And here we are, the end of the Religious Exploration year…
It’s that time of year when I look back in amazement and think to myself, “Wow, how is it possible that we did all that in a program year?!” We’ve had so many changes this year, from shifting our worship and RE structure, to hiring two new nursery care providers, to running the OWL program, to welcoming several new families who have made Westside their home. It really has been a great year!
Aside from the wonderful children and families, it’s our amazing volunteer youth advisors and teachers that make our RE Program possible. We’ve welcomed new youth advisors this year and it’s been an awesome fit. They’ve been tuned into the ebbs and flows of teen life and have adapted and guided through all the twists and turns that is youth group. We’ve seen our youth group bond in new ways through projects and conversations. They’ve had space to be themselves and to stretch and try new things.
At the end of April, they went on a service project field trip to the Humane Society of Tennessee Valley (HSTV). This group loves to be out and doing! And it’s just the beginning of their relationship with this organization. Last Sunday, during our review of their experience at HSTV, they created another service project of making toys for the cats and dogs there. The measure of a thriving youth group is self-propulsion; our youth advisors have created the atmosphere where potential evolves into accomplishment.
Our elementary year started with a Collage Classroom approach with a rotation between three teachers and three concentrations around UU principles. As the year went on, Linda Chavez left the classroom to become our Lead Nursery Care Provider along with Madeline Lee, the Assistant Nursery Care Provider. While we miss Linda in the classroom, she brings all her loving, creative attention to our youngest Westsiders in our sweet, little nursery. Lorie Allion, our Spirit Play wizard, also left the classroom; congratulations to her and her new full-time job in her profession!
So, Beth Sandidge has pretty much taken the Elementary Classroom single-handedly for the bulk of the year. She refocused the curriculum to Heart Talk, the children’s version of Compassionate Communication. She’s done a beautiful job of weaving in art projects, meaningful discovery, and play. This group of children is caring, engaged, and creative, all supported by Beth’s skill and talent and heart.
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We’ve had help around the edges too, with a few people being willing to assist throughout the year in various ways. Heather Baumann, Virginia Dearing, and Grechen Wingerter have been extra hands when needed. As you thank the RE teachers and helpers on Sunday during teacher appreciation and otherwise, remember one of the best ways to show gratitude for the ministry of RE is to become more involved: sign up to lead a summer RE class, become an RE teacher or classroom helper, join the RE committee, sign up throughout the year to help with multigenerational events.
Keep your eye on the newsletter, Order of Service, and RE bulletin board for opportunities to be involved in RE. Talk with me anytime about ideas you have or what you’d like to bring to RE classes and events—we’d love to be thanking you for your involvement at this time next year. Until then, thank you to all of this year’s RE teachers and helpers; we are deeply grateful for all you do!