Jill Hall came to Unitarian Universalism as a young adult and became involved in Religious Education/Exploration shortly thereafter. She has filled many different RE roles in the various congregations she has been involved in; leading Religious Exploration groups for children, youth and adults, providing nursery care, leading worship, storytelling, serving on the RE committee and as DRE for two different congregations. Jill finds that her own faith development is continually expanded, refined and challenged through her work with young UUs. Jill has been KUUC’s DRE since 2014 and works in a local elementary school in special education. She lives in Keene with her husband, children and one very shaggy dog.
Religious Exploration News: June 2022
Most of RE this month will be me sorting, cleaning, inventorying, and otherwise leaving the program as shipshape as I can manage.
The Annual Meeting of KUUC will be held after worship on June 12. Please make plans to attend. The democratic process is a venerated part of Unitarian Universalist church polity, and the use of it is even codified in the UU 7 Principles. Come participate in the process or, if you are not (or not yet) a voting member of the congregation, observe. The act of participation strengthens the institution, and, bless it, democracy could use some strengthening right now.
Sunday, June 19: Flower Communion, another venerated UU tradition, will be part of the service. (Never been to a Flower Communion? Bring a flower to church with you, if you are coming in person. If you are watching from home, have one nearby if you can.)
After the service, it’s Sundae Sunday! Yet another beloved tradition at KUUC, which has been on hiatus for a few years. Yes, it means ice cream. With toppings! This will be my last Sunday as your DRE, although I’ll keep cleaning and organizing through the end of June.
I hope to see you at one or more of these events, but whether we meet in person or not, I wish you the very best of what summer in New England has to offer.
My tenure as KUUC’s DRE will end with this church & fiscal year on June 30. The Board and RE Committee are doing the necessary work to prepare for filling this role in the future. I am doing the necessary work to prepare the spaces and materials for others to easily pick up the work. But many have questions about what my role will be going forward
Professional standards for Religious Educator do not demand the same level of detachment required of ministers when ending congregational service. The code of conduct DOES require that every opportunity for success is afforded a new Religious Educator. What does that mean? It means that I will have no involvement in the Religious Education program for at least a year. I will not be sharing stories during worship, volunteering on the committee or to lead activities, offering my unsolicited opinion at coffee hour or on social media, or in any other way interfering with the new person and program. I will of course share my ‘institutional memory’ when asked, but only if asked, and only if asked by the new staff person. I won’t offer even solicited opinions or advice to the Committee or Board.
I realize this may sound draconian, but when one thinks through all the pitfalls of a long-term (eight years is a long time) RE professional continuing to participate in the congregation they served AND add the complication of that former RE professional also being married to the congregation’s minister, well, you can see why it is necessary to be strict about boundaries.
What WILL I do? I will attend worship. I will attend coffee hour. I will happily talk about tweens (I am a paraprofessional at Keene Middle School now, did you know?) and teens (Sylvie can start DRIVING in August!) and knitting. I’ll be an active friend of KUUC, just like I was for the two years before I was your DRE.
UU History – Explore More!
During the August 9, 2021 worship service, I shared the episode in UU History that is often called “the Empowerment Controversy.” I learned about this period, roughly 1967-1970, during the online Unitarian Universalist History course I took this summer. Here is a list of resources I used while preparing this service. When available, links to purchase through inSpirit, the UUA’s bookstore, are provided. Starred works are required texts for the course and are easy to read, informative and highly recommended.
Carpenter, Victor H. Long Challenge: The Empowerment Controversy (1967-1977). Meadville Lombard Theological School Press, 2003.
Ross, Warren R. The Premise and The Promise: The Story of the Unitarian Universalist Association. Skinner House Books, 2001.
** Peterson, Polly and Gail Forsyth-Vail. Missionaries, Builders, and Pathfinders: Unitarian and Universalist Stories from the Midwest, West, and South, 1830-1930. Unitarian Universalist Association, 2014.
As I mentioned in my reflection, to me an essential take-away about the Empowerment Controversy is that Unitarian Universalists keep trying to improve. Tangible proof is the recently released volume (also available in its entirety online) Widening the Circle of Concern: Report of the UUA Commission on Institutional Change. Unitarian Universalist Association, 2020. From the back cover: This report “represents the culmination of the Commission’s work analyzing structural and systemic racism and white supremacy culture within Unitarian Universalism and makes recommendations to advance long-term cultural and institutional change that redeems the essential promise and ideals of Unitarian Universalism.”
Click the link above to go to the home page for BLUU, an organization “committed to: expanding the power and capacity of Black UUs within our faith; providing support, information & resources for Black Unitarian Universalists; justice making and liberation through our faith.” (from BLUU’s home page). Click here to go to the donate page.
Resources for talking about race in your family
This blog post by “strivingshannon” cites a recent survey that only 6% of well-meaning white parents talk to their kids about race “often”. The author lists the top 5 reasons (from her work with parents in Atlanta) why this is so. Among the reasons she listed the one that resonates most with me is “fear of getting it wrong.” Her response to this is “you will.” Which is why we need to keep educating ourselves, growing in our understanding, recommitting to the work, and trying again. I encourage you to read her whole post. Here are some resources from the UUA and BLUU (Black Lives of UU) to help you educate yourself, recommit to the work, and talk to your kids.
Race, Class and other Complexities resource list, from the “Growing Young Justice-Makers” section of the UUA website.
Our Whole Lives
Our Whole Lives (O.W.L.) is the values-based lifespan sexuality education curricula developed jointly by the UUA and UCC (United Church of Christ)*. KUUC offers the segment designed for youth in grades 7-9 (or homeschool equivalent) in alternate years and – next year is the year! Right now, we are awaiting the rescheduling of the facilitator training sessions. Once we know when our facilitators will be fully trained and ready to go, we will announce dates for the 2020-2021 session of O.W.L. Participant meetings are traditionally held on Sunday afternoons; the actual schedule is flexible and will be determined with input from the facilitators.
Description from the UUA website: “Honest, accurate information about sexuality changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision making, and has the potential to save lives.” (www.uua.org/re/owl) If you feel called to serve your community by facilitating this program, please contact Jill, Rev Michael, or Barbara Bryce (RE Committee chair). If you’d like more information before deciding, please check out the UUA O.W.L. info page.
*while the program was developed by two religious denominations, the curriculum is secular – no doctrine or dogma is included, just honest, factual information and the core values of self-worth, sexual health, responsibility and justice and inclusivity.