Youth Religious Education

Youth Faith Formation at First Unitarian: Spirituality, Love, Compassion, Social Consciousness, Activism

At a time when many people are feeling extremely uncomfortable about where our country is headed in terms of the treatment of the less fortunate, people of color, and the most vulnerable among us, a Unitarian Universalist congregation may provide an answer many are looking for. In light of this, The First Unitarian Society has renewed its’ commitment to be of service to the local community, especially to families and children, and those who continue to be systemically disenfranchised. First Unitarian understands how the positive shaping of young minds and spirits can greatly affect these circumstances and our world for the better.

In our programs, young people are challenged to discover the divinity within themselves, as well as the universal spiritual values in various faiths, religions, and spiritual paths. This promotes acceptance of self and of others, as well as counteracting many of the prejudices that create a lack of caring and empathy for those who are different. Equally important is the concept and practice of love as a core principle to live by. This means that young people learn to acknowledge and embrace their connection to others, nurturing the powerful virtues of compassion and integrity. We are proud that this emphasis has helped many Unitarian Universalist children create a strength of character that builds kindness, the willingness to work against injustices, as well as to stand up for what is morally right. At First Unitarian, we are determined to be the place for families and individuals who are seeking a more enlightened, socially conscious, church experience.

The Program

We have offerings for three age levels this fall: weekly nursery care for children age 0-5, a multi-age class called “Miracles” (description below) and a biweekly youth group meeting (grades 8-12).

Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.  — Thich Nhat Hanh

A miracle: An unexpected event or revelation that brings an outcome one has hoped for, perhaps yearned for, perhaps despaired of, perhaps never even imagined. Whatever one believes about how or why it occurs, responding to a miracle with wonder and awe is entirely appropriate.

This six-session program invites a prolonged encounter with awe and wonder. Stories from our Unitarian Universalist Sources and hands-on activities engage a wide age span of participants to discern miracles, experience and express awe and wonder, and discover their own agency for miracle-making. Participants make a uniquely Unitarian Universalist inquiry—a religious search which simultaneously embraces the awesome truth of a miracle’s mystery and the “how and why” of rational explanation. Participants explore different kinds of miracles, from the awesome, ordered beauty of Earth and all life on it, to their own capacity to transform themselves and others to bring forth love and justice.

The wonder and awe inside most of us could use a wake-up call. Miracles surround us every day, yet often remain unnoticed in the hustle and bustle of our busy lives. We shovel snow, giving no thought to the singularity of snowflakes. We eat quickly, our minds on our next appointment, not life’s natural processes nor the coordinated human effort that brings food to our tables. When we rush off to sleep in our beds, under a blanket of stars stretching impossibly far off into space, we rarely pause to acknowledge the miracle of our small, unique place in the vastness of the universe.

Our age of science and innovation has bred a deeply rationalist culture. A child quickly learns that seemingly miraculous events such as remote control of a television, an elevator ride, or even the appearance of a rainbow all have physical explanations. While knowing how things work—from atom to machine to universe—is wonderful, we too often let knowledge turn our heads from wonder and awe.

In Miracles, participants create and observe physical transformations that, even when predictable, may strike us as miraculous. They explore miraculous, intangible transformations of human spirit. Over and over again, they experience first-hand the beautiful co-existence—even a synergy—of a rational explanation and a feeling of awe.

At this moment in human history, amid competing religious ideas, Unitarian Universalism has something important to say about miracles. This program affirms and nurtures our living, Unitarian Universalist legacy of scientists, celebrants of wonder, and truth-seekers of all ages, called to honor knowledge and mystery in tandem.

Goals

Miracles provides an encounter with direct experience of transcending mystery and wonder, one of the Sources of our Unitarian Universalist faith. The program will:

  • Guide participants to explore a Unitarian Universalist definition of miracle

  • Cultivate participants’ ability to experience awe and wonder

  • Teach skills of paying close attention

  • Affirm curiosity and questioning as spiritual values

  • Explore physical transformations through hands-on activities

  • Lift up the idea of personal transformation, which is fundamental to our faith, and lift up the power of our own agency to effect miraculous changes in ourselves and others

  • Introduce people in our faith heritage—May Sarton, Joseph Priestley—who embody the powerful entwining of awesome mystery with rational inquiry

  • Inspire reflection about our planet, all life that shares it, and our own small place in the known and unknown universe

  • Celebrate transformation and change as natural, welcome aspects of all life.

9/16/18 In Session 1, Naming Miracles, participants begin to share their impressions and beliefs about miracles, and formulate ideas about miracles they might see in the world around them, particularly looking at our planet and solar system as miraculous.

9/23/18 In Session 2, The Miracle of Close Attention, participants hone their observation skills and seek the miraculous in the common. They look, as May Sarton wrote, “with absolute attention” at objects in nature and discover miraculous patterns which exist all around us. Alternate Activities guide hands-on investigation of the Fibonacci number sequence, a pattern found throughout nature.

9/30/18 Session 3, Miracles in Nature, makes participants agents of miraculous transformation. They perform three hands-on experiments to effect changes of state, using their close observation skills to witness the process of change.

10/14/18 Session 4, It’s All in the Timing, invites participants to explore the miracle of serendipity by doing experiments. They will learn about Joseph Priestley, and his discovery of carbon dioxide.

10/21/18 Session 5, A Miracle Inside, explores the process of transformation as it applies to human beings. They identify people in their own lives—perhaps themselves—whose actions in the world would be more fair or just if they had a miraculous, inner turnabout. They explore what helps a person change.

10/28/18 Session 6, The Miracle of Social Change, extends the conversation of personal transformation to imagine miracles that would help their community and the wider world. Participants explore how an individual can promote miraculous change.

To register for this or any of our Religious Education programming, please click on this link: https://goo.gl/forms/8Ko5kNp9TkBBvGAu2