Faith Formation

Working with the kids and the youth was my greatest joy in the small fellowship I returned to in my 20s, to the point that congregants used to ask me if I was going to be a “downstairs minister” when I finally took the plunge. I hope that I will always be a “downstairs minister” if that means that I’m engaged with our amazing children and youth and their formation.

At left, leading a song behind the chalice table. At right, draped in saffron, the kids are helping me tell the Earth Day story of the Buddhist monks who made trees sacred in order to save them.

As Unitarian Universalists, we do faith formation in our worship, in our small groups, in our retreats, in our leadership development, in our RE classes, our youth groups, our social action, our potlucks and choirs, and in our Common Quest. In fact, everything we do in the church is faith formation; the congregation is the curriculum.

I am a big fan of the work of Karen Bellevance-Grace’s writing on Full-Week Faith, which recognizes that parents and caregivers are the primary spiritual and religious educators of their children. Helping us all to live our values in the many hours outside of those precious Sunday mornings. To help children grow through spiritual practices and exercises, they have to be surrounded by folks who have done that work too, who have developed a spiritual maturity that anchors them. Which means we need to offer opportunities for our adults to grow in these ways as well.

Our congregations are at their best when they’re nurturing intergenerational connections, when kids become youth who proudly claim ours as their church and know every nook and cranny of the place, and who develop appropriate, trusting relationships with adults outside their families. I love meeting young adults who can say, “I was loved and supported and encouraged by so many people there. I give more to the world, and my own life is better, from having been part of that community.”

We each have to be committed to our growth. Unitarian Universalism is a tradition of perpetual revelation. There is not one text, understood one way, that guides us. It is one of our greatest strengths and one of our dearest responsibilities. We gather, aware that we are still searching, always open to new insights shared by another. That our free search for truth and meaning doesn’t have an end, and being response-able to it requires that we be always learning, we know ourselves, be willing to share those selves with others. My hope is that, as your minister, I can support the congregation in being open to revelation, to new possibilities, to deepening understanding, and to being committed to doing that work and supporting each other in it.

Tidbits

  • I was a youth advisor for about seven years, served on con staff a dozen times, led coming of age programs as both a minister and a layperson, nurtured youth leadership as a senior camp staff. I also served as the chair of the Continental UU Young Adult Network, and have a strong desire to work with our young adults on their needs and building a thriving ministry there, in part so that we actually have a bridge and not a chasm in the transition from youth to young adult.
  • Currently I serve as a trainer of trainers for every level of OWL. I’ve trained at least 300 OWL facilitators from across North America, and some from the Caribbean, the Philippines, and Sweden. I’ve also led every level of OWL in congregations, and am very excited for the release of Older Adult OWL (it really is coming!).
  • So much of our curriculum for older adult UUs is geared towards looking back, recognizing the wisdom we’ve accumulated, thinking about the stories we want told when we’re gone. I’ve lately been considering how we might both honour the lifestage and transitions of growing older, but also look forward from that place, towards the possible.
  • I’ve been thinking for a while about what models for ‘retreats’ might look like in congregations, recognizing that the costs in time and money of going away to retreat centres is a big barrier to participation. They likely wouldn’t involve sleeping on the floor.
  • I’m very interested in the Common Quest work that the congregation has done in the past. There is so much wisdom and capacity in the members of our congregations that could be shared in programs we offer one another. I don’t just want to talk about what I can offer in terms of adult programs, I want to learn what you might offer and how I can help that happen.