White in America: Can I Get a Witness? (text & audio)

Rev. Jane Page, Guest Minister


(Sing) “Have you seen but a white lily grow – before rude hands have touched it?”

That’s the first line of a song that my voice instructor assigned to me. This song was written in the 1600’s for an English theater group. So the words were written a long time ago and it’s known as a classic solo. The song starts off praising the whiteness of the lily and the new fallen snow – that’s not really a problem. But it ends with praise for the whiteness of the woman he loves – and that just didn’t sit right with me. SO – when my voice teacher encouraged me to work on this song, I told him that I was uncomfortable singing it. He said, “Well I know it has some challenging parts – but I think you can do it and it provides good exercise in variations for voice.” We were obviously not talking about the same kinds of challenges. 

I had to do a little talking to myself. “It’s just a song Jane. And he’s the teacher – you are the student. Sing the damn song.”

(Sing) “Oh so white, oh so soft, oh so sweet is she – so sweet is she.”

Maybe I’ve gotten too sensitive! – Or maybe not. Sometimes I feel like I’m balancing on a tight rope when considering and discussing issues of race and privilege – but even that is a form of privilege; because I have the choice to get up here on this tight rope or not. 

As a white person, I don’t have to think about being white. In fact, when this topic comes up some white folks say, “You know, I don’t see why we need to focus on race – I personally don’t think about it. We should move on.” Or those of us submerged in academia may say something like, “Ultimately we humans made up the concept of race as we attempted to increase both our understanding and manipulation of our world. In other words, race is socially constructed. It has no natural, biological reality. We are all a part of the human race with lots of variability within it.” Blah Blah Blah. All that may be true, but as Cornel West states, “Race Matters.”

This group is well read – you know that race still matters greatly today. You probably know that even today, job applicants with white sounding names are 50% more likely to get called back. (And not have to produce their long form birth certificate!) I could go on and on regarding how race still matters in housing opportunities, education, health and wellness, income security, etc. etc. And most of you know this. But it’s not something white folks really have to think about. Those of us who are white are like fish swimming in the water. We are in the middle of a white dominated society, swimming in white privilege and so unless we make a conscious effort, we don’t really know the water is even there.

Here’s a homework assignment for you white folks that are here today. This week – just this week – every time you look at your watch to note the time, also note that you are white. Then think about what your current situation is at that time and place, and consider the implications of your whiteness.

I’ll model this for you. (Look at watch). It’s now _____ o’clock. I’m white. And I’m speaking to you as a Unitarian Universalist minister called to serve in South Georgia. Now believe me, I could spend days considering the implications of my whiteness for that situation.

My sermon topic today is “White in the South: Can I Get a Witness?” I’ve read loads of books and articles on racial identity and privilege. Also, I’ve been studying and exploring this from a personal perspective and the perspective of my southern community for most of my life. So, while I could share data with you, I’m not sure that would be all that meaningful. Instead, I’m going to tell you two stories in the short time I have left. 

The first story takes place in fall of 2008. Richard came over to look at my husband’s fender bender and give an estimate. Richard used to work in an auto body shop my family had owned back in the 90’s and now has a small shop in his backyard. Back when Richard worked at my family’s auto body shop, we used to have some heated conversations around race and sexuality issues –with him quoting scripture and sharing what he thought was just the natural and right way of living. Well, on this fall day of 2008, Richard happened to see a presidential campaign sign that I had by my driveway and commented that he saw it. And I thought, “Oh, here we go again.” 

Then he said, “I’m with you all the way on that one. We can’t afford the other one.” 

And I probably looked shocked and said –“Well, Richard – I’m glad to hear you say that because – you know –they say that a lot of hard working white folks like yourself are just going to vote against their pocketbooks for some reason.” 

