Seeking meaning in Scripture

Because I didn’t grow up Christian, I have only the vaguest idea of what is in the Bible.  And being a UU, it’s pretty easy to avoid the whole thing.

But that’s really not good enough.  This is an incredibly influential and important book, whether or not I agree with everything in it or love it or dislike it, I should still know it.  But how?  I haven’t found any helpful study guides for liberal seeker and skeptics, although I did read John Buehrens’ Understanding the Bible: An Introduction for Skeptics, Seekers, and Religious Liberals.  It was helpful, but not complete.

I really just wanted to read the whole thing, and have someone to discuss it with.  But I searched in vain for a “Liberal Bible Study Group”.  That was when I was complaining to my mother, and she said “Let’s start a Mother-Daughter Bible Study!”

A brilliant notion.  We are meeting monthly, discussing two books at a time.  Mom even bought The Old Testament from The Great Courses series, and that is enriching our understanding as well.
DSCF8956

It’s not always easy.  I don’t find much inspiration here, yet.  But I think I’m understanding it better.
DSCF8957

I copied this quote into the front of my study Bible.  So far, it’s aspirational, but I hope that if I pay close enough attention, I may feel this.

 

Kids in church with me

DSCF8946

 

Yesterday I led the intergenerational Earth Day service for my congregation.  It was a fun service, with samba dancers and children acting out a story about feeling connected to the web of life.  It came off, and was lovely.

And I found it exhausting.  My kids were in the service, and my husband would have been there to sit with them and “wrangle” them, but he had to leave town due to a family illness.  So they were sitting beside me, up front, with every wiggle, noisy aside comment, and standing up at the wrong time during the Joys and Concerns ritual on full display.

And here’s the truth: I serve this congregation, but my children do not.  They are part of it, just like any other kids, and yet they have their mom being the DRE.

Is it worse to be a PK or a DREK?  How can we balance being parents and professionals at the same time, on display to everyone?

Polity for the Kids

As American Unitarian Universalists, we have inherited a long tradition of congregational polity.  Basically, I explain to the kids that this means we are organized and governed at the level of local congregations.  The decision-making and governing authority in a UU congregation is the congregation itself, based on the democratic processes of its membership body.

Taking part in congregational decision making is part of how one engages with their UU identity – we are a people who get a vote and a voice.  I think it’s important for our kids to also experience this in their religious education program.

Each year for the last three years I’ve held a Children’s Annual Meeting in the spring.  I blogged about the first year of it back on my other blog, The Curriculum of Love.  Each year I’ve repeated that basic process, with three committees and a simple voting process to choose where to  send the Children’s Offering money.

IMG_1984

 

It is honestly one of my very favorite things I do with the kids all year long.  Every year, they have been actively engaged in this process.  The kids seem interested – in fact one of the adults helping this year said afterward “kids really like committees!”.  I think they experience some genuine empowerment through getting to make real decisions.

I think a democratic RE program is so important, in fact, that I’m wondering if next year I couldn’t hold two meetings, one in the Fall and one in the Spring.  What other decisions should the kids be making for themselves?

People-Centered Planning

I was really jazzed by the 21st Century Faith Formation training that I took last month, and so I was excited to try out some of the network design components with the Family Ministry Team of my congregation.  There were many interesting things about new technology and cultural trends in the 21st Century Training, but what stood out for me was not the technology, not the internet and the websites – it was the idea of designing around People instead of Buildings or Programs.

So I tried that with the Family Ministry Team.  We started by imagining our “Target Audience”, and to simplify we chose just one demographic – families with young children.  We will come back around next year and imagine another network for families with teens, then for young adults, then for empty nesters, etc.

What are the Target Audiences Life Tasks?  What are they doing at this stage in their life?

DSCF8899

Once we had a handle on what our “Target Audience” – which I prefer to call our “Ministry Setting” are doing, we thought about what their Needs are right now in their lives.

DSCF8903

After lumping and clumping those Needs and making some categories from them, we brainstormed how to offer programs to meet those needs.

DSCF8892

We came up with a lot of good ideas.  We can’t probably do them all, but our goal is to “Explore and Initiate some of the New Program Ideas” next year.

The process felt really useful.  I think this is going to be good.

Community Dinners

DSCF8659

 

Last night I was just back from vacation – I’d hardly had a chance to have a family meal at home with my own family.  But it was Community Night Dinner at church – and a themed one at that – and so I raced about getting ready to host it, threw together a pasta dish of my own to share, did some juggling to deal with family car and baseball practice schedules, and then was there setting up tables and chairs for the potluck.

It was wonderful – totally worth the bit of juggling I had to do this month.  About 25 people showed up, which is small for my congregation’s normal Community Night Dinner size, but still a great number for a social event.  The theme was “Use Your Noodle” and everyone was supposed to bring pasta, and there was a judge (one of our high school youth) who picked “winners” in four categories: Best Use of Gluten Free, Most Creative, Most Delicious, and Crowd Favorite.  There were people of all ages there, and babies getting passed around while older children played with friends.  The group seemed to be content to linger and chat, and in fact I finally felt like I was shooing them out the door so I could clean and lock-up and still get my kids home to bed sort of on time.  A great community event.

I truly find something spiritual and vital in the sharing of food, whether it is in my nuclear or extended family, or in the congregation or even the wider community.  Food is just an essential part of life, and it should not be forgotten when you are building community.

Here is something I shared in the church newsletter a few months back, that I would like to share again:

Eating in Community 

One of the many spiritual practices we have been discussing in my adult education class “Spirit in Practice” is Eating in Community.  This is what the curriculum says about it:

When people hear the word “communion,” they usually think of the Christian service of sharing bread and wine (or grape juice) in commemoration of Jesus’s last supper with his friends. Yet the first definition of the word in the American Heritage Dictionary is not in the least religious at all: “The act or an instance of sharing, as of thoughts or feelings.” The word “communion” comes from a Latin word meaning “mutual participation,” and it has the same root as such words as “common” and “community.” So a family eating dinner together—an act that for many families has become rare—can be seen as a kind of spiritual communion.

The sharing of ideas and feelings is an important part of community, but the sharing of food – breaking bread together – has a long history of importance in human relationships.  Eating is one of the activities that brings us closest to the world around us, emphasizes our nature as incarnated bodies, and is most necessary to the nourishment of all.  Sharing in that nourishment and that experience together bond us as humans (it probably bonds groups of animals as well, but I’m not qualified to speak to that).

Thus, it is so unfortunate that eating in community seems to be one of the casualties of our busy modern lives.  When people who live under the same roof are finding it hard to find the time to sit down and share a communal meal, how on Earth will we get a larger community together for a meal?  I think the time is there, if we just look for it.  The opportunities may not be.  I feel incredibly fortunate that my family has Sunday Dinner almost every week at my mother-in-law’s home, and it is a full extended family affair, gathered around a table that is set with flowers and candles and a long, leisurely meal.  However, I know this is a rare treasure these days, and not possible for many people.

But we are all fortunate to have opportunities to eat together with our **** community.  We have Dinners for Eight, the Annual Dinner, and our monthly Community Dinners.  So many opportunities for us to practice the communion of a dinner shared with others!  I was thrilled last night to share a Valentine’s Day Dinner with 73 other folks of all ages.  In March, we’ll have an opportunity to share a Pi Day Potluck, and then in April it will be “Use Your Noodle: Competitive Pasta Potluck”. (If you have a fun idea for a May dinner, let me or **************** know.)

Please join us, sharing a meal with our wonderful community.