, often with my inner voice as a narrator putting things into actual words. 

The laughter one is working too.  If you want to laugh that hard, come over to church on a Tuesday or Thursday or on Sunday morning and let my puppy Fozzie lick your face for a minute or two.  I haven’t laughed so hard as I do when she’s trying to stalk my bun… She’s like, omigosh mom has a weird nest of hair on the back of her head… I should eat it! And then just for good measure she slobbers all over my glasses. 

All of us, kids and adults, need to learn to close our stress cycles.  Get out on the playground with your kids or grandkids and hang upside down or see if your tush still fits in the slide.  Sing like nobody can hear you. Laugh until it hurts.  Play a rousing game of hide and seek or tag.  We have to put all this stress somewhere because our shoulders are all collectively breaking.

I love you all.

See you in church on Sunday, on Zoom or in person!

Love,
Lauren

RE News – September 17, 2021

Lauren Strauss, Director of Religious Education

Dear friends,

Welcome back to a new year at First Parish of Watertown.  Today Jews everywhere are observing the holiest of High Holy Days, Yom Kippur, the day when the Book of Life is sealed for the year after G-d writes everyone’s fate there on Rosh Hashanah.  You have 10 days to repent your sins and beg forgiveness before your fate is sealed. Today Jews participate in the great atonement of prayer and fasting; and they break that fast at sundown in celebration of a new year beginning.

I think all of us had hopes that coming back to church this fall would feel like breaking the long fast of COVID precautions: that September would see us gathering in our sanctuary, hugging one another, blending our waters in communion, and beginning anew.  I admit that’s not how I feel right now.  I feel like instead of the feast Grandma used to prepare (or, um, have prepared at the local Deli, because our fast-breaking feast was usually the family favorites of bagels, cold cuts, pickled herring, etc., because literally nobody had time to hang around cooking a giant meal when they were all in temple praying), we’re getting a couple of crackers to tide us over, and a giant cup of Folger’s instant coffee to make sure we stay awake.

Church school is going to have to be different for a while too.  Our kids under 12 aren’t vaccinated. Our parents – usually our most reliable volunteers – are tapped out in a deep and profound way that those of us whose kids are mostly grown can’t fully grasp.  Being vaccinated isn’t a foolproof guarantee against contracting or spreading COVID, and while breakthrough cases are often ‘mild,’ people are taking weeks to recover, if they don’t contract long COVID.  And children are dying or being hospitalized.  Our kids are already back to school, which is necessary, but means the pool of people they’re exposed to has expanded.  When they come to church, we must be extra careful because we’re a whole new group of people for them to get exposed to. 

I’m not trying to be a bummer.  I’m genuinely trying to hold all this in balance with the reality that being together is also extremely important for our spiritual well-being.  So this year we have to be as careful as we possibly can be.  What it means for now is that Religious Education will happen after church at 12:30pm.  Only one group will meet each week, in order to keep numbers low.  We will meet outdoors whenever possible.  Should weather require us to move indoors we will use the social hall and will be distanced at tables with no more than 4 people seated at one of the long tables at a time. In or out, we will be masked.

We will also be offering, beginning in October, a small group ministry/support group for the parents whose children or youth are in class that week.  This means I will need non-parent volunteers to help teach. This year we will be spending our time strengthening our community in cooperative games, doing art projects inspired by the monthly themes, and generally re-building the relationships we’ve missed during the pandemic.  While we’ll continue to be informed by our faith’s values, this won’t be a ‘learn stuff in a curriculum’ kind of year.  It’s a community building kind of year.

If you’re a vaccinated grownup who wouldn’t mind spending an occasional weekend hanging out with children or youth, please fill out this form and I will contact you. 

Thank you! And welcome home.

Love

Lauren

RE News June 18, 2021

June 18, 2021

Dear Ones,

I am actually in my professional organization, LREDA’s, “Professional Days,” which for religious educators and for ministers traditionally take place in the days running up to the UUA General Assembly.  I’m not kidding: I’m on a Zoom meeting while I type this.

I wonder if any of you can imagine what a professional religious educators’ conference looks like? Do you envision a bunch of us sitting on the floor around a chalice telling stories and doing arts & crafts?  I’ll be honest, back when I started, that’s kinda what I thought.  That we’d be talking about curriculum and maybe practicing it, or even talking about some of the other stuff most of us regularly do in our jobs – worship planning, storytelling, pastoral care with children and youth, program administration. 

And sometimes it is.

