by Dave Cicero, DLRE
Sunday Religious Education (RE)
Even before the COVID pandemic, RE leaders in many UU communities were seeing a decrease in regular participation. This has led congregations – especially smaller ones – to reimagine their typical programs. Lake Country UU Church (LCUUC/Hartland) found itself without a DRE at the start of the 2021-22 church year – mid-pandemic and as vaccines rolled out to adults were being approved for youth.
I was happy to be able to offer at least “Online RE” classes to families there and at United UU Congregation (United/Waukesha, with whom LCUUC had already been sharing an RE program.) In return, UUCW’s program added a parent volunteer RE teacher – now acting as LCUUC’s Interim DRE. (Full disclosure: I had been a member of LCUUC for years before being hired as UUCW’s Director of Lifespan Religious Education.)
Taking Flight ’22
UUCW has offered “Our Whole Lives” (OWL) — the well-loved course on Human Sexuality – to Jr. High students for decades. Families of many prospective students were eager for us to hold another class this year, as planned. The problem? Besides needing to navigate several changes to its regular Sunday morning programming this year due to regional COVID surges, UUCW’s experienced lead OWL facilitators had limited availability. Meanwhile, LCUUC and United had several recently trained facilitators, but not enough students to form a viable class group.
The solution? To combine forces, acting on conversations I had had with LCUUC’s former DRE about this very possibility. Revs. Carin Bringelson and David Kraemer helped connect us with those at LCUUC and United able to make it a reality. Eighteen months (or more) in the making, an alternate (due to the uncertainties surrounding COVID shutdowns) version of OWL called “Taking Flight” finally fledged on March 12. OWL-trained facilitators from UUCW, LCUUC, and United met with students from UUCW, LCUUC, and First Unitarian Society of Milwaukee (FUSM) to kick off the 11-week program.
The bonus and potential? A FUSM family unable to meet its home congregation’s OWL class schedule is taking advantage of ours. And a Sr. High OWL program, requested for years by UUCW families as a logical and needed follow-up, is a real possibility for next year!
Family RE Enrichment
For each of the last few weeks, I have shared a distillation of our Soul Matters subscription’s RE lessons with all UUCW families with RE-aged children – even those not currently registered in the RE program. It includes a summary of the theme, a story helping illustrate it, and an activity or two for the whole family to enjoy at home. (I also add a link to UUCW’s RE Registration page.) Sharing this resource has been possible because of LCUUC’s Interim DRE, who creates it!
Social Justice…and more!
The youth group from LCUUC and United, along with leaders from YRUU (UUCW’s high school counterpart), have been brainstorming ways for our youth to meet in-person for social, educational, and justice activities.
But lest you think local UU collaboration only happens in Religious Education, know that other silos are coming down, too. Members of all three Waukesha County UU congregations mentioned here are active leaders in SOPHIA, which promotes social justice in several arenas. UUCW’s Suzanne Schalig and Eric Hoaglund serve on its Board of Directors, and Sr. Barbara Pfarr chairs its Transportation task force. A member of LCUUC chairs its Racial Equity task force. (UUCW members involved in SOPHIA and other social justice non-profits are planning a Sunday worship event for May 15. To be involved in that, contact me or a Worship Team rep.)
For more information or to get involved, contact Dave Cicero.