And he said, “Well, Miss Jane – (he’s from the old school) – he said –“Miss Jane, Ida been right there with’em too. But I’ve changed. You know some of my nieces got into mixed marriages –and I told them that was their decision – but that I didn’t want them comin’ round to my house. You see, I didn’t want my children exposed to that kind of thing ’cause I didn’t believe it was right. But one of them called me this summer – one of Mike’s daughters – and said,‘Uncle Richard, you know I’ve always loved you, and I think you loved me when we were growin’ up. You were like a father to us when daddy died. And I know you didn’t approve of me dating and marrying Joe. But I know you loved me. And I’m callin’ now because I need you. I need you because our little baby just died and I wanted you to come to the funeral home tonight if you could.”

Richard said he went to that funeral home and went up to that casket and saw that beautiful baby lying there and just wept. And he said, “God – you got my attention! I had a month and a half that I could have known and loved this precious little girl. But because I held on to those stupid racist attitudes, that had been ingrained in me from birth, I missed that opportunity. But I’ll never do that again.” Richard said that the next weekend he invited the whole family – with all the children of various marriages that he had not gotten to know – to come to his home – and they shared food and love.

He said, “Miss Jane – I sometimes slip up and something will come out of my mouth like it used to – but I’m really trying.” 

And I said, “Richard – you’re recovering – just like me. I’m a recovering racist – and I mess up too – but I keep trying. And if you keep working on it, you will get better – but it takes work. And like any good work – it’s worth it.”

Story # 2 is more personal. It’s a bit of my own story.

I was born in Statesboro, Georgia in 1950. (Go ahead – do the math.) I grew up in the days of Jim Crow laws. But these laws did not affect me in ways that were obvious to me. My white privilege allowed me access to every store, restaurant, and entertainment spot in town. And for the most part, I was pretty naïve about the evils of racism. 

Oh, I did notice things – as all children do. I remember when I was 5 or 6, standing in the “Whites Only” line at the Dairy Queen with my dad, waiting to get a cone. I asked my dad why all of the white people were in our line and all of the colored people were in the other line. My father shared this explanation with me. He told me that we were white – and that we stood in our line to get vanilla ice cream, while the colored people stood in the other line to get chocolate ice cream. Well, of course, I immediately told him that I wanted chocolate. And he said, “No, you are white, so you get vanilla. That’s just the way it is and you have to accept it.” Well, I didn’t realize that vanilla was the only flavor served at Dairy Queen. (That was even in the days before dipped cones.) But his unusual answer stuck with me. And it has served as a metaphor for what happened in my life. Indeed, I just accepted the differences and did not question them much.

Yet, I still took notice –like when boxes were being filled at my elementary school with our old worn-out textbooks. I asked what was going to happen to them and was told that they were being taken to the “colored school” for the children to use there. “Separate but equal” was never the case in Statesboro, Georgia. 

To be fair to my parents, they never overtly taught me to be a racist. They didn’t have to. Everything in my society, from the Dairy Queen windows on, taught me that white folks and black folks should function in separate social environments. And my society not only taught me that “separate” was right, it also taught me that I was in the superior group.

All I had to do was look at the water fountains. The “whites only” fountains were clean with cool, refrigerated water. Not so for the “colored” fountains. And of course, my Southern Baptist church reinforced these standards.

When I entered Statesboro High School in the fall of 1965, there were 12 new faces, darker faces than I was accustomed to seeing in my schools. And I was afraid of these new folks and I could not understand why they would want to leave “their” school to come to “our” school. But I made it through those years with very little interaction – except with one special girl that I connected with. She and I were both kind of cut-ups, and we’d have a few laughs in the hallway together between classes. And I began to realize that in many ways she was more like me than my white friends –so that put a little crack in my racist armor that was the beginning of a long journey and transformation.

Fast forward to the year 2008! That year I was on the planning committee for my 40th high school class reunion. We had not had one in 30 years. I had volunteered to try to find the addresses of the African American students who were in our class. And as I found some of these folks on the internet and read about the great things they were doing, I thought — I could have KNOWN them. What an opportunity I had missed because of my racism!