But more and more often, UU religious educators are concerned about really big-picture things that affect not only children and youth, but all of us.  So many of our conversations are about… institutional racism; trauma-informed response to crises; conflict management and resolution; theology and faith formation; spiritual self-care…  So many things you wouldn’t necessarily think of as the realm of a religious educator if all you ever see of RE is the story on Sunday and Youth Sunday. 

We have these conversations because they’re an essential part of our faith for everyone – adults and children alike.  Racism, for example, may seem like a topic not developmentally appropriate for small children.  But if we examine our values – the things we hope to instill in our children and youth which are part of the reason we bring them to church – we want our kids to see the inherent worth and dignity of every person.  We want them to learn to use their voices to stand up for justice.  We want them to be able to resolve conflicts when they have them.

If we as adults don’t have the really hard conversations about racism – especially the ways that we are rooted in white supremacy culture, that the white people among us are often still benefitting from it, that we sometimes unwittingly contribute to the oppression of or failure to welcome members of marginalized communities: not only Black people, but People of Color from a variety of backgrounds; LGBTQIA+ people; disabled people, and others – if we do not have these hard conversations, and begin in blessed imperfection and humility to address them and change them, then how do we expect our children to internalize the values we wish for them? How do we ask our children to grow into our UU values if we ourselves do not model them?

So UU religious educators have these conversations, and it’s a vital part of our development as leaders and educators in our faith.  I always return revitalized and feeling excited to walk a new path.

Next week I’ll spend Wednesday – Sunday attending UUA General Assembly.  I’m the exact kind of policy geek who likes to go to all the general sessions and vote, and this year there are some votes coming that are 100% about defining who we are as UUs. 

And of course, in between will be our final service with Rev. Wendy, with music by our fantastic Band!  Make sure to come!

Much love, and blessings for a peaceful, restful, and invigorating summer!

Lauren

RE News, April 16, 2021

Dear friends,

Kristin Bray contacted me the other day with a lovely offer.  Some of you may know that she manages the bookstore at the Waldorf School that Kai attends. The other day she was looking up the story I read last Sunday, Rescue and Jessica, and it occurred to her that others might also like the chance to purchase the stories I share. Here is her offer, in her words:

Would you like to purchase the book that Lauren reads in her Story for All Ages time and benefit FPW at the same time? Email Kristin Bray at homespun@thewaldorfschool.org with the name of the book and the number you would like to order on Sunday or Monday.  She will place order the books on Tuesdays and 10% of the cover price will be donated to First Parish!

If you order a book, she’ll contact you about payment and let you know the details of how ordering works.  And she’s able to get other books as well, not just kids’ books.  I’ll make sure this offer goes in the newsletter in coming weeks, and I’ll also make the list of stories I’ve told this year available to anyone who’d like to know the titles.

In other news, who’s getting excited to meet Rev. Sophia? I know I am! I have already had a Zoom conversation with the other staff members and Rev. Sophia, and she and I also had a really lovely phone conversation.  The thing that’s clearest is that she can’t wait to meet all of you!  And there will be opportunities coming up during candidating week for that.

For our RE program, Rev. Sophia will be joining us on Sunday, April 25 at noon for our regular RE time.  This is a time for our children and younger youth to get to know Rev. Sophia, tell her about themselves, and ask questions.  There will also be a time for parents and other adults connected to the RE program to meet with Rev. Sophia, on Saturday May 1, but I don’t have the time yet.  And there will be a meeting for our 8th-12th grade youth to talk with her. All these meetings will take place on Zoom. 

Rev. Sophia will be super busy during her week with us, meeting with as many people as she can (while somehow also not getting totally exhausted!), so please try to come to a gathering and also to the services she will lead on April 25 and May 2.  Remember that our polity governance structure means that congregations call our ministers — our congregation, after meeting Rev. Sophia, will vote to call her in an important congregational meeting on May 2 after church.  I know our search committee has done an amazing job of finding us a candidate who’s right for us — but in the end, the members of our congregation are the ones who make the final decision! So come and get to know your candidate!

I’m looking out the window at a snowstorm today but I swear, spring IS here.  Things are looking pretty bright to me — I hope to you too.

Much love,

Lauren

RE News — March 19, 2021

Lauren Strauss, DRE

I’m sure everyone else has said this all kinds of ways this past week, but we’ve now had a year since the pandemic shut us down.  When we closed down, I optimistically thought we’d be back in a couple of weeks, and I never dreamed that we’d be closed for a year, that Zooming in to worship and RE would be normal, that we’d be calling a minister we’ve never met in person, that seeing people in ‘3D’ as one of the RE Committee members puts it would feel like a luxury.  That I’d be looking forward to getting a shot as much as I am… and I don’t even go on the eligible list until April 5.

