We will provide a loving, joyful community in which each child is respected and valued as he/she is challenged to learn.
From within the heart of the Unitarian Universalist tradition and principles, and illuminated by a respect for world religions, we will encourage young people to look beyond and within themselves to develop a spiritual life. We will create opportunities which will inspire them to develop a sense of personal responsibility, participate in meaningful social action, and explore leadership potential. We will do this with a sense of continuity and in an atmosphere of inclusiveness.
I sent my application for credentialing to the UUA in May, and finally in October, I officially entered the credentialing process when I was assigned a mentor. Although the majority of the work I will do toward credentialing will be on my own, the UUA matches up everyone in the RE credentialing program with someone who has already gone through the process. Folks at the UUA recognize that it is all too easy for religious educators to be waylaid by the monthly, weekly, and daily changes of course that can occur in our congregational lives. With this in mind they assign mentors to advise us how to navigate the process in the face of the work we do.
I first met my mentor at the LREDA fall conference. I had not met her before; she works in a different region than ours. I look forward to getting to know her over the two or so years this process should take.
One would think that being a DRE would require a person to be outgoing and, well, personable. It does, but at the same time so much of it is spent alone, preparing for Sunday, organizing classes and teachers, or writing and rewriting curriculum. It is good to have contact with someone (even once a month). I am especially thankful to getting advice and wisdom from someone who knows the lay of the land.
When I started in my position as Director of Religious Education at the Unitarian Church of Norfolk, the previous director warned me about attitudes in the church about religious education. She stated that many members of the congregation felt that Sunday School was simply a way to get the kids out of the sanctuary so that the adults could have a more quiet and focused spiritual experience on Sunday. I found this to be partly true. Conversations with congregants helped show me how far this congregation had come in its attitudes about religious education over the past ten years, and how far it still needed to go.
In my first five years serving this congregation, I have helped shift the focus of our Sunday morning classes away from educations about religion, which sometimes included Unitarian Universalism, to education about Unitarian Universalism. I have written curricula about the Book of Genesis and Philip Pullman’s The Golden Compass that showed from where our principles came and how they can be put into action. I led teacher trainings that taught adults about our sources (“I didn’t know we had sources,” claimed one teacher) and principles. I have led multigenerational worship services that have explored what it means to be a Unitarian Universalist and how our sources and principles converge and create meaning.
I have decided to seek recognition as a credentialed religious educator to help create a deeper link between this church and its understanding of Unitarian Universalism and to deepen my understanding of our faith. I feel as if I have more work to do in both areas, and am certain that this work is essential to the growth and well-being of my congregation and me.
It will serve my congregation by adding the imprimatur of professionalism to the position I currently occupy. Such a stamp may not convince everyone in the congregation about the seriousness of the work that gets done in religious education, but it is a clear signal that many will recognize. Having a credentialed religious educator will also signal to this church that we have a clear connection to our association, and help put the work we do into the context of our faith.
On the personal side, credentialing will help me make these same connections to the larger world of our faith. It will also help me make clearer connections between my work as an educator outside of church (I work as a high school teacher in addition to my work in the church) and my work as an educator in the church. These larger connections will help me grow as a Unitarian Universalist Religious Educator.
In conclusion, becoming a credentialed religious educator is a natural step in the growth of the congregation I serve and in my growth as a religious educator. It is time to do this.