I was thoroughly inspired at the recent Liberal Religious Educators Association Fall Conference, where the theme was celebrating our history. In the beautiful setting of historic Williamsburg, VA, the conference theme acknowledged the setting and the importance of our shared history. Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor and Rev. Dr. Nicole Kirk were both keynote speakers and each brought a depth of wisdom about our UU history that was riveting. (Their keynote addresses will be posted soon at LREDA.org). The aspect of bringing our identity to our UU history was a recurring theme of Paul Rasor's astute observations, and I began to think of the multiple ways to incorporate this consciousness into religious education programming, especially for youth.
I recently attended a training sponsored by the Indiana Center for Congregations, "Ministry for the 21st Child," with Ivy Beckwith, author of "Formational Children's Ministry: Sharing Children Using Story, Ritual and Relationship." What a worthwhile endeavor, and not just because it reaffirmed so much of where our thinking is going in Unitarian Universalist religious education. Hearing that our children and youth decidedly connect with their faith in a positive way, when their framing is based on relationship and a nurtured sense of belonging, was an affirmation. We know this, but to be explicitly shown that we can speak to Generation Z (those who are 9 or 10 years of age and younger) and the Millennials (largely young adults), in ways that feed their spirits and souls is heartening. Well, it takes us all being in conversation to sustain and involve these "plugged in" generational cohorts, and it takes intentionality. I believe that each congregation needs to ask itself this question: "How do we create communities that esteem and cherish children and youth?" It goes without saying that this is also a centering question for the range of ages into adulthood, but, in particular, if we go about nurturing and cherishing our children and youth then we will sustain their love and involvement in our movement. John Westerhoff, the esteemed Christian theologian, has written in "Will Our Children Have Faith," that communities are groups of people who share a common memory or tradition; who share common goals and purposes, and who have a clear identity. The heart of his observation is that in all of this group "work" there must be three generational views always present...of the past, present, and future.
If you are interested in holding conversations like this either in your congregation, or with a cluster of congregations, I would love to hear from you. Let's truly embody our being an "Association of Congregations" by being an intentional learning community of congregations!
In cherished relationship,