The mourning period for the loss of my dog has turned the corner into the long tunnel of a very foul mood. I hope I've done a good job raising children and creating good, authentic relationships in my life that can survive my bleak presence. I am wicked crabby! I know that I am an annoyingly eternal optimist. I'm sure this will pass. Already I'm contemplating fostering dogs for people who are deployed overseas and may have to give up their beloved pet if no one will take them for a year or more. But at this moment? Yeah, cloud over my head with it's own personal gloominess.
But at least I can work again. A sweet friend asked me some questions about Religious Education. So, while I am working on schedules and planning lessons and even a bit of budget stuff, I took a few minutes to think about what I do. It's like if you're looking at the work we do on google earth and you're zoomed in so close that you can pick out people's wood piles in their back yards, but then you scroll back and out and up until you can see the whole planet. This is the whole planet.
To me, the ministry that I push and pull and drag and launch and dance with in the work I do has three distinct branches:
The first branch is Religious Education; learning about being a Unitarian Universalist, our history, our practices, what we are called to do when we are in covenant with other UUs and our faith and our own very personal identity as Unitarian Universalist. Religious Education also includes learning about religion itself, why there are religions, why people practice religions and also some basic knowledge and understanding of a few other religions.
The second branch is Spiritual Practice; how people find ways to be in touch with the deepest part of their soul. This includes learning how to meditate a few different ways each year, spending time in nature, how to be in community in a mindful way thru children's worship, music, prayer as a group and joyful group activities like chanting, dancing and body prayer. We do learn different ways to pray, and we practice praying individually as they choose join in. It's our job to ready our children and youth with ways to deal with the things life brings us, and spiritual practice is vital to a healthy response to joy and sorrow.
The third branch is Social Action: taking our faith to our work and our work to our faith and being mindful Unitarian Universalist in action both with social and environmental issues. Children are extremely capable in taking their faith to work, and nothing teaches that we are called to do good work in the world like actually doing that good work. Monthly service projects with all ages working together makes this possible right within our ministry and our rickety old building.
So, I define Religious Education as the process of incorporating these three branches of action into a dynamic program that invites children and youth to participate.
The transformative power of Religious Education in fruition comes in when we open the heart and soul of a child or youth to their own power. When they are given the tools to become who they already really, truly are.
But, not easy.