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New Director of Religious Education to begin June 1, 2011

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Introducing The Reverend Beth Williams, Director of Religious Education, who begins here in June

Greetings and good wishes to you all. My name is Beth Williams and I am honored to have been chosen to serve this congregation as your next Director of Religious Education.

I don’t know how to explain it, but when this Bostonian (me) first stepped off the plane in Baton Rouge, it felt like I was coming home; and when I walked through the doors of the church you, as they say, had me at hello. It is rare for a congregation to be both crackling with energy and excitement, and filled with warmth and welcome, but you have done just that. I look forward to working with you to continue this tradition, and to use my experiences to help take the religious education program even further than the wonderful program it already is.

 To give you an idea of these experiences, I would first tell you that I have been a Unitarian Universalist for over twenty years. During that time, I received a Master of Divinity degree from Meadville Lombard Theological School, was credentialed by the Unitarian Universalist Association as a Minister of Religious Education, served the First Unitarian Society of Chicago and the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Greater Lynn, Massachusetts as religious educator, and was a member of the board of the Liberal Religious Educators Association, the professional organization for Unitarian Universalist religious educators. For the past eight years I was on the staff of the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) in the role of Religious Education and Music Leadership Credentialing Director. My most satisfying moments at the UUA were collaborating with volunteers to create programs that uphold professional standards and develop pathways to professional excellence for Unitarian Universalist directors of religious education and directors of music. I am proud to say that one such volunteer who was critical to these achievements is Music Director at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge, Ila Stoltzfus.

 It may not surprise you that over thirteen years as a religious educator I have developed a vision of Unitarian Universalist religious education. First of all, I see the religious education program as a ministry, a ministry to children, youth, and families, to program volunteers as well as participants. I believe it is a ministry that is integral to the overall ministry of a congregation. Second, I think that Unitarian Universalist congregations are unique in their ability to help actualize the following outcomes for those who participate in their religious education programs:

  • to feel that they belong and can be their true selves in their faith community, and to know that they are seen, welcomed, and loved by their church;
  • to understand and articulate what they believe and why they believe it, and to know how these beliefs are represented by Unitarian Universalism and how they can express them in their daily lives;
  • to have a moral framework from which to face the many challenges encountered in life, and to make ethical decisions in light of these challenges;
  • to possess, and be inspired to use, the tools that help them look inward in order to tend their own spiritual lives, and look beyond themselves to help make the world a more just and healthier place for everyone.

While this is my vision for Unitarian Universalist religious education, I know that it may not be yours, and I believe that it is your vision that is most important. As a director of religious education my job, as I understand it, is to support children, youth and families in attaining the congregation’s goals for religious education. It is my hope that we can build on the successes of the past, particularly the exemplary work done this year by Marla Elsea and the Religious Education Team (Shannon Cavell, Diana Dorroh, Danielle Gurt) and collaborate in developing programs that will continue to make your vision a reality. I so look forward to working with you, and getting to know your hopes and dreams for religious education at the Unitarian Church of Baton Rouge. I can’t wait to meet you!