I can't believe it's time to go to the LREDA Fall Conference, in NEW ORLEANS and I'm firmly planted here in Seattle! Arrgh! I've never seen the French Quarter, heard authentic New Orleans jazz live IN New Orleans. Never had a po'boy or fresh caught shrimp....never mind I couldn't eat that anyway. But I am missing it all, the whole world of Religious Educators who are either independently wealthy or haven't had their professional budgets slashed--are there!
I didn't have my professional budget slashed, not at all. My congregation is wonderful. I'm not going to NOLA because we have a big party at our (church) house this Sunday. We're dedicating our new home. UUA pres. the Rev. Dr. Peter Morales even coming to preach at our party. The bash was planned around the date that all the ministers will be in town for their annual retreat, although maybe not as many will come since the Rev. Dr. Bill Sinkford was just installed down the street at Portland First last weekend. Their party was bigger, but man...ours will have a lot of heart. And hopefully all the bathrooms in our new building will all work at the same time when the crowd shows. I'm disappointed that none of my colleagues (or maybe some who have been too busy to RSVP) are coming because they're all at the party down in the delta. But, man......I can't believe I'm not going!
See, the religious educators aren't just going down to New Orleans to bring the party. It's a justice event. It matches the mission of LREDA:
The center of our work as religious educators is belief in the transformative power of educating through our Unitarian Universalist faith.
There was even homework. And while I'd like to say that if we hadn't had the church year start up to end all church year start ups (hint....don't buy a new building at the same time you integrate a whole other church.....nope. Not unless it's the only way things will work like it was for us, well, then call me and I'll hold your hand thru it) I'd like to say that if we hadn't been so busy I would have done the homework even though I wasn't going. But I didn't and I probably wouldn't have. Part of this work we do as religious educators is the incessant putting out of fires and running the triage ministry, so I'd bet most of us didn't. I thought I should, and I hope that everyone going to NOLA did. I could see on facebook as colleagues read and watched their way through the prep that it was intense. But we are a learning community. We do what we do because we believe in the power of knowledge and learning. Even when it's hard.
LREDA is an anti-racist, anti-oppression, welcoming, professional organization open to liberal religious educators and those supportive of religious education. LREDA promotes the religious growth and learning of people of all ages and advocates for and supports religious educators and the field of liberal religious education.
I've heard that some ministers are advising the religious educators that they serve with not to join LREDA. That we're a "union" and will not offer them anything of value. I've heard it more than once. Granted, I sat at the LREDA booth at GA last summer and talked to a whole lot of wonderful ministers and presidents and search team chairs who really, really understood the power of a learning community for religious educators. But there are a few in every bunch, yes...even ministers. And no, LREDA isn't perfect, but honestly, from an insider like me I tell you the truth, it's damn good.
At the LREDA Fall Conference in New Orleans the attendees will be in the greater community. Serving. Learning. Learning how to be effective advocates. Learning how to bring the learning home. There will be sweat, and tears and probably some blood and many bag lunches.
These are the people who plan your programs for children and your Wednesday evenings for young adults and your Saturday morning for bible study. They run your Sunday mornings. These are people who often don't get a whole lot of face time in front of the congregation unless they have a passel of kids in front of them hearing a well planned story. These are people who work very hard and take this profession very seriously. They're out there working incredibly hard to understand a deep and painful justice or more accurately an injustice in this Western culture. (LREDA is a continental organization....go Canada!)
I am incredibly proud to be a LREDA member, a past board member and a fierce proponent for all religious educators working with all ages and stages of people to be members of this organization. We need this community. We all need our religious educators to participate in LREDA in whatever way possible--be it conferences, cluster gatherings, on-line meetings or study groups, and the LREDA list. Healthy religious educators = healthy congregations. No community = crispy, burnt out, and fried professionals.
Wish I could be there. I'm thankful for the great work of the people who planned the event. Thankful to the board and the integrity team and the good officers and everyone who is taking the time to GO!
Hope they post pictures. Hope they have a great time. Hope they learn a lot. And hope the bag lunches are amazing.