Monday, May 31, 2010

Could This Be You Next Year?

Check out these interesting facts about this year's teaching and advising team.

  • This year's team was made up of 22% men and 78% women.  At the same time, we have a nearly even split of girls and boys in our program who are looking up to our teachers and advisors. We need just eleven or twelve more men to have a 50-50 split of leadership that reflects the makeup of our children.  All our children, but especially our boys, benefit from having men in their classrooms.  Could you be one of the eleven?
  • 26% of our teachers and advisors do not have children at all or have adult children. An additional 7% of those teaching our younger children no longer have young children in their homes.  That's 33% of our teachers!  It is a misnomer that teaching and advising is for parents.  Our kids need a range of people, of all ages, to help them grow.
  • 35% of our teaching and advising team members this year have never taught before or have not taught for many years. There are many folks willing to take a risk and try teaching and advising, and our teams are very novice-friendly. We hope you too will join the crowd.  You are needed.
While teaching is not for everyone, more people have the ability than volunteer each year.  Can you pitch in for 2010-2011 as a teacher or youth group advisor?  Please contact Sierra-Marie if you might consider the opportunity.  She is good at helping people discern whether this is a good volunteer match for them. 

**Note that potential volunteers must be involved with the church for at least six months and that there is a screening process which includes a brief interview and the legally mandated CORI check.

End of Year Church Potluck

On Sunday, June 13th, we will have our annual church potluck after worship.  This is our traditional end to the "church year."  Bring a dish to share.  If the weather is nice, we'll picnic outside. 

On occassion in the past, we have had hot dogs and burgers (and vegetarian variations of these) for this potluck.  This happens when someone decides to bring in and use their grill for this purpose, and either people bring their own items to grill or a group of folks contribute the meat and vegetarian options.  Could this be you?

Can You Help Us Say Thanks?

As we end our year together, we want to give our hearty thanks to those volunteer teachers and advisors who spent this year with our children.  Here are two ways to say thanks.  We hope you will participate in both:
  • Please write thank you notes for our teachers, and help your children do the same.  Children can bring these to class with them this Sunday. 
  • As our thank you for teachers and advisors, the Religious Education Committee is throwing a pizza party for them and for their families (who supported them in their efforts) this Saturday evening, June 5th.  We are expecting 45 folks at our party.  We'll be providing drinks and pizza, and we have one parent who is preparing a salad.  We need one or two other contributors of salad, and two or three folks to contribute desserts.   A donation of flowers would also be appreciated.
If you can contribute salad or a dessert (or flowers) for the teacher/advisor party on June 5th, this would be a tremendous way of saying thank you. 

We had a fabulous team of teachers and advisors this year!  Team members are listed below.

Preschool: Kelley G, Suzanne W, Laura K, Gina R, and Brooke B.
Kindergarten: Carrie W, Renee B, Lee R, and Diane M.
1st Grade: Jen M, Vivian S, Amy B, and Joonu C.
Spirit Play Substitute: Linda W.
2nd-3rd Grade: Joyce H, Kim N, Colleen M, Dave N, and Gillian B.
4th-5th Grade: Cassie D, Cindy C, Lisa M, Henry K, and Scott M.
6th Grade: Bunny G, Scott H, Brandt R, Joanne H, and Marcia L.
7th-8th Grade: Jennifer D, Tim M, Ken M, Gina G, and Helen C.
OWL: Paul K, Kris J, and Kate O.
BYKOTA: Dee Dee B, Diane O, Scott H, and Martha F.
YRU2: Diane P, Ted M, Jeremy C, and incoming advisors Gina G and Rudy C.

You Can Get Your Bay State Parent at Church

Pick up your copy of Bay State Parent each month at church.  We are now an official Bay State Parent distribution site, and you can find copies of this publication in the Dining Room and in the Landers Room downstairs at the Religious Education welcome table.

Bay State Parent is a free monthly publication for parents in the state of Massachusetts.  It contains articles and columns of interest for parents as well as a monthly statewide event calendar and information about local resources for families.

For Children and Youth: Sunday, June 6, 2010

This is our last Sunday of classes before we break for the summer!  To the extent that they are in town and available, all our teachers will attend for our celebrations to end the year.  We hope all of you will attend as well.

Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade (Spirit Play): We celebrate our year together with a ceremony.  Please bring a flower that has a stem.  It can be from your home, your neighborhood, or even from the store.  It will go in a vase with the flowers from the other children, and we will enjoy a beautiful bouquet of diverse flowers.  At the end of class, everyone will receive a new flower that they can take home (everyone will bring home a flower, but not the one they bring to please prepare your children to give away the flower they bring).  We'll have extras in case anyone forgets.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): On our final day together before summer holiday, we will celebrate "UU Day."  We'll make banners and have a parade as we celebrate the Unitarian Universalist values that have been a part of all our lessons this year.  Please bring a fruit for a fruit salad.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): In our final week, we invite all parents to join us for a feast "in ancient Palestine."  This is a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the year together and to share with our families all the things we have been learning about and discussing this year.  Please stay tuned for details via email or mail.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): In a final session called "Look at Me, World!" we will celebrate our year together with a party potluck, so please bring a snack or drink to share at our party.  Each of us will have a chance to share something we remember having learned from the year (a word, a concept, etc.) that we didn't know about at the start of the year, and we'll play some games to review and summarize our time together. 

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): This week we'll pop some popcorn together, watch a final Simpsons episode, talk about the episode, and also talk about our plans for the summer and any school transitions we're looking toward for next year.  Can you bring a drink to share? 

9th-12th Grade (YRU2, High School Youth Group): From Sierra-Marie..."We will have a gathering during our youth group hour. Diane Pingeton has invited me to come chat with the group about program matters and changes for next year. Significantly strengthening the youth ministries is the strategic focus in RE in the coming year, so we will begin a conversation about how this will look. This is an important conversation, so please plan to attend if at all possible. Also, I'm bringing yummy snacks."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Special Guest Speaker

This post is an invitation to all:

Please join us in the Landers Room downstairs at the church on Sunday, June 6th from 9:15-9:45am, for a brief photographically-narrated presentation by Sandy Wood about Jhamtse Gatsal ("Garden of Loving Compassion"), a Buddhist school for children in an extremely remote and improvished area of India near the Tibetan and Bhutan borderns.

Our congregation is sponsor of a four-year old student at Jhamtse Gatsal, and this presentation by Sandy is a wonderful opportunity to come into greater relationship with the school and our sponsored student. 

You can watch videos about the school by clicking here, and scrolling down the page to the videos. The school, which was founded by the Venerable Lobsang Phuntsok -- who himself grew up in the area -- is able to take only a small number of students each year. However, once a student is accepted into the school, she or he is guaranteed not only an education but a place to live and complete financial support until adulthood.

Sandy is taking this time to be with us just as she prepares to journey yet again to the school. Because there is not regular mail service in this remote region (it can take three days just to travel up the mountain on which the village sits), the journeys people take to and from the school provide the singular opportunity to get letters to students. Some of our kids have already made art and letters for Therchung, but I invite all of us to create correspondence to give to Sandy on June 6th so that she can get bring Therchung a thick packet of mail. The kids in the school love to get mail from their sponsors! It amazes them to imagine us here, just as it amazes us to imagine them there. Cards, letters, photos, and artwork are all welcome. We look forward to getting to know Therchung, and hope he looks forward to getting to know us.

Sandy and I hope to see many of you on Sunday, June 6th at 9:15am. (Of note, June 6th is also the day after Jade Buddha leaves the Linh Son Temple on Ruthven Ave...if you haven't been over there to see it yet, I recommend it.)

Monday, May 24, 2010

Volunteer Need Updates

Even as we wind down another "church year," we look toward next year with anticipation and excitement.  We will have several new opportunities and pilots!  We are piloting a Coming of Age program in high school, and possibly an Our Whole Lives class for 4th and 5th grades in the spring.  Also under discussion is a children's choir with rotational leadership, a 7th-12th grade "internship program" for church leadership roles, family events spread throughout the year, and more!

Some needs currently:
  • One more advisor for our high school youth group.
  • A few more advisors for our middle school youth group.
  • Coming of Age program leaders and mentors.
  • 4-6 choir leaders who are willing to volunteer for just one to two months to work with the choir on a single performance.
  • A number of folks to teach.  We have filled many slots so far, but still have some to go.
We have needs both big and small, so if the above don't spark your interest, please inquire about other needs.

Talk to our Director of Religious Education, Sierra-Marie.  She's good at helping folks find the right way to contribute based on interests, skills, and availability. 

