Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Developing Home-based Rituals: Singing "Thump"

UU World features this insightful article: "Home grown Unitarian Universalism: Developing home-based community rituals that root UU adults and children" by William J. Doherty. Doherty explains:

My goals for the religious education or faith formation of Unitarian Universalist children are twofold: First, that they grow up spiritually alive, free, and engaged with the world; and, second, that they grow up as citizens in our living religious tradition. The first goal reflects our traditions of spiritual seeking, personal freedom of mind and conscience, and commitment to building a just and loving world. The blend of these elements is what makes us unique as Unitarian Universalists. My second goal refers to citizenship in our tradition, which means active involvement in building and maintaining local congregations and the Unitarian Universalist movement.

To achieve both goals for the religious formation of UU children, I believe the central venue for faith development is the home linked to an intentional UU community. The essential ingredient that makes this work is not what we spend most of our time on when we “do” conventional religious education: Sunday school classes, worship services, and youth activities. Instead, the key ingredient is the spiritual development of parents and other adults, and their grounding in both a local church community and the Unitarian Universalist tradition. Our children will not advance much beyond our adults, and if parents have allegiance only to a local congregation (and, even more limiting, to a particular favored minister) but not to the larger Unitarian Universalist movement, then why would we expect their children to join another UU church after they leave home and move away from their local community?

The UUs I know who grew up in homes with strong links to our religious movement demonstrate a high level of commitment to our faith and can lead the way for the rest of us, if we pay attention. Here are just a few of the home-grown UUs I know:

A young friend of mine, C, is a third generation UU. For our Coming of Age worship services, youth make collages about their lives. The vast majority of these collages feature only secular activities, but the one from C was different: hers was grounded in our free faith. C had a family photo from her dedication, another of a social justice project for children, her dancing during a winter Solstice service, and photos of the three churches she had attended (two UU and one UCC). I think there was a photo or two of her with a minister and maybe a church Easter egg hunt.

Another UU told us during Joys and Sorrows about singing hymns around the piano when he was a kid. His favorite: "For All the Saints" (103). His family called it "Thump" because of the loud chord that's played at the very beginning! He's very committed to UUism, even though his wife and child lost interest.

One of my very favorite people is a home-grown UU who sings in one of our choirs. He remained active through college and graduate school because of vibrant campus ministries. It was such a joy to see him get married in our Auditorium and have his baby dedicated a year later. His beautiful wife is UCC, so I'm hopeful that baby M will learn of both venerable traditions.

Lastly, I must mention Justine Urbikas, who is the UU Board trustee from the Central Midwest District. Ms. Urbikas is about 21 years old and a full-time student at DePaul University. She previously served the CMW district as Youth Trustee to the CMwD Board as well as serving on the UU Campus Ministry Advisory Committee. I had the pleasure of meeting Justine and her delightful parents (still members of the Unitarian Church of Evanston) before voting for her to be our UUA Trustee.

Here's to growing up in a liberal religious home,

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