Tend the Spark, Carry the Flame

 

Religious Exploration Programs Keep Our Members Afloat

By Jennifer Carver, Debby Tipton, and RE Families

What a year for Religious Exploration (RE)! Helen, our Religious Exploration Director, has done an amazing job of providing RE opportunities during the pandemic, when families have needed them more than ever.

Just some of the creative activities they have organized are a stuffed animal sleepover (participants received photos throughout the “party” showing the lucky stuffies doing party activities), a socially distanced Halloween scavenger hunt, craft projects on Zoom with craft kits that parents pick up from the church, and more.

In addition to the nearly weekly RE offerings, Helen started new programs to support parents and youth: a social justice-centered parent group and a new middle school group that plays Minecraft (an online game) together. They also have provided ways for our youth and families to be a part of the church community – whether being part of the chalice lightings, taking part in short video clips on Chalica that were posted on Facebook for others to view, or participating in the KINDemic Challenge. With their leadership and Kerry Burner’s unwavering behind-the-scenes support as VP for RE, participation in Religious Exploration has actually increased over the pandemic.

Our UUCT youth group has performed an essential service for our youth, whose lives have been turned upside down in the last year. They have held weekly meetings on Sunday afternoons, occasional movie nights, and socially distanced bonfires. According to members of the group, youth group has provided an opportunity to just hang out with people, meeting up every weekend. They said it’s nice to know there are people to talk to and a way to keep in touch with reality, grounding them. It’s a safe place to talk about things, and Helen (DRE) and Aun-Drey (youth guide) are amazing people.

Our middle school and younger children have enjoyed the RE offerings as well, especially the fun crafts which included a Zoom watercolor lesson from Rev. Robin (UUCT minister emerita)! One middle schooler said it is nice to be able to connect on Minecraft because it’s a mutual interest, and we can’t safely be with each other in person. In fact, the Minecraft gathering is so popular, it is being expanded beyond just the middle schoolers (3 rd -12 th grades)! These online RE activities have helped our children and youth by providing regular fun activities to help them feel less lonely.

It’s not just our kids that have benefited from our RE programs during this time. The Justice-Centered Parenting group provides a supportive space for parents and an opportunity to pause and check in with themselves and their peers. While the general focus is on how we can continue to incorporate UU values, social justice, and anti oppression into our parenting, as the pandemic has continued, the conversation includes general discussion about how families are coping, adjusting, and growing. When the group’s regular meeting night fell on the November 2020 election night, they hosted a Zoom drop-in space for reflection and conversation for the larger UUCT community. The group provides much-needed support and solidarity, recognizing that parenting is especially difficult right now, but we are all in this together.

Helen also organized the KINDemic Challenge, an opportunity for the UUCT community to perform acts of kindness (or kindlets) for each other. These acts included musical concerts, ice cream sundaes, meals, small gifts, cards, and more – a nice way to connect.

UUCT Religious Exploration programs are just one of the many ways that UUCT has tended the spark for our members this year, allowing our members, especially parents and, kids to maintain ties with the UUCT community throughout the pandemic.