Credentialing!

While I was away on Sabbatical, I also finished the work for my religious educators credentialing, and after the final interview was awarded the status of Credentialed Religious Educator, Masters Level.  This has been a continuing education project that I have worked on for the last three + years, working with a mentor that I spoke with on the phone once a month during that time.  Because of my previous Masters in Teaching, I had a bit of a head start and was able to apply some of that work toward the credential.  For this credential I took two graduate level courses (UU History and Polity as an online course through Phillips Theological Seminary and Liberal Theology as a winter intensive through Meadville-Lombard Theological School) and attended five 15 + hour long professional trainings.  I read 71 books, and wrote up a professional portfolio that was 153 pages long and demonstrated my mastery of 16 areas of professional competency.  Finally, I wrote essays explaining my personal theology, pedagogy, and understanding of the meaning of faith as well as a self-assessment and plan for ongoing professional development after credentialing.  This was capped by the personal interview in Boston with the credentialing panel.  And I am now a credentialed religious educator!

This work has been of amazing value to me already, as I felt the depth of my knowledge, confidence, and abilities expand throughout my studies.  Yes, I would have matured as a religious educator over the last three years anyway, but the credentialing program gave me four things that helped me really grow:

 

1. A Road Map.  Just having the list of what competencies to study, the rubric of what competency would look like, and the resource list to study is a priceless gift in itself.  Any religious educator who is just starting out could just take that reading list and start going with it, and they would benefit immensely.

2.  A Mentor.  The mentor relationship meant I wasn’t doing this all alone, but had the accountability of needing to tell someone else each month what I had accomplished, the comfort of having someone else to ask for advice when I felt lost or overwhelmed, the cheerleader encouraging me to keep going when I felt discouraged, and the much-needed outside eye when I started just spinning my own wheels and going around in a circle.

3.  A Deadline.  It is a fact of human life that most of us find it far too easy to put off any and all tasks that don’t have a deadline associated with them.

4.  And finally, it gave me a Project to Talk About.  This meant I could present what I was doing to the congregation and place the time and the money that I spent on continuing education in a context for them.  The credentialing program lifts up the fact that what we do as religious educators is a profession, and that we do need to continue to grow as professionals and expand our skills and knowledge in addition to the day-to-day and week-to-week tasks of our jobs.

I am so glad that I pursued credentialing, and would encourage all who are engaged in this work to give it a real look.

 

 

Advertisements

On Memorial Day, It’s OK to Feel All the Feelings

IMG_0484

How should we as UU parents explain Memorial Day to our children?  Although UU’s are generally pacifistic, as our 6th Principle indicates (in the children’s language): Insist on Peace and Justice Around the World.  However, individual UU’s have and do serve in the military (I did), and there are military families within our UU congregations.

Memorial Day is a day to remember the dead from all the wars our country has fought.  I don’t know about you, but I have very conflicted feelings about much in American history – our country has done many things that were unfair or wrong or even horrible, and we modern Americans are the heirs to that legacy.  Our country also has had many wonderful ideas and ideals and there were brave and courageous men and women who fought – in one way or another, if not always just physically – for those ideals.  And we are the heirs to that legacy also.

And then there are all the lives that were cut short – men and women who had families and were loved and would have rather lived on.  I think it is only right that we pause to remember and honor those lives, for they died in the name of our country whether or not we agreed with the justifications of that war.

My feelings on this day are all mixed up, but mostly I feel sad.  And it is OK for children to feel sad, too – it’s part of life.  As a good parent, you do not need to shield them from these realities.  In fact, you do them a disservice if you don’t allow the full range of feelings.  Feel all the Feelings, and then talk about them.

This is why The Wall by Eve Bunting is the go to book for many teachers on Memorial Day, I think.  It is a simple and lovely story about visiting the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, with the emotional poignancy of this day presented in clear and child-friendly terms.

And then, if you have a memorial or a cemetery within visiting distance, take the kids to visit today.  Take flowers to leave there, or make a pinwheel for peace and leave it.  We can remember the dead and wish for peace in the future at the same time – it’s a perfect time to wish for peace, in fact.

IMG_0492

 

And so, today I don’t wish you a “Happy” Memorial Day, exactly.  I wish you an Emotionally Honest and Reflective Memorial Day.  As I did last year, I’ll be taking my children to the local war memorials, and feeling many complicated feelings myself.

 

What I Did on Sabbatical

During this last week of my 13 week Sabbatical, it’s time to wrap it up and get ready to return to the regular work of congregational life. The sabbatical was actually something that I got very stressed about as I was preparing for it and imagining how it would go, but now that I’m done I am so grateful for this time that you all gifted me with.

