Religious Education > 2008 Newsletter Archive

Religious Education Archives 2008







December 2008


In December RE will be busy with the many activities that have become holiday traditions here at the church. We have been busy working on our Christmas ornaments for our annual ornament sale. In addition to our offering the ornaments to members of the congregation to purchase during Fellowship, the First Church is again lucky enough to be hosting the Garden Club Christmas sale this year. Our students will be selling cider and baked goods along with their handmade ornaments. The proceeds go directly to our social justice project for this year. Anyone who would like to support this event can do so by either sending in baked goods on Saturday, December 6th and 7th or volunteering to spend an hour or two with the children during the event. We had a nice turn out last year and had a great time with the Garden Club members.

Our much loved annual Christmas Pageant will take place on December 21st
during the service. If you are new to the church this is a very fun and special event for the children and the congregation. Rehearsals are after Fellowship on Dec 7th and 14th. We accommodate every child who wishes to participate. See Max Burbank with any questions.

Our Children’s Christmas party is December 21st. This is consistently one of the student’s most loved events for the year. (Chocolate Sunday is a close second!) We will have food, sing songs, and have a visit from Santa, who has a small gift for each child. Please let know if you will be attending this event, as Santa must always be prepared!

The Christmas Season is a special time for Religious Education students. In class we will revisit the beautiful story of Jesus’ birth in age appropriate ways. Our traditions and events become the cherished childhood memories of our children. How special that we can all share these moments with our First Church family.

November 2008


As Reverend Jeff is so fond of saying “No one finds themselves in church on Sunday mornings in the 21st century by accident”. As I sit in the Meeting House on Sunday mornings surveying the faces coming in and settling into the pews I find myself feeling a little thrill of joy at every one who arrives. Where did this feeling come from? Who are all these diverse people to me? Why am I so thrilled to see someone whom I do not interact with or possibly think about all week? Why do I seem to feel that same thrill of recognition for each person who walks into the Meeting House?

The answer is so simple I didn’t recognize it at first. We are a family. We are connected by our shared experiences here at the First Church. Banker, baker or bar tender, we are related. Mother, minister, widow, child, we are a family. Like a family we care about each other, not in spite of, but because of our differences. Like siblings growing up, we are learning from each other in the most basic ways. Worshipping, working, creating and celebrating together we grow as a community. I was taken by surprise when I recognized the strength of this bond within our wonderful congregation. We are truly a family here.

Our children here at the First Church understand intuitively that you and they are related. They do not question or struggle with the whole “church as a community” idea. They know and have always known that the congregation belongs to them and they to it. The First Church is their living room, where family members come and go as they please without fuss. It is part of the fabric of their lives.

I hope that the members of our community also view Religious Education in this same fashion. The Religious Education program belongs to all of us and we all belong to the Religious Education program. I hope we consider the moment the children are sung out of the Meeting House as a moment of golden opportunity, a rare chance for us to share the treasure of our experiences, our talents, our selves with our First Church Children.

Our Religious Education volunteer program is growing by leaps and bounds. At the same time however, the number of students we serve each week is growing. We wish for everyone in our congregation to have the opportunity to experience these wonderful treasures we have among us every week, our children. By volunteering in a classroom or for a special event, you are weaving the fabric that binds our congregation tighter. You are saying to our children, “you are a valuable part of this community, I care about you”. You are growing beloved community and growing your faith.

If you wish to discuss the best way for you to share your talents and you self with your First Church children, please see Julie Anderson or myself. We will listen to your needs and answer your questions about what volunteering for RE will be like for you. Come and have some fun, you will be glad you did. After all, every family needs to spend quality time together!

October 2008


Religious Education is off and running this September. We happily welcomed back our old friends and met some new ones on Homecoming Sunday. Our Coming of Age students, lead by Denise Granniss, had a wonderful and moving opening ceremony. We are all proud to have these special young people as part of our church family.

The new First Church Youth Group welcomed 12 teens at their first meeting, with several more interested in joining. They are engaged in the process of envisioning and building a new youth community from the ground up. The members laughed, played games, and used most of Wilson Hall for a giant ping-pong game!

Our first Religious Education Volunteer Sunday on September 21 was a success! Our volunteer coordinator, Julie Anderson, will be in touch with everyone who has offered their time and talents to our program. We love sharing the special talents of everyone in our congregation with our youngest members. If you are unsure about volunteering, speak with Julie Anderson or me. It really is fun! And maybe some morning when you walk into the First Church, a child will be waving hello to you!

World Communion Sunday is October 5th. This is our annual Sunday school bread-baking day. Have your RE students here on time to begin the baking in the downstairs kitchen.

Fall Family Fun night is Friday, October 24th. This is one of the favorite events for our students, families, and all who wish to share in some good Halloween fun. We will do crafts, play games, and maybe have a spooky tour of the First Church! We warmly extend this invitation to families who do not have a child in RE- Halloween is a great time of year to have fun with kids!