Everyone can pitch in.  Our teachers, for example, have over the years ranged in age from 15 (junior teacher) to 81.  Some have kids, some have grown kids, and some have never had kids.  We have men and women teachers with a wide variety of interests and skills. 

Please call 508-757-2708 ext. 105 or s mg erf ao @ fir st uni ta ria (please remove all spaces).

For Children and Youth: Sunday, May 30th 2010

Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade (Spirit Play): Sunday's story is called "the Mystery of Beginnings and Endings" and is a story of the human lifecycle.  We will talk about the human lifecycle from birth to death in a story of a woman who is born and lives to be in her nineties.  We'll honor the universal nature of the story, and wonder about the womans birth, life, and death.  As we do each week, we will have work time for the children to work independently with the stories, responsively in art, or prayfully in yoga cards or prayer lessons.  Gina and Kelley will teach preK, Lee will teach kindergarten, and Vivian and Amy will teach in 1st grade.

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): This Sunday we will try our hand at yarn paintings as we learn about the Huichol (sounds like "wee-chul") people of Mexico and their search for truth.  As Unitarian Universalists, we understand that people have been seekers throughout time. Our teachers will be Joyce and Kim.  Our parent helper will be Karen.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): This week we will continue preparations for our feast "in ancient Palestine" that will take place on June 6th, the last day of class until fall.  Our lesson will be about Jesus' followers and Jesus' legacy.  See Matthew 28, Matthew 6:25-34, and Luke 12:22-34.  Teachers TBA.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): This week we'll talk about "doing our good sides" and even about "saving the world."  As we are winding down for the year, this lesson will be a culmination of topics as explored throughout the year.  Come prepared to make and run and obstacle course.  Joanne and Marcia will teach.

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): This Sunday we will watch one of two possible episodes from our Gospel According to the Simpsons series.  Through either "Homer's Phobia" or "Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington," we will look at the third or fourth principles of our faith: acceptance of one another and encouragement toward growth, and the right of conscience.  Our teachers will be Ken and Gina.

9th-12th Grade (YRU2, High School Youth Group): This Sunday the Director of Religious Education will come visit with the group in anticipation of the planning for next year that will take place at the retreat in Craigville June 11-13th.  We'll discuss goals, roles, and leadership.

Monday, May 17, 2010

For Children and Youth: Sunday, May 23rd 2010

Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade (Spirit Play): Join us on Sunday as we watch, in our weekly story, a seed unfold into a plant.  We will observe the miracle of life through this story, and will note that all living things change and grow.  Our special work options will include matching seeds to plants, a book called Seed to Plant, and more!

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): As Unitarian Universalists, we know that our ideas of God and what is holy may change as we grow through our lives.  The dragon is also something that has changed over time.  This week we will learn about the Chinese Dragon Celebration, as we too celebrate and find out about the changing dragon.  We'll talk about changing ideas of what is holy. 

4th and 5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals), 6th Grade (Amazing Grace), and 7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): These grades will all attend the historical event of the Rev. Merritt's celebration Sunday.   Kids in these classes, please plan to sit with your parents in the sanctuary on Sunday. 

**Parents please note that after worship, the children will be brought to the sanctuary for a special presentation from the congregation for the Rev. Merritt.  This presentation will last 15-20 minutes.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Worcester Area Mission Society Trip

The Worcester Area Mission Society is planning trips to Haiti in June and November.  More participants are needed, especially for the November trip.  Though recent trips by other Worcester groups trying to assist with recovery have been thwarted by red tape, these trips are confirmed so long as Port Au Prince remains relatively safe and entry is possible.  Expected fee for trip is around $1500.  If you would like to participate, please contact The Rev. Shantia Wright-Gray, mission cordinator for the Worcester Area Mission Society.  Her contact information is available on the Worcester Area Mission Society website.

Religious Education Sunday Children's Choir

Due to the success last week with an adjusted choir time, the children's choir for Religious Education Sunday will be rehearsing at 10:15 each Sunday through June 6th. 

Registered participants will receive a more detailed schedule from Cindy C (this choir's director).  Please let us know as soon as possible if your child would like to become involved.  You can contact Cindy directly or contact Sierra-Marie at 508-757-2708 x.105 or s mger fao @ firs tunit arian. com (please remove all spaces).

