our callingFrom the President
Grow with religious education
This spring's Palm Sunday service at All Souls Unitarian Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, may have been just slightly over the top. To illustrate the story of Jesus entering Jerusalem, they invited Jack, a donkey retired from a local stable, to help. Their sexton, Aubrey Johnson, rode Jack into the sanctuary while the children waved palm fronds as the procession passed. Jack enjoyed much petting and affection, but they noticed that he was limping a bit, so decided not to let the children ride him. They did allow the Rev. Marlin Lavanhar, the senior minister, to get on for a picture.
The congregation later learned that Jack was limping because his owners used him for roping practice. So they raised several hundred dollars to buy and retire Jack, in the “Save Marlin's Ass” campaign.
All Souls has a wonderful way to do intergenerational church. Each month there is a spiritual theme that provides a common focus for Sunday worship as well as religious education classes for children, youth, and adults. The themes, Marlin writes, “become elements of an ongoing community conversation.”
Kathy Keith, All Souls's director of religious education, reports a 20 percent jump in church school attendance this year and sixteen new members at the congregation's most recent monthly Joining Sunday.
Reaching out to welcome new people is an important topic. We know that our wounded world needs our presence and our message. Prominent in the stories of congregations that grow is almost always success in religious education.
At the First Parish in Hingham, Massachusetts—the “Old Ship Church”—two longtime members read the congregation's religious education prospectus and decided to support a local newspaper ad describing the program, listing our Seven Principles as well as course offerings for various age groups. Enrollment is up by half. After a period of stable membership and attendance, the Rev. Ken Read-Brown is welcoming new families and many of them say the ad brought them to the church. Today this church, gathered in 1635, has new life.
The Rev. Liz Greene of the Boise, Idaho, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, which has grown by 16 percent in five years, says the key factor is probably Religious Education Director Jennifer Thomas's “excellent, professional, innovative, on-top-of-details leadership, and the excellent close working relationship between us.”
Because religious education is so critical to our growth and vitality, we are working hard to support religious education, what we now call Lifespan Faith Development. A very exciting and long overdue new lifespan curriculum series is in the early stages of development. These innovative programs will attract religious seekers and keep members of all ages engaged in our transforming faith. Its resources for education, worship, and social action will help congregations foster UU identity, nurture spiritual growth, and build vibrant communities of justice and love. It is a huge and expensive project, costing more than $1 million, and we need your support.
I hope that many of you will choose to make a financial contribution to this project. I just made my personal pledge. And the twenty-five members of our Board of Trustees together pledged more than $10,000 at their April meeting. This curriculum series will help us shape our identity for the future and provide our congregations with critical tools to support the growth of our faith. To join me and the UUA Board members as contributors, please send a donation to:
You may also call (888) 792-5885 or make your donation online at www.uua.org/giving.
Please give generously. Checks should be made out to UUA, with Lifespan Faith Development Curriculum in the memo line. Your gift is tax deductible and will be matched dollar for dollar thanks to the generosity of an anonymous donor.