Children in Worship Discussion 6/2 & 6/19

The RE Council will be hosting 2 post-sermon discussions for you to ask questions, voice concerns and ideas, and hear about the approach to multigenerational worship that we will be experimenting with this summer.

These will take place on June 2nd and 19th after the service in the sanctuary. Grab a cup of tea and come catch the vision for a summer of beautiful multigenerational worship!

You can read more about the specific changes coming to RE to help you prepare for our conversation!

Changes Coming to RE!

Beginning June 9th, we will be adopting a new approach to how we welcome children and youth on Sundays! Nursery and classroom spaces will not be available during this temporary change. If you want to learn more about what’s coming to your hometown UU sanctuary this summer, read on!

What is Soul Work?

Soul Work was popularized by the UUA’s Children and Families Faith Development Specialist, Joy Berry, and is already used by countless congregations around the nation who moved to multigenerational worship after the pandemic impacted their volunteer pools. This approach to multigenerational worship involves having handwork projects — called “Soul Work” in our sacred spaces — available to members of all ages during worship.

Repetitive handwork like embroidery, crocheting, knitting, and coloring mandalas has shown therapeutic benefits similar to meditation. Many folx, young and old, feel better able to settle their bodies and listen when their hands are busy.

While the primary aim of Soul Work in multigenerational worship is to support our youngest members in being appropriately engaged in something quiet while they share our worship space, a side benefit has been referred to as the “NPR effect” by religious educators, who report that kids may look like they’re not paying attention to the service at all, but then a few days after will ask their parents about something that was said by the minister. Just like when kids seem zoned out in the car, but then ask about a Supreme Court Justice who was quoted on the radio. Hopefully, our children and youth will be able to be in conversation with all other members of our congregation around topics that are elevated in the service, making us a more whole and integrated community!

Here’s what it has looked like in other congregations:

Why Now?

I’m so glad you asked!

As you have hopefully heard by now, the classroom wing is getting a safety update sometime this summer. When that process begins — and we have no idea when the work will commence — we will not be able to enter that area for at least three months. What’s an RE team to do? Well, the staff and RE Council have been hard at work making a plan!

After exploring many options (renting other buildings, having children’s RE on a different day of the week, running in circles in a panic until construction is over), adopting Soul Work and starting it on the chosen date feels like the best possible option. Why? Well, many of our volunteers are unable to consistently serve in the summer months, and while I would ordinarily get busy trying to recruit some new summer volunteers (and did do some of that before we landed on this plan), it’s quite difficult to get people to set aside one of their precious few summer Sundays for something that may or may not happen. As you can imagine, it’s not a very compelling ask.

Planning for an unknown future is nearly impossible, so we decided to create some knowns by declaring a start date and implementing something beautiful on our own terms. I’ve been in consultation with DRE’s around our region who have already been using Soul Work in their congregation, learning what what has and hasn’t worked for them, and we’re almost ready to launch!

We will commence multigenerational worship on June 9th and return to our usual Nursery, Spirit Play, as soon as construction on the classroom wing has ended and a full slate of volunteers has been identified. This could be any time between fall and early winter. The reality with construction projects is that the timeline is entirely out of our hands.

How Will This Work?

Great question! A shelf of Soul Work options will appear near the hymnal racks at the back of the primary aisle toward the social hall. Parents, we invite you to consider stopping by the shelf on your way to your seat and encouraging your child to select something that will keep them busy for a while. If you think your child will need to return to the shelf at some point during the service, we encourage you to sit on an aisle near the shelf to minimize disruption.

I and a volunteer will be available to sit with kids in the gallery who want a little support learning a new handcraft. We’ll keep it to a whisper or silent demonstration, but we recognize that working with someone new is a novelty that might support their capacity to be respectfully quiet in the sanctuary as they acclimate to the space. We’re hoping this approach will be sufficient, but setting up a maker space in the social hall is a backup plan.

Alternative Orders of Service will be available that are simplified for children and we encourage parents and adults who are sitting near children to help them follow along in their Order of Service to help them stay engaged if it looks like they need more than their handwork.

Won’t Kids Be Disruptive to Our Sacred Time?

Multigenerational worship is a whole congregation endeavor. For years, we’ve been hearing folx wish for more children in our spaces. For four years, the RE Council has been actively working on expanding our congregation’s capacity for intergenerational connection. This is our chance to put those wishes and skill sets to work to make a meaningful and welcoming worship experience for all of our people, the tall and the small. But we’ve still got a lot of learning to do.

There will be hiccups. There will be disruptions. It will not be perfect. We’re viewing this as an experimental era, where we are committed to trying a way, reflecting, tweaking, and trying again. So the first few weeks will likely look a little different each Sunday as we work things out. I invite you to share your ideas with me and any member of the RE Council as we experiment. We’re here to help this be as smooth and seamless as possible, but we’re being realistic about the challenges ahead.

