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July 2019 Family Ministry by Kathy E. Smith

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Growing in Faith from “I” to “We”

I did a really fun exercise at General Assembly this year. Picture a large room of religious educators singing a new song together. We sang it through several times. Then we added harmonies and turned it into a round. And then we were asked: how was this exercise like congregational faith formation?  How do people of all ages grow when they learn together?

After our positive experience with our pop-up choir on June 16, some of the answers to that exercise really rang true to me.

Here’s the faith development lens on a shared experience like this. Babies and preschoolers watch their parents sing and see adults who are happy to be there with them. (In faith formation language, they learn that they are loved and welcomed into church.) Elementary children join their voices with the community, internalize the words and concepts of our faith, and experience singing together as something we do at church. (They are learning the stories and rituals of our faith.)  Adolescents play with harmonies, experiment with different voices, and learn how not to drown each other out. (They are learning how to put our values into action – including that balance between individualism and community good). Adults are listening to each other, figuring out where to come in, how to do a round, and how to harmonize. (They are building community, creating a place where all are heard and we try not to step on each other’s lines.) 

Singing like this helps us all grow spiritually. Sometimes adults think that religious education / faith formation is more for children and youth than for the adults in the congregation. But people are always learning. This is just one example of how congregations can help people mature spiritually, no matter how old they are! 

Note: This month’s newsletter article is based on a half-day seminar at our General Assembly through LREDA (my professional organization), titled “Growing in Faith from ‘I’ to ‘We’.” The seminar was led by Joy Berry and Mark Hicks of the Fahs Collaborative, a “UU think tank” at Meadville Lombard Theological School, one of our UU seminaries.