In Lifespan Religious Education we cultivate, through relationship, conversation, and praxis, spiritually mature individuals and communities, in order to more deeply live our covenantal faith.
‘Life is a chance to grow a soul,’ A. Powell Davies wrote, and we can help souls to grow, by providing spiritual food, water, and sunlight. At our best, Unitarian Universalist religious education provides the space, time, and encouragement for each person to have their own ‘ah ha!’ moments, and then recognize those moments when they happen.
On one of my first Sundays with UUCSR’s Coming of Age classroom, the advisors suggested that I present to the class how I decided to go to seminary and what the process looks like in Unitarian Universalism. The presentation went well enough, but it was clear after about ten minutes that few if any of the eighth graders had any interest in the topic. I decided to drop the presentation and tried to initiate a conversation, starting with the fairly broad: “What makes a person a Unitarian Universalist?” Over the next hour, members of the class brought up and debated with each other questions of membership, theology, and how we act in the world according to our principles. They were eager to have the conversation, and our job was to provide a time and space through our facilitation.
It is important that this cultivation of spiritually mature [Note] individuals be an intergenerational, lifespan project. One of the clearest and most important lessons of the last two years for me has been that faith development does not and should not end with our children and youth. The majority of our members are converts to Unitarian Universalism, carrying understandings of and reactions to religion informed more by their faith of origin than by contemporary Unitarian Universalism. Increasingly, new members come to Unitarian Universalism without any background in organized religion at all. Many of our adults, then, also need space to have ‘ah ha’ moments of their own.
This work is critically important to our identity as a covenantal, not creedal faith. It is our central task to live together and build community, which can only be done when we find places and ways for people to grow in relationship.
From the first day a preschooler is dropped off at an RE classroom to Thursday night bereavement groups for our elders, must provide space for that growth. In doing so, we grow the beloved community.
[Note] It’s important to distinguish here between common view of maturity as seriousness, and spiritual maturity, by which I mean a level of faith development that can look very different in different people.