Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Five Good Reasons for Spending a Lovely Week In Oregon this Summer

Religious Education Leadership School is happening this summer! Been thinking about going? Sending your youth advisor, your Adult RE director? Wonder if the money is worth it? It is.

Here's why:

1. Religious Education Leadership School taught me about the systems that do exist in churches and the systems that can exist in churches. I had read pretty extensively about systems theory prior to RELS but the way it is presented and the context it's given have allowed me to have a much deeper understanding of how my congregation actually functions and how it could potentially function. I can see a difficult situation coming and work to change things so we have less trauma.

2. At RELS I learned about being a leader. Now I've always been a leader. I was even a team captain at patrol captain camp when I was 11! But I learned about stepping into this role and about the implications of enacting that leadership in our congregational community. I notice that as well as the LREDA leadership positions I've been asked to fill in the years since RELS, I feel more comfortable in my role as a church leader and a professional Religious Educator. That confidence has allowed me to take big steps in our program that I'm not sure I would have taken. Good steps, things that have helped us grow by 15 more children in those two years (Like hiring teachers and creating a 2-3 year old class)

3. I made continental connections in the Religious Education community. While I appreciate my PNWD colleagues a great deal, to know people from all over North America expanded my understanding of how RE can work. It expanded my base of colleagues to reach out to with questions and for advice. And I learned just from hearing how things are done in Florida and Rhode Island and Colorado. This doesn't sound like a big thing, but you can compare it to being a well traveled person. You don't really understand about other cultures until you've been in them, and you're a better person for it.

4. Learning about Theology, Communication Skills, Anti-Racism/Anti-Oppression/Multi-Culturalism (AR/AO/MC) and UU History. It was almost like a Renaissance Module on each topic, with truly excellent faculty presenting.

5. The last thing that I always get from time with colleagues is renewal and inspiration. This is vital in keeping us from leaving the profession of Religious Education. Helen Bishop, the dean of the school, uses music as her spiritual practice. At my RELS we all sang all the time--and made a cd of the songs we learned. I listen to that cd when I have decided that I'm resigning and that someone else is just going to have to finish the year, or start the year, or continue the year. Or figure out who is bringing flowers. Or recruit volunteers to teach or bring soup or whatever! It brings me straight back into beloved community. I remember that I love my work, and that it is really all worth every tough moment. I'm so thankful for that touchstone. This deep experience of learning and sharing and growing is much more powerful than GA, or a Renaissance Module or other things I've been to (I've not been to Star Island RE Week or The Mountain). The work we do is difficult work, and I am not sure I'd have stayed without the sustained week long experience of RELS.

For more information check out the PNWD website.

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