Religious Education > 2009 Newsletter Archive

Religious Education Archives 2009






December 2009

Here at First Church we went all out to celebrate October. Our annual Fall Family Fun Night was memorable with more than 70 friends and members taking part in the fun and games. Special thanks to our event coordinator Bob Soucy. Bob’s love for both children and Halloween were evident in his joie de vie as he hosted this intergenerational event. Can’t wait until next year Bob!

Watching our children as they march around the Meeting House on Halloween Sunday in costume for our Halloween Parade is always such a treat for the adults, as well as a special Halloween tradition for the families. Our students then “partied” in Willson Hall, with games, stories and crafts, even team scarecrow building! Fun was had by all.
We will finish up the Halloween season with a tour of the Witch House on November 1st. The children will get a tour designed for their specific age and developmental levels. This is a wonderful opportunity for the children of First Church to learn more about our historic neighbor. Thanks to Church Archivist, Kristin( Kobi) Kobialka, for doing the research to help us prepare the children for their adventure into the past.

The mission of overseeing our growing Religious Education program is a very important part of the ministry of the First Church. Our Religious Education committee, chaired by Valentina Burbank, is helping to grow our next generation of Unitarian Universalists. The RE committee met in October to begin envisioning the future of our RE program in this congregation. We have a wonderful and diverse group gathered for our committee and welcome anyone who would like to join us in preparing UUs who are ready to take on the future! We invite all who are interested to come to our next meeting on Wednesday, November 4th at 7PM.

Our wonderful program could not function without our volunteers, both parents and non-parents. So far this year we have been blessed with fabulous volunteers who are more willing than ever to teach a class, complete a task, manage an event or offer other needed help. This great outpouring of talented help is having a very positive effect on the quality and quantity of our programming. We are so thankful for the varied and wonderful gifts this community brings to our children. If you are able, please share your special talents with our kids, after all …” the more we share, the more we have”.

November 2009

The miracle is this - the more we share, the more we have.
Leonard Nimoy

Here at First Church we went all out to celebrate October. Our annual Fall Family Fun Night was memorable with more than 70 friends and members taking part in the fun and games. Special thanks to our event coordinator Bob Soucy. Bob’s love for both children and Halloween were evident in his joie de vie as he hosted this intergenerational event. Can’t wait until next year Bob!

Watching our children as they march around the Meeting House on Halloween Sunday in costume for our Halloween Parade is always such a treat for the adults, as well as a special Halloween tradition for the families. Our students then “partied” in Willson Hall, with games, stories and crafts, even team scarecrow building! Fun was had by all.

We will finish up the Halloween season with a tour of the Witch House on November 1st. The children will get a tour designed for their specific age and developmental levels. This is a wonderful opportunity for the children of First Church to learn more about our historic neighbor.

Thanks to Church Archivist, Kristin( Kobi) Kobialka, for doing the research to help us prepare the children for their adventure into the past.

The mission of overseeing our growing Religious Education program is a very important part of the ministry of the First Church. Our Religious Education committee, chaired by Valentina Burbank, is helping to grow our next generation of Unitarian Universalists. The RE committee met in October to begin envisioning the future of our RE program in this congregation.

We have a wonderful and diverse group gathered for our committee and welcome anyone who would like to join us in preparing UUs who are ready to take on the future! We invite all who are interested to come to our next meeting on Wednesday, November 4th at 7PM.

Our wonderful program could not function without our volunteers, both parents and non-parents. So far this year we have been blessed with fabulous volunteers who are more willing than ever to teach a class, complete a task, manage an event or offer other needed help. This great outpouring of talented help is having a very positive effect on the quality and quantity of our programming. We are so thankful for the varied and wonderful gifts this community brings to our children. If you are able, please share your special talents with our kids, after all …” the more we share, the more we have”.

October 2009

October in Salem - For those of us who live here, those three words have many different meaning: pride in our history, fun community events, and exciting family traditions, but also frustration with traffic, large noisy crowds and even less parking than usual!

For our children October simply means Halloween, the second most fun day of the year!
RE at the First Church has planned several fun and education events for this Halloween season. On Friday October 16th we will host our much anticipated Fall Family Fun Night from 6 to 8:00 pm. We will have games, crafts, fun food, and even a special spooky Halloween organ concert!

