September 23, 2022 – Adult Religious Exploration @ Community UU Church

September 9, 2022 – All Ages Worship Awesome!

August 26, 2022 – Gratitude for Our Diverse Sources

August 12, 2022 – Why I am a Professional Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator


Adult Religious Exploration @ Community UU Church
September 23, 2022

The first step to learning anything is to admit that you don’t know. Being teachable is vital to our continued growth, and thus, we ought to always remain a little agnostic; I proclaim myself as militant agnostic — I don’t know, and neither do you. I remain open to new information and regularly work to examine my beliefs for flaws and omissions. I hope to experience a little wonder each week. Einstein talked about a “holy curiosity” and allowing one’s self to be in awe at the universe we inhabit. He advised that “The important thing is not to stop questioning,” which tells us that part of being well educated, to this brilliant man, was knowing that there was always more to learn.To me, that is an important part of being a Unitarian Universalist, too. I hold, as a tenet of my faith, that I could be wrong about the nature of the universe. My understanding is that there are things we, as human beings, do not understand… and maybe never will. That allows me to worship in wonder alongside people who believe very differently from myself. That allows me to work with them towards a better world in the here and now rather than arguing about what comes after. I don’t have to believe as they do, nor convince them of my world view, because I might be wrong in spite of all my experience and contemplation.In the 3rd Principle of Unitarian Universalism, our congregations promise to promote “encouragement to spiritual growth” without a stated goal or end point. The implication is that our spirits can always grow, whether it is growing deeper, taller, wider, there is some growth that comes with new perspectives and the amazing amount of new information available through experiment and exploration. And so it is that I welcome you to Life-long learning at Community Unitarian Universalist Church. I hope you will watch for announcements of what kinds of programs we offer as we work to launch new experiences in the coming months. I also welcome your ideas for classes, workshops, and small groups you would like to see at Community.

Thomas Earthman (they/them)Director of Lifespan Religious Education, dlre@communityuuchurch.org
. . .
All Ages Worship is Awesome!
September 9, 2022
If you’ve been with us in the sanctuary the last few weeks, you’ve likely seen children, of all ages, sitting with us in worship. Yes, we offer nursery care for the little ones, but there is no mandate to use it and I, for one, love that not everyone does so every week. Parents deserve to make that choice for themselves, and none of us should make it for other families.The sounds of children in worship mean that families are sitting together. Those sounds mean that our children are learning our hymns, some before they can form the words. It means that they are hearing our values preached, even if they might have to ask about the meaning of some words later. That means parents are being given the chance to have important conversations during car rides and meals in the upcoming week–After all, parents are the most important educators for their children and it helps when the children are already curious. Hearing adults talk about a subject always made me curious, how about you?We should try to appreciate the sounds of children in worship. They are the sounds of children taking part in community ritals, like hearing our covenant each week. Those are the sounds of our mission being remembered decades from now. Those are the sounds of Unitarian Universalism outliving us.I know that the shift to having RE hour before worship was not one everyone saw the benefit in, and I can talk for hours about how important it is that Faith Development be an all-ages program and how our commitment to ” encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregation” does not come with an end point or age limit. But I believe it also matters that worship is an all-ages, family affair. It happens to line up, but it is its own separate good.So, even if you weren’t thrilled with this change, and even if you are still adjusting to it, I hope you’ll think about some of these reasons why it is important. I hope that you’ll hear the fussing of an infant, the babbling of a toddler, or even the agitation of an elementary aged child and know that they are a vital part of our community and, quite possibly, the future of Community UU itself.I hope, the next time you hear and see children in worship, you’ll smile. It will make a big difference to both you and them.
Thomas Earthman (they/them)Director of Lifespan Religious Educationdlre@communityuuchurch.org
. . .