So I wrote them a letter, sharing with them some of the background I’ve mentioned to you, thanking the one girl anonymously who helped me to begin my journey, and offering an apology to all of them. I closed the letter with this list of sorrows.
* I’m sorry that I did not make an effort to understand why you were coming to Statesboro High School. 
* I’m sorry that I did not meet you outside of the school to welcome you. 
* I’m sorry that I was afraid of you and avoided being in places where several of you were gathered together. 
* I’m sorry that I avoided sitting by you in class.
* I’m sorry that I was involved with negative conversations about you and did not speak up when you were put down. 
* I’m sorry that I didn’t encourage you to join the clubs that I was in or join the flaggette team. 
* I’m sorry that I didn’t invite you to my 16th birthday party. It would have been a lot more fun with you there. 
* I’m sorry that I didn’t find ways to get to know you – really know you and understand you individually, rather than seeing you as “one of those black students.” 
* I’m sorry that I didn’t recognize the remarkable opportunity that I had in that place and time in history to be a part of something special with you. 
* And I’m sorry – oh SO sorry, that it’s taken me 40 years to say, “I’m sorry.” 
I hope you can forgive me.

On March 17, 2008, I mailed that letter to those classmates, and I also sent it as an “open letter” which was published in our local paper. I have since met with five of them – who have generously forgiven me, and a couple of them have become email buddies. But you know the one that I thought was my “sort of” friend – the one that I singled out and thanked anonymously in the letter – I didn’t hear from her. Now at first I thought, “Maybe she didn’t get the letter.” And that was a little bit of white privilege too –thinking that surely if she got the letter she would forgive me. That’s what we white people do when we mess up – we just say –“Oh, I didn’t mean to offend you. I didn’t mean to hurt anyone. I didn’t realize it would be a problem.” And folks that we’ve really hurt, who we’ve cut to the core with our comments or actions or non-actions – are just supposed to say, “That’s okay.” 

I think she probably got that letter – because I sent it right where her Mama told me to.
But perhaps the pain I caused was too great. The other students said they remembered me as someone who was nice to them. I appreciated that memory – and realized that basically I had been polite as my Mama taught me to be with all folks – but I had not really reached out in any positive way to them. 

But with this girl –my “sort of” friend, I was just friendly enough with her for her to perhaps think that I was her real friend. But then of course – that was just when it was convenient –when I wanted to have a good laugh with her and break the tension –and perhaps relieve a little of the guilt that I was already beginning to feel. I realize now I should not expect her forgiveness. I can’t go back and change my actions, but I can actively work to change what I do in the future. And my intention is to be an active antiracist and white ally, and to be a WITNESS to racism and white privilege when I see it.

The subtitle of this sermon is “Can I get a witness?” Because I’m asking you to explore your own privileges – be they the result of race, gender, sexuality, physical abilities, ethnicity, nationality, religion, or class –and I know you may have some oppression as the result of some of these things –but most of us have great privileges too. As my friend Jesus told us – we need to get the logs out of our own eyes. Then we can see more clearly and be a witness!

Of course, a witness doesn’t just SEE something. A witness attests to it. They call it out. And there ARE ways to do this that can live up to our principles of respect and dignity for all. We don’t have to lay a lot of guilt on folks or belittle their backgrounds. We can witness with love. 

But I won’t lie to you. When you witness, when you work as many of us have – actively in anti-oppression work, you will sometimes hurt someone and you will sometimes get hurt. Many of you may be able to attest to that as well.

This is not an easy journey. But you know – if your heart is in the right place, if your heart is in a holy place, you will be blessed with knowing that you are trying to do the right thing.

(Sing) “When our heart is in a holy place, when our heart is in a holy place,
We are blessed with love and amazing grace, when our heart is in a holy place.”

Amen and Blessed Be.

How Do You Know That Stuff?

As in any organization, there are concentric rings of committed members. At UUCA (and at most religious institutions), we have 60-80 highly committed members in the center of our circle. These folks donate large amounts of time and money to Unitarian Universalism. They are our frequent volunteers. They are the folks who go to cluster, district and national UU events, and UU summer camps. They are many of our highest donors and they often also give to Chalice Lighter calls, separately to the UUA and often to the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee (UUSC) and maybe even the Church of the Larger Fellowship (CLF), too.