This event has been growing in scope and popularity for the last several years and we expect it to be better than ever. Wear your costumes and come prepared for fun! You do not need to have children to be part of the excitement!

On Sunday, October 25th we will host our annual costume parade around the Meeting House. Please plan to have children dressed in their costumes and ready to show-off! The entire congregation always enjoys seeing the fun, scary and - I hate to say it- super cute costumes on the children. Then we will be off to our First Church Halloween party in Willson Hall.

This year we are lucky enough to be adding one more special event to our Halloween calendar. On Sunday, November 1st. the entire RE program will be special guests at the Witch House, or as it is also known, the Jonathan Corwin House. The Witch House and the First Church have connections that go back to before the Corwin family even built the house!

Our children will have a special lesson before their visit to help familiarize them with the history of the Witch House and its connections to our First Church history. Thanks to our Archivist Kristen Kobialka (aka Kobi) for researching the connections for us. See the side bar for additional historical information.

October in Salem is a vibrant and busy month. October at the First Church is a special time for our children to grow in community with each other, the congregation, and our Salem neighbors.

Hope to see you at our special events

September 2009

Wow! September is here! As much as I hate to see the summer end I can’t help but catch the Fall excitement. A new academic year seems to offer such promise and anticipation. Fresh books, new clothes, new classes and teachers, September is a chance to begin again. Religious Education at the First Church is ready for a new year filled with all the great traditions and learning we love as well as some fun and promising new ideas.

Religious Education will be slightly different this year as we have changed the age groupings for our classes in order to better accommodate all our students. We have grown from four classes to five, plus nursery. This new grouping helps us teach age appropriate themes and creates classes of a more manageable size. We now have a Middle School class and our Coming of Age group has become the High School class.

We look forward to all our favorite traditional events like Halloween Sunday, our pageant, and Youth Sunday. These events keep all our children and youth bonded as a community and become special childhood memories for students and their families. In addition to these special events we have added a short group worship element for special Sundays during the year. This worship will be just for RE and offer spiritual elements as well as add ritual to our RE experience here at the First Church. We will use Willson Hall for these events which will take place during regular RE class time. Each service will have a chalice lighting, a story or mini sermon, hymns, and a closing and last about 15 minutes. Parents and adults are always invited.

Please remember that our program depends on volunteers. As we grow our need for our volunteers increases! Volunteer Sunday will be Sunday September 20. So be sure to come and look over the many the volunteer opportunities. With the High school and Middle school groups we have some new and exciting volunteer spots to fill! All RE families will receive the RE schedule, registration and volunteer forms in the mail the first week of September.

Homecoming Sunday is September 13. We will have a special welcome meeting in Wilson Hall for all our students during our class time on this day. Parents are invited.
I am very excited to see everyone and expect we will have our best year ever! June 2009

The Miracle of the Plastic Eggs: A Story of Generosity and Faith

This past Easter the First Church held our annual Easter Egg Hunt. For most of the congregation this is a fun event of hiding and hunting bright plastic eggs and of happy children counting their Easter egg loot and eating it! We calculate just how many eggs we will need for each child to have a nice full basket or bag. Having enough eggs also puts a stop to any competition before it begins. Having plenty of eggs shows guests and visitors that we not only welcome them, we were planning on having them and are happy they are with us. The right number of eggs sets each child up for success (In the egg hunt at least). Having enough eggs, in a way, is a very small symbol of how much we value our children.

Those of us involved in planning the egg hunt experience it in a slightly different way. We suffer though the agonies of plastic egg anxiety. This past Easter we calculated it would take over 700 eggs to achieve our goal of 12 eggs per child. We were stunned by this large number. Could we ever get that many eggs? In our worry we had Reverend Jeff announce the shocking number of needed eggs from the pulpit, asking for donations. We sent email reminders and made more announcements. We worried that the kids would be disappointed.
On Easter morning at 10:10 am we had 400 eggs. We were still worried. We watched and waited as the congregation arrived. We had buckets and bags ready at the meeting house entrance. The Coming of Age class was recruited as counters. We were ready. The congregation began to arrive. And they brought filled eggs with them. We held our breath. It looked like we might make it. Yes, yes, we reached the magic number! Over 700 filled plastic Easter eggs. Wow! But wait, people were still arriving, and they still were bringing filled eggs!

