Change is afoot in the RE spaces! The construction project necessitated some changes, and opened the door to others. I want to share what we are doing to make the RE class and common spaces better and more welcoming.
I began working here a year ago this month (that’s right, it’s our anniversary, y’all, and I got you paint and flooring!) I was delighted to learn there was a restricted fund for RE Renovations. It had been tapped for some big, wonderful work in the playground, but still had about $18K set aside for more work.
Last Summer I requested that we repaint two of the classrooms that were ready for a facelift as we planned our new Contemplation and Drama/Movement/Music centers. They were painted and we have enjoyed the radical change in those rooms that just new paint created.
This Summer, we faced major changes as our renters, Friends of Mine preschool, made the decision to move over to Jefferson House from the room (RE5) they have been in for some time. This freed up that classroom for other uses, and also brought to light the fact that it was badly in need of new flooring and paint. In the next few weeks, a hard floor will go down, replacing the carpet, and painting is planned as well. RE5 will now become the space for our new Multigenerational Classroom. Read more about why we are offering this ALL-AGES Sunday 9:15 class, and consider registering in MY INFO.
The RE Commons and the NEW nursery (RE1) and NEW PreK room (RE2) will get some new paint and are undergoing a major assessment and de-clutter to make the rooms age- and developmentally appropriate and reflective of our values and goals. In particular, the curricular play and work that take place in PreK require a deep re-do on the room. We lost all the PreK furniture, materials, and resources we had previously shared with Friends of Mine PreK when they moved, so we have the opportunity now to make the space reflect our understanding of what a UU PreK consists of, feels like, and looks like.
In addition, a mini-theater space is being created in the RE Commons, with a ceiling-mounted projector, allowing us to use multi-media as part of our RE toolkit. Chalkboard walls are being added to the RE Commons so that our learning together becomes more interactive, and more engaging.
In Jefferson House, a fresh coat of ivory paint throughout the downstairs has brightened the whole house considerably. Both bathrooms have been renovated and are clean and welcoming–a much needed change! And the RE classrooms (JH7, 8, and 9) have all been repainted. A wall damaged by a leak from the roof has been fixed, and both JH8 and 9 now have a snazzy midnight blue chalkboard wall that complements the rooms and gives students and teachers a space to be creative and expansive, share ideas, and generally express themselves. In JH7, which has been the Coming of Age classroom for some (and is the 8th/9th grade Building Bridges/Neighboring Faiths classroom this year), the entire room has become a chalkboard, meaning a group of youth can truly “make their mark” on their space, yet leave it a “blank slate” for the class to come.
In 23 Edwin, what was previously the office of the music director is being changed to a dedicated space for the 10th-12th grade YRUU group, and they, too, will have a chalkboard wall.
In the playground area, we have installed a Children’s Garden with mosaic paving stones, a vermiculture condominium (worm farm! It will stay inside until the worst heat of summer is past), and a tumbling composter will be in place soon. Our very own Little Free Library is being placed later this summer after the kids get it ready. All these projects are part of our Makerspace Summer Sundays program, but constitute changes to the outside space you may notice and wonder about.
Bottom line financially? All in all, we’ve spent about $6500 from the Renovations fund this year, leaving us with about $10K for future projects in RE renovation. I hope this rundown helps you understand the “what” and “why” as well as the “how much” questions you may have about the renovations and changes you may see in RE spaces. And PLEASE DO come see us and one of the RE staff will be happy to give you a tour any Sunday just after church service is over. We would love to welcome you, as we do new families, into an RE space that feels and looks bright, open, nurturing, energized and well-cared for–just like our classes and the whole RE program!
A few weeks ago on this blog, Mark discussed some of the spiritual lessons present in the Welcome Project. The day-to-day experience of change is a powerful teacher. It is not only the spiritual lessons that are meaningful, but also the ordinary ones.