Gratitude for Our Diverse Sources

August 26, 2022

It sometimes seems like Unitarian Universalism is chaotic; that we might actually be too diverse. Can it be that there are too many voices trying to be heard? Indeed, how we navigate that can be tricky, because we are blessed with many perspectives, all of them valuable.Let’s start this week with gratitude for the many sources from which our congregations draw wisdom:Let us thank our Atheists and Deists, who bring us Humanism. We welcome the belief that whatever gods may exist, and whatever their purpose, we have been given life and eventually blessed with the intellect to understand that gift, and it is up to us to shape our destiny.Let us thank the Buddhists, who teach us the freedom of minimalism and of doing things now. We welcome the belief that we have the ability and responsibility to look within ourselves for something greater, and that this search can lead us to new kinds of freedom.Let us thank the Hindus, who envisioned the web of all creation and imagined it as a circle, with coming and going around but never being apart from the wheel. We welcome the belief that we are all part of one creation, and that we have responsibilities to every other part.Let us thank Pagan traditions, which have taught us about the wheel of time – about the cycle of the year – in terms more familiar to our dominant culture. We welcome the many beliefs about the power of legend and myth to inspire and connect us intellectually and culturally.Let us thank the indigenous religions the world over; those we are familiar with, those that are on the edge of our understanding, and those that have been lost. All that we know today all started with small groups of humans asking questions, creating answers, and eventually testing those answers against their lived experience.Let us thank the prophetic voices, be they ancient like Buddha, Abraham, or Paul, or recent like Gyatso, King, or Yousafzai.  They teach us that we have the power to change the world with our passion and our concern for others.Let us remember that we pull from many, many sources, and that while Unitarian Universalism is none of them, we are the product of taking those parts of each that speak to us, and putting them, responsibly, to work in helping us define the truth and decipher the meaning of our own, unique lives.
Thomas Earthman (they/them)Director of Lifespan Religious Education, dlre@communityuuchurch.org

Why I am a Professional Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator

August 12, 2022

“The great end in religious instruction is not …to impose religion upon them in the form of arbitrary rules, but to awaken the conscience, the moral discernment.”  ~ William Ellery Channing, from the UU Hymnal “Singing the Living Tradition”, reading #652

The 3rd Principle of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) affirms the importance of “encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.” As such, Faith Development is a duty of the congregation and Religious Education is a service that we must offer in various forms to reach as many people as possible. We are called to growth with no stated end-point, and so faith development should be seen as a life-long process that we never truly complete.And so it is that we begin the first year of Lifespan Religious Education programming here at Community UU Church – At 9:30 every Sunday morning there will be a variety of programs offered for children, for youth, and for adults! We hope to eventually really have something for everyone, whether it all fits on Sunday morning or we need to have evening programs, too. There is no end to the work of exploring truth and meaning in our lives.The goal of religious education in a Unitarian Universalist setting is not conformity but conscience; not creed, but critical thinking. It is, in short, to make better citizens of our members; to help them be people who work and fight for a more Just, Compassionate, and Equitable world.To do this, we must treat Religious Education programming as a service, offered freely and where we expect participation. It should be held for the benefit of all who show up, regardless of their number, because the goal is engagement and not attendance. Having a deep impact on even one person is meaningful.I don’t actually think of myself as a Religious Educator; to me that term sounds entirely too academic. While I am certainly capable of giving lectures and aiding in reports, it is not really my job to teach people how to act out or recognize religion.I think of myself as a Faith Development Facilitator; my job is to help people connect to what is meaningful and help them find hope so that they can go out and do their bit of good in the wider world and to give them the tools to support one another when they come back to the church bruised and weary from doing their best in a world that often fights back against liberal reforms. My job is to help people find inspiration to live up to the aspirational Principles of the UUA and help build Beloved Community.If we want Religious Education to live up to its great ends, we need to give it the means. We have to do better at investing in the programs and the professionals who make them possible. We have to do it because it matters that we build programs that are more than sermons and coffee. We have to actively challenge ourselves in a lifelong pursuit if we are going to be the people Unitarian Universalism asks us to be.To do this, we must treat Religious Education programming as a service, offered freely and where we expect participation; everyone should be part of some RE program every couple of years, whether they bolster or revise their deeply held convictions. It should be held for the benefit of all who show up, regardless of their number, because the goal is engagement and not attendance. Attendance numbers alone cannot measure the real value of RE programming. Having a deep impact on even one person is meaningful.

Thomas Earthman (they/them)Director of Lifespan Religious Educationdlre@communityuuchurch.org