Oh my, did we get eggs! By 10:30 am The First Church had well over 1200 filled eggs for the children’s egg hunt. Well over. In 20 minutes we had gone from high anxiety to “Oh my gosh look at all these eggs!”

Next year I will have faith that the 400 eggs at 10:10am will multiply into enough for the entire crowd by the time service begins. And I will no longer worry on Sundae Sunday or Chocolate Sunday or any other event the First Church puts on for its children. Nor will I worry about volunteers or supplies or teachers or any other support the
Religious Education needs for the students.

With love and generosity this congregation always creates the best kinds of miracles, the ones where we roll up our sleeves and work together to make it happen.

May 2009

“ ...but trailing clouds of glory do we come”
~ William Wordsworth

Do children really need religion? They arrive with an innate religious knowledge. They have compassion, hope, and wonder, as well as despair and grief. They come to us with an inborn spirituality, “trailing clouds of glory” into this world.

As Unitarian Universalist parents, we want to keep this inner knowledge open and growing. We want children to stay connected to that inner sense of wonder. We want our young ones embrace life as a gift. We want our children to be compassionate, have integrity, and value their world and everyone in it.

Many of us are unprepared when our children ask us about God, about the after life, about prayer. We know how we answer these questions will have a lasting impact on how the child views religion and even life. As parents, we need to provide the context in which children can develop their spiritual gifts into healthy values. A church community and a strong Religious Education program are invaluable in moments like this.

Religious Education helps children explore the mystery together and provides support and structure for that exploration. We show children how to use their mind and hearts to determine what is right.

We expose children to stories, songs, and beliefs to broaden their understanding and develop their spirituality. Regular attendance helps children bond with and feel comfortable in his or her religious community.

In our Religious Education program here at The First Church, we only see a child for one hour a week. A big portion of what a child learns and thinks about religion and spirituality comes from the family. Speak to your child freely about the big questions.

Celebrate your child’s innate spirituality. Invest family time supporting your commitment for your children to become adults who are still the spiritual beings they were when they came to you, “trailing clouds of glory”.

April 2009

The First Church Village

Children today are tyrants. They contradict their parent,
gobble their food, and tyrannize their teachers. ~ Socrates (470 - 399 BC)

I guess attitudes about children haven’t changed as much as we like to think they have in recent years. I suppose children have not changed much either in the last 2,500 years.

In my professional life, as well as at home with my two teenagers, I find great comfort in the fact that ancient Greek mothers had daughters whose response to any question was the classic eye roll. I picture Socrates himself listening to a litany of excuses from a teenage boy as to why he has not done his schoolwork! At least Socrates did not have to compete with TV, video games, texting, and Face book. Children in the ancient world were likely part of a tight knit community that depended upon each other for their very survival, a group where neighbors, friends and extended family all played a role in the upbringing and education of the child. A community that knew each child, and had an organic participation in the growth of the child.

While children have not changed much over the last few thousand years, our society has. Our society is no longer built around neighborhoods; we no longer live with or near extended family. Modern society, with all its instantaneous electronic communication, isolates groups across age lines more than any past society. Generational differences today are almost as divisive as cultural or religious differences were in the past. So how do we build a bridge to this generation of young people? How do we keep our community together?

The answer to that is very large. I do feel strongly however that what goes on here in the First Church on Sunday mornings is a key piece to growing authentic community across generational lines. Fellowship hour is a magical throwback to the ancient ideas of community. While you may not notice it, the children are watching you. They are watching to see how you react to them, if you are happy to see them. They are looking for the connection, the feeling of being a neighbor, of being a cherished member of a group. The children want to be a part your village.

I would like to thank Socrates for reminding us that the romanticized ideal of childhood is a pipe dream. Children are challenging, they do things that make us crazy and even uncomfortable. But without the children, what good is the village?

March 2009

Chocolate Sunday was a great success! The amount of volunteers who step up and own an event here at the First Church is impressive. Heartfelt thanks to our excellent volunteers who ran the Chocolate Sunday event and to our volunteers for the Darwin Day celebration. You are UU Super Heroes!

