Keeping the Dream Alive

Sunday January 22, 2017 10:45am

Sam Jones and the Religious Education Committee

What was it like to live through the civil rights era?  What was it like to witness prejudice and injustice?  How far have we come from that time in history? Join The Religious Education Committee as we honor the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and share stories from a book which tells of the Civil Rights experiences from people who lived through it. We will also all share in making a sand mandala together. There will be of songs by members of our committee, as well as congregational songs that will specifically add to the experience.

Insight from the Director: What I Set My Heart To

The word credo comes from Latin and has several roots or meanings, the literal translation is “what I set my heart to “On May 15th, our Coming Of Age students ended their program by sharing their faith statements, or credos, with the congregation.  For those who were not able to attend, and for those who would just like to revisit those statements, I have included a link in this article.  Everyone agreed that this is such a meaningful UU ritual.  People came up to me after service to say that they were feeling the need to examine their own credos, as adults.  This is actually something that we all should do from time to time.  We need to examine our personal credos, what do we value? what do we believe? for what greater purpose do we live? in what do we have faith? and what ultimate meaning do we bind ourselves to?  If we are going to live our lives with intention, or consciously, if we are going to have a life with purpose, even if only the purpose we assign to it, we need to examine where we stand with our beliefs today.  Surprisingly, you might find that you no longer hold beliefs from the past.  You might, for example, discover that what you used to think was important, is no longer.  We are often caught up in a cycle of working and consuming that keeps us too busy to slow down for self-reflection.  We are unable to grow toward greater understanding of our true nature unless we take the time to examine and reflect upon our life. In Unitarian Universalism, our third and fourth principles suggest “acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations” and “a free and responsible search for truth and meaning” respectively.  We are blessed to have a religion that encourages our own self-exploration to know ourselves better.  To assist in your individual spiritual paths of self-awareness and discovery, I have included a list of questions to ponder and answer to help create your own personal faith statements or credos:

  • What are some of your beliefs about how humans should act?
  • What are some of your beliefs about the origins of the universe?
  • What do you believe about how the universe functions?
  • What are some of your beliefs about a higher power?
  • What are some of your beliefs concerning life, death and the afterlife?
  • What do you think is sacred?
  • Which of these beliefs affect the way you act? How?

In faith,

Sam Jones, Director of Religious Education

Celebrating Our Learning Community

May 15, 2016 10:45am

Sam Jones, Director of Religious Education

We will honor our volunteer teachers, Coming of Age volunteers and the Religious Ed Committee. We will acknowledge those students who will be bridging to the next level, including our High School graduates. The Coming Of Age students will celebrate the end of their program by reading their faith statements, (credos) to the congregation.

Message from the Director of Religious Education

Spring Flowers edited


Signs of spring are showing up all around me as I write this.   I especially am appreciating all the different birds that I missed hearing over the winter.  For Religious Education, this means we are winding down from another church school season.


This was to be the year that we tighten our church school community.  One of the ways we chose to accomplish this goal (and we did accomplish it), was to have a one room, all ages classroom.


A Rainforest curriculum was chosen to embrace our 7th Principle, “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”, or, as stated in the children’s simplified version, “valuing our interdependence with nature”.


We found that the younger children benefitted most, but the curriculum wasn’t as engaging for the older students, so they branched off into another curriculum which deviated from our “one room classroom” model, however, was a necessary move in order to keep the older students coming.  So, all was not lost from this experiment, it helped to achieve our goals, to re-evaluate and rediscover the sense of community that was needed and to implement a creative solution to an attendance concern.   Currently, our regular Religious Education attendance is hovering around 50%, which is above our average.


Our fifth and sixth grade level sexuality program was successful, with a total of six students in regular attendance.  Two of those students were from the outside community, so that was a nice surprise, that says a lot about our program.


Our Coming Of Age program is still happening and is six students strong.  Thanks to the classroom leadership of  M.E. Tanabe, Sue McCowin, and our intern ministers, Michelle Lattanzio and Misha Lentz, and of course, the amazing mentors who deserve status of “elite member” of this church community.


Strong programs such as the ones we have offered this season are what strengthen the ties of our church community and quite possibly the community around us.  I think we still have a lot to offer, and we are doing it, one church season at a time.