Our Halloween parade will take place Sunday, October 26th. Remember to have your child wear his or her costume to parade in front of the entire congregation. This is a wonderful tradition for both the children, who are so pleased to show off their costumes, as well as the adults, who get to watch the joyful parade around the Meetinghouse. Remember, this year, we are hosting a Hogwarts’ themed Sunday. So for all you fans of Harry Potter, plan your costume accordingly.

September 2008


Growing UUs; Children and Adults

It is true of Religious Education that the ongoing quality of the program depends on the time and effort of the people who give of themselves to sustain it. Without volunteers, Religious Education at the First Church would simply not exist. This year, as we continue to grow not only in numbers but also in our expanded goals for the program, we need more volunteers than ever. We are adding a Coming of Age class, several Gathering Sundays, and updated our curriculums. We are hoping that our enthusiasm for all this change is shared by the parents and friends of RE!

Being a Unitarian Universalist is always a journey. We learn and change and grow as we gain new experiences and knowledge. So how can we teach if we are still learning? This is the best part of teaching our children about our faith, the chance to expand on our own faith development! Sharing our personal example with our young people of what being a UU means, speaking from the heart about the many ways of being a UU, and showing the children that adults still learn and change and develop ideas is fundamental to growing lifelong UUs. Teaching our children is a great opportunity for self growth. As we help the children learn, they can help us remember who we are.

As many of us have come from other religious traditions, teaching this year’s theme of UU identity is a great way to learn more about our fascinating UU history. Lifelong UUs will also love being reminded of the great women and men of our faith who influenced so much of the history of this country.

There will be a volunteer information event Sunday, September 21st during fellowship. Information, curriculums, and volunteer schedules will be available. RE mostly needs assistants for our regular classroom teachers, so you won’t be alone! What an easy way to try out volunteering with our children! We ask for only one Sunday or event a semester, so you won’t be missing our beloved minister for weeks at a time!

Remember, it is not how much you know, but how much you are willing to share of yourself. Volunteer for RE this year! Have fun, grow your faith, get to know some special children, and help build a stronger First Church community.

June 2008


What… Me! Teach R.E.?

The R.E. Committee wants you…to teach! The Religious Education Committee asks you to consider teaching next year. We know you have a lot of questions, so we have answered some right here!

But I’m still forming my own religious beliefs-how can I teach religion to children?

Formulating our own religious beliefs is part of being a U.U.. Since we teach our children how to think about religion, to question and wonder, we don’t need theological certainty, just open minds and open hearts!

But I don’t know how to teach!

Don’t worry, we’ll teach you! We will provide training and support, both practical and emotional, anytime. Our curricula are easy, and are so complete all you have to do is follow the directions. The lessons are fun and interesting, even for adults!

But I can’t do it alone!

Of course you can’t, and we don’t expect you to! You will be part of a team working together with other teachers and your RE Committee liaison to share the work and the rewards of teaching. When it is your turn to teach, a teammate will be there to help!

But I don’t have kids in R.E.!

What better way to serve the congregation than to help our young people grow in our faith? You may find great satisfaction watching a child light up with understanding of new ideas or a middle school child develop their own faith statement. And our program will benefit from your viewpoint. A different perspective can be very helpful to a program like ours!

Well, I suppose I could, but what will I get out if it?

Sharing the excitement of learning and exploring new ideas with children can be very special. We learn as much from them as they from us. And the curriculum materials we provide give you the opportunity to explore and clarify your own religious ideas, and to discover the fascinating and varied heritage of our Unitarian Universalism.

But I enjoy Jeff’s sermons too much to be upstairs!
 

We all enjoy Jeff’s sermons. But a strong R.E. program is a very important part of our ministry here at the First Church. A commitment to teaching children is a way of actively living out our U.U. faith. And, with enough dedicated volunteers, you will still be able to attend at least half of Jeff’s sermons! Plans are also in the works to record Jeff’s sermons, so you can always listen to what you missed!

What ages will I be teaching?

We need volunteer support in all of our classrooms, we have grown too large for the staff we currently have. We are especially excited about the opportunity for two volunteer teams to lead the Coming of Age program. This is a small but wonderful group of young people; they are a pleasure to be with! Coming of Age will be a very powerful experience for both the leaders and the students. This is a great way to grow your faith and make lifelong connections with these great kids!

The RE Committee is available to answer any other questions you may have. Don’t be afraid! You can do this!

    Deb DiGiulio
    RE Director
    re@firstchurchinsalem.org

May 2008


    We in the RE group hope everyone enjoyed this year's Youth Sunday. The students were able to articulate what it means to be a UU in an active way that had meaning to the entire congregation. The students were happy to share their knowledge of World Religions, Sources of Our Faith and the Seven Principles with the congregation. I would like to congratulate all the students. You are all talented and wonderful! It is a pleasure to work with this amazing group of young people.