Our February Kid’s Night Out was fun for all who came. Thanks to our volunteers and to our First Church Youth Group members who helped with the crafts and games. If you have not yet been to a Kids’ Night Out, you are missing a fun time to socialize with other members of our church community. Remember, adults have a good time at this event too. Not having children is never a reason to be excluded from all the fun here at First Church. all are welcome.

An important part of growing our church community is getting to know one another better. While Fellowship is a wonderful time to chat, I have discovered a much better way to make friends and meet people, volunteering. For each person whom I have gotten to know better through volunteering in my classroom or working together one of RE’s special events, I have come closer to the ideal of beloved community. When I get to sit with the Alliance on Tuesdays or take part in a First Church community event, I feel I am more connected to our congregation. The best part of the First Church is not our building or our theology, (or even our minister), but each and every person who walks through our door.

Getting to know a person who is a stranger to you can be awkward, but working with other members of the congregation in a volunteer capacity is a wonderful ice breaker. You already have something in common with other volunteers, this church! You will meet some fun and interesting new friends. Reach out and become part of our community, you will be glad you did.

March this year brings one of Religious Education’s biggest undertakings, Youth Sunday (March 29). Our theme this year, in case you haven’t guessed, is UU Super Heroes. The history of Unitarian Universalism is packed full of extraordinary men and women whose lives can be inspirational for us all. The hardest part of teaching about our heritage is choosing which extraordinary lives to share with our students. Unitarian Universalism is part of the history of this country and of the struggle for freedom in all its forms. Our children and all of us can take great pride in our heritage as Unitarian Universalists. See the side bar the Youth Sunday rehearsal schedule. For an extensive list of UU biographies, check http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/

Happy Spring

February 2009

Dust off your baking pans and take out those cookbooks, Chocolate Sunday is coming! February 8th is the day to bake your favorite decadent chocolate treats and help the children of the First Church Sunday School raise funds for their social justice project, The Salem Mission. What a great reason to indulge in a special chocolate treat for yourself too. Please help out by bringing in a special treat to sell and buying a chocolate treat to take home. All funds raised go directly to the Mission Food Pantry.

Our students will be celebrating Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday this month. Juniors and seniors will have one Sunday dedicated to a Darwin lesson, and then we will all celebrate Darwin’s 200th birthday on February 15th during our Gathering Sunday. Any friend or member who has special interest in Darwin or evolution is welcome to share their expertise with the RE classes. Just let me know.

Our Spring Family Fun Night will be on Friday, February 27th. This is a great social event for the entire First Church family. All are invited to attend. We will play games, make some fun crafts and hang out together. Family Fun Nights are great opportunities to volunteer for RE. We need lots of help with crafts, games and clean- up. See Julie Anderson to sign up to volunteer.

January 2009

The whirlwind months of November and December are behind us. In terms of fundraising, volunteering, attendance, and community spirit these last few months have surpassed our greatest expectations. We have raised a tidy sum for the Salem Mission, had more volunteers in our program than ever before, our attendance, including new friends and old, is considerably greater in numbers and more regular, and our bonds within the greater First Church Community continue to grow stronger.

Our annual Christmas Pageant was a great success. Thanks to Max Burbank for the all the work he puts into this event. We truly appreciate him! Our fabulously talented First Church RE Players outdid themselves this year! Congratulations to all!

Our social justice fundraiser on the Garden Club weekend was a big success. We were able to raise more funds than ever before mostly due to a huge network of baking and selling volunteers. So many of our congregation took part in this event it became a First Church Community event rather than an RE event! Thanks to Valentina for the hours spent organizing the bake and ornament sales. Thanks to our RE children for the hours spent ornament making and selling cider. This was a great group effort to benefit the Salem Mission.

Religious Education at the First Church is ready to jump into 2009! We are looking forward to the relative peace and quiet of the winter months. The children are enjoying their studies of UU Identity and we all have lots of fun in class each week. We love having volunteers come into the classrooms to see what we do and to help out. Julie Anderson will be working her magic on volunteer organizing this month so please speak to her about how you can help out in RE.

All the important events that make the holiday traditions at the First Church so special for our children simply would not happen without the continued strong and loving support of the congregation. As the Religious Education program continues to grow rapidly, we will need all that love and support more than ever. Thanks for all you do for these great kids!