Jeffrey Melcher, Director of Religious Exploration
What's Up @ UUCM in Religious Exploration?
Great People, Wonderful Community, Inspirational Classes
Religious Exploration Includes Service to Others
Giving Baskets (September through May): Children (and adults) learn by example and participation. A weekly habit of bringing a dollar or a handful of change to contribute in class reminds us that we can do more together by pooling our funds. The kids vote to decide the recipient of the funds. Previous recipients have been St. Vincent’s of San Rafael, The Heifer Project, and Rain Forest Action Network. Who will it be this year?
Food Drive (November through January): UUCM collects barrels of food each year to donate to local pantries for distribution. Please bring canned and packaged goods. Last year we managed four barrels. One recommendation is to put an additional item in your shopping cart during each visit to the grocer and put it by your door to carry to church the next Sunday.
Toiletries: (August through January): A long-time tradition that brings toiletries to the shelters and awareness to our congregation, we ask people to collect toiletries from the trips they take or to buy some for distribution. Our children sort and individually package on the first Sunday in January.
Annual Socks Appeal (January 1 through March 1): Many homeless people say that one of the more useful items is a good pair of socks. Please bring new and packaged white tube socks. Tube socks are a one-size-fits-all style. We are aiming for 100 pairs of socks this year.
Feed the People: Providing meals for our homeless Marin neighbors provides an opportunity for families to put their principles into practice through direct hands-on community service. Coordinated by the UUCM Social Justice Committee.
- Street Chaplain’s Wellness Dinners (one Tuesday night per month): Carol and Walt Littrell organize UUCM volunteers to provide salad and dine with the guests at the First Presbyterian Church of San Rafael. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
- Women’s Shelter (November through April, every Sunday evening): Joan Nelson organizes volunteers to provide full meals for homeless women. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Parent testimonial to the value to her family in participating:
I have been taking my two sons to the Sunday women’s homeless shelter to help set up, serve, and eat with the homeless ladies that come each Sunday for the last several years. They were ages 7 and 9 the first time I took them. It has been a deeply felt life experience for them. They have seen women who are mentally unstable, women who can barely stand up straight or stay awake, women who are gregarious and warm, women who are shut down and mute, women who are grateful, women who are angry, women who look like me, and women who don't. And they have served them food and sat with them to eat and talked with those that were willing. Afterwards they have had many questions about why these women are homeless, where they go during the day, what they do when the shelter isn’t running in the summer, why they can’t get jobs. This has been an avenue for us to talk about mental illness, drug and alcohol abuse, economic decline, tragedy, welfare, and many other social issues. But also we talk about giving back, doing good work in the world even when it's hard or uncomfortable, and how lucky we are to have what we have. I’ve heard folks say that it’s not appropriate to take small kids to the shelter, but I have to disagree. It has opened my sons’ eyes to a world they are sheltered from most of the time. It has opened their hearts and minds to social issues that affect the people around them. And it has given them the opportunity to give of themselves. In short, it has made them better humans.
Local and National Policy: We cannot just hand out bandaids and hope that problems will go away. We work in the realm of advocacy to address systematic homelessness, economic disparity, and gender, ethnic, and racial bias that keep some people in an underclass.
We are joining UUA in two issues approved as action items by the 2015 UUA General Assembly in Portland, in which three of our youth participated:
- Support a Strong, Compassionate Global Climate Agreement in 2015: Act for a Livable Climate
We are also taking part in local projects:
To see all of the Actions of Immediate Witness and other statements from the 2015 UUA General Assembly, follw this link: http://www.uuworld.org/articles/aiw-general-assembly-portland
As the leader of the Preschool Wee Ones, Glynda Christian is developing a curriculum using the concept of seedlings. The wonder and curiosity of this age group is especially piqued by the thought of the tiny hard shell giving way to a thriving sprout. We know that this age is a critical one in children’s learning processes and the groundwork that provides for later germination. Their understanding of complexities takes leaps and bounds in this time period. Words and concepts should be abundant and well-utilized. This is the time to learn just who a UU is, what the seven principles mean in real life, and how they apply to each of us.
We want to give children a solid spiritual experience each Sunday morning that helps to build their best selves and incorporates our seven Unitarian Universalist principles into daily living experience.
We start with a dance to “Shake Your Sillies Out,” and then we distribute our lights to shine overhead as we march around and sing “This Little Light of Mine.” Then we sit on the floor around our chalice bowl. One wee one gets to “light” the electrified candle and we join in our easy-to-understand opening words.
Next, we have our morning theme stories; I select some activities each week that fit the theme; it may be sharing, or caring for others, or saying thank you for things we appreciate, or the wonder of seeds and what happens to them, or the birds outside our windows. Our interconnected web of existence is always part of the way we are learning to look at what is around us.
We will take some nature walks outside the building and connect that with the seeds we have planted and are watching grow. We also include art, painting, design, coloring, and seeing our environment in its many colors and hues each week. We explore, we learn, we grow, we find our comfort level and love for each of our crew. And, finally, we have a great organic snack with lots of healthy fruits, cheeses, and maybe nuts or seeds. We end with our Closing Circle to help us keep our shining light bright through the whole week ahead.
As I write the curriculum, I am drawing on works of great writers and child specialists, including Full Circle: Fifteen Ways to Grow Lifelong UUs (Kate Ersley); Come into the Circle: Worshiping with Children (Michelle Richards); A Pebble for Your Pocket (Thich Nhat Hanh); and The Spiritual Child (Lisa Miller), to inform the structure and plan for each Sunday that helps me build joy, fun, ceremony, and wonder in varied ways.
Glynda comes from the Boston area with extensive involvement in the Unitarian effort there. With a Bachelor’s in linguistics and modern languages, teaching certifications in several content areas, Master’s Degrees in Multicultural Education and in Library and Information Science, and doctoral coursework, ABD, she loves to learn and loves to teach. As a curriculum developer, she has written curricula for students from elementary level up through college. As a library director and reference librarian, she likes to use the printed word in many activities for fun and excitement. As a lifelong UU, her interest in utilizing and understanding the role of the seven principles in our lives is central.