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Children’s Religious Exploration

First Parish of Sudbury invites all of our children to join together for meaningful worship and growth.  We want our children to personally experience our Unitarian Universalist faith and all the wonderful ideals that it embodies. In our Religious Education program, we will share stories and activities that bring our UU faith to life.  Most significantly, we will spend time together sharing worship and wonder, love and friendship, kindness and compassion, and enlightenment and growth.

We will highlight the fundamental UU belief that we are all free to believe our own truths.  We will celebrate a coming together that honors the unique individuality we all carry with us. It is with these affirmations that we will think about those challenging “life” questions that people of all religions wonder about – Is there a God?  How did the world begin?  What happens when we die? Is there any benefit to praying or meditating?  How do I know what to believe?  How can we make our world a better place?

To do this, we have created and selected engaging and age-appropriate UU programs to guide our activities.

See descriptions below. You can also see a description of planned activities for each week on our website under “Coming Up in RE.”

Nursery Care (ages 0-3)

Each Sunday morning we staff our nursery, usually with one adult and one youth. They are glad to care for infants and play with toddlers. The nursery is equipped with a crib and suitable toys and books for all babies and children between birth and three years old.

Spirit Play (ages 4-6)

First Parish Sudbury is proud to be offering Spirit Play for our four- to six-year-olds this year. Spirit Play is a unique model of religious education designed to deepen children’s experience in the classroom by creating understandable guidelines, age-appropriate rituals relating to our faith, and ways to participate in a community. The program utilizes elements of the Montessori Method and Jerome Berryman’s “Godly Play” approach to RE to teach a curriculum based on our shared Unitarian Universalist values. Spirit Play encourages independent thinking through wondering questions, gives children real choices within the structure of the morning, and develops an underlying sense of the spiritual and the mystery of life. Volunteers guide the children’s learning through the roles of the Storyteller and the Doorkeeper. Our volunteer guides find the program rewarding as part of their own spiritual process, as well. Parents are always welcome to observe a class, but I encourage you to check with either myself or the Storyteller for the week to make sure we do not “over-adult” the room.

During Spirit Play, children are offered a story told with manipulatives, and then they wonder about it together. They are not given definitive answers but are encouraged to figure out what the story means to them. Each story has its own basket of materials kept in a particular place on the shelves so that children may further explore the story. After the story and wondering, the children move on to “work time” where each child may choose from arts and crafts materials or other stories to engage through creative play for the morning. This program is especially designed to accommodate the multiple learning styles that children have and the multiple ways intelligence manifests itself in their activities. There is a great deal of freedom to move around the classroom during the work time, and then children come back together for a closing circle. This method develops a community of children in a sacred space and gives children the spiritual language to talk about what is most important to them. It also gives them a measure of freedom to choose activities that speak to them.

We use the Montessori approach and Berryman’s morning as worship approach for the structure of the morning.  As in Montessori, the key elements are the prepared classroom environment and the teachers. These elements free the children to work at their own pace on their own issues after an initial  lesson or story within a safe and sacred structure shepherded by the two adults.

Our curriculum this year begins by teaching the children stories about the six sources of our faith tradition: The experience of wonder and awe in life; the words of great prophets that teach us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love; wisdom from the world’s religions; Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves; the guidance of science and reason; and the spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions. This is our tenth year offering Spirit Play at First Parish Sudbury, and we have a rich offering of lessons developed over the years thanks to all the efforts of our previous RE teachers, or as we call them, Guides in the religious exploration for our children.

UU Explorers (ages 7-13)

This year we are excited to offer our older grade school class the UUA curriculum Love Connects Us.

Love Connects Us celebrates important ways Unitarian Universalists live our faith in covenanted community. Moved by love and gathered in spirit, we embrace our responsibility toward one another and the world at large. We encourage one another’s search for truth and meaning. We strive to be active in peace-making and other efforts to improve our world.

The sessions explore our legacy, from both Universalism and Unitarianism, of living our connections in loving service, inquiry, and action for social justice. At the same time, the program builds active participants in our faith. Children learn how our actions create a new heritage of connecting in love which will shape the faith of future generations.

By exploring the key ideas of covenant, participants grow in Unitarian Universalist identity, explore their connections to one another in our beloved communities, and discover ways they are called to act in our congregations and the wider world.

Crafts and games that use tying and knots makes tangible the concept of connections we share with one another. Participants physically explore what it means to be linked to others and how one person’s actions can affect the whole system to which they belong. Many activities involve participants in teams or small groups, emphasizing their experience as individuals working together in community. Read more on the UUA website here.

Breakfast Club (ages 12-14)

Breakfast Club provides a comfortable place for 7th,8th, and 9th graders to share their thoughts and concerns while enjoying breakfast together. This group offers our 12 to 14 year-olds more leadership over their own religious exploration as they are empowered and challenged to think about how they carry their own UU principles into the world with deeper theological explorations, unique activities, and inspiring community service projects. Topics of conversation include social justice issues, challenges at school, ethical choices, current events, and ongoing developments in our global world. We may explore other religions during holiday times. We welcome drop in visitors, and appreciate that some may want to simply hang out and not take an active part in the discussion.

UU Families

A child’s experience at First Parish is just one aspect of his or her religious development.  While every child will participate in enriching and meaningful programs here, it is at home where the spiritual development of each child will blossom.  We encourage parents to support their children in all efforts to bring their religious education experience home with them.  Whether it is adding a prayer to your dinner ritual, having honest conversations about your child’s religious questions, or sharing an act of kindness for a neighbor, there are many great ways to bring the UU faith into our homes and daily lives.  The minister or DRE would be happy to explore this subject more with you.