Lifespan Religious Exploration News

Sep 2019

Challenge for Change: Envisioning Vital, Empowering Programs for Children and Youth - A Fresh Direction for RE










Last spring, UUSM launched an outreach and visioning effort to preface the arrival of our new director of Religious Exploration and our 2019–20 Religious Exploration programs for children and youth (CYRE). As a foundation, a Lifespan Religious Exploration Task Force conducted a survey to current and former registered CYRE families; receiving 20+ responses. This was followed by an impassioned, extended workshop attended by members of the LRE Task Force; members of the UUSM Board of Directors; active CYRE parents; and many members of the congregation who have taught CYRE in the past.

The survey covered families’ motivations for joining RE (as well as barriers to attendance) and asked respondents to call out specific programs to make recommendations. The overarching reason parents gave for why they wanted to bring their children to LRE was to experience shared values. The UU seven Principles bring us together to be part of something bigger than ourselves and our extended family, a community that encourages personal growth and social responsibility.

Some parents requested less classwork on Sundays and increased social justice activities (e.g., field trips to the food bank and animal shelter); overall a more experiential program. Several respondents called out the Our Whole Lives (OWL) lifespan sexuality education program, which enjoys enthusiastic support throughout the church and a strong volunteer team.

We know from weekly headcounts that CYRE attendance has steadily declined since the change in ministers in 2016. The parents surveyed confirmed that sparse attendance breeds further decline. Some envisioned the CYRE program as a space where kids and teens build community amongst themselves

UUA-facilitated workshop

On June 2, Sarah Gibb Millspaugh, from the UUA Pacific Western Region Congregational Life Staff, facilitated the 6-hour CYRE workshop. Thanks go to the entire LRE Task Force for organizing the survey and the workshop (including lunch!): Beth Brownlie, Kelly Hatfield, Nick Henning, Teri Lucas, Eileen McCormack, Erik Paesel, and JoAn Peters.

About 45 congregants came together to collaborate on a new vision of what our RE program could mean for children and youth. But most of the discussion centered on where we are currently, and what our strengths and needs are now. The group spent a lot of time sharing gratitudes and disappointments for what the program has been over the past 3 years.

At the end of the workshop, shared priorities emerged along with terrific ideas for what the CYRE program could look like. These goals will shape the program under Director of Religious Exploration Cleo Anderson, and inform the leadership of our incoming developmental minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Kalendae.

What is our story?

Our role in relating the seven Principles forms the basis of the CYRE program and activities. The workshop explored UUSM’s current assets and needs, initiating an outpouring of gratitude and clear expressions of where needs have not been met.

The OWL program and the strong corps of RE teachers and volunteers who love our children well were named two of the greatest assets of the CYRE program. Our exemplary and well-maintained campus, space for kids with different abilities and needs, and the congregation’s financial support were also highlighted.

Social justice activities that welcome children were highly valued, as was exploration of different faiths. But the latter brought out a pain point: some attendees felt that lessons on appreciating a diversity of religious views aren’t always practiced by the congregation. Some youth have had negative experiences at church; the church has a strong and vocal cohort of aging members; and the current collapse in CYRE attendance – these are all barriers to a successful and enjoyable program.

A clear need was expressed for more children and youth, and more-committed children and youth. The workshop group envisioned a program rich enough to draw in and retain kids. Specific suggestions included a higher level of evangelism along with marketing and outreach; more inclusion of children and families at services, particularly at the beginning of services; and helping kids to feel empowered where social justice issues are concerned.

Fortunately, UUSM does have dedicated families who remain excited about and committed to CYRE, as well as a small pool of congregational families whose children do not currently attend regularly (potential attendees). The congregation as a whole does see the need for relevance in the lives of the next generation.

Lift every voice and sing!

After taking stock, the group was asked to envision the future of our CYRE program. Numerous images coalesced into seven.

What would a wildly successful Religious Exploration program for children and youth look like?

