First Parish Dorchester offers a vibrant parent-led Religious Education Program for children and youth under the direction of our Director of Religious Education, Lucas Gonzalez Milliken. (Adult RE is currently offering directly by the ministers.) Lucas's background as a youth advisor, seminarian, musician, and activist - as well as his deep interest in spirituality and foundation in Unitarian Universalism - helps him to serve the children and larger community of Dorchester. He is assisted by all the parents and other adults who participate in our cooperative Sunday School program.
Children start every Sunday in the sanctuary with their families, with nursery care available for those three and under. After approximately fifteen minutes, including a Story for All Ages, the elementary and middle school aged children proceed with their teachers to programming designed just for them. Together, we serve children ages four to twelve each week, with older youth (thirteen and up) occasionally assisting in the younger classrooms and having their gatherings one Sunday afternoon per month.
Using the Way Cool Sunday School model our program structure is generally as follows: the first and third Sundays each month are Classroom Sundays where the Director of Religious Education plans the curriculum, drawing on the six sources of our faith tradition, and parents teach in teams of two; the second Sunday is dedicated to a collaboratively planned Children's Worship Service; and the fourth Sunday is reserved for a Social Justice Workshop. Occasionally throughout the year, the Sunday school program is deferred in favor of a specially designed Intergenerational Service where the children stay with their families for the entirety of the Sunday worship experience.
TAKING IT HOME, March 5th
LOVE SURROUNDS US
“It is good to realize that if love and peace can prevail on earth, and if we can teach our children to honor nature's gifts, the joys and beauties of the outdoors will be here forever.”
— Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States
In today’s session… the participants learned about the Unitarian Universalist principle about caring for our planet Earth and every living thing that shares it with us. We read a story about how the animals in a rainforest convinced someone how important even one tree can be their existence. This session demonstrated how we are all interconnected and as human beings, we have the responsibility to care for the earth and everything on it.
Explore the topic together: Participants learned about some specific rainforest animals. Ask your child about the unusual and exotic animals that live in the rainforest and what they can remember about them. Have them share with the entire family.
A Family Game: On the Environmental Protection Agency's website, find a number of kids' games including crossword puzzles and online games that help children learn about protecting the environment. What's Wrong with This Picture? invites the whole family to spot ways our everyday actions can harm the earth and suggests actions to take.
A Family Ritual: Make your walks count. Whether you are walking the dog or taking a family stroll after dinner, carry a waste bag with you and pick up garbage that you see along the way. Make sure you wear gloves when you pick up waste. Be sure to recycle and properly dispose of the items you find. Just for fun, keep a list of the things you find. After several months, you might be surprised by the unusual items people toss out their doors!
WINDOWS AND MIRRORS
“The world of the powerful and that of the powerless... are never divided by a sharp line: everyone has a small part of [themselves] in both.”
— Vaclav Havel, Czech poet and president
“The way a rich nation thinks about its poor will always be convoluted. The richer people become in general, the easier it theoretically becomes for them to share with people who are left out. But the richer people become, the less they naturally stay in touch with the realities of life on the bottom, and the more they naturally prefer to be excited about their own prospects rather than concerned about someone else's.”
— James Fallows, in a March 19, 2000 New York Times piece, "The Invisible Poor"
“Nearly everyone, whatever his actual conduct may be, responds emotionally to the idea of human brotherhood. (Charles) Dickens voiced a code which was and on the whole still is believed in, even by people who violate it. It is difficult otherwise to explain why he could be both read by working people (a thing that has happened to no other novelist of his stature) and buried in Westminster Abbey.”
— George Orwell
In today’s session…The children became familiar with Charles Dickens, a Unitarian for part of his life. They explored his technique of painting detailed, sometimes comical portraits of the extremely wealthy and the extremely poor in order to illustrate our common humanity. We investigated current newspapers and magazines for representations of people's lives in extreme poverty today. Children worked on their Window/Mirror Panels. We encouraged them to use comical exaggeration, as Dickens did, to represent themselves as a "have," a "have not" or someone who is a bit of both.
Explore the topic together. Talk about...
Charles Dickens's portrayals of the very rich and the very poor. Imagine that Dickens could observe your community. Would he find extremes of wealth and poverty? Are there people who lack basic necessities, such as food, clothing, shelter, and health care? Talk frankly about how you as a family perceive yourselves on a continuum of extreme wealth to extreme lack.
Extend the topic together. Try a family discovery
If any family members are unfamiliar with him, introduce them to Charles Dickens's character, Ebenezer Scrooge. Read A Christmas Carol together or view a film version. Aver that Scrooge is comical rather than frightening for two reasons: One, because most people can recognize themselves in him; and two, because in the end, he changes, practically exploding with love, compassion and charity.
Talk about times when you have been greedy, and how you might have shared what you had with someone who needed it more. Invite your child and other family members to share their stories. Allow that to be greedy sometimes is human. Try to create an environment in which everyone feels safe talking honestly about times they were not their best selves. Everyone deserves to explore their own actions without risking others' judgment.
A Family Game
Teach the terms "abundance" and "scarcity" to the entire family. On a family outing, when watching a television program together or on another occasion, take note of the presence of one condition or the other. Share your findings. You may have some interesting conversations, especially if people disagree about definitions of excess and need.