At our church we believe that all of life is a part of the religious journey. You cannot separate the body from the spirit, the personal from the political. Thus, in addition to typical religious education topics like world religions, or Bible study, children in our church learn about and discuss issues such as the environment, gender roles, peace, and justice. Our goal is to provide a forum for considering every aspect of life through the lens of religion, making connections between our everyday choices and our overarching beliefs about the Sacred.
Our Unitarian Universalist principles and purposes affirm and promote “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.” This is more than a theoretical construct. It is also a call to people of all ages to engage in that search. In our classrooms we create a safe and supportive atmosphere for exploring tough questions about God, human nature, and the meaning of life. While the presentation of information varies based on the age of the class, at all age levels there is an abiding respect in the ability of the individual to engage important and challenging questions and formulate answers for oneself.
Just as we create the space for individual reflection, we also emphasize the learning that happens when we listen to others: both within our church and in the wider world around us. Our Unitarian Universalist principles promote respect for the interdependent web of all existence. Thus, we acknowledge that true religion cannot simply turn inwards, but must inevitably draw us back to the web of life. To that end, our curricula encourage compassion, service, accountability, and personal empowerment.
The curricula we use have all been developed by professional religious educators, utilizing information on human development as it relates to the religious impulse. Younger children learn about our world through stories, games, music, and crafts. Their natural wonder is encouraged as the celebrate nature; social development is nurtured as they talk about friendship and what it means to be part of a church; their eagerness to help finds an outlet in easy service projects. Curricula for older children and youth use more complex projects and discussion to reflect their growing ability to consider abstract religious and ethical questions. Topics are explored with greater depth and with more attention to building personal belief systems. In recognition of their increased independence, older children and youth also begin to play a greater role in the leadership and decision making of their groups.
Laughter, fun, and a sense of community are an important aspect of learning. In our classrooms we celebrate life, focus on gratitude, and sometimes simply enjoy some silliness together.
Written by Alice Anacheka-Nasemann, Associate Minister