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A quick report on last weekend’s workshop by Sally Patton, author of Welcoming Children with Special Needs: A Guidebook for Faith Communities. The turnout was relatively small, but the dozen people who gathered last Saturday at First Unitarian Society in Minneapolis to hear Sally’s presentation were rewarded with a wealth of information on how to make our congregations more welcoming to everyone. If you haven’t read Sally’s book, do. And if you haven’t had a chance to attend one of her workshops, keep an eye out for one and try to attend–you won’t be sorry. I was especially impressed with Sally’s tips for making religious education less like school. Things like: mix age groups; provide more experiential activities; and engage children in storytelling instead of having them read out loud. I’m really, really in agreement with Sally’s number one point in this regard–quit using terms like “Sunday school” and “religious education.” Children and youth are in school five days a week, why the heck should coming to church be more of the same. I wrote a sermon based on the really awful promotion the UUA came out with in the ’90s that featured a girl with her arm around a little boy saying, “It’s like regular school—except nobody flunks.” If that’s all we have to offer children and youth for faith development, then we’re really letting everyone down, not just kids with special needs.

(By the way, I’ve got four extra copies of Sally’s book in the district office, and I’d be happy to send them off to congregations in Prairie Star, so if your PSD congregation didn’t have anyone at the workshop, and if you don’t have a copy of Welcoming Children with Special Needs in your Lifespan Faith Development library, e-mail me at psdlund@earthlink.net and I’ll send a copy to the first four readers who respond.)

Sally in Action!

The last of the four Tapestry of Faith strands is probably the least understood. After all, the whole shebang is called “Faith Development,” right? Why does there need to be a specific strand with the same name? Here’s how the Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group at the UUA looks at it:

Rather than referring to a specific portion of the vision statement, the LFD Staff Group says, “Together, all of the vision statements of Tapestry of Faith describe the development of a vital, lifelong liberal faith.

“This strand–faith development–emphasizes each person’s religious journey as a participant in a faith community and faith tradition, and each person’s lifelong process of bringing head, heart, and hands to what is of ultimate meaning and value.” Makes sense? So here are the Goals:

  • To participate in an evolving and deepening faith
  • To experience Unitarian Universalism as a faith with lifelong value
  • To be willing and able to engage with life’s challenges and transitions
  • To engage in making meaning of life and finding purpose in life
  • To affirm life, seeing all life as a gift
  • To explore and articulate one’s own faith
  • To feel a sense of belonging in a faith community and part of a tradition.

The Elements are:

  • Exploring the religious Big Questions such as, Who or what is God? Why are we here and what is expected of us? What is the meaning of life and death? Why do good and bad things happen? Is the universe a friendly place?
  • Integrating faith components:
    • What we know (cognitive)
    • What we trust (affective)
    • How we act (behavioral)
  • Applying one’s faith to life issues
  • Exploring and articulating one’s evolving beliefs and personal faith
  • Understanding and utilizing religious language and concepts
  • Reflecting, discerning, thinking critically
  • Understanding with [Sofia] Fahs that “Life becomes religious whenever we make it so….”

So, what do I think of all these outcomes? If this is what we’re truly trying to do together as a people of faith–life, learn, and grow in the direction of the LFD Vision Statement and these specific Goals and Outcomes–then I’m proud to be part of the team!

Next, I’ll post on the time line for the release of the individual Tapestry of Faith components.

I was going to post on the outcomes for the fourth and final strand of the new Lifespan Faith Development curriculum series today, but I left my handout at the office and Mondays are a work-at-home day. So instead I wanted to follow up on something I blogged about a couple of months ago–the role logos play in projecting an image of your congregation to the wider community. What brought this to mind was an article in today’s New York Times called “Blackwater Softens Its Logo From Macho to Corporate,” which is all about how “the company’s roughneck logo — a bear’s paw print in a red crosshairs, under lettering that looks to have been ripped from a fifth of Jim Beam — has undergone a publicity-conscious, corporate scrubbing.”

