It is my belief that there is nothing more important that we do at Unitarian Universalist churches than passing down our principles to future generations. I’ve been an Religious Education Committee member and volunteer at each UU church or fellowship I’ve belonged to, wherever life has taken us. I always will be, due to my selfish interests. Their names are Amara, 15 years old, Garron, 12 and Eilena, 5.
I have never felt as rewarded as when I was teaching my son’s class a few years ago. Our curriculum was focused on Christianity that month, the topic was how women are treated in different denominations; how some marginalize them. Watching the children, I could tell when the bells started ringing for them. One of the boys in the class pointed out in discussion- “That’s not fair. We don’t do that as Unitarians!” The eight and nine-year-olds started contrasting the role of women in society and in their experience in our UU community. What a learning experience for the entire class- and perhaps especially- the boys.
You see, I was raised as a small-town Baptist. Although I learned the Golden Rule and the Ten Commandments and could find you any Bible verse you wanted to hear, the information I had about other religions was somewhat… limited. It was taught there was one way to believe, one path to follow, and every other led downward. As a child, I can recall feeling how small the box was I was being sealed into. As an RE volunteer and as a UUA-trained Youth Advisor, it amazes me to see that box expanded and expunged for our UU children.
I encourage anybody who has ever felt like they’ve been in that box and who wants to help our next generation render boxes moot, to volunteer for RE whether as a teacher or as an organizational aide. Most UU churches, no matter the size, need volunteers to fulfill the mission of their RE department. The DREs typically have 1-2 other paid staff members, if that, and turnover is high because the department budgets are relatively low. Members willing to volunteer are seen as more precious than gold by our RE Council.
Part of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning and an encouragement to spiritual growth is recognizing the responsibility we have to our young people. In my experience, teaching RE has deepened my relationship with my own faith. It has enriched my life and led me to resolutions without which I would have never had the blessing to realize. If we are to grow as a faith and make the kind of positive changes we want to see in our society, from neighborhood to national scale, enlightening our children and youth is the pathway to both.