Sam Jones

Falling In Community

From Sam Jones, Director of Religious Education

We have enjoyed a spectacular Fall this year. The weather and the colors have been the reason for many pictures and activities. The Fall season always stirs up fond memories of leaf collecting, coloring and pulling out warmer clothing, warm foods like soups and stews and enjoying the spectacular panorama that nature can sometimes offer. Of course Halloween occurs during this time and that contours up fond memories of sweet delights. It is a time to start going within and going in (the house that is). We sometimes find ourselves spending more time separated rather than together as a community, which is why one of our goals is to create a closer knit all-ages community. One of the ways in which we hope to achieve this is by having regular, fun, all-ages gatherings. We hope to see many people taking advantage of these offerings as they come available. Stay aware of our church communications for details or you might miss some community FUN!!
Speaking of going in, our “one room classroom” model has been working nicely, we have gotten to know each other better and have had some fun in the process. We have had several new families regularly attending church and that’s always a good thing.
Speaking of activities, one of the goals in Religious Education and church as a whole has been to do things that strengthen our relationships with each other, things that create community. One of the activities towards that goal was our Playing In Color gathering. At least a dozen people, stayed and had pizza followed by coloring. The coloring page choices were plentiful as were the colored pencils, markers and crayons. We enjoyed relaxing to conversation and coloring. Next time we just might add soothing, ambient music to add to the quieting of our minds. Next on our agenda is Laughter Yoga facilitated by one of our intern ministers and me, this will be a fun way to actively ‘de-stress’ and have a good laugh in the process. Following are some of the benefits of Laughter Yoga. If you are at least a bit curious and looking for a new experience, join us on November 15th from 12:15-2:15.

Easy and fun exercise for health and happiness

Reduces Stress Instantly, strengthens immune system

Keeps you in good mood and cheerful throughout the day

Oxygenates your brain and makes you feel more energetic

Keeps Positive mental attitude in difficult times

Other plans in the works are as follows, so please mark your calendar and make room in your lives to come together as a community for fun and connection. Hope to see you at one or all of these upcoming events.

Mindfulness Practice- with Julie Gibson,  December 6th from 12:00-2:00

Folk Dancing From Around the World- Gail Wells, February 21, from 12:30-2:30

Good old fashioned SOCK HOP- Bruce Weiss, March 5th from 6:30-9:30

Further details and reminders will be published in the Happenings and Bulletins as the dates get closer. These are ALL AGES activities. Nursery care can be provided as requested for those under 3 years old if that is needed.

Let’s all put aside our troubles, worries and stresses of our lives and just have some FUN with each other!!!


Infinite Potential — A walk on the wild side….

…when there’s more than meets the eye.
What are the implications for us, when the discoveries of physics point to a dimension of reality that can’t be seen or measured – but can be utilized? All around us we use modern technology that relies on utilizing waves but we never think about all the waves that also make up our lives.
Last fall I accidentally came upon an interesting Youtube lecture, by Lothar Schäfer, posted from a Science and Non-duality (SAND) conference. From there I looked for his book – Infinite Potential – and found it very readable and this summer I discovered others who were also interested. Although the book is written by a physicist and deals with the implications of quantum physics, the author’s dry wit and enthusiasm are interwoven to make the book enjoyably understandable – and the book is more of a philosophical treatment of quantum physics than a scientific one (which is reserved for the Appendix). You can see the SAND lecture by Dr. Schäfer at the link below – it’s 40 minutes long, but the first 8 minutes give an understanding of what he’s talking about (and an indication of his humor).

So. As was mentioned in last week’s Happenings, several of us have read or are in the process of reading the book. Because of our interest in meeting to talk about how the book enhances our understanding of the seen (and unseen) reality, we thought there might be others also interested in reading and talking about this fascinating subject. No meeting times /places have been set, although we’re probably looking to the end of October. Once we know how many more people are interested and where they’re located we can better choose but if, for example, we want to meet at Woodstock library, we’ll have to arrange something soon. We look forward to hearing your interest or inquiries.

I have 2 extra copies of the book that I can share.