The reason this caught my eye is because Blackwater has felt the need to soften it’s image, but there’s at least one church planter (blogging pastor Ben Arment) who feels that congregations should consider using more masculine logos in order to attract more men (and he claims that it may actually be working). Now I don’t know if UU congregations need logos with a “beefy look” in order to attract more men, but it does make me wonder if logos that are too new age-y may be keeping men away.

Here are the logos in question: Blackwater’s new “softer” logo,

Blackwater Logo
and Reston Community Church’s “beefy” logo,

Reston Community Church

BTW, Ben Arment’s evangelical church plant in Reston, Virginia is not the first congregation there to use the name “community church.” According to Arment, a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Reston went by used that name some years ago. “Imagine the confusion it must have caused for visitors stopping in,” Arment says, “expecting a church that actually had beliefs.”

Here are the outcomes for the Unitarian Universalist Identity thread of the new Tapestry of Faith curriculum series, as presented by the Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group of the UUA at last weekends LREDA Fall Conference in San Antonio, Texas. The Goals and Elements for this strand relate to the second, fifth, and third components of the LFD Vision Statement (I’m not quite sure why they’re out of order, though).

  • Affirm that they are part of a Unitarian Universalist religious heritage and community of faith that has value and provides resources for living,
  • Recognize the need for community, affirming the importance of families, relationships and connections between and among the generations, and
  • Accept that they are responsible for the stewardship and creative transformation of their religious heritage and community of faith.

Here are the Goals;

  • To be grounded in UU history and heritage
  • To understand what Unitarian Universalism is and stands for
  • To confidently articulate what Unitarian Universalism is and stands for
  • To identify Unitarian Universalism as one’s religious home
  • To share a common UU vision, language, and identity.

The Elements include:

  • UU history and heritage
  • UU Worship, rituals, symbols, and traditions
  • Meaning of covenant
  • Principles and Sources: understand, articulate, and live
  • Universalist legacy of love, faith, hope
  • Unitarian legacy of freedom, reason, and tolerance
  • Rites of passage
  • UU identity (personal, communal)
  • UU stories
  • UU language
  • UU polity.

In some ways, this may be the most difficult of all the strands. Unitarian Universalists are, on the whole, just not very good at talking about what it means to be a UU. That’s not too surprising given our relatively brief existence as a merged tradition, which is why I’m glad that there’s some awareness that we need to include understanding our separate Unitarian and Univeralist legacies here. After all, we didn’t arrive out of the blue as a fully formed religion in 1961.

Here’s what the UUA’s Lifespan Faith Development Staff Group offered at the LREDA Fall Conference regarding the Goals and Elements of the Spiritual Development strand of Tapestry of Faith. The outcomes for this strand are reflected in the first and the seventh elements of the LFD Vision Statement:

  • Know that they are lovable beings of infinite worth, imbued with powers of the soul, and obligated to use their gifts, talents, and potentials in the service of life, and
  • Appreciate the value of spiritual practice as a means of deepening faith and integrating beliefs and values with everyday life.

The Goals include:

  • To nurture a deepening spiritual life and spiritual centeredness
  • To cultivate individual and communal spiritual practices
  • To develop an alertness to the wonder and mystery of existence
  • To feel a connection to a larger reality, and
  • To experience the sacred through worship, ritual, wisdom of faith traditions, and spiritual disciplines.

The Elements are:

  • Spiritual awareness and centeredness
  • Spiritual practices/disciplines
  • Spiritual wisdom of other faith traditions
  • God, ultimate, transcendence
  • Sense of (being part of) something larger
  • Connection, with other people, nature, universe
  • Wonder, awe, mystery
  • Beauty, truth, love, joy, and trust in the midst of life’s suffering, brokenness, loss
  • Willingness and ability to engage with issues of ambiguity, good and evil, sin, forgiveness, redemption, atonement
  • Worship, rites, rituals, sacred texts.

I have to say that I love the religious “favor” of these Goals and Elements. As persons of faith (and I believe we are), we all need to be able to use words like sin, forgiveness, redemption, and atonement if we’re are going to make our faith intelligible to those who think we’re some sort of cult or New Age group.

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