I envision a UUA that is informed about Religious Education/Family Ministries by Religious Educators and congregations. The support the UUA offers should be responsive to the needs and realities of congregations and religious professionals. To that end, I would identify a UUA staff member who can be a direct contact for DREs needing support. I envision a process in which Religious Educators are partners in the work the Association does, as well as being critical constituents for outreach that the UUA provides.
This relates to my overarching commitment to the importance of partnership and of strengthening relationships. The work of the UUA must be focused on providing the support that is reflective of congregational realities and is nimble to respond to cultural and social shifts across our association.
For example, at the congregation I serve in Phoenix, our children and youth participation has grown by sixty-seven percent in the last two years. I believe much of this is due to the outstanding work being done by our Director of Religious Education and the leadership team to foster radical inclusivity. We are working to welcome multiple learning styles and neurobiological diversity and we see we are meeting a deep need with this inclusive model of ministry. The challenge is that our staff and leaders craft their own curriculum to do this work. I can imagine the UUA working in partnership with DREs across our association who are creatively and successfully meeting their congregations’ needs to create and amplify curricula and resources based on best practices.
Regarding Our Whole Lives (OWL) Lifespan Sexuality Education, again, I would be looking to hear from Religious Educators about how the UUA can best support them. I am excited by the congregations that are looking to partner beyond their congregations to bring OWL to their communities. This reflects a missional philosophy and approach that we could be replicating in more aspects of congregational life.
I also see the imperative to bring Religious Exploration professionals into the conversations about our faith and our Association. The people serving our congregations in programming for our children and youth, as well as adult educational programming, have a deep understanding of the hopes and longings of our members. Their knowledge about the needs of children, youth and young families is a critical piece of the understanding of where our faith is succeeding and where we can strive to do better. I look forward to working in partnership and mutuality with colleagues in Religious Education as we bring mission focus to our Association.