Children's Religious Exploration
Kids Club Meets during our outdoor services on specified dates. See our newsletter for more information.
We believe that Religious Education is about spiritual exploration and growth, so we have named our program: Religious Exploration. It is a lifelong process that starts with our children. It is more than learning something new; Religious Exploration is about recognizing that what you learn can affect your attitudes and your values. How does what you are learning deepen and enhance your spiritual journey? Religious Exploration offers an opportunity to build a community, to ask questions, to explore, and to learn.
Our goal is to provide an environment in which our children and youth are free to discover a spiritual path that is right for them, knowing they are a welcome part of our Unitarian Universalist community here at Westside.
The 7 Principles We Teach Our Children
In Westside's RE Program, we simplify the 7 Principles of Unitarian Universalism into what we call "The 7 Rainbow Principles."
Our Sources of Inspiration
In the words of Rev. William Ellery Channing, "The great end in religious instruction is not to stamp our own minds upon the young, but to stir up their own." Our curriculum reflects this sentiment by drawing inspiration from many sources, including:
Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life.
Humanist teachings, which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against the idolatries of the mind and spirit. We embrace science and encourage our youth to use reason to understand and appreciate the world.
The Bible. We include bible stories to provide our youth with a foundation in Judeo-Christian heritage and teachings.
World Religions. We study many other major religions, including Islam, Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, and Earth-based religions.
Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love.
Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Nature, Art, and Music. We guide our children to value these aesthetic sources to provide spiritual renewal and appreciation.
Philosophy and Ethics. We encourage our youth to think about the meaning of life and ethical ways to live in community and to act on social justice issues through service projects, guided by the sources listed above and the principles of UU.
What to Expect from the RE Program
RE Classes are held on the 2nd & 4th Sundays during the service
Kids Club (K-6th)
Our elementary age children will explore the Seven UU Principles, world religions, and their own formation of their spiritual beliefs. They will begin to discover the ways in which UU Principles are enacted in our Westside congregation and how they can bring them into their daily life. We will work on service projects throughout the year and identify where UU Principles are happening out in the larger community and the world around us. And of course, we’ll have snacks, play games, and make things! First and foremost, this is time for fellowship and fun.
Youth Group (Grades 7-12) Adolescence is a unique time of growth and questioning. Youth who are continually developing their own spiritual identity need a safe and open place to discuss complex and challenging, even unorthodox, ideas. And, with busy schedules and school stresses, teens especially need a place to hang out and just be, without expectations. We're here to meet them right where they are.
While our building is closed this schedule is on hold.
Our nursery is open from 10:45 a.m. until 12:15 p.m. and is staffed by a lead and assistant caregiver, all other children and youth join the adults for the service.
Children and youth are part of our Multigenerational worship services held on the 1st, 3rd and 5th Sundays each month. We have a dedicated Children's Area in our sanctuary where children are able to engage in quiet activities during the service.
We present our children with a "Story For All Ages" designed to complement the theme of the Sunday service.
Kids Club meets on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month. Children will go to Kids Club after the Story For All Ages until 12 pm.
Youth Group meets on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month, starting at 11 am.
Check the RE Calendar for the latest schedule.
Westside has a beautiful, completely fenced-in playground. During nice weather, we will most likely end up out there at some point during class.
Please note that an adult must be present to supervise children on the playground at all times. After class, parents are required to accompany their children if they wish to play on the playground.
We ask that children in 6th grade and younger be signed out of their classrooms. Please pick up your child(ren) by 12:15 p.m.
Meet Westside's RE Team
Wendy Weiss, Director of Religious Exploration
I grew up in Chicago and moved between the Midwest and Pacific Northwest before settling in Knoxville in 2001. Education has been a central theme in my life; I went through graduate school and then taught high school, community college, elementary homeschool, and UU Religious Education. I consider myself an enthusiastic lifelong learner and enjoy sharing in the joys of discovery with learners of all ages. Children are the greatest teachers; what wonder and freedom they engage in their natural state of play, experimentation, and beginner's mind!
Linda Chavez, Elementary Classroom Teacher
I moved to Knoxville in 2008 from Texas. I am a recent graduate from Tennessee Tech and substitute teach for Knox and Loudon counties. I have two wonderful daughters. I enjoy teaching RE because it is a place where we share ideas purely for the sake of bettering ourselves. The children motivate and inspire me to be the best person that I can be.
Grechen Wingerter, Elementary Classroom Teacher
Although I am relatively new to Knoxville and Westside, I am a lifelong Unitarian Universalist, having grown up in the UU Church in Rockford, IL where I was quite active in the RE program as a child all the way through high school. Since then I have tried to stay connected with UU churches wherever I have lived – London, California, Idaho, Pennsylvania, and most recently Ohio. I am an Assistant Professor of Theatre at Pellissippi State Community College where I teach Acting, Introduction to Theatre, and direct productions. My husband, Peter Aylward, and I have two incredible daughters, Megan and Chelsea.