Kids are excited to participate; enthusiasm.

Kids are leaders in our community.

Kids are practicing the seven Principles outside of church.

Kids are inspired to find meaning in life and live lives of meaning.

Kids are connected to each other.

Kids have tools for dealing with conflict and difference.

 UUSM has a whole-congregation commitment to children and youth.

In implementing the CYRE program and living the life, what are our most heartfelt priorities? The group consensed strongly on kindness.

What values are important to our CYRE program?



Kindness; compassion; empathy

Respect; openness; listening

Respect for diversity and diverse beliefs

New directions?

This final part of the workshop explored individual and group commitments and strategized some next moves. There was such a wealth of suggestions, the remaining participants were invited to write down specific ideas.

The LRE Task Force will work with volunteers and staff to plan active, engaging programs, now and throughout 2019–20. The new DRE and minister will be encouraged to experiment with Sunday services to engage children and youth. We will seek to support parents and teens, as their need is as great now as it has ever been. The congregation will be asked to engage, as much as possible, in multigenerational programs.

UUSM leaders and RE volunteers are inspired to seize opportunity from crisis, and they seek to communicate strategies and shared priorities to the congregation at large. Beyond the congregation, they plan to continue outreach and to emphasize opportunities for families in the upcoming website redesign. Finally, UUSM’s new DRE and new minister bring the enthusiasm of youth, and will add fresh perspectives to our “challenge for change.”

 – Eileen McCormack and Erik Paesel
with thanks to the entire LRE Task Force

Personal and Spiritual Exploration for Adults, September 2019

Learning and exploration are about the transformation of the individual, our community and the larger society. Participation helps us grow in wisdom, compassion, and ethical living. See our upcoming activities, programs, and workshops for adults.
To contact the facilitator in regards to any offering, you may email with the title of the group in the subject line. Your email will be forwarded.

New Offering:

Preparing Your Own Advance Directive for Healthcare Saturday, September 7
Your Advance Directive is a legal document that can speak for you when you cannot speak for yourself. It empowers an agent that you select to make medical decisions for you and act as your advocate in difficult times. In this workshop we’ll explore materials that can help you make the choices to mark on your directive. Bring your questions, maybe a previous directive or “living will” document, and join us for homemade muffins Saturday morning, from 9:30 am to noon in the Warren Mathews Conference Room. This is the first of a two part workshop. Contact: Joyce Holmen. One time materials cost: $5.00.

Community Building Through Personal Development:

Gentle Yoga Monday, September 9
We will explore traditional yoga poses in a safe, compassionate, non-competitive environment that is welcoming to all who are able to get up and down from a yoga mat. We will be working on traditional yoga poses with a focus on creating a safe, effective, compassionate, non-competitive environment that is welcoming to all. We will work on strength, flexibility, restorative poses and deep relaxation. Some equipment is required, including a yoga mat, 2 blankets, and a strap, and several other suggestions – see the calendar page linked above. Mary Lee Olsen has a 500 hour certificate as a yoga teacher. She will be offering the final class on September 9, from 6:00-7:00 pm in Forbes Hall. Preregistration is necessary. For more information or to register, drop by the Adult RE table on Sunday or email Mary Lee through
Collage Group with Stan Bemis Saturday, September 14
Do you wish to express yourself creatively in art, and yet may feel inadequate or untrained? Do you yearn to make an artistic statement, yet not sure how? Do you have too many catalogs, magazines, and advertisements, and haven’t a clue what to do with them? We welcome you to create your own collages with Stan Bemis! Stan works to bring joy and peace into people’s lives through creating art. He has taught many who didn’t realize they had creative talent, from all across the world – from California to Palestine/Israel. He welcomes any age, from youths to older adults. The goal of this group is to help foster personal worth and empowerment, entering that holy place within and having sacred fun. The objectives are: 1. to create works of art; and 2. to possibly create cards for events or celebrations. We encourage you to bring your old magazines to work with as well. We will meet from 10:00-12:00 pm in the NE Cottage. Contacts: Stan Bemis or Sarah Robson.