I have spoken to some of you over the past few weeks about how frustrating it is on Sunday mornings, how challenging it is to find your way, or to anticipate which path is going to be clear and accessible. As we all know, there is no way out of this upheaval but to move through it. And so, all of us in this community are experiencing the upheaval of this construction in different ways.
I know that a few of you are avoiding church altogether for the summer, knowing that there is no way you will feel comfortable coming in the building, using stairs, or walking a longer distance from the parking lot. We miss you! And I, for one, look forward to the time when this is all finished, and we can be together again.
As a physically able-bodied person, I am noticing that my ongoing discomfort is giving me a deeper sense of empathy for people who struggle with mobility and access to space every day. I realize that my experience of having to go around the block to find an entrance I can use, or limiting my movement throughout the day due to shifting, changing progress outside, is a common occurrence for others. This is the kind of experience that stretches my understanding of what it means to be a welcoming community.
The best part of it all, though, is the enthusiasm and cooperation I see happening around me. I see that you are working hard to make things work, even though it is confusing and different. You are helping each other and being resourceful, and enjoying our Sunday time together in the midst of the chaos.
I am so excited to see this progress being made on such an important project, and to live and work in a cooperative and helpful community.
Rev. Julianne Lepp, Guest Minister
This sermon explores how we can break away from well-worn patterns that no longer serve us. What does it mean to trust yourself to follow the road less traveled? In Patti Digh’s <i>Life Is A Verb: 37 Days To Wake Up, Be Mindful, And Live Intentionally</i>, she writes, “Natural human purpose. What is mine? Yours? Maybe if I look at the paths I’ve worn, over and over again, I’ll see that purpose show itself, the way cornfields create patterns I see only when I’m flying over them.”
The past month has been one of full immersion into the wider Unitarian Universalist community for me. First, Mara and I went to the Unitarian Universalist Association’s General Assembly in Portland at the end of June. General Assembly consists of a series of plenary sessions to discuss governance, provide worship, and celebrate achievements. On the governance side, there were several actions of immediate witness, most importantly one was adopted supporting “Black Lives Matter.” It was unique and special to attend a UU worship service with 4500 people in attendance and a huge choir. A special “pop-up” service celebrating the Supreme Court’s ruling on marriage equality took place on Friday that was both celebratory and emotional. Also special was being there as our own Clark Olsen was awarded the Distinguished Service Award where Clark’s achievements were lauded by Rev. Mark Ward.
In addition to plenary sessions, there were also a series of workshops that provided an opportunity to learn about a variety of different topics. I attended a couple of great sessions, including one on the importance of covenanting, and another on a model for UU ministry in the 21st century called “Fulfilling the Call.” Fulfilling the call provides a new resource for both clergy and laity to identify and understand the expectations placed upon UU ministers, and ministries, in the 21st century. It provides performance-based rubrics that provide guidance for assessing how well a minister performs ministerial responsibilities outlined in a set of profiles defined by the UU Ministers’ Association. Our ministerial task force recommended this approach be used to help guide the congregation’s ministerial review in the future.
Then, this past weekend, Wendy Seligmann and I attended the UUA Southern Region President’s Convocation. As I describe in my News from the Board eNews article, the President’s Convocation provided a great opportunity to share common concerns and solutions with other UU congregational leadership. It was inspiring to see what everyone else is doing and to learn about the many different approaches that are being used in other congregations. We’ll be moving ahead in our board to adopt some of these best practices other congregations are doing.
So, it’s been a very busy month in my UU life and I’ve been inspired getting to know so many other UUs from around the region and from around the country.
Monika Gross, Guest Speaker
Religions throughout time have included gesture and movement as important parts of liturgy. Can motion embody meaning for us as religious humanists, separate from specific religious dogma? What is the quality invoked by pressing my palms together, by lowering my head, by opening my palms upward and outward? While choosing to look beyond the supernatural as a basis for worship, can we retain physical forms of spirituality? Can we honor the profound human need for embodied intention and emotional expression that inspired the creation of archetypical gestures of joy, devotion, request, compassion, awe, humility, thankfulness and consolation?