First, the reasons why I felt stress before the sabbatical are a big part of the personal and spiritual development that the sabbatical time gave me. Was I worried about leaving you all with coverage in my absence? Yes, but I also knew that Bonnie and the Family Ministry Team and the Teaching Teams would be fine. No, my real stress was that I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do with myself during that much time. I was afraid that in the absence of a schedule and a list of things that Must Be Done By This Deadline, I wouldn’t even know who I was – because schedules and To Do Lists are anchors, and they are also distractions.

I had an idea that I would fill this time and “get a lot done”. I did get some good things done (my post on Credentialing will be up next week), but that was not the take-away from my sabbatical time. I actually ended up leaning in to the unscheduled time, and found that I could embrace being a Human Being instead of a Human Doing. This quote from the book The Dance by Oriah nicely captures the idea:

When we avoid the emptiness, when we fill the stillness with too much doing, we are trying to outrun our, sometimes unconscious, conviction that who we are will never be enough. The things we try to hang on to – our work, our relationships, our reputation and perspective – are the things we believe will make us worthy of life and love … If we can simply be with the fear that we are not enough, and with the vastness of what we do not know, we discover an emptiness that is not our failure but is the very source of the fullness of who and what we are.

Sabbaticals are interpreted in different ways, with probably a unique idea of how that time should be spent in the mind of each person who is blessed with the opportunity. But I think it is very telling that the word sabbatical has the same root as the word Sabbath. In his book, The Sabbath, Abraham Joshua Heschel describes the Sabbath practice as “building a palace in time”. It elevates to a conscious level the realization that we are temporally bound creatures, or that we exist in the flow of time. In fact, as one time management book that I read once pointed out, how you spend your time is how you spend your life. We say “the time got away from me”, but what if we said “my life got away from me”?

The great gift that I found through taking a Sabbatical was that I was reminded that this is the only time I will ever have to live this one life that I have been blessed with. I do not have to earn the gift of life, or prove myself worthy of it, before I am allowed to enjoy it. While the many things that I do are often worthy and wonderful, they cannot define me. The Sabbatical time let me go deep with this idea, struggle with it a bit, and ultimately find my spiritual development greater because of the time.

Happy Mother’s Day to All Who Mother

IMG_0345

 

Happy Mother’s Day to all who do the work of mothering in this world, and all who care and provide nurture to the young (and not-so-young) who need it.  I am enjoying a very unusual, for me, Mother’s Day and am writing this in bed while my husband and children are cooking me breakfast.  Normally I have to be up and off to church so early on a Sunday that I have missed this particular Mother’s Day ritual over the years, but in the last week of my sabbatical I get to enjoy this lazy Sunday.

And Happy Mother’s Day as well to those who may not feel included on this day: the foster parents, the women who have struggled with fertility, those estranged from their mothers or their children, those who have lost children, or the women whose choice to not have children often feels judged or criticized.  As a wise friend wrote on her Facebook page today: “just because I’m celebrating doesn’t mean everyone is, and I have to remember that.”

Mother’s Day itself began as a rallying cry for mothers to band together and call for peace, and for an end to their children (sons, mostly, back then) being sacrificed to war.  Unitarian Julia Ward Howe wrote the Mother’s Day Proclamation in 1870, following the American Civil War.

In the last few years, the Unitarian Universalist Association has partnered with Strong Families to promote a Mother’s Day (Or “Mama’s Day) that is a more diverse and multicultural and justice-oriented affair.  I’ve also been reading other wonderful ideas for a way to make Mother’s Day go beyond a card and flowers:

Support a local diaper bank, if your community has one.

Light a Candle and pray for the girls kidnapped in Nigeria.

Read books to your kids that show a diversity of mothers and family-types, and learn more about the struggles other families face. (Ideas from the UUWorld Parenting Blog)

Take action on any of the issues identified as important to Moms.  Most of these issues should be important to us all!

 

The flowers, cards, gifts, and breakfasts are lovely, but this day can go beyond that.  My experience of motherhood has been all about loving: the love my mother gave me and the love I give my children.  And that motherly love seeks to provide nurture and safety.  Wouldn’t a world transformed by motherly love be a world where everyone received what they needed (food, shelter, love , acceptance, opportunities, etc) and were safe?  While appreciating the mothers closest to us is a lovely thing to do – and I appreciate it! – we can also see this as a day to extend that ideal motherly love beyond our own family circles, and spread it out into the world.  May it be so.

