The lifelong process of faith formation is marked more by an inner willingness to explore and to seek than any set curriculum or collection of answers. Cultivating an openness and embrace of this inner willingness — in our children, youth, and adults — is the single most important impression we can offer. If a person can learn to be curious, formation will happen naturally.
That said, there are many actions we can take to help our children, youth, and adults the opportunity to develop inner willingness. I get along very well with children, youth, and young adults. I have a youthful and energetic spirit that people respond to in a fun and playful way. And I am also very clear that I’d much rather go for a hike and talk about where we find the sacred along the path than to lead a curriculum. I’ve done very well hosting pizza parties and just talking about what is happening in their lives. I find this builds trust. On several occasions, youth have asked to speak with me and I think it was the pizza parties, not my title or the curriculums, that gave them the willingness to ask.
With adults, I enjoy leading what I call wisdom education (intellectual study), but I believe our world needs more compassion and insight into our interconnected selves. I understand the expectations congregations have for wisdom education, but I always try to do them in ways that open people to the ineffable. I think of adult religious education as an opportunity to inspire and encourage rather than teach.
or example, the type of adult religious education classes I might run today would be a 40-minute discussion on a contemplative book or text followed by 20-30 minutes of contemplative sitting or insight practice followed by a 10-20 minute recap. By blending both I feel like I can meet certain expectations while offering what I also think is important for a worship community.
The following meditation offers some insight into my own journey and what I aim at when I am creating faith formation opportunities.
Director of Religious Exploration at UUTC
Ian came to our church as an Interim minister at a time when our congregation had become quite stagnant and complacent. He brought with him a surge of new and vibrant energy. He guided us to reflect as staff, congregants and as individuals as to our true mission and passion. He guided us with love, not judgment. Love is what Ian is all about. He preaches love. Love for oneself, for each other, for community and for those who do not necessarily think, act and do as we as Unitarian Universalists strive to do given our 7 Principles. And most importantly he practices what he preaches! He is creativity in motion, inspiring those around him to be their best selves.
As the Director of the Children’s Religious Exploration program I was part of our weekly staff meetings with Ian, the Music Director and our Administrator. Over time, I actually came to love staff meetings, something new for me. Each week I looked forward to coming together as a staff to plan, strategize, check-in and laugh. My favorite was breaking into song with my co-workers. Ian was able to balance seriousness and humor, a skill that helped him be a leader to his staff as well as the entire congregation. From the pulpit he made people laugh, cry, sing, dance, clap and revel in the love surrounding them from the moment they stepped into the sanctuary. He is an honest, sincere and dedicated minister whom I was privileged to work with. My only regret was that it was too short a period of time.