KimDid you know it has been almost a year since we introduced our “Wee Worship” area in the Sanctuary? It’s true! We introduced it on Sunday, February 13, 2022. Our theme that month was “Widening the Circle” so it was the perfect time to widen our circle by making our worship space welcoming to young children and their families. You can read more about why we took this step here.

While it’s true there have been some growing pains, overall we have been successful in our goal to be more welcoming to families with young children. We currently have about 80 families registered for Religious Exploration here at UU Asheville, and that includes about 130 individual children and youth. This is GREAT news. As UU congregations around the country emerge from the pandemic, many of them have lost or drastically reduced their RE programs due to low attendance, reduced staff hours, and low volunteer turnout. Our children and youth programs are growing because this congregation has consistently demonstrated that being welcoming to families and offering excellent programs for children and youth is a priority. Instead of cutting RE staff and budgets, you have all empowered us to keep our core programs going, to try new things, and to recognize our professional RE staff with the appropriate titles and compensation.

Yes, I saw the flying (stuffed toy) pineapple during our multigen MLK service a few weeks ago. Yes, it was louder than usual that Sunday. Here are some other things I noticed that Sunday; our Sanctuary was full of people of all ages! We gathered together before and after the service to create colorful posters about love and justice that many of our congregation members took to the MLK Peace March the next day. I noticed that everyone in the Sanctuary loves to sing and move as an embodied aspect of our worship together. I do want you to know that RE staff and Rev. Claudia met following that service to talk about how we can do more education with folks about what our expectations are for parents and children in worship together, and how we have so many new families that may not know these expectations because they have joined us in the last 12 months. We have updated the pew cards in the Wee Worship area with clear language about how to be in this sacred space together, and Rev. Claudia shared a wisdom story with us about it as well. I know it was challenging for some folks and I want you to know that we took your feedback seriously, but that we also remain committed to inviting children and youth to be with us in the Sanctuary as often as possible. We grow adults who seek out faith communities by making sure to include our children in all aspects of congregational life, including worship!

Don’t forget that our service is broadcast into Sandburg Hall as well, this space is open for anyone who needs it! Some of us need to move around more or find it challenging to be in close proximity to so many people. One of the ways that we are welcoming is by providing spaces for folks to worship in ways that work for them, whether it’s in person with a large group, at home online, or in a non-traditional space like our fellowship hall.

Kim Collins, Religious Educator