 That’s a lot of UU involvement and it explains why these folks seem to know an awful lot about Unitarian Universalism, about the workings of the UUA, and have UU friends around the country if not around the world; generally they seem to know “what’s going on.” Well, what about the rest of us? How do I learn stuff without committing that much time?

Best answer: READ

Second best answer: PARTICIPATE

 Actually participating is better than reading, but if you don’t read stuff, you’re not going to know what opportunities are available for your participation; hence the number one ranking for READ.

 So, “What’s the minimum I need to read?” I hear you ask.

  • The UUCA Weekly Enews – ALL OF IT!! Every week! (You can cheat by just reading the Sunday order of service insert which is an extract (but not all) of the enews or you can cheat even more by reading the entire set of slides that run every Sunday in Sandburg Hall after the services.)
  • At least the Lead Minister’s column in the monthly newsletter
  • At least the “News” section of the quarterly magazine, UU World
  • Uh, well, you could read “News4Leaders” but if you made it this far I guess you already do. You get points for that!

Extra credit reading:

  • The other 3 columns in the monthly newsletter: Associate Minister, Lifespan Religious Education Director, Board President
  • Other articles in UU World, paying special attention to the authors’ names since they are often “players” in the UUA.
  • Subscribe and read the lead article of the Southern Region (UUA) e-newsletter. Scan the rest.
  • Join a UUA e-mailing list. These are posts written by UU members with special interests. Go here to see the list of choices.

OK, so what kind of participation are we talking about?

  • How about coming to worship most of the time? It’s amazing how much that helps keep you connected to what’s going on in the congregation.
  • Attend a non-UUCA UU event. (One very easy one would be the Cluster Gathering on October 18 here at UUCA. You might also check out the nearby Mountain Retreat Center for camps, retreats and even clean-up weekends.)

Extra credit participation:

  • Attend a UUA General Assembly, the big kahuna of UU events.

The rest of you UUCA leaders know stuff, too. What recommendations might you make to help turn new UU leaders into “old hands?”

Poetry Sunday: Reach Out in Love (text only)

Reaching Out in Love
by Donna Lisle Burton (read by Jill Preyer)

I love this place that I still call my church,
for all the facets of the care it brings
to an old and ailing woman—I mean
love and food and flowers and greeting cards—
you’d think I mattered here—only one of
six hundreds plus—who could spend so much
time for one?

I think I know; one for one
here.  Not six hundred for one but one card,
one phone call, one visitor, one huge tub
of the sweetest strawberries I ever
ate—half a dozen hugs, one at a time—
who wouldn’t fall in love with a place like this
congregation, church; whatever its name.

by Sylvie Delaunay

The sun sets the skies ablaze
Before darkness settles
Millions of stars dancing
Keep the moon awake with laughter
A flower pretends to be the sun
In fields bursting of yellow
A tiny bird can fly so fast
And yet be so still
A fish lives in the desert
Where it never rains
Creatures travel thousands of miles
So life can be born
I am here to remind you
Of life’s mysteries,
Of life’s miracles
And through uncertainties
I am here for you
I love you

Starting Over
by Joan Weiner

Because I have failed
in so many ways large and small—
so small hardly anyone noticed
so large their weight tilted
my sky for years,

and because I have not cherished
enough of what I’ve passed—
the silvering stream lapping its banks,
the gentleness of the golden leaves
floating from the branch, the tightness
of the infant’s fingers curled around mine

and because my dead have left me
since I could not protect them
from the sweep of time
and now are sailing so far away
I may never recover their rosy cheeks
or angry scowls or restlessly drumming fingers

and because I did not listen fully
to the notes that were played
and now have forgotten them
and go tune-less through the world

and because so often I have traveled
as if underwater, oblivious to the air
moving against my skin, the color
of the sky, the pebbles beside the path
I might have pocketed and burnished

and because so much is lost
and, like falling leaves, will only return
in unrecognizable colors or shapes
that do not assuage the grief

and because the mouse found
dead in the driveway this morning,
his pink feet curled tight against his fur,
spoke of all that is gone, all that is beyond
rescue, so that I thought at once

of myself, flying blind now,
at the mercy of this burning season,
of the sometimes bitter air,
of the rubble mounting all around me:

Please, if you will let me,
I will hold you so dear
together we will recover everything

The Deadliest Sin
by Andy Reed

Redemption calls us to reveal our sins.
Even we, whose language of belief
has no such words:
Atone, repent, forgive, or else … Or else,
Circle the wagons, call the marines,
Harden your heart and thicken your skin.

