What do we do if we want to visit?
If your family wants to visit, please plan to arrive by about 10:15 on Sunday morning. You can either meet the Director of Religious Education, Julie Parker Amery (who is generally in the lower meeting house before church), or go to the Visiting Families table in the parish hall* to be greeted and given a visitor's card. All visitors must have a card filled out before going to class. We'll show you to your classrooms and introduce you to the teachers, and once your child is settled, you can go to the worship service (though parents are always welcome to stay in the classroom).
It's always a good idea to contact Julie prior to your visit, so that she knows to keep an eye out for you, and also so that she can tell you if there's anything unusual in the upcoming schedule. You can reach her at email@example.com or 978-465-0602 x403.
*The meeting house is the actual church building; offices and some classrooms are in the space downstairs. The parish hall is the white building located to the right of the meeting house, set back from Pleasant Street.
What can I tell my children about how the morning will go?
Generally, we have a fairly consistent routine. All children report to their classrooms for attendance (children in grades 5 and under must be signed in and signed out by a parent). After attendance, all groups head to the lower meeting house for Young Church worship. Worship includes: opening words, lighting the chalice, singing a hymn, saying our affirmation of faith in unison (words are provided), singing the Doxology (words are provided), sharing joys and sorrows (all children are invited to share a joy or sorrow and we light a candle), a moment of quiet meditation, and closing words. In the fall term, worship time also includes a story related to the day's theme, and sometimes an additional song. After worship, which generally lasts for about ten minutes, children return to their classrooms for the morning's lesson and activities. Parents pick up at 11:30 (older children are dismissed on their own).
How are lessons taught?
We strive to keep things interesting, relevant, and age-appropriate and also to appeal to different kinds of learners. There is no lecturing in Young Church, and almost everything is interactive. Because of our UU philosophy, which encourages a lifelong search for truth and meaning, our teachers are here to encourage questioning, conversation and meaning-making, rather than to teach facts.
Because we recognize that all people learn differently, we strive to change up our approach in each class week to week. One week, a class might gather supplies from outside and make terrariums, and the next week they might create a skit. We utilize art, music, drama, games, roleplay, and discussion in any given week to engage the children in the theme for the day.
If we start coming regularly, will I be expected to teach? Will I be expected to pay?
We strongly believe that a child's religious education is enhanced by parental participation, so we strongly encourage parents to volunteer in the classrooms. There is also the fact that it takes many volunteers to make our program a safe and successful one.
We do understand, however, that not everyone is comfortable working with groups of children. So please speak with our Director of Religious Education if you'd prefer to volunteer in a different capacity.
In terms of payment, all members, friends, and regular attendees of the First Religious Society are expected to make some sort of financial contribution to the church--preferably in the form of an annual pledge. Our canvass takes place in March each year. At that time, you will be asked to consider the many ways in which the church makes a difference in your life and to pledge accordingly. Your pledge can be paid in increments throughout the year. Though it's not always comfortable to talk about money, the reality is that we depend on close to 70% of our income to come from contributions.
What do you teach about the Bible?
Because we are rooted in the Judeo-Christian tradition, we do believe it's important to familiarize our children with stories and teachings from the Bible. We also feel this is important simply in the interest of cultural literacy and to introduce our children to the many rich and meaningful stories it includes.
We do not teach Bible stories as factual. Rather than a book of facts, we see it and teach it as a book of Truths. We tell the story and then, through discussion and activities, try to help the children understand how the story's meaning applies to their own lives.
What should my children wear to Young Church?
We're a fairly casual environment. Most children wear whatever they would wear to school. Occasionally, if we have a particularly messy project planned in one of the classes, we'll try to give advanced notice so that you can be prepared.
Where can I learn more about Unitarian Universalism?
Simply click here: https://www.uua.org/beliefs/welcome/index.shtml