September: Religious Exploration

Differences of habit and
language are nothing
at all if our aims
are identical and
our hearts are open.
~J.K. Rowling

By now, many, if not most of you have probably heard something about the Hogwarts Camp, held here at church the first week in August. Hopefully, you’ve been hearing good things! The camp was run using the “workshop rotation” model, which we will be using for our child religious exploration program this year. A huge benefit of this
model is that it’s a multigenerational approach to programming that promotes incorporating as much talent from the members of our congregation in working with the children as possible, but for shorter periods of time than
the whole year (or longer!) that we’ve come to think of as the commitment for teaching R.E. classes.

For camp, we had teen “prefects,” who acted as guides for the younger kids, accompanying them to workshops and acting as teacher assistants. Our older elementary students and perhaps some of the youth will occasionally
fill a similar role during R.E., serving as models and guides for the younger kids. Hogwarts teachers were selected based on their interests and areas of expertise. So, for instance, Marty Becker worked with the kids doing physical science experiments in a class called Magical Forces, Kat Braz led the kids through dramatic role/play exercises in
Defense Against the Dark Arts, and in Amy French’s Transfiguration class, the kids did some cooking. Workshops are designed to be experiential, with a short time for processing following the activity/lesson to give it context
and meaning. Note that for Hogwarts Camp, most of the volunteers had not recently been teachers and are not parents of the camp participants! A goal in adopting the workshop rotation model this year will be to move
towards greater sharing in the responsibility and joy of working with our children and youth- who are, as you know, the future of this church and Unitarian Universalism.

So—Sunday mornings for the older preschool and elementary kids will look something like this: The day’s lesson, which to the extent possible will be in line with a monthly theme and the day’s adult sermon topic,
will be introduced during the Time for All Ages portion of the service, usually with a story.

Upon being dismissed from the sanctuary, kids will report to Rooms 101-03 or the Fellowship Hall, depending on what the lesson calls for that day. Which place they are to go will be announced.

The group session will begin with a short time for worship, which will include a time for joys and concerns (or alternately, a question related to the topic of the day). Every child who wishes to will have a turn to share during this time. This will be followed by a short meditation or prayer.

Next comes the “workshop” (lesson and/or activity) portion of the morning. This is where we hope to have members of the congregation volunteer to share their specialized skills/knowledge/ talent with the kids. For the fall semester, this will take place in the same room as worship. Depending on the number of kids we have regularly attending R.E., we may try to run more than one workshop at a time second semester, with kids rotating between workshops from one Sunday to the next. If we move to this, the adult time commitment would stretch to fit (i.e., 2 workshops running = 2 weeks teaching)

A provocative question and light snack will end our “formal time “ together. Children will be released to their parents at the door, and timely pick up will be much appreciated.

Though the opportunity for many positive things to come from our adoption of the workshop rotation model for religious exploration is there, please be patient as we are still experimenting. Expect modifications along the way as we learn what works best and what doesn’t fit for us. Parents or others who are interested, please know you are always welcome to join us- though be warned, you may be asked to roll up your sleeves and participate!

The focus for the older youth group this year is leadership development. They will have a less structured format for their regular time together on Sundays. Instead, youth will be encouraged to take turns leading the group, with advisor support as needed, and will have the option of using the Popcorn Theology (movie based) and Between the Lines (music based) curriculums purchased last year, or to lead a discussion based on current events or other topics relevant to them or some other type of activity as they wish. Creativity will be encouraged.

There will also be several larger district/region-wide opportunities for youth to participate in this year. Our church is hosting a Leadership Development Conference geared towards youth and people who work with youth from the MidAmerica Region September 28-30. I expect that most of our youth group will be participants in this. They will also have the opportunity to travel to at least one youth conference this fall, details of which will be posted soon. It is very exciting that in February, our church is hosting the district’s social justice youth conference- this is a big deal (!) that will require a lot of planning and work on the part of the youth group. They will need support from the congregation. Stay tuned- you will be hearing more about Social Justice Con in the coming weeks. And finally, with General Assembly being in Louisville KY this year, we want to take as many youth who want to attend as we can.

As you see, we have a busy, exciting year ahead! Regular attendance and participation in church activities will ensure that children, youth, and families get the most from the experience of belonging to this rich and vibrant community. Our religious exploration program year begins September 9. Hope to see you there!!

Sheila Garrett, Director of Religious Exploration

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