Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Faith at the Heart

March 12-14 I attended  a Renaissance Module training on Teacher Development.  The core text is Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach (isn't funny how once you "discover" an author, he or she keeps cropping up around you?).

It has me wanting to re-think the whole way we "do" religious education or what we call in my congregation faith development.  Right now I work with teaching teams of six-seven members and I love that I have teaching teams that teach the whole year.  The problem is that with everyone only teaching about once, maybe twice, a month there is no consistency for our children.  We know the importance of having one key person in nursery that really knows the children and knows the parents.  We know the importance of this in youth ministry as we often hire a youth minister to provide that consistent presence.  Yet we leave all the kids in the middle with a new teacher almost every week and since many of the kids only coming once or twice a month, it is like starting over every week.

In the module we talked about a small group ministry model for teaching.  Small groups of 4 or so meeting together to talk not about schedules or who is teaching next but about their lives, their hopes, their fears.  What might it look like to have teaching teams of 4 people that were a small group ministry who not every week but maybe every month, met just to talk about their own lives, how it is with their own souls?  Could this make teaching a true ministry?  How might this transform the lives of our children, our families, our teachers and finally our congregation?  I know there are many practical obstacles to overcome and yet the dream remains!

Fear of the other; fear of change

Clearly I do not have the rhythem of this blog thing yet.  I keep thinking about writing but it tends to go down on the priority list.  Maybe since this is a public space..I feel it is particularly important that what I write be clear and not compromise my multiple roles and identities - for I am writing about Unitarian Universalism, faith development - here is where my personal life and my professional life meet.  For one cannot do this work and completely bracket one's personal life.  I do this work because it is my passion.  It is my passion ,so it is what I get drawn too even when I am "not on the clock." 

I have been reading Parker Palmer's The Courage to Teach.  Palmer talks about how fear governs so much of what goes on in education.  Palmer writes, "We fear the authentic encounter because it means we will have to open ourselves to be changed".  Most of us avoid change at all cost.  I know that I do.  Even though I know that it is only through changing that I can grow and actually become more myself.  Yet I know I don't want to be wrong.  I want to have all the answers.  Isn't that what being a good student is all about - giving the right answer?

I see this fear of being changed and how the other might change us hard at work in our congregations.  As we talk about becoming more intentionally multi-cultural, multi-generational, immediately fear gets to work.  "What if worship isn't comfortable for ME anymore?"  "What if I am challenged?"  I find it difficult at times to be patient with this while also understanding it. 

If we are going to change Unitarian Unviveralism to be relevant, to be alive and to live into our potential - then we are going to have to confront our fear of change head on!