What I have learned as DRE of the UUSA

When I first stepped into the UUSA, I had never been part of any sort of religious institution before.  I can distinctly remember sitting looking up at my husband Tom with a look that said, “You want me to do this every Sunday?” On our walk home, Tom explained that I shouldn’t make any sort of judgment about the place until I had attended for six months. Six months later, we had become regular attendees.  I was used to the hymns, the rhythm of the services, the length of the sermons and most importantly, I enjoyed being in community.   

Now after seven years as your Director of Religious Education, I’m stepping back into the pews to be a regular member of this congregation.  As DRE I’ve had the unique opportunity to work with the same people who drew me into this place, as well as many new families who have joined the UUSA and the RE program.  I’ve also had the pleasure of working with four ministers, two office administrators, two music directors and Jacy, our most dedicated preschool teacher. So, what have I learned?  

Every summer I would make a RE calendar similar to the Minister’s calendar.  This calendar reduces the year to a list of 42 Sunday dates and I can tell you, this process makes a year feel really short.  It feels even shorter when you consider that those 42 days represent about 42 specific RE hours.  Yes, as DRE I had about 42 hours a year to try to help people feel like they belong, that they matter, that they can rely on the UUSA to help them seek their truth.  

Since my time is short I thought I would summarize some of the things I have learned as DRE.  Remember the top ten lists that were so popular not too long ago?  Well, these are not in any particular order, but I promise that I will end with the best of the best of the best.

  1.  Ministers are people. As I said, I have worked with 4 in the past 7 years so I think I can tell you with some certainty, ministers are people.  They have feelings just like the rest of us.  They get tired, they get overwhelmed, but Ministers are caring and sharing people who LOVE to talk about the hard questions we all need to think about throughout our lives.
  2. Our RE children often know more about what it means to be a UU than many adults who sit in the pews.  They should be asked their opinions more often.
  3. Multigenerational worship and events are precious.  They make people feel good about themselves and being here.
  4. The congregation generously supports RE, and has for as long as I can remember.  But financial support is only one piece of the puzzle. Our families are our future.  We need to make an effort to get to know these young children and parents even if, or especially because, they don’t have time for committee work.
  5. Just like habits are hard to break, it is hard to reimagine our traditions.  And yet, our traditions need to adapt and change in order to be more welcoming.  Remember, your comfort is not necessarily why we gather in this place.  We should all be asking, who isn’t in this sanctuary and why?
  6. In the past two years we have learned it is important to prioritize.  Our biggest challenge is to convince our members, our youth and our children, to fit the UUSA into their busy schedules.
  7. Committees should consider themselves ministries.  It is amazing how one word can shift a group’s perspective on the work that needs to be done and also on how the work should be done.
  8. Planning a Sunday service is one of the most meaningful activities you can do here in this place and for this place.  The process of thinking about the music, the spoken words, creating space for silence and considering how to get the message of beloved community is incredibly meaningful.
  9. Change is hard, but it can be exciting.  Every week I met with Rev. Rachael and when we were finished with the nitty gritty details we often discussed ways we could grow and push ourselves and a congregation.  Most often we did not come to any conclusions, but we had fun spinning a web of ideas.
  10.  And finally, as promised, my most important take-away from my time as DRE?  Be grateful.  I am grateful for everyone who was here before me, with me and who will be in this place in the future.  These past few years were hard, really hard, but here we are.  Here I am.  I’m so grateful for the time I have spent in this position, but I’m also grateful to be stepping away and making room for our new DRE’s leadership.  Thank you.

Time of Transition

This past Sunday our OWL classes wrapped up and things were pretty quiet in the Preschool Room. But it was a good sort of quiet. Our littles were content with the blocks and the trucks. Circle time was short, but personal. Upstairs worship was focused on Flower Communion. I gave a brief history of Norbert and Maya Čapek that included some interactive breaks using the lines from our children’s prayer – open minds, loving hearts and helping hands and before we were played out for recess the children had a role in the redistribution of the blossoms.

Thank you to Lauren and Maura, Alyson and Tom for facilitating OWL. Our program would not be as strong as it is without dedicated volunteers!

Many Rooms, Many Voices!

This past Sunday we had OWL going on in two rooms (K-1 and 4-6), Parent Group in the office and in the third classroom we had a preschool group and a comparative religion class of one going strong.

Upstairs during the Time for All Ages we heard Rev. Rachael tell a story about the Hindu Goddess Kali. Kali is the Goddess destruction and through her destruction she creates change. Rev. Rachael wrapped up the story by saying it is OK to be angry and that we can also learn how to calm ourselves down.