Obscure, dispute, deny, rebut. Display
Uprighteous rancor—never shame—
That Anger, Envy, Greed and Sloth
Insinuated such transgressions … here?

No, not in this pure soul! Nor yet, we hope,
Lust, Gluttony, or Pride, those other deadly sins,
Or worse, Despair, the deadliest of all….

Validate but hope, reach out in love;
Expunge despair, and sin
will be redeemed.

by Norris Orbach

Toenails grow until they break
Cut first into woolen socks,
Making toeholes.
Stuck my finger through the sock,
Made a shadow duck on the wall.
Quack- what webbed toenails
Have we here?
A brown downy duck
Stuck thumb-billed through-
I hid under covers,
Safe in my cave.
The woolen ceiling above my head and toes,
Had window holes to peek through
At ducks that feed on fingers
And toenails outside my room.

by Liz Preyer

She slathers her lips pomegranate red,
with a competent strokes eases on deep set eyes,
and turns, arching back to stare defiantly at the mirror.

Smiling tauntingly she covers her curls with an ebony wig.
Slither of black stockings, smooth as snake skin,
urging on a skirt hardly there.
Wriggling into a shimmering shirt,
bright like salt water fish in an aquarium,
she stares back at her reflection.

An aquamarine bottle sprays lilacs onto arms and wrists.
With a steady, proud flourish, she twists sharply,
strapping the precarious high heels onto her feet.
Tottering towards to the door,
the heat pours from her volcanic body.

She lurches towards my hand,
grabs her Halloween bucket.

Our Firefly Girl
by Liz Preyer

That brightly burning, dancing, swirling
woman child we have all loved,
has flown off into the ethers.
Her passionate, bubbling and aching soul
has asked for Respite.
And so we must now honor her request.
Such energy, creativity, her sweetness also masked
deep pain, feelings unspoken.
We gather together, all of us mourning
her abrupt shocking departure from our midst.
But like the flickering beauty and light,
turning on and off, our firefly girl will not be forgotten,
tucked safely into the depths of our hearts.
When you see those magical Fireflies
wafting freely under steamy summer nights,
gently greet that beautiful beloved Serenity.
Tell her we shall all take tender care
of those she loved and had to leave behind.

May she dance now, ever brightly, in Peace.

true love
by David Post

there was a time when I was nine
I loved a girl named jean.
there was other who would bother
cause her was was green.
I think I loved her hands the best
her fingers were webbed and short.
and when she spoke, she didn’t speak
she let out with a snort.
so if u think it strange
that I meet her on a log
come with me and u shall see
my beloved is a frog.

 –fall 1967

a prayer
by David Post

by never forgetting that our father is the heavens
and our mother the earth
and all living things their children
the Darkness of the world cannot diminish the fire from the
solitary flame of our one tiny candle.

–christmas day 1972

the circle
by David Post

we stand (sit) here together forming a circle
a border separating what is known from what is not
we look behind and see our paths only too well
we look ahead and see an ocean…not well enough.
we fear….we long….we choose
Death says “sit down, my friend, ur path is long, so long”
but I say “not yet, my friend, my path is long enough for me.”
tho much we do not know this much we do-
we are standing (sitting) here together forming a circle
a link, the link, between what has been and what shall be.

–mainely men 1992

wrapping it up (the gift)
by David Post

I ain’t done with life and life ain’t done with me’’
but one day I’ll awaken
as if from a Dream
and it will be over
and looking back I will say
“it was good. all of it.”

–oct. 2012

Chicken Soup
by Peter Olevnik

It was a special time at the family home
in South Chicago’s Polish neighborhood.
Grandmother, my mother and her sisters,
absorbed at the downstairs kitchen
coal stove crowded with pots of cooking soup,
sizzling pans of sausages and nearby
trays of rising dough; aromas
wafting through the kitchen’s tangled air.

