More from that 1st-2nd grade class doing Superheroes: Bible People by Gaia Brown. One of the best parts of this curriculum is that the kids are invited to re-enact the stories using a costume box (and we have some awesome costumes that we’ve collected over the years). They really enjoy dressing up, or making their own costumes as shown in the top picture.
But last Sunday one boy was standing there not participating in the general Dress-Up frenzy. I asked if he didn’t want to be in the “play”, and he said: “No, I just don’t need a costume. I’m going to be God, and God just stands on the sidelines and doesn’t do much.”
There are people known as “universal donors”, which means that their blood type is so lacking in identifying marks that it will slip by and be accepted by any immune system it is introduced into.
In the church, I feel as though I am the universal donor at times – or more accurately the universal substitute. Of course, if any volunteer teacher or advisor for the Religious Education program can’t make it or doesn’t show up, I step in and cover that class. But in other areas of the church life, I may not be the ideal choice for many tasks, but in a pinch I get asked to deal with audiovisual, custodial, administrative, hospitality, and pastoral care.
And today was the second Sunday in a row where the minister of the day was late enough arriving that the lay celebrant was worried they would have to do the service without a minister. Both times the celebrant (a different person each time) came to me with a “what will we do?”. Someday, I may even be asked to step in and substitute for a minister last minute.
It’s all just part of my job. Each time I round a corner in the building, I don’t know if I’ll need to clean up a mess, direct someone to the supplies they are looking for, greet and welcome a newcomer, help a child find their parent, tell a child not to run in the halls, step in to teach a class, comfort or listen to someone in distress, weigh in on a dilemma, or serve coffee. There is the job I arrived ready to do, and then there are all the balls I catch as they fly in my general direction.
It mostly feels like juggling. But every now and then it starts to feel like dodge ball – and that’s when I really need to toss those balls back to other folks.
I’ve just finished facilitating my third of the Tapestry of Faith adult curricula: Spirit in Practice. (I modified the program quite a bit, but I’m impressed with the curriculum as is – I just have learned that we get better turn-out for programs that are 1-4 sessions long, so I never do the whole 10 sessions in one string anymore).
“The idea of spiritual practices encourages individuals to take responsibility for their own spiritual development by spending time working on it, deliberating on its meaning and how best to pursue it, seeking to understand the sacred through reading and the counsel of others, and seeking to have contact with the sacred through personal reflection and prayer.”
—Robert Wuthnow, scholar of American religious history
As we reflected on the class during the final session, one participant said it had been a “marvelous honoring of personal experience”. That was how I experienced it as well – as a gentle encouragement for all the participants to stretch themselves and open themselves to some new experiences, and then to come back to the group and discuss and share. The group asked probing questions and debating ideas, but in a supportive way. We found that there were many different preferred styles and approaches to spiritual practice, just as there are so many different spiritual practices to try. Most of the group tried to practice something that doesn’t come naturally to them during the 3 weeks we were meeting.
It really was a “marvelous honoring of personal experience” and an encouragement to pursue new experiences. I’d love to add onto the beloved (misquoted to Francis David) words “we need not think alike to love alike” and add “we need not practice alike to support each other in spiritual growth”. (Although it’s not as pleasing to the ear as the first statement, I admit.)
Currently, I have the 1st-2nd grade class doing the curriculum Superheroes of the Bible by Gaia Brown. This is the second time I have used this curriculum, and it is really becoming one of my favorites. Sunday was the lesson on Solomon, and it called for a large appliance box to make Solomon’s Temple. Despite several weeks of notices in our weekly announcements asking if anyone had a box to donate, I didn’t get one. Yes- I probably should have driven to an appliance store and asked for one. But we’ve had this cardboard rocket in our nursery for a couple years, and it was barely standing leaned up in a corner. The kids enjoyed a generous quantity of duct tape and the freedom to redecorate this box – I’m not sure it ended up looking anything like the temple, but they moved their class “Arc of the Covenant” (a previous cardboard box project) into the “temple” and were quite pleased with themselves.
I am in the midst of reading for a course in Liberal Theology I am taking at Meadville next month. It’s a lot to think about!
So far I’ve read:
Faith Without Certainty – a great general introduction to liberal theology with a real flair for stating complicated ideas in easy to understand ways.
On Religion: Speeches to Its Cultured Despisers – oh, those Enlightenment men. Sadly, they weren’t so enlightened about women and other cultures, but he still had a few new and cool ideas about the nature of religion.
Making the Manifesto – Schulz is a bit standoffish about declaring himself a humanist, and this is mixed view of the history of humanism.
Reason and Reverence – and then, a more sympathetic view of humanism, moving it forward into the future by wedding it with Religious Naturalism, thus giving it the “reverence” part.
Making a Way out of No Way: a Womanist Theology – the first question was ‘what is womanist?’, and the answer is that it is the study of the life of African American women, so often ignored by both feminist and African American (male) thinkers. This was a fascinating exercise in marrying process theology to liberation/womanist theology.
And now I’m reading Religious Naturalism Today and Proverbs of Ashes.
More to follow! My thoughts on all of this are getting sorted out.
I’ve been thinking about categories, and separating life into those categories, for a bit now. The result is this new blog, a space just for my thoughts and adventures in Unitarian Universalism and Religious Education.