Easter in Spirit Play! It’s Complicated.

It’s that time of year again when we wrestle with what to do with the kids for Easter. As Unitarian Universalist, this can be a most complicated occasion.

For the new to UU, here’s an overview of the scene.

First, as a pluralistic congregation, we’re not universally aligned with the Christian Easter narrative, so it doesn’t always feel like our holiday to celebrate. We’re certainly a religion of Christian lineage and we’re by no means anti-Easter. It’s just…delicate. And yet, parents and children alike have expressed a desire for an Easter egg hunt every year that I’ve been on staff, and by golly, we like to give our families what they desire when we can!

We aim to be good stewards of the Earth, so there’s also the question of how to host the desired egg hunt in a way that aligns with our larger values, so without contributing more plastic eggs to the landfill. Add to that the amazing education Rachel Kohler provided around fair trade chocolate, and suddenly, even if we do have an egg hunt, what would we put in the eggs? Have I mentioned that it’s tricky? We want to live our values and host a joyous occasion at the same time!

So where have we landed? I’m so glad you asked!

We’ll be sharing the story of Ostara and the Hare in Spirit Play on Easter Sunday, and exploring some of the theories around how the Pagan and Christian cultures mingled in such a way that in modern America, we associate multicolored eggs with the Jesus story.

Then, we’ll have an egg hunt on the playground during what is usually our “work time.” We’ve found colorful wooden eggs that we can use year after year. The children can keep what’s inside, and leave the eggs for next year, as a practice in reusing to lessen our environmental impact.

It’s worth mentioning that there will be some plastic trinkets involved. Why? Because I’m not pulled toward the kind of performative environmentalism that might motivate us to send the perfectly usable trinkets we’ve inherited from previous generations to the landfill simply to look like we’re living our values. We have a fair amount of spring-related plastic items that our children will delight in, so we’re passing them out! We’re not planning on purchasing more when these are gone, but let’s give what we already own a full life before the landfill, shall we? We’ve also purchased some earth-friendly treasures to go in the eggs instead of chocolate.

TL;DR We will learn about the Pagan and Christian origins of the occasion and enjoy an informed egg hunt that aligns with our larger UU values by decentering plastics, using up what we already have, and opting out of the chocolate.

Hooray!

If you’re the parent of a Spirit Play kiddo, you are most welcome to send them to RE with their Easter baskets for the activity, and paper sacks will be provided for those who arrive basket-free. 

Register for Camp Blue Boat!

Camp Blue Boat registration is open!

NEW WEEK: June 30-July 5

NEW LOCATION: Get ready for an unforgettable summer experience at Camp Blue Boat at Camp N-Side-Sen in Harrison, Idaho!

This year, registration includes a bus from Seattle, so no need for a second registration. Don’t forget to look for the discount if you’re not taking the bus. And the Sibling and Early Bird (by 3/15) Discounts return.

This summer camp is perfect for youth from rising 6th-grade to 12th-grade graduates. It offers age-specific housing and programming, where campers, counselors, and staff will explore being in relationship with oneself, others, and the wider world. The camp is based on four basic pillars, including community, spirituality, justice, and equality. After attending, youth will be able to articulate beliefs grounded in UU theology and values, develop spiritual discipline, engage in social change, and build personal and religious resilience. There are plenty of fun activities such as field games, crafts, hikes, swimming, bonfires, and more. Come join us

Why are we moving?  Because our old site wants to use their camp for their campers, so we get to go back to N-Sid-Sen, where Camp Blue Boat started.

Grandfolks Squad (Free UUFC Childcare)

As part of our mission to ensure that people of all ages have the opportunity to plug into Fellowship life, we formed the Grandfolks Squad, a team of volunteers who provide no-cost childcare for Fellowship families during UUFC sponsored events.

Per our safe congregation policy, all volunteers who work with children are background checked and work in teams of two unrelated adults so that children are never alone, one on one, with any nonfamily adult. The squad is composed largely of grandparents who have a heart for nurturing young children.

