Almost two years ago, I asked a question, using a traditional Masai greeting: How Are the Children? I described how pleased I was that the UUCA board wanted to “build access” to the whole church community. They were open to my invitation to visit the RE classes and talk to the kids and youth, hearing firsthand how it was with our children. Those conversations were focused on three questions:
What do you love about your church?
What would you like to do more of in church?
What could you imagine doing differently at church?
The conversations that arose from that “appreciative inquiry” were surprising, and wonderful. And they stuck with me. Our kids were so thoughtful, so engaged, so creative. And their ideas were excellent. I made a promise to them that day that I would carry their ideas with me, and do my best to bring at least some of them come to life. Today I am excited to report several successes in that effort.
The younger kids wanted more stories, more singing, and more time in worship! And just one more little thing: to have adults join us more downstairs, and for kids to be upstairs with them more. This inspired me. I told them I would do my very best to help make that change, but that I needed their patience. It’s wonderful to say now that we have helped these wishes come true, in a couple of meaningful ways: each Sunday, we now have time in worship together as a community of all ages, as well as the opportunity for adults to take part in RE classes!
We began a practice of being together for a short time at the beginning of each service, the part called Time for All Ages–the first 15-20 minutes. The majority of feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, although the change has been challenging for some. Especially for those who have gotten used to church without them–understandably so, in this age when fewer young families and their children are joining churches than ever before in our lifetimes.
And yet, our 3rd Principle calls us to find a way to be together in this sacred time and space. How might we be transformed as a church by this change–now, and in the future?
It’s an opportunity to share our beloved faith with our young people, and an essential part of their faith formation as UUs. With every-Sunday TFAAs, our children get more stories, the number one request in their feedback to the board. But so do the congregation’s adults, including RE teachers, who have never been able to be in worship on a regular basis when teaching! Families, too, report enjoying the special time together in the sanctuary. It’s a beautiful, sacred space and our children and youth want and need to be invited whole-heartedly into the experience of worship: after all, it’s what we mostly do as adult UUs.
Another success has been inviting adults to join in religious education for all ages at 9:15, after TFAA. We have 41 adults who have registered: just under half the total population of students at the early service. In yoga, hymnsing, social justice, and act-it-out sessions, as well as OWL for parents and a multigen class in “Miracles” from the UU perspective, we’ve made real strides in growing our capacity for faith development as shared work–not just for kids! Our Fourth Principle calls us to continue learning and growing in faith, throughout our lives.
I’m excited to share one more new opportunity for integrated worship and faith development of the congregation here at UUCA.
Mark your calendars for Feb 19th: our kids will plan and lead their own special worship service, coming up on Feb 19th, called Growing In Faith.
It will be a special time for our all ages and children/youth classes to show, tell, sing, and share what they have been up to this year in our RE program. We’ll see PreK kids lighting the chalice, and bear witness to the testimonials and talent of Spirit Play kids, the yoga class, drama, and hymnsing . You’ll hear songs and music, reports and snapshots,chosen by 4th-7th graders to bring you into their experience of growing in this faith. Like the CoA and Youth Worship service, seeing the work and creativity of our younger kids, co-led in this special program by senior high youth, should be a highlight of this year’s worship services.
As UUs, it’s truly a delight to bring our young people into the soul and center of our life as a congregation and to see them growing in faith, right along with us, learning with and from the congregation–and sometimes, having a chance to help adults learn something about this faith, too. I hope they’ll see you there!