We celebrated the formal dedication of our new building last night. It was a warm but still reverential service that left our whole community full and happy as if we'd all celebrated a fabulous harvest feast.
It is simply amazing to think that one short year ago, we had no plans to buy a building, no plans to launch a capital campaign. Nothing but dreams and hopes.
As the rain pounded on our windows and the wind whistled by, I was reminded of the opening hymn from the morning service:
"May nothing evil cross this door, and may ill fortune never pry about these windows; may the rain, and roar go by"
It was an honor to attend this service, and I have deep gratitude for the many ministers, including the UUA president Peter Morales, who came to celebrate with us. But I believe the most important blessing happens when our members come in and vacuum, or weed the gardens; when the children play and laugh and when we do dishes late into the night. This is a church that is deeply blessed by it's people. It has been anointed by love, and blessed by thousands of hours of loving care.
And that powerful loving care is why this is only the beginning of the story.
It's almost here! October 24th has been looming for months, now.
First there was April something, when we got the keys to the new church.
Then there was June something.....office move day.
Then September 5th. Big Breakfast and celebration of the move in the new building.
Then September 12th. FIRST SERVICE in our new church!
And now.....October 24th. DEDICATION!
We really wanted everything to be perfect and just right in the new building when we welcome the ministers and donors and our UUA president Peter Morales for this huge celebration. I just saw the "punch list" for the weekend--top priority tasks. There's a whole lot left to do. You really wouldn't believe how many pieces of trim and how much paint and myriad of details need to be attended to in a three story church. People have been working huge numbers of hours since June. Since May, really. And I know I had no idea how much time it takes to wash all the windows in a sanctuary--on scaffolding. Or to paint every inch of the walls. Or to create beautiful gardens and make all the mechanical things work.
So, depending on how the "punch list" goes today and tomorrow, the building may not be perfect. It may just be good enough. Kinda like people are good enough, with a missing doorknob here and a piece of trim that's too red there. I know my trim color is way off, and I'm missing a doorknob or two. But the people of my church don't care. My family doesn't care. It'll all be good.
Blessings for good work and good people and a beautiful church home.
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.
I'm still coming down off the "Start-up burn out" so I have no idea right now what is sacred to the adults in UU churches. You mean, there are actually grown-ups that go to church and sit down in the pews and stay for the whole service? What? This is so far from any reality that I remember on any planet in any universe that it doesn't compute.
But what's sacred to our children and youth? Oh yeah, that's the hot water to my Earl Gray for sure.
Here's what I think is sacred to our children:
"Do you see me? Do you think I'm OK? How about if I do this, do you still think that I'm OK? Do you like me? Now do you like me? Do you still like me if I do this? How about now? What about that person over there? Do they like me? What if I do this?" Answer: yes. No matter what you do, we like you. In fact, we love you and you can't make us stop. This is the recipe for community for some kids. It's not easy, but it is really worth it.
There must be flower communion, with the same music and the same vases every year. That's how you know it's really summer time. And there must be water communion. That's how you know it's really fall. When my family moved to a church that didn't practice water communion my children were horrified and continued to try to collect water for a few summers. Now, at the church I serve we celebrate water communion as a Children's Worship, and this year one of our young ones actually counted down the days until water communion. These rituals that are ours and only ours have to be practiced in a sacred way that honors a child's need for consistency and reverence. It's like a nightly family dinner for church. You just have to do it.
Nothing reminds us to include joy in our lives like children. Maybe it's playing dinosaurs before church or maybe it's planting winter seeds in the children's garden or maybe it's just deciding that for today it's OK to just play games for class on Sunday morning. Sharing joy is so much more important than sharing a fact or thought. Joy is what moves us. Joy is what makes us whole. Joy is the spark of the holy that brings meaning and hope to life. And no one needs joy more than children. This is not exclusive to Unitarian Universalists, but we have such a commitment to the sacredness of the worth of each person that we're required by our moral obligation to make "joy" happen for our children. Often.
There is a line to be drawn--things that are sacred to us are not necessarily sacred to all. But we don't draw a line to keep others out, just to know what is safe and complete and what is ours.
Want to learn more? I'm sure there's a Unitarian Universalist religious educator near you who is suffering from "start-up burn out" who would just LOVE it if you could take on planning the next round of soup lunches and in the process, get to know more. Come find out for yourself what is sacred to UU kids.
Having your very own Religious Educator can be a pleasure for the whole church family! Simply follow the Top 10 easy care steps outlined below for a healthy and happy Religious Educator:
10. Take your Religious Educator out for some fresh air every day. Long stays in the RE office surrounded by craft sticks and battery candles makes them frustrated and likely to drink pots of coffee directly from the carafe.
9. Bring your Religious Educator the entire list of craft supplies needed for the lesson to be taught well before Saturday night at 9:43 pm. While some stores are open this late, your Religious Educator is sure to be filling the slots of teachers who are sick and finding a great children's message for the outside speaker who "forgot" to prepare a story.
8. Remember, be careful not to pile huge loads of miscellaneous junk and building supplies in RE classrooms! Your Religious Educator still has that bad back from slipping on the stairs in the dark at the last youth group overnight on the way to brew coffee at 5:59 am! You don't want to aggravate that nasty injury!
7. When your Religious Educator begins screaming at the computer screen for the fifth time in 10 minutes, be sure to help recruit some volunteers to staff the game night or the spaghetti dinner as surely there have been six people who have changed their plans and can't help now that the weather forecast has taken a turn for the better!
6. During coffee hour, when the line to speak with your Religious Educator is winding out the door and past the parking lot, bring that trooper a nice cup of coffee! Remember, an IV drip for your Religious Educator's coffee just might be necessary given the constant need to answer questions, stop children from committing murder and plan meetings.
5. If you see your Religious Educator sit down and actually begin to enjoy the Sunday Service, be a dear and gently go over and shake them awake, the sleeplessness has surely taken over and you know they need to go check to be certain that the class full of the especially squirrley girls hasn't decided to make duct tape teacher traps instead of duct tape wallets.
4. To promote the longest possible length of employment for your Religious Educator, remember not to ask them what they do for their real career! This will make them grumble and wonder just what that Master's Level credentialing is all for, anyway!
3. Should your Religious Educator ask about taking a Sunday off, remember, don't say "But you just had a Sunday off last year!" Oh, no, no! Sit patiently by while the Religious Educator notices how much easier it is to just work on Sunday than to cover all those tasks.
2. If your Religious Educator begins to look crispy around the edges in September, October or November it's a sure sign of "START-UP BURN OUT!" Immediately remove all extra responsibilities from their four foot long "TO DO" list and bring the best chocolate available locally, administer in large doses. If smoke begins to come out of their ears, you might as well form a search committee, you've accidentally fried one.
And the number one thing to remember in the care and feeding of your Religious Educator:
1. Always, always hold a weekly meeting in the Fireside room overlooking the water--include the Religious Educator and other staff who love and care for the church and the children as much as they do. If you can, bring cookies. Laugh a little, cry a little and remind that Religious Educator that things that are worth doing are often pretty damn hard to do.
Working for a church can be completely exhausting. Add in a transition or two, and it's overwhelming. Pile on top some conflict and it takes you under the water where you think you will simply never breathe again.
And of course, you can't go to church to help you soothe your spirit, that's where you work for heavens sake!