This will be our second year celebrating Easter (on April 4!) from a distance.  Last year some of my RE colleagues put together a virtual Easter egg hunt through about 100 church websites, and we participated in it.  But this year we’ll be doing something different – a collaborative art project we hope to bring to our church yard in the weeks surrounding Easter.  Families, watch your email tomorrow for information on how to participate.

I feel like I need to say something about my personal commitment—and the church’s commitment—to anti-racism and dismantling white supremacy, since the topic is such a charged one in the Watertown community right now.  I was raised in a family that was as against racism as it was possible to be in the late 60s and early 70s. I can’t say we were ‘anti-racist’ because we did not understand institutional racism as a concept, and we could easily overlook all but the most blatant racist incidents.  We didn’t talk about microagressions because we didn’t know what they were. I was well into my 40s and even my 50s before I understood concepts like systems theory and implicit bias.

But I was taught that we treat everyone equally, and as a personal gauge of behavior I believe I have done reasonably well following it.  When I learned that it wasn’t enough – that the world was not the fair place I was raised to believe it was – I had to completely shift my worldview.  And it’s fair to say I’ve shifted my worldview a dozen times since the day I first started to see things differently.  I’m learning daily, reexamining what I think I know, exploring new ideas, and poking at myself when I feel uncomfortable about assertations of racism in our community.  It is both easy and accurate for me, as a white person, to say “I have always been treated fairly and politely by our police.” That has, indeed, been my experience.  But my experience as a middle-aged white lady is not going to be the only kind of experience people have with police.  It is far too easy to let my “I’ve never had that experience” be a dismissal of other people’s experiences.  And people who look like me have been dismissing BIPOC folks’ experiences for centuries in this country. 

We have to be careful.  We are being entrusted, in this time, in this wonderful faith of open doors and open minds, with creating space where every human being feels welcome, included, expected, and accepted for who they are.  That means that those of us in privileged majority groups need to let go of some of our preconceptions and expectations and create that beloved community we talked about all last month. 

We start with listening.  We start with believing it when others tell us what they’ve experienced, even if it’s different from our own experiences.  We begin by understanding systems theory and being able to differentiate between personal behavior and systemic behavior: it was perfectly possible for me to be staunchly not-racist while at the same time swimming in institutional racism and reaping the benefits. 

And we – white people – become really, truly anti-racist when we’re willing to speak up for what’s right, and when we’re willing to cede our power and our advantages to make the world more equitable. We cannot let our BIPOC friends’ and neighbors’ voices ring out into the void.  We need to speak up.

Let our commitment to true equality in our congregation and in our community be our guide in the upcoming weeks and months.  Be the heroes our children think we are.

Much love,

Lauren 

RE News, February 19, 2021

Lauren Strauss, DRE

Dear ones,

This month’s musing on the state of Religious Education at First Parish of Watertown comes with an ‘ask.’  Please consider whether you might be the right person to answer this call.

Contrary to all popular adult misconceptions about what youth are like, the youth at First Parish of Watertown have been pretty consistently ambivalent about meeting on Zoom.  Our youth group met at first, and we finished our OWL classes virtually, but really… on the whole, the youth group has been in hiatus this year.  The one time I was able to offer an opportunity to meet in person – for the sword dance in preparation for the pageant – every single youth in our group showed up.  They are longing to be in person with one another.  Even those who swim in the digital ocean by nature need to come up for air.

And this year all five members of our Senior Youth Group are supposed to be doing Coming of Age.  The RE Committee and I decided a few months ago to wait until springtime and offer a program that can meet at least some of the time in person.  At that time, it wasn’t even clear that there would be a vaccine available, but the fact that there is gives me hope.  That said, we’ll still begin cautiously, meeting outdoors, staying distanced according to regulations set forth by the UUA and by our state and local governments.

Mentors are a vital part of the Coming of Age program at FPW. Our kids really cherish the opportunity to get to know an adult in our community, to hear about your personal faith journeys as they contemplate their own, and to have that connection with a non-parental adult.  COA relationships between youth and their mentors are special and wonderful and long-lasting. 

We have five awesome youth about to come of age in our church, and they will need mentors.  A mentor does not have to be a person who has all the answers, does not have to be a life-long UU.  The qualities we seek in a mentor are people who are committed to exploring our UU faith alongside the youth they mentor. 

We meet roughly once a month and cover a variety of topics in preparation for our youth to present their Statements of Belief (also called Credos) and, if they so choose, sign the membership book.

If you think you might be ready to walk this path alongside one of our wonderful young people, or if you have questions about the program, please contact me at dre@fpwatertown.org.

Thank you!

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,