With a bowl of chicken soup mother handed me,
and her all-purpose admonition, “you can go now,
but remember to be good.”
Soup in hand, I took the steps upstairs
to a hushed crowd of visitors, some aside
in prayer, murmuring, others stilled
in rows of folding chairs.

At one end of the large parlor, under a row
of lace curtained windows a casket rested,
church kneeler placed at its side
for me to see grandfather sound asleep,
dressed in a suit he rarely wore,
large hands jutting beyond the sleeves,
mustache-crowded face.

Forgetting my chicken soup,
I spilled it down his pillow case.
My mother took me aside.  “Grandfather died.
He won’t be back,” with tenderness, she said.
“Funeral is tomorrow at the church across the street.”
Her words unleashed a torrent flooding through my mind.
like a door suddenly thrust open:
I knew some day I would die.
As quickly opened, the door slammed shut.

The Afternoon Dream of Juan G.
by Richard Horvath

He rubs the sleep from his eyes
brews a mug of Cafe Rico, and,
as he has done so many recent mornings,
walks down five flights of stairs,
side-stepping the broken glass,
to the sidewalk on East 4th
to play dominoes with the other viejos
on the over-turned orange crates
from the Big Apple Grocery on Avenue A.

The morning wears on
the sun climbs higher.
his eyes begin to drop toward sleep.
He shuffles to the park on East 7th
and naps on the bench
beneath the oak tree
breathing in the sweet scent of marijuana
wafting over from the bandstand
where the hombres jovenes hang out.

He begins to dream –
Russet-feathered chickens
pecking in the dirt
at the rear of a small house
in a semi-tropical land
at the foot of a mountain
in the Cordillera Central.
A young man
lifting 132- pound jute bags of coffee
onto a donkey-drawn cart
bound for the barrio warehouse.

A young woman
carrying a basket of fruit,
the early morning sun
illuminating her face like a ripe plantain,
smiles at him.

They shared fifty years together.

He wakes,
shakes off the afternoon slumber
and returns to an apartment
that has turned to stone
where he feels
the hard fact of absence
whenever he turns to speak to her.
He longs again to see each morning
the early sunlight fall
across her fragile face.

by Paul Fleisig

Old hemlocks gust-bow
To flaunting white-gowned bradfords
And rose-spangled quince.

Lemon rapiers
Of forsythia thrust at
The birthing cherry.

Yearning dogwoods spy
The willow’s wisps of chartreuse,
Straining, like kite strings.

Vanquished daffodils.
Prostrated casualties
Of the fickle spring.

The radiant sun’s
Blustery resurrection.
When will my last be?

by Paul Fleisig

Signs of renascence
Amid the frosted rubble.
Life, but without fruit.

Sentinels, peeking
Through curtains of withered leaves.
A resilient Earth.

What will replace us,
After nuclear winter?
What mutant surprise?

A Poem
by Monty Berman

I think that I shall never see
A Society as inspiring as a tree
Unless it’s a UU Society that may in all seasons
Put forth the best of life’s good reasons.

by Krista Heldenbrand Christensen

The licking flames crawl up the seeming dead.
Charred limbs and ashen leaves: all are consumed.
The forest quivers in communal dread;
The weakest slump, collapse, and are subsumed.
They, steaming, sink into primeval graves,
Evaporating life. Resilient, tall
And straight, the strong withstand the heat which bathes
The forest in regenerative pall.
Then does the drenching rain arrive to smite
The itching flames: it washes fury clean.
A wedge of vacant sky provides the light
That tempts again each hopeful spear of green.
Though scarred impermanence herein abides
It is in such abandon growth resides.