Only children who are registered in either the nursery or Spirit Play are eligible for care from the Granfolks Squad. This ensures that we have adequate emergency information on file. You may find registration links for each age group under the learning tab.

Please note that because the Grandfolks Squad is completely volunteer-operated, there may be times when a request cannot be accommodated. 

To request a team of Grandfolks to care for your children during an event, we ask that you fill out this request form 2-3 weeks prior to the event date. Once a team has been found, you will be notified via email. Please arrive 5 – 10 minutes before your event and meet the Grandfolks in Room 4. Offer them any information that might help them provide a great experience for your cherished little one, and then head to your gathering.

If you have questions about the Grandfolks Squad, or are interested in volunteering, contact Skyla King-Christison at dre@uucorvallis.org

OWL (Our Whole Lives) Comprehensive Sexuality Education

Honest, accurate information about sexuality changes lives. It dismantles stereotypes and assumptions, builds self-acceptance and self-esteem, fosters healthy relationships, improves decision making, and has the potential to save lives. For these reasons and more, we are proud to offer Our Whole Lives (OWL), a comprehensive, lifespan sexuality education curricula for use in both secular settings and faith communities.

Our Whole Lives helps participants make informed and responsible decisions about their relationships, sexual health and behavior. With a holistic approach, Our Whole Lives provides accurate, developmentally appropriate information about a range of topics, including relationships, gender identity and expression, sexual orientation, sexual health, and cultural influences on sexuality.

Because we aim, as people of faith, to never stop growing and evolving, UUFC doesn’t stop offering OWL just because you’ve become an adult. As part of our core programming, we offer OWL every other year, alternating with Coming of Age, each with a cohort of middle schoolers and a separate cohort open to adults ages 18 to 101! Adult OWL is not a children’s program made available to adults. Instead, we expand the conversation to include information about up to date terminology that may have changed in your lifetime and what that means for your conversations about sex and sexuality, as well as discussions around how our identities and challenges shift as we become sexual beings in aging human bodies.

OWL is only taught by teams of background checked adults who have completed training offered jointly by the UUA and UCC. You can find more information about the complete program by visiting this website, and more about our local OWL offerings by emailing Skyla King-Christison at dre@uucorvallis.org.

Coming of Age

Coming of Age is a core UU program that asks participants to explore what it means to become an adult in a Unitarian Universalist context. A lot of cultures have this kind of event in the life of their congregation or community. Close to home, our Jewish neighbors have bat and bar mitzvahs where young people are asked to learn a language and be able to reflect on a text. In other cultures there are walkabouts, solo experiences in the wilderness, or even rounds of combat. In each of these examples, the community is expressing what is important to it. In Judaism, the importance is put on being religiously literate in the language of the Torah. Walkabouts emphasize the importance of survival in nature, while hand to hand combat points toward the importance of defending the group or surviving a conflict.

In our faith, we ask our members to reflect deeply on who they are as spiritual people, to be able to think metaphorically, and to express themselves as soulful, connected beings, capable of experiencing a spiritual passion and transforming that passion into service and dedication to a common good.

Because we aim, as people of faith, to never stop growing and evolving, UUFC doesn’t stop offering the Coming of Age program just because you’ve become an adult. As part of our core programming, we offer Coming of Age every other year, alternating with OWL (Our Whole Lives, a comprehensive sexuality education), each with a cohort of middle schoolers and a separate cohort open to adults ages 18 to 101! Adult Coming of Age is not a children’s program made available to adults. Instead, it’s a program that asks adults to engage with the same themes, but in a small group that is willing to deeply reflect on the personal history that shaped them, where they are in their spiritual development, and where they aim to go next.

For more information about when the next Coming of Age Cycle begins, contact Skyla at dre@uucorvallis.org

Celebrating Our Scouts!