Contact M. E. Tanabe: (815) 337-9895

Religious Education Under Construction

k6183926Whew! We’ve made it through another winter, although I do believe that this one seemed less intense than last year. Spring is finally here, even though currently the weather belies this fact. With Spring, comes new beginnings, new life, renewal, change, etc. In our Religious Education program, we too are going to begin something new! We are going to plant seeds that will hopefully yield something beautiful!

Even though we are late in our church school season and are usually winding down, we’re going to breathe some new life into our programs! Beginning Sunday, April 12th, following the Story For All Ages, students in 3rd grade and up will gather together downstairs in the Youth Group room to revisit a practice that we once had back when we were in our former church building. We will gather for a short “children’s chapel” to create a spiritual and meaningful connection. Afterwards, we are going to experiment with new models of doing Religious Education.

The 3rd, 4th, 5th grade class has completed their curriculum for the year but the 6th, 7th, 8th grade still has curriculum to finish. We will begin by doing something different with the 3rd, 4th, 5th grade class. Spirit Play will, for the time being, remain unchanged.

So, we are officially under R.E. construction, larger changes to be more evident our upcoming 2015-2016 church school year. Be on the lookout for details as we move forward.

A Child is Born

On December 14th, taking the place of our regular service at 10:45, The Tree Of Life Religious Education program will be presenting our annual Pageant.  This year’s pageant “A Child Is Born”  will have the children and youth presenting the miracle birth stories of Buddha and Confucius, along with the familiar story about the birth of Jesus.  These three births were steeped in miraculous events that led up to and included the births of these great teachers.  Whether you have attended many pageants, or this will be your first, a good time is guaranteed.  Our children and youth have prepared to share their gifts with the congregation.  Some will be singing, playing an instrument, narrating, acting, or gracing us with their artistic talents, as we will see in the props and program brochure.  All are invited to support our children and youth as this time-honored tradition is presented.  The Religious Education Committee and friends will provide the snacks and treats afterwards

Insights from the DRE

And How Are the Children?

Among the many fabled and accomplished tribes of Africa, no tribe was considered to have warriors more fearsome or more intelligent than the mighty Masai. It’s surprising, then, to learn the traditional greeting passed among the Masai warriors; “Casserian Engeri,” one would always say to each other. And what it meant was, “And how are the children?”

It is still the traditional greeting of the Masai, acknowledging the high value the Masai placed on the children’s well being. Even warriors with no children of their own would always give the traditional answer, “All the children are well.” This meant, of course, that peace and safety prevail; the priorities of protecting the young and the powerless are in place; that the Masai people had not forgotten their reason for being, their proper function, and their responsibilities. “All the children are well” means life is good.

Every day I address this question, when choosing curricula, when recruiting volunteer teachers and when planning special activities.  I try to insure that the children will be well.  Every year there are dreams of engaging the children with the congregation in some meaningful way and this year is no exception.  After six years in this position, I am still so motivated to “get this party started”!  What another wonderful year it is going to be!  We are going to be the church that says YES! We all could use some new energy, a chance to try new things.  If you have ideas and would like to make them a reality, then get involved, initiate something, tell somebody, get something started and for goodness sake, include the children and youth.

Children and youth who are brought to church on a regular basis get the opportunity to fully experience community as well as continuity in the classrooms.  The curricula from the UUA is intentional and meaningful, each lesson builds upon the other, each Sunday represents an important puzzle piece which develops into a big picture that could positively affect a student’s beliefs by the end of the school year.

There are plans for meaningful multi-generational services, one of which we already experienced with Water Communion.  We will be offering the “Our Whole Lives” sexuality education program for our 8th and 9th grade students this year and are so fortunate to have certified and motivated facilitators, Shelly Nicholson and John Freese, with back-up provided by Pat Kerin as needed.

This year we will also offer our Joyful Journey program to our 4th and 5th graders, culminating in a special service near the end of the season, with the children sharing their faith statements with the congregation.

There are ideas for pancake brunches, fun gatherings and joining with the community for a worthwhile cause or just to experience our religion in action.  All these ideas require support, participation, enthusiasm, and most important, a desire to cultivate a multi-age community within our own walls.

We have strong, caring teaching teams for all levels of classes.  This year we could use a couple more volunteers to act as substitutes for those volunteers who can’t give as much time as needed.  Could this be YOU?  Would you be one of the reasons why the “children are well”?  Just say YES!