Message from the DREAutumn

by Helen Rose, UUCT Director of Religious Exploration (DRE)

Hello and Bright Blessings!

I can’t believe we’ve reached November already! It is so nice to be settling into something resembling Autumn and our new routines in Religious Exploration. It’s been a bit of a learning curve for all of us the last few months, but things are going wonderfully so far and I’m excited to see how the rest of the church year unfolds as our children continue to learn and grow in fellowship and faith formation.

Research tells us that RE classes actually have the least amount of impact on faith formation. The most important factors in faith formation are how faith manifests in a child’s home life and how they participate in their faith community. I’m going to be discussing this in detail at an Introduction to Religious Exploration workshop I’ll be offering early in the new year, but for now, I’d like to focus on the community piece.

You may have noticed that there has been a significant effort to make worship more accessible to our youngest fellow travelers. This is for several reasons. First and foremost, everyone is welcome here. When we say “come, come, whoever you are,” we mean it.

Second, multigenerational worship – through weekly times for all ages or entire multigenerational services – does more for faith formation than any lesson or class can. I can teach children about a chalice and why we use it, and that is useful for them to know, but they will internalize significantly more about the feelings and messages surrounding it by participating in the chalice lighting alongside their families and spiritual community in worship every week.

Some things can be taught through lessons and textbooks – but our living tradition demands faith in action.

And sometimes faith in action requires, well, action! A child’s attention depends on their age and individual development. At UUCT, we expect our children, ranging in age from one month to 17 years, with most of those falling in the 4-9-year-old range, to participate in worship for about 15 minutes on a regular Sunday. For many of our kids, asking them to participate for that long with no accommodation for their developmental needs is setting them up for failure.

Because of this, we offer several quiet activities to help those who worship better with busy hands be successful in worship. These fidget toys, coloring sheets, and small crafts help children stay occupied so they can participate in the important faith-forming experience of community worship.

And this is a team effort! It takes children and caregivers knowing they are welcome, it takes preparation and care to make those first fifteen minutes engaging and developmentally appropriate, and it takes regarding accessibility in worship for children as seriously as we take accessibility for those with differences in race, sexual orientation, gender, or ability.

Thank you for taking on this important work with me.

In Joy and Adventure,
Helen Rose