What really is Religious Education? Is it just learning a particular curriculum? When we talk about Religious Education (RE), we try and focus on the “5 C’s” — Curriculum, Covenant, Community, Context, and Call. The curriculum is one of the considerations, when we’re thinking about what we want our children, youth, and adults to learn. Each year, the RE Council and staff review the curriculum map of what we will offer for the following year. Right now, we’re in the early stages of exploring different models of curriculum delivery and how we want to structure our Children’s RE program.
Equally important, though, is our covenant. What promises do we make to each other about how we want to be together? Because we’re human and imperfect (or perfect in our imperfections), we are bound to break our covenant to each other at times. How we return to right relationship with each other and make things as right again as they can be is a deeply important and religious act. Our Coming of Age class recently engaged in a restorative justice process to respond to an issue that arose in the community. They used a circle process to share what the impacts were on everyone and to make a plan to return to right relationship. This process has enabled a tremendous amount of healing to occur.
Creating a community where people can feel welcome and included is another part of religious education. Classroom covenants go a long way, and our Our Whole Loves (OWL) sexuality education classes, which we currently offer at the upper elementary 5th grade) and middle school (8th grade) levels, affirm a diversity of gender identities and expressions and sexual orientations. Our recent Youth Field Day for 5th-12th graders brought together a great group of 19 children and youth for team building and fun. I was blown away by how our high schoolers reached out to and how our younger participants rose to the occasion, exemplifying a multi-age community.
The last two C’s, context and call, have to do with understanding and responding to what it means to be Unitarian Universalists in Newton in 2017. Our 5th/6th grade class spent time learning about the Newton Food Pantry, running a food drive, and visiting the facilities. Our Adult Faith Development Task Force held a number of focus groups and interviews, in addition to running a survey, which collected information about what people are wanting right now in their spirituality. This will help us better understand what we are uniquely called to do, so we can make our programs and ministries responsive to the needs of ourselves, our congregation, and our world.
Lastly, I hope you will all join us for our annual Lifespan Religious Education Sunday on April 9. We have been preparing music and reflections over the past several weeks. This year’s service will be an opportunity to hear many voices of children, youth, and adults in our community, sharing what the seven UU principles mean to them. The first graders will be recognized during this service by receiving a copy of the Sunday and Everyday books. In faith, Rowan Van Ness, Director of Lifespan Religious Education