 

What it Means to Be a Teacher

IMG_2937

 

Tomorrow (May 6th) is National Teachers Day, so it’s a wonderful time to reflect on teaching, especially in my context as a liberal religious educator.  Last week I read Teaching from the Heart: Theology and Educational Method by Mary Elizabeth Mullino Moore.   Moore, a professor of Theology and Christian Education, also wrote Teaching as a Sacramental Act (which is on my TBR list, for sure).

Moore’s book stands out among the reading I have done, because it takes both theology and pedagogy (teaching method and theory) seriously and puts them into dialogue with each other.  She raises the point that too often practice and theory are divorced or distant from one another, and that theory in particular is often deaf to the voice of practical experience.  Moore puts one theology (process theology) into dialogue with five different educational methods (case study method, gestalt method, phenomenological method, narrative method, and conscientizing method), and proposes how the theology and the methods would alter each other.

The book, published in 1991, is dated – these aren’t the current “it” theologies or methods – but I think it is still of immense value to the religious educator, placing our work in perspective.  What Moore is really pointing out is that the ordinary, real experience right in front of us can be attended to with care and attention and can influence our entire understanding of everything (our theology). For me, this has always meant that when I work with real people – children, youth, adults – I am open to new understandings of who they are and how they can grow, and that understanding of how to be human is deeply informative to my theology.  I find my truth in the people right in front of me, and in the real experiences I have with them.

That is what it is to be a teacher, seeing the real people in front of you with deep compassion while also seeing the possibilities and holding a passion for growth.  A teacher is a midwife, a supportive building scaffold, and most of all a bridge between the concrete now of experience and the possibility of ideas and future.  In Moore’s words:

The many and various educators share the common vocation of humanization – the vocation of supporting human life and the quality of that life.”

This is the gift of a teacher – to revere the ordinary so much that it becomes extraordinarily ordinary.”  

 

In many ways, everyone is a teacher, whether they mean to be or not.  We cannot help but influence one another, and be influenced in return.  But for those who consciously choose this vocation, may it always be a work of the heart.

May’s Faith Formation at Home Calendar

If you would like a PDF of this calendar, here it is!  bringingthesacredcalendarMay 2014

maycalendar
May 1st is May Day and also the pagan sabbat of Beltane. This is a fertility and spring holiday, with May Baskets, Maypoles, and other spring fun. Making a May Basket couldn’t be easier – a basket full of flowers and then present it to a neighbor/friend (you can put a jar of water in there to prolong the beauty of the flowers). There are directions for making a maypole available online, such as at Mommy Blessing, or you can make a tiny one for a decoration or to put out in your garden (perhaps for the fairies). The simplest way to make a miniature maypole is to use a pencil, cut a selection of nice ribbons to the desired length, and then attach them to the eraser of the pencil with a thumb tack. You can also glue silk flowers over the thumb tack, if you like.

May 6th is National Teachers Day. Did you know that apples became associated with teachers because parents, particularly on the American frontier, would be sharing responsibility to house and feed the underpaid teacher. Children brought food to school to contribute to feeding the teacher, and the apple became the symbol of that. Nowadays, there are many ways you can support a teacher – consider doing something for them on this day!

May 11th is Mother’s Day. In it’s first incarnation, Mother’s Day was a rallying cry for peace put forth by Unitarian Julia Ward Howe. Her Mother’s Day Proclamation makes a good reading for this day, and you don’t have to give up the flowers and breakfast for Mom to also reflect on how a day dedicated to appreciating motherly love would also be a day to call for Peace.

May 26th is Memorial Day. Although this three-day weekend informally marks “the beginning of summer” for most of us, the intention of the Federal holiday was to be a day of remembrance for those who died in military service, in any war. Originally observed after the Civil war as “Decoration Day” it was a day to decorate the graves of soldiers and was observed on different dates by different states. Northern and Southern states primarily only honored their own dead. After World War I, it became a day to remember the fallen from all wars, and the wearing of a red poppy became a symbol of remembrance after the poem In Flanders Fields caught the imagination. If you desired to observe this day, we are living close to several war memorials on the Capitol campus. Last year I took my family there on Memorial Day just to visit the memorials, and it surprised me how profoundly and sadly it touched us. This year we plan to take flowers so the kids can lay them on the memorials. Once again, you can talk as a family and reflect on how these deaths in war should move us to work and call for Peace.

 

(If you find this work helpful and meaningful in your family’s spiritual life, please consider making a donation to support it)