Downstairs we had a great Holy Recess of self-directed play and finger painting.

Gratitude for Those Willing to be Flexible

This past Sunday we had K-1 OWL and 4-6 OWL classes going on. In a different room the parents met with – surprise! – Rev. Rachael and in the Preschool room we had three 4-5 year olds, a mother and two twins under 2 and I had the pleasure of working with a third grader who requested a project on world religions.

Try as we might, we all know that what we plan might not work. That has always been the case, but during Covid-19 (post Covid-19?) we have had to learn to pivot quickly. Last week we had to cancel RE completely because of two possible adult Covid-19 cases. And then during our weekly meeting, Rev. Rachael and I counted backwards and forwards and discovered we had very few Sundays left and we decided that perhaps it was time for her to meet the parents to let them know what is what at the UUSA.

To prepare for the project with the third grader I found a few books at the public library and in my office. Fortunately he needed only a slight nudge for him to get completely into the idea of comparing religions using note cards, thumbtacks and an old bulletin board someone gave us.

As I sat on the floor listening to the buzz of the twins and the chatter of the preschoolers I felt very grateful to everyone involved in our program. I am thankful for everyone’s ability to never quite know how things are going to go and smiling and coming on time just the same. Thank you. Thank you.

April Showers bring OWL!

Good things come for those who wait, or so they say. We’ve been waiting many many months for the opportunity to start our OWL programs for K-3 and 4-6 and we have finally done it. Thank you to our adult facilitators and to the parents for putting on their masks and driving their kids in time for our 9:30 start. This year we also have quite a few preschoolers whose parents wanted their kids to have a little bit of OWL which Jacy is calling “OWLET” – as in OWL Light:) For those of you new to UU and RE, here is a link to the program: https://www.uua.org/re/owl

Preschool is a happening place these days with a range of kids under two to 5 years old children which, as you might be able to imagine, takes some coordination. Jacy is up for the task and I am there to assist her. Today we had a good time sharing our joys and concerns and reading a book about family. At the end we tried to come up with a definition for “family.” We kept thinking of all the different variations and settled on “a group of people who love each other and take care of one another.”


K-3rd graders start OWL this weekend in Classroom A

4-7th graders will be meeting in the Conference Room.  

Remember OWL will be taught during RE time from 9:30-10:25.  

Please save these dates, try to commit to all of them and come on time because class needs to finish before the service starts upstairs.

4- 6 OWL – Sunday April 3,10, 24, May 1,8,15,22, and June 5th.

K-3 OWL – Sunday April 10 (parents and children), 24, May 1, 8, 15, 22, and June 5th.

Parent Groups will be meeting in the UUSA Administrative Office and Rev. Rachael’s Office.

Each Person Has a Voice

This past Sunday we gathered together for the second time inside! We started off with some play time while families made their way in. Here we are exploring the activities…

Then we split into two groups. Preschool children read the book Swimmy, followed by circle and a community art project.

The K-6th grade group met and talked about the 5th Principle. In kid speak – Each person has a voice. Or, 5th Principle: We believe that all persons should have a vote about the things that concern them. We talked about who has power. President Biden was the first to be named, but eventually we made it down to our own town and UU community, and our own families. We talked about the difference between believing something and knowing something. And we talked about how we know something is true. When we got into unicorns and Santa Claus I decided it was not time to ruin anyone’s fantasies and we started a quick drawing session. The assignment was to draw a cartoon creature declaring something. Elves, unicorns, birds and fish were represented.

We’re back under the UUSA roof together!

This past Sunday we were able to get back in the building for religious education. This was the first time since March of 2020! First we met Rev. Rachael in the Sanctuary. After we lit the chalice together we took a good look at the space. According to a fifth grader in the bunch, the space seemed a lot smaller than it used to. I’m guessing this is because he’s probably a foot taller. From the sanctuary we took turns taking the elevator down, we checked out the RE spaces and then the parents went off to Parent Group and the children settled into circle.

During circle we read the book In My Mosque by M.O. Yuksel and we talked about how the mosque in the story was the same and different from our building. After reading the story we divided into age groups and did joys and sorrows, check in and some water coloring painting.

Following RE we provided Childcare. During this time the little ones stayed downstairs, but the older ones went upstairs for the beginning of the service and had Time for All Ages with Rev. Rachael. After Time for All Ages the children were sung out and the kids had free play for the remaining time.