Lifespan Faith Formation
All Souls Unitarian Universalist faith formation nurtures
liberal religious discovery and the spiritual development of children, youth, and adults.
Faith Formation News from Perry Montrose
Director of Faith Formation
Faith Formation Sunday marked the end of our time together in Zoom classes over the past year. We celebrated the way we were “in it together” through a difficult period and looked forward with hope. The service was filled with emotional endings and those transitions also signified new beginnings.
Ella and Kylie bridged from youth into young adulthood, as we sent them off to college through this long-held UU ritual. The congregation posted well-wishes in the chat and Julia sang “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” to remind Ella and Kylie that we are always near, no matter the distance.
Kianna and Lorelai offered their reflections on racial and environmental justice, coming out of a year of deep reflections on meaningful topics in the 7th-9th grade class. They gave us a preview of the thoughtfulness that is going to come as they move into Coming of Age in the fall. (We hold our family COA Orientation on June 27.) They also gave us hope for a better future with the understanding their cohort has of the justice issues we continue to address in the world.
Arlene Stoltz, our Religious Education Administrator for the past eight years, was honored as she ended her time in the position. Arlene and her husband, Tom, are retiring together so they can enjoy this new chapter of lives. We are grateful for the unbelievable dedication and care that Arlene gave to All Souls. Her connection to this congregation will continue in a different capacity, as she plans to still be around and volunteer in ways that give her joy.
Faith Formation Sunday was held online for the second year in a row and, yet, next week we will worship in person for the Flower Communion. It is only the beginning of this transition into a new time. Endings do not arrive all at once and new beginnings are a process. As they unfold, the constant is the rich soil of this faith community that helps us to blossom.
“I hate coronavirus,” said one of the children after seeing the building and realizing how much she missed just being inside the space with the people she loves. We can all relate to that frustration and the deep sadness behind the anger. I affirmed her feeling and the loss, then she and Nora had some masked, socially-distant time together outside. The connection fanned the flame of hope during a time despondency for even the youngest ones.
Another child asked some science questions and then if coronavirus was like a bad guy, with intention to do harm. Is a virus evil? We know the effects of it feel evil. If there isn’t something intentional or orchestrated happening, then where do we direct our feelings about it? In 1st-6th grade Faith Formation, we talked about being aware of your feelings and then giving loving kindness to yourself and others (see our loving kindness meditation).
These hard questions about evil are the same ones with which our Adult Faith Formation theology class recently grappled. Rebecca Parker’s reflection in A House for Hope was the springboard into a deep and difficult conversation about what evil is, where it comes from, and what salvation looks like in our angst. Ann and I could not give participants a set of answers, but we could confirm that these are complicated topics that people have strong feelings about because they connect so directly to our need for meaning and things to make sense. Answers often come in snippets and with confusion, but it is most important to identify our feelings and be kind to ourselves and others as we cope.
The tools for resiliency are the focus of our multigenerational service this coming Sunday. Through a fun, layered story about loneliness and relationship we will look at where hope is found and how we get through difficult times. The reflections will help us to get in touch with our feelings and then search for our beacon of hope. We will take this journey together, which is part of the answer in itself. See you in YouTube.
“They spend all their money on alcohol and drugs, and make bad choices,” said the youth as to how people end up homeless. After hearing the variety of ways people find themselves homeless, from Barbara, who works on the frontline at the Homeless Hospitality Center (HHC), the youth were glad to understand more about the realities. They were better prepared to compassionately live out our UU Principles.
The 1st - 9th graders all learned about homelessness in age-appropriate ways during Faith Formation this past Sunday. They did an activity about finances and how people find themselves unable to pay their rent after job losses or health issues. Barbara talked to them about the shortage of affordable housing and individual stories of all the people who want to be working but cannot because of the job market or illness. Our focus was on our 2nd UU Principle “be fair and kind,” but the children named other Principles that related - #1 “respect everyone” and #6 “work for peace and justice.”
The children and youth brainstormed items that the people at the HHC winter warming center, being hosted at All Souls, might need. The children had some good ideas that were added to the list HHC provided to us (see list in “For Families” section in the November 24 eblast). Some of the items on their list are not things we would readily think of – ear buds because privacy is needed when using your phone and playing music, chapstick, wallets, hair ties – all items sorely needed and easily lost.
While on the Faith Formation Zoom, one little girl clutching her stuffed animal had not spoken much during the session, but at the end of the brainstorm announced that the people at the shelter needed stuffies. Her stuffy provided all of what was needed for those in shelter – comfort, love, warmth, and knowing someone cared. It made me think back to a conversation I had with a formerly homeless person who said the most difficult part was being ignored and feeling like you didn’t exist or matter anymore. The greatest thing you could do is say “hi” and acknowledge someone alone on the streets. It is true for everyone struggling through difficult and lonely times, so during this season let us join together in caring for each other and those most in need.
It is Unitarian Universalist minister Robert Fulghum who wrote the book “All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.” So, you can imagine my UU angst as we struggle to get Nora through hybrid, pandemic kindergarten. With two working parents, her whole foundation for life is a broken, crumbling mess of QR code and password mishaps, failed project uploads, the failure to mute, missed lessons, and misplaced math bag cubes. She is not alone, of course, and Fulghum said that these first lessons are “the distillation of all the hard-won, field-tested working standards of the human enterprise,” so maybe we are just learning them in a new way.