Kids do make sound. Kids do move their bodies. Kids do sing off key and clap off beat. There will be some distractions. We’re already in talks with the sound team about strategies for those with difficulty hearing, and we’d love to chat with you if that is a concern. We have some ideas, and if you’re a hearing aid user, we’d like to hear your ideas around the use of the Loop or Bluetooth, or other ideas we haven’t even thought of.

What If I Just Absolutely NEED a Super Quiet Space?

We know this is a reality for some, and we’re working toward creating a few zones for worship time in the building. Remember, once the construction begins, this is an unavoidable reality of our circumstances, so it’s nice that we’ve got a little practice time in advance to iron out some details.

We ask that parents of children who have reached their limit of quiet stillness step into the social hall, where they can still hear the sermon and choir while their children have a little more leeway to be active without preventing others from engaging with the service.

And for those who simply need a silent space, we are working towards streaming the service into the library for a completely set apart quiet space for those who absolutely need it in order to be able to focus completely.

It is our hope that the vast majority of adults will take advantage of this time to introduce yourself to the children near you, just as you would any other person in the sanctuary, and help them feel at ease in the sanctuary.

But I Still Have Questions!

We knew you would! Members of the RE Council will be available in the sanctuary after the service on June 2nd and 16th to answer your questions, hear your concerns and ideas, and share any information about the decision making process that led us here. I hope you will join us!

RE Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon 6/9

We couldn’t offer the awesome programming and community-building opportunities for our children and youth that we do if not for our tireless team of volunteers. Did you know that it takes approximately 34 volunteers to keep our Religious Exploration programs up and running? That’s a lot of people contributing their time and energy to the care and development of our tiniest beloveds!

All RE Volunteers from the Grandfolks Squad, Nursery Care Team, Spirit Play Guides, Youth Advisors, and RE Council members are invited to attend a luncheon in Rooms 6 B&C at 11:45 on June 9th. Register HERE to help us prepare.

Parents, it would be lovely if you would sign up to contribute an item to the luncheon for those who care for our littles throughout the church year. Signups for food contributions can be accessed HERE!

If you have any questions about attending or contributing, contact Skyla (dre@uucorvallis.org)

Family Picnic 5/26

Whole Family Hike and Picnic

Nursery, Spirit Play, and YRUU families are invited to a hike and picnic with Rev. Jill and Skyla after the service on May 26th. Please REGISTER HERE!

We’ll depart from UUFC at 11:45 and meet at the Fitton Green trailhead (parking is limited, so carpooling is encouraged) and make the short hike out to the viewpoint to eat together. This is a great chance for parents and siblings to get to know one another. 

Bring your own picnic lunch, sunscreen, and water bottle. The hike is short, the view is great, and the company will be greater!

If we have fewer than 3 families register, we will cancel the event and notify registered participants via email.

Direct questions to Skyla at dre@uucorvallis.org

Aging Successfully in Community, 5/1

Wednesday, May 1, 3-5 pm in the UUFC Sanctuary

“Moving along in life and aiming to thrive!”

At our May meeting, we are pursuing two interests: the ups and downs of deciding whether to stay put in our current home or to move on to a smaller place… or one that may offer services to help us adapt as we age or, at least, simplifies life. Four UUers who have been through this quandary will share their decision processes in a moderated panel to begin the program.

One major consideration for being able to age in place is making adaptations to our current homes. The panel discussion will be followed by a presentation by Brian Egan on “Aging in Place Safely”. During his years as a general contractor, Brian trained as a Certified Aging in Place Specialist. Thanks to his expertise, we will learn how to make our homes safer and what products can be used for that purpose.

Feeling social? We’ll provide the forms that make it easy to be a host for a group social activity! Coffee? Games? Walking? Puzzles? You name it! And sign up!
Come join us to create positive experiences for this time of life!

Mental Health Worship Service, 5/19

On May 19th at 4pm PDT, the Unitarian Universalist Mental Health Network will be offering an online worship service
centered on how Unitarian Universalism can inspire advocacy and acceptance in the area of mental health.

I’ve been working with the UUMHN for the past several months in an effort to expand our bank of mental health resources at the ready as our local community faces increasing need in this area, particularly among our children and youth, and I’m excited to share this worship opportunity with you!

In the second annual worship service produced by the UU Mental Health Network Speaker’s Bureau, author Sheri Thomas will share how Unitarian Universalism has inspired her to become a leading disability advocate fighting to remove the stigmas surrounding physical disabilities and mental health. Additional speakers include Rev. Barbara Meyer, whose seminary story was told by Rev. Rosemary Bray McNatt during her recent UUFC reception; Phoenix Bell-Shelton Biggs, a queer, BIPOC, non-binary seminarian; Erin White, member and past board president of The Fourth Universalist Society in the City of New York, and I’ll be offering the time for all ages!

If you’re interested in exploring topics at the intersection of faith and mental health, I hope you’ll join us!

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.

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!