Every month, I will explore different ways in which we might seek out a spiritual touchstone – a personal ‘true north.’ This month, I’m focusing on the spiritual, moral and educational needs of youth.
The religious education of our children and youth is a social justice issue. I keep hearing, from many sources, about a tension in our fellowship regarding the importance of R.E. Really? Because it seems very clear to me – religious education, mentoring and care of our young people, is an internal social justice issue for all congregations. Let me explain...
In a sermon last month, I shared a story about a gay 15-year-old, unaccepted at school, who needed a safe place to just be himself, and to be among people who cared about him. He found this in the UU church (that I formerly served), especially in our youth group. Another family I have known had mixed racial and religious histories. The husband was a southerner of African-American descent and had been a Baptist, while his wife was Jewish, from a white family originating in New York. Cultures collided, and their extended families didn’t know what to do about it! Just as troubling, their children were not accepted in the church from which the husband came, nor were they welcome in a synagogue of the conservative tradition in which the wife was raised. Over the years, this family embraced UU values, and was so delighted to find that their children were accepted and cared about in the R.E. program at our church.
For a number of reasons, many that I probably don’t know yet, the Kitsap UU Fellowship has declined in membership numbers and in pledges. It is the experience of many of us in ministry that churches that are vibrant, with programming for and by people of all ages, are much more likely to grow, and keep on growing. Maybe this is the issue? Are there some who wish the Fellowship to stay small? I ask this, only because it has been shown that a congregation needs a robust, active Religious Education program, with a full-time DRE, to be a healthy and successful congregation. This has been shown time and again, in many congregations from many denominations. It’s a bit of conventional wisdom that I hope will be recognized here.
Elsewhere in this newsletter, our DRE for the last year, Amelia Carroll, announces her upcoming retirement (the exact date has not yet been set). I am sad to see a staff person leave so soon after I arrive, but know that she is on a path in life that excites her, and she has many plans for her future after she sells her house and moves on. Let’s be grateful for her time with us, and see her off with happiness for her and her future plans, and also with good grace as we plan out our R.E. program after she departs. As we begin to talk about a search process for our next DRE, I wish to inspire us to have a deep, healthy, and honest discussion about a future vision for youth programming at the Kitsap UU Fellowship. Perhaps it is cliché, but clichés become such for a reason: The Children Are Our Future. If we do not share our values with our young people, who will carry on our social justice work in the future? If we do not share our faith with our young people, who will carry on our religion in the future? How do we help our young people to each develop a moral compass with which to find his or her own True North? These are important questions, and I encourage you to give them great thought before we all gather to discuss future programming at KUUF.
Speaking of gathering, I am hosting two up- coming “Town Halls” at KUUF. These are events where we can celebrate being a Fellowship together, and where you can share with me your ideas about what programming you would like to see here. There is going to be a general town hall on Saturday, September 22 at 5 p.m., to discuss all programming at KUUF, and another that will be particularly focused on families and youth programming, on Saturday, September 29 at 5 p.m. Room to be announced.
The first day of children’s R.E. classes will be Sunday, September 16. Parents of children and youth who are interested in participating in Lifespan Religious Exploration at KUUF are encouraged to register their kids in the program, ahead of time. Volunteers for teaching are also needed (which is not limited to parents!) For further details, please e-mail email@example.com. Thank you!