Lifespan Religious Exploration
CHILDREN & YOUTH
UUFCO’s growing Religious Exploration program, led by Director for Religious Exploration Ayla Halberstadt, offers children and youth a foundation based on the principles of Unitarian Universalism and a supportive community in which spiritual awareness, tolerance, acceptance, and personal growth are nurtured. We challenge our children to think about their world, their beliefs, and how to live harmoniously with all living things and the earth.
Sunday Morning Programs
About 70 children are enrolled in our Sunday morning children’s RE program, with an average participation of 20 children each Sunday. In addition to our three-quarter time Director of Religious Exploration, we have two part-time teachers, two part-time childcare providers, and numerous adult volunteers, some of whom lead specialized programs.
Affirming our multigenerational community, children and adults start the service together in the sanctuary. After a children’s story (two Sundays a month) and the Children’s Covenant, the congregation sings the children to their classrooms. Classroom groupings are childcare and nursery (ages 0-4), grades K-2, grades 3-5, and grades 6-8.
In the childcare and nursery room, paid childcare providers and volunteers provide a safe, supportive environment for children to interact and engage in enrichment activities. Each K-8 class shares joys and sorrows, lights a chalice, and checks in each week. The K-2 class uses “Love Surrounds Us,” an online UUA Tapestry of Faith curriculum; our 3-5 class focuses on “You the Creator"; and the 6-8 class uses “Heeding the Call: Qualities of a Social Justice Maker,” supplemented by topics such as using spiritual practices when communicating and dealing with disagreements and respecting the worth and dignity of all in digital communications. Our Whole Lives (OWL) was offered last year and included children from other local congregations.
A youth program is currently in development. Youth bonding is the basis for a healthy program, and our 7–9th grade youth have become a very tight cohort. This fall we are trying out a youth gathering outside Sunday mornings, with the goal of starting a Coming of Age program next year that will foster deeper connections with our older age groups. UUFCO has been invited to participate with other local faith communities in the Bend Youth Collective, a cohort of older teens engaging in faith and social action in the Central Oregon area.
Special Programs and Activities
Our children and youth reach beyond Sunday morning experiences and into the community by serving meals at a local homeless shelter, creating backpacks with school supplies and food kits for children in need, and participating in the Guest at Our Table program. RE program sleepovers, family art nights, and preparation for our annual Christmas pageant provide opportunities for bonding, creativity, and family fun.
ADULT RELIGIOUS EXPLORATION
The Adult Religious Exploration program seeks to provide spiritual experiences that inspire, transform and sustain our members and friends. Guided by this broad intention, the Adult RE offerings are designed to provide opportunities for people to tell their own stories and ask their own questions, to encounter worldwide wisdom traditions, to develop their sense of Unitarian Universalist identity, to engage with ethical and moral questions, and to work within the congregation and the wider world to build communities of justice and love.
The Adult RE program offers UUA curriculum-based classes on Wednesday evenings as part of our “NUUrishment” night series. Last spring, the NUUrishment nights included a UU History film series (6 classes), and the UUA “Wi$dom Path” series (11 classes). In the fall of 2016, NUUrishment Night has been paired with the UUA “Spirit of Life” series (9 classes). A once-a-month potluck supper before the program gives everyone a chance to mingle and share a meal. Classes have been led by the minister, lay leaders, and staff. Childcare is provided.
For the past 2-½ years, UUCFO has been using the UUA Soul Matters themes and programming as the focal point for some Sunday services and a resource for our small group ministry. The Adult RE program offers the Soul Matters study guides to congregants who wish to explore these themes in greater depth. This year, 227 congregants signed up to receive the Soul Matters materials. Of that number, 57 people also elected to explore the materials in a small group setting. Each small group of about 12 participants is led by a trained facilitator and meets once each month.
In addition to the UUA curriculum-based offerings, the Adult RE program sponsors such ongoing programs as weekly mindfulness meditation services on Sunday mornings, monthly Women’s Spirit Circle and Men’s Group gatherings, monthly Dances of Universal Peace gatherings, a monthly Spiritual Book Club experiential group, and weekly Chinese Essence Qigong and Yoga classes. This year, the Adult RE program also offered a class on Mindfulness for Body, Mind & Spirit (4-week offering), and a RE book discussion on parenting (one-time event).
The Adult RE Committee meets monthly to discuss how different classes and small group offerings might best meet the needs of the UUFCO community. The committee’s intention is to offer at least two UUA curriculum-based classes each year, in addition to other classes that reflect the specific interests of congregants and topics volunteer teachers are equipped to teach. As the congregation continues to grow in our new building, the Adult RE program is transitioning towards offering an even more robust series of classes to inspire, transform and sustain our members and friends.