    Special thanks to Valentina and Max Burbank, Rev. Jeff, and Paul Madore for their dedication to our children. Thanks to all the parents who support this event by bringing their children to the rehearsals. We could never have this great event for our students without all of you pitching in!

    The RE Committee has chosen a Coming of Age curriculum. We are very excited as we begin to explore this new path of spiritual development for our middle school students. We will be looking for co- leaders to work with the RE Director to launch this program in the Fall.

    Sundae Sunday is on May 18th. This is consistently a favorite day for our RE students! Please be prepared to indulge yourself in a little ice cream and your favorite toppings- all to support Horizons for Homeless Children. We would appreciate donations of toppings and ice cream for this event. Please bring any donations as soon as you are able and give them to myself or Joe Perron. Thanks!

April 2008


    We in the RE group hope everyone enjoyed this year’s Youth Sunday. The students were able to articulate what it means to be a UU in an active way that had meaning to the entire congregation. The students were happy to share their knowledge of World Religions, Sources of Our Faith and the Seven Principles with the congregation. I would like to congratulate all the students. You are all talented and wonderful! It is a pleasure to work with this amazing group of young people.

    Special thanks to Valentina and Max Burbank, Rev. Jeff, and Paul Madore for their dedication to our children. Thanks to all the parents who support this event by bringing their children to the rehearsals. We could never have this great event for our students without all of you pitching in!

    The RE Committee has chosen a Coming of Age curriculum. We are very excited as we begin to explore this new path of spiritual development for our middle school students. We will be looking for co- leaders to work with the RE Director to launch this program in the Fall.

    Sundae Sunday is on May 18th. This is consistently a favorite day for our RE students! Please be prepared to indulge yourself in a little ice cream and your favorite toppings- all to support Horizons for Homeless Children. We would appreciate donations of toppings and ice cream for this event. Please bring any donations as soon as you are able and give them to myself or Joe Perron. Thanks!

March 2008


    In Religious Education we are continuing our study of major world religions. We have begun Hinduism and are enjoying our explorations immensely. If you catch a whiff of sandalwood incense during the Sunday service you are not imagining it! We are creating an authentic atmosphere to better understand Hindu beliefs and practices! We have learned that 13.3% of the World’s population is Hindu, most of them living in India. Our students will gain a basic understanding and respect for this ancient and colorful religion and the people who practice it.

    Easter is just around the corner and we are preparing for some of our favorite First Church traditions. We will celebrate Palm Sunday with our annual procession of the Palms and our Easter Eggstravaganza egg decorating party on Sunday March 16th. Please send in one dozen hard boiled eggs for each child who will participate. We are also on the lookout for volunteers for this event. Let me know if you wish to help .

    We are collecting candy filled eggs for the annual Easter Egg hunt on Easter Sunday, March 23rd. Please be sure to bring in one dozen plastic candy filled eggs per child for this event. In the past the congregation has been very generous with these filled eggs and we greatly appreciate all donations!

    Youth Sunday is April 13th this year. We truly hope every child in our Religious Education program can participate. I am including the rehearsal schedule here so families are able to plan ahead. I will be sending a sign up by email so we can plan for each child who wants to participate. Attending at least two out of the three rehearsals is what we hope for, but we will always make exceptions!
    The junior class is now enjoying their bright new room downstairs! If you have not ventured to the basement to see this little jewel please don’t be afraid to go down and take a peek! Many heartfelt thanks to all those who made the room possible!

February 2008


    We are happy to be having relatively quiet Sundays in our RE program now after the intense activities of the Holidays. We are diving back into our studies and resuming our routines, which is very nice for both the teachers and students. I thought this would be a perfect time to share some of RE’s philosophy on curriculum with the congregation.

    In the First Church Sunday School we use a modified emergent curriculum strategy. What this means is we set forth general guideline topics for the year, such as UU identity, Biblical literacy or World religions. These topics come from the UUA curriculum guidelines, the Seven Principles and Sources of Our Faith, from Rev. Jeff, the teachers or from the Congregation.

    When we bring these topics to our classrooms, we use an organic approach. We guide the children to the subject manner in an age appropriate way and let their interest determine the direction we pursue and the duration of class time spent on each topic.

We have found this approach to be successful in keeping the children interested and engaged. We are also able to tailor specific lessons based on the needs of our own children and the interests of our congregation. Anyone who has questions about our curriculum is always invited to ask Valentina or myself.

    Currently we are studying World Religions in our Sunday School classes. This topic comes from the UU Sources of our Faith: “Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life” and from the Fourth Principle which is “A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.”

    We are greatly enjoying this unit and are always surprised by the insights of the children! If you have experience in a religion we would love to have you come and share with our students.

    Laura Clark will be doing a slightly different unit based on friendship and acceptance in our First Steps class. This will be Laura Clark’s last year with us as she pursues college next year. Miss Laura has been with us for several years, starting as a babysitter then becoming a classroom assistant and has now led the First Steps class for two years. We have been very lucky to have such an able young person working with us!