We’ve just completed our annual week long day camp, called “Chalice Camp”. It’s for 5 to 10 year old kids, and it was a great week of fun, games, making new friends, learning new songs, exploring nature, caring for the earth, and promoting peace and kindness.
Thank you to all the kids, staff, and volunteers for making it so much fun!
Our elementary grade kids have been exploring our Web of Life and how to Care for It. Check out their video!
Web of Life Project 2018 from Olympia Unitarian Universalist on Vimeo.
On our Earth Day Sunday, we took the kids on a tour of the congregation and pointed out the many ways we are a Green Sanctuary.
The Green Sanctuary Program from the UUA provides a structure and tools to congregations who want to raise their awareness and take action for the environment and climate change. OUUC earned its Green Sanctuary accreditation several years ago, and continues to show a high commitment to being a Green Sanctuary.
Stops on our tour with the kids:
- The Green Sanctuary Accreditation letter, posted outside the Minister’s Office
- The Backyard Wildlife Sanctuary sign (posted on the fence around our dumpsters, but that’s not the wildlife habitat … the habitat is right behind the dumpsters in the wild woods portion of our property).
- At the front of the building, you can see the solar panels on the roof. Anyone interested in the energy report can access it from the church website.
- Inside again, we noted the big banner in the Commons proclaiming 2018 the Year of Environmental Justice at OUUC.
- A stop in the kitchen to note the recycling and compost sorting station sparked good conversation about trash and home recycling habits.
- In the Work Room we noted an old poster about global warming that we’ve had up for decades …. showing the long term commitment to this issue this community has had.
- Back in the hallway outside their classroom, the kids checked out the Green Sanctuary Committee’s bulletin board, showing many of the ways this community and this congregation show their care for the Earth.
Next time you are at OUUC, look for some of these signs of our Green Sanctuary yourself!
Each year, we hold a “Children’s Annual Meeting”. It is the children’s main opportunity to practice congregational polity, just as the adult voting members of our congregation do when they attend a congregational meeting.
In the children’s meeting (held during class time), the children self-select into three committees:
- The Open Minds Committee
- The Helping Hands Committee
- The Loving Hearts Committee
The names of the committees refer to our chalice lighting words that we say each week:
We light this chalice
to celebrate Unitarian Universalism
This is a church of open minds
this is a church of helping hands
this is a church of loving hearts.
Together we care for the Earth
and work for friendship and peace in our world.
The Committees work to make nominations of summer curriculum or programs for the kids, of causes we could donate 50% of the Children’s Offering to and advance our values in the larger world, and of a May Service Project. There were wonderful and thoughtful presentations this year as the children nominated various causes and ideas: helping animals through The American Kennel Club or the Zoo, doing a service project to make Get Well Cards for people in the hospital, and more.
All of the kids had a chance to present and try to tell others why their nominee was worthy. Then everyone voted on each decision, and we came to these results:
- Our summer RE program will be Maker Space. We did this two years ago, and it was really fun. Each week a different guest speaker from the congregation came to class to share about their Makers process (what they make, why they enjoy making that, how they first learned, etc.) And for the rest of the class time, the kids have access to tools and supplies to engage in their own making work.
- Our Share the Offering for the children’s offering will be to UNICEF, and/or another cause that benefits the people of Puerto Rico recovering from Hurricane Maria. (This current year the Share the Offering recipient was World Wildlife Fund, and the children donated $340 over the year so WWF will be receiving $170. I’m super proud of the children’s’ generosity.)
- Our May Service project will be to help the environment. The kids’ ideas included helping Nature Nurtures Farm feed their animals and “plant things”. We’ll be shaping that project up, so stay tuned!
It was lovely to hear the kids thoughtfully engaging with the questions and issues of the meeting. This is democracy and faith in action.
This month our Middle School group is exploring the subject of Death as part of the Lodestone curriculum we’ve been using this year.
I have found, in my time as a religious educator, that this topic is terribly under-discussed in our society and in our families, even though we will certainly all have to encounter some aspect of death at some point in our lives.
When the subject is taboo, an important aspect of a religious community is to be a container for conversations and a testing ground for ideas about that subject. Here, we are a place for asking difficult questions and arriving at our own answers to them.
The group visited our columbarium as part of their program last Sunday. The columbarium is fairly new, so we only have the cremated remains of eight individuals co-mingled here. The design allows for the slow release of the remains below, as the material self rejoins the soil. When our columbarium and memorial garden were first designed, they were placed right next to our Nursery, so there is a good view of the columbarium right out of the nursery window.
How perfect is that? Our youngest, newest lives and our remembrance of lives past forming bookends, reminders of the cycle of life.
We will continue to have space and time for talking about death in Middle School sessions for the rest of this month and into early April. This is also a great topic to discuss at home as a family:
What have you heard about what happens after you die?
What have you heard about what Unitarian Universalists believe about what happens after death?
What gives you comfort when you think about what happens after death?
Sometimes I hear from congregants that they don’t see the kids, or don’t think we have any kids here. Many wish to feel themselves part of a vibrant, vital, growing community, but when they look around they don’t see people of all ages.
Part of this is true. We do have many more older folks in our congregation than kids, and the congregation is aging. This is a demographic reality for organized religion in this country.
But in other ways this is more of a perception issue than a reality. We do have a healthy number of children in this congregation, but we don’t always have easy ways to bridge the gaps between the adult experience of OUUC and the children’s experience of OUUC.
One way to build these connections is Mystery Pals! (If you are longtime at OUUC, you might remember this program from the past as being called “Secret Buddies”)
Mystery Pals is a 5-week pen-pal program in which a youngest-congregant gets secretly matched with an older congregant (either a youth or adult) and then for several weeks they leave little notes, puzzles, surprises, or small gifts for each other in their assigned mailbox. The idea is to tuck it in secretly when no one is watching.