For Cindy
by Jake Marx (Read by Jacqueline Larsen)

Lie by my side
In the twilight hours,
In the twilight years,
Our skin soft and pillowy,
Our minds traveling familiar roads.
It is quiet now, we are quiet,
And though the roses
That we planted
For our eyes to see
Have been cut back
To save from October frost,
They will redden our dreams
Come June and time.
We have both lost much,
Have left a dream or two
By the wayside
But there was enough left
To walk on, us two,
So that we find ourselves
Here in bed
In the twilight hours
Sharing words
Hued by the
Fading colors
Of our flower bed.

No Place To Rest
by Nick Andrea

If you think you know, you’ll get
crucified, fellow, cause,
that’s the fate of ego, when it
thinks that it’s so.

Truth is like this: demanding
constant sacrifice, ah
of our attach-a-ment , to
knowing cause that’s our vice; for,

like it’s been said, “I
am a mystery,  I’ve
always been a mystery, and I’ll
always be a mystery,” Yeah yeah!

to the intellect
we’re instructed not to lean,
on, our, understanding,  for it’s
al-so been said, that; “The
wind blows where it pleases. You hear its
sound,  but ya just can’t tell,, where it’s
coming from or where it’s going,” No no!

Chi-ld,  la-y  down, the
one who thinks, “I’ve got it,” and
like the wind find no place to stop, and
think, that you know it. Instead,

Go, ride the wave, of the
never-ending Flow, and
like the Son of Truth, find no
place to rest your ego, forsooth!


And sink back in-to That, the
cloud of unknowing, oh
of-fer-ing, your whole Self
to its promp-a-ting. to-

day’s a good day to die, child, to-
day’s a good day to die, to the
One guiding you, from inside, where the
heart, the heart does fly.

And, do not let yourself be troubled, my love no,
do not let yourself be troubled, at the
ren-der-ing, of the
intellect to be, humbled; cause

you, are guided
you, are guided, you have

always been guided, you have
always been guided, you will

always be guided, you will
always be guided.

Next Year’s Cool New Concept in Children’s RE

Have been having trouble making this blog work through Chrome.  Finally decided to try Firefox and here I am.  Expect a few more postings rather more quickly than my norm as I have a backlog of ideas!

A month or two ago, the RE Committee responded to survey results they had received from parents and made the rather courageous decision to change the way they conduct the RE classes for K-5 children. This past year (and many years prior), children were grouped by class level, with classrooms for K-1, 2-3, and 4-5. All three of these classes were following a similar curriculum called “Spirit Play.”

Here’s a description of Spirit Play:

We see the purpose of religious education as helping children in living into their own answers to the existential questions: Where did we come from? What are we doing here?  How do we choose to live our lives?  What happens when we die?

The classes follow a Montessori approach, the key elements being the prepared classroom environment and the teachers. These elements free the children to work at their own pace on their own issues after an initial lesson or story within a safe and sacred structure shepherded by two adults.

Montessori Philosophy:
Based in a proven educational method whose values support Unitarian Universalism:

  • Encourages independent thinking through wondering questions
  • Gives children real choices within the structure of the morning
  • Creates community of children in classroom of mixed ages
  • Develops an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life
  • Supports congregational polity through choice of lessons
  • Volunteers were found to value the program as part of their own spiritual process
  • Volunteers have commented on the low preparation time for weekly stories

Basically, the classroom experience starts with a story, using a story and props that have already been prepared for you. Following the story, children are invited to answer “wondering questions” and work on some activity that applies to the morning’s story.

At UUCA, the Religious Education Committee has decided to combine all children in grades K-5 to hear a single storyteller. In the model we’re trying, the storyteller would tell the same story two weeks in a row. Following the story, the children will then be asked to choose among 3 activities for the day. These activities come out of the interests and passions of our adult members (definitely not just parents with children in RE!). As Benette wrote, “We want you to lead a group of kids from the root of your passions, be it knitting, cooking, calculating, star-gazing, hiking, dancing, drawing, acting, singing, measuring or anything else.”

As a teacher or storyteller, you would get the story way ahead of time, you might ask for suggestions from Joy Berry, but you and a partner would be responsible for an activity. It sounds pretty cool to me. Please volunteer and coerce your UUCA friends to do the same. Volunteer RIGHT NOW by contacting the chair of the RE Committee, Suzanne Klonis.