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Religious Education

If one chases the chain of causation far enough back, it was OWL that made me a UU.

I didn’t go through it myself; I have, however, had long and complicated ruminations about the state of sex education and the ways in which it (or rather its lack) contributed to other things. And I have a friend who was an OWL teacher, and who journaled the experience.

And I thought, “When I have kids, I want to find a UU church, so they can have this thing.”

Which feeling only intensified because Oldest is AFAB.

When I got past the initial exhaustion of the new baby, I started looking for nearby UU churches, figuring it was better to become a part of a congregation early on. I did a search for Welcoming churches and found two nearby. One of them stated on their site that they were primarily a Christian and Jewish congregation; the other was… rather broader in population, from what they said, and put an emphasis on a music program.

And given that I was not precisely raised Methodist, I do appreciate a good music program.

So I went there, to see what it was like, and I never felt the need to look anywhere else. I wasn’t always reliable about making it there because of my sleep pattern issues, but I went, I wallflowered, I felt comfortable. And every time I went, the sermon felt relevant, and real, and connected, and it was good to be able to go somewhere where other people were doing much of the heavy lifting for religious stuff.

Of course, then we moved, some half hour away from church, and that ten minute drive was now a whole lot longer and harder to manage, and we had another kid we were wrangling, and time passed. I kept muttering I needed to get back there, and I kept not doing it.

Then Oldest started asking philosophical and religious questions. Oldest who would come in and point out ritual candles and proclaim, “You put fire on it!” when she was a preschooler, now asking things like “What is a god?”

I gave up one of my precious days for sleeping in to recover from having to be up in the week and I started taking them back there. Because I may not be able to do it for me, but I could do it for them – not just Oldest, but I asked Second about ‘church school’ and got an enthusiastic “YEAH!”

So we went back, starting a year ago, and it was either our first or second service there that was Religious Education Sunday. And we talked about it afterwards, how the kids were running things, talking about what they’d learned, and asked if they would like to be involved with that.

We were regulars through the summer break, too, and then they were formally enrolled in Religious Education. They did things with UU (and Unitarian, and Universalist) heroes and famous people, they did a unit on race and racism that I made damn sure to get them to over the winter, even the Sunday I had an accidental medication overdose and spent the service literally lying down in a corner of the balcony trying not to whimper, they studied environmental things this spring.

A few weeks ago, I got a message asking me if Oldest would be willing to speak about what she’s learned at this year’s RE Sunday. I asked her, and she said, “I’d like to sleep on it. Can I tell you tomorrow after school?” I said yes. We talked about stage fright, and how I did forensics all through high school and got stage fright every performance, and other things.

The next day after school I asked her if she’d speak, and she said “Yes.”

We wrote a draft of her speech the next day, her saying things and me tweaking the sentences lightly (but leaving in her second grade phrasings like “the ocean would be much taller”). The speech got revised several times, and practiced.

Yesterday, she gave it. She talked about the importance of reducing carbon footprints, and doing things to reclaim carbon from the air. She talked about loss of habitat for polar bears and penguins. She talked about rising oceans. She exhorted the congregation to work on their “carbon handprint” – the things actually done to reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere – with reference to the line drawing of a hand on the order of service.

Oldest is like me – prone to sticking to the edges in large gatherings, with her one or two best friends, uncertain and shy about other people. And she got up in front of a packed-full church, and she spoke about something that matters to her, the topic she chose from everything she’d learned.

I am so proud of her.

3 comments to Religious Education

  • Christine

    how wonderful! thanks for sharing this :)

  • Chad

    Excellent! We found our UU home almost two years ago (I was raised Roman Catholic, but my MiL was a UU minister) looking for a place that was comfortable to us and would be a good place for our little one(s) to be. Last year we did our first stint as teachers, and this year we voted in our first annual vote. I hope that when the day comes that our smalls are likely to stand in front that they do as well as your eldest.