In case you missed it, Corvallis Scout, Charlie, earned his Love and Help UU Scouting award and chose to celebrate that achievement with us last Sunday during our time for all ages. In addition to receiving his pin in the service, Charlie spent time in the social hall afterward, sharing one of his favorite treats, lemon cupcakes, and the things he recorded in his workbook along the way to this achievement. Thank you to everyone who stopped by Charlie’s table to learn about his efforts! Charlie, we are so proud of you and the learning you’ve done!

If you’re a scout who has been inspired by Charlie and would like more information about earning your UU scouting award, let me know. I’m here to help!

Wheel of the Year Conversations

Many thanks to all who have reached out in the last month to ask about the future of the Wheel of the Year services. I love it when you communicate your vision for the ways we live into our mission at the Fellowship! It’s most helpful!

While we are committed to completing this Fellowship year with the series that you have all become familiar with over the last three years, the sense that many are interested in shaping a new vision for this program grows and is worth exploring. It is difficult, as you can imagine, to birth a new vision into the world when these conversations take place one-on-one, here and there. As such, I would like to invite all who have strong feelings about the direction of Wheel of the Year programming AND who are willing to commit some ongoing energy toward a re-envisioning effort to email me at dre@uucorvallis.org by March 15th so that we can find a time to gather as a group and see what might emerge.

Turning Points in UU History 4/3-5/8 on Zoom!

Wednesdays, April 3-May 8

7:00pm-8:15pm CT on Zoom

Fee: Free for current Faith Forward congregation subscribers (UUFC is a subscribing congregation, so you get in for FREE! Yay, you!); $100 for non-subscriber congregations (no participant limit) or $25 per person. 

The Faith Forward program out of the First Unitarian Church of Dallas is excited to offer an online session of our “Turning Points in UU History” series for all congregations! This series explores turning points and controversies in our history, delving into the complexities of these historical moments through primary texts, to understand how they shaped Unitarian Universalism and how we relate to our faith today.

For more information or to register, email Skyla King-Christison (dre@uucorvllis.org) by March 25th. I will share our group registration information with their program coordinator on April 1st, and then you will receive a welcome letter from Rev. Lora Brandis.

Service with the Family

Last month, we explored ways to incorporate gratitude into our family life, and service is something that often prompts an impulse toward gratitude. All of these tools are connected! Serving others helps us step outside the immediacy of our own challenges and forget that minor irritation that has grown to outsized proportions in our minds, recognizing that we are powerful beings who can contribute to the wellbeing of others. When we do, our own sense of wellbeing skyrockets!

Not sure how to start the talk about being of service with your family? Read on!

When I was a teenager, I attended an urban evangelical church in the heart of downtown Nashville. I LOVED my church experience and our vibrant youth group, but when Spring Break rolled around each year and we were invited to sign up for mission trips to go serve in faraway places like Honduras or Belize, I remember looking at the people sleeping on the street right outside our doors and wondering why we would fly halfway around the world to serve when there were people ten paces away that could use a hand. The reality is that service is more exciting when it happens some place exotic. But that brand of service can be more about what you get to experience than about helping someone else.

Similarly, we may find that our children are more excited about going across town and bagging up pantry staples at the food bank than they are to help cook dinner at home, but home is the place where our children can learn the importance of contributing to community wellbeing most consistently and even when it’s not exciting. It’s important to cultivate the skill of serving simply to be of use, even when there’s nothing novel or exciting about it. This can look like unpaid chores done simply because all members of a community (and a family is a community within a community!) must contribute in the ways that they can for the common good. That doesn’t mean that other chores can’t be compensated with an allowance, but it’s important that our children have the experience of contributing without expecting anything in return.

Once you’ve mastered service at home, it’s time to turn your lens outward. Here are some ideas for how children of all ages can serve.

3-5 year olds:

Children at this age are excellent at sorting. You can put those sorting skills to use at the neighborhood food bank, helping children take the cans to the right bins (call Linn Benton Food Share for information about their monthly family service nights), or at a grandparent or elderly friend’s house sorting laundry or pairing socks.

