If your child has a cell phone, personal email address, social media account or internet-enabled device, we strongly encourage you to:
The care-free months of summer are fading into memories and the new year is fast approaching. There is much to tell you about the coming year- programs, improvements, and a few changes- all of which are below. It has been a busy and productive summer! But also, a lonely one, without you around. I look forward to seeing all of you on September 9th!
First, A few announcements:
This column is about sex. Did I get your attention? Well, stick around and read on:
Actually, this column is about Our Whole Lives or OWL, one of the best programs about sexuality that we offer as part of our religious education program here at All Souls. Our Whole Lives is a secular program that is taught in faith communities such as ours as well as primary and secondary schools, charter and home schools, colleges, correctional facilities, and other group settings (like youth or young adult groups). It is a secular program but gives clear messages about values we care about: self-worth, sexual health, responsibility, justice, inclusivity, and decision-making. As the description on the Unitarian Universalist webpage reads: “Our Whole Lives recognizes and respects diversity with respect to biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, sexual orientation, and disability status. The activities and language used throughout the program have been carefully chosen to be as inclusive as possible of this human diversity.”
There is a new awareness about sexuality and boundaries in our society and people trying to navigate a changing and sometimes confusing world in these areas need resources and education. Next year we will open our OWL program to the community. We plan to offer the Kindergarten and First Grade OWL, the Fourth and Fifth grade OWL, and the Junior High OWL and we will offer the Adult OWL if there is interest. We will charge a sliding scale fee and we will pay our OWL teachers, too. All OWL classes will be offered during the second hour (11:30 until 12:30 or 1:30 for the Junior OWL). Each class is 8-10 sessions and will be offered the first of each month. The Junior OWL will also have two half day retreats.
We are moving the time for OWL for a couple of reasons. First, we want people from outside of All Souls looking for a program such as this to find it whether they are looking for a church or not. Of course, it would be great if they join our community but if not we have at least given them valuable tools for their whole lives. Second, not every family is ready to take the OWL class when it is offered and so the family waits out a year or their attendance drops off in the religious education program. We want to be a space for everyone, no sitting on the sidelines for religious education!
If you have questions or would like to get trained in OWL, please email at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the Our Whole Lives program is available at https://www.uua.org/re/owl.
Our church culture has been changing. Carey Nieuwhof, a minister, consultant, and podcaster, tells us the culture of church is changing for several reasons:
In our program we are shifting from an education model to a faith formation one. As we shift, we will more fully live into our mission of spiritual formation: that is, nurturing and promoting spiritual identity, discovering and articulating a belief system, understanding covenant and community, and living our faith in the world. Our new model includes traditional curriculum, many ways to worship together, abundant resources about our religion, more ways to connect, and an emphasis on Unitarian Universalist identity. So now we have new questions: Are lives being changed? Are we growing Unitarian Universalists and thus Unitarian Universalism? Can people talk about what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist?
To counter the cultural challenges that face congregations and to offer to the world that so needs a religion such as ours a source of grounding, we must take our Unitarian Universalist faith seriously. We must offer people resources and support in their spiritual formation. We must learn to talk about who we are. We have something great to offer: inclusivity, diversity, interconnectedness, love, and hope. The world needs a faith such as ours. And so do we.
Every once in a while, I think it is a good idea to remind the congregation of our mission in the religious education program. It is to promote spiritual formation. We fulfill this mission through:
Spiritual formation begins with our parents, then through worship, and finally through religious education classes. Our goal in our program is to support parents as the primary religious educators in their children’s spiritual formation. We are experimenting and trying new things. If you would like to be a part of our program next year- by teaching, telling stories, offering music, or something else- please let me know!