rev Claudia JiménezOne of the things that attracted me to UUCA when I interviewed three years ago was your willingness to experiment. During that time I had gone before the Religious Education Credentialing Committee (RECC). I offered a presentation on “Reframing Religious Education.” The work UUCA has been doing appealed to me and embodied ideas I shared with the RECC to move toward multigenerational worship, family ministry, increased theological reflection, deepened spiritual practice, building a welcoming community, and disrupting the upstairs adults/downstairs children and family silo. I looked forward to learning more about The Wednesday Thing, spiritual deepening groups, and UUCA’s awesome religious education program.

During the last three years, I witnessed successful and failed attempts to move towards these practices, demonstrating that UUCA is willing to try new things and learn from both hits and misses. For example, The Wednesday Thing started with a multigenerational focus and community-building over a shared meal. Over time, the planning team observed that neither the meal nor the multigenerational focus was feasible. There weren’t volunteers to coordinate the meals and we weren’t attracting families to the multigenerational programs. So, we shifted. Meals were eliminated and adult programming was emphasized. That was moving forward until COVID-19. “Now what?!”, we wondered. We figured out how to offer Vespers via Zoom and one program following Vespers. Volunteers stepped up to lead Vespers and programs even though the on-line format can be awkward. I was grateful for your gracious forbearance when trying to share my screen or video that didn’t work as intended. Participants have been patient and gracious as we figured things out empirically.

This openness to new ways of doing things will be an asset to UUCA as we work towards a post-pandemic reset. Our staff is organizing a Re-Opening Task Force to discuss scenarios, criteria, and protocols. We are leaning toward offering just one worship service on Sundays as we anticipate lower in-person attendance after re-opening.

Faith Development staff and planning teams are exploring what children, youth, and adult programming might be. One thought is to have an hour of Faith Development for children, youth, and adults before or after that one worship service. What would that look like?

We are also discussing mixed-platform faith development for children, youth, and adults with some in-person classes and others on-line. What would that be like? What are the pros and cons?

I don’t know where we will be a year from now, but I do know that thanks to your willingness to experiment, we will discover ways to recapture the loving and supportive congregation I was so grateful to meet three years ago, that gathers in search of community, spiritual exploration and mutual encouragement as we face diverse personal and societal challenges. How exciting!

Rev. Claudia Jiménez, Minister of Faith Development