Exploration of Ideas:

Science Non-Fiction Book Discussion Tuesday, September 17
We will discuss “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution,” by Walter Isaacson and Dennis Boutsikaris. The author of “Steve Jobs” looks more broadly at the people who created the computer and the internet. All are welcome. We meet at 7:30 pm in Forbes Hall. Contact: Rebecca Crawford.
AAHS Freethinker Forum Sunday, September 22
In place of our September Freethinker Forum, we invite you to join us in Los Angeles at the 4th annual Interfaith Solidarity March #InterfaithMarchLA. This is an important event for everyone who cares about religious freedom and the repudiation of violence and discrimination based on faith.
AAHS (Atheists, Agnostics, Humanists, and Secularists) is an open group that meets for lively and engaging discussion on topics of politics, science, religion, and philosophy. We also host occasional guest speakers, films, and outings. We are a home base for non-believers and questioners, but everyone is welcome. For many, atheism/agnosticism is a first step; Humanism is the thousand steps that come after.
Contact: James Witker.

Interest Groups:

Discussion and Support for Persons with Disabilities Sunday, September 29, at 11:45 am  [not September 22 at noon]
The Disability Support Group is promoting a dialogue on a selected topic at each of its meetings throughout this church year.  The next meeting has been changed to Sunday, September 29, and the topic will be “Money Management, Finances, and ABLE accounts.”  Join us in the NE Cottage at 11:45 am (we’re adjusting to the Sunday Service schedule change).  All church members interested in the topic are invited to attend. Contact: Michael Young.
October’s meeting will be on Sunday, October 27, when the topic will be, “Personal Boundaries.”  This will be at 11:45 am also.
UU Men’s Group Thursdays, September 5, 19
This group offers a special opportunity to the men of the congregation and other like-minded men to join our welcoming group in provocative and stimulating discussion and to get to know others with UU perspectives in a more meaningful way. We meet the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7:30 PM in the NE room of the Cottage. The topic for Sept. 5 is: What has been your biggest life blunder, if you had one, or something close, and how did it turn out? The topic for Sept. 19 is: What single event or experience during your childhood do you believe had the biggest effect on how your life has turned out?  For more information contact Richard Mathias.


An Enjoyable Dive into Who and What We Are Mondays, September 2, 16
This ongoing class helps participants master specific meditation skills. We endeavor to answer the questions Who am I? (attitudes and beliefs) and What am I? (essence or true nature). This class will include meditations that explore participants’ spiritual goals. The monthly group meetings also focus on insights gained throughout the month. It is expected that participants will develop and enjoy a regular meditation practice. This group meets on the first and third Mondays from 7:30-9:00 pm in Forbes Classroom 3. Contact: Bill Blake.
Open Meditation Mondays, September 9, 23, 30
We gather twice a month to sit together quietly for 20 minutes, to walk with gentle awareness for seven minutes, and to explore the integration of meditation with ordinary life through reading and sharing. Anyone who senses they would benefit from 20 minutes of silent, non-guided sitting is welcome to join us. We have found that this time of quiet meditation and shared exploration can be deeply nourishing – a time of simply “being” amidst all the “doing” of our lives. We meet on the second, fourth, and fifth Mondays from 7:30-9:15 pm in Forbes. Contacts: Bev Shoenberger or Carol Ring.

Highlights of additional interest groups meeting in September:

Knitters and Friends On hiatus until September 22, 2019, when we return to two services. Contact: Linda Van Ligten.
Body-Mind Tune Up for Seniors This group is for seniors, superseniors, and people with physical difficulties. Now on a new day of the week! Each Saturday from 11:45 am to 12:45 pm in Forbes Hall. Contact: Bruno Lacombe. Note: Free for church members, $10 suggested donation for nonmembers.