We just held our second All Souls parent school meeting, an opportunity to share what’s been happening with school and questions/concerns. Parents are struggling with school logistics, mixed with health and safety concerns that create an ever-shifting landscape. The hardest part is finding their footing and knowing what the next right step is. As in many aspects of pandemic life, there is a loss of control over life processes that we thought we knew how to do, or at least how to figure out. Parents are finding that they have the spiritual challenge of letting go of expectations, control, and knowing. Yet, every parent wants to know that they are doing a good job and what’s best for their children. In connecting, parents can reassure each other that this is ultimately happening.
It is in that support for one another that parents find a balance point and reorient their compass. One parent stated the profoundly obvious that it will be okay, regardless of what happens in elementary school, or a disappointing senior year. We will feel the effect of these experiences, yet our children’s lives will not be ruined because of them. The list of life lessons that Fulghum lists in his book are ones that children will grasp from how we handle this adversity. If we still share our resources, no matter their perceived scarcity, if we don’t take out our frustrations on others and say sorry when we do, if we still live a balanced life and stick together, then we will have what we need to live well, even in adversity.
Fulghum says that each spring he writes a personal statement of belief, a credo, just as our Coming of Age youth did this fall. Doing this as a yearly practice emphasizes that our life understanding is always evolving. For Fulghum, his credo has gotten shorter over the years because knowing what it takes to live a meaningful life isn’t that complicated. Living it is. We have added challenges these days, but our task is still the same. It is the challenge of figuring out how to live out our values in the circumstances and finding our sense of community in that. All Souls is a supportive community, no matter what life brings for you. Whether in your kindergarten year or not, we can remind each other of all we need to know.
Register for Faith Formation now, so we can plan our groups accordingly. Rightsizing classes for Zoom is especially important. Click here to register.
For the fall, we plan to have multiple age-separated groups with a monthly theme. 45-minute sessions will include activities adapted for the online format, check-in, and topic discussions with a focus on our values and UU Principles. As weather and the pandemic allows, we will continue to schedule in-person outdoor activities.
Scholarships for the fee are available if you need assistance. If you are in the position to do so, we ask you to consider giving more generously to support Faith Formation. Thank you for your generosity.
Please let us know if you have any questions or there is any way we can support your family.
Perry's Reflection offered September 23, 2020
“Nobody told me there'd be days like these. Strange days indeed,” John Lennon sings. It is strange to see pictures of everyone in masks, an unimaginable scene less than a year ago. Yet, at Faith Formation on Sunday, beneath the masks there were smiles and a different picture of community coming into focus.
We would never choose to go through the difficulties of these times, but there are important new discoveries coming out of our adaptation. When discussing how the shift to online Zoom sessions affected them, the Coming of Age youth mentioned the intimacy of seeing people in their living spaces. Suddenly, we had a view into a hidden piece of a person’s identity. Somehow, seeing someone’s living room or bedroom pulled off a mask and invited conversation about what is meaningful to that person.
“I listen to the wind, to the wind of my soul,” sings Cat Stevens. Our first Faith Formation session this past Sunday was socially distanced in the All Souls’ parking lot and the wind presented a challenge to being able to hear each person speak. We had to find ways to listen to each person’s sharing of what gives them inspiration, hope, and in what they have faith. Through the wind, we listened to each other’s souls and this coming Sunday we will do so through the filter of a computer screen. Rather than lessening our connection, it presents us with the opportunity to listen more intently and be there for one another when it is not so easy to be present.
This fall, our focus is on creating personal connection and talking about the values we hold as individuals and Unitarian Universalists. Each time we gather is not just another activity but a chance to hear our stories and unmask who we are. The authenticity of sharing our struggles and our joys is at the heart of Unitarian Universalist living. Our self-discovery is shaped in the circle of community.
Director of Faith Formation
Perry's Ponderings - April 2020
It can be hard to know how to talk to a child about a crisis, like the current pandemic. Parents have to decide what their children should know, or not, and how the information should be phrased to them. Sometimes questions or situations arise in the moment and parents don’t have time to prepare. It helps to have some framing ahead of time and resources to give some expert perspective. The Unitarian Universalist Association has put together resources for talking to children about Covid-19 (https://www.uua.org/leadership/library/talking-kids-covid). The resource page includes stories, science lessons, dialogue suggestions, and mental health advice.
In her March 15 homily, Rev. Caitlin mentioned Fred Rogers' advice from his mother, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” Many children have found this comforting because it focuses on what we can do and the good happening in the world. Mr. Rogers also said, "In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers." Often children just want to be heard and adults do not need to have all the answers, just be a loving presence. Children will talk about topics when they are ready to hear about them. It is often better to let them guide the conversation than to give information that they have not asked for. They will process in their own way and time. The most important piece is that there is an open channel for conversation, no matter the age of the child.
Jantzi family for an art supplies donation
Maria Bareiss for helping to lead our 1st-3rd grade class as they explored Neo-pagan ideas of peace, magic, and dance
Betsey Fox for joining our 7th-8th Grade teaching team
Emmy Franklin and Eileen Ego for substitute teaching
Paul Carolan for leading a special Youth Group discussion on the educational system’s response to gun violence.