Meet Jim Lewis: UUP Director of Religious Education
Message From Jim Lewis
Over the next two weeks in Religious Education, we will be saying good bye to the Christian Science Reading Room. RE has met there for many years, so it has become an important part of UUP history. My favorite moments would have to be all the stories the children have acted out as part of our lessons! So many sweet, goofy, and excited moments are found in their mini-performances.
The area around the Women’s Club has provided many nature walks, investigating bugs and observing plants. And for two Mother’s Days in a row, Religious Education has marched into downtown Petaluma to protest for peace, an action inspired by Julia Ward Howe.
One of my favorite Religious Education moments was having a second grader explain to me that my partner and I could not have children, but we definitely could adopt or find a surrogate. She was very invested in informing me that a gay couple could be good parents!
As we move on from this location, let me know your memories of Religious Education in these spaces! So many of you have a longer history with these buildings and streets than I, and I am curious to find out what resonates in your memory. Did you have a meaningful observation? What moments of fun did you find?
For memories, both those fondly remembered and those yet to be created!
On most Sundays after the Story for All Ages in our Worship, children and youth through middle school age go to Religious Education classes. During the summer these classes are organized by Leslie Harrison and Stacey Meinzen and taught by volunteers. The rest of the year classes are organized and taught by our Director of Religious Education, Jim Lewis, with the assistance of congregational volunteers.
Mission Statement For Religious Education at UUP
We will provide our children with opportunities to grow spiritually, develop a sense of personal and social responsibility, and experience joy as integral members of a loving Unitarian Universalist community. Our curriculum will balance head and heart by providing intellectual stimulation while nurturing the spirit.
How We Fulfill Our Mission
- Teaching about the world’s religions, including our own
- Fostering social responsibility and personal growth by participation in service projects for our community and outside groups
- Providing instruction in UU principles and practices to assist children and youth in forming their own belief system
- Ensuring a safe learning environment
- Providing activities and rituals
- Integrating our children into our church community and the greater UU denomination
- Providing knowledge of UU history to help children build confidence in their own UU identity.
Description of Philosophy
Our religious education program for children and youth teaches children ages 3 to 18 about our Unitarian Universalist identity, sources of inspiration and history; issues of peace and social justice; and the interdependent web of nature. Our children and youth will have opportunities to put UU principles into action through service projects. We will hold social events to build intergenerational community. Participation in our Religion Education program will help children and youth become self-assured, confident adults with a strong sense of their own religious identity.
UUP has committed ourselves to developing a religious community that actively involves children. Our kids are involved with our worship service until about one-third of the way through, when we sing them out to their classes:
We wish for you an open heart,
also a questing mind;
so you may know how others live
and cherish the divine.
Our current religious education (RE) curriculum are based on three stated core beliefs, which fit squarely with the Seven Principles to which Unitarian Universalists subscribe. The three core beliefs are:
- That all children are inherently valuable without regard to gender, race, religion, family background, economic status, appearance, abilities, health, possessions or any other factor;
- That all children have the right to feel good about themselves exactly as they are;
- That a child’s value is unconditional. Nothing the child does, says or chooses can change that.
The curriculum focuses on building self-esteem and self-awareness (especially in the areas of dealing with emotions) and healthy communication skills. The current age range of participating children is 2 -17 — the programs are geared to the ages of the children. There are now 3 classes based upon age, as well as a nursery for infants.
Teams of UUP parents facilitate the religious education classes, and visitors (children and parents alike!) are welcome to attend