For Children and Youth: Sunday, May 16, 2010

Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade (Spirit Play): This Sunday we will enjoy a lesson called, "I Look Out at the Stars."  This is a sequel to our lesson, "I Live in the Universe," and comes from the science source of our faith.  We'll explore the subject of perspective as we "look out at the stars" from various points around the world. 

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days): Unitarian Universalists believe we are each special in our own way.  This Sunday, we are going to mix things up and have our own unique celebration.  Come and for a surprise celebration of all of us!  Jen is our parent helper.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom): Due to having combined our class with 6th grade last week, this week we will have last week's lesson.In the central story of this lesson, called "To do justice and love mercy," Jesus arrives upon a scene in which a mob is preparing to carry out a death by stoning. This story may not have been a part of the original text of John, but it embodies much of Jesus' central message.  See Micah 6:8, John 8:2-11, Matthew 7:1-2, and Thomas 26:1-2.

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): Let's talk good guys, bad guys, and "doing our good sides."  We'll consider the Tale of Two Wolves (Cherokee) and discuss how we make decisions and shape lives that line up with what we think is right. 

7th-8th Grade (Popcorn Theology): Continuining with "the gospel according to the Simpsons," we'll watch and discuss an episode called "Krusty Gets Busted" as we consider the Unitarian Universalist principles of justice, equity, and compassion.

9th-12th Grade (YRU2): Please join us as we begin to wind down our year together and plan for next year.  We'll enjoy fellowship and discussion.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Thank You For Enjoying the Show!

Thanks to those who donated to the youth group's Haitian relief fundraiser on Sunday, and especially to those who stayed to enjoy the open mic show.  We enjoyed a variety of performance from children, teens, and adults alike.  Thank you to the youth group and its adult volunteers for the food and show, and for making this event a success.  And finally, thanks to those who stayed and helped with cleanup.  As a result of the effort, we are able to send $360 to ongoing relief in Haiti.

Craigville RSVPs due

8th graders and current members of the high school youth group (YRU2), please RSVP right away if you plan to attend the group's spring retreat in Craigville on the cape.  The retreat will take place the second weekend in June, June 11th-13th.  If you do not have a permission form, extras will be available starting this week in the youth room.  Participants must be active in the youth program.  The cost is $75.  We need to have a "yes" or "no" RSVP from you immediately in order to get our count to Craigville.  We can't reserve your spot without your responses.

BYKOTA Celebration Dinner

Middle School Youth Group members, please join the group on Friday, May 14th at 6:00pm for a celebration ceremony and dinner to end the Church Year.  We'll be enjoying dinner from Dragon Dynasty.  The worship committee will meet one hour earlier, at 5:00pm to finalize the evening's worship service.  See you there!

For Children and Youth: Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!!!

Preschool, Kindergarten, and 1st Grade (Spirit Play):  In honor of Mother's Day, this Sunday we will have a "Christian and Jewish source" story, called "The Mother of a Nation."  This story is an introduction to the Hebrew Bible, the notion of three Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), and the basic biblical story of Sarah and Abraham (the link is to a children's story of Sarah and Abraham, but is not our Spirit Play story).

2nd-3rd Grade (Holidays and Holy Days):  Please join us as we make carp kites in celebration of Japan's Children's Day.  Our celebrations will emphasize gentleness, courage, and determination among children of all genders.  Our parent helper is Deb.

4th-5th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of Equals): In the central story of this lesson, called "To do justice and love mercy," Jesus arrives upon a scene in which a mob is preparing to carry out the traditional form of justice for an adulteress at that time, which is death by stoning.  This story may not have been a part of the original text of John, but it embodies much of Jesus' central message.  Micah 6:8, John 8:2-11, Matthew 7:1-2, and Thomas 26:1-2. 

6th Grade (Amazing Grace): This week our lesson is on concepts of forgiveness, both human and divine forms of forgiveness.  What is the value in being forgiven or forgiving?  What does it mean to be forgiven?  We'll seek answers to some questions about the concept of salvation as well. 

7th-8th Grade (Jesus and the Kingdom of All Equals): This Sunday we will pick up where we left off in "The Gospel According to the Simpsons."  We'll be finishing the year by exploring the principles of our covenant as a member congregation in the Unitarian Universalist Association.  This week we'll talk about the first principle, and the concept of "inherent worth and dignity."  Our Simpsons episode is called "Homer vs. Dignity." 

9th-12th Grade (YRU2, High School Youth Group): Please join us this Sunday for fellowship, interesting discussion, and planning for the end of our year.