After five weeks, we will have a special “Glass Slipper Sunday” party. The elder of the Pals will leave a shoe by their number, and then the kids will take the shoe to the party to find their pal.
But what if you can’t come every week? That’s OK! You can email your note to the DRE and she will tuck it into your mailbox for you.
Folks can sign up now by paper form at OUUC! It’s going to be fun!
Last Sunday we got cozy with some quilts from my home and read the story The Quiltmaker’s Gift and I asked the kids “why is this a good story for Thanksgiving weekend?”
Answers they had:
- It’s about being happy with what you have and not always wanting more
- It’s about how the best things in life, the things you should be grateful for, are people and not stuff
- Sometimes when you have too much stuff you can’t appreciate it because it’s more than one person can ever play with
- Giving things away makes us happy
They’re right, aren’t they? So many of us already have too much stuff, and the quest to get more doesn’t make us happier. Money can’t buy happiness … or can it? The Middle School group is exploring the topic of money this fall, and they recently watched a TED Talk about “How to Buy Happiness“. Researcher Michael Norton found that one reliable way money could increase people’s happiness was if they spent it on other people – if they gave it away as a gift.
Here we are, entering the holiday season when gift-giving is a huge affair. And yet young children are most often only the receivers of gifts, not the givers. How can we bring a practice of Giving into our holidays? A few ideas:
May our holiday season sparkle with kindness and giving, and may our spirits be lifted in the process.
Happy Thanksgiving this week! Here is our congregational group at the county Food Bank last Saturday, volunteering to help pack Thanksgiving Dinners. Hundreds of Dinners are handed out each year by the Food Bank.
There are so many lovely aspects of this holiday – being Thankful and Grateful for what you have, a simple celebration of abundance and harvest and family and friends that has resisted over-commercialism.
But it’s also important to re-think this holiday and the way we teach about it and celebrate it in light of colonialism and on-going racism.
Last Sunday, our Religious Education classes started a conversation about others ways to think about Thanksgiving.
Our youngest children (preschool-Kindergarten) had the story The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell. In a gentle way, this story raises questions about hospitality, immigration, and what this holiday really celebrates (and who it “belongs” to).
In our Labyrinth Learning class for 1st-5th graders, we watched two videos showing Native American perspectives on Thanksgiving, one from Teen Vogue and another from AJ+.
I encourage you to continue this conversation this week with your families. Yes, celebrate Gratitude and be thankful for the abundance we experience. Yes, remember those who are in need through service and generous giving. And also continue this conversation about colonialism and racism in our society.
Resources to Help You:
And you can also use that gathering of friends and family around the table to engage in a conversation about racism. This video gives tips for talking about Black Lives Matter with white family and friends, and this script for talking about racism with family was written for Asian Americans but there are good tips there for other races and ethnicities as well.
Wishing you all a Blessed Thanksgiving.
The theme for November is Healing, and so yesterday in the elementary grades class we had our wonderful volunteer Parish Nurse in as a guest speaker, explaining what she does as parish nurse for our congregation. Following that conversation, the kids made Get Well Soon cards that we will send to congregants who are ill in the future.
A lovely and sweet project!
Tonight we held a parent discussion circle at OUUC based on the book The Opposite of Spoiled. The reason for the selection of this book was based on our current Middle School program, which will start a unit on Money this coming Sunday. However, this book and the topic of kids and money are appropriate and useful no matter the current age of your children.
If you’d like to reflect on the questions yourself, here’s our discussion guide:
Parent Discussion about Kids and Money
Play “Money” by Pink Floyd
- Opening Reading from The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber (page 12):
Money is central, but it is also a teaching tool that uses the value of a dollar to instill in our children the values we want them to embrace. These traits – curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance, and perspective – don’t belong to one religion, region, or race. A few of our kids are already set for life financially, but most of them have no clue how much money they’ll have when they grow up. Their financial status is fluid but their financial values should not be.
- What financial values do we hope our children will have? Now? As adults?
- Thinking back on your own childhood, what “money messages” did you receive? Are these the same messages you want your children to get?
- How open are you to talking about money honestly with your kids? Is it time to explain your own finances and earnings to your kids? How is money one of “the talks”? (Like sex, drugs, etc)?
- What is challenging or hard about money for you? Are there ways that you struggle with money, and is it time to make a new relationship for yourself with money? How would that change your child’s future relationship with money?
- On page 24 of The Opposite of Spoiled the author shares that there is a gender disparity in allowance and financial education. Do you think we treat boys and girls differently with regard to money? Is there a gender disparity or gender stereotype in how you yourself handle financials in your life?
- The allowance debate: why give an allowance? What is the goal of an allowance? What lessons can it teach? Why not give an allowance? Pay for chores? Other options?
- What habits of saving do you hope your child will have? Are you modeling those habits yourself? How can we promote saving for kids?
- Lieber talks about a line between Want and Need and setting a standard $ amount for Needs before they cross into Wants. How do you separate Wants and Needs for your kids?
- Consumer Decisions: pages 74-75 introduce the ideas of the Fun per Dollar Ratio and the Most Good/Least Harm Rule. How are we teaching our kids to make consumer decisions? What values do we hope they will have as consumers?
- How do you model generosity and giving for your kids? What could make your own generosity more visible and memorable for your kids?
- How can kids themselves practice generosity? Do you like the “giving jar” method? What other options are there?
- What about kids and work? How much work should kids do? How can kids earn money for themselves? Has there been a cultural shift in how much we expect children and teens to work and be useful?
Closing Words: (from page 208)
We haven’t got very long, and the years go by so quickly. Still, we have these conversations because they endure. They’re an essential part of making successful adults – and contented ones too.