Children of this age are also great at giving the gift of time to those in care facilities who may not get much company and would be delighted by a visit. Call first, but many memory care centers or assisted living centers are excited for an offer of visits and can point you toward residents who don’t have much companionship from local family.

It’s fun to bake treats and deliver them to neighbors or the unhoused. Children in this age group can assist in the kitchen and then help with the hand delivery. A load of banana bread from a child is always more delicious!

6-12 year olds:

This age group can do everything from the above list, and more!

The grounds team at the Fellowship is always looking for help raking, weeding, and spreading mulch. Contact Michael Hughes to ask about opportunities to contribute to the beautification of our grounds.

At this age, children can offer to read or play board games with seniors in care centers. I used to take a group of children to the care Alzheimer’s unit near our home every Friday. We’d bring cookies and paint the women’s fingernails for them while they told us stories from their childhood. A decade later, my grown children still tell stories from those visits with great fondness.

13 years old and up:

Children at this age can volunteer lots of places. Check out the Corvallis Youth Corps (YVC) for opportunities to serve all around Benton and Linn Counties.

The public library has service opportunities for this age group (Society for the Prevention of Boredom in Teens, aka SPOBIT), as does Habitat for Humanity’s ReStore and the local animal shelters.

Teenagers are capable of mowing lawns, raking leaves, and cleaning gutters for neighbors and aging family friends. Anything adults might do to serve, teenagers are perfectly able to participate in. In fact, there’s a huge opportunity for nonfamily mentoring to develop organically when we encourage our teens to not only participate in service activities designed for teens, but in general service alongside the adults in their community. Reach out to the justice council and find out what type of justice work is already happening in our congregation and might benefit from an infusion of youthful energy and vision!

Reflections for Caregivers

When you set out to nurture a sense of service to humanity within your family, it’s important to make some things explicit to younger children. As adults, it’s easy to assume that our kids know what we know and see the world the way we see it. Try to remember that you have decades of experiences and insights that your children don’t have, and frame up your service endeavors in a way that will help them develop healthy modes of service.

  1. We want helpers rather than saviors. Helping has a vibe of humility. Saving has a vibe of superiority. One of those actually relieves burdens while the other adds a layer of shame when we’re the most in need. Talk to your little helpers about the difference. Invite them to recall a time when they felt helped or saved, and how did those feel different on the receiving end? Which would they like to give others?
  2. Be mindful of when your child might witness a new brand of suffering in the course of their service, and offer context that might make it less alarming or anxiety-inducing. It’s important not to shield our children from age and developmentally appropriate suffering, but our first time encountering unfamiliar types of suffering often stirs up questions that our children might not yet know how to ask. Anticipating the emotional impact of the suffering of others and contextualizing it without minimizing it can go a long way toward preventing vicarious trauma.
  3. Emphasize that our activism is shared within a collective, and we are not asked to do this work on our own. We want to participate in sustainable activism, that includes work and rest in healthy balance. You can mitigate the likelihood that our children will run full speed towards compassion fatigue and burnout by participating in groups of volunteers, reinforcing that we are just some of many, and the work will continue when we step away to rest and care for ourselves.

If you want to chat about service in the family, my door is always open!

Spiritual Practices Part 2! 4/1 – 5/6 @6

It’s almost time for the second block of the Spiritual Practices Workshop! You DO NOT NEED TO HAVE TAKEN PART 1 of the Spiritual Practices series to participate in and benefit from part 2 of this series!

This 6-session series will help participants develop regular disciplines of the spirit – practices that help us connect with the sacred. This series affirms religious diversity while seeking unity in our communal quest for meaning and wholeness. Each session offers a forum for learning, sharing, and growth that can enrich our personal faith journeys.

In part 1 of this series, we explored potential daily practices to which one might choose to commit. For part 2, join Skyla King-Christison on Monday evenings, April 1st through May 6th, from 6 to 7 pm in Room 7 as we explore the topics of creating a sabbath, the art of hospitality and belonging, work and service, spiritual retreat, life as a spiritual practice, and pilgrimage.

Please register for this workshop using this form.